Author: Paul Henebury

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (6)

Part Five

C. Phinehas (‘Priestly’)

Since I have treated this covenant elsewhere in some detail I shall just briefly rehearse the salient facts.

Owing to the zeal of Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, a devastating plague was stopped and God’s wrath appeased (Num. 25:  ).  Although Phinehas could have had no idea what God would do next, his honoring of God’s holiness elicited a quite un-looked-for covenant between God and Phinehas’s offspring (Num. 25:13; Psa. 106:28-31).  This covenant stands behind the promise of ministering Levites in New covenant contexts as seen in Jeremiah 31:14; 33:17-18, 21-22; Ezekiel 44:15, and other places.

The oath is as follows:

Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace: and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood… – Num. 25:12-13a (cf. Jer. 33:21)

Despite the difficulties (more often presumed than proven) of Levites ministering in a New covenant kingdom context this pledge must mean what it says.  One may perhaps wish to put a limit on the duration of the promise, such as the end of the Millennial Reign, which is permissible under some circumstances, but one cannot begin to meddle with the unambiguous oath and make it fulfilled in the past in violation of God’s oaths (Num. 25 and Jer. 33).  That is to say, it is illegitimate to make this covenant oath ambiguous because of a perceived clash with the writer of Hebrews.  This point is reinforced when one considers that at the time God made the covenant with Phinehas, he was under the terms of the temporary Mosaic covenant.  Hence, the Priestly covenant transcends the Mosaic covenant.

D. ‘Land’ 

Sometimes wrongly called the ‘Palestinian’ covenant (“Palestine” was the name given by Hadrian to Israel after the Bar Kokhba revolt in A.D. 132-135), the Land covenant is really a reaffirmation of the land promises of the Abrahamic covenant, and is often alluded to under those terms in the OT.  Although there are New covenant overtones to account for in Deuteronomy 30:1-6, the land promises in Deuteronomy 29-30 are tied to the Law (Deut. 29:21, 25; 30:10).  Therefore I prefer to refer to the unconditional land promise within the Abrahamic covenant (see above).

E. David

It is well known that 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 do not mention the word for covenant (berith).  That a covenant was initiated is substantiated by Psalm 89:3-4, 33-37 and Jeremiah 33:17, 21.  In 2 Samuel the Lord says to David,

And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever. – 2 Sam. 7:16

The Psalmist notes the two bound concepts in the covenant: the longevity of David’s line and the establishment of his throne:

My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.  Once have I sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever… – Psa. 89:34-37a   

The all-important promise pertaining to the subject of the throne of Israel is repeated in the slogan,

David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel – Jer. 33:17 (cf. 1 Ki. 2:4)

This pledge does not necessary mean the line of Davidic kings will be unbroken.  The Davidic covenant was made under the auspices of the Mosaic economy and awaits its New covenant fulfillment.  What is guaranteed is the perpetuity of the line under New covenant kingdom conditions.  God’s oath cannot and will not be sidetracked.  David will yet have a man reign in the nation Israel (e.g. Jer. 23:5-6; Ezek. 34:11-31; Dan. 7:13-14).

F. New

The New covenant is first introduced as such by the Prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31 of his book:

But this covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts…No more shall every man teach his neighbor…saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me…For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more. – Jer. 31:33-34

 The New covenant is a salvific covenant.  In fact, it is the salvific covenant!  

This is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you – Lk. 22:20 (cf. 2 Cor. 3:5-6; Eph. 2:20)

Without the salvation and restoration contained in this covenant none of the other Divine covenants can achieve their fulfillment.  This covenant is wrapped up in the Person of the Messiah.  As I have written previously,

The promises appended to the biblical covenants are not supplemented with a means of fulfillment within those same covenants.  The fulfillment lies outside of those covenants, within the New Covenant as it supplies the Noahic, Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic Covenants with the means of their realization.  And the New Covenant must be “enabled” by Christ, the “Man from Heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47).  Hence, the Plan of God outlined in the biblical covenants converges on the crucified Jesus and emerges from the resurrected Jesus!

Because Jesus Christ is the One for whom everything was made in the first place (Col. 1:16-17), it is absolutely fitting that the New covenant in His blood, whether enacted in the present with the Church (1 Cor. 11:23-26), or in the future in fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31-34 upon Israel, be the basis upon which God’s other covenants are satisfied.  The New covenant, as it were, takes the other unilateral covenants into itself and prepares sinners to receive their joint benefits in accordance with the oaths taken by God – whether the recipients are Israel, the Church, or the Nations.  [For more on these themes please see the series Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism]

What God’s New covenant oath means is that sinners made in God’s image will be saved and the marred image fully restored; and as this earth is made for man for living in, the planet and its creatures will be restored too (see e.g., Isa. 11:1-10; 49:6-8; Mic. 4:1-3; Matt. 19:28; Acts 3:21; Rom. 8:18-23).

If this is true then there is no reason to transform or reinterpret or typologize the great covenantal oaths which God voluntarily entered into, knowing beforehand how He would make everything come together just as He said it would.  The covenants mean what they say.  We ought to have full confidence in them as amplifications of God’s plain words to our dull ears and autonomous inclinations.  Any approach which changes the plain sense of these unambiguous oaths for the sake of a theological program cannot be biblical, for the simple but profound reason that nothing which cuts across these Divine oaths can be in line with the Divine intent in these very covenants.   (more…)

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (4)

PART THREE

After the Impossible Hurdle

Evolution is the atheists’ way out.  It is his escape clause from having to face the God who created him.  People like Richard Dawkins may convince themselves that it makes atheism intellectually respectable, but they must first convince themselves that naturalism is intellectually respectable.

The problem here is that, as in many walks of life, it is possible to arrange our arguments selectively and with rhetorical conviction while ignoring the issues, even the most obvious ones.  So if we begin to stack up the problems: – something does not come from nothing; life does not come from non-life; the mathematics of sequence space (not enough time); the contradiction of using target-oriented computer programs to “simulate” discrete non-targeted chance scenarios; the logical fallacies (question-begging, composition, reification), etc., these problems make the intellectual satisfaction appear rather hollow.

But after such matters as these are engaged, there are still more difficulties.  One such is irreducible complexity.  First posited by biochemist Michael Behe, and, despite rumours to the contrary, not close to being refuted, this observational theory says that function in highly complex systems requires that all the necessary parts are in position and ready to work for the system itself to be what it is.  In Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, he has looked at the incredibly complex engines in the cells and he has shown that the different features of the cell must all have been there at the same time, already manufactured, and ready to do their jobs. The blind non-teleological forces of evolution cannot explain either the design of these complex and minuscule machines, nor can it explain the simultaneity of these parts; each one functioning the way that it should function.  Behe uses a by now well known illustration:

Irreducible complexity’ is just a fancy phrase I use to mean a single system that is composed of several interacting parts, where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to cease functioning. For example, the mousetrap has to have a platform, a catch, a holding bar, a spring, and a hammer in order to function as a mousetrap. – Michael Behe in William Dembski  & James Kushiner, eds., Signs of Intelligence, 93

Evolutionists have claimed that since some individual features in these systems are found to do work in other systems, that means evolution could have picked up and selected them to include in a future system.  But not only does this fail to address the “irreducible” part of Behe’s argument (as noted by him in an appendix to the 10th Anniversary edition of his book), it also lends evolution a prescience it actually does not have – again showing the proclivity of evolutionists for extrapolation and reification.

Doing what comes Naturalistically

As many a scientist will tell you, true science must – I say must –  proceed along naturalistic lines.  We must seek for natural explanations in the natural world for the phenomena we come across.

Now, on the face of it, the only thing which could be criticized in that sentiment is its doctrinaire flavor.  The problem with it is that there are many phenomena which cannot be satisfactorily explained as arising naturally even though they are amenable to observation and experimentation.  The method of science should not exclude a priori non-naturalistic explanations, because not invoking God as the Creator and Designer of nature moves the naturalist beyond experimentation and hypothesis testing into metaphysical dogmatism and its resulting blindness.  Phillip Johnson well describes the metaphysical fog which methodological naturalism encourages:

Philosophical naturalism is so deeply ingrained in the thinking of many educated people today, including theologians, that they find it difficult even to imagine any other way of looking at things… Even if they do develop doubts about whether such modest forces can account for large-scale change, their naturalism is undisturbed. Since there is nothing outside of nature, and since something must have produced all the kinds of organisms that exist, a satisfactory naturalistic mechanism must be awaiting discovery. – Phillip E. Johnson, “Evolution as Dogma”, in Uncommon Dissent, William A. Dembski, editor, 30.

Under these conditions it is impossible to do what Kepler or Newton or Maxwell or Faraday did, and do good science while leaving a route open where the facts can lead to God (if Carl Sagan believed the facts could lead to aliens why could they not lead to God?).  It is exactly this cognitive rut which one so often sees in the reviews of creationist and I.D. books by methodological naturalists of all stripes.  The charges, “they don’t understand evolution”, or “this writer doesn’t know how stages of bone-growth [or whatever] follow evolutionary pathways”,  etc, show up this often unnoticed slavery of thought.  These people cannot conceive of a situation where evolution is wrong or where philosophical naturalism does not equate to doing science.

In his thought-provoking book Science’s Blind Spot, Cornelius Hunter demonstrates that it was aberrant theological assumptions, fueled by natural theology, that installed and sustained the illegitimate reign of naturalism over science in the first place.  It was the dysteleology in the world; the imperfections and extinctions, which God had to be protected from.  God, it was thought, would not have made the world less than perfect.  Therefore, to invoke God would be to connect Him uncomfortably to the “wrongness” of nature.  The deistic strain in such thinking should not be lost.  Whatever, this was not good theology.  As a result of the hardening of this resolve a questionable philosophical tenet has been turned into an established rule of science.

He observes:

Across the various fields of study, the common requirement is that explanations be naturalistic.  And in this grand paradigm there is a grand blind spot.  Problems are never interpreted as problems with the paradigm.  No matter how implausible, when explanations do not fit the data very well, they are said to be research problems.  They must be, for there is no option for considering that a problem might be better handled by another paradigm. – Cornelius G. Hunter, Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism, 46

Yet scientific naturalism, Hunter goes on to say,

is not a discovery of science – it is a presupposition of science as currently practiced. – Ibid, 47

And it is a presupposition which, though it now maintains the naturalistic paradigm, cannot in fact support the the scientific enterprise as a meaningful endeavor.  In fact, it is the materialist outlook on life and mind that poses perhaps the biggest obstacle to any sound philosophy of science.

In contrast, the Biblical Worldview provides a basis for the uniformity of nature in God’s unchanging character and His covenant with Noah.  But it also insists the the existence of the supernatural (God) is the precondition of the natural; that reason must precede unreason because the reverse scenario is impossible, and so non-demonstrable. It has never been experienced by anyone anywhere. This has to do with the laws of information which I shall discuss in the last post.  So, something does not come from nothing (law of causality); matter is not eternal (first 2 laws of thermodynamics); life does not come from non-life (law of biogenesis); amino acids cannot thrive in a reduced (oxygen free) atmosphere (2nd law of thermodynamics), but neither can they thrive in a water-based environment (law of hydrolysis). Finally, (though more could be added) reason implies information which cannot come from mindless particles (laws of information).  These are laws because they have never been countermanded in our experience.

Next in series…

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (3)

PART TWO

Life not from Earth

It is a universal law which, as all scientific laws, has not witnessed an exception: life does not come from non-life.  Yet evolutionists, of the non-theistic sort) must teach that it does.  Going further back, ex nihilo nihil fit, out of nothing comes nothing.  No one has ever seen or heard of something (i.e. that which has properties and permits predication) coming into existence from nothing (that which has no properties and does not permit predication).  Yet evolutionist must adhere to the contradiction of this very basic principle.  That is, unless they want to teach the eternity of matter.

Is it a sign of rationality and a coherent system to flout two empirically static principles of science at the very outset of ones thinking? So how do they get around it?

Staying with the life question, one quite popular maneuver is to equivocate on the word “life”.  Instead of keeping with a basic definition like “a self-replicating organism” (which is a reductionistic and often imaginary concept itself), they talk about “life” within hypothetical extrapolations where amino acids are formed in an ancient “soup” under propitious chance conditions.  In this chance scenario these different amino acids came together in one place, beating off all the enormous odds of ultra-violet destruction and threat of contamination and, voila! “Life.”  A self-replicating cellular system?  No.  Any DNA?  No.  What was it then?  “Well suppose…..”  So the story (or a version of it) runs.  In evolutionism, organic life must come from non-living compounds.  So much the worse for the laws of science. 

The problems with getting life started, even granted the excessive gratuity of the 20 correct left-handed amino acids which make up basic proteins, would still remain a fantasy.  In fact, as geneticist John Sanford, the inventor of the ‘gene gun’ has said, “fill the whole world with proteins, and you would still be no closer to getting life.  Because proteins do not equal life.”  This is because of the amazing micro-machinery within even the simplest cell; machinery which is told what to do by a ‘code’ far more advanced than any computer software we possess.

Knowing the extremely unlikely chances that life could come about on this planet  the way many evolutionists had hoped, eminent scientists like Fred Hoyle, Francis Crick and Carl Sagan believed that it had to start elsewhere and come from outer space (And the complexity of the cell is known to be yet more wondrous than these men knew).  Of course, claiming life came from outer space isn’t an answer at all (although it might keep the issue of biogenesis off the table for a while longer).  We still have to ask, ‘How did life start some other place in the universe?’  Out of sight, out of mind is really all that is being done here;  just a rhetorical trick.

This rhetorical trick is performed all the time by evolutionists. They simply put their imaginations forward as some kind of scientific proof.  Therefore, they try to put the burden of proof on someone who says ‘Well, how did this happen?’ They say,”I’m not sure, but I can imagine it happened this way.”  If they can imagine it happened that way, then it could have happened that way, couldn’t it?  This is what Miller-Urey, or Avida or any other like program is.  As Stephen Meyer has said about these information fed extrapolations,

Since the lawlike processes of necessity do not generate new information, these combinatorial models invariably rely upon chance events to do most, if not all the work of producing new information.  This problem arises repeatedly for models invoking prebiotic natural selection in conjunction with random events, whether Oparin’s theories or various RNA-world scenarios.  Since natural selection “selects” for functional advantage, and since functional advantage ensues only after the result of a successful random search for functional information, combination models invariably rely upon chance rather than selection to produce new information.  Yet these theories face formidable probabilistic hurdles, just as pre-chance models do. – Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 331 

Here are some fundamental questions to start with:

a. If the chances of  a living cell coming from non-living elements (which themselves came from hydrogen and helium!) are staggeringly small, why believe it?

b. All living cells contain DNA, but how did the informational instructions (incredibly complex specific code) for each of the cell’s operations come about?

c. As every instance of this kind of instructional information ever known comes from minds, why look for it’s cause in mindlessness?

d. Why because all amino acids are left-handed must that mean all life is related to a common ancestor? (a variety of the compositional fallacy).

e. In the same vein (and the same fallacy), why because different creatures have features which look similar are they necessarily derived from a common source?  N.B. These fallacies are built upon the premise that evolution is true – hence begging the question.  Do forks and spoons and scissors and whisks have a common ancestor?

f. Since evolutionists wrongly predicted there would be much “junk DNA” (see Meyer, Signature, 406-407) and creationists rightly predicted there wouldn’t, why label evolution science and creationism religion?

g. How long is it going to be until evolutionists admit that the fossil record, which is the sole source for determining the truth or falsity of evolutionary history, undermines the whole theory?

The Math

The mathematics on this is just staggering!  Michael Denton is not Christian, doesn’t believe in God, and he doesn’t believe in creationism, but he doesn’t believe in the present neo-Darwinistic view of evolution either.  He says that it’s ‘nonsensical’. Writing about the possibility of life starting by chance he says:

As it can easily be shown that no more than 10 to the power of 40 possible proteins could have ever existed on earth since its formation [and Denton believes Earth is billions of years old], this means that if protein functions reside in sequences any less probable than 10 to the power of -40 it becomes increasingly unlikely that any functional proteins could ever have been discovered by chance on earth. To get a cell by chance would require at least 100 functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place; that is 100 simultaneous events, each of an independent probability, which could hardly be more than 10 to the power of -20, giving a maximum combined probability of 10 to the power of -2,000.

(more…)

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (5)

Part Four

As I have said, at the most rudimentary level covenants are for the purpose of reinforcing plain speech about specific things.  They do this formally in the terms of the covenant and its obligations upon specified parties.  God holds human beings to the very words of their covenant oaths (Jer. 34:18; Ezek. 17:15c).  The Bible also indicates that God “keeps covenant” (Deut. 7:9; Neh. 9:32; Dan. 9:4).  We would expect no less from Him who cannot lie and who does not change.

Of all verbal communications, written and oral, surely the most steadfast and adamant are covenants.  And surely the least ambiguous and fluid would also be covenants?

The Oaths in the Covenants

The oath is the decisive ingredient in any covenant.  We have already taken a look at the oath which the people took in answer to God’s Book of the Covenant in Exodus.  Now we need to examine, if only briefly, the oaths of the other Divine covenants which can be easily spotted in Scripture.  (There are certain covenants of a speculative nature which it is impossible to pin down in the text of the Bible.  These include the three theological covenants of Reformed covenant theology; the so-called “Adamic” and “Edenic” covenants of some sectors of Dispensational theology; and the “Creation” covenant of New covenant theology).

A. Noah

As nearly all non-evangelical scholarship recognizes, the first covenant one comes across in Scripture is the one God made with Noah.  Its oath is found in Genesis 9, with a possible personal oath in 8:21-22.

Surrounded by a preamble (9:8-10), and a sign of remembrance (9:12-17) the covenant oath is found in 9:11:

Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is the specific thing that God binds Himself to.  The form the covenant takes and the source-critical issues with the passage need not detain us.  Neither am I here bothered with the problem of whether the Noahic covenant is entered at Genesis 9 or whether it signals a perpetuation of a previously established covenant (Cf. W. J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, 24ff.).  The sole concern here is with showing just what it is that God pledges to do in the covenants, and to demonstrate the clarity of those commitments.  That God takes His own oath literally is proved by Isaiah 54:9:

For this is like the waters of Noah to me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so I have sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

Since this is the first clearly defined and specific covenant, and since it “provides the biblical-theological framework within which all subsequent divine-human covenants operate” (Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath, 68), the fact that its terms are so clear and are universally acknowledged by all believers should not escape our notice.  Nobody believes the Noahic covenant can be transformed or reinterpreted to mean something other than what the plain words of the oath say it means.  It is a hard-and-fast marker telling us that God will maintain the present order until the New Creation.  If other Divine covenants can be treated differently then we must have two kinds of unilateral Divine covenants in the Bible, and the uncertainty creeps in again.

B. Abraham

The Abrahamic covenant has its basic outline in Genesis 12:1-3, although we don’t get a covenant oath until chapter 15. Even the famous promise which elicited Abram’s faith-righteousness was not part of the covenant proper, but it does show that God is as good as His word, and that to have faith in that word requires that its terms are unambiguous and unequivocal.

On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.. – Genesis 15:18

This corresponds with Genesis 12:1c – 2a, & 7; 13:14-15 and concerns the land.  Williamson believes that ch. 15 is a separate covenant than that in ch.17.  I demur, but it is worth noting that Williamson calls the land covenant unilateral (Ibid, 87).

But there is more which the LORD swears in this covenant.  When He changed Abram’s name and before giving him the token of the covenant (which has been kept) God said,

Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.  Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. – Genesis 17:4-8

And to this must be added Genesis 22:

And the Angel of the LORD called to him a second time out of heaven, and said: By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing 
I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies (Cf. Heb. 6:13-17).

Hence we see three specific elements in the Abrahamic covenant:

1. The land given to the physical seed of promise (cf. 35:1-12)

2. Inextricably tied to this is the promise that Abraham’s descendants through Isaac will become a nation (cf.12:2)

3. Abraham becoming the father of many nations (although not necessarily through Sarah – 18:18)

Because of 17:1-2 Williamson thinks this is a bilateral agreement and so separate from the covenant in chapter 15.  I shall deal with that later.  But the passage above does give an expansive view of this covenant.  As well as recalling the land aspect of the covenant, this passage harks back to the promise of Genesis 12:3; 15:5 about all the families of earth being blessed through Abraham.  It is important to notice that this expression is tied to Abraham’s physical descendants (see also 19:19), and does not seem to contemplate his spiritual descendants as Paul does (see Rom. 4:9-18; Gal. 3:8-16, 29).  But this is because there is a missing element.  The crucial part that has to be supplied is Genesis 22:18, which brings in Christ (Gal. 3:16).  Thus, in Paul the corporate is included in the One (Jesus) through the same faith as Abraham.  And since righteousness obtained by faith apart from physical lineage leads to salvation, the Apostle can conclude that we are all Abraham’s seed through faith unto salvation.

But this does not rub out the connotations of being “the father of many nations”, and the promise of Genesis 12:2 & 7; 15:3-4 concerning Abraham’s physical descendants through Isaac (cf. 17:21).  If it did, the spiritual seed (in Christ)  could not be realized because Jesus had to come through the physical line of Abraham to be the Christ, and we had to be in Christ to be considered within the third aspect of the Abrahamic covenant.

As many have pointed out, the threefold elements of the Abrahamic covenant are taken up and amplified in the “Land”, Davidic and even New covenants.  That these connections can even be seen is owing to the fact that the covenants mean what they say, and what they say is clearly identifiable in the covenant oaths.

The series closes off next time…

My Review of Chapter 5 of Matthew Vines’ book ‘God and the Gay Christian’

{This is part of a chapter by chapter critique of this book at SharperIron]

Before foraying into the New Testament, where he seems to think he will find justification for his views, Matthew Vines attempts to deal with “The Abominations of Leviticus.” He does not deal with the relevant texts by doing contextual exegesis or theological formulation; instead he takes a more indirect route around Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

Basically his approach is to relativize the Old Testament law by comparing prohibitions and punishments which God mandated for the theocracy of (OT) Israel, and then contrast them with what he believes is Christian practice. At the latter half of the chapter he runs to Philo and the works of radical liberal scholars in an attempt to prove that ancient cultures saw the passive agent in homosexual relations as being lowered to the level of the woman: of being, in other words, “feminized.” This is so he can lift the word “abomination” away from its obvious meaning of “moral repugnance.”

The Law and its purposes

Every attentive reader of the Bible understands that the regulatory system which God gave to ancient Israel does not carry over in all its parts into the New Testament era. Although Christians have understood the relationship between “Law and Gospel” differently, they have, nonetheless, been clear about the fact that the sacrificial system was not intended for Christians. So too, the theocratic governmental codes for the nation of Israel, which served specific purposes, political and religious, do not apply to Christians in blanket fashion. It is in this sense at least that the Christian is said not to be under the Law (Rom. 6:14-15; Gal. 5:18).

That being said the question still has to be addressed regarding the use of the Law in Christian practice. Vines appears to want to nullify it completely. He opines,

Paul said in Romans 7 that the law existed to expose our sin, revealing our need for a Savior. But once our Savior has come, we no longer need the law. We could compare it to the way drivers no longer need road signs once they arrive at their destination. (p. 80)

But it is not that straightforward. In point of fact the very chapter he cites, Romans 7, describes Paul’s acquiescence with and commendation of the moral aspects of the law (See Rom. 7:16-22). In agreeing with the law’s moral teachings (Rom. 7:16), Paul can commend much in the ethical code of the law to Christians, and this certainly includes the shunning of the “dishonorable passions” (ESV) of homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27).

Another simple but profoundly relevant reason for not totally bidding adieu to the Law is that some of the laws retain a universal character because they directly reflect the character of God Himself. Thus, nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament because they speak of God’s attributes as Lord, as Creator of the family, and as holy and truthful (see e.g. Rom. 13:8-10). The New Testament also repeats other Old Testament prohibitions. One of these concerns homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9). These are universal and everlasting verities and are non-negotiables for any Bible-believer. Two of the passages which Vines uses stating that the Christian is not under the law pertain to justification, not ethical mores (including Gal. 3:23-25 & 5:2 which Vines cites in footnote 1).

While he is anxious to support the contention that “Old Testament laws related to sex don’t always align with Christian views on sexual ethics” (p. 79), Vines has to admit that “It’s true that there are a number of Old Testament laws that correspond with Christian beliefs about sin” (p. 82). He is also forced to acknowledge the national and socio-political reasons for certain laws. He notes that, “Given the threats posed to the Israelites by starvation, disease, internal discord, and attacks from other tribes, maintaining order was of paramount importance” (p. 86).

But still he needs to maintain that same-sex relationships were forbidden, not because they are inimical to God’s righteous nature, but only because of more cultural concerns. Since God does not change, any moral behavior which contradicts His character has a universal stamp on it. We shall see that homosexuality is immoral on this score. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend it isn’t. Adultery, bestiality and prostitution are always treated as sinful. There are several reasons for this, but the foundational issue is God’s nature and its relation to the marriage covenant and the sanctity of the family, together with our status as image-bearers. Vines would have us believe the Bible endorses same-sex marriages. In that way he, along with conservative Christians generally, can inveigh against adultery, bestiality and prostitution, and even condemn same-sex relationships outside of marriage, while finding a loophole for gay marriage.

But always and everywhere in Scripture, marriage, which is a creation ordinance, is between a man and a woman, and a family is a triad of a man and wife and children. Arguing from silence that Scripture affirms gay “marriage” is as vacuous as arguing that Scripture affirms man-boy marriage or man-animal marriage. Both of these arrangements Vines would (we trust) consider repugnant. But he wants adult same-sex relationships to be the exception. If he can’t affirm these other sexual proclivities as leading to valid “marriages,” he cannot use the same reasoning to exempt same-sex “marriage” from the same charge of moral corruption. So this line of argument gets him nowhere.

OT Polygamy

To further mix things up, Vines brings up the issue of polygamy in the Old Testament. He thinks the polygamous marriages of David were alright in God’s eyes because although he was punished for his adultery with Bathsheba, he wasn’t even rebuked for having more than one wife. He cites the beginning of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 supposing that in saying “If a man has two wives,” it endorses the practice. But David’s sin involved murder as well as adultery. His polygamy, though conventional within the wider culture, clearly went against the precedent of Genesis 2:24 and, as with Jacob, is never shown in a good light. Besides, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is not about marriage per se, but about the right of inheritance. Moreover, it too casts polygamy in a bad light. The Genesis 2 passage records Adam looking for a partner and God bringing him a woman. Jesus’ words concerning marriage and divorce are based solidly in the Genesis 2 description of marriage (Matt. 19:4-8).

The real question

So where does this leave Vines’ argument? Vines says the real question is, “Are the laws we find in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 grounded in a view of gender complementarity that applies to Christians?” (p. 82). He is prepared to side with leftist liberal scholars who will tell him what he wants to hear. But though I would answer “Yes,” that is not the real question at all. The real question is and always will be, “Is homosexuality portrayed in the Bible as a sin?”

Before turning to the Levitical passages and Vines’ treatment of them, I want first to bring in another passage. Deuteronomy 22:5 is pertinent to the discussion because of the connotations of the language used. The text forbids cross-dressing, calling those who do so “an abomination to the LORD.” This must be viewed as a moral prohibition. If God detests the subversion of male and female by cross-dressing, how much more would He detest the subversion of the male-female marriage ordinance? In God’s economy males are husbands and females are their wives. These roles are vital to the promulgation of the human race, which is to be extended strictly within the ordinance of marriage (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Thus, any blurring of the concept of the mutual roles of men and women, especially in terms of marriage, is not to be countenanced.

But turning to Leviticus 18:22 we read, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Because the Canaanites did practice these things the LORD cast them out (18:24) and the land itself is described as vomiting them out (18:25). Vines’ retort that the abomination of lying with a menstruating woman (18:19) is now acceptable to Christians ignores the plain fact that a woman in this condition was ritually unclean (Lev. 12:2b), as was the man who touched her (Lev. 15:19-27). In the case of the prohibition of Leviticus 18:19 Vines should have seen that the issue was ritual not ethical. But the matter of homosexuality is an ethical matter, as indicated by the use of the verb toevah (abomination) in the verse and as a high-handed sin in 20:13.

To navigate around this fact, Vines appeals to the work of feminist OT scholar Phyllis Bird, who has concluded that the Hebrew term toevah “is not an ethical term, but a term of boundary marking” (p. 85). Contrariwise, the standard Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Vol.2, 1703), defines the use of toevah specifically referring to Leviticus 18 and 20 as, “the abhorrent customs of the Canaanites…by which is meant in particular sexual perversity…and in special cases sodomy.” OT scholar John D. Currid notes that the term “derives from a root meaning ‘to hate/abhor’ ” (Leviticus, 244).

Bird, like Vines, appears to have an agenda. And since she views the Bible as a non-inspired culturally contextualized text, she may feel at liberty to interpret it with a free hand. But how anyone could read Leviticus 18 and 20 and come away with a non-ethical meaning of “abomination” is hard to fathom. Vines (following his radicals), is badly wrong here. He should not have resorted to agenda-driven liberal scholarship to bolster a poor thesis. In Leviticus, as in Genesis 19, homosexuality is a distortion of a creational intent and is morally repugnant to God.

Appeals beyond the Bible

By appealing to the Jewish Platonist Philo, and other sources such as Plutarch and (certain) Middle Assyrian legal codes, Vines is, of course, going outside the confines of Scripture into the realms of profane history. This maneuver is only helpful if it corroborates what one already finds in Scripture. Otherwise it tends to distort the biblical picture. (This should give readers pause when they see evangelical scholars take this tack on other topics.)

This is Vines’ method toward the close of the chapter, and to do it, he relies upon radical unbelieving scholars like Bird and Daniel Boyarin, both of whom are, unsurprisingly, pro-gay. But why would a supposedly “conservative Christian” rely upon such authorities as Bird, Boyarin, and Saul Olyan? Are these people Bible-believers? Why not turn to more representative and conventional authorities like Gordon Wenham? Wenham has made a study of homosexuality in the ancient Near East and has shown that although such practices were commonplace in the surrounding cultures in the ancient world, the Israelites were different.

He writes,

Seen in their Near Eastern context the originality of the Old Testament laws on homosexuality is very striking. Whereas the rest of the ancient orient saw homosexual acts as quite acceptable provided they were not incestuous or forcible, the Old Testament bans them all even where both parties freely consented. (362)

The reason for this is identified in the Genesis creation account, with its definition of marriage and distinctions between the sexes. His conclusion is,

It therefore seems most likely that Israel’s repudiation of homosexual intercourse arises out of its doctrine of creation. God created humanity in two sexes, so that they could be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Woman was man’s perfect companion, like man created in the divine image. To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God’s provision of two sexes to support and complement one another. St Paul’s comment that homosexual acts are ‘contrary to nature’ (Rom 1:26) is thus probably very close to the thinking of the Old Testament writers. (363)

Matthew Vines is not reading his Bible to discover what it says about marriage and homosexuality. He is trying to make it affirm what he, as a gay man, affirms. It will not oblige him. Although homosexual attraction is often not sought after, anymore than are urges to steal or to lust after a woman, it must never be baptized to make it acceptable as Christian or lodge comfortably within its meaning of “follower of Christ

(more…)

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (4)

Part Three

If it were up to us…

If the Lord had relied upon men to fulfill their duties before fulfilling His oaths there would be no reason at all to make covenants in the first place.  He was on the safest ground possible, and could have promised the universe without having to concern Himself about fulfilling anything.  We all fail.  Christians know that unless God is faithful to stand behind His promise in the Gospel, we are all done for.  Salvation under the New Covenant blood of Christ cannot depend upon us.  Inner spiritual perfection is even more impossible for us to achieve than the outward obedience of the Law (1 Jn. 1:8, 10).  If God’s promise of salvation and eternal life depended for an instant on our works, heaven would have one human inhabitant – Jesus!

It is for this reason that God only made one bi-lateral covenant with men: the Mosaic covenant.  Exodus 24 records the solemn oath which the children of Israel took:

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people.  and they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”  And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” – Exod. 24:6-8

The writer of Hebrews refers to this episode in Hebrews 9:18-20.  The Book was the covenant terms which Moses read aloud.  It contained the Ten Commandments of chapter 20, and the judgments of chapters 21-23 (cf. 24:3).  There is nothing in these chapters which is unclear or vague.  By reading the terms in the ears of the people Moses was calling upon the people to affirm by oath those words (See John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative, 296).

The reason for this being bi-lateral was because it was impermanent.  This “old covenant” was to be replaced by another permanent one.  What guaranteed the failure of the Mosaic covenant was the sinfulness of one of the parties: the people of Israel.  By the same token what guarantees the permanence of the New covenant is the fact that it is unilaterally promised by the sinless Christ.  Divine covenants, with the lone exception of the “old covenant”, are inviolable.  Paul states this in connection with the New covenant in Romans 11:29.

Problems with “Unilateral” and “Unconditional”

It has often been true that the terms “unilateral” and “unconditional” have been held by some to be unsatisfactory adjectives when applied to the biblical covenants.  Noah did have to build an ark.  Abraham did have to leave Ur and he did have to circumcise his sons.  Christians do have to believe on Jesus to be saved.  So then, it is argued, because we find these conditions attached to covenantal promises it is inaccurate to describe any covenant with the words “unilateral” and “unconditional.”

As an example of this sort of complaint we read,

the Old Testament covenants consist of unconditional (unilateral) and conditional (bilateral) elements blended together.  In fact, it is precisely due to this blend that there is a deliberate tension within the covenants – a tension which is heightened as the story line of Scripture and the biblical covenants progress toward their fulfilment [sic] in Christ. – Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 609

But a grave mistake is being made here (there are other mistakes too, but I shall ignore them for now).  In deciding whether a covenant is or is not unilateral (or both/and) the attention must be upon the oath taken: that is, upon the words of the covenant.  And there is nothing in the oaths affixed to the Noahic or Abrahamic or Priestly or Davidic or New covenants which place conditions upon the human parties.  What conditions are present in the context are connected either prior to or after the taking of the oath, but if there are no conditions in God’s oath, there are no conditions in the covenant.  The time of eventual fulfillment may be impacted by conditional elements, but these in no way get God ‘off the hook’ as it were.  If God is the only Subject making the oath, and if the words of the covenant do not iterate a condition, then the covenant really is unilateral and unconditional.  As we have noted before, this fact seems to be recognized by D. N. Freedman.

The conditional Mosaic covenant, by contrast, had both conditions as part of the oath and, as we saw, bound the human parties to those conditions.  One older writer puts it well:

The legal covenant that God made with Israel when He brought them up out of Egypt consisted of the law, the judgments and the ordinances… Differing from the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham, the covenant that He made and repeatedly renewed with Israel under the law was coupled with express conditions, on the breach of which fearful judgments were denounced, and both blessings and curses attached to the covenant, according as they obeyed or disobeyed… – Ford C. Ottman, God’s Oath: A Study of an Unfulfilled Promise of God, 191 

There were no blessings and curses appended to the other covenants God made for the very good reason that they were superfluous!  They were unconditionally guaranteed by God Himself.  Thus, when entering into covenant with Abraham we read,

…because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself – Heb. 6:13

For what purpose did God do this?  The writer of Hebrews tells us:

Thus God, determining to show the more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath – Heb. 6:17

God had previously “determined” what He was going to do through the Abrahamic covenant.  It was to be something which could not change.  Therefore, by swearing by Himself He showed the immutability of the covenant.  Yet on page 608 of Kingdom through Covenant Wellum says,

the physical genealogical link from the Abrahamic covenant is transformed…in the dawning of a regenerate people from every nation who become the “one new man” in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 2:11-21).  

He goes on to call this people “the true Israel” (Ibid).  But in view of what we have just seen, this is not an option.  God cannot “transform” the meaning of words in a covenant.  But He doesn’t need to because the Abrahamic covenant houses promises both to the nations of Israel and to all the peoples of the earth (see Gen. 12:1-3, 7).

Next installment soon...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (2)

Part One

The Fusion of Confusion

Evolutionists, except the rather small coterie of Theistic ones, believe every complex and meticulously ordered thing got here through mechanisms which we neither see now nor can see in the evidence left in the past.  Even our cognitive faculties and the immaterial laws of logic and number “evolved.”  The Big Bang is the most popular notion of the origin of the universe at the present time, although there is a significant lobby of dissidents.  The Big Bang is an explosion.  All explosions are chaotic, disorderly things.  (The Big Bang exploded flat – not in all directions).  In other ways it would have been like every other explosion: confused and irrational.

But from this chaos the vast complexity of the first life sprang: not, it is true, overnight, but over billions of years.  From this incoherence the coherent came.  Do we ever see coherence, in the form of sequenced “specified” complexity, arise out of chaos and disorder?  No we do not.  Nothing self-orders in complex and specific ways without a code.  And a code needs someone to write it.   But evolutionary naturalism requires just the opposite.

Furthermore, as we, the observers, recognize and analyze the coherence in the world, our standing (or existence) as observers must be accounted for.  This was one of the questions asked by Richards and Gonzalez in their book The Privileged Planet.   It is a good question.  Why is the world comprehensible?  Why can we do science?

This question must be addressed by creationists and evolutionists.  It cannot be ducked on the pretext that evolution does not concern itself with such matters.  Biological evolution does not.  But there is such a thing as “chemical evolution”.  There is even a Center for it!

One prominent evolutionist puts the matter clearly:

One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task, to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible.  Yet, here we are as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”  George Wald, ‘The Molecular Basis of Life’, 339

We must not link this use of “spontaneous generation” with the old idea that new life arises from rotting meat.  Once this is kept in mind there is nothing wrong with Wald’s use of the term.  But talk about the power of presuppositions!  He believes in the impossible.  And as we shall see, it is not one isolated “impossibility” that evolutionists have to swallow.  In fact, it is not even the first.

Has this kind of evolution (a form of abiogenesis) ever been demonstrated?  It has not (link).  One creationist writer comments:

After decades of investigation, no environment has been discovered that facilitates abiogenesis. The richest inventory of chemical compounds have been zapped, irradiated, dried, rehydrated, and subjected to a host of parameters. All of these processes, however, have resulted in disorganized matter. In order to provide an appropriate framework for life, a machinist would still be necessary, one who could construct several thousand specific proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and lipids in their exact configurations, all the while maintaining the integrity of each molecule in the collection. – Brian Thomas, “Origin of Life Research Still Dead.”

Also, as Meyer explains,

Every choice the investigator makes to actualize one condition and exclude another – to remove one by-product and not another – imparts information into the system.  Therefore, whatever “success” these experiments have achieved in producing biologically relevant compounds occurs as a direct result of the activity of the experimentalist – a conscious, intelligent, deliberative mind – performing the experiments. – Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 335.

To an evolutionist this means that “when” somebody produces organic cells from its constituents the cry will go up, “We have discovered the conditions in which life arose.”  But would it?  While some confidence in the deliverances of science, even defined in reductionistic tones, is warranted, and the great successes of scientists lend encouragement to the belief that more is to come, it is extremely doubtful that any of these successes have any logical connection to belief in evolution.  Scientists holding to evolution have done marvelous things, and so have scientists not holding to evolution.  But the principle of testing competing hypotheses is not bettered by a belief which itself has failed to substantiate any of its major tenets.

To any other person any announcement that scientists have found the original environment for life would only prove that trained scientists, knowing the constituents of cellular organisms, have replicated what was (perhaps) previously done.  It would certainly not prove it was achieved by undirected mindless processes.  If evolutionists could do such a thing (and they can’t), they would, in their announcements, be sure to divert attention away from the designed and controlled laboratory conditions and the training and funding of the scientists.

The Blind and Ignorant Watchmaker

Richard Dawkins wrote,

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” – Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1

We all know this quote, but behind it lies a steely determination not to recognize what we all do recognize in every other walk of life – design.  The title of his book is interesting but misleading.  Interesting because it evokes a scene where someone blind from birth, and having no prior knowledge of watches, proceeds over time to put together one of these marvelous mechanisms in full working order.  Misleading because the watchmaker himself, also envisioned as a product of evolution, but being far more complex than the watch, must also be explained.  Although Dawkins is being rhetorical, calling evolutionary processes by this name commits the fallacy of reification – a very common fault with these people.

What these sorts of quotes are telling us is that because of their naturalistic bias, these eminent evolutionists will not even consider special creation as an alternative.  And as there are just two models of origins, evolution (in their view), wins by default: it must be true no matter how much evidence accrues to falsify it.  Operating from such an outlook the evolutionist is doomed to miss the wood for the trees.

Evolution is treated as unfalsifiable, and is treated as such because it is viewed as having so much power to uphold the philosophy of naturalism.  It is the only avenue of explanation open to the materialist, and cannot be allowed to buckle under unwelcome scrutiny.  It is treated and taught as an unassailable fact.  Evolution supports naturalism.  Naturalism is the only methodology permitted by evolutionists.  Ergo, naturalism must support evolution.  It is viciously circular. (more…)

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (3)

Part Two

In the Bible there is always a correspondence between God’s words and His actions.  You see it in the Creation narratives – “God said”…”and it was so”.  You see it in the Gospel, – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”  You see it in such well known places as the curing of Naaman, or Jesus’ healing of Jairus’s daughter.  When God says He is going to do something, you can bank on it.  While there are places where God relents on judgment (especially after intercession), our faith depends upon the fixity of His meaning.  God will do what He says He will do.

This is important on two fronts: first because God must be as good as His word or His character is in question.  God’s attributes of veracity and immutability stand behind His promises.  The second reason God must mean what He says is because God requires faith from us.  Faith must “know” what it is that is to be believed.  Faith cannot thrive where ambiguity is let in.  Faith has to be able to separate truth from error, and know which is the right path to take, or we are wasting our time warning people against error.  If the meaning is uncertain, doubt has a foothold.

This is where we left off last time.  Covenants necessarily take up within themselves this notion of dis-ambiguity.

But in that case what is one to make of this?

Israel is called God’s son…Only later will the full import of this be apparent as the perfect Son of God comes to fulfill in his own life all God’s purposes for Israel. – Graeme Goldsworthy, According To Plan, 141.

This is the same writer who said “God cannot go back on his word.”  But sadly he doesn’t mean what one would think he means (that God will do what He has said He will do).  Note here the equivocation on the word “son”.  In the case of Israel it is a figure of speech.  In the case of Jesus it is actually true.  No wonder “the full import” was not known in OT times! Notice also that Goldsworthy thinks that “God’s purposes for Israel” (a Nation to whom land is covenanted – Gen. 15)), are “fulfilled” in the life of Christ (a Person).

According to the OT revelation, the Messiah was to “raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel” (Isa. 49:6), so that He “will make her wilderness like Eden” (Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35), where – using covenant language – He has promised the Nation, “you will dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:28; Amos 9:14-15).  They have been led to expect God’s blessing on their restored land (Hos. 2:18; Isa. 11:6-10; Ezek. 34:25-27), when God Himself will “betroth you to me forever” (Hos. 2:19).  Since these are all covenanted promises, backed by the oath of God; and since covenants are reinforcements of clear speech which guarantee something, Goldsworthy’s explanation of how God is not going back on His word by fulfilling all this in Christ is a little hard to swallow.  Actually, his explanation is itself filled with just the kind of ambiguities which covenants are supposed to eradicate.

No wonder then, we can be told that,

The semi-nomadic wanderings of Abraham and his descendants in Canaan did not serve God’s purposes of revelation fully enough.  Throughout the Old Testament, possession of the land is presented as a shadow of the future reality of God’s people in his kingdom. – Ibid, 130-131.

And in which covenant of the Old Testament is one told this?  Where are “the words of the covenant” which create this expectation?   What is the expectation these covenants do create?

We must add here that the theological covenants of Reformed theology do not pass muster in this regard because they have nebulous specificity.  Covenant theologians disagree on what each of these supposed covenants does.  Since none of them are described in the Bible (they are inferred from viewing the two Testaments from a particular angle), they are in no sense on a par with the clearly defined covenants of Scripture.

According to Goldsworthy, the gospel event must be presupposed for the OT to be rightly understood (76).  But if the covenants which God made could not be rightly understood until after Jesus had died and gone back to heaven, and if by the words used they raised false expectations in God’s people throughout the OT era, we are forced to admit that God’s word, even under oath, apparently (in some theologies) is ambiguous, and that deliberately!  Just what was an OT saint supposed to believe when reading the covenants?

One might not wish to go there, but I do not see a way out – apart, that is, from our adopting ambiguous language.

More to come…

 

 

 

Genesis-1-vs-1

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (1)

This is taken from an introductory lecture in the TELOS Course “The Doctrine of  Man and Sin”

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet. – Psalm 8:3-6

According to the Bible, man, here meaning male and female (Gen. 1:27), is a very special part of God’s creation.  According to the scientific establishment we are nothing more than advanced animals, newly arrived upon the scene of earth history, without any more significance than a trilobite or a sea-horse.

Most of us are familiar with naturalistic evolution. This is what I was taught from a young child growing up in England all the way through high school.  And when I attended college I was taught it there too, even though it wasn’t really part of the business degree that I was doing.

I wasn’t a Christian until I was 25, and was not from a particularly religious household, so I believed more or less in evolution, although always in the back of my mind I could not quite understand how life came from non-life.  Neither could I grasp how the marvelous beauty and order that we see in life could be accounted for by random unguided particles banging together. Neither could I quite understand how the theory of evolution could account for the significance that we find in our own lives. We write poetry, we write love songs, we listen to music of one sort or another that expresses our inner emotions, and what we feel about ourselves, and how important we think certain things are to the world and to life itself. We do this all the time; it’s natural for the human being to do it, and I just could not understand how this sense of significance could be part of an evolutionary process.

Why did we evolve to see our own significance and reflect upon it?  Why try to better it, critique it, and eulogize it? So there were these things that the ‘science’ did not fully explain to me.

I have listened to and read many evolutionists.  I believe that at a fundamental level, Evolution is the creation myth of the secularist, of the unbeliever.

They don’t want to believe in the Creator.  They don’t want to believe that there is a God whom they have to face.  Therefore, as theologian Millard Erickson tells us in his Christian Theology, (2nd ed. 501f.), they have a group of processes into which they pour their faith, which, superficially at least, produce and explain everything that is, including all the diversity of life.  All that is needed is ‘a combination of atoms, motion, time, and chance.’ As Erickson says, no attempt is made to account for these givens; they are simply there, the basis of everything else.

Now this is certainly true.  Anybody who believes in evolution will not even try to think behind the ramifications of what they’re saying, and will not try to give an explanation for the processes that they say delivered up to us “reality” (which they can scarcely define), as we presently experience it.  It is just there they say.  It all could have been any other way, but it just happened to be this way.  One famous scientist said that the reason that the world is the way it is, is because it was the way that it is.  In other words, just things are the way that they are and there’s no real reason behind it; no personality, no Creator to guide it or to give it any further significance than just accidental occurrences.  All of the matter and energy in the universe, and all of the different combinations of it came from a Big Bang, and the far future scenarios for the universe are either freeze or fry. We’re either going to just freeze, as entropy completely disintegrates, or we’re going to fry as the whole thing burns up.

In between the Big Bang and the big freeze there is no significance or meaning other than what we can find in and of ourselves.  We make it all up.  There is no great explanation, there is no providential plan. Life came from non-life by lightning hitting a “pre-biotic” (‘prior to life’) pond.  Scientific laws weren’t laws until after these things conveniently came together.  We should not see ourselves as anything more significant than temporary cosmic accidents.

Seven Basic (Silly) Assumptions

Someone has said that, “The basic assumptions of evolution are:

  1. Inorganic chemicals gave rise to life (belief in spontaneous generation – in modern garb).
  2. Spontaneous generation only happened once. (They believe it only happened once because it is such an astronomically absurdly impossible thing to even postulate.  Though some think it happened many times).
  3. All living organisms are therefore related (IF the first two statements are true)
  4. Single celled organisms [protozoa] gave rise to multi-celled organisms [metazoa]
  5. Invertebrates are all related
  6. Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates
  7. From fish we get amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.”

These are taken from a book by G.A. Kerkut called Implications of Evolution.  One wonders if he really thought through the “implications”!

Those are of the seven basic assumptions that evolutionists make about evolution.  Other assumptions are made about reality.  For example, that morals, or the laws of thought are culturally-conditioned; that there is a correlation between what is in man’s mind and what is outside of man’s mind, and that correlation can be studied, analyzed, and mathematically predicted in terms of art, architecture, technology, and of course, the “science of evolution.”

But why and how did the amazing fine-tuning in the universe evolve?  A fine-tuning whereby the universe itself seems to be particularly the way it is so that life can exist upon this planet. Well, if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here asking about it!”  And that’s an answer?  These and other presuppositions evolutionists have.  They don’t really try to see the convenience of it all; let alone the significance.  They just try to ignore the coincidences and ignore the signals of design and purpose all around them while believing an incredible and oft-disproved theory.   

It boils down to this:

Incoherence evolved into coherence, yet the explanations of coherence devolve into incoherence.

 

 

Thx to Servants Place for the photo

COVENANTS: CLARITY, AMBIGUITY AND FAITH (2)

PART ONE

The subject of this article has to do with how covenants clarify and underline specific terms about certain important (indeed central) theological topics.  If we all spoke the truth and we all could hear it unimpeded by sin’s effects there would be no need of covenants.  Covenants presuppose subjects (at least one) who have a propensity to diverge from an important truth.  (It is for this reason that any pre-fall covenants, which are exegetically weak and empty in the first place, seem superfluous).

Covenants also assume the parties to the covenant (at the bare minimum) understand and acknowledge the terms of the covenant.

Premeditation

Paul Williamson’s recent work on covenants, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose,  emphasizes the central role of oaths in the covenants of Scripture.  In his analysis the use of berit in the Hebrew Bible he expresses his conviction that the making of a solemn oath, “could well be described as the sine qua non of a covenant.” (39).

Oaths require forethought and careful composition.  Failure to think-through the words used may lead to tragic consequences, as the story of Jephthah drives home to us.  Along with solemnity, premeditation persuasively argues for clarity.  For a covenant that isn’t clear is hardly competent to do its job, particularly after time slips by.

True, not every oath indicates the presence of covenant, as Williamson is careful to point out (36), but when it comes to the Bible, and especially God’s covenants with men, he writes,

a Divine-human berit may be defined as the solemn ratification of an existing elective relationship involving promises or obligations that are sealed with an oath. – Ibid, 43. 

Since covenants include solemn oath-taking, they are not slapped together indiscriminately.   So perhaps the single most important thing to work on is the problem of ambiguity.  Sometimes one finds deliberate ambiguity in documents.  One example is the wording on atonement in the Canons of Dordt, which had to be worded to accommodate both particular and universal redemptionists.  But covenants cannot admit ambiguities without self-destructing.  Thought aforehand is mandatory.

Expectation

Covenants prescribe obligations and raise certain expectations.  If either party is being led to expect specifically identified things included in the covenant and that expectation is wrong, then one of two things has occurred.  Either the words of the covenant were not clear enough, or the other covenanting party was using premeditated terminology to mislead.  This is to say, the words of the covenant unavoidably create an expectation.

The prophets understood the solemn duty they were under to communicate God’s intentions.  One thinks of Micaiah who responded back to those who tempted him to speak words in agreement with the false soothsayers,

As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that will I speak – 1 Kings 22:14

The words of God excite the expectations of creatures.  And when God earnestly pledges something an covenants to perform it He places His own character on the line to do what He has led people to expect He will do by the words of His oath.  God does not much like covenant-breakers.  Zedekiah found that out according to Jeremiah 34:8-22.  By the prophet Ezekiel God asked,

Can [a man] break a covenant and still be delivered? – Ezekiel 17:15c

The one who breaks the covenant midway after confirming it for one heptad (Dan. 9:27) has traditionally been thought to be a bad person, since bad people fail to carry out their covenant obligations.

The Christian Gospel contains specific promises which have created clear and well defined expectations sealed by Jesus’ New Covenant blood (1 Cor. 11:25).  Covenants create expectations and when the God of Truth; the One “in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jam. 1:17), binds Himself by a covenant oath, there is no surer or clearer word upon which to trust.

What Happens if the Words Are Ambiguous?

In his influential little book According To Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, Graeme Goldsworthy assures us,

God’s promises to Israel, first expressed as the covenant with Abraham, are irrevocable.  God cannot go back on his word. – 146.

This all sounds very comforting (What would it mean for God (or any one else) to go back on His word?)  God’s covenant with Abraham involved two main aspects: first the provision of a specified land to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g. Gen. 12:7; 15; Amos 9:13-15; Ezek. 36:22-35).  The second main part of this covenant is the promise that “through you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8).

The land grant within the covenant is repeated over and over again in the Old Testament, often in covenantal contexts.  the fact that the New Testament does not really mention (at least directly) the land does not abrogate all these expectations.  It simply means the New Testament writers do not broach the subject.  That’s okay, because the Old Testament writers do!  The New Testament does not, as far as I am aware, mention the fact that God will never again bring a great flood to destroy the earth.  It doesn’t have to, as the stipulations in the Noahic Covenant are clear enough and we can, on that basis, expect no future global deluge like that in Noah’s day.

But what would happen to all these expectations if the covenant oaths God took were not clear but were ambiguous?  In fact, not just ambiguous but downright misleading, so that, based on the repeated words of God in the Old Testament the expectation of God’s people was wide of the mark?

According to any dictionary, an ambiguity betokens uncertainty or even doubtfulness of meaning and intention.  As such, ambiguous covenants are unreliable and slippery things.  Ambiguity is the enemy of certainty, and if something is uncertain it is unreasonable to ask someone to have faith in it.  They would not be sure just what they were supposed to believe.

As we all know, Hebrews 11:6 says,

But without faith, it is impossible to please [God]; for those who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Faith needs to rest in clear and unambiguous words.  It cannot rest in shadows and forms.  Covenants reinforce plain and certain facts.  They are aids to faith only to the extent that they are left alone to say what they say.

More to come…