For the past 150 years or so, some so-called biblical scholars have assumed that everything has a natural explanation, that the supernatural cannot be real, and that therefore the prophets of old could not possibly have predicted the future. In a recent post, Idolatry and redemption today, I mentioned a temporary redemption that came through the Persian emperor Cyrus, as predicted in Isaiah 44.
He reversed the long-standing Assyrian/Babylonian policy of removing conquered peoples from their homeland. He ordered the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but every other identifiable ethnic group in his empire. Today I’m returning to that chapter, verses 26-28, as an example of the fulfillment of predictive prophecy.… Read the rest
I have spent considerable time over the years studying the creation story and reading some of the various things that have been written about it. From atheists to faculty at certain seminaries, a few criticisms of the Genesis account turn up constantly. (A retired preacher friend of mine, who loves referring to preacher training schools as “cemeteries,” is among many who has trouble detecting much difference between atheists and cemetery professors.)
Jesus looked at the law and turned traditional understanding of it on its ear. Is it any wonder that his apostles would do the same with the entire Old Testament? The book of Hebrews sets out to declare that Jesus is greater than the prophets, greater than angels, greater than temple worship, greater indeed than the best traditional Judaism had to offer.
Why? Because Jesus is Jehovah of the Old Testament, come in the flesh. I want to look at three of several psalms the inspired author quoted in the first two chapters.
This past Sunday was Pentecost. It coincides with an ancient Hebrew festival, but the events of Acts 2 on a particular Pentecost right after Jesus rose from the dead marks the birthday of the church. Alas, the church is divided into various Orthodox, Coptic, Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal denominations, but we all have but one birthday.
“They,” probably the same 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:15, gathered together in one place, and most certainly not for the first time. This group probably amounts to the first messianic synagogue. On Pentecost, Jesus baptized them with the Holy Spirit as he had promised.… Read the rest
North Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.
In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.
Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”
Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
These features justify the expense of the software.
All of these sentences imply two questions, really. Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war? Why? It seems that every time we attempt to justify something, a real or hypothetical skeptic has reasons why what what we want is not justified.… Read the rest
Today, we’re in an economic meltdown. People are suffering in these hard times. It appears now that when people act in their own self-interest—save, pay down debt, do the kinds of things that we all should have been doing in the first place—it makes the general economic climate even worse. Unfortunately, the scope of the trouble is so large and complex that looking for someone to blame is a lot easier than deciding what to do about it. So goes the coming election cycle.
Where is God in all this? Can we cry out to him for help, or is this mess somehow his judgment?… Read the rest
Is the Bible a reliable historical document? Can we trust it? How can we know the truth of the Bible? A careful examination of the introduction to Luke’s gospel gives us a lot to think about, because he wrote it to someone asking exactly the same questions.
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
Some people say that the Bible is full of contradictions. If they’re articulate enough, secular society considers them intellectually superior to people who simply believe the Bible as it is. And they certainly do, whether society does or not. I ought to know. I used to be one of them. Funny thing, though: the more I have studied the Bible, the harder it has become to find the contradictions. As much as I strive to be humble, I can’t help thinking that if everyone else studied the Bible in enough detail to understand what each author wanted to convey and the exact meaning of the words he used, they, too, would find it harder and harder to locate contradictions.… Read the rest
Romans 9 may be the most troublesome chapter in the New Testament. Misunderstandings of this chapter have led to a caricature of the doctrine of predestination that teaches that God in his sovereignty has already decided who will and will not be saved and, as a result, nothing mere humans do will. They have also led to centuries of Christian teaching that God rejected the Jews. Popular commentator William Barclay even declared that Paul got the whole thing wrong!
What is the place of Romans 9 within the entire book? Notice that it is possible to finish reading chapter 8 and continue immediately with chapter 12 without any sense of having missed anything.… Read the rest