Hello dear readers! I have put together another list for you to peruse. This week, we’re looking at mosques and churches, using biblical languages in preaching, dealing with aggression in apologetic interactions, the age of the earth based on coral reefs, and “War Room.”
3 Tips for Using Biblical Languages in Preaching– How should pastors make use of that great seminary education and the biblical languages? Well, for one, they should use it big time for research and also doing apologetics. For another, here are some tips about how to use it in preaching in such a way that it won’t go over people’s heads.
The Mosque Denied Today Could Be the Church Denied Tomorrow– When we speak of “religious freedom” we should be aware that that freedom stands or falls for people of different faiths together. That’s why, for example, several Lutheran groups stood with several Native American groups on getting the rights to use various natural drugs in their ceremonies: one day it is trying to make those illegal, the next communion wine might not be served. Here’s a post reflecting on that reality in a time in which a mosque has been denied.
Greg Koukl Explains the Right Way to Deal with an Angry Aggressive Atheist– Unfortunately there are times when people think the way to interact with others is to simply try to “steamroller” them out of the conversation. This doesn’t apply only to angry atheists but can be applied to even theological discussions in which people don’t want to allow for genuine interaction.
Coral reefs are too old to be young!– When we look at the various methods for dating coral reefs, it becomes pretty clear that a Young Earth Creationist understanding of their age cannot hold up under scrutiny.
An Egalitarian War Room Review– I have seen many theological critiques of War Room, from its apparent allowance for people to stay in abusive (verbally) relationships to a kind of God as divine vending machine mentality. Here is one coming at it from the angle of egalitarianism.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). Matthew 1:28 ESV.
Familiar words to most Christians, aren’t they? Along with His Death and Resurrection, the virgin birth of Jesus is among the most celebrated and unifying events in all of Christianity. Nativity scenes can be found in front of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and all sorts of churches of all denominations. The virgin birth is counted as among the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and was important enough to be counted as one of the twelve articles of the Apostolic Creed. For centuries, the account that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin woman, Mary of Nazareth, was undisputed, at least as far as any known challenges can be documented.
But, then, along came the Enlightenment. With it came the idea that science and reason were the test of Scripture and all truth, and not the reverse. Therefore, if Scripture says that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that is not logical nor scientifically provable, then it must be rejected. Thus, the Jefferson “Bible” excludes any reference to the virgin birth as well as Jesus’ miracles, Deity, resurrection, etc. As time went on, through the historical critical method and other destructive methods of using reason not to teach but to judge Scripture, the Enlightenment principle of reason and science over Scripture slowly infiltrated the thinking of many churches. Surveys confirm this infiltration.
1998: A poll of 7,441 Protestant clergy in the U.S. showed a wide variation in belief. The following ministers did not believe in the virgin birth:
2007-DEC: The Barna Group sampled 1,005 adults and found that 75% believed that Jesus was born to a virgin. 53% of the unchurched, and 15% of Agnostics and Atheists believe as well. Even among those who describe themselves as mostly liberal on political and social issues, 60% believe in the virgin birth. (Source for surveys.)
It is a great travesty in the Church today that many clergy find themselves looking at their positions only as a job, and will say what they must to preserve their positions. From the source of the polls previously cited comes this quote:
“…one Hampshire vicar was typical: ‘There was nothing special about his birth or his childhood – it was his adult life that was extraordinary….I have a very traditional bishop and this is one of those topics I do not go public on. I need to keep the job I have got.’
Such hypocrisy and blatant deceit is unworthy of anyone, let alone one who claims to proclaim the Word of God and represent Him to the people. yet such is the state of much of the clergy, as indicated by the above polling figures. No wonder the Church is in such disarray, and seems so powerless in the world today!
If Christianity is only a “nice” way of life that is only about love and compassion, then I suppose the virgin birth is not so essential, But if Christianity is an intimate and personal relationship by faith with the Creator of the Universe, then Who that Creator is makes all the difference. And if being born of a virgin is something He says about himself, even once, in His Book, then it might be best if we believe it. After all, wouldn’t you like to know a bit about, say, the pedigree of a dog or horse that you were to buy, or even more so, wouldn’t you like to know all about a future spouse that you profess to love before marriage? (Please forgive the analogy, which is not meant to cheapen God, spouses, dogs, or horses).
The virgin birth of Christ—and I would say, the historical fact that Jesus was conceived by a miracle like unto creation itself—does not travel alone. It ties intimately into other doctrines-the Holy Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture, and more. “Scripture cannot be broken”, Jesus said in John 10:35. Even so, the most basic teachings of the Christian faith cannot be broken off and accepted like items on a buffet table. They are all one. Accept all of them-or none of them. That is the challenge that the catechumen, the seeker, the growing disciple of Christ is faced with. Finally, you see, the importance of the virgin birth is found, like all things, bound in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
As far as the prophecy quoted by Matthew, namely Isaiah 7:14, much ink has been spilled on this by scholars with more degrees than I have. Some modern Bible translations, notably the NRSV, CEB, TEV and others use “young woman” to translate the Hebrew word almah. Others, such as the NASB, ESV, NKJB, TNIV (=NIV 2011), use the more traditional “virgin.” The LXX also translates the word “virgin.” While the matter is not as simple as some might make it, certainly I would think that the Septuagint scholars would have known Hebrew and Greek well enough to have chosen a different word besides the Greek word for “virgin” if “young woman” would have been indicated. They had no agenda to support a virgin birth or not. The same cannot be said of some modern translators. The sainted Dr. William Beck wrote a study on this subject, available at www.wlsessays.net/.
Human reason helps us put all of these things together systematically from Scripture; but human reason cannot accept and believe them itself. That, too, is a special creative work of the Holy Spirit. What a delight to know that God wants everyone to know Him as He reveals Himself in Scripture. It is through the very words of Scripture that God creates faith. Through those Holy Spirit given and empowered words He keeps one in the faith. As I stand in awe that God chose this supernatural way to join our human race, so I stand in awe that He created faith in my heart, and has kept that faith to this day. All glory and praise to Him forever!
Finally, though, the virgin birth is a matter of faith. For the individual, it is a matter of personal faith whether one accepts what Scripture says about the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus or not. But the virgin birth is also a matter of THE Faith; that is to say, it is an article of Christian doctrine that is beyond dispute. To accept it is to accept a fundamental, essential doctrine of all Christianity. To reject it is to put one outside the bounds of the Christian faith. I pray that this Advent and Christmas season you will join with me, and with all the Christian world, in celebrating the supernatural way that God chose to enter our human race to bear our sin and be our savior.
Rev. Kent Wartick is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Kent, Ohio. He has been preaching for over 26 years in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He’s my dad, and an inspiration for the faithful.
Thesis 5– Genesis 1 – 2 describes the whole of creation as God’s (pre-fall) Temple.
When examining the seven days of creation we see several factors that indicate something cultic (meaning religious) taking shape. The first three days show a forming of the earth which (in v. 2) was “without form.” In the second set of three days you see a filling of the earth which (in v. 2) was “void.” Walton, in keeping with his functional model suggests a better translation of these words tohu and bohu (without form and void). Similar to bara’ he provides a survey of tohu’s use in the Bible (bohu occurs three times, always with tohu) and shows that the word “describes that which is non-functional, having no purpose and generally unproductive in human terms (48-9).” In light of this, the state of tohu and bohu means that the earth has a functional non-existence. Thus, when God begins His bara’ work, the functional bringing into existence of all that He does, Genesis 1 wants us to see what purpose everything serves.
Examining the functions in Genesis 1 we will find many parallels to the religious life of ancient Israel as studied in Exodus, Leviticus, and the rest of the OT. I’d like to turn now to days 4 – 7 of the Genesis 1 account (1:14 – 2:3) to examine the indicators that the Genesis 1 cosmology is a temple cosmology.
Genesis 1:14-19 (ESV) – “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”
So let’s look at what functions these lights in the sky are given:
1) to separate the day from the night
2) to be for signs and for seasons (moed) and years
3) to give light upon the earth
4) to rule the day & night
5) to separate the light from the darkness
Now you may be asking yourself, “I don’t see anything here that is particularly temple focused. First I would like to point out that in a society where watches & clocks are not present, the Sun, Moon, and stars are what tell you when it is time to worship (they did so much more often than once a week). Second, we can see throughout the OT that specific days of specific months are given festivals and holidays. These were mapped out by using these very lights, after all that is their given purpose in point two, “to be for signs and for moediym and years.”
The word moed occurs 223 times in the OT, so we have a large cross section of uses to help us nail down the possible meanings and the intended meaning within this context. The basic lexical entry is “appointed time.” However it is important to note that in Exodus 23:15, God says, “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the moed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt.” At the very beginning of the cultic/religious life of Israel upon exiting Egypt this word is tied to their religious festivals! Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, & Numbers moed is unanimously used in the phrase “tent of meeting (moed)” for the tent in the centre of the Tabernacle (the travelling version of the Temple before Solomon builds the first Temple). Now, beyond this there are countless uses of moed as “appointed time” in the worship life of Israel. I would thus maintain that Genesis 1 claims the functional purpose of the Sun, Moon, and stars is to indicate the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly worship schedules of God’s people. In other words, when the ancient Israelite children asked their parents, “why is that moon shining in the sky?” the parents would answer in accord with Psalm 104:19 and say, “God made the moon to remind us when to observe the Feast of Passover and the other feasts/festivals.”
There is one more minor indicator that I would like to bring up when discussing the functional creation of Light. When we examine Genesis 1 as a Temple cosmology we realize just why something seemingly inconsequential like the Golden Lampstand (Ex. 25:31ff) is present in the Temple. Not only does it serve to light the room, but it is absolutely necessary to have this light in the Temple because this Temple reflects the Cosmic Temple corrupted in the Fall. If the Cosmic Temple has Light (Gen 1:3-5, 14-19) so must the Tabernacle/Temple have that Light (Ex. 25:31-40; 2 Chron 4:7).
Genesis 1:20-23- “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.”
Granted, there is not much here that we would directly relate to the Temple if we did not first see that days 4-6 are paralleling days 1-3. Now, when we look back to verses 6-8 and read it in the light of other ancient Near Eastern cosmologies we see that on days two and four more than any other we find the physical shape of a temple. The Lutheran Study Bible footnote on these verses is very helpful in pointing out the structural/functional aspect of how the “expanse” works and the image it evokes. “The point of the image is the function rather than the substance: the sky serves as a divider. The Israelites often used figurative terms to describe the cosmos as it appeared to them (cf. Is 40:22, where the sky is described as a “curtain” and a “tent”).”
[Further expansion of thesis 5 coming later this week]
Alright, school has started again. I managed to crank out at least a few things over break, and I have a number of 1/4-1/2 completed articles that I’ll hopefully finish some time, but for now back to easy posts, like random news stories.
Before we get into that though, go to Google (or your Google search bar) and [note: some curse words and offensive language will show if you follow these instructions, if you would not like to be subjected to that, simply read my article as I’ll describe it] type in “Christianity is…” and check out the suggested searches. Wow, those are some strong terms! “Christianity is b*******” is the first suggestion. Others include “Christianity is not a religion” [what?] and “Christianity is a lie.” That’s some strong stuff. Not very respectful of Christianity, obviously. But now try that same thing for “Islam is” and look at the suggestions. Oh wait, there are none. It’s perfectly fine to defame, attack, insult, and otherwise attack Christianity, but try to talk about Islam and you’ll come up empty. We should certainly not insult Islam. We wouldn’t dare to insult the religion of “peace.”
Google, of course, says it’s a database problem. How convenient. Check out this news story for more annoying facts (and a proof pic, if they ever “fix” the “database problem”).
So, as usual, insulting and attacking Christianity is accepted, but we dare not attack or insult Islam. Why is that?
But I digress. Another news story I found interesting was the discovery of some shards of pottery that suggest the Bible was perhaps written earlier than the “experts” thought! What a surprise! Current “scholarship” attempts to suggest the Hebrew Scriptures were not as old as tradition holds (usually dating them around 6th or 7th century B.C. (that’s Before Christ, by the way), but this evidence shows that, shock of all shocks, Hebrew writing existed longer before than was thought possible (this is, of course, not to mention that it is likely the Hebrew Scriptures were written in an even more ancient form of Hebrew script, but the “experts” are so “spot on” at all times it’s hard not to trust them [massive sarcasm]). The archaeological, historical, philosophical, experiential, and other evidences for theism and Christianity continue to increase in number and veracity. Not that this is surprising to anyone but the so-called experts (note that I’m not trying to insult genuine Biblical scholarship, only the radical, relativistic, super-critical scholarship that the media and anti-theists tend to try to cling to).
Well, back to school work.
Edit 1/17- Another news story on the Bible being older (same thing).