Thursday, August 30, 2012

2 Science "Guys" respond to "the Science Guy" Bill Nye

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has made a blog response to Bill Nye.  It includes the video above and also a link to the original video by secular evolutionist Bill Nye, "the Science Guy".  

The two science "guys" are Dr. David Mention, a Phd in Biology from Brown University and Dr. Georgia Purdom, a Phd in Molecular Genetics at Ohio State University.

Significant points:
1.  Belief in a creator (God) and against Naturalistic Darwinian Evolution is not unique to the USA.
2.  Dr. Georgia Purdom:  A big problem with Evolutionary Theory is "the complete lack of a genetic mechanism that allows organisms to gain genetic information to go from simple to complex over time."
3.  The difference between "Observational Science" (Observation, experimentation) vs. Historical Science (the origin of the universe and life and how it came into being).
4.  An Evolutionist admitted that most scientists who don't believe in Evolution "can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas".  (see the video for exact names and references.) This means that they can really do excellent work in Observational science; which is the opposite of what Bill Nye the Science Guy suggests.
5.  This means that belief in creationism and that God created all things as Genesis teaches does not hinder one from doing excellent work in observational science and experimentation.  
6.  The complexity of the hummingbird and its need for having all its parts to work all at once in order to survive, points away from a slow process of evolution and toward a special creator who said, "Be! and it was so".  Similar to the principle of "irreducible complexity" that Michael Behe explained so well in his ground breaking book, Darwin's Black Box.  Irreducible complexity is illustrated in a really neat way in the DVD presentation, Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
7.  People who believe in God and Creation and the truth of Genesis don't mind teaching our children about the theory of evolution; we just want the freedom to critique it - and the public government schools should allow the other views to challenge the theory of evolution and have open and rational debate about it.  Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution should not be taught as dogma in our public schools.  Intelligent Design and Creationism (whether Progressive, 6 Day, Day-Age, or even Theistic Evolution (as oxymoron as it is) and the problems with the theory of evolution should also be examined.  Let the students and parents decide by honest and open debate, but allow the problems with the philosophical worldview of Evolution and the problems with scientific evidence for it be questioned and examined.  The problem with the public government schools is that they don't allow any one to question the theory and point out it's problems. [ * see at bottom for more]

Al Mohler reported on this also - Bill Nye, "The Science Guy"  says Creationism is not appropriate or good for children.   He also mentions news about trends in sex selection abortions.

Bill Nye wants parents who believe in the one creator God to stop teaching their children that God is the creator, and Genesis is true.  

Dr. Mohler points out that other famous atheists, like the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have said the same thing. 

One of the reasons why so many Christians send their children to private Christian schools or they home-school their children, is because the government schools push the same agenda that Bill Nye wants.  Public government schools teach a secular humanist and Evolutionary Atheist worldview.   The secular atheists want to steal our children’s minds.  As a result of this dominant worldview in the past 40 years, it permeates our culture and has affected beliefs about ethics, morals, and what is truth, and what is "right and wrong".  If Darwinian Atheistic Evolution is true, then there is no judge or judgment day.  If there is no judgment day, then there is no right and no wrong; society just decides what right and wrong is.   And we are seeing the devastating effects of that philosophy today.  

Mohler talks about how the atheists and scientists like Bill Nye are upset with “American parents”.  Apparently, Bill Nye and others like him, think European parents are more enlightened.  Look at what happens in Europe when they as a culture have left the idea of a Almighty Good and Holy Creator God.  

Maybe the recent sentencing of terrorist Anders Behring Breivik to just 21 years for killing 77 people in cold blooded calculated murder and bombing is indication of the lack of moral grounding in what is right and what is wrong; the lack of carrying out the death penalty in justice in Norway against Anders Breivik comes from this worldview also; rejecting God’s law against murder. (I believe he should be executed:  Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:3-4; Ecclesiastes 8:11) See here for more details on the sentencing of Anders Breivik.  What is really weird is how the Norwegian population feels good about themselves for being tolerant and merciful in giving him such a light sentence, yet they mostly agree that they don't want him released after 21 years and do agree that he is evil and sick. 

Back to the response to Bill Nye "the Science Guy": 

Mohler says, “Americans are recalcitrant in accepting the theory of Evolution” and it frustrates Evolutionary scientists and educators.   

Darwinian Evolution – that all life forms, including humans, “developed from a process of random genetic mutation and natural selection” - as Dr. Mohler pointed out,  “is also a religious creed”, a worldview, a philosophy of assumptions that has devastating results in today’s society.    

Some of the results are the radical experimentation with sex selection abortions, and experimentation with human cloning; and other genetic technologies that make marriage and a sexual relationship between one man and one women not necessary, at least for the homosexuals.   Homosexuals are able to not only adopt children that neither partner contributed to;  but now they are, because of advances in technology and genetic engineering, they also are able to have a child from at least one of the male partners by finding a surrogate mother, and using advanced technology of implanting his sperm into that woman.  (surrogate mother) Lesbians are able to have children because one of them gets a sperm bank donation or uses “In Vitro fertilization”.   Homosexual male couples who want to have children have to get a woman donor who agrees to be the one to have one of their sperm implanted into her and she carries it to term.  As Douglas Wilson pointed out in his lecture on Design Sexuality – the worldview of these actions come from a belief that creation is moldable and malleable and we can change nature; a pagan worldview.

So, which philosophy/worldview/religion is really not good for children?

* Addendum:
Children, teenagers, college students should at least be taught that there are intelligent critiques of evolution and allow and investigate other good books and sources such as:
Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson
Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Philip Johnson
Not a Chance by R. C. Sproul
Answers in Genesis - Ken Ham, already mentioned above.
Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, linked above.
Books by Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and many others.  (too numerous to cite here)
The Genesis Debate (3 views debate each other)
Creation and Change - Douglas Kelly
Added on July 15, 2013:
Why Does the Universe Look so Old? by Al Mohler
The Face that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution, by Hank Hanegraaff  (does not discuss the age of the earth or "day" of Genesis issues)  
The Battle for the Beginning, by John McArthur
John Piper says it has to be either the young earth view or John Sailhamer's view explained in the book, 
Genesis Unbound
Reviewed here by Answers in Genesis.

Other Responses to Bill Nye, "the Science Guy"
C. I. Bolt at Choosing Hats
This conclusion was very good:
"In my view, Cornelius Van Til is right about the quagmire of evolutionary debate when he writes, “It is quite hopeless to fight evolution in the public schools and think that in doing so you have gone to the bottom of the trouble. Back of evolution lie relativism and impersonalism.” (Cornelius Van Til, Foundations of Christian Education, 9) Back of relativism and impersonalism lie atheism. Naturalistic evolution is a symptom of a deep spiritual problem, not the problem itself."

Bill Nye and Pie and in the Sky  (by Matthias McMahon; also at "Choosing Hats")

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cosmic Meatball Hits Catholic Answers Apologetics Forum

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Unread Aug 21, '12, 10:46 pm
New Member
Join Date: January 30, 2012
Posts: 95
Religion: Proud Catholic. :)
Default Infallible interpretation,

I've been reading some Apologetic material from an Apologist who often likes to ask Protestants "Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?" The idea is that if they say no, it demonstrates that the rest of their interpretations or passages may also be wrong. If they answer yes...well, they're basically backed into a corner. My question is:

What if someone turns the question around? What if someone asks me? I'd have to answer no, because I'm certaintly not what should I respond? This has been bothering me for days. Thank you 
Reply With Quote

(source). Read through the thread and enjoy (for lack of a better word) the twenty or so bogus responses.

A most revealing post: A Muslim admits that Islam has parallels with Fredrick Neitzsche's "will to power"

This Parallel between Islam and Neitzsche is very revealing.  This was written by a Muslim.  Read it before he may take it down.  Someone in the combox even suggested that.

Addendum:  (Sept. 18, 2012) Sometime last week, somewhere between Sept. 10-15, the MDI took down the post, just as I thought they would.  Apparently, they could not handle my comments in the combox and my defense of the Bible and that the NT fulfills the OT.  Hopefully, I can re-construct the arguments in writing and Lord willing, try to write something on this issue.  

It reveals that Islam at it's main core is all about power and will - Allah in Islam is ultimate power and will, not personality or love or holiness.  Allah in Islam is not a person.  Remember Neitzsche's philosophy - "the will to power".   Allah in Islam is an "it", a "powerful will".  the main goal in Islam is not to know God, one cannot know God in Islam.  In Islam, the goal for the humans is just to obey the will of Allah by following His commands, doing His will, obeying the Sharia (law).  Islam is about conquering through force (جهاد  = Jihad - struggle/effort/striving;  قتل = Qatal - fighting until the death (Surah 9:5; 9:29; 8:39), killing; حرب  = Harb - war)

Neitzsche did not like weakness - the crippled, the sinners (only those in his view - the undisciplined and the weak-minded), the undisciplined, the weak, the weakness of Jesus in allowing Himself to be killed on the cross.   This is also what made Hitler so angry at Christianity and it's "weakness".  This is the ultimate self-righteousness.  Jesus came for those who understand and realize that they are sinners, not for those who are so blinded to think they are good and disciplined and can improve the world by their will power and "doing good" by force.  Luke 5:32 - "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."  Jesus meant those that think they are righteous, because no one is truly righteous. (Romans 3:9-23), except the Lord Jesus Himself.

The true God, the Trinity reaches out and loves the weak and the sinner and ungodly.  Romans 5:6-11

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to uswisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31  (with my emphasis) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just one small correction for Carl Trueman

No Co Ever: Episode 1 from No Compromise Radio on Vimeo.

This was a very good video discussion, regarding the problems with modern Evangelicalism and "The Elephant Room 2" and compromises with T. D. Jakes and his modalism and anti-Trinitarian doctrines and his word of faith/prosperity theology, two very dangerous heresies.  And, as Phil Johnson says, "damnable heresies".

I agree with everything these gentleman said on the issues of doctrine and the problems with the Elephant Room 2

. . . except for one small side comment that Carl Trueman made that I think is important for Christians to understand.

The one small comment was one that Carl Trueman made and I am very surprised that he said it.   I really appreciate Carl Trueman, and I enjoy his blog at Reformation 21; and I tried to find his email at the Westminster Seminary Website, but I could not.  I respect him greatly, and his work in church history and historical theology is very important.  So nothing personal is meant here, and I know he is very mature and will take this for the merit of the issue.

When talking about the Christians at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, Professor Trueman said they were Turks.  [around the 31 minute mark] Professor Trueman was right that the men at the Council of Nicea were not "white men", but they were not Turkish either.  They were Greeks and Egyptians and Syrians (The Syrians before the Arabs conquered them in the 600s AD.)  That is an amazing mistake by a church history professor, in my opinion.  They were mostly Greeks, Syrians, 2 Latins from Rome, and Egyptians (Athanasius, for one) and others from around the Roman Empire.  The Turks did not live in what is today called Turkey at the time of the Council of Nicea.   The Turks (Seljuk and Ottomans) did not come to that land until before the Crusades (1071 AD) and they did not completely conquer the area known as Anatolia and Constantinople until 1453 AD.  No Turks lived in these areas in the New Testament days nor in early church history until the 900s AD!  It is possible that there were some Turkic peoples there from the time of Attila the Hun in the 400s, but not that many, and not any in 325 AD.

It is amazing to me that people don't take the time to study what happened to the Greeks and the Byzantine Empire.  The Arabs first attacked after they conquered Syria/Palestine and Persia and N. Africa.  (632-722 AD)  They tried to take Constantinople in the 600s and 700s but failed.

The Arab Muslims converted the Persians by force (Jihad, Qatal, Harb)  from the 630s into the 900s.  Jihad جهاد  (struggle/effort/striving) and Qatal قتل (the word for "slay" or "fight" = "fighting to the death" in battle - Surah 9:5, 9:29) and Harb حرب (War) are integral aspects of Islam from the time Muhammad conquered Medina in 622 AD.

Then the Arab Muslims converted the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, starting in the 600s, and by the 900s AD, the animist Turks had become Muslim.  (Today these areas are called Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghestan, etc.  Tajikistan is mostly a Persian speaking area - ethnically the Tajiks and southern areas of Uzbekistan are Tajik-Persian (Bukhara and Samarqand) ethnically and were part of the old Persian Empire.  The Arab Muslims also converted the Kurds to Islam by force.  Saladin ("Salah e din" = صلاح دین = "genuine religion"), the famous Muslim leader against the Crusaders, was Kurdish.  Today the Kurds are spread throughout western Iran, Northern Iraq, Eastern Turkey, and the top corner of Syria.

The Seljuk Turks were hired as the palace guards and military force for the Arabs in Baghdad.  The Turkic peoples became the dominant fighting force.  the Seljuk Turks attacked the Greek Byzantine Empire in 1071 AD at the Battle of Manzikurt near Van in the east (was part of Armenia).  The Byzantines were defeated by the Seljuk Turks.

This caused the emperor in Constantinople to call for help from the Pope in France.  The Crusades were launched.  (1095-1299)

After the Crusades, the Ottoman Turks became the dominant Turkish people and eventually conquered all of Anatolia and then Constantinople fell in 1453 and it was renamed Istanbul.

So, today, the area known as Nicea (The Turks call it Iznik today, and it is about one hour outside of Istanbul), where the Council of Nicea was held in 325 AD is in the same area as the country of Turkey; but at the time of Nicea there were no Turks there.

The Turks never heard the gospel.  The Crusades are still major stumbling block to Muslims, especially the Turks.  The Crusades were somewhat understandable in the sense of a "just war" and self-defense, but the horrible mistakes, and the slaughter of the Greek Eastern Orthodox by the Latin Crusaders is a major scandal and shame, as was the Crusading against Jews along the way to the "holy land".   Today the Turks are still 99 % Muslim and there is some outreach to them, but not much.  The Arab Muslims have not been evangelized much either in history.  The Persians were not much either.  The ancient Persian church before Islam was mostly the ethnic Assyrians in Mesopotamia (today's Iraq); not the ethnic Persians farther east.  Henry Martyn translated the first complete copy of the Persian NT in the 1800s.  He died in 1812.

Let us reach out with the gospel to Muslims.

Why make such a big deal about a minor comment not related to the main topic?

The reason why this so important to get right is that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:46-47) is to peoples, nations, ethnic people groups, not "countries" or "political boundaries".  The Greek word for "nation" is ethna (εθνη) and carries with it the idea of a cultural-ethnic people group that is unified by language and culture.  So even though the land of Turkey (and Egypt and N. Africa and Syria and Mesopotamia) had the gospel in earlier centuries, it was snuffed out by Islam in most of these areas, and eclipsed in places where there is some small evangelical witness left.

This is important because God is saving people from all the nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues, as the gospel goes out.  (see Revelation 5:9 and 7:9)   Some "nations" are spread over several political boundaries (countries) and some peoples/nations are within political boundaries and don't have their own country.  A classic example of this is the Kurdish people, who have never had their own political country and are spread over 4 countries.  (Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria)

The OT background of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:46-47 is in Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Psalm 2:8, 67:1-7, 96:3-6, 87:4-6, Isaiah 49:6 and many other passages that use the word "families" (Mishpakha = משפחה ) and "nations" = "goyeem" גוימ and peoples  עמימ  ("ameem") .

A good book that explains the Biblical idea of nations and peoples is John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad! (Baker) and the articles by Ralph Winter and John R. W. Stott and others in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.    The Perspectives book is, overall, a good missions book, but there are some articles in it that I would disagree with, just in case any one wonders.

Addendum: (August 31, 2012)
I want to apologize if it seems I was being too nit-picky on Professor Trueman's statement.  I think if someone reads the whole thing that I wrote above, they can see why I wrote what I wrote, and that it was not meant as a "potshot", but an honest pointing out of the importance of understanding that aspect of church history in relation to missions and the spreading of the gospel among unreached people groups.  A big problem is that missions people are weak in theology and historical theology and church history; but also sometimes theologians are weak in missions.  I noticed that in seminary also, they have their separate disciplines and yet there is a great need for more inter-connectedness of these disciplines because they all come together in the challenge of Islam in today's world.  Islam is what should cause us who believe the Bible to also understand it and evangelize Muslims and also integrate it with church history and historical theology. (and politics, culture, just-war theory, etc.)   The challenge of Islam will force us to deal with the implications of it to all of these areas of study and knowledge.

Someone (D. Waltz) pointed out an article that Professor Trueman wrote, in which he was a little more accurate on the situation:

"Still, let us go back to the fourth century and see how the `middle aged white guy' critique measures up.  Well, at the Council of Nicea in 325, many of the participants were no doubt middle aged -- which Paul in the Pastorals would actually seem to think is quite a good thing in a church leader.  But white?    I suspect they were ethnically more akin to modern day Turks or south eastern Europeans, not that racial categories really meant anything then.  The key category in the fourth century was that of Roman citizenship, not skin color."

The modern Turks are a mixture of many peoples.  But they originally came from Central Asia, and they were not at Nicea in 325 AD and they were not in those lands in NT days that is now called "Turkey"; and they were never reached with the gospel in history; as I pointed out earlier.  They did Islamic wars/Jihads/killing against the Byzantine and Armenian men, and probably took many of the women as wives from the original people groups that lived there.  So, there is probably some Greek, Syrian, Arab, Galatian, Armenian, and other ethnicities within the modern day Turks who live in Turkey.  Today, Turkey is officially 99 % Muslim and very unreached with the gospel.  

How to Preach from an Amillennial Perspective

This past Sunday the senior pastor of my church preached on Micah 4:1-5. The sermon was entitled, "In The Last Days." The sermon never mentions the word amillennial, nor does it focus on the end of the world, nor does it meander through various eschatological views.  The sermon was though, purely amillennial.

For those of you who are up-and-coming Reformed preachers, this sermon is a great example of how to use theology to preach Christ without delving into complicated end-times theological distinctions.

The sermon can be found here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Muslim’s favorite conservative scholar proves them wrong

 Richard Bauchkam calls Mark 10:17-18 “a wonderful double entendre” and shows Jesus is actually claiming to be God!  (see below for exact place in a radio interview.)

A double entendre (literally: double meaning) is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first (more surface) meaning is straightforward and direct speech, while the second meaning is indirect and "underneath the surface" and usually the real intention behind the bare words.  

Oriental cultures, Middle Easterners, especially Iranians, use this kind of language and technique all the time in their poetry and their culture of “saving face” and “honor vs. shame”; has made them over the centuries experts at “indirect speech”. 

Jesus is indirectly claiming to be God, using an eastern method of indirect speech; but westerners think it is straight forward speech. 

On the Unbelievable Radio program, on October 19, 2009,  there was an excellent discussion between James Crossley and Richard Bauckham, about his book, Jesus and the God of Israel.

Muslims love to use Richard Bauckham to try and cast doubt on the NT and the gospels.  While Bauchkam is not an inerrantist, and not as conservative as I am or as Dr. White is; Bauchkam is hardly a good source for Muslims to use, because on this particular radio discussion, Bauchkam believes Jesus is claiming to be God in Mark 10:17-18. 

Shabir Ally and Paul Bilal Williams use some quotes from Bauckham as somehow trying to show that the gospels are not reliable and changed, yet in this program, Bauckham takes Paul Williams’ favorite passage (Mark 10:17-19) and demonstrates that Muslims are wrong on its meaning.  Williams brings up Mark 10:17-19 many times at his own blog. see here:

and here, What must I do to be saved? 

and here, "Why do you call Me good?

In all three of these articles, he leaves out verses 23-27.

and look around for others here - 

 If you look around, it seems that he has a blog article on Mark 10 or the gospel of John and/or liberal scholars every several blog articles.  He especially likes Mark 10:17-19 about "Why do you call Me good?" or about "keep the commandments", and seeing that from a Muslim viewpoint, he thinks Jesus said that in order to teach that someone is able to keep the law and be saved.   His Islamic worldview has blinded him from seeing the real meaning of this great passage, especially if one reads all the way until verse 27.  Of course, only the Holy Spirit can lift the blinders off sinners' hearts.

Williams constantly quotes the Mark passage, but always leaves out verses 23-27 in his polemics.  Williams constantly uses Mark 10:17-18 to try and say that Jesus is denying His Deity; and he constantly uses Mark 10:19-22 to try and say that Jesus teaches that salvation comes by obeying the law of God.  He is wrong on both accounts.  By leaving out verses 23-27, Williams is avoiding the deeper meaning of why Jesus approaches the rich young ruler the way He does.  We will address that issue later, Lord willing.

Bauckham on “why do you call me good?”

I am not going to type out every word in this section of the interview; I invite the reader to listen to the whole thing.  However, I want to include key phrases and sentences of Bauckham, and intersperse with my own comments.

Beginning at the 43:31 mark – Richard Bauckham – “can I come back to Mark ?
because in Mark chapter 2 – who can forgive sins but God alone?”, he is “expressing precisely one of these uniquely divine qualities” - qualities of God .

Mark 6 – “What kind of man is this who the wind and waves obey his voice?  Only God can rule the chaos - Order out of chaos; a very OT idea about God.”

Mark 10:17 ff – “Why do you call me good, only God is good. Actually works the other way, Jesus is good, so Jesus is God.  Bauckham calls this a “wonderful double entendre”,  and “if you are not thinking, you would say that Jesus is saying I am not God”; but Jesus is actually trying to get the rich young ruler to think about true goodness.  Thus, Bauckham is confirming the orthodox position of how to interpret this passage.  Jesus is not denying that He is good or God, but in an indirect way, Jesus is actually claiming to be God.  In effect, Jesus is saying, “If you recognize Me as good and call Me good, then you should see that I am God, since only God is good.”  But the man didn’t really understand absolute goodness. 

Mark 14:61-64

This is a very clear passage that Jesus is claiming Deity.  Even the Jews know that the Messiah is going to be “the Son of the blessed one”!  The Jews know Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7:13-14 and Proverbs 30:4 and Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14. 
Jesus quotes from Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14 and the Jewish leaders tear their robes and say that Jesus has committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus also said, “I am” ( ego eimi = εγω ειμι ) in verse 62.    Muslims and other skeptics like to make a big deal about the “I am” statements in John, and they claim that there are none of them in the Synoptic gospels.  Well, here is one.  Mark 6:50 is another “I am” statement. 

Bauckham says the clear claim of deity is there in Mark, so it is not only in the gospel of John, as some, particularly Muslims are saying, but the Deity of Christ is clear in Mark also.

Dr. White’s recent Five sermons on the Gospel according to Mark:

In his first message, “The Bookends of Mark” – he shows that Mark 1:1 (the Son of God – for an article about the textual variant here, see this.) and Mark 15:39 (“truly this man was the Son of God!”) – the centurions’ confession that Jesus is “the Son of God”, demonstrates Mark’s purpose of testifying that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah.  Dr. White made a great point about the Roman Centurion and his familiarity with death, in Mark 15:43-45.  The Roman Centurion better be sure Jesus was dead, since he had to give testimony to Pilate himself.  If he was wrong, he would have been executed.  The seriousness with which the Romans dealt with soldiers and guards who did not do their job well is seen in Acts 16:27.  The Philippian jailor was about to kill himself, because he had fallen asleep earlier, and he thought that Paul and Barnabas had escaped in Acts 16:27, after the earthquake. 

There are a lot of nuggets there that Dr. White brings out in these five sermons.  Because Muslims are not only using liberal scholars, but now they are using (and abusing) more conservative scholars to attack the New Testament and the gospels, we need to equip ourselves to be “ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us” to Muslims, and take up our cross in discipleship. (see Mark 8:34-38)

For two other articles on the unity of the gospel of Mark and the Deity of Christ in Mark, see here, and on the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus in Mark, see here. 

Credit goes to someone named "Monty" in the aomin chat channel, a few days ago (last week); for pointing to this particular Unbelievable Radio program, the discussion between Bauckham and Crossley.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do You Have the Gift of Discernment?

I've been in a number of conversations with Christians convinced that the Holy Spirit has endowed them with the gift described in 1 Corinthians 12 as "the distinguishing of spirits," or, sometimes referred to as the gift of discernment.  Sometimes I wonder if the claim to such a gift is simply a ploy for recognition. Or perhaps it's a type of hubris or spiritually immaturity. I'm often tempted to simply dismiss such people as violating Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 6 to boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is possible, though, that sincerity is that which motivates such an assertion. Couldn't it simply be zeal for the purity of doctrine or the protection of the church that leads someone to claim this supernatural gift? Perhaps they've heard a sermon or been to a Bible study exhorting the seeking out and nurturing of spiritual gifts. Perhaps friends have noticed and encouraged their seeming ability to rightly discern spiritual issues. Perhaps a church leader has blatantly told them they have the gift of discernment. If any of these positive scenarios are true, if someone indeed has the gift spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:10, the fault would not be admitting to it (whether boastfully or not), rather it would be not using the gift for the benefit of the church.

How should such claims to spiritual discernment be understood in the church today? Can one know if the claim is Biblically valid today? These questions cannot be addressed until related issues are scrutinized. How has the church understood this gift, and is there a consensus view? Is this gift something particular only to the infant church or has it been given throughout the centuries? What role did it play in the early church, and if still extant, what role would it play today?

What is the "Distinguishing of Spirits" According to the Early Church?
Paul doesn't explain what this gift is, nor do the Scriptures elsewhere explicitly offer any divine commentary as to what it entails. That is, the Bible doesn't say elsewhere, "This is what Paul means by the distinguishing of spirits." One may be tempted to think the earliest extra-biblical writers could provide the needed illuminating commentary or explanation. Weren't they closest in historical position to the divine authors? This is a fallacy. Simply because one is nearer in history does not mean an interpretation is necessarily more accurate. The writings of the church fathers do not provide any determining clarity. From these extant writings, often the gift is simply mentioned along with the other gifts without detailed elaboration or interpretation.(1)

In an obscure letter, Augustine refers to it as an ability to answer extra-biblical theological questions. In responding to questions related to how martyrs are able to help those who make requests of them, Augustine is convinced martyrs have abilities from the grave but he does not know exactly how these powers work. He explains that simply because he lacks understanding, this does not mean there isn't someone given the discerning of spirits who could address the issue with precision.(2)  In a secondary way, Augustine argues elsewhere that knowing Scripture will put Christians "on the alert for discerning of the spirits" in regard to false doctrine. (3)  Chrysostom blatantly speaks of the cessation of the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. The gift of the discerning of spirits functioned to tell God’s Word apart from "soothsayers… addicted to Grecian customs." (4)

Luther and Calvin on the "Distinguishing of Spirits"
During the Reformation period, Luther saw the supernatural gifts as "necessary in the primitive church, which had to be established with visible signs on account of the unbelievers… But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue." (5) Some of these gifts, though, have been transformed and still function. (6)   Tongues became the public reading of Scripture. Prophecy became "the ability to rightly interpret and explain the Scriptures, and powerfully to reveal therefrom the doctrine of faith and the overthrow of false doctrine." (7) He similarly alludes to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as demonstrating the ability of the early Lutherans to "handle and interpret Scripture skillfully." (8)

Similar to Luther, Calvin held there was a sense in which certain gifts still functioned even if not in the precise way they did at inception. In The Institutes Calvin admits to a cessationist view of miracles (IV:19,18). (9)   Elsewhere he refers to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as the active gift of interpreting God's word and something not to be surrendered to the papists. Calvin explained, though, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that the discerning of spirits during the apostolic age was "a clearness of perception in forming a judgment as to those who professed to be something." Calvin states:

"It was a special illumination, with which some were endowed by the gift of God. The use of it was this that they might not be imposed upon by masks, of mere pretences, but might by that spiritual judgment distinguish, as by a particular mark, the true ministers of Christ from the false." (10)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" Post-Reformation
Likewise admitting cessation after the apostolic age, John Owen (1616-1683) held, "the gift of discerning spirits has ceased, since no pretense to prophetic gifts is any longer asserted 'unless by some persons phrenetical and enthusiastical, whose madness is manifest to all.'"(11) John Gil (1697-1771) saw the gift as the previous ability to "discern the hearts of men, their thoughts, purposes, and designs, their secret dissimulation and hypocrisy" (12) and no longer functioning. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) likewise understood the gifts had ceased. In his The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God he exhorts his readers to test the spirits, noting the Spirit was now working differently:

"However great a spiritual influence may be, it is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of Christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the Christian church. Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do." (13)

John Wesley (1703-1791) likewise held the gift of discernment was "The discerning - Whether men be of an upright spirit or no," (14) but held this gift along with the others only ceased later in history when "a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the church- which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, lost as much of its virtue as it had gained of wealth and power." (15) John Darby (1800-1882) on the other hand contrarily held "The discerning of spirits is not that of a man's condition of soul - it has nothing to do with it. It is the knowing how to discern, by the mighty energy of the Spirit of God, the actings of evil spirits, and to bring them to light if necessary, in contrast with the action of the Spirit of God." (16)

Echoing back to Owen and Edwards, B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) held the apostolic gifts were given for the authentication of the apostolic message. After the deaths of those imparted with these gifts, the gifts ceased. Warfield considered the discerning of spirits "among the extraordinary items." (17) He states,

"How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age- although no doubt this designation may be taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles." (18)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" in the Present
The rise of Pentecostalism (including both heretical and orthodox factions) breathed new life (and confusion) into the notion of the continuation of the gifts in their fullness. Jack Hayford holds, "Discerning of spirits is the ability to discern the spirit world, and especially to detect the true source of circumstances or motives of people."(19) Derek Prince says the gift gives the ability to "lift the veil that covers the unseen spiritual world," "enables us to see as God sees," "protect us from deception," and to "diagnose people’s problems and so help them."(20) Joyce Meyer says some people believe the gift is "the discerning of divine spirits, as when Moses looked into the spirit realm and saw the 'back' of God, or when John was in exile on the isle of Patmos and had a vision of the resurrected Jesus."(21) Examples of such sentiment, differing in scope and content, have ample representatives.

Contemporary non-Reformed conservative voices tone down their interpretation of the extent and efficacy of the gifts. Billy Graham denies that prophecy in the sense of new revelation is occurring today, but explains, "We are to exercise the gift of discernment because many false prophets will appear… Thus the Christian must have those who can distinguish between false and true prophets."(22) For Graham, certain people are singled out by the Holy Spirit and gifted specifically with discernment. Contrarily, in his book Living the Extraordinary Life, Charles Stanley avoids citing 1 Corinthians 12 entirely while confidently laying out an entire method for any Christian to develop discernment. One need only regularly practice a few simple steps.(23)  Discernment ceases to be an extraordinary gift despite the title of the book.

There is therefore no shortage of explanations in broad Christendom as to what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 12:10. The explanations produced by the church throughout the centuries run the theological gamut. In summary, at least three basic explanations have been given throughout the centuries. First, the gift was only given to the early church to discern true and false prophets before the completion of the canon. Second, the gift functioned as the first view suggests, but now post-canon completion functions differently. Third, the gift functions today supernaturally to those whom the Spirit gives it.

Exegetical Considerations of 1 Corinthians 12:10
The feminine noun "discernment" (διάκρισις) in 12:10 is found also in Hebrews 5:14 and Romans 14:1. In each of these verses, it functions along the lines of "differentiation."(24) It is related to the verb "judge" (διακρίνω) used in 1 Corinthians 14:29. There Paul gives instructions for what the Corinthians were to do after a prophet spoke: "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." Paul does not explicitly say that those who "pass judgment" are gifted with the discerning of spirits, nor does his comment exclude such a gift among specific people in the Corinthian church. All Christians are responsible to listen to the prophet discerningly (1 John 4:1), but, as Leon Morris states, "the ability to distinguish between spirits shows that to some was given a special discernment in this matter."(25)

To what does the word "spirits" (πνεύματα) refer, to a prophet, the message of that prophet, or both? In 1 Cor. 14:32 the word refers to the prophet being in control of his prophecy. It was not uncontrolled supernatural ecstasy. The person with the gift of discerning of spirits in 12:10 is someone who can discern the truthfulness or deviousness of that prophecy, or "spirit" of the prophet and prophecy. This has led some commentators to hold that false prophets were not simply false on their own accord. Rather, they were false because of either demon-possession or evil spirits ("the spirit of antichrist" as described in 1 John 4:1).(26)   In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Paul describes these people as Satan's servants masquerading as servants of righteousness. The person who was gifted with special discernment therefore, could recognize the actor behind the mask.

VII. The Canon and 1 Corinthians 12:10
Some explicitly link the gift of discerning spirits to the forming canon of the New Testament. The function of the gift was to determine which writings were actually theopneustas:

"[T]hese New Testament prophets certified to the congregation what was and what was not a divinely inspired document. In the interest of clearness let us visualize a congregation of Believers assembling in a remote, out of the way village. Into that assembly comes two manuscripts, both purporting to be written by Paul but one of them a forgery. What means would they have of detecting a cleverly written forgery? Did God leave them to their own discernment? Fortunately this was not the case otherwise they would have been open to all manner of deception. Apparently what would have happened in that congregation was that the local prophet would hear both manuscripts read. The document that was written by Paul would, by the prophet, be declared as from Paul and the forgery would be branded a forgery." (27)

While this anonymously published interpretation is certainly neat and tidy, it is read into the text rather than exegeted from the text. The factor of the canon, though, must be placed somewhere in this discussion. If indeed the canon is closed, the purpose of particular revelatory gifts becomes crucial. Richard Gaffin insightfully reminds his readers that the continuation of prophecy beyond its foundational period "would necessarily create tensions with the closed, finished character of the canon."(28) If the discerning of spirits is linked with the gift of prophecy, then it either does not now function as it did during the period of Inscripturation or it does not function at all.

VIII. Strengths and Weaknesses of Taking a View on 1 Cor. 12:10
The gift of the discerning of spirits had the same goal as the other gifts described: the common good of the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 12:7). While all the gifts were different, they each individually served to unify the church and protect the apostolic message 1 Cor. 12:1-7). If Paul intended the gift of the discerning of spirits to be linked with prophecy, the gift no longer would have any use, even if it still did exist. One difficulty for those taking this view is navigating through 1 Corinthians 12: Have all the gifts mentioned in verses 7-11 ceased? Perhaps one could almost argue affirmatively, save the one hurdle of the "gift of faith" mentioned in verse 9. On what basis does one determine that an entire listing of gifts save one no longer functions today? This isn’t an impossible problem to overcome. Exegetes distinguish it from the gift of faith given to every believer (Eph. 2:8-10). Perhaps some would be so bold to conclude this extra measure of faith in 1 Cor. 12 is no longer given by the Spirit. Was it something special related to the forming church that is no longer needed? Perhaps though, the easiest solution for someone taking this view is to simply affirm it as an exception to the list of gifts.

For modern-day charismatics believing the gift still functions today as it did when first given, that there's such diversity as to what they posit the gift entails should provoke suspicion. Because these representatives see the gift as pointing to something beyond the mundane, there are no rules as to the function of a supernatural gift in a charismatic paradigm. If the Spirit is understood to be working in an extraordinary way, the gift can refer to whatever one wants it to.

Perhaps the most attractive view are those who attempt to navigate a middle path seeing the gift as being transformed into something other than it’s original function. They likewise face a similar problem to those who think it ceased entirely: on what basis does one determine that a gift functions differently later in history? Have some of the gifts been transformed, and why only some? Can it properly be designated the same gift in its transformed state?

IX. Conclusion
God has expressly stated that He does not want the church to be ignorant on the issue of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1). The gifts were not Biblically described as optional add-ons for the Church. Rather, the gifts demonstrated the work of the Spirit in the church and helped build her. Despite her gross sin, even the Corinthian church was described as not lacking any of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 1:7). Paul wished to visit the Roman church to impart to them a spiritual gift to strengthen them (Rom. 1:11). The question therefore as to the identification, existence, nature, and purpose of the gift of the discerning of spirits is of no little importance. If God has gifted the church with the discerning of spirits and the gift still functions presently, we would do well to vigorously seek it out. If it was something specific to the apostolic church, a gentle response to those claiming its service needs to be prepared with either rebuke or gentleness, depending on the person.
Given the scope of interpretations throughout history, the exegetical difficulties of 1 Corinthians 12:10, and the logical problems of consistently maintaining any of the views briefly outlined above, what sort of response may be formulated to someone claiming the gift of discerning spirits?

The first response would be to point out the difficulties of achieving any sort of certain view as to the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:10. In essence, this is an exhortation to humility. One can appreciate a desire to discern and stop error or heresy from entering the church. This though need not be rooted in a supernatural ability. It can just as easily be the result of Christian maturity. The response therefore is to point out that humility in regard to difficult passages coupled with Christian maturity is enough to look at spiritual situations appropriately.

In this age of post-inscripturation, the second response should be to direct people back to the Scriptures. That is, if one wants to have a certain Holy Spirit-driven discernment of truth from error, savingly knowing and believing the Bible itself would be the means of accomplishing this goal. This places our faith back into God's word rather than any sort of subjective experience as the determiner of truth. Such passages as Acts 17:11 and 1 Peter 3:15 serve as a solid basis to build discernment on. Here discernment becomes a result of sanctification rather than a sudden supernatural experience or feeling of special knowledge given by God to an individual.

This would mean that those in the ministry would primarily and typically have the most discernment on spiritual matters. This does not though rule out that laymen can likewise attain a healthy level of spiritual discernment. One need not be a minister or even an apostle to say in the face of error: "Even if we or an angel from heaven preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" One need only be faithful to placing the supernatural word of God into the heart and allow it to naturally transform and renew the mind.

1.See Origen's (184-254) comments in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII, 1-2 Corinthians, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: Intervaristy Press, 1999), 122, "It is a spiritual gift, therefore, by which the spirit is discerned, as the apostle says: 'Test the spirits, if they are from God.'" Clement of Alexandria (150 – 250) refers to it as an attribute describing "the perfect man or those who have experienced an aspect of deep Christian truth" [The Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 2, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 433-434]. Henceforth all references to the Ante-Nicene Fathers are designated ANF. Tertullian (160-225) describes how the Spirit and His gifts were taken from the Jews and given to the church [ANF 3, 445-446]. Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270) mentions the gifts as describing the orthodox faith [ANF 6, 47], though this writing may be spurious. Augustine simply mentions the gift in passing [The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 197, 346; III, 63, 94; IV, 267; VII, 98]. Henceforth all references to the Nicene and Post-Fathers are designated NPNF.

2. NPNF III, 549-550. Augustine recommends John the Monk who was purported to have extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

3. NPNF VII, 499.

4. NPNF XII, 168-169.

5. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, ed. J. J. Pelikan (Philadelphia: fortress Press, 1955), 374. Henceforth, all references to Luther’s Works are designated LW.

6. LW 14,36.

7. Martin Luther, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther vol. 4.1-2, John Nicholas Lenker, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 213.

8. LW 40, 250.

9. "Calvin sets forth an embryonic cessationism. Conceiving of prophets as those who have a 'particular revelation,' he observes that '[t]his class either does not exist today or is less commonly seen.' However, after provisionally holding out the possibility that there could be contemporary prophets, Calvin slams the door shut by pointing out in regard to the offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist that '[t]hese three functions were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before, or where they were to be carried over from Moses to Christ.'" [Philip A. Craig, "And Prophecy Shall Cease, Jonathan Edwards on the Cessation of the Gift of Prophecy," Westminster Theological Journal Volume 64 no. 1 (Spring 2002): 164.

10. John Calvin, Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Corinthians Part One (Forgotten Books, 2007), 326-327.

11. John Owen, The Works of John Owen vol. 4 (London: Richard Baynes, 28, Paternoster Row, 1826), 302. “These gifts are not saving, sanctifying graces—those were not so in themselves which made the most glorious and astonishing appearance in the world, and which were most eminently useful in the foundation of the church and propagation of the gospel, such as were those that were extraordinary and miraculous.”

12. John Gil, Commentary 1 Corinthians 12:10.

13. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (London: J.R. and C Childs, Bungay, 1835), 265.

14. John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 448.

15. Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), 8.

16. John Darby, The Present Testimony and Original Christian Witness Revived in Which the Church’s Portion and the Hope of the Kingdom vol. VIII (London: R. Groombridge & Sons, 1856), 154.

17. Warfield, 5.

18. Warfield 6-7. Warfield also discusses and refutes the view that the gifts gradually died out around the time of Constantine, thus lasting for three centuries (6-21).

19. Hayford, J. W., & Curtis, G. Pathways to Pure Power: Learning the Depth of Love's Power, a Study of first Corinthians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994), Libronix electronic edition.

20. Derek Prince, Called to Conquer: Finding Your Assignment in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2010), 50.

21. Joyce Meyer, Knowing God Intimately: Being as Close to Him as You Want to Be, (New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2003).

22. Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 146-147.

23. Charles Stanley, Living the Extraordinary Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 175-178.

24. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 949.

25. Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 169.

26. F.W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), 267.

27. Anonymous, “The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev. 1:20),” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91 (October 1934): 439-440.

28. Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), 100.