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A Few Things Learned from the Bible

I recently received the following reflections by my friend Tony Arlyn. They constitute a good and accurate summary of the Bible’s worldview, message, and doctrines. Because it is such a succinct and insightful summation of the Bible’s message, I pass it on to you.

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A few things I learned from the Bible:

  • Every human being is created into a world that is evil, temporary, filled with rebellion, and doomed for destruction.
  • Every human being is also evil, temporary, filled with rebellion, and rightly doomed for destruction.
  • Every human being manifests this evil with an exceedingly wicked rebellion against his very own Creator by not acknowledging Him, honoring Him, or thanking Him for his very existence.
  • Every human being also demonstrates this deceitful rebellion by replacing his Creator with a “lesser version,” someone of his own creation; and in doing so, every human being denies the truth about his Creator’s transcendence, His absolute power over His creation, His authority, and His genuine goodness.
  • Every human being hates real truth and genuine goodness, and he defines truth and goodness for himself.
  • Every human being tries to create his own self-significance apart from his Creator in order to justify his own existence.
  • Every human being will never find his real significance in this present created world.
  • Every human being is destined to die in this state of rebellion, rightfully doomed to destruction, unless the Creator decides to be merciful towards him and chooses to act on his behalf by using His absolute power to begin to change him from being evil to being good.
  • Every human being who has been chosen by the Creator will love mercy, struggle for the rest of his life with his own evil and rebellion, and begin to try to see, understand, and pursue genuine goodness.
  • Every human being who has been chosen by the Creator will repeatedly face the truth about himself, begin to know the truth about his Creator, and begin to learn what is genuinely good, true, and valuable.
  • Every human being chosen by the Creator will try to overcome his evil desire for self-significance and find his ultimate significance in what the Creator is doing on his behalf.
  • The Creator of all reality promises that, after physical death, those who believe Him, trust Him, follow Him, and agree with His purposes will have a life in a good and glorious time and place in the future.
  • The Creator of all reality promises to finish the work He has started in the human beings he has chosen so that they will no longer be evil, temporary, and filled with rebellion, but they will be good and glorious; so that they will fit in and belong in the good and glorious time and place in the future.
  • The Creator of all reality places a mark on the lives of the human beings He has chosen and is changing, and He calls the mark faith and promises to deliver the marked ones from the coming final destruction.
  • The Creator of all reality chose to make known all this through the tiny nation of Israel, to whom He revealed Himself as the one true Creator and proclaimed: “Hear O Israel: the LORD is your God; the LORD is one, and there is no other one like Him.”
  • The Creator of all reality also chose to reveal Himself and proclaim His purposes in time and space through the Jewish man Jesus, whom He called His ‘son’, and He made Jesus both Lord and the promised Messiah of Israel, the one who will one day rule over the good and glorious time and place in the future as its King, representing the Creator Himself.
  • The Creator of all reality was pleased with the life of His son Jesus, and He revealed to the human beings He has chosen that they should follow Jesus in the same way they would follow Him so that they might live in the good and glorious time and place in the future.
  • The Creator of all reality was so pleased with the life of His son Jesus that, after Jesus was crucified and died, the Creator brought him back to life in a new and glorious way so that human beings could see for themselves what the Creator has planned for those whom He has chosen for Himself and given to His son Jesus.
  • Every human being chosen by the Creator will, after he dies, be brought back to life in a new and glorious way when the man Jesus returns to rule over the good and glorious time and place in the future.
  • The good and glorious time and place in the future will be the time and place when the genuine goodness and glory of the Creator is evident for all to see, and, because of the Creator’s mercy towards the human beings He has chosen, genuine goodness and glory will become a living reality in the lives of those who belong to Him and to His son Jesus.

 

Peter Kreeft: God as Author

I seem to be getting a lot of good stuff sent to me recently. Another friend sent me an interview (excerpt below) with Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft. When I began my book on divine determinism nearly thirty years ago, no one seemed to be thinking of God as the author of reality and of created reality as a narrative that God is creating. It seems that a growing number of people are recognizing that this is the best way to understand the biblical perspective. And, indeed, as I argued in my recent seminar on the problem of evil at Gutenberg’s 2012 Summer Institute and in a series of talks at Reformation Fellowship, it provides the only really compelling answer to the problem of evil. Interestingly, Kreeft answers the relevant questions in the interview below exactly as I would.

I have not included the full interview even though Kreeft has some very interesting things to say. Here’s the interview’s teaser: “Our culture, says surfer/philosopher Peter Kreeft, has created women with terribly low expectations and new Victorians who will make moral judgments about everything except sex.” The interview by Marvin Olasky (July 17, 2010), can be found on the World Magazine website.

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Peter Kreeft still has more years (73) than published books (59), but the prolific Catholic professor is closing the gap. He teaches philosophy at both Boston College and The King’s College, New York City, and when he has spare time plays chess and goes surfing. The next book out of the chute is his first novel, An Ocean Full of Angels.

How is writing a novel different from writing nonfiction? Do you feel a little bit like God? It’s a great analogy: the novel that God writes and the novel that we write. It shows how there can be predestination and free will at the same time. And it also shows how the Incarnation is not illogical, because it shows how a novelist can put himself in his own novel as one of his own characters—and then he has two natures.

So in our hobbies of novel writing, we are studying theology. Well, the Bible is more like a novel than like theology, actually. This is the one thing that postmodernism has shown us, that Enlightenment rationalism doesn’t fit the fundamentally religious foundation of narrative.

Do you think you were predestined to become a philosopher? Yes, of course. Predestination is in the Bible. A good author gives his characters freedom, so we’re free precisely because we were predestined to be free. There’s no contradiction between predestination and free will.

John Piper: God Causes Evil

A good friend of mine came across the following video clip where John Piper, an influential Christian leader, articulated his view that God causes evil. It is rather rare to hear modern Christians clearly articulate such a view, without qualification. But, in my judgment, that is exactly what the Bible teaches. God is the author of everything, including evil. If one does not understand that evil is actually created by God for his purposes, then one understands neither the biblical concept of God, nor the biblical concept of evil. John Piper, it would seem, agrees with me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSSLLpVChng&feature=related

Jesus Wasn’t Crucified on Friday

Off and on since last fall, I have taught a series at Reformation Fellowship (a church in Eugene) titled “Is the Bible Trustworthy? Responding to Bart Ehrman.” Ehrman is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Much of his work has been on textual criticism and the New Testament, and he has published several popular books in which he points out “inconsistencies” in the New Testament texts.  The intent of my talks has been to look at Ehrman’s arguments for some of those inconsistencies and to show how, properly understood, the New Testament is not at all inconsistent.

My latest talk (June 17) dealt with Ehrman’s allegation that the accounts in the Gospels of Mark and John concerning the timing of Jesus’ death contradict each other.  Ehrman bases his arguments on what I believe are false assumptions, one of which is that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath, as the Church has assumed for hundreds of years.

In looking at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • For Jews, like Mark and John, the new day begins at sundown and lasts until the following sundown. Hence, the weekly Sabbath does not simply correspond to our Saturday. Rather, it begins at sundown on what is our Friday and ends at sundown on what is our Saturday. (I’ll refer to the “day” the weekly Sabbath occurs as “Friday–Saturday.”)
  • “Passover” is an annual religious celebration prescribed by the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 23:5) that always occurs on the same day—the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan. Hence, Passover will not always fall on the same day of the week every year.
  • The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” is always celebrated for seven days after  Passover, and the first and last days of the observance are both holy Sabbaths  (Leviticus 23:5–8).
  • Because Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread always occur together, sometimes the whole period of the two religious observances is simply called “Feast of Unleavened Bread” (or just “Unleavened Bread” or the “Feast”), and sometimes it is simply called “Passover.”
  • Passover is not a Sabbath day; work can be done on the Passover. In fact, the Passover is a “day of preparation” for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is always a Sabbath day on which no work may be done.
  • Depending on the year, neither the day of Passover nor either of the two Sabbaths commanded to be kept as part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread need to coincide with the weekly Sabbath. In that event, then, during the eight days of  “the Feast” (or “Passover” or  “Unleavened Bread”), the Jews would be required to observe three different Sabbaths in an eight-day span of time. Here, for example, is how the Sabbaths would fall if Passover day were to fall on a Sunday–Monday:
    1. The next day, Monday–Tuesday, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, would be a Sabbath;
    2. The next Friday–Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, would be a Sabbath;
    3. The very next day, Saturday–Sunday, the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, would be a Sabbath.

The fact that there are other Sabbaths besides the weekly Sabbath during Passover “week” is an absolutely critical fact that one must take into account when one is seeking to understand the events surrounding Jesus’ death. But Ehrman, I would contend, does not take this fact into account. And neither has the Church.

Given the understanding of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that I have just described, I argued in my talk at Reformation Fellowship that Mark’s and John’s accounts are consistent with one another. Furthermore, Jesus was not crucified during the day on “Good Friday” (Jewish Thursday–Friday) as we have always assumed, but rather  he was crucified during the day on Wednesday (Jewish Tuesday–Wednesday).

All my talks responding to Bart Ehrman are online in the audio section of Gutenberg’s website and on Gutenberg’s site at iTunes U. PDF notes accompany the recordings.

 

Biblical Worldview Expressed

This year’s senior class will be graduating from Gutenberg in just under three weeks from now. The following quote was cited in one of the senior’s senior thesis this year. Personally, I know nothing of the novel or the author from which this quote was taken. But I was struck by how exactly congruent the sentiments contained in this quote are with the worldview that I have concluded is the worldview of the Bible. I am currently giving a series of talks on Biblical divine determinism and The Problem of Evil at Reformation Fellowship. The quote (from The Crossing, a novel by Cormac Mcarthy) expresses precisely the worldview that forms the basis of those talks:

There is but one world and everything that is imaginable is necessary to it. For this world also which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thing at all but is a tale. And all in it is a tale and each tale the sum of all lesser tales and yet these also are the selfsame and contain as well all else within them. So everything is necessary. Every least thing. This is the hard lesson. Nothing can be dispensed with. Nothing despised. Because the seams are hid from us, you see. The joinery. The way in which the world is made. We have no way to know what could be taken away. What omitted.

 

On a lighter note, but also exactly along the lines of the argument that I have been making in my talks at Reformation Fellowship, I received the following in an email:

I Personally Do Not Believe in JRR Tolkien.

No man could call himself a good author and let all those evil creatures be in his book. And look what happened to Gollum… If Tolkien were real, he could have wiped out Mordor with a stroke of the pen. –Douglas Grover, USMC, USA

 

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