Monday, September 26, 2011

Doing a 180 on Abortion

Yesterday, I posted a quick refutation of the pro-choice stance on abortion and infanticide, which can be read at the following link. A Biblical, Philosophical and Scientific Refutation of Abortion and Infanticide.

Yesterday, Ray Comfort released a 33 minute documentary which correctly compared abortion to the Holocaust. The video showed that it is inconsistent for a person to support abortion at the same time as they oppose the actions of Adolf Hitler towards 6 million Jews during World War II. The bottom line is that both the Holocaust and Abortion are murder. If you oppose the Holocaust, to be consistent, you must also oppose abortion. 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, while over 53 million babies have been murdered in the United States alone via abortion since Roe vs. Wade is 1973.

While I do not agree with Comfort's use of Amyraldian undertones at the end of the video, I highly recommend taking thirty minutes out of your life to watch the video. If everyone sits back, abortion will continue. Only if we expose abortion for the evil that it is, then act and pray accordingly (for example by not voting for those who support abortion) will people learn that abortion is murder.

The documentary can be viewed at the following link: 180 Documentary on Abortion.

(C), J. Williams, September 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Biblical, Philosophical and Scientific Refutation of Abortion and Infanticide

1. The Debate:

These topics have become controversial frontiers of political and religious debate in recent decades. Those labelled as pro-life are staunchly opposed to both and justify their position by appealing to the sanctity of human life. Conversely, those labelled as pro-choice are in favour of abortion and/or infanticide and justify their position by appealing to the women’s right to choose.

2. A Philosophical and Scientific Case:

Former Republican and U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said “I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”  The pro-choice advocate must now answer this question: “Why is the right of the mother more important than the right of their child”? They must answer with an unequivocal denial of the humanity of the unborn child, or else declare their support for murder and genocide in order to be consistent. Why is it right to kill some people and not others?

As you can see demonstrated above, the debate essentially boils down to the question of “At what time in the life cycle do we classify a person as a person”? Firstly, it is an absurd contradiction to say “I want an abortion of this potential life inside of me”, as the fact that without an abortion there would be life presupposes that the foetus is alive! Otherwise, the abortion advocate must violate the law of biogenesis: that life cannot come from non-life whereby each living thing reproduces according to its own kind. If human life does not begin at conception, human life cannot scientifically begin, (moreover exist) at all!

3. A Biblical Case:

a) God condemns infanticide:

There are numerous examples in the Bible where God punishes those who commit infanticide. God's people were commanded not to imitate their neighbours who committed infanticide through child sacrifice. The law strictly instructed them to “not give any of your children to offer them to Molech” (Leviticus 18:21), prescribing the death penalty for violating this command (Leviticus 20:2–5).

Child sacrificing was also known during Solomon's reign (1 Kings 11:7). The brutal practice spread to Moab (2 Kings 3:27), Judah (2 Kings 16:3), and the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:17). Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel condemned the practice (Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 16:20–21).

b) God condemns abortion too:

God made man in his own image (Genesis 1:26–27). Since God is the Creator of human life, all human beings belong to God; life can only be taken (1) by God Himself or (2) by man on God’s terms. Killing without jurisdiction from God is a violation of the special dignity vested in human beings by God himself (Genesis 4:8–16, Exodus 20:13).  Every human life - from conception to natural death - is to be received as a gift from our sovereign Creator, so treated with reverence and respect, and not harmed without biblical justification.

Psalm 139 directly addresses the humanity of the unborn. In verse 13 David celebrates God's intricate involvement in his own foetal development: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.” David also explicitly confessed that he was sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5); which testified that he and all other people are human from conception, as all of mankind fell in Adam (Romans 5:12-21).

God's judgment fell on those who killed the unborn. Elisha wept when he foresaw the crimes of the king of Syria, who would “kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women” (2 Kings 8:12). Amos prophesied against the Ammonites because they “have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border” (Amos 1:13).

A baby is a person from conception (Psalm 51:5 139:13-16). Therefore, a baby is in the image of God from conception (James 3:9). What does God say about shedding the blood of a person in God's image (Genesis 9:6)? God condemns it!

As every single baby is a person made in God's image, what must God think of abortion and infanticide (Genesis 9:6)? God views abortion and infanticide as murder.

4. How should abortion and infanticide be punished?

As abortion is murder (Hebrew ratsakh: the unjustified taking of human life), it should be punished as murder. The biblical punishment for murder is capital, with a reckoning demanded from fellow men; “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9: 5-6). As the reason given, man is made in the image of God remains, and the verse predates the Mosaic Law judicial laws, the “that is no longer binding” argument is invalid.

5. Should this issue influence how I vote?

To that question I would reply with two rhetorical questions:
1. Does prayer work?
2. Are we to pray for our Governments?

If you answer yes to both (as you should) then you have your answer (yes). If you pray for your government that they would govern according to God’s moral law, but do not vote according to God’s moral law, then you are voting against God’s perceptive will. You should vote for politicians according to the same standards you pray they rule by. Just as you should not pray “God, please legalise that which you detest”, you should not vote for those who are pro-abortion or pro any other form of murder.

The stance of a politician on abortion should strongly influence your voting. You should not vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion (e.g. Barrack Obama, Bob Brown), as to do so would be to vote pro-murder. God’s view of abortion/infanticide/murder should also be your view of abortion/infanticide/murder. You must live and vote according to this truth:

A baby is a person from conception. Therefore, a baby is in the image of God from conception. God condemns shedding the blood of a person in God's image. As every single baby is a person made in God's image, God detests abortion and infanticide. You should detest them too.

(C), J. Williams, September 2011.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Importance of Doctrine

One disagreement within Christianity regards the importance of doctrine. The opponent of my “all doctrine is important” position will argue “Doctrine is Divisive”, “We should just focus on living a godly life” or “We should be evangelising to non-Christians instead” to justify their position.

Agreed, evangelism is a Christian duty, we should absolutely live a godly life and some false doctrines don’t warrant excommunication. Labelling someone a heretic for believing supralapsarianism or traducianism (dictionary at bottom) when I don’t would be radical in light of the conduct prescribed by Paul in Romans 14. However, pointing out doctrinal errors of varying magnitudes is not wrong as the notion that doctrine is unimportant is thoroughly unbiblical and dangerous.

It must be clarified that the statement that all doctrine is essential does not mean all doctrines are essential for salvation. Secondly, not all doctrines share equal importance; for example, the holiness of God is more important than liturgy. There is a difference between essential doctrines (all Scripture), and doctrines essential for salvation as such as:

- There is one God; the God of the Bible (Isaiah 43:10).
- Jesus Christ is Lord and God (John 8:24, Romans 10:9).
- Christ died for sins, was buried and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
- We are sinners saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9).

There are numerous reasons why all doctrine is essential, though citing brevity I’ll detail just four and answer objections along the way.

Firstly, Scripture itself affirms all doctrine is essential. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB) states “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. The quoted traits are attributed to the entirety of the OT, and by implication the whole NT also (c.f. 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Peter 3:15-16, Revelation 22:18-19). “All Scripture is…profitable…equip(s) for every good work”. This asserts that the Scripture - authenticated by its Divine origin - affirms its own importance and the requirement for it to be studied in its entirety to equip for every good work.

Further verses proving Scripture itself asserts the importance of all doctrine include Matthew 4:4 where Jesus commands Man to live “On every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”; 1 Timothy 4:6 where God describes “a good servant of Christ Jesus” as someone who is “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine”.

 Hebrews 5:12-6:1 which contrary to the ‘doctrine is unimportant movement’ commands that Christians “leave the elementary teaching about the Christ” and instead “press on to maturity” meaning harder doctrine. "The milk" or "the elementary principles of the oracles of God" are not prescribed for the "mature" in faith: they are to press on to maturity: the "solid food". Just as newborns drink milk rather than eat steak, but eventually progress from milk to solid food, so to the milk (the basics) is for the new believer, while the mature Christian is commanded to press on to maturity: eat the solid food. It is clearly evident that God’s own testimony affirms that all doctrine is essential.

Secondly, Matthew 22:37 quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 by stating “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' Loving God isn’t only emotional - rather it includes the mind too; studying doctrine expresses loving God with your mind. Pursuing theological truth honours and glorifies God as learning doctrinally is an aspect of sanctification. Verses supporting this include John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” and Ephesians 4:24 “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Learning doctrine is inseparable from loving God. Here we see that "doctrine divides" those who are eager to love God with their mind for those who would rather not.

Thirdly, it’s impossible to separate Christ from the Scriptural truths revealing Him. Therefore, to imitate Christ you must learn the truths about Him. (Ephesians 5:1-2, Matthew 5:48, Luke 6:36, Ephesians 4:32). This fact refutes the “We should just focus on living a godly life” argument, as the two are inseparable because knowing what a godly life encompasses revolves around knowing theology. How can anyone imitate Christ if they do not know what to imitate? Christ lived the godly life, for us to do likewise in gratitude towards Him, we must know about Him.

To the objection that “We should be evangelising to non-Christians instead”, I reiterate that evangelism is a commanded duty of believers (Matthew 28:18-19, Mark 16:15), but it isn’t the only commanded duty of believers as proven earlier. Furthermore, knowing doctrine and evangelism are not polar opposites but interrelated and interdependent.

1 Peter 3:15 commands “always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” and Colossians 4:6 states we are to “know how you should respond to each person”. These verses command us in evangelism not just to be able to recite the gospel – but always be able to answer objections raised against Christianity.

Four of the most common objections to Christianity are:

1)      People believe in thousands of different God’s, why is the Christian God the true God and not Allah, Buddha or Zeus?
2)      Science has disproven
3)      The Bible is filled with scientific errors; for example it says that rabbits chew their cud (Leviticus 11:6), grasshoppers have four legs (Leviticus 11:20-23) and the earth is flat (Micah 5:4, Romans 10:18).
4)      You say that God is all powerful and without sin, yet there is evil and suffering in the world. So either God likes the presence of evil and suffering so is evil or He hates them but cannot stop it so he is not all powerful. Either way the Christian God cannot exist.

Obviously you require far more doctrinal knowledge than Romans 10:9 and John 3:16 to be able to answer these objections to Christianity, so rather than doctrine preventing evangelism, biblical evangelism actually requires doctrine!

To the first, you must understand the Attributes of God, the Trinity and the work of the Holy Spirit. To the second "Jesus died on the cross" will not suffice; the non-Christian would reply to that "the resurrection is scientifically impossible".

To the third,  the Hebrew doesn’t say rabbits chew their cud, rather correctly states rabbits practise refection – yes Hebrew required here! The grasshoppers two hind jumping legs aren’t included as ordinary legs as the passage states grasshoppers ‘go on all fours (and) have jointed legs above their feet’. ‘Ends of the earth’ doesn’t imply the earth is rectangular with edges; rather the ends of the earth are gentile nations. After Pentecost the gospel spread to semi-Jewish nations, then to gentile nations.

To the fourth, God is all-powerful, without sin, can stop evil and hates evil, but to actually refute the fourth objection, would require explaining the eternal decrees, the sovereignty and providence of God, which are "highly divisive doctrines"! I guess, "God is evil or has been defeated - take your pick" will have to do.

Conclusively, all doctrine is important because Scripture explicitly states so. Additionally, knowing doctrine is to love God with your mind and doctrine is essential to imitate Jesus Christ and for biblical evangelism.

Supralapsarianism and Traducianism: Don’t bother what they are; they are theological jargon to express my point
Sanctification: Process whereby believers are conformed to the image of God until death

(C), J. Williams, September 2009.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sola Scriptura Quotes of the Church Fathers

Roman Catholics often argue that Sola Scriptura is a doctrine that is foreign to church history and instead only originated with the Reformers. While the Latin term Sola Scriptura certainly arose during the Reformation, most Church Fathers held to the theology encompassed in the term Sola Scriptura. That the Church Fathers rejected the Romanist concept, but adhered to Sola Scriptura is clearly evidenced by the following quotes:

“On consideration...of the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many – alas! – should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures” – Ambrose

“For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?” - Ambrose

“The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth” - Athanasius

“Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture” – Athanasius

“These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me” – Athanasius

“If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.” - Augustine

“Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” - Augustine

“Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures.” - Augustine

“For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” - Augustine

“What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher” - Augustine

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin” – Basil

“The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.” – Basil

“If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth” - Basil

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” - Cyril of Jerusalem

“We endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures.” - Dionysius

“We are not entitled to such licence, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings” - Gregory of Nyssa

“There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source… so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatever things they teach, these let us learn.” - Hippolytus

"I do not, like Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles.” - Ignatius

“We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” - Irenaeus

“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast” - John Chrysostom

“They say that we are to understand the things concerning Paradise not as they are written but in a different way. But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our eyes to all things and follow the canon of Holy Scripture exactly.” - John Chrysostom

“It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments” – John of Damascus

“I revere the fullness of His Scripture, in which He manifests to me both the Creator and the creation. In the gospel, moreover, I discover a Minister and Witness of the Creator, even His Word. If it is nowhere written, then let it fear the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word.” - Tertullian

Having said this, caution must be taken to avoid the dangerous ideal of disregarding everything but Scripture altogether. We must carefully distinguish Sola Scriptura from Solo Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is Biblical, recognising that while Scripture alone is the rule of faith and practise, other authorities do exist (e.g. Synods and Councils) whose decrees are binding on Christians and authoritative insofar as they are consonant to the word of God.

Solo Scriptura: the 'Me and my Bible' mentality, is an unbiblical doctrine and practise wherein each individual views his own understanding as self-authenticating and authoritative. To ignore or reject the creeds and confessions equates to saying "I alone, being immune from error am better equipped than the best theologians of many eras combined". To quote Dabney, "He who would consistently banish creeds must silence all preaching and reduce the teaching of the church to the recital of the exact words of Holy Scripture without note or comment."

In summary, the Church Fathers held to Sola Scriptura. Against Roman Catholicism, they believed that the Holy Scriptures were the self-authenticating perspicuous rule of faith. Against Solo Scriptura, they recognised the existence of authorities additional to, yet in subjection to Scripture.

(C), J. Williams, April 2011.