Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Key to Scripture

Not long ago I observed that to properly view the Old Testament, one must look through the lens of Christ. 

A Christian friend immediately inquired,  

Isn't it the other way around? To properly understand Christ we must look through the lens (context) of the "Old Testament", of all that came before him and the environment in which he and his audience lived, worshipped, and understood all of God and life. Especially since he said he didn't come to abolish it? 

In answer to his query we turn to scripture. 

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. . . . For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me (John 5:39, 46). 

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. . . . Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27, 44-45).   

Notice, Luke says that Jesus “opened their understanding” so that they could “comprehend the Scriptures.” The Old Testament reveals Christ (in types, shadows, sacrifices, prophecies, and promises).  If one fails to see this—one misses the central point entirely. 

Said another way, the Old Testament cannot be properly understood without reference to Christ. The Old Testament is about Jesus. One can be an “expert” in the Old Testament and not truly understand it, if one does not interpret it in the light of Jesus Christ. 

Saint Augustine famously said, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” Surely this is true. The Old and New testaments are the interrelated, cumulative revelation of God. But in order to recognize this, one must accept the Person and work of God’s Son.  

But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:14-16).  

In other words, Christ is the key to all scripture.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Just War" or Just War?

Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) were publicly and unapologetically discussing their plans to strike us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders are doing to Syria. 

Some argue for U.S. intervention thus: If one sees his neighbor beating his wife or children one ought to (that is to say, one is morally obligated to) intervene. This is to love one’s neighbor. So, the U.S. is morally obligated to protect the innocent anywhere and everywhere it possibly can. 

But such an analogy is flawed on at least two levels. 

First, this is nothing like what may or may not be happening in Syria. Syria is more like two adult males savaging each other for nobody knows why. If one sees two strange men slashing each other with knives for no discernible reason, is one morally obligated to intervene by taking it upon oneself to shoot one man in effort to save the other?  

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by killing Christians.) 

Second, the proffered analogy and application confuse categories. That is, the analogy and its application conflate personal, individual ethics with the ethics of the State. Individual ethics and State ethics are two very different things. Such conflation is wrong-headed and can even be dangerous. (Yes, war can be dangerous.) 

Speaking of the Christian’s duty to “love one’s neighbor” with cruise missiles, the 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war. After all, what’s wrong with fighting when one is always on the side of the angels? But are our wars Just or are they just wars? 

Contemplate these “Just War” principles: 

·         A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

·         A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause. Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

·         The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

·         The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

·         The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Do the above tenets justify the majority of America’s war waging? 

Some argue that America wages war as God’s instrument of wrath. True, God does use nations to judge other nations, but it would be incredibly presumptuous of us—or any nation—to arrogate to ourselves the role of God's "super police-state." 

Of course, God can do to and with the United States what He wills. God is sovereign. But God’s sovereign prerogatives in no way render the actions of a warring nation morally justified.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Are We Saved?


Recently I had a man pose this defeater dilemma: “Did God save us because He needed to? Or because we need Him to? 

He asked me this because I pointed out to him that his gospel presentation was entirely man-centered, not Christ-centered. 

Below is my answer to him. May God add His blessing to your reading. 

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Your statement in the form of a question is an example of a false dichotomy. Not only have you presented me with a logical either/or fallacy, but the premises you’ve offered—all two them—are equally wrong-headed.  

Therefore I choose neither “A” nor “B;” but “C”: None of the above. 

But let us consider the options in the order of their appearance. 

First: Did God save us because He needed to? Of course, the answer to this query is “no.” God is a perfect Being who needs nothing because there is no lack or privation in Him. 

Second: Does God save us because we need Him to? This is tantamount to asking, “Does God save us because we’re lost?” It’s somewhat tautological.  

But, again, the biblical answer is “no.” God does not save us BECAUSE we need Him to. Taken to its logical conclusion, this unbiblical notion (“God saves us BECAUSE we need Him to”) leads to Universalism.  

(That is, if sinners are saved BECAUSE they need salvation; and all sinners need salvation; then God must save all sinners BECAUSE all sinners need to be saved and the sinners’ need is the cause of God’s saving.) 

Universalism, however, is beyond the pale of Protestant orthodoxy. 

And so, we cannot say that God saves sinners because sinners need Him to. Rather, we must say—with scripture—that God saves sinners because God is gracious and merciful. God saves sinners because it is His will to do so. God saves sinners to His own glory. 

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. . . . In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12). 

Scripture couldn’t be clearer.