Justin Martyr – Apology (1)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter three of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER III — CLAIM OF JUDICIAL INVESTIGATION.

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.

The Sin of Certainty – creation.com

the-sin-of-certainty-pennsThis review of Peter Enns’ (former professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) new book by Calvin Smith at Creation.com is worth noting here (posted June 14, 2016).

Enns has been and continues to be influential as a professing Christian scholar who uses a higher critical view of Scripture to promote popular teachings in Christian circles today, including such subjects as biblical authority, evolution, and now the nature of faith itself (not as certainty but as doubt, as the title to his book indicates).

I give you the introduction to Smith’s review and then a section from it on Enns’ evolutionary views, encouraging you to read the full review at the link below.

Peter Enns’ latest book reads like the average village atheist attempting to discredit the Bible, all the while assuring you that he’s a Christian trying to illuminate you on how to build your faith. It’s basically a re-hash of similar concepts we’ve seen before in his previous writings and reiterates that while the Bible doesn’t contain the truth, you can still believe and trust in God (whoever that might be).

And here is the section on Enns’ evolutionary perspective:

Creation

In his chapter on evolution Enns admits what Genesis plainly says.

“The problem for biblically centered Christians is that the Bible, right in the very beginning, tells us clearly that God created all life forms with a simple “Let there be … ” No common descent, natural selection, or billions of years required. So if Darwin was right, the Bible was wrong.”2

Now Enns is a committed theistic evolutionist and hence this isn’t a ‘problem’ for him. Which reveals he isn’t a ‘biblically centered Christian’. And he believes Darwin was right, which means he believes the Bible is wrong!

This would mean that God knowingly put contradictions in His word (or else the Bible isn’t actually inspired although Enns doesn’t comment on this directly). But proclaiming known contradictions amounts to lying (which is likely why Enns has a chapter blasphemously titled ‘God is a liar’9).

Perhaps Enns forgot Numbers 23:19 where Scripture makes something clear- “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind.”

(But of course that could just be one of those parts of the Bible you don’t have to take as plainly written in Enns’ way of thinking.)

For Enns the truth of the Bible isn’t what’s important, it’s ‘trust’ in God. Of course the word ‘trust’ is defined as; ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something’. So Enns shoots himself in the foot in his basic premise. How are Christians supposed to trust in God if His revelation to His people is un-trustworthy?

Source: The Sin of Certainty – creation.com

Christianity and Islam: Theologies Compared and Contrasted – J.D. Greear

TT-April-2016Yesterday I finished reading the main articles in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, including those on the theme of Islam. Both of the last two on this subject were excellent, including this one by Dr. J.D. Greear, author of Breaking the Islam Code (the other article  is “Sharing the Gospel with Muslims” by Dr. Bassam M. Chedid).

In his article – as the title indicates – Greear compares and contrasts the teachings of Christianity with those of Islam. After addressing a few misconceptions, he focuses on what he believes is the central difference – the doctrine of salvation. He calls Islam “the ultimate religion of works” and lays out plainly why this teaching is false and why Christianity has the only answer for man’s need of salvation.

This is what he says by way of introduction to this matter:

The biggest difference between Christianity and Islam is our view of salvation. Islam stands as a paragon of works-righteousness. Christianity alone stands as a religion of grace.

The Qur’an gives a long and detailed list of how to act, dress, think, and behave. If you follow carefully these instructions, Allah will approve of you, and you are more likely to be accepted into eternal bliss. Islam is the ultimate religion of works. From top to bottom, it exemplifies the principle “I obey; therefore, I am accepted.”

From here, Greear lays out three (3) reasons why this religion of works never works. Here is the first:

(1) Works-righteousness fails to address the “root” idolatries that drive our sin.

The root of sin is esteeming something to be a more satisfying object of worship than God. Works-righteousness religions, including Islam, fail to address that issue. They simply give a prescribed set of practices to avoid judgment or inherit blessings.

Islam, for example, warns Muslims of the terrors of hell and uses that to motivate Muslims to obey. It promises them sensual luxuries in heaven if they live righteously. Many Muslims pursue these things without caring for God at all. They are using God. For them, God’s favor is a means to an end. But any end other than God is idolatry.

The starkest New Testament example of this kind of attitude is Judas Iscariot. Many New Testament scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was disappointed with him. Judas wanted a Messiah who would reward “the righteous” (himself included) with power and money. Jesus taught that He Himself was the reward. Judas never accepted this. For him, Jesus was always a means to something else, and never the end itself.

Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God. Righteous acts are righteous only when they are done out of a love for righteousness and not as a means to anything else.

The Qur’an is not an adoring, worshiping love letter about God. It is a guide for what behavior will increase your chances of avoiding hell. Merit, threat, and reward form the entire foundation on which Islam is built. And this never addresses the root of man’s sin—our desire to substitute God with something else.

To finish reading the other two reasons, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Theologies Compared and Contrasted by J.D. Greear

What Makes a Cult a Cult? 5 Major Characteristics

Whats-the-Difference-RidenourAs we have pointed out here before, for our Sunday night discussion groups this year at Faith PRC we are studying the various major religions and cults of the world, using as a guide Fritz Ridenour’s book So What’s the Difference (Bethany House, 2001). Tomorrow night our group will be looking at two of the major cults – Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

At the beginning of the section of the book that treats the cults, Ridenour has an introductory chapter titled “Where Did the Cults Come From?” Part of that section defines five major characteristics that make a cult a cult – a group that claims to be genuinely Christian but that holds doctrines “contradictory to orthodox Christianity” (to quote the late Walter Martin).

Here are those five characteristics. I believe you will readily agree that these are what makes such groups unorthodox.

  1. “The first is that they reject the Trinity; that is, they disbelieve in Jesus Christ as God. Cults may say good things about Jesus and assign Him a certain position of importance, but they almost always attack or undermine the true biblical deity of Jesus Christ, either by lowering Him to the level of man or raising man to His level.”
  2. “Second, cultists usually believe that all Christian churches are wrong and that their group has the only real truth about God.”
  3. “Third, they claim to believe the Bible but they distort its teachings to suit their own peculiar view of mankind, God, the Holy Spirit, heaven and hell, salvation and many other doctrines. They usually find the source of these peculiar beliefs in their leaders, who claim to have new interpretations of the Bible or even valuable additions to it.”
  4. “A fourth point is that all cults deny that people can be saved by faith in Christ alone. They teach their members that they can make themselves right with God through good works and through obedience to the doctrines and requirements the cult has set down as ‘God’s will’ for their lives.”
  5. “Fifth, cults are skillful at using Christian terminology, but they are not talking the same language as biblical Christians. Beware of the semantics barrier. Commonly understood words like ‘God,’ ‘Christ,’ ‘faith,’ ‘sin,’ salvation,’ etc., mean entirely different things to a cultist and a Christian. The first task, then, when sharing your faith with someone who seems to have different ideas, is to define terms” (pp.111-112).

A little later the author adds these important words:

     As you learn about these various groups, be aware that your first line of defense against their lure and attractiveness is to know God’s Word and be able to ‘test all things’ with biblical truth (see 1 Thess.5:21,22; 2 Tim.2:4-16). Only by knowing the real difference between what you believe and what certain cultists believe can you reach out to them with the all-fulfilling truth and power of the gospel (p.113).

Christian Apologetics: Defending the Resurrection – Guy Waters

TT-Jan-2016To wrap up the featured articles on apologetics in the January 2016 issue of Tabletalk, Dr.Guy P. Waters addresses the vital subject of the resurrection (cf. link to full article below).

To show the Christian defense of this doctrine, he takes us to Paul’s defense of it in Athens on Mar’s Hill as recorded in the Scripture in Acts 17.

This is how Waters ends his treatment of Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, with the calling for the church to continue to do so:

Thus far, Paul has reasoned with the Athenians based upon what they know of God and of themselves from the creation. He then turns to a particular fact of history—God raised a man from the dead (v. 31). That God has lifted the sentence of death from Jesus and publicly vindicated Him means that Jesus was a righteous man. That is to say, He is unlike any other person who walked the face of the earth. This righteous Jesus had claimed on earth that He would judge all people (see John 5:19–29). The resurrection vindicated this claim. In raising Jesus from the dead, God publicly affirmed Jesus’ claim to judge the world at the end of the age. Because this judgment is certain and imminent, Paul pleads with his hearers to “repent” (Acts 17:30), to turn from the service of idols to the worship of the triune God. The resurrection and the worldwide preaching of the gospel has brought to an end the “times of ignorance,” during which God was pleased to withhold final judgment (v. 30). The days of comparative but culpable Gentile blindness have come to an end. Only the gospel can dispel the ongoing ignorance and blindness in which unrenewed humanity finds itself.

Paul’s mention of the resurrection yields two very different results. Some mock and sneer—the very idea that one’s body would have immortal existence was laughable to the Greek mind (v. 32a). Others, however, want to hear more and, trusting in Christ, follow Paul (vv. 32b–34).

Proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus did not, on this occasion, win Paul the accolades of the Athenian intelligentsia. Neither did it yield a visibly impressive host of converts in Athens. But Paul did not preach the resurrection because it was popular. He preached it because it was true. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed the coming judgment but also secured blessing for the undeserving. However God is pleased to use this truth in the lives of unbelievers, the church’s task remains the same—to tell others that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

Source: The Resurrection by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Defending the Truth Concerning God by K. Scott Oliphint & Training Pastors by I.Martin

TT-Jan-2016As we have mentioned here before this month, the January issue of Tabletalk has the theme of “Apologetics: Giving an Answer for Our Hope.”

As Christians, we are called by our Lord to defend our faith and practice. And because that faith and practice centers on our Triune God, the central truth we are called to defend is that concerning our God Himself.

The second featured article on the theme in this month’s issue treats that very doctrine. Dr. K.Scott Oliphint in “God” tells us why and what we are to defend our faith as far as the true God is concerned. He does so by directing us to Exodus 3 and God’s special revelation to Moses at the burning bush.

This is how he ends his article:

In Exodus 3, therefore, God identifies Himself in two ways. He tells Moses that He is the covenant God, who is with His people, and that He is the self-existing God, who needs nothing in order to be who He is and to do what He purposes to do.

This brings us to the burning bush. The purpose of that miracle was not simply that Moses might be amazed; it was to display God’s own twofold character that He had announced to Moses. The burning bush illustrates what theologians call God’s trascendence and immanence. The revelation of the burning bush was a revelation that the “I Am” is and always will be utterly independent and self-suffiicient. He is fully and completely God even as He promises and plans to “come down” (Ex. 3:8) to be with His people and to redeem them. The burning bush points us to that climactic revelation of the One who is fully and completely the self-existing God, who comes down to redeem a people, and who is Immanuel (God with us). It points us to Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 1:2328:20).

The revelation of God’s twofold character in Exodus 3 is essential to grasp for all who seek to engage in the biblical task of apologetics. No other religion on the face of the earth recognizes this kind of God. The faith we defend is wholly unique. It begins and ends with the revelation of this majestic mystery of God’s character given to us in Holy Scripture.

To read the rest of Oliphint’s article on this subject, visit this link: Source: God by K. Scott Oliphint | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Another fine article in this issue appears under the rubric “For the Church.” Rev. Iver Martin writes about “Training Pastors,” and has this to say about the church’s work through her seminaries:

A truly healthy church is one in which its members are theologians, coming to church each Sunday with a readiness to think and learn, with an insatiable appetite for more. A good pulpit ministry will richly edify God’s people. It is fatal to underestimate the perceptiveness of our congregations. As people discover what it means to follow Jesus, the intellect often comes to life and the gospel produces a hunger for knowledge that a pastor should be well equipped to satisfy.

To suggest that today’s pastors do not need rigorous seminary training because the disciples did not have it is a spurious argument. Their time with Jesus was a three-year intensive course, complete with internship and testing, and in which they discovered the Scriptures as never before. If the church in the twenty-first century is to thrive, it will depend on high-quality pulpit ministry and well-equipped pastoral skill. If training for the ministry comes at a high price, it is worth it. The church cannot afford otherwise.

To read the rest of Martin’s thoughts on this subject, follow the link given above.

An Apology for Apologetics – Stephen Nichols

TT-Jan-2016The first issue of Tabletalk for 2016 treats the important subject of apologetics, with the sub-title “giving an answer for our hope.”

You may recall that this branch of theology (practical) deals with the Christian calling to defend his faith, not only against attack from outright enemies (polemics), but also in answering those who ask us a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet.3:15-16) – an aspect of evangelism or personal witnessing.

Editor Burk Parsons gives his usual introduction to the subject in these opening words:

When people first hear the word apologetics, they typically think of our modern use of the word apology. They often conclude that the task of apologetics is apologizing for the Christian faith as if to say we are sorry for our faith. However, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give an answer” or “to make a defense.” Apologetics is not an apology, it’s an answer—a defense of what we believe. In his first epistle, Peter writes, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols has the first featured article on this topic (linked below) and adds this by way of further definition:

The Command

The Greek word apologia means literally “to speak to.” Over time, it came to mean “to make a defense.” When Athens accused Socrates of being harmful to society, Socrates had to offer his defense. He titled it Apologia. He stood before the “men of Athens,” offering his reasoned defense. The New Testament uses the word seventeen times. Many instances concern court cases, such as the time Paul appeared before the Jewish Council in Acts 22 and before Festus in Acts 25. Paul also speaks of his imprisonment in Rome as an apologia of the gospel (Phil. 1:716).

The classic text for the Greek word apologia is 1 Peter 3:15–16. Peter’s first epistle was written to the “exiles” living in Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey. These exiled Christians were ostracized for their faith and suffered persecution. They were insulted and slandered. Some of them suffered at the hands of their own family members.

Peter commands these exiles not to live in fear or cower before opposition. Instead, he commands these exiled Christians—and us—to be always ready to make a defense. The main verb “to make a defense,” from the Greek word apologia, is in the imperative mood. The imperative mood is used for commands. There’s no procedure for deferment here. The command extends to all of us.

Further, Peter tells how to make our defense. He notes that we should “always be prepared.” That’s a tall order. Questions about our faith tend to come at unexpected times. In order to be always ready, we must know our faith, which means knowing our theology. We must also know our audience. We see this in Paul’s example of being an apologist on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16–34).

Peter also tells us that we need to make our defense “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s an even taller order. The word translated “respect” could equally be translated “reverence.” It’s the same word used of how we should approach God. So we exiles are to treat our examiners with gentleness and reverence.

Then there’s verse 16. Peter reminds us that who we are is every bit as crucial as what we say. May the testimony of our lives not put the testimony of our words to shame. Instead, “may our good behavior in Christ” also be our apologetic.

Source: An Apology for Apologetics by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

If you are seeking to learn how to defend your faith in this unbelieving world, you will also find articles on general revelation, God, man, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, and the resurrection. Visit the Tabletalk website for details.

The Example of the Early Church On Sexual Matters – Michael Haykin

TT-Nov-2015Yesterday before our worship services I was able to complete my readings in this month’s Tabletalk (see the previous Monday posts this month for more on this issue).

The final article I read was the last one in the magazine – “The Example of the Early Church” by Dr. Michael Haykin. In connection with the theme of this issue (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”), Haykin takes us back in history to a key Christian apologetic work in the early church – The Letter to Diognetus (2nd century).

In this letter of a Christian (unknown) to an unbelieving inquirer (Diognetus) the apologist speaks to the way believers in Christ handle sexual matters in the world of their day, among other things.

The following paragraphs are a quote from this letter and some commentary by Haykin on it. It makes for interesting and instructive reading. So does the rest of Haykin’s article (cf. Ligonier link below), and I am sure, the rest of The Letter to Diognetus (shall we agree to read it together?).

In the World, but Not of the World

The author of the letter notes that, unlike the Jews, Christians are not to be distinguished from their fellow Greeks and Romans by virtue of their geographical locale, distinct language, or various unique customs of dress, food, and other matters of daily life. When it comes to all of these things, they lived like the other citizens of the Roman Empire. Yet, their Christian commitment did draw certain lines of demarcation between themselves and their surrounding culture:

They live in their own native lands, but as sojourners; they share all things as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners…. They marry, like everyone else, have children, but they do not expose their infants. They share a common table, but not the marriage bed. They are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend [their days] on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. (Letter to Diognetus 5.5–9)

Here the New Testament language of sojourning and heavenly citizenship is pressed into service to affirm the paradox of Christian existence. The Christian life is one that was similar in so many ways to the mores of Greco-Roman society, but in certain key areas—notably with regard to the treatment of children and sexual expression—it bore witness to a completely different ethic.

Source: The Example of the Early Church by Michael Haykin | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Man the reader – creation.com

This is a fascinating article refuting the claims of evolutionism from the viewpoint of the skills needed for people to read. Read on – closely and carefully – and you will find one more reason to reject the theory of man’s evolution from lower life forms.

There is a lot to absorb here, but it will be worth your while to read it all. I have quoted the opening paragraphs below; find the full article at the creation.com link at the end of this post.

Why are humans able to read?

Viewed from a distance, the theory of evolution seems tenable to many people. The beautiful charts showing man’s development from ape-like creatures to Homo sapiens, the anthropological reconstructions of fossil men, artists’ conceptions of transitional forms, and the confident assertions of the ‘fact’ of evolution in textbooks make it seem evolution is a foregone conclusion.

Yet like some smiling Cheshire cat, the ‘body’ of facts to support the theory of evolution is simply not there. It smiles at us, and beckons us to accept that it has flesh and bones, yet when we examine it close up, there is no substance. This is certainly true in the area of man’s ability to read. Rather than supporting the theory of evolution, man’s reading ability points to the wisdom of an Intelligent Designer.

Source: Man the reader – creation.com

The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality – J. Freeman

TT-Nov-2015The November issue of Tabletalk (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”) addresses boldly yet compassionately the major sexual issues of our day.  That includes homosexuality, the burning topic of these times.

John Freeman, president of Harvest USA (harvestusa.org), a Reformed ministry aiding individuals affected by sexual sin, has written a fine contribution with his article “The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality.” Speaking forthrightly about the fact that there can be no true gospel remedy for homosexuality unless it is described and understood to be sin, Freeman makes this plain throughout his article.

The full article may be found at the Ligonier link below; I quote a portion of it here to get you started.

Source: The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality by John Freeman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing. It is alarming that the acceptance of homosexual behavior among professing evangelicals is increasing. We hear from some people that the kind of homosexual relationships we see today (loving, monogamous ones) aren’t addressed in Scripture. Although this trend seems likely to continue, these revisionist views must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is firm in its negative view of homosexuality and same-sex sexual desire. The Bible is the infallible standard by which we must view homosexuality and understand the gospel remedy for it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Bible in this area has been questioned by many today who claim the Christian faith. Christians who view Scripture as authoritative and inspired must not accept this watered-down view of God’s Word. The Bible reveals God’s assessment regarding the problems of the human heart, homosexuality being one of many.

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