Why do things act toward an end?

“At the heart of modern evolutionary theory is the so-called “struggle” for existence. And the question gradually dawns on us: Why do living things struggle to survive? Why do they struggle at all? Neither rocks nor electrons appear to struggle to stay in their current configurations, nor do carbon atoms seek any obvious goals. What does it mean to struggle if not to seek an end? And if living things seek ends, then in what respect has old Aristotle been refuted when he claims that “nature acts for an end” (Feser, Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again, forward)

Aquinas, in his fifth way, states “Whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence, as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are ordered to their end, and this being we call God.” (ST., I.2.3)

So logically, either a thing moves toward an end or it does not. If anything moves toward an end, there has to be a mover. Inanimate things cannot move toward an end without external intelligence. The evolutionist somehow has teleology introduced somewhere along the way, with inanimate things struggling toward life.

It would seem then, at a minimum, that either things are working toward an end and God exists, or things cannot work toward an end and the struggle for some pre-biotic chemistry toward survival is false. Yet today we do indeed have life striving toward survival. The first option is most reasonable.

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My Disagreements With The Virus Response

What are we to think of the current response to the covid-19 coronavirus?

We are told that the disease is so deadly that it could overwhelm the medical communities’ ability to deal with it. Italy’s medical community seems stretched, and the risk is that doctors will not be able to treat sick patients, causing unnecessary death. So in response, governments have shut businesses, mandated that people stay home, and are preventing people from visiting family members in nursing homes. All public gatherings are to stop, including sports games, restaurants, bars, and any place of business that gathers people.

I am bothered by this response, while many of my friends and family are perfectly willing to accept it. Let me take time to explain why the issues are so vital.

My rejection of the current coronavirus response is not due to being isolated in my home. I am basically an introvert, and would rather stay home than to deal with people. I like working from home, for I am more productive there and it costs less money and time than driving to work and back. I’m not a big sports fan and cannot recall that I have ever watched a complete NBA game in my life, so I really don’t care much if they are not playing. So I like staying home away from people. So my disagreements do not originate out of being confined to my home.

However, I cannot think of a more basic human right than to spend time with one’s family. Parents and children meeting together is as fundamental of a human act as can be imagined. Time lost with family can never be made up. My friends tell me that my right to see my family is outweighed by the public’s need to not die from exposure to a virus, and that the government has the right to restrict my rights for the public good.

Our forefathers disagreed. Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, following John Locke’s lead in the 1600’s, held to a view that has been a foundation stone of the western world for centuries: that we have unalienable rights. A free person’s right to be with their family is not granted by the United States, so it cannot be taken away by the United States. A basic human right is freedom of movement and freedom of association. This can be taken away by a just imprisonment due to guilt of fault, but not to the free and innocent.

Across our nation today, we have people being forced to stay in their homes and prevented from caring for their parents in retirement homes. My own parents are paying $4000 per month in an independent living apartment where the company running it, Brookdale, is preventing me from seeing my parents. Based on 29 deaths in 4,000 infections, the governor of New York has mandated “Don’t go to your daughter’s house. That is a mistake.” This is a violation of basic human rights, as significant as that of separating a mother and baby, brother and sister, father and son.

*  *  *

The next issue is financial. I know from personal experience what it is like to be in financial hardship, so I feel for those who are out of work, in debt, unable to work, and with a baby. It is not merely hard, but so very stressful as to impact health and wellbeing. The physical and emotional stress on a person’s body and marriage are not just an inconvenience, but are very real. Anyone who has not been through such a period simply does not know the sweat and tears it takes on a family. It is painful. Millions of Americans live hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, and have invested years of 70-hour weeks into their small business. Anyone who goes through losing their livelihoods knows the toll it takes on people: stress increases, marriages break up, children suffer, lifelong dreams are lost.

Besides the emotional stress, Jefferson and Locke again define the freedom to pursue one’s livelihood a natural right not granted by governments. What Locke called the pursuit of property, Jefferson called the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Our citizens have all freedoms not specifically restricted by law, and the government only has such rights as granted it by law. The founding fathers specifically framed our laws to restrict a repressive government.

Now, my government, with good intentions wrapped in fear, is intentionally causing people to lose their ability to earn a living and feed their children. In many cases, they’re not just regulating commerce, they are stopping it. At last count, news reports claimed 20% of America is now unemployed due to lockdowns. If this lasts only a couple of weeks, many of them may possibly recover. If it lasts longer, we will be faced with 30% or more unemployed for months or longer, numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Former Superior Court Judge and law professor Andrew Napolitano claims that, besides the violation of unalienable natural rights, such directives violate multiple areas of the US constitution: the right to due process, the right to associate, the Contracts Clause, and the Takings Clause.

Put bluntly, the fear of dying and the desire to not infect others, although commendable, does not give anyone the right to restrict others from visiting family members or making a living. Even if we conclude it is the best course of action, government simply does not have the right or the authority to remove natural rights. More fearful than mass death due to a virus is that the government has gone beyond its specific restrictions to violate rights, and the people are so willing to not only give up their rights but to actively endorse the taking of them from their fellow citizens.

*  *  *

Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. It was a devastating blow that killed 2,403 people in a single morning. At the time, the people of the US recognized that they no longer had a viable navy, and the west coast was open to attack by the Japanese. They were afraid, and the fear was not imaginary, it was real and based in fact. In a fear-based response, the US was worried that Japanese spies may have already infiltrated the Japanese American communities on the west coast, were equally afraid that in an invasion they could not tell the enemy from the friendlies, and were worried about the loyalties of Japanese Americans in a time where large numbers of people could be killed and our country destroyed. So innocent Japanese Americans were gathered and forced into camps and held there until after the war. Looking back on the situation, we shake our heads in horror at how callous and insensitive the US government could have been. But the people of 1942 only saw a defenseless coast, thousands of dead people, and a risk of more deaths. They looked at innocent Americans and justified their imprisonment based on the deaths that had already occurred, the possibility of more, and the possible existence of the country itself.

Today, we are also looking at thousands of dead and the threat of more. In response, our governments have not only requested that we stay inside, but have passed laws insisting on it. Several states, adding to tens of millions of people, have legally mandated residents stay home. The government leaders, as they work their jobs where they get paid, are requiring millions of people stop seeing their families, stop their livelihoods, not get paid, and stay home under threat of legal action, and if necessary, force.

I am not suggesting that the current lockdown is equally as bad as the camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned. But the parallels are nevertheless there. Put it this way: if instead of internment camps, the government would have confined Japanese Americans to their homes, restricted their ability to gather, and kept them from working, would it have been acceptable? No, not then and not now.

Similarly, In a state of fear of loss of life, we are today violating basic human rights. While motivated by good intentions, the current actions are morally wrong, historically short sighted, and based on incomplete data.

Let’s continue the current logic that the common good overtakes individual rights. If a cure develops in the near future, will they force us to take it? Will they continue to insist people remain in their homes and prevent them from working if they refuse a vaccine?

 

I am indeed sensitive to the need to save lives by not spreading the disease. The last thing I want to do is cause the death of anyone or see my loved ones die because others insist on their freedom of movement. But are we willing to be satisfied to live in a society that takes away the basic human right of being able to visit your family? Are we to be satisfied with a government who intentionally causes people to lose the ability to feed and educate their children? Are we willing to throw out the core values that western society is built upon, and change to saying that because a few are irresponsible, we will take away the rights of all?

In a free society, we have long held a philosophy of accepting the risks and consequences of free acts. Many things cause death and agony: besides a host of contagious diseases, there is alcohol, automobiles, boats, airplanes, fire, knives, chainsaws, fatty food . . . the list goes on . . . all these things free people use to cause the deaths of themselves, their loved ones, and others. We regulate these things, but we do not take them away, nor outlaw them, nor cause the entire nation to lock down. Instead we as a society live with the consequences of our freedoms even though people die all around us because of them. We decide that the benefits of free people driving cars outweighs 56,000 people a year who die horrible painful deaths in wrecks.

*  *  *

As to the coronavirus itself, we have been repeatedly told that if we limit exposure, we will ‘flatten the curve’ of the infection. The popular models we are shown by medical professionals tell us that if we limit exposure of the general population, the medical system will not be overwhelmed and lives will be saved. Of course we can all support this idea in concept and all stand behind the goal of saving lives.

If we assume the models are true, the curve can indeed be flattened, but in doing so lengthened.  Basing their decisions on preliminary and incomplete data, our government officials do not truly know how long the curve will last, whether the entire population will eventually be infected, or the number of people eventually needing healthcare. Some estimates project the lockdown will be two weeks, others that the curve may not peak until July, but these are guesses. They really do not know, and they seem to be reacting day by day. If we follow the current curve logic, the population will need to be on lockdown until enough of the population has already had the disease and the curve will not exceed the capacity of the medical system. So our government officials are prepared to keep people from earning a living for an extended period of time.

Will they take into consideration the health and societal problems caused by large percentage of increase in poverty, an inevitable result of a nationwide lockdown? I suspect that they will not. We hope that in a few days or weeks, the fog of panic will burn off with the clarity of the noonday sun and people will be allowed to go about their lives. But if I am wrong, and the lockdown continues, are we to believe that the United States treasury is deep enough to float so many failed industries? All year? They cannot, but even if it were possible temporarily, it is unwise. So far, our government is willing to prevent people from making a living and paying taxes, then paying them money in return. Would it not be wiser to allow them to work?  The US debt is not limitless and will eventually have dire consequences to all citizens.

The best case we can hope for is that the trillions added to the debt will simply cause an economic slowdown and a small increase in chronic poverty. That’s the best case. However, it is logically possible for the US to default on its bonds or print money to pay its debts. I will leave it to the economists’ crystal balls to predict the likelihood of this, but history proves to us that economies can collapse and social structures with it. When economies collapse, there are no funds to run the hospitals or other essential functions. Are we expected to believe that severe damage to the economy will not reduce the health of the nation and the ability of the healthcare system? As I said, I have absolutely no idea of the likelihood of this, but if we think we are smarter than all the countries in history that destroyed their economies, we are fools. Are our leaders considering the overall stability of the country when they decree a mass stoppage of paychecks? I doubt it.

I therefore plead with our government officials; go take a nap and come back when you’re rested. We need you making clear decisions.

*  *  *

What are we to do then with the face of mass death due to the coronavirus? Are we to allow irresponsible people to callously travel about, infecting us, our families, and their own loved ones?

The loss of even a single life is tragic. No one wants death. I honestly feel deeply for the nursing home directors. They are faced with a dilemma of either violating basic human dignity by isolating the elderly from their loved ones in the last days of their lives or risking an infection lethal to everyone in the building.

However, as I have attempted to show, the current response will indeed cause health problems in society as an unintended consequence. Deciding how many deaths to allow for this virus is no different than what we have done daily throughout our history. How slow do we make the speed limits so that we balance the saving of lives with increasing the cost of transportation? Do we raise taxes and hire more police to monitor speeders, or leave taxes lower and allow some to speed and kill others? Do we insist on stronger roll cages in cars and save lives but prevent poor people from affording cars? These types of decisions are made every day in multiple fields of public interest. We balance the deaths of thousands of people with the negative impact on millions of people. What we do not do, at least up to now, is insist that commerce stop and confine the populace to protect all life.

5,000 people a year die of choking in the US. 56,000 die of car crashes. 225,000 people die in the US every month, year in and year out. All are tragic. We do not clear all restaurants to prevent choking deaths. We do not stop transportation to prevent road deaths. And we do not take preliminary data, lock down 327,200,000 people, throwing 500,000 to 2,000,000 into poverty, shutting down 75,000,000 children’s education, and stopping our courts, all to prevent an unknown number of virus deaths.

A free people, to stay free, must live with the fact that some free people are irresponsible and will damage other people. This is tragic, but history has proven the alternative to be worse.

 

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Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Modes of Salvation? (Part 3)

As a bible teacher and dispensationalist, I would periodically hear people make the claim that dispensationalism teaches two salvations. I found this very curious, for although I am no longer, I have been a member of two dispensational churches for many years, visited a number of dispensational churches, and heard a good number of dispensational teachers in the media, all the while never hearing any of them teach two modes of salvation. The teaching from dispensationalists was always uniform: salvation was only by faith in the finished work of the messiah Jesus. I would periodically hear individual people make claims that I disagreed with, but since followers of all theological systems can have individuals that teach most anything, I never counted these as authoritative. Are we to measure Calvinism by any random member of a reformed church, or are we to measure Calvinism by the main body of teaching of key followers of Calvin? Again, no dispensationalist pastor or teacher I ever met taught any way of salvation except through faith in Christ, myself included.

I would routinely challenge those who made this claim and would never get an answer. In my first post, one responder posted ten quotes in support of the position that dispensationalists teach a separate salvation for Israel and the church (see the comments on this post).  I will attempt to deal with these here.

Briefly, C. I. Scofield was arguably the first popularizer of dispensationalism when he published The Scofield Reference Bible, a very popular study bible of the early 1900s. Dispensationalism holds that God has different administrations or types of expectations for men of different ages. Clearly, the specifics of the law of Moses was not given to Adam before or after the garden. Before the Fall, Adam was to eat only vegetables, while after the Fall he could eat all types of meat. After Moses, Israel was commanded to eat only certain types of meat, and today we are again not commanded to avoid unclean meat.  Under the present age, we are not expected to keep every single command of the law of Moses as ancient Israel was commanded. So they were in the dispensation of law, we are in the dispensation of grace, but in all dispensations all people attain salvation the same way: by the payment of Jesus on the cross, not of any works that people do.  That said, if an Israelite were to callously disregard the Mosaic law, he would be out of the will of God by not trusting God as would a believer today who disobeys God.

Scofield’s notes in his study bible were widely influential. However, his notes were rather brief comments on certain verses, not a commentary or lengthy theology text.  Nevertheless, there are statements from Scofield that say troublesome things, such as:

“. . . grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ…” (John 1:16)

““The righteous man under law became righteous by doing righteously; under grace he does righteously because he has been made righteous.” (1 John 3:7)

“. . . a new function, that of preaching the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified and risen Lord to Jew and Gentile alike.” (Matt. 10:2), “New” as if it were in contrast to a previous way.

“The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace.” (Exodus 19:25)

However, Scofield also said:

“The Scripture knows nothing of salvation by the imitation or influence of Christ’s life, but only by that life yielded up on the cross.” (Lev. 17:11)

“Gal. 3:6–25 explains the relation of the law to the Abrahamic Covenant: (1) the law cannot disannul that covenant; (2) it was “added” to convict of sin; (3) it was a child-leader unto Christ; (4) it was but a preparatory discipline “till the Seed should come.” (Ex. 19:1)

What are we to make of this? Part of the answer is this: Scofield taught that Israel’s position in God’s plan is dependent on the law. Exodus 19:5 says “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;  and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This passage is clearly a conditional statement: if you obey, you will be to me a kingdom.  Scofield’s note on this verse says “What, under law, was condition, is under grace, freely given to every believer.” Therefore part of the answer is that Scofield made a distinction between what under law was conditionally dependent on obedience, namely national position and God making them “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” and individual salvation, which was only through faith in God’s finished work on the cross.

Further, another part of the answer is unfairly isolating phrases and sentences in Scofield’s notes. The quote I gave above of his comment on Ex. 19:25 seem to say that Israel was under a conditional covenant to salvation, but Scofield’s note on this verse clarifies:

The Commandments were a “ministry of condemnation” and of “death” (2 Cor. 3:7–9); the ordinances gave, in the high priest, a representative of the people with Jehovah; and in the sacrifices a “cover” (see “Atonement,” Lev. 16:6, note) for their sins in anticipation of the Cross (Heb. 5:1–3; 9:6–9; Rom. 3:25, 26). The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace (Rom. 3:21–27; 6:14, 15; Gal. 2:16; 3:10–14, 16–18, 24–26; 4:21–31; Heb. 10:11–17).

Thus Scofield taught that Israel’s attempt to obey the law only brought death, and the Mosaic sacrifices pointed to The Sacrifice, the one of Christ, which pays for all sin. OT sacrifices did not truly cover sin, but the sacrifice of Christ did.

Next, Scofield, and even others such as Chafer, at times seem to indicate that obedience to the law was a demonstration of faith, much as baptism would be today. This is not the same as conditioning salvation on obedience to the law.

We now turn to Chafer. He is quoted as having said, when speaking of the future messianic kingdom, “there will be a return to the legal kingdom grounds”. Statements such as this, and others speaking of the legal dispensation of Moses or the future kingdom, do not condition salvation, but a mode of administration or dispensation. Are we to deny that God gave Moses a law? That Israel was commanded to keep it and conditions applied to this law, per Deut. 30:15-19? Or that the New Testament claims that the blood of bulls and goats saves no man (Heb. 10:4)? Again, giving commandments under Moses does not mean that is how men were saved in those days no more than the command to make disciples and baptize means this is how we are saved today.

We must admit, however, that Scofield and Chafer do have some troubling statements. I do not want to gloss over or excuse such passages. However, it seems unsafe to base all of dispensationalism, or even all of Scofield or Chafer, on a few isolated sentences made in short notes on individual verses. Further, the lengthy quotes from Chafer I gave in the first and second posts show that Chafer, at length in those passages, clearly taught one mode of salvation. When confronted with this very charge, Chafer denied it vehemently. That other passages seem unclear or contradictory are by no means an affirmation of a clear, blanket teaching of two salvations.  At most we can charge them with inconsistency, not heresy.

When we add other well-known dispensational teachers such as John McArthur, Norman Geisler, Charles Swindoll, Charles Ryrie, Tony Evans, J. Vernon McGee, and many others, surely we can put a stop to blanket falsehoods that claim all dispensationalists teach two salvations.

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Modes of Salvation? (Part 2)

As we said in Part 1, (see here) any system at its core, dispensationalism included, can only be measured by the bulk of its teachers. We do not claim that every single person claiming to be a dispensationalist is orthodox, but this is true in any theological system. We do claim that Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary, likely the largest seminary in the world which graduated the most dispensational pastors. Chafer studied under C. I. Scofield, one of the key early figures in dispensationalism. Chafer also systematized dispensationalism into a theology proper, publishing his Systematic Theology near his death in 1952.  Chafer’s theology was taught at DTS directly to tens of thousands of seminary students over at least 70 years. With his extensive writings and influence, Chafer represents the body of teaching that defines dispensationalism.

We do not have to guess at what Chafer’s position was on the charge of more than one mode of salvation. In the mid-1940’s, a group of Presbyterians charged Chafer with exactly that: more than one mode of salvation. As editor of the journal Bibliotheca Sacra, Chafer responded directly in two editorials. I quote the relevant sections of his responses here. I quote this at length to remove confusion about his point:

False and damaging statements are included in this report which are a libel of immeasurable proportions. It is no slight injury to an individual when a Committee declares before a Presbyterian Assembly what is utterly false. The report states that the Editor of BIBLIOTHECA SACRA teaches “a dispensational view of God’s various and divergent plans of salvation for various groups in different ages.” To this it is answered, as answered before, that the Editor has never held such views and that he yields first place to no man in contending that a holy God can deal with sin in any age on any other ground than that of the blood of Christ. The references cited by the Committee from the Editor’s writings have no bearing on salvation whatever, but concern the rule of life which God has given to govern His people in the world. He has addressed a rule of life to Israel on the ground that they are His covenant people. Observing the rule of life did not make them covenant people. In like manner, God has addressed a rule of life with heavenly standards to the believers of this age; not as a means of salvation, but because they are saved.[1]

 

And again:

The present ill-conceived wave of resentment which is being fostered by Covenant theologians against dispensational distinctions in Biblical interpretation has centered its contention on the assertion that those who recognize dispensational distinctions—especially the late Dr. C. I. Scofield and the Editor of Bibliotheca Sacra—teach that there are two ways by which one may be saved—one by law-observance and one by faith in Christ. It seems not to occur to the men who frame their protests against dispensational teachings that their contentions have no basis whatever upon which to rest, nor do they estimate the injury to other men when they, attempting to state what dispensationalists believe, publish what is utterly untrue . . .

Are there two ways by which one may be saved? In reply to this question it may be stated that salvation of whatever specific character is always the work of God in behalf of man and never a work of man in behalf of God. This is to assert that God never saved any one person or group of persons on any other ground than that righteous freedom to do so which the Cross of Christ secured. There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.

. . . man never contributes anything to his salvation whether he be one who keeps the Law or one who trusts Christ alone apart from human works. The colossal error which supplies any point to the contention of those who accuse others of believing that there are two ways by which the lost may be saved is just this, that neither works nor faith of themselves can ever save anyone. It is God’s undertaking and always on the ground, not of works or faith, but on the blood of Christ.

God has assigned different human requirements in various ages as the terms upon which He Himself saves on the ground of the death of Christ . . .

First, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, which righteousness is the foremost feature of God’s salvation, on the sole ground that Abraham believed or amened God. Abraham believed God respecting a son whom he would himself generate. . .

Second, God imputes righteousness to those in this age who believe, which righteousness is the foremost feature of salvation, on the one demand that they believe; but this belief is not centered in a son which each individual might generate, as in the case of Abraham, but in the Son whom God has given to a lost world, who died for the world and whom God has raised from the dead to be a Saviour of those who do believe. . . From this it will be seen that, though the specific object of faith—Isaac in the case of Abraham and Jesus Christ in the case of those becoming Christians—varies, both have a promise of God on which to rest and both believe God. It does not follow that men of all ages may be saved by believing any promise of God; it is only such promises as God has Himself made to be the terms upon which He will save. Both Abraham and the Christian come by faith under transforming power and neither one saves himself. He is saved by God alone and only through the righteous freedom which the death of Christ provides whereby a holy God can save sinful man. . .

. . . This redemption was confirmed, as was all Old Testament redemption, by Christ on the Cross. . . When [Israel is] saved it will be because One died for that nation and on that righteous ground alone, which death for them they will then be moved by the Holy Spirit to accept by faith. . .

Thus it is disclosed that the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people (cf. Lk. 10:25–28; 18:18–21; Matt. 8:11, 12; 24:50, 51; 25:29, 30). Jehovah’s salvation of Israel will be on the ground of Christ’s death. The human terms, because of the covenant promise regarding their salvation, are not the same as that required of Abraham or of any individual in this age, whether Jew or Gentile.

Once again and finally let it be asserted, that salvation of any character or of any people or upon any varied human terms is the work of God in behalf of man and is righteously executed by God on the sole basis of the death of Christ. It is puerile to intimate that there could be a salvation achieved alone by the power of either law-works or faith. It is only God’s power set free through Christ’s death that can save and it is always and only through Christ’s death, whatever the human responsibility may be.[2]

 

Further, many well-known dispensational teachers such as  J. Vernon McGee have very public teaching ministries that teach salvation through faith in Christ alone. Surely no one can listen to McGee and determine anything other than his sole focus on Christ.

Personally, I was a member and sometimes bible teacher at two dispensational churches for about 18 years and I was only taught salvation in Christ as the only way of salvation, never once hearing of a supposed two means of salvation. Directly, I am a dispensationalist and I affirm salvation in Christ alone. I deny that old testament saints, or any other, could achieve salvation in any other means except that of faith in Christ. For those who insist on continuing in the false idea that dispensationalists teach two salvations, what do you do of me and my testimony?

A few quotes were given to my first post. These will be dealt with in the next post.

NOTE added 12/22/19:  The key phrase in all this seems to be the following, as quoted above: “the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people.”  The key words here are that an OT Israelite is saved by God’s election with sin bought by Christ’s death. If such a person disobeyed the law, they would sacrifice their position in the coming kingdom age. This would be no different than a saved Christian in the present age who did not obey God.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Henry Bennetch, “Editorials,” Bibliotheca Sacra 101 (1944): 258–259.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Henry Bennetch, “Editorials,” Bibliotheca Sacra 102 (1945): 1–5.

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Mathematical Problems with Darwin

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Does the Bible Teach Socialism?

Some people have made the claim that the Bible teaches socialism, and the proper biblical view is that of some sort of socialist economic or governmental system. For example, writer Obrey Hendricks, Jr. has made a strong claim to this regard (see here).

Since this is a claim to the Bible, we can speak of it here. Before we respond, we need to be very clear in that the Bible does not promote one type of government or national economic system for the nations of the world. Whether a country is a monarchy, fully communist, a republic like the United States, or some other form of government, the Bible simply does not command that people hold one type of leadership structure for a nation. In ancient Israel, God commanded the leaders run the country a certain way. However, He made no commands upon any gentile nation, therefore we cannot hold that one type of government is more biblical than another.

In economic systems, such as socialism or capitalism, the Bible gives us more guidance. As we will see, the scriptures have a good bit to say about money and people. However, we again must be careful to go no further than scripture, and recognize that many of the competing economic theories are matters of degree and the Bible does not completely command one or the other. A call for charity in these discussions is in order.

For our purposes, we will hold to a definition of socialism as a central authority gathering resources, voluntarily or involuntarily, and distributing them for the common good. We contrast that to a system that allows more individual control of resources. Does the Bible promote one of these views over the other?

The supposed purpose of socialism is to have a distribution of wealth that is fair, especially to the poor. The Bible has quite a bit to say about taking care of the poor.

Old Testament Passages About Providing for the Poor

In the Old Testament, God has many passages that commanded Israel to take care of the poor, namely:

  • When lending, not to charge interest to the poor (Exodus 22:25)
  • To be fair to the poor when going to court (Ex. 23:3, 6, Lev. 19:15)
  • Farmers were to leave part of their crops for the poor (Lev. 19:10, 23:22). Every seventh year, Israel was to leave the entire crop for the poor (Ex. 23;11)
  • When giving sacrifices to the Lord, the poor were allowed to give less (Lev. 5:7, 11; 14:21)
  • If a family member were to become destitute and indebted, the nearest family member was to buy back the debt. This was the “kinsman redeemer.” (Lev. 25:25, 47)
  • Individuals were to take the poor into their homes and support them (Lev. 25:35)
  • Israel was not to treat its own poor as bondslaves (Lev. 25:39)
  • The leaders were to sometimes make allowances if someone was too poor to pay (Lev. 27:8)
  • Individuals were to take care of the poor, even if they were not going to be paid back (Deuteronomy 15:7-9)
  • If you owed something to a poor man, you were to pay it that very day (Deut. 24:12-15)
  • God says He judges Israel for mistreatment of the poor (Amos 2:6-7)
  • God commands that no one should oppress the disadvantaged (Zechariah 7:10)
  • Israel was to give part of their tithes to the poor (Deut. 26:12)

Besides these, there are many Old Testament passages where God tells us His heart is with the poor and oppressed.

New Testament Passages About Providing for the Poor

  • We should give to the needy without drawing attention to ourselves or taking credit for it (Matthew 6:2-3)
  • Jesus commanded the rich young ruler, who loved his possessions, to sell them and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21)
  • We are to reach out to those who cannot repay us and feed them (Luke 14:12-14)
  • In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the poor and sick Lazarus is rewarded and the rich man punished (Luke 16)
  • When the wealthy Zacchaeus encountered Jesus, he repents by giving half his goods to the poor, an act which he seems to be praised for (Luke 19:8)
  • God rewards Cornelius, and one of the reasons was his giving to the poor (Acts 10:4)
  • Giving to the poor was a regular part of the early church (Romans 15:25-26; Galatians 2:10)
  • It is wrong to give deference to the rich over the poor (James 2:2ff)
  • If we do not give to the needy, we have an empty faith (James 2:15)
  • Those who have money are to be generous and share (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

Again in the New Testament, the Bible tells us that those who have the means are to give to the poor, to reach out to the poor, and not trust in riches.

Responsibilities of the Poor

On the other hand, God expects the poor to have responsibilities for what they get. This is clear from many passages;

  • When farmers were to leave the edges of their field for the poor, and not go back and glean after a harvest, the poor had to go and get the food for themselves.
  • Even though the poor were allowed to give less during sacrifices, they still had to give.
  • In the many passages in the Mosaic law that require fair play, no allowances are made for the poor. For example, nowhere does God allow a poor person to avoid paying back double for stolen money (Ex. 22:7) or stolen property (22:4), or any breach of trust (22:9).
  • A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Prov. 10:4)
  • The census fee was the same for everyone, whether rich or poor (Ex. 30:15)
  • Those who do not work are not to eat (2 Thess. 3:10). Instead of being a burden, people were told to earn their own living (v.12).
  • The apostle Paul set an example by working and not taking money from new converts. Rather, he often worked and paid his own way (2 Thess 3:8)

Perhaps most telling is the way that giving is to happen. Throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New, while people were told to take care of the poor, it was the individual persons who were to take care of the poor. Nowhere does God give a command for a central government to collect money and resources then distribute them out to others in an attempt to create fairness. The primary giving is by individuals; the taking care of the poor is an individual responsibility. Nowhere is a government told to gather resources and give it out to increase fairness.

The one place in the Bible where a central government gathered all resources and distributed them was when Joseph was running Egypt in Genesis 47:20-21. The result was not a utopia, but rather the leader owned everything and reduced the people to servitude. It seems that the one example of gathering resources and distributing them out again did stave off starvation, but at the cost of impoverishing the entire nation.

One New Testament passage gives instructions to church leaders on how to collect money and take care of the poor. In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, Paul goes into a good bit of detail on how the church should distribute money to help the poor. In speaking of helping widows, several qualifications are given:

  • There has to be a real need, not a perceived need.
  • If the widow has family, they are to take care of her and not burden the church.
  • The church is to keep a list and organize the giving, not giving to just anyone and everyone.
  • The person must be older, at least 60 years old. Younger people are not to be given support.
  • The person must have done good deeds.

These detailed instructions are telling. Yes, the Bible teaches that we should take care of the poor, but the New Testament church is specifically not to give money to people merely because they are poor.  Rather, they must be of good character and truly in need. Giving money to people merely because they have no income can “teach them to be idle” (v.13) and burden the community coffers, preventing the truly needy people from getting enough.

The Bible teaches a strong view of personal property. In Acts 5:1, a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a piece of property and gave the money to the church. God judged them because they lied about how much money they made from the sale.  In 5:4, Peter says “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” Therefore it is not the case the church or central government had the responsibility of gathering resources and redistributing them.

The Bible also makes it clear that while praising Jesus and doing good works to the poor are not mutually exclusive, praising Jesus is more important to us than good works toward people (Mark 14:7)

The Bible makes it clear that being poor per se brings no righteousness nor reward (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Finally, while Jesus did heal everyone, these were signs that spoke of His credibility (John 6:2). Jesus healed everyone as a sign of His messiahship. Apart from these miraculous signs, God never healed everyone (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). God Himself sometimes used sickness as a judgement (1 Cor. 11:30). Several of the people near Paul remained sick, including Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:26-27), Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), and Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23).

 

Summary

The vast majority of the passages in the Bible that speak of helping the poor and oppressed are commands to the individual. The central church is to give to the poor, but with several restrictions. Nowhere is a central government told to bring in resources and distribute out to increase fairness. Private property is always under the control of the individual, who is responsible to God for how it is handled. The poor, when they meet the test of truly needy, should be helped, but it is their responsibility to work. Nowhere in the Bible does it say for a government to take care of people’s debts.

Further, the primary place to take care of people is the family. In both Old Testament and New, the person’s immediate family has the responsibility to take care of their needs. This is why the family unit is so important, and breakup of the family is so detrimental to society. Families are critical to the neediest of society, and when the family breaks up or is redefined, the poor are the ones who suffer.

We can safely conclude that the Bible does not share the goals of socialism, even what is today called democratic socialism. It speaks nothing to universal healthcare run by a central authority, but rather commands individuals to take care of each other’s needs, using compassion and wisdom. The Bible does not command everyone be given a minimum income, but rather commands all to work and the family to take care of people’s needs.

God’s model is for all of us to have compassion on the poor, and therefore the common coffers will have enough resources to take care of the truly needy.

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Can We Trust Josephus When He Mentions Jesus?

In the first century, the Romans had a Jew named Josephus to write a history of the Jewish people and the wars that took place in Israel. Josephus’ book Antiquities of the Jews  mentions Jesus twice. The first is brief and merely says that Jesus, who is called Christ, was the brother of James (Ant. Ant. XX.IX.1) The second is lengthier and in some dispute. It appears to us as follows:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day. (Ant. XVIII.III.3)

This passage is debated at length and good discussion on it can be found elsewhere. A good and fair treatment can be found in The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary Habermas (1996, College Press, Joplin, MO, 192-196). Habermas discusses the questions with the passage and gives support for the original passage mentioning Jesus, although admitting some sections are in legitimate question. Habermas states:

There are good indications that the majority of the text is genuine. There is no textual evidence against it, and, conversely, there is very good manuscript evidence for this statement about Jesus, thus making it difficult to ignore. Additionally, leading scholars ont he works of Josephus have testified that this portion is written in the style of this Jewish historian. (192)

Habermas reviews the scholars who have dealt with this passage, as have others. Therefore we will not repeat that here; Christian apologists have dealt with it at some length. For our immediate purpose, we can say for the sake of argument that the passage is in dispute.

It is problematic for the atheist or skeptic to dismiss the Bible outright due to a questionable passage such as this. Atheists throw around criticisms denying that Josephus mentions Jesus, apparently concluding that they can dismiss the historicity of the Bible in the process. A more extensive reading of both the Bible and Josephus reveals a rather solid corroboration about historical details. The list below provides a series of facts presented in both the Bible and Josephus. It is a rather extensive list, with conclusions to follow.

 

  1. Alexander the Great took over the world, including Tyre
    Ant. XI.VIII.3-5, cf Daniel 8:5-8, 21-22 (prophecies Alexander; Ezekiel 26 (prophecies the destruction of Tyre)
  2. The temple in Jerusalem had many riches
    Ant. XII.V.4; cf 1 Kings 10:14ff;
  3. The temple had golden candlesticks, table of showbread, alter of incense, alter of burnt offering, and a veil.
    Ant. XII.V.4; cf Exodus 37:10ff;
  4. The Jews made daily sacrifices to God, according to their law.
    Ant. XII.V.4; cf Leviticus 6:12
  5. That Antiochus, a pagan king, created an abomination on the alter by building an idol upon the alter and sacrificing pigs upon it.
    Ant. XII.V.4; cf Daniel 11:21-35, esp. 31
  6. Crucifixion was done in that country
    Ant. XII.V.4; cf John 19:18
  7. That there was animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, specifically in where the proper place of worship should be.
    Ant. XII.V.5; Ant. XX.VI.1; John 4:9, 20
  8. That the Jews would sometimes need to travel through the country of the Samaritans;
    Ant. XX.VI.1; Luke 17:11; John 4:4
  9. Sacrifices were made at the temple twice a day;
    Ant. XIV.IV.3; Leviticus 6:20;
  10. That the priests were extremely particular about keeping the exact letter of the law;
    Ant. XIV.IV.3; Mark 2:23-24;
  11. That Herod was king;
    Ant. XV.X.2; Matthew 2:3
  12. That talents were the common monetary denomination;
    Ant.XV.X.2; Matt. 25
  13. The region of the Damoscenes was part of the country;
    Ant. XV.X.1; 2 Corinthians 11:32
  14. The people called Gadarenes were in that country;
    Ant. XV.X.2; Matt. 8:28
  15. Agrippa was a king in that  region
    Ant. XV.X.2; Acts 25:13
  16. The Galileans were a people in that region;
    Ant. XX.VI.1; Mark 14:70
  17. Jews would travel to the central city for festivals;
    Ant. XX.VI.1; Luke 2:41
  18. During times of great distress, Jews would put on sackcloth and ashes;
    Ant. XX.VI.1; Matt. 11:21
  19. Ananias was one of the high priests;
    Ant. XX.VI.2; XX.IX.2; Acts 23:2
  20. Felix was the governor of Judea;
    Ant. XX.VII.1; Acts 23:24
  21. Philip was the tetrarch of Trachonitis;
    Ant. XX.VII.1; Luke 3:1
  22. Felix was married to Drusilla;
    Ant. XX.VII.1; Acts 24:24
  23. Agrippa was connected with Bernice, but never referred to as married;
    Ant. XX.VII.1-3; Acts 25:13
  24. That tithes were due to the priests;
    Ant. XX.VIII.8; Numbers 18:21, 26
  25. The tithes to the priests included grain;
    Ant. XX.VIII.8; Deut. 26:12
  26. The correct place of grain harvest was a threshing floor;
    Ant. XX.VIII.8; Numbers 15:20; Matt. 3:12
  27. The temple rituals were not to be viewed by outsiders;
    Ant. XX.IX.VIII.11; Numbers 18:7
  28. The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews;
    Ant. XX.IX.1;  Matt. 16:1
  29. Festus was a governor;
    Ant. XX.IX.1; Acts 24:27
  30. The Sanhedrin was an assembly of judges of Israel;
    Ant. XX.IX.1; Mark 14:55
  31. James was the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ;
    Ant. XX.IX.1; Matthew 13:55
  32. That stoning was a punishment of the Jewish law;
    Ant. XX.IX.1; Lev. 20:2
  33. The proper name of Caesarea Philippi;
    Ant. XX.IX.4; Matt. 16.13
  34. That Solomon first built the temple, then it was later rebuilt;
    Ant. XX.IX.7; 1 Kings 6:1; John 2:20
  35. Pilate was the Roman procurator of Judea;
    Ant. XVIII.III.1; Matt. 27:2;
  36. That Pilate would sit public rule upon a judgement seat;
    Ant. XVIII.III.1; Matt. 27:19
  37. That the Jewish leaders were acutely virulent about keeping their laws;
    Ant. XVIII.III.1;  Acts 22:23

 

Conclusion

One might nitpick about the importance of a few of the items in this list. We could counter with the fact that some of them involve multiple facts, and the list is not an exhaustive examination of Josephus. This list will nevertheless suffice to say that the Bible has a rather extensive corroboration in Josephus. We can stand on firm ground in saying that the Bible has a good historical corroboration in a major first century work written by a non-Christian who had no motivation other than documenting history. The burden of proof is on the skeptic to deny the general historical accuracy, and the specifics listed here provide a solid list of support for the particular historical accuracy of the Bible.

We can add to this the list of other sources that historians show corroborate the facts in the Bible. In The Historical Jesus, Habermas quotes over 40 sources outside the Bible that support several hundred facts inside the Bible, and recreates almost the entire gospel account from sources outside the Bible. Some of the sources are hostile to the Christians, providing especially strong evidence, since they have no motivation to help Christianity or Christians.

Particularly relevant is the fact that sprinkled within the many corroborated facts are miracle accounts, words of Jesus, and teachings of prophets claiming to speak for God Himself. A fair reading must conclude that the statements sprinkled within the history must be taken at face value, at leas without preconceived conclusions that it is a historical novel or invented out of whole cloth. The two mentions of Jesus, that he existed and was called the Christ, are therefore given support.

We therefore conclude what the Bible presents as true, namely that it was written by eyewitnesses to the events it presents.

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