Saturday, December 30, 2017

Is What Is "Good For You" Always Right?

One of the best compliments I ever received was when a former pastor of mine told me that I had a very practical theology. Now he was not talking about the field of Practical Theology, but more broadly that I see the Bible, and God, as immensely practical. In my view, Christians often hold views about God and the Bible that are not the least bit helpful to us at all.

For example, I read a comment on 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) that said that it expressed a wonderful ideal if we could reach it, but we cannot as we are bound by sin. To me this is nonsense on two levels. First, we are no longer bound by sin but free not to sin and, therefore, we can walk in love. But on a practical level, it is also wrong. What good does it do to tell us what it would be like to walk in the love of God if we cannot do it. That is impracticable and a waste of time as far as I am concerned. The Bible, the New Testament, tells us what to do and empowers us to do it! That is a practical theology.

On the other hand, we have to be careful not to become pure pragmatists. Americans are very pragmatic people. We believe that if something works then it is a good thing. If something has bad effects it is a bad thing. So the known results of something determine whether it is good or bad. A diet is good if it helps you lose weight and makes your body healthy, and a diet is bad if it does the opposite. It all seems very sensible.

But what seems sensible to us is not always good. Just yesterday, in fact, I was with a group of ladies at work who were discussing losing weight in the new year. (It seems that everyone is planning to lose weight after the fattening holidays are over. I am among them.) One woman was talking about using hypnosis in order to lose weight. They were all talking about it like it was perfectly alright. The only question in their minds was, "Will it work?". That is the question of a pragmatist. The pragmatist does not ask what is behind that hypnosis, but what will be the known practical effect of what I am doing.

One of the ladies, a Christian, asked me if hypnosis was "against Christianity". I was really quite bold. I not only stated that it was wrong, but I told them that it is a demon which causes hypnosis. Some of them heard me, but I am not sure they accepted it. One or two of them ignored me as if I had said nothing, but I hope that some had ears to hear. Then one woman said that 'you have to open yourself to it' for it to work. I said, "Open yourself to what?".

That is the non-pragmatic question. "What are you opening yourself to?" The idea of 'being open' sounds good to us. We are told to have open hearts and open minds, etc. 'Openness' is supposed to be a good thing. That is not always the case.

We are supposed to be open to the Spirit of God and closed to the devil. This woman does not realize that hypnotism is opening up oneself to evil spirits. The devil is glad to do "good things" for you if you open yourself to his influence. We must resist this kind of deception and warn others. Losing some weight is not worth opening yourself up to a demon spirit.

I later spoke privately to the woman who was considering hypnotism to lose weight. I explained that it was not a good thing. She said that she was a Christian and walked close to the Lord, but she was not going to do the hypnosis because she did not think she could be hypnotized. She does not think could open herself up like that. I am happy that she is giving up on this idea, but her reasons were actually more practical than spiritual. I pray that she get more wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Then we got onto the topic of yoga. I told her that some of the ladies used to do yoga before work hours. She said that the ladies were talking about that earlier. Then, I told her that I had rebuked the evil spirit behind it and it stopped.

Many Christians, unfortunately, are not informed about why yoga is wrong. They say it is healthy and makes one feel peaceful. They do not realize that this "peace" they get is deceptive. The devil can counterfeit the peace of God and make people temporarily feel better as a result.

But we have to understand what yoga is. It is worship of Hindu gods. The mantras that are repeated are names of gods. That is worship, false worship. And the music is praising these same gods. It is idolatry. But Christians, thinking that it is just a technique, are unaware of what they are doing. I do not think that God is mad at them or that they will go to Hell or anything, but we need to quit being so gullible where these things are concerned. We should know what something is really about, what its origins are, before we practice them. Instead, we just use it if it seems to make us feel better or lose weight or become healthier.

The apostle Paul ran into a similar thing at the church in Corinth. He became aware that some members were attending pagan temple services. Pagan temples served both a social and religious function. Obviously, they were places where idols were worshiped. But they also were places where people met together, ate dinner, and did business. Some Corinthian Christians did not see anything wrong with going there. They had learned that there was only one God. There were no other gods so going to the temple of a god who did not exist would do no harm.

But Paul explained that the idols, which are not true gods, are inhabited by demons who receive the worship being offered to the idols. Eating dinner with idols was having fellowship with demons. So, the Corinthians who thought they were wise in eating in pagan temples were actually foolish since they opened themselves to evil influences.

Some Christians who practice things like yoga think that since they don't believe in Hinduism and all their gods are not doing anything wrong. Or they do not even realize that yoga is a form of pagan worship and believe it is only exercise. Like the Corinthians they need to be more fully informed. We live in a world full of evil spirits and we must be careful not to open ourselves to them.

Many Christians think that as long as their hearts are right, everything is fine. They are not trying to worship demons so it doesn't matter what they do. But they open themselves up to the devil when they practice such things.

The devil knows that we are suckers for things that appear good and have good effects on our minds and bodies. He has devised things that "help" us feel better and look better so that he can gain some kind of foothold in our lives if possible. So, let's "be wise and understand what the will of the Lord is".

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Born in sin

I am discussing in this post what is called the doctrine of original sin. Basically, it is the idea that all who are descended from Adam (that would be all of us) are born in sin. Part of that doctrine means that we have inherited the corruption of sin from our father Adam. On this point, it seems that most Christians are basically in agreement. Our sinful tendencies are inherited.

The question is, does this mean that we are born spiritually dead; are we born sinners? I used to think so. After all we had certain verses in the Bible, especially in the book of Romans, that seem to say exactly that. We will examine some of them shortly.

First, we must define certain terms. One is obviously the word, 'sin'. Sin, in the singular, does not always refer to an act of sin but to the sin nature in us that causes us to sin. The word 'death' often does not refer to physical death, but to spiritual death. Physical death is the separation of our spirits from our bodies, it does not mean the cessation of existence. Likewise, spiritual death means separation as well, the separation of our spirits from God. The Bible says that before we were born-again, our spirits were "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). We were alienated from God. When we are born-again, we were made spiritually alive. "Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:5)

So our salvation means that once we were sinners, spiritually dead, separated from God and now in Christ we have been made alive. Our spirits have been born from above, we have passed from death to life. (John 3:3; 1 John 3:14) {Notice here that I am defining what a sinner is. He is one who is spiritually dead, in bondage to sin. Being a sinner does not mean just someone who sins. The Bible does not define a sinner that way. A sinner is one who has not received eternal (spiritual) life, but one dead in sin. Believers are called righteous. But that is another lesson.}

So, back to our original question: are we born spiritually dead? The church has generally said, "yes". The idea that we are born in sin, with a sin nature, seems to naturally to lead to the conclusion that all are born spiritually dead. Certain scriptures seem to suggest that.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
For if by the one man’s offense many died ... For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:15-19
From these verses, it does seem that we are born sinners, spiritually dead. However, when we formulate a doctrine we must take into account all relevant scriptures. If our interpretation of a scripture is contradicted by another scripture, our interpretation, no matter how reasonable our conclusion seems, must change. So, let's look at another scripture in Romans that suggests that the way that we die spiritually is not simply by being descended from Adam.
I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Romans 7:9-11
In this passage, Paul is telling us what the effect of the law was in his early life. Rather than justifying him, the law condemned him. In fact, Paul goes further than that in saying that before "the commandment came", he was alive. That means that when Paul was a young boy, he did not have a revelation of the law in his heart though he may have heard it from his parents or others. He had not yet reached the age of accountability, the time when an individual becomes personally responsible to God to obey the law. But when he understood in his heart that God had commandments that he must do, then he became responsible. The problem was that the law stirred up "sin", or the sin nature. That sin nature in his flesh caused him to trip up and disobey the law. That is when Paul died spiritually - not when he was born. Before that he was alive to God.

So the "sin" that was stirred up was not in his spirit, but in his flesh. We still have a sin nature in our flesh though we ourselves are alive to God having received eternal life in the new birth. Paul also told Christians to not "allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies" (Romans 6:12). So, this "sin" which was stirred up in Paul was in his flesh, not his spirit. No wonder we have to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts."

Now let's look at Romans 5 a little more closely. We need to read verse 12 in the light of what is said in chapter 7. "Through one man [Adam], sin entered the world" means that the sin nature in the body is inherited from Adam apparently through the male seed. (Otherwise, it would have mentioned Eve.) Only a person not having a natural father (Jesus) could escape this corruption. Jesus was only in the likeness of sinful flesh. (Romans 8:3) Our spiritual natures do not come from our natural parents. Our spirits are created by God. When we knowingly commit an act of sin, we die spiritually. "Sin entered the world and (spiritual) death by sin, and thus death spread to all men, BECAUSE ALL SINNED." All sinned, not in Adam as theologians have said, but they all sinned in the manner of Paul in chapter 7 of Romans. That's when they died spiritually.

So, young children are not little sinners, but they do have bodies with a sin nature. When they are old enough to understand the law of God, they become accountable to Him. They then will yield to the flesh and knowingly sin. If they have not already accepted Christ, they will die spiritually. If they die before reaching the age of accountability they go to heaven. Jesus said of little children, "of such is the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:14)

Now we can make more sense of Paul's statement about "many". He says, "For if by the one man’s offense many died ... For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners." Why many and not all? Because not all reach the age of accountability. Not all die spiritually because not all live to the age of accountability. The doctrine that teaches that children are born spiritually dead led directly to infant baptism. Women were afraid that if their babies died, they would go to hell. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church taught that an infant is regenerated (born-again) at baptism. To go to heaven, a child must be baptized. This is unscriptural. Children do not need to be baptized to go to heaven. They are already alive to God and they rest in peace.

In theological terminology, I do not believe in original guilt, which holds all guilty of Adam's sin. That causes all to be born spiritually dead. I believe in original corruption, specifically the corruption of our bodies. We have a sin nature in our bodies, our flesh, that will be gone when we are resurrected. Our spirits are born of God and we are alive to God with His own life and nature. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Do Levitical laws apply to us today?

There is an argument, which is specious at best, that Christians do not need to keep any of the Levitical laws. Some make such claims because they want to justify their unscriptural beliefs about the practice of homosexuality or other things the Bible labels as sin. Of course, some of the laws regarding "uncleanness" clearly do not apply today. The kosher laws in particular are mentioned several times in the New Testament as not binding on the church.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:1-4
The kosher laws are in Leviticus 11 along with some other uncleanness regulations in chapters 11 and 12. What is the nature of these laws and why do we not need them today? (I am referring now to the uncleanness laws in these two chapters. We will consider other laws shortly.) Let's look at a couple of other uncleanness laws here.
By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening: The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean. Lev 11:24-27
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. Lev 12:1-4
The first thing that we should notice is that these are not violations of the moral law, they are not sins. Touching a dead body is not sin. Having a baby is not sin. However, they were considered unclean as far as going into the sanctuary was concerned. In the case of touching a dead body, one had to wash and be unclean until evening. In the case of the woman who has borne a child, she would have to bring a sacrifice after a period of days.

But since God gave these laws in chapters 11 and 12, why do we not have to obey them today? The answer is clearly laid out in the New Testament.
Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary ... the priests went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. Hebrews 9:1-8
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22
Jesus' sacrifice has opened up the way for all who receive Him to enter the divine sanctuary. We are all clean! It's not just the high priests but any priests (we are all priests, you know) can come into His presence. So the uncleanness laws of Leviticus 11 and 12 are no longer applicable under the New Covenant.

But what about the other laws of uncleanness. Have they been done away with as well? There is another list of "uncleanness" in Leviticus 18. They have to do with sexual sins - incest, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. It is odd that some have tried to say that homosexuality, because it appears in Leviticus, no longer applies to us so-called "enlightened" Christians in the 21st century. I do not hear them say (yet) that incest and bestiality are okay.

Another thing we need to see is that this kind of uncleanness has nothing to do with the sanctuary but has to do with sin.
Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Leviticus 18:24-29
These uncleannesses does not affect the sanctuary but the land. It says the land will "vomit" the Israelites out if they do these things. Those before them in the land of Israel were judged and expelled because they did the things listed in Leviticus 18. There is no such judgment on those who have babies or touch dead animals.

So, what does the New Testament say about the laws of uncleanness in chapter 18? Are they still unclean?
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Paul is saying that we ought to know these things. We should also notice that Paul uses the word 'uncleanness' when speaking of some sexual sins.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness ... Galatians 5:19 (KJV)
"Uncleanness" in this passage obviously refers to sexual sins. No doubt that Paul is referring to Leviticus 18 which lists homosexual activities as unclean acts.

The list of unclean activities in chapter 18 is very different from those in chapters 11 and 12. To mix them together and treat them both the same is the result of a failure to understand basic distinctions in Levitical law. It also leads to deception by those who wish to justify sexual sins. It seems that today, like the first century, there are those who "twist the scripture to their own destruction".

[Note: I cannot take credit for the insights into the Levitical laws here. The credit goes to Peter Leithart, a great scholar who often talks way above my head. It is he who pointed out in his blog the difference between encleanness regarding the sanctuary and the uncleanness regarding the land.]

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 5

This is the fifth and final post in this series on creation. We could not possibly discuss all the issues and nuances involved in this important subject. I think it is safe to say that nobody has a monopoly on the truth though I think that Evolutionary Creation just accepts whatever the latest hypothesis so-called objective science hands us, and then baptizes it and pronounces it as God's truth. Now true science is God's truth as all truth is God's truth. But when we are evaluating claims about what happened in the distant past we need a little humility about what science is actually able to discover. That is why we need special revelation in the Bible. It tells us how we were created and why.

The issue for Christians is knowing what the Bible says and what things are essential and what things are not. And though I believe in literal 24 hour days for the six days of creation, I do not think it is essential to true faith. On the other hand, believing in a literal Adam and Eve are essential both for Christian theology and for maintaining the integrity of the New Testament witness. This leaves out the Evolutionary Creationist view and brings into question the Intelligent Design view despite its brilliant criticism of pure evolution.

That does not leave us only with Young Earth Creationism, however. There is a fourth view, the one I hold to, which is called the Gap Theory. Now the name is most inelegant but the concept is intriguing. It asks the question, "What if there is a "gap" between verses one and two in the first chapter of Genesis and what if there is a long period of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the 'six days of creation' in the rest of the chapter?"
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Gen 1:1-2
The heavens and the earth are created in verse one. That is the beginning. The six days say nothing about the heavens and earth themselves being created. Verse two says that the earth was (or became) formless and empty. The six days describe the earth being given form and then being filled. What is interesting is that Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the world "formless and empty". "The Hebrew for formless and empty is 'tohu' and 'bohu'. These two words are only put together in Genesis 1:2 and Isaiah 45:18.

So the suggestion here is that something happened between verses 1 and 2. This would allow for a long period of time from the original creation event and the creation of Adam and Eve. Is this biblically possible or just wishful thinking? The Gap Theory has been criticized as just being a compromise between "fundamentalists", who want to maintain a literal reading of Genesis, and secular scientists who insist on a very old heavens and earth.

Does a literal reading of the 'six days' be reconciled with this view? How about the fact that in most translations, verse three says that light comes on the "first day"? If it's the first day followed by the second day, etc., then how can there be so many days before that? The Hebrew does not actually read "the first day", "the second day", etc. Verses three to five ends with "one day". Verse eight says "a second day" and is in a different form than "one day". In other words, we can read this as a series of six days and not necessarily the first six days.

Some will complain then that the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. But the word "made" is not the Hebrew word 'to create' as in verse one. The word for 'create' is only in verse one and then the creation of animal life (vs 20-21) and human life (vs 26-27). So it seems that the sun and moon existed already but were only made to appear from earth's point of view on day four.

Let's look at what the New Testament says:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 2 Peter 3:3-6
Reading this carefully, it does not seem that there is any reference here to Noah's flood, but to the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2. The heavens existed "long ago" does not seem to indicate a creation that, at the time of the writing of 2 Peter, was only about 4000 years old according to the Young Earth Creationists. It seems to indicate a much longer period of time followed by a flood which wiped out the world that existed before. We still live in the same world that Noah and Adam inhabited. Noah "saved the world" by building an ark.

This would explain when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Young Earth Creationists not only claim that dinosaurs existed on earth from Adam to Noah but that they went on the ark. After all, Noah took two kinds of every animal. This would include dinosaurs. So where are the dinosaurs now? Young Earth Creationists say that they died out shortly after the flood because the oxygen content of the earth dropped so that dinosaurs could no longer get enough to live. My objection should be obvious. Why bother to put dinosaurs on the ark only to have them die when they get off? The reason for the ark was to preserve the lives of humans and animals, not kill them off later.

No, the dinosaurs lived in the previous world as did other animals and plants. God then wiped it all out and started again with Adam and Eve in a renewed earth. We can only speculate as to why God did this. It's His business, not ours.

So it seems that there is a little more flexibility with our literal interpretation of Genesis 1 than we thought before. That does not mean that we have to accept whatever secular science tells us as to what happened in the past. Neither does that mean that we have to dismiss it out of hand. We can accept some findings of science - apparent age of the earth and the heavens - without buying into their theories designed to exclude the possibility that there might be a Creator and that He might have revealed facts about creation in the biblical record.

We can accept the Bible as literal truth and seek true scientific knowledge as well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 4

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1) On that all agree whether we hold to Evolutionary Creation, Intelligent Design, Young Earth Creationism or the Gap Theory. We all take that literally. Why not, the Young Earth Creationists say, do we not take the rest of that chapter, and all subsequent chapters, literally? The Evolutionary Creationists and the Intelligent Design advocates do not take the "six days of creation" as literal 24-hour time periods. Rather they say that these "days" represent long ages of time. And, of course, the word "day" does sometimes mean a time period other than a 24 hour period. The Day of the Lord, for example, lasts more than a thousand years.

But we have to read this in context. It talks about evening and morning, and it speaks of multiple days. That is quite different from speaking about "the Day of the Lord." Nobody using the word 'day' talks about evenings and mornings. Those are spoken of only in the context of literal days.

Young Earth Creationists take all of Genesis literally as possible stating that the earth is no more than 6000 to 10,000 years old. Perhaps you have heard of Bishop Ussher's calculations and telling us that the creation occurred in 4004 B.C. He got that number by adding up all the genealogies and the ages of the men who begot a son who begot a son and on and on. This is the natural way for us to read these genealogies. And it is not really the proper way to read them. Generations were skipped in ancient genealogies even if the author knew who belonged there.

I have included a quote here of the issue of skipped generations in biblical genealogies. It is from if you wish to read the whole article. It is a concise summary of the matter.

"A close study of the Biblical text shows us there were gaps in the Biblical genealogies. I believe the original writers and readers of the Bible understood and knew the genealogies were correct but incomplete ... Matthew 1:8 tells us that Joram fathered Uzziah. However, in 1st Chronicles 3:11-12 we find that Joram fathered Ahaziah, who fathered Joash, who fathered Amaziah, who begot Uzziah who was also called Azariah. To see that Uzziah was also called Azariah compare 2nd Kings 14:21-22 with 2nd Chronicles 26:1-2."

The terms 'father' and 'son' have a much broader meaning in the Bible than they do today. A 'father' could be a great, great ... great grandfather - without limitations. So, simply adding up the years in the genealogies will not work. In the light of these facts, we need to read the genealogies as ancient people would read them.

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh ... Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan ... Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel ... Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared. (Genesis 5:6-15)

The "natural" reading of this passage puts 390 years between Seth and Jared. But what about generations that were skipped. If we assume those (and that is a very good assumption given the biblical record as a whole), we must read it differently. So when Seth was 105 years old, he fathered a child whose ancestor would be Enosh and when Enosh was 90 years old he fathered a child whose ancestor was Kenan. If we read it this way, and it is a justified way to read it without distorting the text, we cannot say that there were only 390 years between Seth and Jared. There could have been many, many more years.

Why skip generations? Well, first we would have an even longer Bible than we have now. In fact, in light of what we have learned about genealogies I think most Christians would shorten them even further so that there is not all that stuff to read! It seems that Genesis only records the most prominent ancestors of one person or another. Most have heard of Winston Churchill, the famous British Prime Minister who saved England in WW2. He had an ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, who was famous in holding off the French Forces of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. In our history books, both men will be mentioned but likely none of the men in the generations that separated them. They are not relevant.

Some Creations Scientists do insist on the 6000 years, but many read the genealogies as I have suggested and they will say that the number is more like 10,000 years. I even know of one scholar who suggests that it ought to be more like 35,000 years though I cannot recall why he prefers this figure. But I have no problem with any of these figures because it still fits within a literal reading of Genesis. We have not departed from that.

The interpretive issue here is not "literal vs. nonliteral" interpretation, but "ancient vs. modern". Most modern Christians do not really understand how ancient genealogies worked. We thought we were "just taking the Bible for what it says" but were really ignorant of how it was read in ancient times. Most of the time that we read we can just take the plain meaning of the scripture and it will be right. But there are times when there is a cultural distance between ourselves and those who wrote the Bible. That is when we need scholars to help us understand better. Some things we are so certain about can turn out to be quite wrong.

In conclusion, I must say that I agree more with the Young Earth Creationists who think that the Bible allows us to think that the earth is more than 6000 years old than with those who read the genealogies in a rigid manner requiring those who take Genesis literally to hold to 4004 BC as the date of the creation. Our ancient forebears did not hold to the strict standard of some Young Earth Creationists.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 3

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

There is a movement in the scientific community, mostly with Christian scientists (not Christian Science the religion), called Intelligent Design. It criticizes Darwinism, the idea that life came about by natural means alone and that a single-celled lifeform evolved into all life as we have it today, but it does not reject all evolutionary theory or of the assertions of secular science about the age of the earth, universe, etc. In particular, they accept the Big Bang Theory about the origin of the universe.

The Big Bang Theory (not the television show) states that at the beginning of time there was some kind of "big bang" that got this universe started and everything developed from there. This happened some 14 billions years ago. Though I do not understand all about how this supposedly happened, I do know that scientists have shown that we live in an expanding universe and we know how quickly it is expanding and how at what rate that expansion is slowing down. It's all very complicated. Anyway, they can calculate the time that it all began expanding, in other words, the beginning. The Big Bang Theory also asserts that the universe will collapse on itself and come to an end.

The first thing that I would like to point out, without endorsing the theory, is that the idea of a Big Bang origin of the universe brings us much closer to the biblical witness and record that one might think at first. Previous to the widespread acceptance among scientists of the Big Bang Theory, naturalistic (atheistic) scientists said that since there was no God creating anything, the universe is eternal - it has always been here. Also, they asserted that the universe was infinite, that's all there is. The Big Bang Theory states that the universe has a beginning and an end and that the universe is expanding, implying that it is finite. The Bible teaches that the universe is temporal, it has a beginning and an end, and that it is finite because one can go beyond it to Heaven. (The Bible speaks of three heavens - the first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth, the second heaven is the stellar heavens, and the third is the place where Christians go when they die.) So it seems that the Christians have won this one scientific argument about the universe - it is temporal and finite.

So, if the universe has a beginning, if it started with a big bang, who or what caused it? Well, here is where we get the idea of Intelligent Design. A being, or group of beings, must have brought it into existence. It could not have started itself - it logically incoherent. Some naturalistic scientists have said that they do not know who or what caused it, we only know that it happened. Or they make up flimsy theories about what might have occurred.

Intelligent Design advocates have argued that there must have been someone(s) intelligent designing all this and powerful enough to bring it about. The supposed randomness of the universe seems oddly not random at all. They point to evidence, which seems to become greater as our knowledge increases, that the universe is "fine-tuned" in such a way as to make life possible. Here is just one example of many: "Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible." (Sorry for the lack of reference.) This is one of many examples we could list. It is just not plausible that life, or even the existence of the universe itself, can be an accident. It must have been planned (designed) and that by someone who knew what they were doing.

Then Intelligent Design scientists turn to life here on earth. Could life have evolved from a primordial state without any outside "interference"? No, they say. Any lifeform, even the most simple single celled creature must have DNA and is extremely complex. This idea was put forth in Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box. It may sound plausible that somehow a single-celled creature came out of an environment with no life, but where did the DNA come from? Even a "simple" lifeform is far too complex to come about by accident. All life shows abundant evidence of having been designed.

So, Intelligent Design scientists believe that God created life though they do accept some aspects of evolutionary development. But certain points in the past, God (the Intelligent Designer, I mean) created new life forms. They note in the fossil record that mammals suddenly appear. They do not slowly evolve and we get more and more mammal types over centuries or millenniums. They all come at once. So saying that they evolved from something else is contradicted by the very fossil record that naturalistic scientists point to for proof that all things evolved naturally.

This allows room, as well, for Intelligent Design scientists who are Christian to bring the Bible into this. They can, but do not have to, say that Adam and Eve are progenitors of the human race. So they do not have to deny the historicity of Genesis 2-11, but many of them do.

The other issue is there view of Genesis 1. They view the 'six days of creation' as merely symbolic as do evolutionary creationists. In that way, they are closer to the evolutionary view than to Young Earth Creationists which I will cover in the next post.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 2

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

The topic in this post is Theistic Evolution, or as some are now saying, Evolutionary Creation. This is basically the idea that modern, secular scientists are correct in their guess (that's what it is) that random forces in nature made life come forth on this planet and that one-celled life-forms evolved over billions of years into mankind and all other creatures. Obviously, Christians believe that there are no truly random forces but that God set things up so that we would come about eventually. Time doesn't mean anything to God so billions of years going by matters not at all.

Some might complain to these Christian evolutionists that it would be much simpler for God to have made what He wanted (mainly us) right away without all that evolution having to bring it about. Besides, it is difficult to reconcile this view with a literal reading of Genesis 1 and other scriptures. (This fact put me on the road to rejecting evolution.) One does not, theistic evolutionists assert, have to interpret Genesis 1 literally. It could be metaphor, declaring that God (the true God and not some other gods or something) created everything and that He should be honored. A primitive, pre-scientific world might mistake this as something to be taken literally, but in a literate, scientific age, we should accept whatever "science" tells us.

In fact, we non-evolutionists are told that not only should Genesis 1 not be taken literally, but that the first 11 chapters of Genesis should not be regarded as historical fact. It is some kind of metaphor, they say, that teaches us about human development until Abraham whose story begins in chapter 12. Then the rest of Genesis is literal history.

There are a lot of problems with this view. The book of Genesis has an introduction (chapters 1:1-2:3) followed by ten narrative sections. Even a cursory reading of chapters 2 through 11 show that it is written in the same manner as chapters 12 through 50. They are the same genre. No sensible scholar would read them differently. It is all historical narrative and that includes the part about Adam and Eve.

There can be no literal Adam and Eve according to Francis Collins, evolutionary creationist and head of the Human Genome Project. "The complexity of the human genome requires an original population of 10,000"*. So there can be no Adam and Eve at the head of the human race. But the New Testament clearly shows that they were literal people. Luke's genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) begins with Adam and ends with Jesus (recorded in reverse order). Paul clearly spoke of Adam as an individual human being who is compared to Christ. That fact of Adam and Christ is essential to Christian theology. And Jesus Himself spoke of Abel (Adam and Eve's son) as a real person. (Matthew 23:35)

I challenged one of these Christian evolutionists on this latter point. I averred that Jesus claimed that Abel was a real person and if he is real then so are Adam and Eve. I asked if he thought Jesus was wrong, assuming that he would realize his mistake. He responded by stating that Jesus was wrong about that. I was stunned. I never expected a Christian (let's be generous and assume he is one) to say that Jesus could be wrong about something. This is sheer blasphemy and if he does not repent then I feel sorry for him when He has to stand before the Lord and give an account.

So it is crystal clear that one cannot hold to evolutionary creation without distorting the Bible. It is absolutely necessary that a Christian believe in a literal Adam and Eve and reject the evolutionary hypothesis.

I promised that I would cover both strengths and weaknesses of these views, but there are not many strengths for evolutionary creation. Nevertheless, I will try. The evolutionary creationists themselves see it as a great advantage. They say that other views of creation that reject evolution make the gospel seem anti-scientific and therefore a stumbling block to scientists. Witnessing to them about the Lord is hard, they say, if you take a literal view of Genesis 1. Better to accept evolution and let scientists know that we do not have to be "anti-scientific" to be a Christian. This will make Christianity more palatable to them. Besides, if we teach something like Young Earth Creation ideas to our young people, they will go off to college and lose their faith as they begin to doubt the Bible. Better to teach evolution and the Bible (as evolutionary creationists understand it) and then they will not question or reject it when they become more educated.

I am not sure that is a real strength, but we all want to be both scientifically and biblically literate. There is one part of what they say that I think is a true strength however. They talk about what is called "natural revelation". Now this is not some concept that they dreamed up to convince us of their point of view. This is something that we, in our zeal to uphold the Bible as the Word of God, have sometimes neglected.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
Psalm 19:1


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.
Romans 1:19

The Bible is supernatural revelation; nature (with true science) is natural revelation. Natural revelation can teach us some things about God. We should realize that sometimes science has informed, and changed, our understanding of the Bible. The best example is the idea that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. Early readers of the Bible "knew" from both experience and scripture that the sun goes around the earth. The Bible talks about the sun rising and setting, etc.

We now know for a fact that the Bible does not teach that the sun goes around the earth but that it does appear that way from a human point of view. So now we read the Bible differently. Knowing that the earth goes around the sun, we interpret the passages that seem to suggest otherwise to mean that in our experience the sun seems to go around the earth. (It is interesting that we still talk about 'sunrise' and 'sunset' because we experience it that way.)

So, evolutionary creationists do remind us that we cannot use the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook. It is not. But it does reveal many things about creation that we could not know by natural revelation. There is also a great deal of difference between the fact of a heliocentric solar system and the hypothesis of evolution. The former belongs to observational science; the latter to historical science which is very speculative. There is a giant gap between observed phenomena and hypothesizing about things that can never be proved.

We need a good understanding of what the Bible teaches, and does not teach. And we need a good understanding of what science can tell us and what it cannot.

*

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Creation and evolution, part 1

I almost titled these lessons 'creation versus evolution' but I am not mainly addressing that issue. Primarily, this series is about different views of how Christians believe creation took place. Not many Americans, including the American church community, still believe in a literal Six-Day creation of the world. On the other hand, most do not really believe in theory of evolution as secular scientists teach either. (I am using the common term 'theory of evolution', though it is not really accurate scientifically. A more correct term would be 'hypothesis of evolution', but I will use the common term so that all can follow more easily.)

In this series, I will discuss several points of view regarding creation and how it was done. I will cover Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, The Gap Theory and Theistic Evolution. I will talk about their strengths and weaknesses and where scriptures support or do not support each point of view. I am not an expert in any of this, but I have studied a bit and have definite opinions on these matters.

In my own life, I grew up being taught the "pure" theory of evolution. Since I believed in God all my life, I figured that God "got the ball rolling" so to speak and that He made sure that we would evolve and inhabit this planet. This is called Theistic Evolution. Accepting this is easy when you do not believe the Bible or really know what it says. You can accept whatever scientists have to say and then put God in the beginning. When I received the Lord at age 15, I continued to believe the theory of evolution but I added one thing. I figured that God had to give us human souls at some point along the way. (Today I would say human spirits, but I did not understand the tripartite nature of man.)

So I was satisfied that I had the truth about creation though I was still far from the real truth. Unfortunately, I did not really seriously begin to read my Bible until I went to college. Near the end of my freshman year, I was discussing my views with a more mature Christian. He challenged me on my views. He asked me that if I were to take Genesis chapter one seriously, would it jibe with my views. In other words, could I honestly interpret the creation passages and come out with the theory of evolution. I struggled with that. During the next summer, I began to study what the scriptures said, but I had trouble in my mind because I was convinced that the scientists were right.

I went to a Christian bookstore and found a book called, "Man's Origin, Man's Destiny" by Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith. He had a PhD. in organic chemistry along with a couple of other doctorates. He did not believe in the theory of evolution but in a literal six-day creation according to Genesis 1. He said that what stirred him to speak about the biblical creation and against evolutionary theory was reading an article that stated that "every scientist believes in the theory of evolution." This bothered him because he was a scientist and he did not believe in the theory of evolution, and he was not alone. To prove it, he contacted many scientists over the next few weeks and found over a hundred scientists who believed as he did.

So he wrote this book not to uphold the biblical record but to show that evolution, as taught in the scientific community, was not possible. I can recall a few of the things he wrote. First, he talked about how old the earth is and the methods used to determine the ages of rocks, etc. He asserted that scientists use circular reasoning in their methods. One thing they do is see how much the atoms have decayed over time. By knowing the rate of decay the scientist can learn when the rock was formed. (The half-life, which can be millions of years, helps determine this.) But Wilder-Smith noted that we do not know how the rock started out. God could have created in an advanced state of "decay". Scientists use the theory of evolution that states that the rock starts out in a "pure" form, undecayed. So the theory tells us how to date the rock and the date of the rock is used to prove the theory. This is circular reasoning - using a theory to prove itself. It is a logical fallacy.

He also noted that sea mammals could not have simply gone, as evolutionists claim, from being land mammals to being sea mammals. We can know this from studying the nipples of a mammal who lives in the sea like a whale and compare them to the nipples of a land mammal. The nipple of a sea mammal must be very complex or the baby will drown. The nipple of a land mammal is very simple and cannot be used by a sea mammal. So if, as evolutionists say, sea mammals went from the land to the sea, the nipple could not have evolved quick enough to keep the babies from drowning.

So I realized that the theory of evolution, which is spoken of so confidently by just about everyone it seemed, had a lot of problems. I realized it would take faith to accept the theory of evolution just as it would take faith to accept what Genesis said. I chose Genesis. I have never regretted that choice and it helped me to move beyond natural, human thinking to thinking biblically. Isn't that our goal: to think biblically, to think how God thinks and not be limited by our own reasoning?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reasonable "Creation Care"

One last blast to the extreme environmental movement regarding making the earth into an idol, then some positive words about the subject of "Creation Care", a term I do not like but will use because it seems to be what reasonable Christians are settling on.

Perhaps the most distressing part of the environmental movement is the attempt to silence their critics. Oddly, this also a very religious thing as well. Those who are called "Climate Change Deniers" are actually being run out of universities and called anti-science by those who hold extreme views. (Do not think that only extremists believe in what they say. They have convinced politicians and others that they are right.) Some have even called for the prosecution of those who put forth an alternative view. Is this how science supposed to work? Hardly. This is little different from charges of heresy in times past. The Climate Change "heretics" must be punished!

So, am I suggesting, as the extremists would say, that we want to pollute until we ruin everything. Not at all. My attitude, I think, is very practical. If you own your own home and you want a nice environment, then you will keep it clean. If you do not keep it clean, then you will live in filth. I recall my grandmother, a very diligent cleaner. She said that in the old days if you did not keep your house clean you were inviting disease into your home. Today, we have products which prevent a lot of that so one does not have to clean as thoroughly sometimes, or as often. Still, she had a good point. The cleaner it is, the healthier it is.

The same thing is true in our neighborhoods, cities, states and the nation as a whole. We can work to keep things clean, at first at a local level. We have a wildlife refuge near where we live and many volunteer to make it a better environment for us all. I applaud that. We all want a nice place for ourselves and for the flora and fauna that live there.

But then we also must understand that if we are to have a prosperous economy we are going to have to do some polluting. "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:14) This seems to be a little known scripture. God is saying that though oxen (their means of agricultural production) create a mess, it is better to have them so that we can prosper. And, of course, we have to clean up after them.

There is a tradeoff between productivity and pollution. The previous administration made a "war on coal". This greatly affected the economy of Appalachia which relies on coal for jobs and electricity. They wanted to shut down the coal plants, which are very cheap to run, but which pollute more than other kinds of power plants. The problem is that this disproportionately hurts the poor. First, the coal miners lose their jobs. Then, the price of electricity goes way up. So the effect is that the poorest region in the country becomes poorer still. Should it not be the decision of the people who live there whether or not they want cheaper electricity or less pollution? Why should politicians and bureaucrats in Washington make that decision?

Often, well-meaning politicians who care about the environment make foolish decisions that end up hurting people, especially the poor, and do nothing to help the environment. Germany recently decided to do away with the more polluting plants and replace them with environmentally "better" options like solar and wind. But at the same time, they got nervous about nuclear power (which is very clean and cheap to run) because of the nuclear plant in Japan that was hit by a tsunami. So they shut down those as well. They then had to ramp up the polluting plants again, but a higher cost. So, the net effect has been a doubling of electricity prices without any benefit to the environment. Who is hurt the most by this? The poor, of course. They cannot afford higher electricity rates. (Does Germany get a lot of tsunamis? I don't think so.)

So, the bottom line is this: let's be careful shutting things down thinking that we will be saving the planet or something, and remember who may be hurt by our good intentions. We always have to weigh the costs and benefits of any action we take. It is usually the poor who suffer from well-meaning people who care about our environment. This includes especially Christians who see it as our duty to take care of God's creation. I believe that the poor are a higher priority for us. (And please do not be fooled by the rhetoric by the extreme environmentalists to the effect that it is the poor who will be hurt the worst by climate change. That is easily refuted.)

So I am going to finish this series by recommending a website run by Christians who care both about the poor and about the environment. It is . They are not just critics of the environmental extremists and their views on the climate. They offer good perspectives on current environmental issues and are constantly aware of what happen to the poor when environmentalists suggest extreme or unwise measures to solve problems that may or may not exist. So, check it out. It is very enlightening.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Environmentalist Apocalypse

This post is not about debating different end-times scenarios, but I am only putting forth what has become popular in the church today in order to compare it to the modern environmentalist movement. Since we are seeing that environmentalism has become something of a religion among many, it is noteworthy that we are constantly being warned of a coming environmental apocalypse. Global warming is supposed to cause catastrophes of biblical proportions! Crops burning up and sea levels rising to engulf heavily populated areas are frequently sited as the reason for us to make great changes to our lifestyle and industry. We are told that unless we take drastic action, life on earth is in danger.

How much this reminds us of certain Christian preachers who are constantly preaching gloom and doom scenarios. (We are supposed to preach the Good News so that we can escape judgement.) Now I believe in things like the Rapture of the Church and the rise of an Antichrist and subsequent judgments, including environmental disasters like waters being turned to blood and the grass all being burnt up. But that is not for the church age. And I am not suggesting that we ignore the book of Revelation or the warnings therein. What hurts the church is that someone is always predicting the date of the Rapture (which is always in error) or seeing everything in nature (eclipses and hurricanes, for example) as harbingers of judgement.

Now I don't think that you would find one extreme environmentalist who would not scoff at such things. But then they turn around and do the same things themselves. They make apocalyptic predictions of environmental disasters that will make the earth virtually uninhabitable and bring untold misery. We are told to "repent" of our "sinful" polluting lifestyle and join their program in the hopes that we can be saved. If you oppose their "solutions" then you are labelled a heretic, that is, "anti-science".

They seem to deliberately forget the false predictions made in the past about global cooling (remember the "new ice age"?) or what acid rain was going to do to our forests. People are catching on, though. The latest end-of-the-world scenario is like the boy who cried "wolf". These repeated predictions of environmental doom-and-gloom are beginning to fall on deaf ears. That's a good thing.

Any well trained scientist should know that there is a great deal of difference between observational science, where we get our technological advances from, and predictive science, which is very much a guessing game. Now we can predict certain things on a small scale, but to predict what the climate will be in a hundred years is well beyond our ability and knowledge and it might never be possible. Science has it limitations. We must take that into account. Scientists, however honest they may be, are human and they can be deceived as well as anyone. I have heard scientists, experts in their field, make fundamental errors about the nature of science and what it can and cannot do. It is not infallible and it cannot answer every question we have, especially about the future. For that, let's stick to the Bible.

What is really surprising to me (should I be surprised at anything anymore?) is that Christians often buy into these apocalyptic scenarios and the so-called solutions brought forth. Of course, they speak in more "spiritual" terms like "creation care" and such like. Now I realize that not everyone who uses the term "creation care" falls for the extreme environmentalist scenarios. But I do think that we ought to be careful not to confuse the desire to help our environment with the current extreme agenda put forth by the extreme environmentalism which is becoming a religion to many.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Environmentalism - The New Animism?

Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, care about our environment. But some who care about the environment have gotten a little carried away. They have gone beyond just caring about the health of our air and water to making the earth into an idol. I think that the apostle Paul's insights apply here. He wrote, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." (Romans 1:25) He is, of course, speaking about ancient paganism that worshipped idols that represented created things like the planets (Venus and Jupiter, for example).

An earlier form of earth worship that still exists today is 'animism'. That is the idea that everything is alive and has a spiritual essence. Native American culture was, and still is to some degree, animistic. That is why, traditionally, they did not believe that anyone could own a piece of land. The land was sacred to them. I often shake my head when I hear someone on television explain that some tribe opposes some project on their land. They always make that we "understand" that the land is "sacred" to Native Americans. This is seen as being deeply spiritual and something that we Christians should respect, or even hold in awe.

This is pure animism, and animism is idolatry. Now someone might complain at this point that monotheists has some places that are considered holy as well. Take the temple mount where the Jewish temple once stood. Both Jews and Muslims, with differing claims, say that it is holy, not to be used for common purposes. The Jews have the prior claim and they believe that this land belongs to God. It was a place that God chose to put Him Name and to place His temple. In other words, the land is not holy in and of itself, but because God chose it for a purpose. It is dedicated to the Creator. We should also note that King David purchased that land. It was afterward dedicated to the Lord. That is much different from the land being "sacred" simply because it is part of the earth.

You might be thinking, at this point, 'what does that all have to do with modern environmentalism?' Environmentalists are not worshipping the earth. Perhaps not directly in the old terms of the ancient animists and pagans. Not too many people perform acts of worship when it comes to the earth. But many have "served the creature rather than the Creator". They put the "environment" ahead of human good and human progress. Preserving some plant or animal becomes more important than the benefit that humans might get from not preserving them. So humans become less important than animals or even the earth itself.

I have to note here that sometimes Christians act as if we are here to serve the earth rather than the other way around. God made the earth for man. We are not here to care for this planet. He created it for us. He created a place where we could live and thrive and prosper. That is why He made us last. He had to have a good environment for us to live in. We ruined that environment through sin and I do not mean the fact that we often pollute. We live in a fallen earth which Christ died to redeem and which He will completely renew.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)

Until He does that there will be environmental problems. This is point at which the environmentalists will say that I do not care about the environment and that this view will lead to environmental disaster. But that is not the least bit true. To say that something exists to serve us does not mean that we will abuse it. It means that we have the proper perspective. If a person owns a car, will he let it fall apart simply because it exists to serve him? Not necessarily. Some take better care of their cars and other not so much. (It also depends on how much you can afford to take care of it.)

So, understanding that the earth is here to serve us does not mean that "we do not care". It means that we can make choices about how we are going to care for it. A well-developed country like the USA may have stricter environmental regulations that less developed nations. The less developed nations want more economic development are willing to pollute more to accomplish this. We, on the other hand, already have a greater prosperity and want a better environment. There are trade-offs, and we have to make choices about where we want to come down.

Environmentalists are often absolutists who want to shut down industry and treat humans and human progress as a problem for the earth rather than the reason for the earth existing at all. God did not make the earth for His benefit but for ours. That is why He gave us dominion over it. We simply have to decide how to exercise that dominion.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Hold Fast To What You Have

The Bible tells us to "hold that fast which thou hast." (Revelation 3:11) I have quoted the King James here because of the word "thou". It is singular. So John is not telling the church as a whole to hold fast to something, but is telling individuals within the church to hold fast to what they have received from the Lord. Some people believe and teach that if God gives something to you that you cannot lose it. But if we have to hold fast to it, then it must be possible to lose it.

Let's look at divine healing. I am not talking about natural healing through doctors and medicine, but supernatural healing by the Spirit of God. Many people think that if God heals you, then that is it, you are healed forever. But that is not the case. We have to hold fast to it. Many people have lost their healing and, unfortunately, well-meaning Christians have thought that God did not really heal them after all. A person may receive their healing through a minister or in answer to prayer and experience divine healing. All the symptoms leave and even the doctors say they are healthy. Then the symptoms return and they think, "I thought God healed me, but I guess He didn't really. Otherwise, this would not have come back on me." This is erroneous thinking and it leads to folks losing their healing for good.

So let's look at some facts about divine healing and we will see what is really going on here. First, the New Testament is quite clear about where sickness and infirmity come from. They come from Satan. "How Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil." (Acts 10:38) Jesus healed those oppressed by the Devil, and since the gospels say over and over again that Jesus healed all who came to Him for healing, then sickness must be Satanic oppression.

In some cases, Jesus would cast out an evil spirit oppressing someone's body.

"And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." Luke 13:11-13

Jesus then said that Satan had bound her. But even if there is not an evil spirit present, Satan is still the causal agent. That might be hard for some people to accept, but that is what the Bible teaches.

With that said, we can look at a passage in the gospels that show that whenever demons are forced to leave, they seek a way back in.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43-45

So when the Devil has been oppressing someone with sickness and then that person is healed, it only makes sense that he will try to oppress them again with the same thing. And it could even be worse. The Devil does not give up easily. I wish believers would be just as determined to be free as Satan is to oppress them.

So, what do we do when he tries to put that back on us again? We resist him, firm in our faith. "Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith." (1 Peter 5:8)

I recall a time when I had to resist the devil who tried to steal our daughter's healing. When she was little, our oldest daughter was allergic to citrus. If she even had a little bit, she would break out all over. It was very unpleasant. So I had prayed for her to be healed and, frankly, forgot about it. Then when someone else was watching her, they gave some orange juice or something. She had no reaction. For the next year or two, she had no reaction to citrus. Then one time my mother was watching her and she told me when I went to pick my daughter up that she had a reaction to citrus. I examined her and rebuked the Devil and told him to take his hands off of her - she was healed and is still healed! Now, were the symptoms real? Yes, they were, but I recognized that the Devil was trying to steal her healing and I refused to accept those symptoms. I resisted the Devil and he fled! She has not had a bad reaction to citrus and that was more than 30 years ago.

Of course, sometimes when it seems we have lost our healing, the Devil strikes us with fear. We think, "Oh, no, not again!" If we read in 1 Peter 5:7, just before the passage about resisting the Devil, it tells us, "Cast you care upon the Lord, for He cares for you." Then we can resist the Devil by rebuking him or by praying to God and receiving our healing again, knowing that we are already healed. "By His wounds, you are healed." 1 Peter 2:24

Let's do what Peter says and learn to resist the Devil and anything that is of the Devil and not let him steal from us any more.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eternal Life, part 3

[This is part three on a series regarding Eternal Life. We have found so far that God gives us His own Nature, called Eternal Life or Love. This message will be about the fact that God is light and that we have that light in us.]

"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth." Ephesians 5:8-9

These two verses tell us a lot about God and lot about being a new creation in Christ. We know that God is pure light, spiritual light and that there is no darkness in Him. Light is goodness and righteousness and truth; darkness is evil and sin and error.

We were darkness. Now we are light. Goodness and righteousness and truth have been put within us. We are born of the God who is Light. "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6) God Himself has shown in our hearts.

We have the light of God in us. It is up to us to walk in that light. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." God's Word is a light to us. As he reveals His Word to our hearts, we are able to walk in the light of it. If we choose not to, then we will walk in darkness, not light. "If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7) This verse very clearly states that we must walk in the light that we have.

If we walk in the light that we have, then we have fellowship with God and with one another. If we walk in the light that we have , then we have automatic cleansing from that sin we don't yet have light on. We don't know everything, so there are sins in our lives that we are unaware of. I don't know about you, but I used to do and say some things that were wrong, but I didn't know they were wrong. Yet I was still in fellowship with God. Once God made me aware of those things, I repented and walk in this new light that I had. And that is something that we must do continually throughout our lives. We have keep learning and growing and walk in the light. If we walk in the light we have, God will give us more light to walk in. It seems that just when I think I am doing pretty well and have it all together, that's when God begins to bring more light and I have to conquer something else in my life. That's with God's help, of course.

This leads us to another question. Can I be sure I am actually hearing from God? You can if you are born of Him. "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." There is a Spirit of truth and a spirit of error. Since we are "from God", in other words, born of God, we know the truth when it comes out. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them." Since we have in us God's Nature, Eternal Life, we can hear His voice. The sheep know the Shepherd's voice. They follow Him.

So, by having God's Nature in us, we can hear Him and understand Him and walk in the light - in goodness, righteousness and truth.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Eternal Life - part 2

[This is part two of a series on the subject of eternal life. If you have not read part 1, I encourage you to do so before reading this.]

In part one, we discovered that "Eternal Life" is not just living forever, but is actually our receiving God's own Life and Nature in our spirits in the New Birth. Specifically, we found that the Greek word, "zoe", which is translated as "life" in the NT refers to the Nature of God that is imparted to us. That is how we can become children of God.

But there are two other words, "light" and "love" that also describe the Nature of God. 1 John 1:5 says that "God is light". That means that light, spiritual light, is what God is. In 1 John 4:16, the NT tells us that "God is love". The Greek word is 'agape' which is used almost exclusively as the kind of love that God possesses, and that which He gives to us.

The fact that we have the kind of love that God has is best described in Romans 5:5, "The love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." That love is the Divine Nature given to us in the New Birth. Notice 1 John 3:14. "We know that we have passed from (spiritual) death to (eternal) life because we love the brethren." I recall when I was in college, I came across a sister in the Lord who was doubting her salvation. She had struggled spiritually when she was away from Christian fellowship back when she was on break (I could relate) and came back to school wondering if she really was a true Christian. I asked her if she was happy to get back with the Christians in our college fellowship group. She said she was overjoyed. She had missed them so much! I shared with her this scripture to assure her that if she loved the brethren that was proof that she did know the Lord and had eternal life.

Some Christians doubt that we can even have the God kind of love. They fall short many times and figure they could never love as Jesus loves. "I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) This is quite a statement by Jesus. He says that the love that Father has for the Son is in us. That should settle that issue once and for all. God's love, His Nature, is in us. That is not a hope but a fact.

Why do we still struggle? If we truly have God's love in us, why do we not seem to experience it. Once again, we must be aware of the fact that that love is in our hearts (spirits) and not in our flesh or our minds. Our flesh still must be kept under and our minds renewed with the Word of God so that the love of God can come out of us and bless others. "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him." (1 John 2:5) We have to do what the Word says so that God's love can be perfected in us. In other words, the love of God has to grow in us.

Can the love of God grow? Paul taught that it can. "The fruit of the spirit is love ... ". (Galatians 5:22) Love is a fruit that grows. It grows in our spirits. We must bear the fruit of love. So we can grow in love and the other fruits of the spirit. If we let this love grow in us and yield to it, then we will experience the love of God in greater and greater measure.

God's life and love in us can grow. It will eventually dominate our beings until we are just like Jesus. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can never live up to the high demands of the love commandment. "Love one another as I have loved you" and 1 Corinthians 13 is not some unattainable ideal. These things were not put in the Bible to show us how inadequate we are. On the contrary, they tell us who we are in Christ and what we can do. God would not tell us to do something we could not do. He would not tell us to love as He loves unless He provided that love to us.

Here is a suggestion that can help you along these lines: Read 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4 through 8 every day for 30 days. Spend time thinking on these scriptures. Meditate on them. Let them sink into your consciousness. It will change you. I especially like the Amplified Classic translation of these verses. It brings out the fuller meaning of it.

Another suggestion for developing the love of God that is in you: Walk in love! That's how to grow it. Love is an action not a feeling. You can walk in love even if you feel nothing. Ask yourself in any situation, what would love do? Then do it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Eternal Life, part 1

Most Christians seem to be unaware of what the term "eternal life" means. I was taught that it meant that we were going to live forever, but when I would point out that everyone, saved or unsaved, will live forever somewhere, then I would usually get a blank stare. Other times, it was "explained" to me that it means to live forever with Jesus. That did not satisfy me. Yes, of course we will live forever with Jesus but that leaves a lot of scriptures regarding eternal life unexplained.

I think people get tripped up with the word 'eternal'. 'Eternal' can mean to live forever, but it is also an attribute of God. God is eternal, His existence is independent of time. So, if we were to describe what kind of "life" that God has we would have to say that He has "eternal life". His Nature, His Life is beyond the natural realm. Yet Jesus came to give us this Life. "I came that they may have life." (John 10:10b) The word "eternal" does not appear in this passage but it means the same thing. To see this we will have to dig into the Greek words translated as "life".

First, there is the word "bios" and that means manner of life or how one lives their life. The church has majored a lot on that. Then there is the word "psuche" which means one's natural life. That is the word Jesus used when He said that He was going to lay down his life (psuche). And He did. But there is another word translated "life" and that is "zoe" (pronounced 'zo-ay'). It means life in the absolute sense. It is used as the word for the Life and Nature of God. "For as the Father has life (zoe) in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life (zoe) in himself." (John 5:26) Notice that "life" is said to be "in" the Father and the Son. It is a nature, a substance. And Jesus said that He came to give it to us!

So how does that work? If we received the Life and Nature of God, wouldn't we be like Him? The answer is yes! But you might say now that we must not have it yet because we are not like Him, we have a lot of sins and problems and stuff. “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24) I like this passage because it tells us two things. First, it tells us that we do have eternal life and, second, it tells us that we are no longer dead. We weren't physically dead, were we? No. He is talking about being spiritually dead, having our spirits cut off from fellowship and relationship with God. "We were dead in trespasses and sins." Now that our sins have been washed away we have been made alive together with Christ. (See Ephesians 2:1,5) Our spirits, not our minds or our flesh, have been made alive with the Life and Nature of God. That's what it means to be born again and become a child of God.

God is the "Father of spirits". We were re-created in His image and likeness. We are, as Peter said, "partakers of the divine nature". (2 Peter 1:4) When we were joined together with Christ, His life flowed into us. His love came into our hearts. We want to do right now. We want to live 100% for God, but we still struggle with the flesh. Our flesh has not yet been redeemed. But there must be a way to walk in the light of eternal life and live as Jesus lives.

The church has tried to get us to live like Jesus told us to live, but we have failed most of the time. We have tried to correct our manner of life by trying to get our flesh to do what is right. Yet the flesh is contrary to God, it cannot obey Him. So, we struggle. We should have majored on eternal life (zoe) instead of manner of life (bios). The flesh cannot overcome itself. Our spirits, which have the life of God, have to become strong and overcome the flesh. We have to walk in the spirit so we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

So when Jesus said that He came to give us life, He was not recommending a new code of conduct or a new religion. He was offering us the life of God in our spirits so that we could live out that life so that it would change our manner of life. We can walk in newness of life. If we walk in the light of eternal life it will continually transform us to be like God wants us to be.

[The rest of this series will be about how this "zoe" can affect our lives.]

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Feast of Tabernacles

The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God's provision of the children of Israel in their wandering in the wilderness. In particular, it was a festival of water and light. God provided water in the wilderness through a rock that followed them. They did not know where the underground water sources were. (The bedouins knew.) Archaeologists have suggested that God led them to places where there was water perhaps deep underground and the rock was bringing up water from the ground and distributing it to the Israelites. That is speculation, but it is possible. In any event, God got water from a rock. That doesn't happen in nature. It is supernatural.

Another miracle in the wilderness was the fire above the tabernacle indicating that God was present and also providing light by night to the Israelites in the dark desert. According to some sources, the Jews of Jesus' day put two giant torches on the temple to represent the fire by night in that wilderness. Supposedly, those torches could be seen from anywhere in Jerusalem.

In John chapters seven and eight, Jesus and his disciples went up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). During that time, Jesus proclaimed, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) I can imagine Jesus standing at the entrance of the temple, torches lit, saying these very words. Once again, Jesus has transformed our understanding of a key Jewish festival. We should no longer look back to some past time when God did great things. He is our light, our guide, our understanding. He brings us truth. Later in that same chapter, Jesus said, "If you continue in my Word, you will be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) When we are set free, then we can help others get free through the Word. Jesus also said that we are the light of the world. (Matt 5:14)

Likewise, Jesus is the Rock that followed them in the wilderness. "They drank from the same spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10:4) But it goes further than that. Jesus extended this image to the followers of Christ. "On the last day, the great day of the feast [of Tabernacles], Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him would receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:38-39)

So we believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit have rivers of living water flowing from Jesus through our spirits to meet the needs of the world. That is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for. It is not for us, but for our ministry to others. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses." (Acts 1:8) We need the power of the Holy Spirit to minister to others. We cannot do it in the flesh. And if God can get water out of the ground and through a rock to bring needed water and refreshing, then He can use the church as channels of blessing to all the world. Jesus is the source of water and then it comes through our hearts (spirits) and brings life to others. These are rivers of the gifts of the Spirit, the love and mercy of God, wisdom and whatever else is needed at the moment.

Another part of our transformed understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles is the future. During the Millennial reign of Christ, all nations will celebrate this feast. "It will come about that any who are left [after the battle of Armageddon] of all the nations ... will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16) Some of us have known this, but there is one more part of this we have missed. And that is the fact that during the Millennium, the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated continually. "In that day, there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle ... [there will be] neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day, living waters will flow out from Jerusalem." (Zechariah 14:6-8) That is the Feast of Tabernacles.

So, we have Tabernacles being celebrated all the time. We should always honor God's provision for natural and spiritual needs and any other needs that we might have in this world. For the church, we honor this by ministering the Word and the Spirit to those God puts in our path for that purpose. He is the source of blessing, but we are the channels of blessing. And, of course, we are first the recipient of blessing.

The church need not celebrate this feast on certain days of the year. Instead, we celebrate it every day by ministering the Word and the Spirit to others. That is true for all the Jewish feasts. They are fulfilled in Christ, and often, in His Body, the church. We celebrate them every day by honoring Him to Whom all the feasts point.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pentecost - Firstfruits - New Testament and Old

I was not even considering the fact that it will soon be Pentecost Sunday when I began thinking about doing a blog post about the Feast of Firstfruits, or as Christians say, Pentecost. Perhaps it is a coincidence. Christians do not call this time "Firstfruits" but "Pentecost" since it happened fifty days after the resurrection. The first Easter, or Resurrection, Sunday was when Jesus was raised from the dead. Right before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He instructed His followers to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. On the Jewish feast of Pentecost, or Firstfruits, the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven to baptize the disciples. They were filled with the Spirit and spoke with other tongues. (Acts 2:1-4) That is what we Christians think of when we talk about Pentecost. As important as that event was, we cannot get a full understanding of the concept of firstfruits as it is used in either Testament without further study.

The Jews, of course, celebrated Passover and then the Feast of Firstfruits fifty days later. Since Passover was not always on Sunday, they do not always celebrate Firstfruits on a Sunday but on the same day of the week that Passover is, seven weeks later. The offering of Firstfruits may go back even further than when the Law was given. Many believe that Abel was offering firstfruits soon after mankind was created when he brought his offering to God. That may or may not be so. The offerings of Abel and Cain are still shrouded in a little mystery. What did God tell them to do and why was Abel's offering accepted and Cain's rejected? We do not fully understand.

I used to not understand the offerings of firstfruits as it is revealed in the Old Testament. I had pretty much followed what I had heard others say. And I had a teaching on it that I was really quite proud of. It was a teaching on tithing based on Proverbs 3:9-10, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine." See, I thought that tithes and firstfruits were the same thing. I knew that there was blessings associated with tithing based on Malachi 3:10-12. This seemed to be the same. Besides, I had always heard that tithes and firstfruits were the same.

Then I listened to some tape recordings (remember cassettes?) from a class taught at Rhema Bible Training Center. The teacher clearly showed that tithes and firstfruits in the Old Testament were two different offerings. You can read about both offerings in Deuteronomy 26. You will see there that the two offerings are handled a bit differently. Also, if you read Proverbs 3:9-10, you will notice that the offering of the firstfruits occurs at the beginning of the harvest season. Different crops are harvested at different times. The earliest harvested crops along with the animals born in the spring would be offered at the time of the Firstfruits. There was no specified amount that one had to offer unlike the "tithe" which means 'a tenth'. According to this passage, the Israelites were guaranteed a good harvest when they brought their firstfruits. After the whole harvest was in, then they would bring the tithe. One could hardly tithe at the time of the Firstfruits because one would not know how much 10% of the harvest would be. The offering of the Firstfruits was an act of faith. They offered it believing that God would bless them if they did. This idea of a guaranteed future blessing as a result of the offering of the firstfruits is very important for understanding how this concept is used in the New Testament.

As with all the OT feasts, Firstfruits is transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ, perhaps more than any other of the feasts. On the Day of Pentecost, as we have seen, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples to empower them for service. Nothing that happened on Pentecost seems to guarantee anything about a future blessing. However, we read in Ephesians 1:13 "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." It says that the promised Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our future inheritance from God. WOW! That is a lot better than just getting a good harvest.

As well, we read this in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming." Jesus' resurrection is the firstfruits guarantee that we, too, will be resurrected. He offered Himself and became a firstfruits for us. Our future is guaranteed!

There is one more NT passage I want to consider here. It is James 1:18: "God chose to give us new birth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of the new creation." (Mixed translations) I am going out on a limb a little bit here, but I think it fits in with what we have seen so far. Along with, and because of, Jesus, we are the firstfruits of the new creation. Our spirits have been re-created in God's image and likeness. We are His children. But we still live in a fallen world and in the flesh. The fact of this new creation within us is evidence and guarantee that the new creation will be manifested in our bodies (resurrection) and in the New Heavens and the New Earth. "Behold, I make all things new!" (Revelation 21:5) Our redemption, which Jesus has accomplished, is guarantee of the redemption of our bodies and of the whole creation: "The creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:21-23) Notice that the "Firstfruits of the Spirit" guarantees the redemption of our bodies, our resurrection. But it also says that the creation awaits the release from the bondage of corruption that came with the Fall of Adam. That release will come about when the creation enters into the same glorious liberty that we have as God's born-again children. Once again, we can see a link between the New Birth, new bodies, and the New Heavens and New Earth. And, of course, it all really goes back to Jesus and what He has done for us.

One last thing I want to note. One of the biggest differences between the Old Testament offering of the Firstfruits and the theme of firstfruits in the New Testament is the difference between works and grace. In the OT, it was the Israelite who offered the firstfruits. It the NT, it is Jesus who does the work and we who freely receive it. There is nothing for us to do but enjoy the benefits of it. So let's do that. Let's celebrate Pentecost, not just by wearing red, but by remembering what Firstfruits means to us today.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Historical Accuracy - A Must

It still surprises me when careful teachers and preachers of the Word give us "false history" when trying to present a message to us. Recently, I was watching a video blog of one of my favorite teachers when he made very inaccurate, and even deceptive, historical claims. I do not mean he was purposely deceptive, but it doesn't matter because the effect is the same. We are led to believe things that are not true and draw erroneous conclusions from them. Sometimes this is harmless but other times it undermines the message itself.

This particular teacher was making the assertion that the church today ought celebrate the Jewish feasts. I have addressed that in my previous blog so I will not repeat what I wrote here. Of course, this teacher quoted the OT commands about keeping the feasts. Those were addressed to the Jews though I do commend him for showing us how Jesus fulfills them and transforms our understanding of them. That is good.

But his reasoning regarding the church celebrating these feasts was largely based on the historical "facts" that he put forth. He said that in the first few centuries of the church, all Christians celebrated these 7 feasts. Then in the fourth century the emperor Constantine changed that, substituting the pagan Easter celebration instead. He also persecuted the Jews and destroyed the Jewish Church. He also made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

We have to sort out fact from fiction here. Sadly, there is more fiction than fact.

CLAIM: Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

FACT: This is false. Constantine made Christianity legal where it had formerly been severely persecuted. In 313 AD, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan making Christianity legally tolerated even where his rivals ruled. This lifted the church from great oppression. Christianity was made the official religion in 380 AD decades after the death of Constantine.

CLAIM: Constantine changed church practices like getting rid of the Jewish Feasts and replacing them with a pagan Easter.

FACT: No such thing occurred nor was it possible for him to do so. The church had endured much persecution and would not have allowed an emperor, even a professing Christian emperor, to change anything in the church. Even on the face of it, it seems an absurd claim. Why would a Christian emperor who hated paganism introduce that same paganism into the church? It makes no sense.

What Constantine did do was call for a general church council at Nicea (where we get the Nicean creed) in 325 AD. There was a controversy regarding the nature of Christ's divinity. A bishop name Arius said that Christ was a created being, the highest and most exalted of God's creation, but He was not eternal deity. He was not equal with the Father. Most disputed this, but it caused a great controversy in the church. Arius was rejected and his ideas were condemned at this council. Interestingly, Constantine was himself Arian. So much for his great influence over the church.

CLAIM: Constantine persecuted the Jewish people and closed the Jewish churches.

FACT: Sadly, this was true. Constantine shamefully persecuted the Jews and basically put an end to the Jewish church which was small but vibrant. He made no distinction between the Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah and those who did not. As a result, orthodox Judaism developed in opposition to the church, even making converts to Judaism renounce Christ.

CLAIM: All churches kept the 7 Feasts until Constantine.

FACT: Only the Jewish churches kept these feasts as they were a part of their heritage. The Gentile churches never kept these feasts. Paul made sure that the Gentiles were not circumcised and were not made to keep kosher or observe any sabbath or feast. Of course, some may have done so, but it was rare.

CLAIM: Easter was a pagan holiday not celebrated until the 4th century.

FACT: "Easter" was celebrated in the second and third centuries. It was common for churches to insist that their pagan converts receive instruction for a year or more to rid them of pagan notions and make them understand what they were committing to. Then, on Easter, they would be baptized and become full members of the church. It was not a fourth century innovation.

FACT: Despite the English term "Easter", we are not celebrating anything but the resurrection of the Son of God. The Latin term for "Easter" is "Pascha" which is derived from Passover. This indicates that the church was well aware of the connection between Passover and the Resurrection. This does not mean that they had previously celebrated Passover instead of "Easter".

The origin of the English word "Easter" is a bit obscure. I, too, used to believe that it was derived from the Babylonian goddess "Ishtar", but it is not. Other languages use some form of "Pascha" as the word for Easter so the English word did not get passed through to English through French or even German. It is extremely doubtful that the English language used the name of an ancient Babylonian goddess as the word for day we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. Babylonian paganism was far away in time and distance. But the English word "Easter" is pagan in origin. It is from an English fertility goddess called "Eoster". The word actually referred to the time of year (spring) when life burst forth from the earth. Now before you say, "I knew it was pagan", consider what other English words have pagan origins. Take the days of the week, for instance. Our days are named after various pagan gods. And our months. Most of them are named after pagan gods. Does this mean that we are doing pagan worship when we use our names for days or months? Decidedly not! It is not "pagan" to use the English names of the days of the week or months of the year or for Easter either.

Now on the whole Easter egg/Easter bunny thing - I choose to remain neutral. Decide for yourselves if you want to use eggs or bunnies or any other fertility symbols at Easter. I will say, though, that I have fond memories of getting a solid chocolate Easter bunny on Easter morning. I doubt that eating that chocolate bunny was some kind of pagan worship. So, I will enjoy some chocolate and you can do as you wish.

Happy belated Pascha!