Sunday, December 31, 2017

Can't we all just get along?

The Book of Concord
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:1-16).

Christians in America today treat the word doctrine as though it were of the four-letter variety. It is a vulgarity. To mention doctrine, or to talk about which doctrines are right and wrong, and why, is oftentimes met with revulsion. To talk about doctrine is to be answered with rebuke, as though one were describing the intimate workings of the seediest bordello in polite company. Why is this? The short answer is, because of Satan and sin. Many people have been led to believe that focusing on doctrine is divisive. Talking about doctrine (which, incidentally, means “teaching”) all the time only causes hurt feelings, anger, and division. We are told by those more enlightened souls who wish to see only peace, unity, and harmony in the Christian church, “Some of my theology is probably wrong, some of yours is too. Let's just get close to Jesus.”[1] How very enlightened! How pragmatic!

Still other American Christians recognize that the devil is indeed at the root of our divisions in the church. They are just a little mistaken in their prescription for dealing with it. They equate talking of doctrine and theology as the same thing the disciples were doing when they were arguing about who was greatest,[2] and Jesus "needed to set them straight".[3] No, they say, the devil wants us to argue about theology and doctrine so we don't help one another. How pious!

What these people don't understand (probably because they don't know their doctrine) is that we Christians are called to teach right doctrine, not just to get along under the banner of false unity. Christ teaches us in the Gospel that we are to observe, "all things that I have commanded you."[4] We are not given the option by Our Lord to simply agree to disagree about difficult doctrinal points. St. Paul, in his letters to Timothy, preparing Timothy to be a faithful pastor, does not give the slightest impression that it is all right for Timothy not to discuss certain difficult teachings, or to "agree to disagree" for the sake of unity. Quite to the contrary, Paul commends Timothy for carefully following good doctrine. Paul explicitly instructs Timothy to reject the profane. He encourages Timothy to stand fast in sound doctrine, even though there will come a time when the world will not endure it, and Timothy will be faced with affliction for his steadfastness. This, we are told by St. Paul, is the work of the evangelist – to teach sound doctrine.[5]

Every Christian wants unity within the visible church. We should be praying and working for it every day. Ignoring false teaching, and the doctrine of demons, in order to avoid offending people, however, is not unity. It is blatantly disregarding the command of Our Lord. Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.[6] We are told that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.[7] Jesus is not telling his disciples to go along to get along, or to ignore the "different" beliefs of others for the sake of unity. He is calling them to watch their lives and doctrine closely because, as St. Paul writes to Timothy, "in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you."

Holy Scripture is the only rule and norm for testing doctrine. Where we see so-called Christian teachers teaching contrary to Holy Scripture, we must call them to repentance. If what we teach is contrary to Holy Scripture, we must repent. When we do, we are taught (doctrine) by Holy Scripture that, if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[8]

[1] The following comment was posted by “Mike” on the article, “Why I Quit the Gideons” ( I once heard a missionary to Mexico say the following: "Some of my theology is probably wrong, some of yours is too.  Let's just get close to Jesus." I thought to myself, wow! That's true, how come nobody else says that?
[2] Luke 9:46-48
[3] The following comment was posted by “Mike” on the article, “Why I Quit the Gideons” ( I guess we can look at the early disciples arguing who is the greatest. They needed Jesus to set them straight. I feel arguing over theology is a smokescreen the Devil uses to hide the real problems we each are struggling with. We walk away from these arguments never discussing what we each need help with. Could be something simple as a car problem or struggling with sin.  How about children problems? No, the devil wants us to argue about theology and doctrine so we don't help one another.  Devil is laughing at us.  I do NOT like the devil.
[4] Matthew 28:18-20
[5] 2 Timothy 4:1-5
[6] Luke 12:1-11
[7] Galatians 5:1-10
[8] 1 John 1:8-10

Friday, December 22, 2017

Real History

Gabriel Visits Zacharias
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:1-25).

Luke the Evangelist, the Greek physician, is responsible for nearly one quarter of the text of the New Testament. He tells us in the first lines of the text why. His purpose is to record an “orderly account” of the things that happened for the most excellent Theophilus. Whether this Theophilus is a real person, or he is a construct of the author to represent Christians is, in the end immaterial. Luke, by his meticulous attention to detail proves himself to be an able and detail-oriented historian. This is no fairy tale which took place ambiguously “once upon a time” in some fantasy land. Luke wanted Theophilus to know that the events being recounted were real. They happened in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the time of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Real history. A real savior, come to earth to save real sinners, and destroy sin, death, and the devil once and for all.

The first thing Luke recounts to Theophilus is the birth of John the Baptist. Called John the Forerunner by the eastern churches, and John the Baptizer by the more self-conscious Lutherans, he is the fulfillment of God’s promise to send Elijah to prepare the Messiah’s way. Luke quotes from the following passage of Malachi: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”[1] John the Baptist is at his work, even before his birth. He prepares the way for Jesus. His purpose is to acknowledge Christ. The angel Gabriel tells Zacharias this will be John’s work. John begins it while he is still in Elizabeth’s womb, when he leaped upon hearing the greeting of Mary, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.[2] He continues his work of directing people to Jesus the Christ when he preaches repentance in the wilderness,[3] when Jesus comes to be baptized,[4] and when John’s disciples are indignant that their following is becoming smaller.[5] John, however, continually exalts Christ. John knows that he must decrease, and Christ must increase. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of this says, “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”[6] Even now, in the pages of Holy Scripture, John the Baptist continues his work. He bids us prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord through repentance, and to fix our eyes upon Him, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.[7]

[1] Malachi 4:5-6
[2] Luke 1:39-41
[3] Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:3-8; Luke 3:2-17
[4] Matthew 3:13-17
[5] John 3:22-36
[6] Isaiah 9:7
[7] Hebrews 12:1-3

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More Creation Nonsense

Purchase The Grand Design at Amazon by clicking here.
The question of origins is one of the most important questions we, as human beings, must face. How you answer this question of where life came from will ultimately determine your view on a wide range of issues. At present, there are two theories, or philosophies, that offer an answer to the question of where humans came from. One is the theory of evolution, which tells us that the existence of humanity is just a cosmic accident, taking place randomly over a period of billions of years. The other is the creationist view – that a loving, personal God created all that is, visible and invisible, out of nothing, merely by his word. There really isn't a third option. Which one is more rational and logical to believe? This question may seem silly to anyone educated in the public school system in America over the last 40 years, as the theory of evolution is rather taught as the fact of evolution. There are, however, some issues which evolutionary theory raises that we should examine, and should ask our evolutionist friends and professors to deal with.
I am not a scientist, and I am not a pastor. I am not a professional apologist who goes around debating the question of origins like the late Dr. Ron Carlson, or Ken Ham. After doing some reading and research on my own, however, I have found some questions regarding evolution to which I can find no satisfactory answer. Ultimately, the reason that I believe in creation is because it is taught in God's inerrant word. Because God's word is also efficacious, God, working with the power of his Holy Spirit, has used this word to create faith in me. I offer the following in the spirit of giving to every man an answer, the reason for the hope that lies within me.
The Laws of Thermodynamics
Newton's Second Law states that everything in the universe is going from a state of organization and complexity, and degenerating toward chaos and disorganization. This is called the problem of entropy. All you need to do to see entropy at work is clean your house. How long does the laundry stay put away, the dishes stay clean, and the windows remain dust-free? Over time, your clean house moves from a state of organization to a state of chaos (especially if you have children running around inside of it).
What does this have to do with evolution? Well, according to Newton, everything in the universe – all energy and matter – is governed by the laws of physics, and evolution is no exception. Newton's Second Law tells us that the universe and all that is in it moves from a state of complexity and organization to a state of chaos and disorganization over time. The theory of evolution states exactly the opposite. Evolution claims that everything is evolving upward, to greater and greater levels of complexity, as evidenced in the rise of man. Moreover, all this happens by chance, over a long period of time. These two views are diametrically opposed to each other. Either Darwin or Newton is mistaken. They cannot both be correct.
The Law of Biogenesis
I remember sitting in 10th grade biology class learning this lesson. It was the first chapter in our textbook before we studied Darwin and the theory of evolution. It is the idea of biogenesis, that is, life only arises from life; it cannot arise from nonliving matter.
I remember our biology teacher telling us that in the 1800s, people believe in something called spontaneous generation. This, she explained, was the naïve notion that if you left meat out in the open and it began to decay, maggots and flies would spontaneously come to life on it. In the same way, if you left water out in the open, and a hair was put in it, given time that hair would spontaneously turn into a larva. I remember sitting in class laughing at the nonsense that these scientists from the 1800s believed. Our teacher went on to tell us that all such notions were dispelled by Louis Pasteur in the second half of the 19th century, when it was discovered that organisms smaller than the eye could see are responsible for the appearance of such creatures. Flies came to the meat, laid eggs that could not be seen, and maggots would eventually mature, etc.
From here, my amusement turned into confusion as we begin the study of evolution. This was the theory, my teacher explained, that all life on earth arose spontaneously by chance out of nonliving, inorganic material, 3.5 billion years ago, and evolved upward out of the primordial ooze to greater and greater forms of complexity, and eventually to humanity as we know it today.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist – or a biology teacher – to understand the problem that the law of biogenesis poses. The theory of evolution is in direct opposition to a basic axiom of biology: life cannot arise from nonliving matter. The response to this question, when raised, is frustrating. One is usually treated to a long, drawn out explanation of certain biological mechanisms and their workings, but basically it boils down to this: yes, the law of biogenesis says that life must come from living matter and cannot do otherwise. But, you must assume, by faith, that it happened at least once, because if it didn't, we wouldn't be here today.
In his book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow explain M Theory (or what is more commonly called the Multi-verse) as well as the implications quantum physics has for the origins of the universe, for the average person. It can all be summed up in two words: spontaneous generation.
According to Hawking, the origin of the universe is a quantum event. The universe has no origin as we would understand it. Instead, the universe was a singularity in both space and time. It has no initial boundaries in time or space, in the same way that the earth has no edge to use as a defining border, or to fall off of. It is a sphere. It arose out of nothing and expanded like a bubble of steam in a boiling pot of water. Hawking calls this the No Boundary Condition. In other words, the universe arose out of quantum fluctuations which spontaneously generated themselves before there was a universe, or any other matter, in existence. The universe created itself by spontaneously erupting out of the quantum mists:
In fact, many universes exist with many different sets of physical laws. Some people make a great mystery of this idea, sometimes called the Multi-verse Concept. But these are just different expressions of the Feynman Sum Over Histories. To picture this, let's alter Eddington’s balloon analogy, and instead think of the expanding universe as the surface of a bubble. Our picture of the spontaneous quantum creation of the universe is then a bit like the formation of bubbles of steam in boiling water. Many tiny bubbles appear and then disappear again. These represent many universes that expand, but collapse again while still of microscopic size. They represent possible alternative universes, but they are not of much interest, since they do not last long enough to develop galaxies and stars, let alone intelligent life. A few of the little bubbles, however, will grow large enough so that they will be safe from re-collapse. They will continue to expand at an ever increasing rate, and will form the bubbles of steam we are able to see. These correspond to universes that start off expanding at an ever increasing rate.[1]
In the steam analogy there is, however, a force acting on, or behind, the "nothingness" (the water in the pot) to spontaneously generate the "universes" (the bubbles of steam).
But doesn't this violate the laws of physics? How can something spontaneously generate from nothing? Why don't we see this happening around us? Maybe the 17th and 18th century scientists we made fun of in high school were right? Hawking explains that gravity is the key to explaining why universes can spontaneously generate from nothing, but other matter can't:
If we want to go back even further in time and understand the origin of the universe, we must combine what we know about general relativity with quantum theory. To see how this works we need to understand the principle that gravity warps space and time.[2]
Hawking says that the warpage of space and time can be detected and measured, even though we can't step outside of our closed system of space-time. Hawking says that the universe’s positive and negative energies make the universe locally stable, and prohibit the spontaneous generation of matter:
Any set of laws that describes a continuous world such as our own will have a concept of energy, which is a conserved quantity, meaning that it doesn't change during time. The energy of empty space will be a constant, independent of both time and position. One can subtract out this constant vacuum energy by measuring the energy of any volume of space relative to that of the same volume of empty space. One requirement any law of nature must satisfy is that it dictates that the energy of an isolated body surrounded by empty space is positive, which means that one has to do work to assemble the body. That's because if the energy of an isolated body were negative, it could be created in a state of motion, so that it's negative energy was exactly balanced by the positive energy due to its motion. If that were true, there would be no reason that bodies could not appear anywhere and everywhere. Empty space would, therefore, be unstable. But if it costs energy to create an isolated body, such instability could not happen because, as we've said, the universe must remain constant.[3]
Hawking continues:
If the total energy of the universe must always remain zero and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there must be a law like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative. One has to do work to separate a gravitationally bound system such as the earth and the moon. This negative energy can balance the positive energy needed to create matter, but it's not quite that simple. The negative gravitational energy of the earth, for example, is less than 1 billionth of the positive energy of the matter particles the earth is made of. A body, such as a star, will have more negative gravitational energy, and the smaller it is, the closer the different parts of it are to each other, the greater this negative gravitational energy will be. But before it can become greater then the positive energy of the matter, the star will collapse to a black hole, and black holes have positive energy. That's why empty space is stable. Bodies such as stars, or black holes, cannot just appear out of nothing, but a whole universe can...Because gravity shapes space and time, it allows space-time to be locally stable, but globally unstable. On the scale of the entire universe, the positive energy of the matter can be balanced by the negative gravitational energy, and so there is no restriction on the creation of whole universes. Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described [in chapter 6]. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something, rather than nothing; why the universe exists – why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.[4]
Hawking comes to the conclusion that the universe spontaneously generated itself out of nothing, as the result of quantum fluctuations, and passed through an infinite number of histories. He comes to his conclusions about life, the universe, and everything, through abstract logic, something he chided Aristotle for doing earlier in the book:
But perhaps the true miracle is that abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes a vast universe full of the amazing variety that we see. If the theory is confirmed by observation, it will be the successful conclusion of a search going back more than 3000 years. We will have found of the grand design.[5]
These things, interesting as they may be, are all the result of the abstract thoughts of theoretical physicists, and have yet to be confirmed by observation. We have left the realm of science and reason, and entered into philosophy and religion, a place Hawking repeatedly ridicules others for venturing into. The theoretical physicists are the priests of a godless religion; The so-called New Atheists are the apologists. The popular physicists mask their true aim of denying the Creator and deifying man behind the guise of seeking the mechanisms of the cosmos through the scientific method.

[1] Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard. The Grand Design. Narrated by Steve West. Audible, 2010. Audiobook.
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid.
[5] ibid.