Was God’s Law Written on Adam & Eve’s Hearts?

Many Bible teachers will say that “God’s law written on our hearts” simply means “the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.” And many Bible teachers will say there was nothing magical about the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I think many Bible teachers may be wrong.

Here’s an idea I’m pondering that seems to make a lot of sense:

God created humans with consciences so they would know right from wrong. The first two humans had consciences but they knew very little of God’s moral law.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was a magical tree (like the tree of life) and it gave them knowledge they did not previously have. When they ate the fruit from this tree, their eyes were opened and they knew God’s law. They immediately saw that they were naked and they were ashamed. They weren’t ashamed of the sight of their bodies, and they weren’t ashamed of their partners seeing their bodies, but the knowledge that naked bodies could be used in the future in shameful ways caused them to feel shame. They knew their nakedness would result in sin if not covered up. (There are numerous references in the law forbidding the uncovering of a relative’s nakedness.)

Adam and Eve would have passed their new-found knowledge on to the next generation, and they to the next generation, and so on (Genesis 26:5, Exodus 16:28). However, since humans found that God’s law brought conviction of sin, they ignored it or replaced it with their “morality” and failed to pass it on in its entirety. This is why God wrote the law on stone tablets and had Moses record the law for the Hebrews after bringing them out of Egypt (approximately 2500 years after revealing it to the first humans in the garden).

Pagans, from nations that had all but forgotten the law which was given to their ancient forefathers, still had consciences and basic knowledge of right and wrong. Romans 2:15 says although they did not have the law, they still had the “work of the law” written on their hearts as well as their consciences so on the day of judgment, they would be judged according to how they lived up to the knowledge they had.

Around 600 years before Christ, Jeremiah prophesied of a time when when God’s law would not just be known but would be obeyed. He said a new covenant would be made between God and men in which He would write his law on the hearts of his people. At that time he said people would know God but not because they were taught about him by a friend or neighbor. And he also said that at that time their sins would be forgiven.

We now live in this new covenant. Through the word of God who became flesh (and not through another set of stone tablets), we have come to know God in the person of Jesus. We have learned the law of God; it has once again been written on the hearts of men through the teaching of Jesus and his apostles (Acts 17:30).

Today, just as in the past (Psalm 40:8, Isaiah 51:7), those who know God’s moral law and live with a clear conscience in regards to this knowledge have the law written on their hearts.

In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve received the law after eating the forbidden fruit; later, the Hebrew people received the law again through the prophet Moses; but in the new–and superior–covenant, we have received the law from God in the flesh. And we have not only received the law, which makes us conscience of our sins, but when we place our faith in God, our sins will now be forgiven!

Inerrancy, Part 2

Is the Bible inerrant?

Fifty years ago almost every Christian denomination’s statement of faith said it was; however, today most only say that the original manuscripts were.

So what about the Bible you pick up at Barnes & Noble or download to your Kindle? Well, because of discrepancies in the ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew manuscripts, there are minor differences from version to version. For example, the King James which used the 15th century Textus Receptus as its source for the New Testament varies in many places from the NASB which is based on earlier manuscripts that were unknown of in the 17th century. Bible versions based on earlier manuscripts either bracket, footnote, or omit verses that show up in later manuscripts such as the Textus Receptus. (Similarly, the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text in places, which accounts for minor differences in Old Testament versions.) Are any of them inerrant? If so, which ones?

Most evangelical biblical scholars today prefer to speak of the Bible as infallible, claiming that it is infallible in all that it teaches regarding God and salvation. However since many consider the terms inerrant and infallible synonymous, there are some who avoid the confusion surrounding these terms and simply speak of the Bible as “inspired,” “authoritative,” “truthful,” and “trustworthy.”

To read my first post on inerrancy, click here: http://www.simmondsfam.com/blog/faith/2012/06/12/biblical-inerrancy-what-does-it-mean/

What if Satan were not a fallen angel?

What if Satan isn’t an angel? What if he never “fell” but was a murderer and has sinned “from the beginning” (John 8:44, 1 John 3:8)?

What if Satan was created as a tempter, and he not only succeeded in getting the first humans to sin but he also succeeded in getting many of the angels to sin (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4, 9)?

What if God created Satan to be his adversary and enemy?

What if God’s plan from the beginning was to place his creatures in an environment where they would have to choose to either love him or to yield to the temptation to love his creation while rejecting him?

Q: What about the fact that all that God created was good?
A: It could be that as a part of God’s creation, Satan is “good” in that he fulfills his role as an adversarial tempter in God’s good plan.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible clearly say that Satan was an angel who rebelled?
A: See my earlier post: http://www.simmondsfam.com/blog/faith/2012/08/14/who-is-lucifer-2/

Q: If God created Satan to tempt, why will he cast him into the lake of fire for doing what he was created to do (Revelation 20:10)?
A: If Satan were a liar and murderer from the beginning and created to be such, it would be like creating a Frankenstein in a laboratory with the foreknowledge that this creature must be done away with after it has served its purpose because it is just too dangerous. If Satan were created to be both an adversary and an enemy, then God would not be casting him into the lake of fire for being a good and faithful servant. Instead God would be casting him into the lake of fire because there is no place for this evil adversarial tempter in the new earth.

Perhaps…
1. God will destroy Satan when he is through with him, i.e. burned up in the lake of fire.

or

2. Satan (and perhaps the demons) will torment rebellious humans in the lake of fire. I say “perhaps the demons” because I think it’s possible that Satan will torment both the demons and the humans. (Satan would basically keep doing what he’s been doing only without restrictions.)

Feel free to reject all of these speculations. Who knows, in a year or two I might reject them. : )

Does God Answer Every Prayer?

Some will say that God answers every prayer with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” But is this true?

Consider what A.W. Tozer had to say on this matter:

CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, the cultivation of a psychology of uncritical belief is not an unqualified good, and if carried too far it may be a positive evil. The whole world has been booby-trapped by the devil, and the deadliest trap of all is the religious one. Error never looks so innocent as when it is found in the sanctuary.

One field where harmless-looking but deadly traps appear in great profusion is the field of prayer. There are more sweet notions about prayer than could be contained in a large book, all of them wrong and all highly injurious to the souls of men.

I think of one such false notion that is found often in pleasant places consorting smilingly with other notions of unquestionable orthodoxy. It is that God always answers prayer.
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To read this chapter from Tozer’s book Man: The Dwelling Place of God, click on this link: http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.21.htm

More and more Christians question New covenant tithing

Passing on the Plate: Why Your Congregation May not be Tithing
Janet Chismar, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer

Do members of your church seem reluctant to tithe? Do you know why? For many Christians, the issue of money is a touchy one. Mark Leeson of Fontana, Calif., says he tunes out whenever a pastor discusses giving. Part of his distaste stems from hearing televangelists who prescribe giving as the way to gain riches. Too often, says Leeson, these personalities link failing to give with a lack of prosperity. “Do we really need to buy God’s blessings?” he wonders.

Marcy Peters of Nashville, Tenn., understands that giving is a biblical mandate, but she questions whether a 10 percent “tithe” still applies to Christians today. “Isn’t tithing an Old Testament concept?” she asks. “I don’t think Paul ever talked about tithing.”

Peters is not alone in her confusion. In 2006, Ellison Research surveyed 1,184 people who attend Protestant churches at least once a month. Only 36 percent of respondents said they believe there is a biblical command to tithe 10 percent to their local church…
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To read the article in its entirety, click on this link: http://www.christianity.com/church/tithing-and-giving/passing-on-the-plate-why-your-congregation-may-not-be-tithing-11567702.html

You Can’t Take Communion

“Everyone here is welcome to participate in the Eucharist/communion today. For unbelievers it’s a morsel of bread and a sip of wine that really won’t benefit you in any way. But for the believers, it’s a beautiful sacrament. A morsel of bread and a sip of wine that reminds us of Jesus Christ and his willingness to die on a cross so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to God.”

If you heard this during a church gathering would you be freaked out? Why?

My whole life I’ve heard a prohibition from the pulpit preceding the Eucharist/communion against unbelievers participating, so I just assumed it was biblical. But not long ago, I decided to examine this prohibition, and I was surprised to find that, like the sinners prayer, it’s not in the Bible. The prohibition of unbelievers participating in communion comes from the Didache*, not the Bible.

Now some may argue that this prohibition shows love since it prevents people from participating in an unworthy manner and bringing sickness or death upon themselves (1 Cor 11:27-30). But the apostle Paul warned Christians not to eat or drink the bread and wine in an unworthy manner, i.e. treating it as an ordinary meal and using it to fill their bellies; he didn’t address whether or not unbelievers should be denied bread and wine. Furthermore, although it’s not in the context of church assembly, Paul says in the same epistle that we are not to judge unbelievers according to God’s standards and he also says that believers should feel free to eat with unbelievers.

Are unbelievers treated as second-class at church meetings, and if so, is this proper?

I’m just not sure the exclusion we see in church gatherings during the Lord’s Supper is loving or healthy. I have a hard time picturing Jesus saying, “Hey, buddy get out of line. You’re one of those unbelieving sinners.”

Unlike the ordinance of baptism, which represents both the washing away of our sins and the death of our old sinful self (when we go under the water) and our new life as a child of God (when we come back up out of the water), we are told by Jesus that the purpose of eating the bread and drinking the wine is to remember him and what he accomplished through his death. Paul says it is to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

With this in mind, why do we prohibit unbelievers in our assemblies from participating in the Lord’s Supper and not prohibit them from singing songs that remind us of Jesus and proclaim his death?

Now some of you may be thinking I have a low view of the Lord’s Supper, and if I understood that the bread and wine became true flesh and blood of Jesus once consumed, I would never entertain such heresy. And you might be right; however, I don’t see any reason to believe Jesus expected people to take him literally when he handed bread and wine to his disciples and told them it was his flesh and blood. (After all, we don’t take it literally when Jesus said, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” or “I am the vine.”) Furthermore, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples “Only those who believe I am the Son of God may eat and drink.” He served all of them, even Judas.
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*Some may consider the fact that this prohibition is in the Didache, which dates from the late first or early second century, as sufficient reason to maintain it today; however, it seems tradition, even long-standing tradition, is not a good reason. Afterall, we see the church in Acts met together daily and the individual members shared all they had with each other, but I don’t know of any believers today who see this as prescriptive rather than descriptive.

Differences lie in the definitions

If you listen to Calvinists and Arminians debate, you might walk away thinking Calvinists don’t believe in free will and Arminians don’t believe God is sovereign; however, neither of these accusations are true. In fact, both sides believe humans have free will and both sides believe God is sovereign.1 The differences lie in the definitions.

Calvinists define free will as the ability to freely choose; however, the choice is determined by one’s nature which is controlled by God and outside of the human agent’s control. So God is the primary causal agent and the human is an intermediate, or secondary, agent.

Arminians, however, believe in libertarian free will, which is the ability to freely choose within the parameters of one’s nature; however, since one’s free decisions shape one’s nature, the human agent is the sole, or primary, causal agent.

When it comes to God’s sovereignty, both sides agree that God has ordained all things, and all things are under his control.

Calvinists say that because God is always the primary causal agent, he renders certain all that he ordained.

Most Arminians say that because God exists outside of time in an “eternal now,” there is no past, present, or future with him; he is able to see all and as a result, know all. Therefore he is able to ordain all things.2

If terms are not defined, baseless accusations prevent understanding and meaningful dialogue!
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1Most Calvinists believe in free will; however, some deny it.
2Many Arminians are now embracing the Molinist view that says because God knew prior to creation what every person would freely choose to do in every feasible circumstance, he was able to create a world and place individuals in circumstances where they would freely choose in accordance with his master plan.

Unchurched at Church

I read an article back in October entitled The Reason You’re Failing at Making Converts. In the article, Lawrence Wilson argues that people don’t make life-altering decisions based on intellect alone. Therefore, he says, experience must precede decision; belonging must precede believing. While I think he may overstate his case a bit, he does make some good points when he talks about how “we design everything from our building to our worship experience around the needs and wants of churched people rather than creating a space where unchurched people can belong.”

So what should a meeting of followers of Christ look like? What should the building look like? Should there be songs? If so, what kind? Should there be a Bible teacher? What should be taught? Should money be collected during the service?

The local church I attend, Browns Mill, meets in a beat up space overtop a downtown business—a pizzeria on one side and a micro-brewery on the other. You won’t find 3-piece suits there, but you will find real people, a lot of smiles, good teaching, and plenty of coffee.

The music consists of short choruses, but thankfully, they don’t repeat the same lines too many times. It’s definitely churchy, but as a forty-something, I enjoy the acoustic guitar and hand drum (it probably has an official name, but as an ignorant non-percussionist, I’ll stick with hand drum).

There is no offering plate passed during service, just a wooden box back by the coffee for those who desire to give.

There is a time of listening to the pastor/Bible teacher read the passage of scripture planned for that day while the rest of us follow along in our Bibles (or in one of the Bibles intentionally scattered around the place). Unlike most local churches I’ve visited or been a part of, this one moves verse by verse through books of the Bible.

Of course, the teacher doesn’t just read; he explains what the authors were trying to convey when they wrote these passages, why they were written, and how they apply to followers of Christ living two thousand years after the time they were penned. He also reminds us every Sunday that it’s all about Jesus.

Near the end of the hour and a half meeting, there is a time of silent prayer followed by communion and a closing song.

Does it sound like unchurched people would feel comfortable here?

I think they would.

I think they wouldn’t feel intimidated by our building–no whitewash and steeple. I think they would like the warmth of the people. I think they might appreciate the fact that they don’t have to fret about their appearance–no ties or spit-shined shoes here. I think they would appreciate not being asked for money. Depending on their musical tastes, they might like the music. I think they would appreciate the fact that the pastor is just a regular guy, no robe, collar, or TV Preacher voice. And I think they would like the coffee.

That being said, I also think unchurched people wouldn’t be comfortable here.

They’d probably think the song lyrics were strange, and unless they were into karaoke, they might feel uncomfortable singing in public. The words in the Bible, and the accompanying teaching, might make them feel uncomfortable. And the time of silent prayer and communion time might freak them out.

So what’s the final verdict? What about this tension?

I actually think this tension is healthy, and if it weren’t there, I don’t think I’d be there.

Peace when making decisions…

Should followers of Christ use inner peace as a gauge when making decisions? If we have that peace, does it mean we can move forward? If we do not have that peace, does it mean we would be outside of God’s will if we moved forward? Do we have to pray to God for peace (or lack of peace) before making each decision, or is this something that operates automatically in the life of believers?

Let’s start with the first question: Should followers of Christ use inner peace as a gauge when making decisions?

I believe the answer is “yes”; we should use inner peace (or lack of peace) as a gauge—not the gauge—when making decisions. Throughout the Bible we are instructed to exercise wisdom; wisdom demands that we not discount feelings of unrest when considering whether or not we should do something. These feelings could be caused by our conscience letting us know that we are considering something that doesn’t align with God’s moral will, which is revealed in scripture. (On the other hand, since our conscience is limited by our knowledge, believers who are spiritually immature may feel peace about doing something immoral, or they may feel no peace when considering something which may not be immoral but they perceive it as such.) Feelings of unrest could also be caused by a conflict between our intellect and our desire, i.e., we want to do something but deep inside we know that it’s not the smartest thing to do. However, feelings of unrest may tell us nothing about whether or not our decision is good or bad; sometimes they simply indicate timidity, fear, or a lack of confidence. Finally, peace and unrest can coexist. We can have peace that comes from a clear conscience while at the same time being troubled by other factors: consider Jesus in Gethsemane before his crucifixion.

If my answer to the first question is correct, then the rest of the questions are irrelevant.

So, in summary, feelings of unrest do not necessarily mean you should not move forward, and feelings of peace do not necessarily mean you should move forward. Nevertheless, feelings should be taken into consideration, along with many other factors, to ensure the decisions we make are wise and pleasing to God.

WWPD – What Would Pharisees Do?

If the first statement below were true, wouldn’t the second be true as well?

1. A follower of Christ should not drink any alcohol because a person who struggles with drunkenness may see them and stumble.

2. A follower of Christ should not eat desserts because a person who struggles with gluttony may see them and stumble.

While you’re pondering the two statements above, let’s talk about Pharisees. We see in the New Testament that Pharisees added to God’s laws thinking more prohibitions would result in more holiness. According to Jesus, this was a bad idea! Well, there are Pharisees today who do the same thing. Have you ever heard statements like these:

  • Followers of Christ don’t go to movies (or don’t watch rated R movies).
  • Followers of Christ don’t smoke.
  • Followers of Christ don’t dance.
  • Followers of Christ don’t listen to rock music.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Am I saying Christians should watch bad movies, smoke, dance, and listen to rock music? No.
I am saying that where God’s word is silent, followers of Christ need to wisely choose what to let into their lives. And followers of Christ need to be careful not to legislate for God!

(In case you’re wondering, one of my favorite movies, Schindler’s List, is rated R. I don’t smoke, but a couple Bible teachers that I have great respect for, Charles Spurgeon & C.S. Lewis, did. And although I have little interest in dancing, Israel’s second (and favorite) king, King David, enjoyed it. And lastly, I love to listen to The Boomtown Rats, Billy Squier, Talking Heads, etc.)

“The Pharisees’ good intentions led them astray. They took the laws of God and added extra rules for good measure. These were called “fence laws.” Since women were viewed as a source of temptation and moral failure, the Pharisees prohibited rabbis from talking to a woman. They could not even walk along the same side of the street as a woman….They became stricter than God….Ungodliness is not always about the really bad people. Sometimes it is about the really good people who are more restrictive than God.”    ~Joseph Stowell