Category Archives: Theology

Anatomy of a Straw Man | The Threshing Floor

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Practice dummies used for military training are supposed to represent the enemy, but are much easier to attack and defeat.  When it comes to arguing a theological position, Strawman argumentation is far too common place.  When arguing against a particular position, you should be able to state the opposing position in such a way that someone who holds to it would say in response to your summation of it “Yes, that is what I believe.”  However, far too often the one engaging in apologetics will rather confuse his own assessment of an opposing position for that position itself.

What do I mean?

Let’s take Calvinism as an example.  The stock objections to Calvinism (that it makes all men out to be puppets or robots, that it contradicts the love of God for every sinner, etc.) have been answered ad infinitum in many forums.  Yet, when the assessment comes from the opponent of Calvinism, it is based on a faulty understanding of the doctrines of grace.   Usually the critic’s arrows are aimed at Hypercalvinism and not Calvinism properly so called.  Be that as it may, the objections are continually re-asserted and usually without the benefit of addressing the proponent’s specific defense of what he holds to be revealed in Scripture.

So, here’s a little exercise for you.  When an opponent’s assertion is made, ask someone (if possible) who holds that position “Do you believe {fill in the blank}?  I think you’ll find the answers interesting.

What’s the anatomy of the Straw Man?  Let’s consider:

Bob holds position X.

Larry disregards certain key points of X and instead presents the superficially similar position Y.  Therefore Y is a distorted view of X and can be set up in several ways, including:

1.  Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position and then refuting it, thus giving the appearance that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.

2.  Quoting an opponent’s words out of context–i.e. choosing quotations that misrepresent the opponent’s actual intentions

3.  Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then refuting that person’s arguments–thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated.

4.  Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs which are then criticized, implying that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.

5.  Oversimplifying an opponent’s argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious, because attacking a distorted version of a position fails to constitute an attack on the actual position.

That’s why when I read apologetics, one of the first questions I ask before I dig too far into the argumentation is, “Does this person really understand the position he or she is attempting to refute?”  Look for the  summation statement of what the author is attempting to attack.  The answer will be very telling.  It will also save you a lot of time, as you would best be served by reading the critics who actually understand the “enemy”.

[reference Wikipedia under "Straw Man]

Posted via email from Anthony Martin's Weblog

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Apprehension in the "New Wine" of Dispensationalism

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If you don't go along with what many in the Church and State define as "Support For Israel" (whatever that means) then you run the risk of being on the wrong side of the debate.  I have gone over Romans 9, 10, 11 several times (in pieces) in response to some people's attempt to get me to climb on board to the "land grant."  But apparently I come to the wrong conclusion so I'm thrown back into the brier patch (a phrase with very heavy baggage in my family) where I have to do it over and over again until I come to the right conclusion.

I define a "new wine" doctrine is any eschatology topic that all of the great minds from St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon missed; though they had read I Thessalonians 4, they failed to understand the "important" teaching of a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture.  One example of a "new wine" doctrine is when someone says, "If you don't support my politically charged, Zion centered hermeneutic, you are picking a fight with Israel, and that will not go well for you."

Basically, the challenge I am faced with is that Israel and her interests must be supported or else I'll even find myself on the wrong side of the "battle" when it all ends.  And unless I get my act together, stop "turning my back" on Israel (whatever that means), and believe what I'm told, it'll turn out poorly form me.

One thing to keep in mind is that I have always maintained that the Old Testament writers did not clearly foresee how their own prophecies were to be fulfilled.  The prophecies were fulfilled in ways quite unforeseen by the writers of the Old Testament and unexpected by the Jews of the time of Christ.  With regard to the first coming of Christ, the Old Testament is interpreted by the New Testament.  A non-dispensational eschatology forms its theology from explicit teaching of the New Testament.  This kind of eschatology reveals that the original authors cannot be sure how the Old Testament prophecies of the end would have been fulfilled.

I am usually faced with a statement that Romans 9, 10, 11 will "literally come true" for the Jews.  I am perennially accused of "turning my back on the Jews" and warned that if I imply such a thing, it is heresy.  I am also perennially accused of twisting the word of God to exclude promises to Israel.  The people who do this have concluded that Romans 9, 10, 11 can only mean one thing and since I don't support that conclusion, I preach heresy.

So I'm going to give a rundown of what exactly Romans chapters 9, 10, 11 mean.  Note, I don't mean to imply they mean something to me and something to you.  These chapters can only mean what they were intended to mean.  And as always, we must allow scripture to interpret scripture, not this relatively new idea of reading the daily paper  to interpret scripture, as some suggest.

By the way, here are some of the things I'm not looking for:

  • ... the Anti-Christ
  • ... the 10 lost tribes of Israel
  • ... the mark of the beast
  • ... Gog and Magog
  • ... the "hidden hands" of world Zionism (or the "new world order")
  • ... wars and rumors of wars
  • ... the signs of nature
  • ... the signs of society
  • ... the spiritual signs
  • ... the signs of world politics
  • ... the signs of technology
  • ... the signs of Israel
  • ... weapons of mass destruction
  • ... endless controversy

You can look for them if you want, but to me these are distractions that believers just don't have time for.  Maybe your "new wine" doctrine sees them in scripture, I just don't care if they show up today or not.  I'm only ever looking for one person today: Jesus Christ, whom God the Father raised from the dead.  Yeah, that guy.

To that end, I'll be going straight through Romans 9, 10, 11, but I'll also take us through a few rabbit-holes as necessary.

Romans 9 - "God's Sovereign Choice"

Here we find in verses 1-5 that Paul himself now records and accounts a rejection of the Gospel by most of his fellow Jews.  In verse 1, Paul uses the words, "my conscience ... witness" but it's interesting that scripture itself doesn't define conscience, even though it's used about 30 times.  This doesn't mean we are at a loss as to what it means.  In Romans 2:15 and Romans 13:5, Paul clearly thinks of "conscience" as moral self-awareness informed by divine revelation.  So it's clear Paul is taking special care to make a lawful oath to swear what he writes with sincerity.

In verses 2-3, Paul takes personal anguish and echos the sentiments of Moses in the face of the unbelief of the Jews (Exodus 32:30-32), even while he is the apostle to the Gentiles.  The Jews are his own countrymen and he agonizes over them in love, such that he'd be willing to suffer God's curse for them.

Paul uses the words "to them ... the adoption" in verse 4 to confirm his earlier statement in Romans 3:1-2; here there were eightfold privileges juxtaposed to their magnified unbelief and rejection that (verse 5) Jesus Christ is God and man (John 1:14).

As of verse 6, we see that the word of God delivers the promise and plan which will be the God of Abraham's seed (Genesis 17:7-8).  In the Old Testament era, natural descent did not automatically guarantee inheritance of the promise.  God chose who should inherit it.  This argument and principle is evident in the families of Abraham and Isaac.  Paul's case of Jacob and Esau clinches this argument in three ways, because ...

  1. ... they were twins, as nearly equal in nature as possible.
  2. ... the purpose of God reversed even the small distinction that did exist, by causing the older brother to serve the younger.
  3. ... the purpose of God was stated before they were born (and therefore was not dependent on their actions).

Election (verse 11) is not based on foreseen actions, deeds, or even faith.  Rather, it is based on God's sovereign predestinating grace.  In fact, (verse 13) this distinguishing purpose of God in election is further confirmed by the words of Malachi 1:3-4, which explain God's love to Israel as rooted in His free choice of Jacob rather than Esau.  "Hated" here cannot be reduced to "loved less," as the context of Malachi 1:3-4 makes clear.  It must carry the sense of rejection and antipathy (enmity).

In verse14, "what shall we say then" should be compared to Romans 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"  Paul recognizes that his previous statement cannot be allowed to pass without further comment.  Could the distinguishing sovereign purpose of God throw into jeopardy His attribute of perfect righteousness?  The idea is clearly unthinkable, "by no means" (Paul uses the same kind of language in Romans 6:2, 15; 7:7).

Paul explains why "by no means" by citing two biblical texts (Exodus 33:19; 9:16) in verses 15, 17, from which he concludes that God is righteous in showing mercy to some while He hardens the hearts of others.  When God shows mercy it is not a person receiving a reward earned by one's own efforts, but God's sovereign free grace extended to persons who are morally incapable of any acceptable effort (Romans 1:8-3:20).  God owes mercy to none, so there is no injustice when mercy is not shown.  Mercy is a divine prerogative (God's own); it rests on God's good pleasure.  When God hardens Pharaoh's heart (verse 18), He does not create fresh evil in it, but gives Pharaoh over to his already evil desires as an act of judgment, resulting eventually in God's display of power (verse 22) in the destruction of Pharaoh's army (Exodus 4:21; 14:17-18; 23-28).  It was God who thus spoke to Pharaoh through Moses (Exodus 9:16), but for Paul the words of Scripture and the voice and authority of God are one.

As in verse 19, "Why does he still find fault?"  What right can God lay the blame for their sins on those He has hardened against Himself?  Paul answers partially in terms of human experience (verses 20-21).  It is unreasonable and irreverent for anyone to question the rightness of God's ways.  Potters have every right to do as they please with the clay (Isaiah 64:8).  All belong to the same lump (compare verses 10-13) of fallen humanity in Adam (Romans 5:12-14); all actively sin even before God hardens them in sinning (Romans 1:18-28).  That God should show mercy to any from the "Adamic" lump and create vessels of honor from it is the kindness of grace; that others should become vessels for lesser use is a matter of His sovereign prerogative and is itself a display of perfect justice towards them.

So who resists His will?  Everyone!

Where we see (verse 23) "... which he has prepared beforehand," the "predestination" word is often used to signify God's foreordaining of all the events of world history (past, present, and future).  The usage is quite appropriate.  In Scripture and reformed theology, however, "predestination" refers specifically to God's decision, made in eternity before the world existed, regarding the final destination of individual persons.  In general, the New Testament speaks of predestination, or election, of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (see Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11), although Scripture also on occasion ascribes to God an advance decision about those who are finally not saved (here in verses 6-29; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4).  For this reason, it is usual in reformed theology to define predestination as including both God's decision to save some from sin (election) and the corresponding decision not to save others (reprobation).

Let me take a break from Romans and explain this predestination rabbit-hole a little more fully.

It is sometimes asserted that God's choice of individuals for salvation is based on His foreknowledge that they would choose Christ as their Savior.  Foreknowledge in this case means passive foresight by God of what individuals will do apart from His foreordaining their actions;  But there are weighty objections to the view that election is based on passive foresight.

"Foreknown" in Romans 8:29; 11:2 (clarified in 1 Peter 1:2, 20) indicates not only an advanced recognition, but also an advance choice by God of His people.  It does not express the idea of a spectator's passive anticipation of what will happen spontaneously.  God's knowledge of His people in Scripture implies a special relationship of loving choice (Genesis 18:19).

Since all are naturally dead in sin (cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to Him), no one who hears the Gospel will ever come to repentance and faith without the inner renewal that only God can impart (Ephesians 2:4-10).  Jesus said, "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (John 6:65, also clarified in John 6:44; 10:25-28).  Sinners choose Christ because God chose them first, and moved them to their choice by graciously renewing their hearts.

Though all human acts are free in the sense of immediate self-determination, such acts are also the outworking of God's eternal purpose and foreordination.  We have difficulty understanding precisely how divine sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility are compatible, but Scripture everywhere assumes that they are so (Acts 2:23; 4:28, et al.).

Christians should thank God for their conversion, look to Him to keep them in His grace, and wait with confidence for His final triumph, according to His plan.

Ok, done I'm done with that rabbit-hole, so back to Romans 9.

In verses 23-29, Paul does not elaborate on the preparation in view.  The addition of "beforehand" in connection with the vessels of mercy may be pointing to the mercy that originates in God's good pleasure from eternity (Romans 8:29-30), while the wrath in view is in direct response to existing ungodliness and unrighteousness (for further clarification on this idea, see Romans 1:18-32).  The distinction between elect and reprobate does not lie in anything in themselves (all deserve wrath), but exclusively in the will of God.  Within the context here, however, the objects prepared for destruction experience wrath that is the only possible and just reward for sin.

Romans 9 - "Israel's Unbelief"

As in verse 30, "What shall we say, then ..."  See verse 14 for the same language, yet again.  Having accounted for Jewish unbelief in terms of divine sovereignty, Paul now diagnoses it as due to a fatal prior commitment to a false way of righteousness.  Divine sovereignty and the guilt of human willfulness are for Paul two aspects of reality.  By God's grace and sovereignty, Gentiles who did not seek God's righteousness have now received it through faith in Christ, but Israel as a people have failed to receive it because they sought it by basically a legal means in which it could not be found.  Christ has been a stumbling stone for the Jews (this image is from Isaiah 8:14; 26:16) over which they have fallen (compare verses 32-33 to 1 Peter 2:8).

Paul probably has the Mosaic law in view again (verse 31).  The mistake that the Jews have made lies not in what they pursued, but in the manner of pursuing it ("not by faith, but ... works," verse 32).

Romans 10 - "Israel's Unbelief, cont."

In verse 1, Israel's unbelief is developed by Paul more as a heartfelt appeal to the sympathy of his fellow Christians, the poignancy of which is underlined by his recent reference to his relatives of the flesh (also defined back in Romans 9:3), "that they may be saved."  Paul's concern in chapter 9 was with the salvation of the Jews, not merely with their role in this overall redemptive history that follows.  Paul speaks in verse 2 from personal experience, as to both the reality of the zeal and its wrong-headed and wrong-hearted character (same in Philippians 3:4-6).

Paul contrasts the divinely established righteousness with a person's efforts to establish one's own, in verse 3.  Also, the word "establish" is covenant language (like in Genesis 6:18; 17:7).  We express our love for God through doing what pleases Him, and He in His kindness promises to reward us for what we do.  As St. Augustine noted, God in rewarding us is graciously crowning His own gracious gifts.  But even in the context of the covenant God had made with the Jews, they perverted His grace by seeing it as dependent on their own works of law-keeping.

Yet, in verse 4, we see that Christ is the goal or purpose of law-keeping (Galatians 3:24).  For believers, Christ makes the law obsolete because they no longer strive to establish their own righteousness by it.

Romans 10 - "The Message of Salvation to All"

Paul's quotation from Leviticus 18:5 is set originally in the context of God's redemptive grace requiring a person's responsive obedience (Leviticus 18:2, clarified further in Exodus 20:1-17); it is not a statement about self-established righteousness.  Deuteronomy exhibits God's salvation as achieved not by humanity's strenuous efforts, but by divine grace bringing it near.  In particular, Deuteronomy 30 sets this in context of an anticipated return from exile/judgment (specifically Deuteronomy 30:1-6).  Paul sees this fulfilled in the new covenant by verse 6 in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34, clarified in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18).  Thus Christ was the end (goal) of the Mosaic law.  To seek a self-established righteousness now is equivalent of attempting to do what God alone could do and has done in Christ's incarnation and resurrection.  By contrast with all human efforts, God has brought near the word of salvation, and with it salvation itself.

In the parallelism of verse 10, Paul reverses the order of verbs in verse 9 and thereby indicates that heart-belief and mouth-confession belong together for justification ("righteousness") and salvation (verse 11).

In verse 12, this lack of distinction is confirmed not only by the unity of universal kindness of God, but specifically again by teaching of the Old Testament in Joel 2:32, the statement so dramatically fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:21).

In verses 13-15, we have an analysis of what is involved when anyone calls on the name of the Lord in order to be saved.  "Him in whom," is literally "Him whom," which is an indication that for Paul, Christ Himself is the one true preacher of the Gospel (this idea is clarified in Ephesians 2:17; John 10:16).  The ministry of preaching Christ is therefore one of great honor, hence the quotation in from Isaiah 52:7 (as in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

The immediate context of the citation in verse 18 from Psalm 19:4 is that of God's great general revelation (fuller context: Psalm 19:1-3).  Paul's use of it here is used to prove from Scripture that Israel has heard the message of God, which implies that his quotation of this section of the psalm carries with it the teaching of the entire psalm.  It speaks of both general revelation in nature and special revelation in His word.  The latter takes place in the context of the former.  The underlying logic: If those without special revelation have heard the message of God's glory in creation, how much more have those who received special revelation heard that message?

So the failure of the Jews (verses 19-21) cannot be excused because they did not hear the message or because they could not understand it.  Moses and Isaiah contrast God's own people with those who lack understanding (as in Deuteronomy 32:21) with those who were not God-seekers but who were brought to know Him (as in Isaiah 65:1).

Romans 11 - "The Remnant of Israel"

Now, Paul pointedly asks whether God has rejected His people (verse 1).  The verb "rejected" conveys the sense of vigorous pushing away from Himself.  The form of the question in the Greek anticipates a negative answer.  I.e., Paul has an impeccable lineage that can be traced back to Abraham as well as Benjamin.  Paul himself is evidence that God has not fully and finally rejected the people whom He set His love.  Just as a believing remnant could be found in Israel in Elijah's day, so there continues to be a remnant formed by God's grace.  There is a hint in verse 2 that God's special love and gracious choice of the Jews makes it unthinkable that He should finally reject them as a people, even though they have now rejected Him by rejecting Christ.  By grace the elect obtained the salvation they sought.  The rest were hardened.

In Elijah's time, there was wholesale apostasy, and yet the pretense of a remnant of the faithful (verse 5) indicated that God had not fully and finally rejected His people.  Paul's thinking about the remnant is rooted in the teaching of Isaiah, whose son Shear-jashub's name means "a remnant shall return" (Isaiah 7:3, clarified by Romans 9:27; Isaiah 1:9; 6:13; 10:20-22; 11:11-16).

But again, in verse 6, the way of grace is contrasted with works of the law (Romans 3:20, 27-28; 4:2, 6; 9:12, 32).  There is a biblical pattern cited in verses 8-10 that describes the divine activity in judicial hardening of hearts (Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 2910; Psalm 69:22-23).  This is a pattern Paul repeats in his own day.

Romans 11 - "Gentiles Grafted In"

The rejection of the Jewish people is neither total nor final.  Just as the rejection of Christ in favor of the law among the Jews has led to the acceptance of the Gospel in spite of the law among the Gentiles, so God means to use the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to envy the Gentiles' blessings (verse 11), leading to their salvation by the same Gospel and correspondingly greater riches than would have resulted by the law.

Again, Paul questions if "they stumble in order that they might fall" in anticipation of an answer in the negative.  The Jews' rejection of Christ is not irreversible.  Paul sees a pattern and purpose behind the unbelief of which the Jews are guilty.  The pattern of his thought in verse 11 is as follows:

  1. ... the transgression of the Jews has lead to the justification of the Gentiles.
  2. ... the salvation of the Gentiles will cause the Jews to envy.
  3. ... the envy of the Jews will draw them to the same salvation as the Gentiles through the Gospel.

Of course, "full inclusion" in verse 12 can only signify their reception of Christ and their restoration to God.  But the more difficult question is whether the term "full" points to a) a full restoration of the remnant or b) to the full restoration of the full number of the nation in any sense.  I have to admit the second seems to fit better in the general direction of the later part of the passage (verses 25-32), but I am skeptical of this interpretation when people use it to support the "new wine" doctrine.

Let me take another little break from Romans to ask some questions.

Why my skepticism about what "full inclusion" means?  A "new wine" dispensational teaching says that the rapture will happen when Israel suddenly has a large Christian population, and they routinely cite Romans 11:12 as evidence for this.  At the moment, my news paper reports 40% of Lebanese are Christians.  How does that compare to the Christian population in Israel?  And how will it compare under the "new wine" teaching that will "trigger" the rapture?  If Israel is only 99% Christian, are we still "rapture safe?"

But oh, that's right.  Not all of Israel is Israel.  So 99% is probably excluded as being the "trigger" threshold.  So we really don't know what "trigger" the ratio really is.  It is foolish to fascinate over this unknown.  The "full inclusion" ratio is defined by God and kept a secret so it's no more important than any other statistic of any other nation.  In fact, to focus on the "trigger" event is to miss the whole point of what Paul was saying in verse 12, i.e., "If it's good for the world that the Jews missed Christ, how much better for the world will it be that they find Him?"

Again we go back to Romans 11.

So why does Paul single out the Gentiles in the church at Rome at verse 13?  Actually, this is made clear in verses 17-24.  Paul also provides unique insight into his thinking about his own ministry to the Gentiles; it too has his own Jewish people in view, with regard to Romans 9:19; 11:11 (also see Acts 9:15; Ephesians 3:1; Galatians 2:8).  The phrase "life from the dead" in verse 15 is probably indicating unprecedented blessing.  Although some theorize the phrase refers to general resurrection of the last day, with an understanding (as in verse 12) that the conversion of the Jews is to be an event of the end times, an immediate herald of the final resurrection, I have my doubts because the theory here in verse 15 depends heavily on a wording that is slightly different from Paul's normal usage (i.e. "life from the dead" vs. "resurrection from the dead," see 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 21, 42).

Another quick break from Romans to make a quick point about my parenthesis in the last section..

Why do I make a distinction of "life from the dead" vs. "resurrection from the dead" written by Paul?  Because I think "life from the dead" literally means salvation, whereas "resurrection from the dead" literally means exiting a grave.  I could be wrong and there is no material distinction.  But yes, I think Paul is being literal in both cases.  To confuse the two would introduce implications Paul never intended.  Yes, they have similar spiritual connections that should not be ignored.  But words have specific meaning and we should stick to those meanings if we are to make any sense of theology.

Therefore, we can't conclude definitively that Romans 11:15 is talking about a final resurrection event of the end times.

Returning to Romans 11.

In verse 16, Paul applies the principle that the first-fruits spiritually serve a a pledge of the final harvest (as originally explained in Numbers 15:17-21).  In keeping with the harvest theme, take a look at Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6.  In verse 17, we see that Israel is an olive tree that has had wild shoots grafted into it.  These wild shoots bring fresh vitality because Gentiles have been grafted into the people of God "contrary to nature" (verse 24).  Because the Gentiles' salvation is entirely by grace, they have no cause for boasting or despising their fellow Jewish believers.  Such Gentile arrogance (verse 18) in relation to Jews would just mirror the same old spiritual pride that led to the Jews' hardening (see Romans 2:17).

The retort to Paul in verse 19 is formally true, that the breaking off of the Jewish branches was an act of righteous judgment on unbelief, and the ingrafting of the Gentiles is a matter of grace and therefore of faith.  Their ingrafting is not therefore based on any superior quality of the Gentiles.  The fear mentioned (verse 20) is to inspire a tender-spirited awe, not arrogance, as the appropriate response to God's grace.

Note, we need to avoid errors in two extremes with verse 17-24.  Some would deny Gentile New Covenant believers the right given to Gentile Old Covenant believers, that is, the right to the name "Israel" and full and absolutely equal status as part of the people of God.  These have claimed that the Church and Israel are two separate peoples of God and have nothing to do with each other.  According to this view, God has two separate peoples and two separate plans.  This view essentially denies full glory to Jesus and the gospel.  In effect it says the salvation which has come in the Messiah is only a plan, not the plan and all who believe are not the recipients of all blessings, just some (clarification 1 Peter 1:3-12; Ephesians 1:3).  Those of the other extreme have claimed that God is finished with the Jewish people as a people (though not as individuals) and say the Church has replaced the Jewish people and become the only true Israel.  In such a theology the Jewish people themselves are incorrectly denied any use of the name Israel.

Neither extreme is correct.  The first extreme fails to see the centrality of Jesus in the meaning of Israel and the second fails to see the continuation of the Jewish people in the purpose of God as a people who are still heirs to the Covenants as taught by Romans 9:4 and further ahead from here in 28-29.  I think good theology must be Biblical rather than a polemical (or straw man) overreaction to error.

We need to affirm the Biblical position that all believers are grafted in to the tree of Israel, whether they are natural or "wild" branches, and that God can, and will, graft in once again the natural branches, the Jewish people (here in verses 11-24).  Gentiles need to recognize that they have been grafted into Israel, and therefore have a certain kinship with the Jewish people.  Jews are no less Jewish for believing in Jesus.  Jews do not become Gentiles when they come to Jesus, rather all who trust in the Jewish Messiah and serve Him are part of that Spiritual tree rooted in the Patriarchs.

Romans 11 - "The Mystery of Israel's Salvation"

Paul's reasoning in verses 25-32 has been understood in perhaps three major ways:

  1. ... showing how God saves all of His elect people (e.g. "all Israel" in verse 26 being taken as basically synonymous with the church, that is, spiritual Israel).
  2. ... showing how God saves all the elect of Israel who are predestined to be saved.
  3. ... showing how God will, in the future, bring such widespread salvation to the Jewish people that, in an obvious general sense, it can be said that "all Israel will be saved."

While not without difficulties, some form of the last view above seems most likely for the following reasons.  First, hints of it seem to appear already in verses 11-12, 15-16, & 24.  Second, verse 25 suggests that and end to the partial hardening of Israel is in view.  Third, the Israel mentioned in verse 26 is not naturally interpreted as signifying a different entity from the Israel mentioned in verses 1-24 and verses 28-31, where national Israel (not spiritual Israel) is in view.  Fourth, a mystery in verse 25 would seem inappropriate and exaggerated if Paul's teaching were simply that all elect Jews would be saved.  Finally, the third view fits well with the quotations in verses 26-27 from Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34, which appear to speak of a comprehensive banishment of that sin that has been the cause of Israel's alienation from God.

Let me take a moment to point out one example I can demonstrate about promises being fulfilled literally vs. spiritually.  Moses was promised a city, but he died in a tent.  Isn't that right?  God prophesied that he would be given a city, and instead, he died in a tent.  In fact, all of the Old Testament prophets, judges, and "men of old" did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.  But we accept this at least partially spiritualized fulfillment.

The mystery in verse 25 is a divine secret that has now been revealed.  Some interpreters conclude that what immediately follows constitutes the mystery (the widespread conversion of the Jews).  But others hold that the mystery is in the pattern of God's working in the Jew-Gentile interrelationship referred to in verse 11.  The "fullness" term may be taken to have a specific numerical connotation.

The term "has come in" is an expression used infrequently by Paul, but commonplace in the Gospels to describe the entrance into life or the Kingdom of God.

The term "all Israel" is a critical expression at this point in Paul's argument and one who's meaning is much debated.  It could mean "all (spiritual) Israel," that is, all elect persons both Jew and Gentile.  Alternately, it may also mean "all" Israel in the sense of "all Jews destined to be saved throughout history."  Or, as suggested earlier, it may point to a time of mass conversion among Jewish people.  The exegesis of "all Israel" will depend heavily on the interpretation and weight of other factors in the passage.

That the Deliverer will come from Zion in verse 26 is a reference to Psalm 14:7 (the place where God most personally and directly revealed his presence, from the Father); Isaiah 27:9 (their debt to divine justice for their idolatry will be paid on a national level after the destruction of their high places by atonement, from the Son); 59:20-21 (by and with the Word in our hearts from the Holy Spirit).  And the gifts are irrevocable in verse 29.

So Paul's argument concludes at verse 30 in a manner parallel to Romans 3:19-21, stressing that Jew and Gentile are united in two things: the disobedience of sin, and the offer to them of the mercy of God.  The wisdom and sovereignty of God's grace are demonstrated in the way in which His purposes are fulfilled: the disobedience of the Jew leads to God's mercy reaching the Gentiles; the mercy of God to the Gentiles leads to the reception of mercy by the Jews.  There is no difference.  All (Jew and Gentile alike) have sinned (Romans 3:23), and God has mercy on both (Romans 1:16).

Having drawn together the various threads of his argument, in verses 33-36, Paul now responds in lyrical fashion with a song of praise that reaches heights that correspond to the depth of concern he had sounded in Romans 9:2-3.  God's dealings with Jew and Gentile display a cross-section of His majesty in which His sovereign will ("from him"), His sovereign activity ("through him"), and His sovereign glory ("to him") are richly displayed.

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US Planks of Communism

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I couldn't have said it better myself:

As America tries to figure out where the current Coup d'Etat intends to take her, or already has, how about a quick refresher on some historical options? Starting with Communism:

10 Planks of The Communist Manifesto:

1. Application of property taxes and rents for the public purpose
2. Progressive income tax
3. Confiscation of inheritance
4. Confiscation of property of non-conformists
5. Establishment of a Central Bank credit monopoly
6. Federal regulation of communication and major transportation
7. Government purchase/ownership of the means of production
8. Distribution of wealth and liability attributable to labor
9. Government zoning of Agriculture and Industry
10. Free education in government schools

It is worth noting that the U.S. Constitution, as originally written, prohibits all 10 at the Federal level.

There have been a lot of functioning "communist" nations, but all have decided how to distribute wealth via a different political process. Thus, communism is a given political implementation of Marxism that generally lacks the idealized democratic process that Marx proposed, where majority-rule is the ultimate method of comprehensive economic planning and governance.

Source: fdralloveragain: Starting with Communism

The 10 Planks of The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848.  Eventually, the US fulfilled each plank.  Not to mix metaphors, but if the US is trying to spread democracy (or whatever), shouldn't it attend to these planks (or logs) before going after specks (perceived imperfections) in other countries?

Judging Others

Mt 7:1–5,hi=Mt 7:1-Mt 7:5" class="bibleref" title="Matthew 7:1–5">1–5</a>, see <a href="#ref=Lk 6:37,hi=Lk 6:37" class="bibleref" title="Luke 6:37">Luke 6:37</a>, <a href="#ref=Lk 6:38,hi=Lk 6:38" class="bibleref" title="Luke 6:38">38</a>, <a href="#ref=Lk 6:41,hi=Lk 6:41" class="bibleref" title="Luke 6:41">41</a>, <a href="#ref=Lk 6:42,hi=Lk 6:42" class="bibleref" title="Luke 6:42">42</a>; [<a href="#ref=Ro 14:13,hi=Ro 14:13" class="bibleref" title="Romans 14:13">Rom. 14:13</a>; <a href="#ref=1 Co 4:5,hi=1 Co 4:5" class="bibleref" title="1 Corinthians 4:5">1 Cor. 4:5</a>; <a href="#ref=Jas 5:9,hi=Jas 5:9" class="bibleref" title="James 5:9">James 5:9</a>] </p> " rel="popup">Judge not, that you be not judged.  Matthew 7:2" rel="verse">Ro 2:1,hi=Ro 2:1" class="bibleref" title="Romans 2:1">Rom. 2:1</a>, <a href="#ref=Ro 2:3,hi=Ro 2:3" class="bibleref" title="Romans 2:3">3</a>; <a href="#ref=Ro 14:10,hi=Ro 14:10" class="bibleref" title="Romans 14:10">14:10</a>; <a href="#ref=Jas 2:13,hi=Jas 2:13" class="bibleref" title="James 2:13">James 2:13</a>; <a href="#ref=Jas 4:11,hi=Jas 4:11" class="bibleref" title="James 4:11">4:11</a>, <a href="#ref=Jas 4:12,hi=Jas 4:12" class="bibleref" title="James 4:12">12</a> </p> " rel="popup">For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and Mk 4:24,hi=Mk 4:24" class="bibleref" title="Mark 4:24">Mark 4:24</a>; [<a href="#ref=Jdg 1:7,hi=Jdg 1:7" class="bibleref" title="Judges 1:7">Judg. 1:7</a>] </p> " rel="popup">with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Matthew 7:3" rel="verse">Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but Jn 8:7–9,hi=Jn 8:7-Jn 8:9" class="bibleref" title="John 8:7–9">John 8:7–9</a>] </p> " rel="popup">do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Matthew 7:4" rel="verse">Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  Matthew 7:5" rel="verse">You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Do not give Php 3:2,hi=Php 3:2" class="bibleref" title="Philippians 3:2">Phil. 3:2</a>; <a href="#ref=Re 22:15,hi=Re 22:15" class="bibleref" title="Revelation 22:15">Rev. 22:15</a>] </p> " rel="popup">dogs what is holy, and do not throw your Mt 13:46,hi=Mt 13:46" class="bibleref" title="Matthew 13:46">13:46</a> </p> " rel="popup">pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Source: Matthew 7:3-5

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Evidence of Rights

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All rights derive from property.  In other words, I receive my rights through the ownership of property.  One must own property in order to have rights.  This is true with life, liberty, and private property.

Now understand, as a believer in God, I believe God is the originator of all rights.  But I just said property is how rights are made manifest.  Is that a contradiction?  We'll get into that.

The Father does not manifest as a physical entity, meaning God the Father is not a man with a body and physical form.  God is spirit and as such, cannot interact with sinful man.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Also understand, I believe Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  Unlike the Father, the Son does have physical attributes.  That may seem like a contradiction if you don't understand the Trinity.  But even the most well studied Christians have trouble understanding the Trinity.  I'll get into that in another article.

I believe God transmits our individual rights through ownership of individual property.  God originates rights and makes them physically manifest through property.

That means we have a right to life because we own our own life.  The physical evidence of our right to life is that our heart is beating.  That's pretty much all it takes to make this claim.

Here's the shocking part.  One need not believe in God to believe all rights derive from property.  I believe Christians, Atheists, New Age Believers, etc. can stipulate that all rights derive from property without having to stipulate to the nature of God.

There are those who regard God as an analogy like "Mother Nature."   If someone believes God is an analogy, does that mean they believe their rights are also an analogy?  If rights derive from property and property is real, rights are real.  Someone who believes God is an analogy may have trouble convincing themselves that there is an originator of rights, but we can at least all agree the rights exist because we can all see the property.

So there's no excuse to deprive someone of their life, liberty, and private property if we all stipulate that rights derive from property.  Christians have no right to treat an Atheist poorly just because the Atheist lacks certain beliefs.  The Atheist has a right to life regardless of their belief in God because they have a beating heart.

It just so happens that the Christian belief can explain the origination of rights from God through property.  I believe the Atheist has a philosophical liability to account for.  But I don't think laws need to account for this philosophical liability.  And the New Age Believer thinks he/she is God and his/her property is God, but it doesn't impact the actual existence of rights.

So if believers and non-believers can agree to stipulate to property rights, both should be satisfied with the laws and governance upon them.  If we agree that it's against the law to beat people up and steal their stuff because it violates property rights, we are able to agree to a civil society.

Atheists don't forfeit their rights just because they can't explain the ontological origin of their rights.  There are many things that people take as given that they can't readily explain.

On the other hand, one might say that Christians forfeit their own right to life by becoming a follower of Jesus.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
See: I Corinthians 6:19-20

The arrangement defined in I Corinthians 6:19-20 does not extend to anyone else.  It is only between the believer and God.  It is true that many believers hold to this, but it does not mean the believers are owned in joint with one another.  It reflects the realization that the individual believer comes from God and belongs to God.  One cannot aggress against person merely because either or both parties voluntarily submit to God.

In that regard, it is a personal journey.  Personal journeys appeal to individualism.  But individualism can lead to the "Lone Ranger" effect which is a common result of Christianity in America.  Real spiritual growth happens in the called out assembly, where believers interact with other believers.

Believers can impress their understanding of scripture on one another.  But one believer cannot forcefully impress a particular view on another believer's heart.  And since believers cannot, they have no standing with non-believers either.

It doesn't mean that the understanding of scripture is subjective.  It just means one person's belief cannot be inferred upon others by force.  It is this use of force that contributes to the totalitarian society, even when they're based on Christian values.

There is an excellent video about this subject.  But it tends to offend Christians.  It does this because it doesn't start with God.  We should approach this video knowing that all truth is God's truth.  This video happens to start with "property rights" even though the Christian philosophy starts at an earlier point.  Don't let that distract you from the truth.

Learn more ...

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Romans 13:1-7

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Many church leaders invoke biblical passages like Romans 13:1-7 to bolster the congregation's trust in the government and keep paying taxes, as it says in the King James Version of this passage:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Ok, some churches teach out of this passage because they're looking for the truth, and that's what they should be doing.  Not all churches use this passage for social control.  I'm referring to this misuse of scripture:

So I'll break it down thought-by-thought.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.

This is where people get confused.  I believe "higher powers" do not refer to all governments like the video says, but only the ones God has established.

For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

This further emphasizes the fact that if God didn't ordain it, it's not a valid power.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

So it's extremely serious to resist the power God ordains because it's tantamount to resisting God.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.

Now this is a clarification about who those powers are embodied by.  The key here is that if the person of authority is a terror to good works and not evil, that person is not a ruler.

Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good.

This further links the ruler with the power God ordains.  The ruler embodies the power.  If the person of authority does not praise good works, we should question the legitimacy of their leadership.  They don't fit the description God has given us so they are impostors.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Again, if you do evil and you are not punished by the person of authority, this further identifies that person as not being a minister of God.  They continue to defy God's description of a real leader.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

But only under the true authority defined previously.  It is a determent to our conscience to allow an unfit authority to rule us.

For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Only pay moral taxes.  Only allow your tribute to pay for things God would approve.  Only honor God's servants with our precious resources.

In summary, the Bible defines the kind of ruler we should follow.  A qualified ruler rewards good and punishes bad.  Do rulers reward bad and punish good?  If you ask people in the world if they know rulers who do that, they'd say yes.  So we have a problem.  Is the Bible in contradiction or are people's definitions wrong?

The Bible is not in contradiction.  The Bible refers to bats as birds.  Now we refer to bats as mammals that happen to fly.  Did the Bible become wrong because science changed?  No, and likewise, just because a person subjects himself to an unworthy authority and calls them rulers, doesn't make the Bible wrong.  They are just not true rulers.  They are cheap copies.  The Bible gives us a narrow description of what a ruler is and therefore excludes unjust rulers from having any authority.  We widened the definition beyond what the author originally intended.

Posted via email from Anthony Martin's Weblog

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