Thursday, April 26, 2007

Papal Infallibility – Say What?

Since I began studying Galatians, I really wanted to look into how Catholicism can claim the doctrine of papal infallibility. This may seem like a tangent well out of left field (and it might be), but I arrived at this question and desire to look into it based on the confrontation between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2 where Peter (Cephas) has been swept away into endorsing the works righteousness heresy of the Judaizers. So, in an attempt to find out just how this situation relates, my investigation into this issue began with finding out how Roman Catholicism defines infallibility.

Infallibility - In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals. 1

If I may be so bold as to summarize the above definition, it would be to say that if the Roman Catholic Church says that something is doctrinally true or that something is doctrinally heretical that it then is just that. Roman Catholics would say that the statements from the pontiff or from the councils are only expressing what has always been the case instead of making up new dogma, and so that is why they would say that it “is” true instead of saying that it “becomes” true.

This whole issue of the ability of being infallible in “teaching regarding matters of faith and morals” always troubled me, but no more poignantly than since I have been studying Galatians. One of the major themes of the beginning of the book concerns Paul’s assertion and defense of his apostolic office.

In his writings, Paul ardently defends the gospel and the cross of Christ, and that is the primary force for all that he writes. However, it is important to note that Paul also strongly defends and articulates two things about himself in an effort to ultimately bolster his defense of and illuminate the ministry and gospel of Christ. The first thing that he makes plain is the reality that he was a wretched sinner before being born again, even though he was a righteous Pharisee. The second thing that he spends a great deal of time on is his defense of his own apostleship.
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

“For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)

What seems to be one of Paul’s crowning defenses of his apostleship can be found in Galatians 2:11-21. The context surrounding this confrontation can be seen in Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15 where Paul, Titus, and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem in order to address the necessity (or non-necessity) of circumcision for the gentile believers. The conclusion of the council in Jerusalem was to say that men are justified by faith and not by circumcision or any other work of the law.

The confrontation in the second part of the second chapter of Galatians occurs when Peter must have gone to Antioch (where Paul and Barnabas were) and he was sucked into the false teaching of the Judaizers who taught that one must keep the laws in order to be saved. In other words, Peter was being sucked into the very heresy that was denounced in Jerusalem in the recent past. What makes matters worse is that Peter is going against his own articulated faith statement as he articulated at the council. Acts 15 records Peter’s own confession that salvation comes by faith, and not by works of the law (Acts 15:7-11). Because of the nature and scope of both the heresy and those who were caught up in it, Paul is not gentle about describing how he chastised and corrected Peter for making this error at Antioch.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11-13)

So here we have it; the section from Galatians that made me want to deal with this issue. When I began teaching through this book I was in an ongoing discussion or debate with a Roman Catholic blogger on a variety of issues, one of which was the primacy of Peter and the spiritual “lineage” of the Pope. So now, almost six months later, I actually am getting around to investigating this issue a bit more.

If Peter was the first pope, and therefore infallible in all things pertaining to faith and morals, wouldn’t the second chapter of Galatians be a resounding contradiction of that claim? Or, if the Roman Church claims this truth, wouldn’t this passage be an utter refutation of that doctrine? This is what I thought, but I wanted to understand this doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church first before making using it in any discussion.

Trying to boil down what can be an infallible proclamation of doctrine from Rome has proven to be a bit difficult. However, I believe that Rome holds that nothing is necessarily infallible, although it might be, if the doctrine “has been embodied in a decree of an ecumenical council, or in the ex cathedra teaching of the pope, or, at least, in some definite formula such as the Athanasian Creed.” 2

This seems like a reasonable and plain way to understand the doctrine of infallibility as applied to things other than the Bible, but then there is the problem of history. The Catholic Encyclopedia identifies four instances where it may seem to the, non-Catholic observer, that some infallible declarations of past popes “taught heresy and condemned as heretical what has afterwards turned out to be true.” 3 And if it is found out later that something was unduly influencing the pope when he made an ex cathedra declaration, it can and will be reversed.

One famous example of such an instance relates to Pope Liberius. It was this pope who anathematized Athanasius of the afore mentioned Athanasian creed, which is referred to as a “definite formula” containing infallible truth. Rome disputes that this anathemization eve occurred, but even if it were true and it did happen, a stout defense of the Papacy is present. The defense is that, in this case, “the pope so acted under pressure of a very cruel coercion, which at once deprives his action of any claim to be considered ex cathedra, and that he himself, as soon as he had recovered his liberty, made amends for the moral weakness he had been guilty of.” 4

Not only is any ex cathedra statement made by the Pope subject to be thrown out by later councils or popes for the above reasons, but the qualification or identification of what truly is infallible seems to be covered in a haze of subjectivity as well. In order to point this out, here is an example given by the Catholic Encyclopedia when summarizing what teaching is infallible.
“…not everything in a conciliar or papal pronouncement, in which some doctrine is defined, is to be treated as definitive and infallible. For example, in the lengthy Bull of Pius IX defining the Immaculate Conception the strictly definitive and infallible portion is comprised in a sentence or two; and the same is true in many cases in regard to conciliar decisions. The merely argumentative and justificatory statements embodied in definitive judgments, however true and authoritative they may be, are not covered by the guarantee of infallibility which attaches to the strictly definitive sentences -- unless, indeed, their infallibility has been previously or subsequently established by an independent decision.” 5

Who determines which “sentence or two” contain the infallible teachings of Roman Catholicism? The Pope? A Council? Who? As we’ve seen already, we cannot necessarily trust the Pope’s determination and word, because how can we know for sure that he is not “under pressure of a very cruel coercion” that no one may know about. The same could be said about a church council, because how could we know that those voting as a majority are not being coerced into affirming something that is not true? It seems to me that any given declaration of a pope, council, or other “arm” of Roman Catholicism capable of issuing some infallible statement relating to faith and morals could be overruled by later generations who may disagree with the statement and who are able to find sufficient cultural, social, political, economical, or other grounds to validate an objection on the basis that “a very cruel coercion” which deprives that declaration of any “claim to be considered ex cathedra” may have occurred.

That seems to be why, in my opinion, the doctrine of papal infallibility has been setup the way that it is. Satan must be able to adapt his strategy, his appearance, and his doctrine as taught by deceived men and women to match the present time. He can deceive entire generations of people by teaching that something is infallibly true, but when culture and the temperament of the masses change, he can then change and erase that from the books by this cleverly worded theological apparatus.

Even though the passage in Galatians that prompted me to investigate the Roman doctrine of infallibility turns out not to be related in any way, it was still a profitable study for me to see just how porous and subjective this Roman doctrine truly is. 6


2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 I say that it is not related because I can’t find any reference to this situation in Catholic material as being a time when Peter was infallible. I have heard some objections by some Roman Catholics that the Cephas in Galatians is not Peter the apostle. However, that objection is utterly absurd for many reasons, not least of which is that Paul refers to him as Cephas and doesn’t say “not the Cephas of the twelve, but a different and heretical Cephas….”

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The War with Sin and the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness

I have been doing a bit of reflecting on the text of Scripture (Galatians 5:16-21) that we studied in Sunday school this past weekend. We looked at the “deeds of the flesh” which are the evidences of an unsaved and unsanctified life that come directly before (in the context of Galatians 5) the “fruits of the Spirit”, and these are the evidences of a saved and sanctified life.

When I was studying, one of the major rabbit trails that I explored had to deal with our justification before almighty God, and what that means and implies for the daily lives of the believers. The verse that propelled me into this line of thinking was
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Galatians 5:17)
I know that it might be a bit of a stretch to say that this verse made me think of the doctrine of imputation, but that is where it led me. We are sinful by nature, and being regenerated doesn’t change the fact that we have a sinful inclination whose roots go down very, very deep. We cannot ignore the fact that we will continue to sin until we die or until Christ returns. However, as John MacArthur put it, as we grow and in holiness throughout our life as believers we will, “sin less, but feel worse.” In other words, as a Christian, I will be sanctified as I live and grow in Christ (sin less), and in that process I will have a fuller understanding of God’s holiness and my sinfulness and depravity. Therefore even the smallest of sins (as man might reckon them) are seen as exceedingly heinous and my understanding of my rebellion is poignant (feel worse).

Seeing Paul’s description of the way in which the Holy Spirit and my flesh are at odds with one another in that the desires of each is set against the other. It’s helpful to see this dichotomy both from this pseudo-detached way that he lays it out here as well as from the point of view of a personal and agonizing battle that he lays out in Romans.
“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:19,24)
And I made a point to say that even though we know that we will sin until for as long as we live, that doesn’t give us some kind of “get out of jail free” card relating to our responsibility for our sins or the necessity to war against them. I quickly built the case that we are able to resist sins because of what we are being tempted with and because God can keep us from sinning.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:7-9)
So you may be wondering how in the world did all of this lead me to think about the doctrine of imputation…well, I’ll tell you. First of all, one of the primary messages of the book of Galatians is the defense of the doctrine of justification by faith apart from works of the law. Or, in the language of the reformers, the declaration “sola fide,” which is translated as “faith alone.” This doctrine is at the heart and soul of what the entire Bible teaches. We see that man is made right before God – he does not make himself right nor does he assist in the making of himself right before God – and that is the only way that man has ever been made right with God.

Abraham believed God, before he ever was asked or attempted to follow through with the sacrificing of Isaac, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The men of Nineveh were about to be destroyed by God because of their individual and national wickedness, but after hearing the prophet Jonah preaching, “the people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jonah 3:5). And because of their faith, the redeemed men of Nineveh will stand at the end of time and condemn the wicked contemporaries of Christ because “they repented at the preaching of Jonah” and the Pharisees did not. The wretched sinner, not the self righteous and condemned Pharisee, was justified because he pleaded, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13b) The thief on the cross didn’t perform any act of service or deed (no, not even baptism) to commend himself to the Lord but, like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, he knew what he deserved and he pleaded with Christ,
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:40-43)
It is upon this basis of unmerited favor and unearned righteousness that my sins were imputed to Jesus and fully punished on the cross. It is also upon this basis of this same unmerited favor and unearned righteousness that Christ’s perfect righteousness was imputed to me on the day that I repented of my sins and placed my faith – my trust – in Christ. And because I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ, I am treated (eternally) as if I had lived his life, even though I still presently sin.

This whole line of thinking brought me to ponder the “what if” related to this awesome and infinitely valuable imputation. What if Christ’s righteousness weren’t fully imputed to me and I only received some of this righteousness and had to work with it until it was fully formed in me? That is the essence of the doctrine of the infusion of righteousness, as I understand it, as held by Roman Catholicism. This theological understanding is that we are given some of Christ’s righteousness, but before we can be accepted into heaven, we must be completely purified. That is where the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory comes into play.

Other than the problem (an enormous and insurmountable problem) that arises out of this theological framework that I must work to earn my righteous standing (justification) before God (simply based on the fact that Christ’s work was not sufficient to do it all completely), we have the bigger issue of continuing sin to deal with. And this problem is bigger than my Roman Catholic friends, I think, realize.

If I were given some righteousness of Christ (even up to 99.9% of it) I would still not be able to “attain” a righteous standing before God. Because if, immediately following this infusion, I was attempting to find a way to complete my righteousness and I sinned even one time, I would be back to square one; a wretched and completely unrighteous sinner.

Before the fall, Adam was perfectly sinless and right with God (i.e. blameless in His sight). It took only one sin for Adam to go from being sinless and perfectly acceptable before God to being a wretched sinner whose deserved end was death, both physically and spiritually. Only one sin! If Christ had sinned, but only once, what would have been the result of His death on the cross? I’ll tell you this, He wouldn’t have been an acceptable sacrifice that could atone for anyone’s sin…not even His own. He would have been justly under the condemnation of the Father. So what makes men think that we are somehow different than our father, the first Adam, or the Lord, the second Adam?

If I, after repenting of my sins and trusting in Christ and having received the infusion of 99.9% of Christ’s righteousness, The War with Sin and the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousnesssinned in any way, shape, or form, that righteousness would do me no good. I would be in the same predicament that I was prior to receiving that infusion of righteousness. I would, again, be a fallen and wretched sinner hanging over the chasm of God’s just wrath and judgment, and holding on for dear life, but only barely able to grasp the firmly rooted shrub of God’s divine patience. But once God has determined that his patience has run its course, the roots of that shrub give out, and I would fall to my eternal demise. (See 2 Peter 3:9)

So, you see, the necessary doctrine of imputation is directly linked to the clear biblical teaching of justification by faith apart from works of the law. Since scripture, from beginning to end, is clear that we are justified by faith alone and our works will not and cannot make us right before God, we must earnestly defend this doctrine. We cannot make any compromises on this doctrine, because if we do, the very infinite rock that we are trying to stand upon for our salvation will become an immeasurable boulder that looms above our heads and will completely and totally ruin us in the end.

May the Lamb receive all of the glory and reward for His suffering.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yoga and the Christian:
Do They Go together like Apple Pie and Baseball or Oil and Water?

Since I graduated from college nearly a decade ago (near by a month, now), I have been increasingly made aware of a trend inside of evangelical Christendom. There are many trends, but one of them is the insertion of contemplative prayer and Yoga into an acceptable forum so that self professed Christians can participate while still staying inside of the bounds of Christendom. It seems now that many people inside of Christendom practice Yoga, and many of the correlating churches encourage it and facilitate it as a way to pray and get closer to God.

My response to this type of action, both on the part of individuals and modern Christendom as a whole, has been one of alarm, confusion, clarification, frustration, and now contention. This issue has come to the forefront of my thinking in recent weeks and months because not only am I aware of a large mass of people participating in these actions in a quasi-disassociated realization, but I have sadly come to find out that many of my friends and acquaintances from years gone by are being deceived into believing that this type of activity is at worst somewhat edgy, but still acceptable, or at best it is one of the best ways to do our personal worship and prayer time.

Some time ago I listened to Todd Friel interview a Hindu Swami (I believe his name was Swami Parum) about the growing phenomenon of Christian Yoga. The Swami was fairly offended by this trend and said that it would be as possible to have some form of Christian Yoga1 as it would be to have a Hindu Baptism. His point was obviously very tongue in cheek because I have never heard of anyone trying to be baptized into Hinduism.

The point was that it would be impossible to separate the water ceremony practiced in or near a shrine of some sort that may be called “Hindu baptism” from the Christian symbolism of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A Hindu performing the act of baptism would, by nature of the act, be affirming what the Bible says about Jesus in His death and resurrection whether they wanted to or not. In the same way since Yoga is the Hindu (based) spiritual practice used to “connect with the Divine”, it has certain implications and ramifications. Everywhere I look, the description of Yoga always includes the fact that it is or has a “spiritual” component.

Here are a list of such references from the Yoga community from people who would not put themselves under the dogmatic claims and theology of Evangelical Christianity:

“Yoga, in general, is a spiritual practice or discipline that helps the individual unify his/her body, mind, and heart.”2
“Hinduism is not like a recipe ingredient that can be extracted from Yoga. Says Subhas Tiwari, professor of Yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla.: ‘Yoga is Hinduism.’”3
“The practice of Yoga does not only focus on physical postures to improve the body, but deals with all the aspects of our being and our lives. C.E., Patanjali who is considered the father of Modern Yoga compiled 195 aphorisms which are called the Yoga Sutra. In the Yoga Sutra, he described the eight aspects of a Yogic Lifestyle and called it the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The limbs are practical guides to a person's personal development to achieve the harmony of the mind, the body and the spirit which leads to Samadhi or enlightenment.

This is the ultimate goal of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is characterized by the state of ecstasy and the feeling that you and the universe are one. It is a state of peace and completion, awareness and compassion with detachment.”4
"The soul purpose of all forms of yoga is Spiritual-Realization. The various authentic yogas are the progressive religious disciplines of Hinduism."5

The advertisement for the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in Manahawkin New Jersey promotes Yoga and Hinduism with the following questions, “If you are ready for the great adventure to Spiritual/Self-Realization... to uncover the essence of spirituality and religion... to understand what is Yoga–the religion of Hinduism... to discover the Love, Light and Energy within... to help reduce violence... to learn to relax and lead a healthy life...”6 and then you are directed to view more of their material.

It seems clear to me that Yoga is the method of worshipping demons (see 1 Corinthians 10) that was instituted in the Hindu religion. I do not see a way for any rational person to hold on to the autonomy and innocence of practicing Yoga after a serious look (or even a cursory, but fair, one) at the origins of Yoga inside of Hinduism. There is no way that any Christian should ever use this eastern mystical and otherwise non-Christian practice in any form for worshiping Jesus Christ.

I was reading what Brian Flynn had to say about Yoga and I came across a very good text of Scripture that deals with this issue. But first, I’ll give just a little bit of background on who this guy is. He was born and raised a church going Catholic in New York, but after he had been out on his own for some years he said, “I ventured or perhaps waded into Buddhism, Hinduism, and Transcendental Meditation. I eventually embraced the New Age” He eventually became so immersed in this New Age movement that he was “able to perform psychic readings and was quite good at it.” He goes on to say that the power behind his psychic abilities, known as his spirit guides, were demons. And once God saved him, he was able to see the demonic and satanic activity in this type of “spirituality” for what it is.7

Just as a quick sidebar, I don’t just take Brian’s testimony of his experience as the reason for believing that Demons are behind various pagan religions and forms of witchcraft. One only needs to read of the idolatry demon possession in the Bible in order to see that the Bible teaches that demons are behind pagan religions and the power in any form of mysticism or witchcraft (see Deuteronomy 32:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:15ff). Well, in an article on Yoga, Flynn another passage in Deuteronomy that is germane to this issue.
1"These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3You shall tear down their altars and smash their {sacred} pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 12:1-4)

The focus of this passage is not primarily that the Israelites shouldn’t worship demons or idols (that is clear from all of Moses’ writings), but this specific section makes clear that there needs to be a distinction in how they worshipped. They were not to incorporate the pagan practices of worshiping their false gods into worship of God. The application to our modern time is that we dare not incorporate Yoga into our Christian worship practices because this type of compromise is forbidden by God.

What about the “ohm” or the mantra that practitioners of Yoga are encouraged to do? Some choose to do this, some do not, but many more are lulled into practicing this as well. Without getting into all of the technicalities of this, let me just cut to the quick and say that the reason for saying the “ohm” or a mantra is to empty or quiet one’s mind. A mantra is defined as “a sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities.”8 It isn’t important what the practitioner says, the could say “ohm”, “la”, or even recite the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 7, the repetition of words and sounds in the manner that is taught is the way to quiet your mind.

The problem with this is manifold. First of all, I have heard on numerous occasions (from numerous sources) that proponents of this type of mantra chanting that is often associated with yoga empties the mind, but you must be careful because you may get an evil spirit when doing this. I heard this attributed to a proponent of Yoga and meditation who would never identify himself as a Christian. Knowing that since I cannot find the source material for that statement and that hearsay is practically worthless, I have a better authority to speak on this issue. In Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus teaches that demons will go to occupy people minds and hearts that are “unoccupied, swept, and put in order.” Although He was not teaching about the mental emptiness inside of this pagan practice, but He was speaking about a religiosity or “spiritualism” that left the inside of a person bare of the protection of the Holy Spirit.

“But Eric, Christians can’t be possessed by demons since we’re already indwelled with the Holy Spirit.” I agree, but that doesn’t mean that by dropping all of our mental faculties and empty our mind of any kind of engaged defense against temptation or influence that we will be unharmed by demonic influence. Even if it weren’t possible that we would be more susceptible to demonic influence in this process, we still should not ever pray in this mantra fashion. The “ohm” or mantra type exercises go outside of the realm of any acceptable Christian practice. We are not instructed to empty our minds, but to fill our minds by dwelling on what is good and lovely and worthy of praise. And the practice of mantra or repetitive prayer is explicitly forbidden by Christ Himself.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that the gentile pagans prayed with meaningless or vain repetition. I think that it has been the method of demonic religions from the beginning of time.

Now, I laid this groundwork regarding the spiritual nature of Yoga knowing (hoping) that the majority of my friends and acquaintances who have been engaging in and practicing Yoga have been doing so simply as a form of exercise, and they would classify themselves (by affiliation or by basic doctrinal confession) as Evangelical Christians. I understand the desire to get and remain healthy, and so now I would like to look at the idea of practicing Yoga that is completely divorced from any spiritual component, whether Christian or Hindu, and attempt to show why even doing it for this reason would be wrong.

Again, I want to state adamantly that I do not think it is possible to separate Yoga from Hinduism in any way. But, in order to deal with the desire to “just do Yoga” for exercise or stress relief without any spiritual goal, I will not hammer on that point any further.
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

This verse has been brought up in defense of practicing Yoga for some type of non-spiritual exercise or recreation. Well, in this verse, Paul here is telling the Corinthians that they can feel free to eat the meat sacrificed a to heathen idols because it is not sinful to do so (i.e. eating meat is neither righteous nor sinful). However, if a less mature Christian brother (in that culture, he was probably recently saved out of the exact paganism that sold its leftover sacrificial meat in the market) is unable to partake of that meat because it is sinful to him, then the more mature Christian is not to eat of the meat either. I think that this is a great passage to look at in the context of this discussion, but not in the way that defenders of practicing Yoga would like it to be.

Eating meat, even meat sacrificed to demons, is not the same as participating in or copying a worship practice intended for a demon. We are instructed on how to pray, worship, take the Lord’s Supper, and other things, but we are not told where we can or cannot buy our meat. When it comes to buying meat, just don’t ask if it were sacrificed to idols and enjoy, that is part of the message of 1 Corinthians 10. The application to the modern day could be buying coffee from Starbucks or Caribou.

Starbucks is a big mover and shaker inside of the pro-homosexual agenda in the U.S. and Caribou is owned by an Islamic firm that is in favor of Sharia law (i.e. world domination by Muslims). I can choose to buy my coffee from either of them and not be sinning. However, if I were with you and you were so outraged at the political/social activism of either or both of these companies; it would be sinful for me to take you out to coffee at one of these establishments.

Again, I don’t believe that 1 Corinthians 10:23 supports a Christian practicing Yoga. Furthermore, I think that the beginning of the passage goes farther to show that even though God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, He still destroyed many of them (most) because of their sinful behavior.

In the same manner that we should not excuse Yoga as being acceptable because of 1 Corinthians 10:23, we should also not foolishly dive into it because it seems like a good thing.

Why should I avoid drugs (i.e. marijuana) if I view them as a good thing? Why should I not (if I were a single man) go out on a date with a lady who I care about and engage in intimate (non-sexual) behavior? They both seem excellent to me, and they make my body feel good? Why not? Because the Bible does give us instructions on what to do and what not to do regarding these types of things. Does it explicitly say “don’t smoke pot” or “don’t go to second base with your girlfriend” or “don’t practice Yoga”? No! But the principles for how we are to deal with drugs are present in the Scriptures. The principles for how we are to interact with women are present. The principles for worship and prayer are present too. Just because something seems…neutral…doesn’t mean that it is. Just because much of our culture says that participating in something is okay or even beneficial doesn’t mean that it is.

The principle for pot is the same as alcohol – don’t be drunk (Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3). The word translated “sorcery” and listed among the “deeds of the flesh” that will result with those who “practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19,21) The Greek word translated as sorcery is the same root word for the English “pharmacist” and carries the meaning of “the use or the administering of drugs”9 (see also Acts 19:19 and Revelation 18:23).

As far as how we should deal with intimacy before marriage; without getting into a long (and we could) discussion about purity and how far we need to keep ourselves pure, let me say one thing. If you, sir or madam, can kiss, cuddle, or touch without either party lusting in your mind, then that may be acceptable. But, there is not a person living who could do that without crossing the line over to lust, and lust is just the same as adultery (Matthew 5:28).

In the same vein of thought, going to a Mosque, rolling out a mat, facing east, and bowing down towards Mecca multiple prescribed times a day would not be an acceptable way to pray to God, even if you are praying to Jesus (see Deuteronomy 12:1-4). Making a statue or getting a picture depicting Christ and placing a bowl of incense below it while praying to Jesus and focusing on the image that is before you is not an acceptable way to pray before God (Exodus 20:4).

And to my friends who want to practice Yoga with the thought that it would be detached from any spiritual aspect and only use it for a form of exercise, it would be the same as spouting off profane and blasphemous curses to God and to others with the goal of practicing diction and enunciation in order to speak better. Likewise, training with and competing in the “I hate Christ” Decathlon may be the best form of physical exercise around, but it would not be something that would glorify God by our participation in it. And finally, playing with an Ouija board is not a God honoring or an acceptable form of family entertainment even if we do believe that there is nothing spiritual or satanic about it. In the same way, practicing Yoga is not a form of exercise that is neutral and that would be ok for Christians to participate in.

There are some things that cannot be separated from the pagan and satanic affiliations that stem from where practice originated from (and from where it still flourishes). Yoga is one of them. In no way is right to compare a Christian practicing Yoga to Paul’s instruction on the Christian’s freedom in purchasing meat that had been sacrificed to idols. We must be diligent and not let our guard down; otherwise those who come after us may not hear the true gospel from the very churches that we attend.

1 “Christian Yoga” is supposed to be the practice of Yoga that is separated from Hinduism and able to be done in such a way that the Hindu religion is not present or dominant in that practice.


3 Robert A. Davis, “Stretching for Jesus,” Time, September 5, 2005,9171,1098937,00.html



6 Ibid.



9 This is by no means a condemnation against medical treatment, but against the use of drugs to get into an altered or “enhanced” state of consciousness for some nefarious purpose.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Galatians 5:16-21

Here is the rough/basic outline that I came up with when studying this passage:

  1. The Command
  2. The Contention/Struggle
  3. The Flesh
    1. The Deeds
    2. The Result

1. The Command: “Walk in the Spirit” What does it mean?1
  1. It is not: its negative is given in the following section “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
  2. It is: It’s positive might best be seen in Ezekiel 36:26,27 (See also John 3:3ff).
    26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.“(Ezekiel 36:26,27)
    “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. To “walk in the Spirit” seems to mean that when we are saved/transformed, we desire to and are enabled to do good things for good reasons.
2. The Contention/Struggle:
  1. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another,” (5:17a)
    1. this reminds me/seems like Romans 7:14-25
    2. Rom 7:19, 24 “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”
  2. “so that you may not do the things that you please.” (17b)
    1. The idea seems to be that the Spirit halts the inclination to sin & that we are able to resist doing the “things that you please”
    2. “which may be understood both of evil things and of good things. The former seems to be chiefly the apostle's sense; since the whole of this text is a reason given why those who walk spiritually shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, because they have a powerful governing principle in them, the Spirit, or grace; which though the flesh lusts against, and opposes itself unto, yet that also rises up against the flesh, and often hinders it from doing the works and lusts of it.”2
      “Believers do not always do what they wish to do. There are those moments in every Christian’s experience when the wishing is present but the doing is not. The Spirit often halts what our flesh desires, and the flesh often overrides the will that comes from the Spirit. It is no surprise that this frustrating conflict led Paul to exclaim, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?’3
      (Rom. 7:24)”
    3. It is important to note that the struggle that we see in Romans 7 & Galatians 5 is not an excuse to use in order to “justify” our actions when we do, in fact, sin. We are given the ability to resist the temptation and sin in every area…
      “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

      …because God also knows how to rescue us, the believers, from our temptation…
      “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:9)

      …and thus we have the continuing witness of our own fleshly sinfulness, wickedness, and rebellion against God that would, if possible, still justly condemn us in the Judgment after we have been justified if that were possible.

      It is, I think, on this truth that we are still so wretchedly wicked now (although still less so in practice, in desire, and in constitution than before we were saved) that the doctrine of the imputation of righteousness must be restated and defended. For if some of the righteousness of Christ were infused into me upon conversion instead of it all being credited to me, my first sin that I commit after that time would put me back in the same state as Adam. It seems that one sin is much more powerful than many righteous acts because God demands holiness and perfection.

      13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY , FOR I AM HOLY.’” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

      This is true with the historical truth of Adam as seen in the fall of mankind as well as the doctrinal and biblical account of the Second Adam. For one single sin would have caused Christ’s sacrifice to be invalid and unable to save; so one sin in our attempt to “become holy” as a means of getting to heaven would put us back to square 1…a fallen and wretched sinner who is hanging over the chasm of God’s just judgment, and holding on for dear life, he is only able to barely grasp the firmly rooted shrub of God’s divine patience (2 Peter 3:9).
3. The Flesh (Gal 5:19-21)
  1. The Deeds
    1. immorality, (Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 5:1; 1 Cor 6:13,18; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:3; Jude 7; Rev 2:14,20,21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3,9; 19:2)
    2. impurity, (Rom 1:24; Rom 6:19; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 2:3; 1 Thess 4:7)
      1. This seems to be connected with sexual sins in this context as well as in Romans 1:24; 2 Cor 12:21; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:7. Also, this idea is coupled & associated with the mentality and sin of greed (interesting correlation) in the Ephesians and Colossians references.
      2. So, primarily, this context and most of the passages in the NT that use this word refer mainly to the concept of sexual purity. However, this extreme description is not only limited to physical/sexual immoral behavior, but also to the prostituting and abuse of the doctrine of God.

        In the same letter, Paul uses this word in referring both to sexual immorality and to doctrinal error:
        “For our exhortation does not come from error orimpurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.( 1 Thess 2:3-4)
        “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity , but in sanctification.” (1 Thess 4:3-7)
    3. sensuality, (Mark 7:22; Rom 13:13; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2, 18; Rev 18:3)
    4. idolatry, (1 Cor 10:14; Gal 5:20; Col 3:5)
    5. sorcery, - this seems to mean witchcraft, but in our day it is most equivalent to mind altering drugs…,(Acts 19:19; Rev 18:23)
    6. enmities, (Gal 5:20; Eph 2:15; 2:16)
    7. strife, (Rom 1:29; 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Phil 1:15; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:9)
    8. jealousy, (Acts 5:17; 13:45; Rom 11:14; 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 10:22; 2 Cor 11:2; 12:20; Gal 5:20; James 3:14; James 3:16)
    9. outbursts of anger, This phrase singularly appears here, but it brings to mind the qualifications of an elder who is not to be “addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable,” (1 Tim 3:3). Pugnacious refers to the fighter/brawler and the elder (as well as all Christians as we’ll see in the Fruits of the Spirit) are to be peaceful.
    10. disputes, (2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:9)
    11. dissensions, (Acts 15:2; Acts 23:7,10; 24:5; Rom 16:17; Gal 5:20; 1 Tim 2:8)
    12. factions, (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20)
    13. envying, (Matt 27:18; Mark 7:22; 15:10; Rom 1:29; Gal 5:21, 26; Phil 1:15; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1)
    14. drunkenness, (Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3)
    15. carousing, (Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:13)
    16. “and things like these,” This simply means that Paul’s list is representative of the sinful behavior, the deeds of the flesh, that bring forth the same result.

      Although this is not a complete “end-all, be-all” list, it does show the interrelatedness of sins (i.e. one leading to another – drunkenness leads to carousing) as well as to hit on three groups of sins:
      1. Those primarily directed against God4: Idolatry
      2. The obvious directed against man: enmities, carousing, drunkenness
      3. The incognito (mental/inner) sins against man: envying, jealousy
  2. The Result:
  3. "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:21)
    9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)
    3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

    6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Eph 5:3-8)

1 John Piper’s sermon “Let Us Walk by the Spirit” (March 1, 1981) really helped me to get an initial grasp on the phrase “walk in the Spirit”.

2 Gill, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:17". "John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". . 1999.

3 “Galatians” The MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur Jr. p. 156

4 All sins are against God and He is always the primary One who is offended, but some are more blatantly aimed at Him directly.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Question on Studying

Q: How do you study with two very little chilren who always run at a high octane?

A: Two words "Sound Management"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Attainable Goal for Instructing Our Children

I heard a good and convicting comment when listening to podcasts today and it was this,

“Every six year old in this church should be able to answer the question, ‘How could God punish sin in Jesus if Jesus had no sin?’ And if our six-year-olds cannot answer that question, we need to beef-up our devotional life at home.” – John Piper1
Piper said that when he picked the age of six, he was giving the middle age of where children should be able to answer this question. I think what he means by this is that children who grow up in our (believer's) homes should be able to answer this question in a basic way at the age of three. The answer that the children should be able to say is that God didn't punish Jesus for His sins, but for our (my) sins....

We should point our children to (and know them ourselves) the following passages in the Bible:
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3)

“who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Galatians 1:4)

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” (1 Peter 3:18)2
If our children can get that fact straight as early as 3 (and it is possible), just think how fertile the soil will be for the gospel when they are old enough to understand it deeper and respond in repentance of sin and trusting the savior for salvation.

Christ saves through grace and faith, but as parents and workers in the church, and even more so as parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children these things as of first importance even before they can talk with us. It seems to me that the instilling of this kind of teaching into our children with verbal communication is the second step that follows them hearing it from us to one another and seeing it in how we live.

Grace be with you all.

1 “What the Law Could Not Do, God Did Sending Christ, Part 2” by John Piper as heard on the 2/8/07 Desiring God Radio Netcast, originally preached on November 4, 2001.

2 All emphasis shown in these passages is mine.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


After church on Sunday I was fellowshipping with one of my good friends and I asked him for some feedback on the lesson that I had just given. I did so on this occasion because during the lesson on Galatians 5:1-15 I made a statement that was either miss-stated or just plain wrong. Both are conclusions are completely plausible given what was said and the difference would depend on what I meant when I said what I did…. Ok, if that wasn’t convoluted enough, let me summarize the situation.

“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
In this passage there are a few words and phrases used that seem to cause readers’ eyebrows to go up (they did for me). The concerning phrases are “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace” because I have seen them used as arguments for the fact that someone can lose their salvation. Put another way, some people use this text to argue that you can become un-justified before God. I fully and whole-heartily reject this notion based on the overwhelming testimony of Scripture.1

There are passages of Scripture (like this one) that can seem to be in conflict with that theology, and so I wanted to explore that for a bit. My basic point to the class was three fold:
  1. The texts of John 6:35-44; 10:27-29, and Romans 8:28-30 are so explicitly clear about the security of the believer. Once he or she is truly saved, there can be no doubt as to the truth of the doctrine of eternal security.
  2. The letter to the Galatians is addressed to a church that has genuine believers in it (Peter and Barnabas are mentioned by name), but there are also unsaved false teachers in their midst. The audience is diverse enough that we cannot use this passage as a sweeping contradiction of eternal security. Basically, I appealed to the context (audience) of the whole letter when making this point.
  3. The overall flow of Paul’s argument in the book is to contrast the impossibility of works righteousness with salvation by faith apart from works of the Law. This truth is conveyed very clearly in various places in the letter including the above verse.
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." (Galatians 2:21)

“Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” (Galatians 3:21)
After having made this point, Stu, my good friend, pointed out that the context of this verse was utterly clear and that Paul was speaking to those people who are trying to be justified by works and that they are not connected with the gospel of Christ. My comment in class and afterwards to Stu was one of frustration over having poorly stated what was going on there. But even more so, I was frustrated that the direct context of the verse didn’t hit me in that same (and correct) way until he voiced it. God bless the discerning, loving, and gentle correction of Christian brothers and sisters.

After I thanked Stu for his “iron sharpening iron” addition to class, we continued talking and my use of the word “Christendom” was brought up. Over the past few weeks this word has been creeping more and more into my vocabulary in an attempt to make a distinction between all things and people who would call themselves “Christian” and true Christianity. My concern is that there are so many people, denominations, religions, and world views that are lumped into what culture calls Christianity that it has made this group indefinable and vacuous amalgam.

So, in an attempt to show my disassociation with groups with heretical doctrine that culturally fall under the all encompassing umbrella of Christianity, I refer to that group as Christendom. Technically speaking, these two words are synonyms, but since the latter is almost never used and virtually unknown in the common vernacular, I am using it in order to elevate the use of and the definition of Christianity to only include those who hold to the doctrines set forth by the Bible. Namely the views expressed by the five “solas” of the reformation (sorry Rome) and the Trinity (sorry T.D. Jakes; sorry Gov. Mitt Romney2) to name a few.

I did not mention the doctrines of grace and various doctrines on Spiritual gifts in the above list for a reason. I believe that those issues are very important, but I can (and do) disagree with family and good friends of mine on some of these issues and I think that they’re wrong. However, regardless of who is right or wrong on these secondary issues3, and I do firmly believe that there is a right and a wrong, that does not thrust one outside of true Christianity where Jesus Christ is truly worshiped.

In other words, when I use the word “Christendom” I am referring to the world wide community of people who would call themselves Christians, and it would (or may, depending on the context of my statement) include Roman Catholics, Modalists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Protestants, and many more groups. And when I use the word “Christianity” or “Christian”, I will attempt to reserve its application to those groups who at least claim and seem to try and hold onto the essential doctrines of Scripture.

1 Please read “The Perseverance of the Saints (a.k.a. Once Saved Always Saved)” for more information on this topic.

2 He’s a member of the Mormon religion, and they believe that Jesus is a created being. That’s enough to make them heretics and outside of the bounds of Christianity.

3 They secondary in relevance to the central and overall message of the gospel, but not secondary so as to show that they are unimportant. Please see Fundamentalism for more thoughts on the "secondary" topic.

Monday, April 02, 2007

God is Love

Amen! God is love and I have great hope and security knowing the truth that is communicated in John’s epistle. As a matter of fact, this statement of truth comes from one of the very first bible verse sections that I ever memorized. I learned these few verses because of a song that I sang in Sunday school.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)
I love and believe the verses cited above. However, I believe that these verses are being abused and mistreated inside of Christendom and are being played as the trump card in defining the sum of God’s attributes. God is love. He is more than “just” love, He is perfect and complete love in its purest form. He is the definition of love, because it is only our basis of knowledge of Him that we have any definition or application of love. However, God is also angry with sin and His wrath will be upon those who die in their sins.

Let me make a quick caveat and say that in no way do I want to communicate that God is unloving. To say that God is unloving is like saying that a square is round. But saying that God is loving and filled with wrath is not making the farcical display of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Let me use the picture of a Rubik’s Cube in an attempt to illustrate my point. We could describe this shape in a variety of ways. Perhaps a simplistic way would be to say that it is square or that it is a cube. We could also describe this same cube as being a specific size (large or small) and that it is red, yellow, and blue (and with a bit more research we would find that it usually is also includes the colors orange, white, and green as well). We could also say truthfully that it has pointy edges and go on to describe the various ways that the cube can be shifted and mixed up. I would not tell someone that they are distorting the description of this cube if they described it with the detail above. Likewise, simply calling it a cube is true even if only in a very shallow or general sense. Saying that God is love is true and I would never say that He is not. However, this description is not the fullest expression of who God is in the same way that describing this object is a cube doesn’t give us the full and true picture of what it is either.

If I were to say that describing this object as a cube was the absolute way to understand it and that no other attributes about it can be put forward as equally valid in helping to fully describe and clarify what it is, I would be communicating an utterly false perception of what it is. I recently heard a statement that was attributed to J.I. Packer that applies to this very issue and, perhaps, can illustrate my point. That saying goes like this, “A half truth presented as a whole truth is complete untruth.”

Now why am I going to such lengths to make my point that God is love but He is not just love or that He is not all loving? The two reasons are that the Bible doesn’t describe God as all loving (to the exclusion of being wrath-filled, just, and holy) and that people often state that God is love when confronted with their own sin in an effort to skirt the issue and say, “God will forgive me because that’s what He does…He is love.”

Let me expound a bit on the second of my two reasons first. The usual time that the statement “God is love” is made is when I (or when I hear others) attempt to either witness to an unbeliever or when I discuss Scripture and the gospel with those inside of Christendom. There is a large movement inside of Christendom where people are over emphasizing the love attribute of God so that it overshadows many other attributes. It is this method by which some theologians are questioning the reality, the existence, and the reason for hell. The philosophy says that a loving God would not send people to hell or try to convince people to believe in Him by using intimidation, coercion, and the threat violence.

This distortion of the message of the Bible and the gospel has been the message that has been communicated to western culture. It has been communicated so well that whether people go to church or not, they usually think of the God of the Bible only in terms of love. It doesn’t surprise me that those outside of the direct influence of a church would cling to this idea that God is loving while excluding His demands for personal perfection and holiness because this would be exactly the god that men would create for themselves in order to soothe their consciences because of their sinful living. However it is sad to think that this is the way that many inside of Christendom view God when they should have a fuller and more complete view of God from the Bible.

This leads me to the other reason, the primary of the two, that I am so ardently opposed to this view. This view of God is contrary to the gospel of Christ and the testimony of Scripture. There is a grand case (an open and shut case) to be made about the reality of an eternal hell, the final judgment, the wrath of God, and so many other doctrines about God that would show the truth of God’s nature. It would show that God is indeed a loving God, but it would also show that He is a Just God who must act justly towards lawbreakers. This would also show that the standard of God’s law is God Himself express in His holiness and seen through the moral law of God.

However, with the kind of “sound bite” theology that is usually employed during this type of discussion, any in depth look at a single attribute of God would fall on deaf ears, or it would be missed because of a short attention span. So I have compiled a list of “sound bite” descriptions of God like “The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:3) to use in order to combat the “God is love” defense that people use for why God wouldn’t judge mankind and send guilty sinners to Hell. Also, please notice that there are references in both the New and Old Testaments for these descriptions. On one hand this is unnecessary because God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), but since there is another common objection, I wanted to nip that one in the bud too.

This other objection is the one that says that the God of the Old Testament was the angry and wrathful one whereas the God of the New Testament is the peaceful and loving God. It’s the same God, but He’s changed in some way. No, it doesn’t make sense, but that is what people say. Funny, huh? So, without further ado, here is the list of “sound bites” to combat the assertion that God is love to the exclusion of or in an overshadowing way as to trump His other attributes.

There is nothing super scientific or theologically complex for how I came up with this list. I simply searched the Word of God for the occurrences of “God is” (135 times) and “the Lord is” (186 times) and here are some of the results.

God (the Lord) is…

... a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18)
... a God of knowledge (1 Samuel 2:3)
... a God of recompense, He will fully repay (Jeremiah 51:56)
... a light (Micah 7:8)
... a righteous judge (Psalms 7: 11)
... a shield (Proverbs 30:5)
... a sun and shield (Psalms 84:11)
... a victorious warrior (Zepheniah 3:17)
... a warrior (Exodus 15:3; Deuteronomy 20:4)
... a witness (Judges 11:10)
... avenging and wrathful (Daniel 9:14; Nahum 1:12)
... awesome (Deuteronomy 7:21)
... compassionate (Deuteronomy 4:31; Psalms 103:8; 116:5)
... evident (Romans 1:19)
... far from the wicked (Proverbs 15:29)
... God (1 Kings 8: 60)
... good (Psalms 34:8; 100:5; 1 Timothy 4:4)
... gracious (2 Chronicles 30:9)
... great (Deuteronomy 7:21 Psalms 95:3)
... greater than man (Job 33:12)
... greater than our heart (1 John 3:20)
... mighty (Job 36:5)
... my fortress (2 Samuel 22:33)
... my Good (Psalms 73:28)
... my king (Psalms 74:12)
... my light and my salvation (Psalms 27:1)
... my rock (2 Samuel 22:2)
... my salvation (Isaiah 12:2)
... my shepherd (Psalms 23:1)
... my strength and song (Exodus 15:2)
... my stronghold (Psalms 59:9. 17)
... not a man (Numbers 23:19)
... not slow about His promise (2 Peter 3:9)
... one (Deuteronomy 6:4: Galatians 3:20)
... refuge and strength (Psalms 46:1)
... righteous (Psalms 11:7; 129:4)
... ruler (Daniel 5:21)
... slow to anger (Numbers 14:18; Nahum 1:3)
... Spirit (John 4:24)
... the avenger (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
... the God of gods (Deuteronomy 10:17)
... the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3)
... the King of all the earth (Psalms 47:7)
... the Lord (Psalms 144:15
... the righteous one (Exodus 9:27)
... the salvation of Israel (Jeremiah 3:23)
... the strength of my heart (Psalms 73:26)
... the sustainer of my soul (Psalms 54:4)
... true (John 3:33)
... upright (Psalms 92: 15)
... wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson