Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Desperate Counter-attack 

From the Aquila Report, here's a great example of the dishonest tactics so often used to attack Christianity.  I think it should be taken as an unintended compliment, a tribute to the importance of Christianity.  If Christianity were irrelevant and dying, there'd be no need to go to all this effort.  That someone is willing to throw away their own intellectual credibility to make attacks like this just shows that it really does matter, and that the author of such attacks has very personal, non-intellectual reasons for being so desperate to find reasons not to submit to Jesus Christ.  Why not just ignore Jesus?  Because they can't.  This article feels to me like Hitler's last desperate attempts to defend Germany when his own generals all knew they were defeated.

At any rate, Michael Kruger does a great job of dismantling arguments that anyone with even a passing familiarity with church history would know were nonsense.  This is one really important reason to study church history, as we are doing at Christ Reformed- to recognize the foolishness of these kinds of slanders.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It is impossible to consistently believe in unguided evolution. 

If unguided evolution is true, then unguided evolution formed my brain.
If unguided evolution formed my brain then theism is false. (since theism entails the claim that God formed my brain)
If I believe in theism, then my brain has produced a false belief.
If my brain has produced a false belief, then unguided evolution formed my brain to produce a false belief.
If unguided evolution has formed my brain to produce false beliefs, then I cannot be confident that anything I believe is not also false, including unguided evolution.
Therefore, it is impossible to believe in unguided evolution, since the belief in unguided evolution entails the belief that I cannot truly know anything.

Secular Humanism can only live as a parasite on Christianity 

Secular humanism might be described as the philosophical belief that all human beings have value and dignity, which is inherent rather than defined by supernatural beliefs or religious dogma.

A couple of interesting points about secular humanism-
-It shares a number of beliefs with traditional Christianity, especially the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of a human being.
-It provides no basis for that belief; no way of proving that humans do have any inherent value, other than their desire that it be so.
-Historically, it arose in areas (western Europe and America, specifically) with deep Christian roots.

I conclude that secular humanism is a Christian heresy; meaning a belief system which is a distortion of Christian belief.  Secular humanism is an attempt to get the benefits of Christianity without paying the price, the price of submission to God.  It is the belief that the blessings that have come to the world through Christianity can be enjoyed while rejecting the supernatural basis for those beliefs.  It is a house built on sand, a philosophy with no epistemological foundation.

Even as secular humanists mock and deride Christianity, the fact is, that secular humanism could not exist without Christianity.  It is like a parasite.  It depends on a steady influx of people who accept the Christian belief in the inherent dignity of human beings.  But since it rejects the basis for that belief (that man was created in the image of God), it cannot actually inculcate that belief itself.  It can provide us with no reason why all human beings should have any particular worth, since in its philosophy we are all just matter.  Why should one collection of organic matter be more important than another?  Or why is organic matter of more inherent worth than non-organic matter?  And why should I view people of different genders or races as of equal value?  If Christianity were ever somehow to cease to exist, so would secular humanism, and the world would lapse back into barbarism and savagery.  Fortunately, that cannot happen, as God is God and has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

Secular humanism, therefore, is a great deal like the pagan attempts in late antiquity to stem the growing influence of Christianity by aping Christianity's success.  Julian the Apostate tried to encourage pagan temples to emulate the moral virtue and charity of the Christian clergy.  He failed, because paganism lacks any real reason to do those things.  Secular humanism will fail for the same reason; moral behavior and charity toward others can only really be grounded in the truth of a Creator that made us all in His image.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evolution and the Gallery of Glory 

If evolution is correct, then the violence, suffering, and gore of the animal world has raged since time immemorial. And if the theistic evolutionists are correct, then this violence, suffering, and gore are part of God’s very good creation. Conceivably, Adam leaves his cabin in Eden one pleasant summer evening as the sun casts a golden swath across the meadow, the fragrance of perfection in the air enhanced by the river’s peaceful rush. He takes out his pipe and stuffs it with “the tender herb,” plucked from “where the morning sun first warmly smote the open field.” Eve joins him with a cup of tea, and together they delight in the scene before them, “breathing the smell of field and grove.” Across the water a moose screams as it’s rectally disemboweled by a pack of wolves. Adam takes a long, slow draw from his pipe, savours the cool smoke, turns to Eve with a contented smile and together they chat about the many pleasures of Paradise.
Evolution and the Gallery of Glory, Jeremy de Haan

Agents Provocateurs 

In the civil rights era, there were accusations that the FBI and CIA used what are called “agents provocateurs,” meaning that they infiltrated various protest groups with secret agents whose job was to discredit the organization by starting riots and engaging in violence and vandalism in the name of the group, turning public opinion away from it.  I have heard the same charges made by liberal Occupy Wall Street groups, as well as Tea Party groups, who would talk of suspicious people that nobody knew showing up with ridiculous racist signs in order to make the Tea Party look racist.

I am not interested here in the truth or falsity of any specific accusation.  But it’s clear that such tactics have been used.  And it would be effective.  Why would an enemy of a movement not use such tactics to discredit such a movement?

When we think about church history, likewise, it is very helpful to remember that Jesus Christ has an enemy as well that is desperate to destroy His movement, and will not stop at anything to do so.  History is full of the occasions when Satan has used direct force.  But wouldn’t it likewise be a very effective tactic in the war against Christianity to have lots of double agents, people who looked like Christians, called themselves Christians, but acted in ways that brought shame on the name of Christ?
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2Jo 1:7 NKJ)

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. (Tit 1:10-11 NKJ)

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2Pe 2:1-2 NKJ)

Note that verse from 2 Peter especially.  As a result of the “many” that would follow their destructive ways, the true way would be blasphemed.

Studying church history has both broadened and narrowed my view of the faith.  On the one hand, it’s given me a great appreciation for traditions of Christianity outside of my own, and it has helped me see myself and my church as part of a much greater movement.  At the same time, it has made me realize that the true church, in the sense of those who truly believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, have always been a minority in the church, sometimes a small minority.  There were always many who were part of the church for bad reasons.  Even while the persecutions were going on under Rome, there were various heretical sects that denied the real humanity of Christ, or fell into other grievous errors.

The reason this has often been a challenge for me is that if my Protestant Reformed faith is correct, especially on the point of justification by faith alone, then a great majority of the rest of the church is false.  It was and is hard for me to accept that such a large proportion of the church of Jesus Christ has lost the true faith.  But when I remember that the church has an enemy, a very clever, crafty enemy, then this becomes much easier for me to understand.  Would it not be an effective tactic to discredit the truth of the gospel for there to be many of those who claim to follow Christ, but have a corrupted version of that gospel?  And a clever enemy, with the resources at his disposal that our enemy has, might use that tactic at multiple levels.  There might be groups that were obviously heretical, denying core doctrines of the faith.  There might be other groups who departed from the truth on a more subtle level, holding to many of the historic truths of the faith like the Trinity and the incarnation, and yet undermined the gospel by denying justification by faith alone.  There might also be those that actually confessed all the right doctrines, but engaged in wickedness and immorality in their personal lives.  This, combined with the continuing sinfulness of the saints themselves as seen in their own personal failures and disagreements about doctrine, would all lead to a great deal of confusion.

And it is an effective tactic.  One common attack against those who advocate for the doctrine of justification by faith alone is that the majority of the church for its whole history has not accepted this doctrine.  And that is probably true.  Similarly, the majority of the church for most of its history has believed in the physical presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the supper.  The majority of the church has believed in one sense or another that baptism works saving grace of itself.  And many Protestants can be discouraged and embarrassed by the fact that they are in the minority.  Even within the Protestant world, the multiplication of sects and doctrines has guaranteed that almost no belief is held by a majority of those who at least outwardly claim the name of Christ.  Many Protestants desire to eliminate this embarrassment by some kind of greater outward unity; many work for mergers with other denominations, or even reunification with Rome, in order to present a more unified front to the world.  This was actually the reason for the erection of the rule of bishops in the first place, so that the church would have a unified figure to point to that would provide an authoritative witness against the heretics.

This should not surprise us, though.  The Apostles all told us that this would happen.  Jesus told us that this would happen as well (Matthew 13:22-23).  In Revelation 2-3, when Jesus sends letters to the seven representative churches, only two of those churches are really faithful and uncompromised with error.

But when warning us about this problem, the Apostles never point us to some external magisterium.  They never point us to a continuing apostleship, or the bishop of Rome, or the collective decision of most of the churches, or anything like that.  They point us to the Scriptures.  And they point us to the witness of the Spirit that would remind us of the truth.  They tell us to watch, and pray, to test the Spirits, to remember the words of the apostles, to hold fast to the gospel. Paul tells us that if another apostle or even an angel in heaven comes with a different gospel than the one he came with, to let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9).

We are historic Christians.  We believe Jesus promised that His true church would always be on earth, and it always has.  We believe that God made us to be in community, that the Spirit of God was not given to us alone as individuals, but to His church, and we should therefore learn from the church, both historically and in our own day.  But this does not remove from us the obligation of recognizing that a lot of what might look like the church at first glance might not actually be the church, but a counterfeit, an “agent provocateur,” tares sown by the devil to deceive and confuse, to undermine and embarrass the true church.

So let us hold fast.  Do not be discouraged by the majority opinions.  Do not be surprised by the confusion of doctrines, by the presence of many deceivers, by many who look close to the truth but who deny it at core points.  The greatest danger of these many deceivers, I believe, is that true believers will look at this great number of those who call themselves Christians and yet deny the gospel of Jesus Christ, and think to themselves that for the sake of the unity of the visible church they will deny it themselves, or at least to deny the importance of holding to that gospel, which comes to the same thing.  As helpful as the creeds and confessions and writings of the fathers and the witness of history is, at the end of the day the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, laid on Christ Himself, and no other foundation can be laid.  Whatever is not of that foundation must be rejected.  The witness of the apostles and prophets we have in the Scriptures, and the witness of Christ we have in the Spirit that He sends to all His elect.  So let us pray for that Spirit, that we would have discernment.  Let us not be ashamed of the name of Christ, regardless of what the devil does.  And let us hold fast to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what the devil says or does.

We cannot see into people’s hearts.  I am not advocating here that we denounce all who disagree with us at any point as agents of Satan.  We cannot know who those agents are.  But we must know that they are out there, and not be deceived and discouraged by them in failing to hold fast to the truth of the Scriptures.  Let God be true, and every man a liar.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Faith Implies Certainty 

"For unbelief is so deeply rooted in our hearts, and we are so inclined to it, that not without hard struggle is each one able to persuade himself of what all confess with the mouth:  namely, that God is faithful."  John Calvin, Institutes, Book 3, Ch. 2, Par. 15, "Faith Implies Certainty"

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Obligation of Love 

The obligation of love is to risk thinking better of people than they deserve, rather than to risk thinking worse of them than they deserve.


We have another example of a story that may not actually be factually true, but that doesn't matter because it advances the narrative that the author wants advanced- in this case, that there is a problem with sexual assault on our campuses.  Now there may or may not be such a problem- I wouldn't be surprised to find that there was.  It is completely consistent with the liberal mind to think that you can teach kids there are no moral absolutes, train them to think of themselves as the center of the universe, tell them that sexual self-control is just not realistic, and then give them free access to lots of alcohol and other young people with the same mindset, and not get these kinds of problems.  The modern progressive mindset is basically the rejection of reality, the belief that we can legislate away all problems created by the conflict between reality and our imagination.  That's why we now have a 55 feet high stack of federal regulations- because when the state is trying to be the Messiah, there's a whole lot of reality that's going to get in the way.

But this UVA rape allegation is a great example of what postmodernist thinking does to us.  What is important about it, according to its author, is not factually whether it happened or not, but if it advances the story we want to advance.  This was the same reaction we got with Trayvon Martin, with Michael Brown, with the Duke Lacrosse case, with Tawana Brawley, and so on and so on.  What matters is not the facts, but the story you want to tell to have the results you want to have.  This is the postmodern mind- that truth is not something we can really arrive at, that any attempts to assert what "the truth" is is just a power play intended to assert your will over others, and that therefore what we should do is to tell the stories that advance the cause that we want to advance.

But then we have Christians who tell us that what is important about the first eleven chapters of Genesis is not whether the factual historical accounts we read there actually happened, but about the story they tell and the principles that they teach.  Jesus said that the church would be the light of the world, and if the salt loses its savor, how will you season the salt?  So we should not be surprised that the very kinds of approaches taken to truth by the church to advance its own cause is in turn used by the world.

We have to be very careful about the stories we listen to, and the way we think about them.  God gave Adam and Eve a truth to be believed about who they were and what the creation was.  And the devil came along and told them a story- a story that played to their vanity, appealed to their pride, and explained things in a way that let them indulge their lusts.  It impacted them, they acted in terms of that story, and the sad history of the world is the result.

We need stories- the Bible is full of them.  But we need the principles and doctrines of the Scriptures as well to make sure we're hearing the right stories and rejecting the wrong ones, and understanding them right.  Just because a story seems really exciting and motivating, even in what seems to us to be the right direction, doesn't make it true.  Saying that all the founding fathers of America were Christians, for example, might feel like it motivates the right kinds of behavior, but the question we ought to ask ourselves is simply, "Is it true?"  Christians of all people, since we believe in a sovereign God in control of everything that happens, should never be afraid of the truth.

Postmodernism isn't all that new, really.  It's a new wrapper for an old, old lie.  The truth does matter, and you can never advance a good cause on the foundation of a lie.

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