Welcome to the Pastor’s Corner! The Pastor’s Corner is a place where you will find periodic updates from our pastor such as sermon reflections, or other matters of interest in the life of Emmanuel Reformed Church and her people. Please check here regularly to see new content.

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A Question on Jesus’ Human and Divine Natures
A Question on Jesus’ Human and Divine Natures

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • April 21, 2021

During our last Family Bible Study through the Book of Revelation, a question was asked regarding the relationship between the human and divine natures of Jesus. The context was as we were looking at Jesus’ own teaching regarding His return in Matthew 24:36 in which Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” So how does this work? How can we see Jesus sometimes display supernatural knowledge (e.g., knowing all about the Samaritan Woman), yet not know the details of His own return in glory? Especially when the whole Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 is teaching about Jesus’ return?

Let us first state what the orthodox Christian teaching on the person of Jesus Christ asserts. When it comes to the doctrine of the person of Christ (what theologians call Christology), there are four cardinal truths that need to be believed:

  1. Jesus Christ is fully divine
  2. Jesus Christ is fully human
  3. Jesus Christ has two distinct natures
  4. Jesus Christ has these two natures united in one person

Now the orthodox teaching on the person of Jesus Christ was the subject of much early church disputes. In fact, the first four ecumenical councils of the early church dealt with each of those four statements above, affirming their truth while denying the heresies that sought to distort these teachings. The final, orthodox statement on the doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ was put forth in The Chalcedonian Creed of 451 AD. That creed says, in part:

We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess...one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence...

Now that’s a mouthful, but the portion in bold is important. The human and divine natures exist in the one Person, Jesus of Nazareth such that there is no confusion between the two, no change between the two, no division between the two, and no separation between the two.

In our own confessional standards, Belgic Confession article 19 states in part:

We believe that by this conception the person of the Son is inseparably united and connected with the human nature, so that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person; yet that each nature retains its own distinct properties.

That last statement quoted from the Belgic Confession is very important. It means that the divine nature loses none of the properties of divinity, nor does the human nature lose any of the properties of humanity by virtue of the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ. 

We see this Biblically when we learn that Jesus “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge. The human nature wasn’t born knowing all things. Jesus had to be taught just like every other human child. Jesus got hungry, became tired, experienced the full range of human emotions including deep sorrow and anger. He was even subject to death. Similarly, the divine nature never ceased being infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. In the very first verse of John’s Gospel, we read the famous words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).

But what about the relationship between the two natures? How does that work? Well, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that theologians have come up with a fancy Latin phrase to label this called the communicatio idiomatum, or the “communication of properties.” Joel Beeke, in Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2, states, “The communication of properties is personal — that is, the divine nature with all its properties is united as one person with the human nature with all its properties. Hence, the one Christ Jesus displays divine attributes and performs divine acts, and likewise displays human attributes and performed human acts” (p. 848).

In other words, we should not be surprised when Jesus Christ, the person, does things that could, at one time, be attributed to His divine nature, and at the other time, attributed to His human nature. We should never get in the habit of saying, “well the divine nature did that,” because the two natures are forever and inseparably linked together in the one Person. So we can say “the Son of God died,” because the Son of God took on a human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus died. We can also say “the Son of Man gives life” because Jesus, who is both human and divine, gives life. We can’t say “the divine nature died” or “the human nature is eternal” because that would be to separate the two natures from the one Person of Jesus Christ.

So as it pertains to Jesus’ knowledge of the specifics of His return, the best way to answer this question is to say that this particular knowledge wasn’t imparted to the human nature. Another thing we need to understand is that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, as Paul says, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). In other words, the Son of God relinquished the prerogatives of deity during the incarnation, and that could include certain aspects such as knowledge of His own return in glory.

One final thing in closing. This is all a glorious mystery. We can only say with confidence what the Biblical record states definitively. If we attempt to explain too much or go too far, we run the risk of falling into heresy. As long as we stick within the boundary of those four statements at the beginning, we should be okay!

~Pastor Carl

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The Dangers of Religious Pluralism
The Dangers of Religious Pluralism

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • January 08, 2021

This past Sunday, January 3, 2021, the 117th Congress convened with the opening prayer being given by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo) who also happens to be an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. In that prayer, there were many references to Christian themes and references, but Rep. Cleaver closed that prayer with words that are now the source of puns and memes across the country: “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and ‘god’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and A-woman.”

Now there are many, many things wrong with this prayer, and it would take way too long to dissect and critique all of them. What I want to focus on is the pluralistic tone struck by the prayer’s ending. In a purported attempt to not offend anyone, Rep. Cleaver prayed to some “monotheistic god,” to Brahma (the four-faced Hindu deity), and to the god “known by many names by many different faiths.” Let’s set aside the fact that a Christian minister did not pray in the name of Jesus Christ (which is egregious enough of an error), note how in this attempt to not leave anyone out, Rep. Cleaver is praying to and for faiths that are diametrically opposed to one another. And that’s the problem with pluralism.

So what is pluralism? First thing is I want to distinguish between a general pluralism and a religious pluralism. So what is religious pluralism? Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, defines religious pluralism as: “The belief that God works through all religions so that they are pathways to the divine, with or without faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This is the old “many paths to the top of the mountain” argument about religion. This is a way of thinking that was one of the fruits of Enlightenment thinking and was very popular in the theological liberalism of the 19th & 20th centuries.

You may have heard the old proverb that taught about six blind men each trying to describe an elephant. The one who touched the trunk said, “it’s like a thick snake,” another who touched the ear said, “it is like a giant fan,” yet another who touched a leg said, “it is like a tree trunk,” and yet another who touched the side said, “it is like a wall.” The point of the proverb is that without the ability to see the whole picture, we can only describe our limited experiences. There are those who use this proverb to describe the world’s religions. We’re all trying to grasp and describe God, but because we’re all limited in our understanding, we are all only just describing one aspect of God.

Now on the surface this all seems very humble and logical, right? We are finite, limited beings. Our knowledge grows from one generation to the next. What was considered impossible decades ago, is now routine. What was unknown a century ago, is common knowledge today. It is the essence of wisdom to recognize how much you don’t know and how much you need to learn. In fact, it was the ancient philosopher Socrates who said, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

So what’s the problem with religious pluralism? Plenty! First, let’s consider the logical inconsistencies in religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is the belief that religious systems are equally valid ways to approach God. Is that so? So Christianity with its belief in the Trinity is equally valid with Islam or Judaism with its belief in strict monotheism? Hinduism with its belief in many gods is equally valid with Buddhism and its rejection of a personal, creator god. You can’t hold as “equally valid” beliefs which clearly contradict one another. Truth admits to only one right answer. Truth, by its very definition, is exclusive. You can’t have “many paths to God” if all of those paths lead to very different God-concepts.

Second, while religious pluralism seems humble, it is the very essence of arrogance and condescension. Going back to the “elephant” proverb, the religious pluralist is the one who stands above the fray and is able to say to the six blind men that they are only seeing part of the true picture. That’s not humility, that’s arrogance. When the religious pluralist goes in front of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists and says “each of your religious beliefs are equally valid pathways to God,” he is in essence saying, “You’re all wrong, and I am right! You need to set aside your petty religious differences and come to my position.” What’s to say that the religious pluralist isn’t just a seventh blind man trying to describe the elephant?

The truth of the matter is that there aren’t “many pathways to God.” In fact, there aren’t even “many pathways,” just two: The “broad” path and the “narrow” path.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

There is only one way that leads to life, and that “way” is Jesus Christ who Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). All other ways are on the wide 8-lane highway to hell.

~Pastor Carl

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A Question Regarding Human Nature
A Question Regarding Human Nature

Carl Gobelman • December 31, 2020

A member of the congregation asks: “Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we’re sinners?”

This is a question that came up during our adult Sunday school Bible study through the Book of Romans. It was prompted by what Paul says in Romans 6:22

Romans 6:22 (NKJV) But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Before answering this question, let’s consider what conclusion can be drawn by assuming the truth of the premise. For example, if we say “we’re sinners because we sin,” what conclusion can we draw from this? It says two things. First, it says that we choose to be sinners. The very act of sinning makes us sinners, and this is an act we choose. Second, it says that we can choose not to sin, and therefore we won’t be sinners. 

This point of view is actually an ancient heresy called Pelagianism named after the British monk Pelagius (360-418 AD). Pelagius taught an extreme view of free will that believed man is able to freely choose to obey God and achieve a perfection of sorts. He also denied the doctrine of original sin. Pelagius was confronted by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), the great theologian and doctor of the church. Augustine believed that the will of man is in bondage to sin and is unable to freely choose to do the good without the assistance of divine grace. 

Augustine once prayed “O Lord, command what you will, and give me what You command.” In other words, give me the strength and grace to obey your commands. Pelagius was offended by this prayer. He believed that it would be cruel of God to command something we were constitutionally incapable of carrying out. Pelagius and his teachings were condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD).

So if “we’re sinners because we sin” is wrong, then by default “we sin because we’re sinners” must be correct and Biblical. That is in fact true. The Bible uses two metaphors to describe our natural state. Paul in Romans 6:17 says we’re slaves of sin:

Romans 6:17 (NKJV) But God be thanked that [though] you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

Next in Ephesians 2:1, Paul says we’re dead in sins and trespasses:

Ephesians 2:1 (NKJV) And you [He made alive,] who were dead in trespasses and sins.

These are two very strong metaphors to describe the state in which every human being is born. A dead man has no life, no activity. A slave lacks any free agency in life, but must obey his master. 

Theologically, the state into which we’re born is called original sin. The confessional standards of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) speak about original sin. In Belgic Confession article 15, we read in part:

We believe that through the disobedience of Adam original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature and a hereditary disease, where with even infants in their mother’s womb are infected, and which produces in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof, and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind.

In a nutshell, we sin because we’re sinners. But the good news is that in Christ the power of sin has been broken in our lives. That is the thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 6. Through our union with Christ, the power of sin has been broken, it’s dominion over us has been ended. We have died to sin just as Christ has died to sin, and just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we too have been raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4).

So when a Christian sins, it is not because he is a sinner. The Christian, at his/her core, is no longer a sinner. By that I mean the Christian is no longer defined as one who is “dead in sins and trespasses” or as a “slave to sin.” We’ve been “made alive in Christ,” we’ve been “set free from sin.” To be sure the Christian still struggles with the presence of sin (Paul’s argument in Romans 7:7-25), but the power of sin, is shattered. So when a Christian sins, it’s not because he/she is a sinner, but because he/she gives in to the sin principle (what Paul calls “the flesh” in Romans 7). The solution to ongoing sin in the life of a believer is found in Romans 8, when Paul says:

Romans 8:1-4 (NKJV) 1 [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God [did] by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

~Pastor Carl

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Answering a Question on Re-Baptism and the Renewal of Wedding Vows
Answering a Question on Re-Baptism and the Renewal of Wedding Vows

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • November 19, 2020

A Question on Re-Baptism

A member of the congregation asks: “I have a relative that got re-baptized. I thought once you are baptized as a baby in front of God and His people, that is it?”

This is a great question, but unfortunately, my answer can do nothing to sway your relative’s choice to get “re-baptized” seeing they already went through it. But this issue really gets to the heart of how Christians see baptism. Within the pale of “orthodox Christianity” you have two major views on baptism: (1) Those who see baptism as a “sign & seal” of the new covenant, and (2) those who see baptism as a “witness & testimony” of their faith in Jesus Christ. The first view is that held by confessional Reformed and Presbyterians. The second view is that held by conservative Baptists or Evangelicals who are “baptistic” in their theology of the sacraments.

Our confessional standards in the RCUS teach that baptism (along with the Lord’s Supper) is a “sign and seal” that “confirms” our faith in Christ and that we are partakers of all His benefits (Heidelberg Catechism LD25 Q65). Baptism is a “sign and seal” that points to the washing of our sins by the precious blood of Christ. That just as dirt is washed away by water, so too our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Heidelberg Catechism LD26 Q69). In Heidelberg Catechism LD27 Q74 the question is asked “are infants also to be baptized?” The Heidelberg answers:

Yes, for since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God, and through the blood of Christ both redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be engrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.

So we see that the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism saw baptism as not only a “sign and seal” of the washing away of sins by the blood of Christ, but also as a sign of the covenant that marked off the children of believers from the children of unbelievers just as circumcision served that purpose for the people of God in the OT (the children of Israel).

Now our Baptist brethren merely see baptism as testimony of one’s faith in Christ. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist “denomination” in the US, says about baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message the following:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

Now I contend that our Baptist brothers and sisters not only have a deficient view of baptism, but also a deficient view of the covenant and the continuity of the people of God (the church being an expansion of the people of Israel). They will argue that you never see infant baptism in the NT. While technically that’s true, there are two things to say about that. First, an argument from silence is not necessarily proof. Consider this: The nation of Israel circumcised their children as a matter of law (Leviticus 12:3). If the NT church is really an expansion of Israel and baptism replaces circumcision as the sing of the covenant, then you really wouldn’t need a specific command to baptize your children. The command to baptize disciples would include their children

This leads me to the second thing, in the Book of Acts, the promise that is signified in baptism is made to believers and their children. That’s what Peter says at the end of his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:38-39). When Lydia is converted by Paul in Philippi, she is baptized with her household (Acts 16:15). If the promise that is sealed in baptism is for “you and your children” and we see households (which presumably had children) baptized, then we have Biblical warrant for the baptism of children. 

Moreover, the Baptist view of baptism means the children of believers are no different than the children of unbelievers. Now practically speaking, Baptists parents are just as diligent in raising their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” as Reformed parents are. They live in a happy inconsistency in that they treat their children as “covenant children,” while their theology says their children are not members of the covenant.

Finally, as it pertains to “re-baptism,” it should be obvious that one can (or should) no more be “re-baptized” as one could be “re-circumcised.” The Belgic Confession in article 34 (on “Holy Baptism”) says in part:

We believe, therefore, that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal ought to be baptized but once with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice...Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children.

I believe the Bible is very clear that there is one people of God (Israel in the OT, and the church in the NT). I also believe that the sign of the covenant was circumcision in the OT and is now baptism in the NT. Finally I believe that the sign of the covenant should be applied to all adult converts and their children.

A Question on the Renewal of Wedding Vows

This same member of the congregation also asks: “I thought once you do your marriage vows in front of God, it is your confession?”

I agree that once you make your wedding vows in front of God and our friends and family, that should be it. Jesus tells us to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes.’ And your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37). Once we make a promise (an oath or a vow), no matter what the circumstances are, we should be bound to it. 

Having said that, I do not feel as strongly about the renewal of wedding vows as I do about the re-baptism question. The context of Jesus’ comment in Matthew 5:37 is regarding people who attempt to circumvent their oaths by swearing falsely. In other words, they would swear by all sorts of things (the temple, the earth, the altar, etc.) and not in God’s name. Then when they would break their oath, they would say “well I didn’t swear in God’s name.” 

A couple renewing their wedding vows are not attempting to wiggle out of their oaths, but quite the opposite, they are seeking to renew their oaths. While I understand the heart of your question, I don’t see it on the same level as someone denying their baptism because it was “their parent’s decision.” Bottom line, we should all just heed Jesus’ words and be people who keep their word once it’s given.

~Pastor Carl

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My Thoughts on the State of English Bible Translations (Part 2)
My Thoughts on the State of English Bible Translations (Part 2)

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • November 11, 2020

Last week I began a series of posts about my thoughts regarding English Bible translations (you can read that here). I have been thinking and studying a lot lately over the state of English Bible translations. Some of the questions I’ve been wrestling with are:

  • Why are there so many English translations of the Bible?
  • Which English translation is “the best?”
  • Which English translation is “the most accurate?”
  • Does it really matter which translation of the Bible I read?
  • Should I read the same translation as my church? My pastor?
  • Is there any value in reading multiple English translations?

Last week we looked at the question of translation philosophy. This speaks to what are the underlying principles governing a Bible translation. There are really only two broad translation philosophies: (1) Formal Equivalence (i.e., “word-for-word” translations), and (2) Functional Equivalence (i.e., “thought-for-thought” translations). At the end, we argued that a formally equivalent translation of the Bible is best for it attempts to (as closely as possible) translate each word from the source language into an equivalent word in the receptor language. The reason why we argued for this position is because the Bible itself places a premium on the very words of God.

We’re now going to look at another thing to consider when discussing the topic of Bible translations (regardless of language), and that is which underlying text is used for the translation. Before we get too deep into this, I want to say something I said last week and it’s this: Whichever translation gets you reading the Bible is a good translation. While I’m eventually going to argue for one particular translation over the others, the main point isn’t that everyone must read the same translation as I do. Rather, I want people to read their Bibles.

Textual Basis for Translation

When we talk about the “textual basis for translation,” we’re talking about what are the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts that we use to translate the Bible into English. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew (OT, with some portions of Daniel in Aramaic) and Greek (NT). Furthermore, those original documents (the “autographs”) are the ones that God inspired the Bible writers to write (see 2 Timothy 3:16 & 2 Peter 1:20-21). These autographs no longer exist, they have been lost. But what we do have are thousands of copies of these original writings in fragments, scrolls, codices, and manuscripts.

When it comes to the OT, virtually all English translations make use of the Hebrew Bible that has been preserved and passed down by a group of Jewish scribes and scholars from the 7th to 11th centuries called the Masoretes. The text they preserved is called the Masoretic Text. The first printed edition of the Masoretic Text was done by Jacob ben Chayyim and Daniel Bomberg in 1524-25 and was called the Bomberg Text. The Bomberg Text formed the basis for today’s Biblia Hebraica (a critical text of the OT), which is now in its 4th edition. 

The situation for the NT is a little different. Even though there are several dozens of English translations of the Bible, when you boil it all down, there are really only two translations of the Bible. The English Bible you hold in your hands either uses the Traditional Text (commonly called the Textus Receptus or “Received Text”, or “TR” for short) of the NT, or the Critical Text (CT) of the NT. Odds are, your Bible uses the CT because ever since 1881, the vast, overwhelming number of English translations use the CT. There are only three English translations (that I’m aware of) that use the TR. They are: The King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the Modern English Version (MEV). Every other English version (regardless if they use formal or functional equivalence in their translations philosophy) uses the CT.

“Traditional Text” (TR) vs “Critical Text” (CT)

In the space that I have left, I’m going to try (to the best of my ability) to boil down and summarize some pretty technical material, so buckle up! The TR follows a line of NT manuscripts (mss.) called the Byzantine Textual Tradition. It is named the “Byzantine” tradition because the mss that form this tradition mainly come from what used to be called the Byzantine Empire (the eastern half of the old Roman Empire). The Byzantine tradition carried on the tradition of the early Greek speaking churches of the eastern empire that centered itself in the ancient city of Antioch in Syria. Now depending on what source you cite, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,700 extant Greek mss of the NT. The vast majority of these mss (~90%) are from the Byzantine Textual Tradition from which the TR was formed. As such, the Byzantine Tradition represents the majority reading of all extant Greek mss. Most of these mss are dated somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries AD (with some earlier). There is a large amount (>95%) of agreement between the mss of this tradition.

The CT is what is called an “eclectic” text. That means it’s an amalgam of various texts in which scholars employed the principles of textual criticism (hence the name “Critical Text”) to determine which reading is the “best” reading. For example, let’s consider John 1:18 in both the NKJV (TR) and the ESV (CT)

  • John 1:18 (NKJV) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared [Him.]
  • John 1:18 (ESV) No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The italicized portions denote where there is a variant in the text (a “variant” is where there are differences in the mss). In this case, does the text read “only begotten Son,” or “only God?” The CT weighs the mss evidence based on certain criteria and determines which reading is “most likely” the original reading.

Which is Better? TR or CT?

I’m not going to be able to fully answer this question in this post because I want to examine in a little more depth the CT and the principles of textual criticism which undergird the CT. But one thing (I hope) stands out when considering the TR vs the CT. The TR is the fruit of a long and established textual tradition going all the way back to the very beginning of the Christian church. We read about the church in Antioch in the pages of the Book of Acts. The church of Antioch was the church that sent Paul and Barnabas and later Paul and Silas out on their missionary journeys. It was at the church of Antioch that believers were first called “Christians.”

The CT is, as one person called it, a “Frankenstein” text. It is a text comprised of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. In actuality as we’ll see next time, the CT is really largely based on two early mss (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) “discovered” in the mid 19th century. Although these two mss are old (4th century) they disagree quite a bit with one another especially in the Gospels. Moreover, they are part of a textual tradition that comes out of Alexandria in Egypt. But the CT takes the “best” reading based on the criteria of textual criticism. What that means, if you really think about it, is that the CT presents you with a NT that never, ever really existed. For example, have you ever seen a “Harmony of the Gospels?” These Gospel Harmonies are a “Gospel” that is comprised of a little bit of Matthew, a little bit of Mark, a little bit of Luke, and a little bit of John (usually arranged in a chronological order). In the end though, what you have is a Gospel that has never existed.

As such, while I can appreciate the work and scholarship that has gone into the CT, I find it hard to recommend a Bible that is based on a NT text that has never existed outside of the various editions of the CT (which can be found in the 28th edition of the Novum Testementum Graece by Nestle-Aland, and the 5th edition of the Greek New Testament by the United Bible Society). As I said earlier, we’ll go more into detail with the TR vs the CT, but my initial assessment is that I would recommend a Bible that is based on the TR over a Bible that is based on the CT.

We’ll stop here for now. Until next time, keep reading your Bibles!

~Pastor Carl

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My Thoughts on the State of English Bible Translations (Part 1)
My Thoughts on the State of English Bible Translations (Part 1)

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • November 06, 2020

I have been studying and researching the issue of English Bible translations lately, and I want to take the time to lay out some of the thoughts that have been going through my mind of late. I want to emphasize that these are my thoughts. What I am about to share is the preliminary state of my thinking on this issue. My mind is not settled on this topic yet, but I do have some strong leanings and I feel ready to present some of my findings on this topic.

Before we begin, this was not prompted by a particular question that was presented to me, so in a sense this is unsolicited. But I also can’t imagine some of the questions I’m going to address aren’t questions that every Christian who has lived in the English speaking world (particularly in America) has had from time to time. Questions such as:

  • Why are there so many English translations of the Bible?
  • Which English translation is “the best?”
  • Which English translation is “the most accurate?”
  • Does it really matter which translation of the Bible I read?
  • Should I read the same translation as my church? My pastor?
  • Is there any value in reading multiple English translations?

I’m going to attempt to answer these questions over the series of multiple posts (how many posts is yet to be determined). The first thing I want to say is this: Whichever translation gets you reading the Bible is a good translation. I heard someone say this on a YouTube video, and I thought it was a great statement. While I do believe there are objectively better and worse translations of the Bible in English, all of them (for the most part) are good enough to lead a person to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. All of them (for the most part) are edifying to read and meditate upon.

It’s sort of like the same thing with food. If you’re hungry, anything edible is sufficient to satisfy that hunger. But if you’re trying to eat healthy, you will avoid certain foods and gravitate toward others because nutritionally some foods are better than others. Another silly example: If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not going to eat a diet of ice cream and cake. While pretty much any Bible is a good Bible to read, some are better for serious study than others. Some are easier to read than others. Some are easier to understand than others. These are the questions (among others) that fuel the recent “explosion” of modern English translations.

Translation Philosophy

Let’s start with the idea of translation philosophy. Looking into the subject of translation philosophy will help us deal with a couple of the questions we listed above. When it comes to Bible translation philosophy, there are really only two translation philosophies of which to speak: (1) Formal Equivalence; and (2) Functional Equivalence. Formal Equivalence is method of translation that seeks to translate a word in the source language into its closest equivalent in the receptor language. In common parlance, Formal Equivalence is also known as “word-for-word” translation. Now when I say “word-for-word,” we need to understand that there is never a perfect one-for-one correspondence between any two languages. Anyone who speaks a foreign language knows that you never translate in a “woodenly literal” manner. Formal Equivalence seeks to make its translation a literal as possible.

The other translation philosophy is Functional Equivalence. A translation that employs Functional Equivalence seeks to translate the thoughts and concepts of the source language into equivalent thoughts and concepts in the receptor language. Another way of describing this translation philosophy is to call it a “thought-for-thought” translation. Functional Equivalence understands the dilemma of translation, so it seeks to take the meaning of the words of the source language and translate them in such a way that the meaning is preserved in the receptor language.

When people ask the question “which Bible translation is the best,” or “which Bible translation is most accurate,” the issue of translation philosophy plays a big part, so which translation philosophy leads to the best and most accurate Bible? Before I answer that question, the Bible has something to say on this subject:

  • Psalms 12:6 (NKJV) The words of the LORD [are] pure words, [Like] silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.
  • Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV) The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Matthew 5:18 (NKJV) “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
  • Matthew 24:35 (NKJV) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

These verses, among others that could have been chosen, place an emphasis on God’s words. Words are important to the Lord. When God inspired the Bible writers to write the Scriptures, He didn’t inspire thoughts, He inspired words. As such, it is the words of God that are important. Thus, in my opinion, the best Bibles are those that utilize the translation philosophy of Formal Equivalence, not Functional Equivalence. For my own personal study and edification, I want a translation of the Bible that gets me as close to the words of God as possible in English. Functional Equivalent translations (i.e., “thought-for-thought”) are not bad translations, but again, in my opinion, they’re not the best nor are they the most accurate.

So which of the many English Bible translations on the market use Formal Equivalence and which employ Functional Equivalence? I’m not going to be able to list every English Bible translation, but I will list the most common and popular ones on the market today:

  • Formal Equivalent Translations: King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV),
  • Functional Equivalent Translations: Christian Standard Bible (CSB), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT)
  • Paraphrases (These are translations that are usually done by one man and are, as the name suggests, loose paraphrases of the original languages. As such I do not recommend these Bibles): Contemporary English Version (CEV), Good News Translation (GNT), The Message (MSG)

As a pastor, I would recommend any of the Bible translations in the first group. The Bibles in the second group I wouldn’t necessarily steer anyone away from them, but I would strongly encourage them to get a Bible in the first group. For anyone interested in digging deeper in their personal study, I would recommend cross referencing several Bible translations. There are many free apps or websites that allow you to parallel two or more Bible translations to see how different translators translate the same verse(s). 

I’ll leave it here for now. In the next post we’ll tackle the “which translation is best” question from a different angle as well as look at the question “does it really matter which translation of the Bible I read?” Until then, keep reading your Bible!

~Pastor Carl

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What Does the Bible Teach About Climate Change?
What Does the Bible Teach About Climate Change?

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • October 27, 2020

This is a good question and one that seems to come up every four years around election time. I think in order to answer this question, we need to decouple climate change the environmental issue from climate change the political issue.

By all official statistics, global temperatures are on the rise. Now, I want to just state right up front: I am not a climate scientist, so it is not my goal to corroborate or refute the “official” statistics. I am merely reporting on the facts of the matter. How the facts are interpreted is quite another story. Let’s stipulate this fact for the sake of argument. As I understand things, the earth has gone through several cycles of warming and cooling. This seems to be a natural thing as far as the earth is concerned. We just happen to be on a warming cycle.

So as far as the environmental issue goes, the earth has gone through several cycles of warming and cooling, we’re currently on a warming trend, what’s the big deal? Now when we look at the Bible, we need to take into account two things: (1) God is in sovereign control of all things, and (2) God made a covenant with Noah (and all humanity) that normal cycle of the environment shall not cease to be.

Regarding the first issue (God is sovereign), consider the following Scriptures:

  • Genesis 1:1 (KJV) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
  • Colossians 1:16,17 (KJV) 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

There are others that could be cited, but God, as the Creator of all things, is the Sovereign Ruler of all things. Everything that happens in heaven and on earth (including the climate) is in His sovereign control. The reality of climate change is not a thing that has caught God off guard.

Regarding the second issue (God’s covenant with humanity) consider the following Scriptures:

  • Genesis 8:22 (KJV) While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
  • Jeremiah 33:20-26 (KJV) 20 Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; 25 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant [be] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth

God made a covenant with Noah after the flood that never again will He destroy the earth by means of a flood. In that covenant, God promises (a promise sealed by the sign of the rainbow) that the normal pattern of seasonal change shall continue uninterrupted while the earth remains. This is a key point for the world will not last forever. It will be purged and renewed by God on the day of Christ’s return (see 2 Peter 3:10).

So why do I belabor this? The reason is this: I don’t believe that climate change will be what destroys the earth. I believe that the Bible teaches that God so preserves the earth that the normal pattern of change (day & night, summer & winter, warming & cooling, etc) will continue while the earth remains. I also do not believe that climate change will be the means God uses to remake the earth (again see 2 Peter 3:10). So I am not overly concerned with the environmental issue of climate change. 

I do believe that as creatures made in the image of God with the breath of life in our lungs, we do have a duty to be good stewards of God’s good creation. When Adam & Eve were created and placed in the garden, they were to care and tend to it (Genesis 2:15). What that means is that we should definitely use and develop the environment for the benefit of all mankind. I do not think we should exploit or damage the environment for the sake of profit. The trend in recent decades regarding the reaping of the earth’s natural resources has been very positive and responsible. We should definitely explore so-called “clean” energy and alternative energy while at the same time seek cleaner and more efficient ways to use fossil fuels.

Now when it comes to climate change the political issue, this is a vastly different subject. The current, political, environmental movement is a quasi-religious movement. You have a “priesthood” (climate scientists) whose word on the subject is taken as “gospel truth.” You have “prophets” (political & environmental activists) who proclaim that the earth is doomed in 10 (12, 15, 20, etc.) years if we don’t act now. You have a “god” in “Mother Earth.” If you dare to counter the climate “orthodoxy” you are shunned and labeled a “heretic” (i.e., “climate denier”).

All of this is, in my opinion, a ploy to gain political power for other nefarious reasons. If you look at any political group that adheres to the current orthodoxy of climate change (the Green Party, the Socialist Party of America, etc.), you’ll see that it’s all for the purpose of scaring people into voting for them so they can dismantle our current constitutional-republic and implement a democratic-socialist “utopia” (which literally means “no place”) that bows to the false religion of climate change.

So in summary, I believe that as Christians, we should be good stewards of God’s creation. We should all want clean water and breathable air. We should all seek to move toward viable clean energy solutions that protect our environment. On the other hand, as Christians, we should avoid the current “radical” environmental movement that is attempting to gain control of our political process. I believe this is really a false religion for atheists & agnostics.

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Is “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) Biblical?
Is “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) Biblical?

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • October 22, 2020

I was recently asked by a member of the congregation my stance on WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”). Before I get too deep into this issue, a little context is in order. The church in which I serve is a member church in the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS). The RCUS is a denomination with German Reformed roots going all the way back to the Reformation itself. The RCUS subscribes to the Three Forms of Unity (TFU) as their secondary standard of authority after the Holy Bible itself. The TFU are: The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt. These three documents express a decidedly Calvinistic theology.

Why does this matter to the question? Well, in Reformed circles, the emphasis is on God’s sovereignty and free grace. You may have heard of the “Five Solas” of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria). In English, they read: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, to the Glory of God Alone. In other words, we are saved through faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Furthermore, Scripture alone is the sole infallible source of authority in faith and practice for the Christian.

So when a Reformed person hears WWJD, there is an almost autonomic negative response to it. The feeling is that WWJD reduces the richness of the Christian faith to a slogan: What would Jesus do? It also seems to suggest that to be a Christian is simply using Jesus’ life as an example to emulate. It reduces the sovereign grace of God in salvation to a crass “do this and live” mentality.

Now as one who considers himself Reformed, I understand that reaction to WWJD. There are some segments of Christianity who preach “saved by grace, stay saved by works,” or “saved by grace, sanctified (made holy) by works.” I believe this is a perversion of the gospel. It preaches a “do more, try harder” type of Christianity that creates anxiety or burn out in Christians. The Christian life is a life of faith from beginning to end:

Romans 1:17 (NKJV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Now if this person had asked me 10-15 years ago, as I was becoming reformed in my own thinking, I might have very well reacted much the way I described above. Basically saying that WWJD has no place in a Reformed church and should not be used as means to train children. However, now as a pastor of a church, my responses have to be more measured, more thought out. Rather than react with a negative response as the subject of WWJD is brought up, I gave a more nuanced response.

Two reasons. First, a negative reaction on this subject would have not been helpful. Here was a dear saint in the congregation attempting to raise her children in the Lord, and she thought that WWJD was a useful tool to help train her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So to get a negative reaction from her pastor would be shocking to say the least.

Secondly, I think there is an aversion to “works” in Reformed circles. I love Reformed theology and I love redemptive-historical preaching, but if all of our preaching application is only and exclusively “trust in Jesus, rest in Jesus, look to Jesus,” I think we’re missing the point. We’re so focused on God’s sovereign grace in salvation that we forget that the Bible does contain commands. Shocking, I know, but it does! We need to preach the commands in Scripture as commands! If all we do in preaching commands is “you can’t do it, Jesus did it, trust in Him,” then I think that kind of preaching is just as shallow as “do more, try harder.”

Reformed preaching needs to be balanced. It must be rooted and grounded in God’s sovereign grace toward us in salvation. Amen! Reformed preaching must emphasize the fact that Jesus Christ is our righteousness, that He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Amen! However, we must also not forget that the imperatives (commands) of Scripture flow out of the indicatives (facts) of Scripture. Because Jesus did, we can do!

Let’s not forget that in the RCUS, our very own beloved Heidelberg Catechism is organized as: Sin, Salvation, Service; or Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. In fact, LD32, Q86 asks “Since, then, we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we do good works?” That’s a really good question! The Catechism gives three answers: (1) “We show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing, and that He be glorified through us;” (2) “We ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof;” (3) “By our godly walk win also others to Christ.”

This is so much more than simply “rest in Christ, look to Christ, trust in Christ.” Jesus Himself said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). Obedience = Love of Christ! Let’s not also forget that the Bible does speak of WWJD. Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV) Imitate me, just as I also [imitate] Christ.

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

Colossians 2:6 (NKJV) As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him

Imitate Paul as he imitates Christ, be imitators of God, as we have received Christ so walk in Him...all of this sounds like WWJD. Not to mention all of the passages that speak of “walking” in general.

So is WWJD Biblical? Yes. There are clear commands in Scripture which call us to walk as Christ walked. Can WWJD be abused? Yes. Like anything good and useful, it can be reduced to a cliche and abused. Should we balance obedience with faith? Absolutely! We must always remember that our obedience to Christ flows out of His salvation for us. It is always a walk of faith that is grounded in God’s great salvation for us; never as a means to obtain God’s favor.

~Pastor Carl

EDIT (11/04/2020): In an earlier version of this post, I had previsouly mentioned a "former pastor of Emmanuel Reformed Church." It was brought to my attention that unless I had spoke with this man about it, making a disagreement between pastors public information was inappropriate. Obviously I agree with that critique. It was a lapse in my own judgment for which I apologize. Even more so since I do not know the identity of the former pastor, even more reason NOT to mention that information. I will endeavor to avoid such gross lapses of judgment in the future.

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Of RBG, the Supreme Court, and Vacancies...Oh My!
Of RBG, the Supreme Court, and Vacancies...Oh My!

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • September 24, 2020

This past week saw the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Badger-Ginsburg (commonly referred to as “RBG”). Justice Ginsburg died last Friday, September 18, 2020 from a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. She was appointed to the court by President Clinton in 1993 and has been a stalwart defender of gender equality and women’s rights. She was a remarkable woman who led a very accomplished life overcoming her own form of gender discrimination as she was coming up the legal ranks. Myself, as a conservative, there are some areas in which I would agree with RBG, and many areas in which I would disagree with her (most notably her “pro-choice” stance in regards to abortion).

However, my concern isn’t to talk about her life, but to talk about the aftermath of her death. You see, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re nearing the end of one of the most contentious presidential election years I’ve ever witnessed. RBG’s death came with just 46 days left until the election. Because RBG was considered one of the members of the “liberal wing” of the court, naturally, democrats are saying that her seat on the court shouldn’t be filled until after the election. Republicans, on the other hand, are saying that the seat should be filled, and filled now!

What muddies the waters even more is that in 2016, a nearly identical set of circumstances occurred. On February 13 of that year, Justice Antonin Scalia died. Then President Obama wanted to appoint Judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia on the bench, but senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to hold hearings on Judge Garland. In fact, many republicans were “quoted” as saying that in an election year, we should let the people decide who will appoint Scalia’s replacement. Some of these very same republicans are now saying that RBG’s vacancy should be filled.

This opens up the republicans to charges of “hypocrisy.” How could they deny a hearing to Judge Garland in 2016 266 days out from the election, but then be in favor of appointed a replacement for RBG in 2020 only 45 days out from the election? Seems like a clear cut case for hypocrisy, right? Let’s examine this.

The first thing to say is that the same democrats who are accusing republicans of hypocrisy in 2020, were the ones saying “fill the seat” back in 2016. So the charge of hypocrisy seems to cut both ways (welcome to the world of politics). The point being, politicians are politicians. Now you might say, “Carl, you’re a pastor. How can you be in favor of ‘naked hypocrisy’ in American politics?” Well, I’m not in favor of “naked hypocrisy” in American politics. I am just simply stating the facts as I see them. This is the “partisan battle” we see happening everyday before our eyes. Should we expect better from our politicians? Yes, absolutely. But that’s not the reality we live in, so we have to deal with what we have.

Secondly, there is the “precedent” issue. To hear the rhetoric, what is being proposed is “unprecedented” in American history. However, 29 times in our history there has been a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. Each of these 29 times, the sitting president has nominated an individual to fill that vacancy. The only difference is whether or not the senate has confirmed the nominee. In a majority of the cases, whether or not the senate has confirmed the nominee has been largely determined by which party controls the senate. When the president’s party has control of the senate, the nominee has been confirmed the vast majority of the times. When the opposition party has been in control of the senate, the president’s nominee has not been confirmed the vast majority of the time.

Why does all of this matter? In general, it speaks to the “will of the people.” In 2014, Americans voted to give the senate to the republicans. The republicans maintained control in 2016 and in 2018. In part, one could say, the American people made a decision as to which party controls the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees. Similarly, when the country elected Donald Trump as president in 2016, one could say, that there was a mandate as to what kind of Supreme Court justices the people wanted nominated. So it makes sense why the republicans didn’t confirm Merrick Garland, but are willing to confirm whomever President Trump nominates (and vice verse the democrats).

Another question can be asked of me, “Carl, being a pastor, how can you be in favor of such ‘naked partisanship?’” In general, I’m not. But there is an ideology, a philosophy, behind the parties. I am in favor of the judicial philosophy to which the republicans hold. That philosophy is that the Supreme Court should judge laws based on their constitutionality as understood by the framers of the constitution. In other words, I do not believe that the U.S. Constitution is a “living document” that needs to evolve to fit our modern understanding. I believe the Constitution set forth limits on the power and reach of government as put forth in their enumerated powers. The Constitution also holds forth as sacrosanct the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Conversely, I do not agree with the judicial philosophy of the Democratic Party. They generally tend to nominate justices who will interpret laws and the Constitution in light of current thinking on “social justice,” “economic justice,” etc.

A final question can be asked of me, “Carl, aren’t you espousing an ‘end justifies the means’ argument?” No, and let me explain why. The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section II) grants that the president shall nominate individuals to the Supreme Court and that the senate shall provide their “advice and consent.” It is fully within the constitutionally mandated authority of the president to nominate a person to the Supreme Court, and for the senate to confirm (or not confirm) that nomination. The fact of the matter is that in this particular case I happen to approve of whomever would be nominated. If the parties were reversed, I would not be happy, but there is no constitutional argument to be made against such a situation. Now do I wish that the rhetoric of our elected politicians were more honest and less partisan? Absolutely! But I can only hold my own senators (Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer of Nebraska) accountable for any hypocrisy in their speech.

In closing, what is disconcerting to me about all of this is the importance we, as a people, place on the Supreme Court. We’ve invested these nine individuals with so much mystique and power that they’re almost seen as “holy seers” or “sacred prophets.” The fact of the matter is that they, like all of us, are flawed, sinful individuals. They need the forgiveness of sins just as much as the next person. Though they may be esteemed members of the highest court in the land, they are all under the sovereign control of THE Supreme Judge, God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. As Christians, we should be concerned with the goings on of our nation, but the Bible reminds us that we are “in the world, not of the world” (John 17:11, 14). Meaning we live in this world, but our citizenship “is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). As such, we should have minds that are “seeking those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1). This is difficult to do when we see all of the craziness going in in the world, but one of my favorite verses is this: “In the world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Go forth in the knowledge that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has overcome the world, and that through Him, we are all over-comers!

~Pastor Carl

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Turning Away From the Truth
Turning Away From the Truth

Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS) • September 16, 2020

2 Timothy 4:3–4 (NKJV): For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Paul, in warning his young protege Timothy, talks about a time coming when people “will not endure sound doctrine...and they will turn their ears away from the truth.” Never has this statement been more true than today. Now perhaps it’s a bit hyperbolic to make that statement, so let me ask you this: Can you recall a time within your lifetime where truth has been less relevant in our culture? I myself certainly can’t.

Perhaps you might be thinking, “You sound just like every other ‘doomsayer’ from generations gone by.” Okay, maybe you’re right, but what this tells me is that we’ve been descending down this spiral for a long time. We live in a time in which the truth is under attack.

Consider the following:

  • The concept of gender is being erased
  • Rioters and protesters bringing chaos and anarchy in the streets of many of our major cities is considered “peaceful,” and policemen doing their jobs protecting the citizenry and upholding law & order are considered “evil”
  • Religious worship, which is protected and guaranteed by our first amendment, is considered “non-essential,” while abortion clinics (protected by an imaginary “right to privacy”) are considered “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Things such as “white privilege” and “systemic racism” have been invented out of whole cloth to promote a narrative racism and discrimination is still rampant in American society

All of these examples are just the latest entries our society’s battle against truth and objectivity. Truth doesn’t matter, only narrative. Facts don’t matter, only how those facts support a narrative. And so on...

You see, if we still held high standards for truth and objectivity, then all of those things I mentioned above would be easily resolved: (1) There are only two genders; (2) violent protesters and rioters would be arrested; (3) religious worship would be allowed to progress unhindered; and (4) we would recognize the tremendous progress this country has made in the way of race relations.

But our society has become allergic to the truth. Objectivity has devolved into morass of subjectivity. It used to be “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” now it’s “Hey, well that’s your truth.” Why is that and what’s the solution?

Well you can try to find solutions in sociology, psychology, etc., but the truth (pun intended) of the matter is that when you reject God and His revelation, then it’s no surprise that truth and objectivity no longer matter. The Triune God is not only the ground and source of all being, but He’s also the ground and source of all knowledge. One of the clearest Biblical statements of this fact is Paul’s comment in Romans 1:21-22...

Romans 1:21–22 (NKJV): Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.

It’s clear, when you reject God, you end up with a foolish heart and futile thoughts. That’s why when people—even unbelieving people—make objective truth claims, they are shouted down by opponents. Their futile thoughts and foolish hearts hate the truth—it is offensive to them, therefore they lash out at anyone who promotes truth and blames them for being “intolerant” and “bigoted.”

The solution is just as simple as the diagnosis from a Biblical perspective, and that’s conversion. Now when I say simple, I mean from God’s perspective. We cannot change the heart of fallen mankind. The only thing we can do is continue to lovingly share the truth—the truth about their sin and the truth about Jesus Christ who died to save them from that sin.

Jesus said...

John 8:31–32 (NKJV): If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Jesus is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12) who shines in the darkness of the human heart to bring the Light of life to lost sinners. If you’re not a Christian, if you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, then I urge you to confess your sins and come to Jesus in faith. Find a Bible and read the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John presents one of the clearest pictures of Jesus Christ as the Son of God in all of Scripture. If you’re so inclined, then continue on to the Book of Romans. Romans presents us with the most detailed expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the entire Bible. If you’re inclined to pray, then pray that God will soften your heart and speak to you through His word. My prayer for you is that you will indeed “know the truth and the truth shall make you free!”

~Pastor Carl

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