a "Biblical Philosophy": Examination of Biblical
Special words or themes that are commonly misunderstood...
The following are not thoroughgoing arguments. They are
meant to give insights into the coherence of Biblical thought
and theology as a philosophical system. The more thorough
arguments are given elsewhere on this site and others.
Many links have been provided for those more complete arguments.
Genesis 1:1 The Biblical Metaphysics or Cosmology - Metaphysics
Genesis 1:3 Let there be light...
Truth and more
So the evening and the morning were the first day
Be fruitful and multiply... have dominion... and more
God created man in
His own image
Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind
Chapter 1 (and 2) Ancient Language and Modern Science
“You shall surely die…” Metaphysics of death and life
Genesis 2:19-20 Adam Naming the Creatures
Epistemology, Metaphysics, Language, and Science
Genesis 2:20 "But for
Adam there was not found
suitable for him" Anthropology,
Ethics, "Feminism," Government, Hermeneutics
The First Question about Epistemology Answered by the Greatest
Certainty: Death! Epistemology and Ethics Inescapably
Genesis 6:2 "Sons of God" Hermeneutics, Grammar, and
Context (Book and Bible)
Exodus 3:14 "I AM WHO I AM" Ontology,
Metaphysics and "Being"
Exodus 20:3 "You
shall have no other gods before Me" - Classical Theism as A
God of Christian Philosophers
Exodus 20:4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image
6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is
one! - Unity of Philo-sophia in God
Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Proverbs 8:35 "All those that hate me love death"
- Unbiblical Philosophy
Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory
of God to conceal a matter." - God Is
Isaiah 45:7 "I
form the light... and create evil" Theodicy
Jeremiah 31:33 “I will
put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.”
- Law and Mind
Micah 6:8 "Doing justice,
loving mercy, and walking humbly" – Justice, Love, Ethics,
Matthew 4:4 "Man
shall not live on bread alone..." Loving
God, neighbor, and self with the mind
Matthew 4:4 "... but by every word that proceeds from the
mouth of God"
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in
neuroscience, evolutionary biology, substance dualism,
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to
Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…”
19:28 - "In the
regeneration” - Cosmology and Ethics Inexorably Linked
25:34-46 Judgment by Works - God's Equity Is Beyond
Question (the Telos of Ethics)
22:19; I Corinthians 11:24 “Do this in remembrance of me” -
Philosophy of mind: memory
Luke 23:39-43 - The Thief on the Cross: What Did He Believe?
- Knowledge and Regeneration
John 1:1-16 "In the beginning was the Word..." Prologue to
John's Gospel -
Epistemology, language theory
John 1:3 "All
things were made through Him..." Metaphysics, ontology,
physical science, "being"
John 1:4-5 "In Him was life, and the
life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not
comprehend it" Epistemology,
John 1:9 "The
true Light... which... enlightens every man."
John 1:12 "But as
many as received Him..." - Anthropology
John 3:12 "Earthly
and Heavenly Things" - Epistemology, noetic effects of sin
John 3:16 “For
God so loved the world…”
Hermeneutics: definition in context
John 4:24; 6:63; 10:30; 15:26; 16:13; 17:17 Trinity, Word,
and Truth: Unity - Epistemological and Omniscient Unity
John 14:6 "I
AM, the way, the truth, and the life ... Unity of the
Subjective and Objective
... no man
comes to the Father but through me." Logic and the Law
Acts 17:22-32 Paul's Speech to the Athenians -
Romans 1:18-31 One of
the Great Texts for a Biblical Philosophy Lengthy
Essay on Philosophy and Biblical Anthropology; Evangelism;
Epistemology and Immorality;
Romans 1:18 “Who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”
Ethics, not epistemology is the problem—the noetic effects of
Romans 2:15 “Their
conscience also bearing witness… Anthropology, soteriology,
Romans 3:8 “Let us (not) do evil that good may come…”
Teleological, utilitarian, normative, and other ethics
Romans 3:11 Calvin on the
"Greatness" of Philosophers - What is "great"
Romans 8:20, 22 The
creation was subjected to futility... (and) groans and labors
with birth pangs... - Environmentalism, Cultural Mandate
(Kingdom of God)
"Whatever is not from faith is sin" Ethics,
certainty, anthropology, "examined life"
Corinthians, Chapters 1-2 Concentrated Epistemology;
The Wisdom of God vs. Wisdom of the World and Its Philosophers;
Noetic effects of sin
2:14 "But we have the mind of Christ”
I Corinthians 3:11: The Foundation
“No creed but Christ” Epistemology,
6:1-8 Pagan and Christian judges…
Corinthians 8:1 "Knowledge puffs up"
Hermeneutics, Coherence, Love
I Corinthians 9:25 "Be temperate in all
- Ethics, The Good, Happiness
10:20 "Gentiles sacrifice to demons" - Demons in Greek
13:13 The Relationship of Hope and Faith Certainty, Time,
Hebrews (light), Greeks (knowledge),
and Romans (glory) - Faith of Cultures
“It was for freedom that Christ
set us free!”
sociology, politics, free-will
"Him who works
all things according to the counsel of His will"
Supernaturalistic truth, transcendental ethics
Ephesians 4:17-24 The Total Life Re-orientation of
Regeneration and Sanctification - Metaphysics,
Epistemology, and Ethics
Colossians 2:8 Do Not
Be Taken in by Pagan and Jewish Philosophies
- Epistemology and Theology
Colossians 2:9 In Him
all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily
Metaphysics, Anthropology, Greek Philosophy
Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone will not work, neither shall
he eat” - Coherence (Systematics)
2:13-15, 9:27 "Fear of death ... the judgment"
- The Greatest Certainty
and the Greatest Fear
Hebrews 11:6 Without Faith It Is Impossible to Please God - The Most
Basic Epistemology, commonly misunderstood
James 1:17 "No variation or shadow of turning"
Theism, Anthropology, and Metaphysics
James 2:19 Even the demons
Peter 4:8 "Love
Covers a Multitude of Sins"
- Ethics, Law, Definition of Love
Genesis 1:1 The Biblical Metaphysics or Cosmology
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
In the "beginning" of what? In the beginning of time, God
created space, matter, and energy. Before time, God was... existed ... was real ...
was contained in His essence ... His ousia
In this simple declaration,, the answer for metaphysics and
cosmology is given. Many
philosophers over the centuries have recognized that man could
never know the "essence" of anything in the universe
(Kant in particular) .
Indeed, man is still searching the atom and other cosmic
phenomena (strings, quarks, etc.) to discover its
"ultimate" mysteries. As they search for some "beginning"
other than God, they become shrill and even foolish in their
theories. Genesis 1:1 answers the essence of all things:
gravity "works" because God made bodies to attract each other;
light is both a wave and a particle because God made it that
way; quantum changes occur because God made them so, and so on
for all that exists in the universe. All metaphysics and
cosmology is answered in this simple, but "ultimately" profound
statement, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the
earth." Hebrews 11:3 follows with "By faith we
understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so
that the things which are seen were not made of things which are
visible." The 'upostasis of 11:1 is also the
'upostasis of all matter and energy—God Himself as Spirit.
Many philosophers focus on being or Being, but "ultimately" all
that one can say about this concept is (1) God's being is
manifested in His attributes; that is, He is indistinguishable
from His attributes. (2) All created things are
indistinguishable from their "attributes" (characteristics) and
relations ("relational ontology").
There is no "essence" (being, hypostasis, substance or ding
an sich) of any material object in the universe except how
it is empirically known. See the illustrations given
One can make the case that the purpose of creation is to fulfill
the characteristics that God has created inherently in
everything. (Jonathan Edwards wrote a whole book,
Concerning the End for Which God Created the World—His
own glory. For mankind, this position means that his
purpose is ultimately found in his morality
(righteousness), as directed by God's declarative (revealed)
will. For philosophy, then, ethics becomes secondary only
to epistemology; that is, once one knows with certainty (trust
in the Bible), then his task becomes one of right behavior
(righteousness), not in discovering his "being" (which cannot be
known other than being an object of God's creation). Thus,
"from the beginning" Biblical theology determines the priorities
Cosmic personalism: The cosmos created by a
Person means that it is "personally generated." God
created the universe for His purposes and for His glory.
Thus, the whole cosmos is not a cold, stark stage of blind and
undirected forces, but one that has the personal touch of an
omnipotent Creator. Once this personalism is realized,
then there can be no evil in the universe—God
is good and directing all things to His ends (Isaiah
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all
creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven
and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created
through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him
all things consist." (Colossians 1:15-17)
Apologetic—only two choices:
There are only two choices about the origin of the universe:
creation by a person or a non-person. A choice here has
powerful ramifications. For example, if the universe is
impersonal, there can be no meaning, purpose to human life, or
any other teleological end. But, if personal, then
ultimate teleological purposes much be researched from all the
existing possibilities of religious origins. I leave the
reader to explore other powerful differences between these two
possible origins. For more on these two origins, see
“Let there be light…”
This first mention of light in the Bible
begins fascinating associations of light.
It will be a recurring
theme in this file, as one can see by all the mentions in it.
Here in 1:3, this light is not the sun!
The creation of the sun
comes later on Creation Day Four.
So, what is this light? Well,
we find clues that continue about Day One.
“And God saw the light
that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.”
First, the light was “good.”
In itself, that statement
is not too remarkable. Everything
that God created, He called “good.”
However, the opposite of
light, He called “darkness.” Generally
in Scripture “light” becomes a metaphor for the Word of God
(Psalm 119:105), God’s favor (Psalm 4:7), wisdom (Ecclesiastes
2:13), Christians influence on the world (Matthew 5:13-16),
knowledge per se (John
1:9—see herein), and the Gospel (Romans 2:19)—to mention only a
few. In fact, “light”
appears in almost 300 passages in Scripture, frequently if not
mostly, contrasting God’s understanding with that of Satan, the
world, and “man as the measure of all things.”
Finally, Christ Himself will be the “light of
heaven” (Revelation 21:22). There
will be no physical sun or any other “light” there. This reality
has powerful implications that will be explored later.
Now, if I have introduced “light” properly,
the reader should be gasping for more!
Well, we will definitely
explore this theme in passages ahead.
For now, and for brevity
in keeping with this file, this introduction will have to
suffice. But, readers,
and especially students for a paper might want to use a
www.biblegateway.com, to check what all the metaphors of
“light” in Scripture represent.
So the evening and the morning were the first day
I have long been puzzled by attempts to
figure the time period for Creation Week. God's creative
work during that period was miraculous—one
evidence being the creation of plants before their life-giving
sun. Further, miracles supersede time, space, and other
natural laws, so "time," as we know and measure it, did not
really exist that week. Thus, I have coined the term,
Creation Day, to designate
each "evening and morning" of that week. A "Creation Day"
has no time period and is only designated by the events of that
However, once Creation Week is completed,
time is counted, as we know it today. Thus, the chronology of the
Bible must be valid from the end of the Sixth Day. Adam's
life began 4033 B.C., as calculated by Bishop Usher in the 17th
century and Floyd Jones in the 20th century. Attempts to
determine age of created objects could be distorted by this
concept of Creation Days. But once human chronology
begins, Biblical accuracy of times periods is mandated by the
authority of God Himself.
This concept could have further applications. (1) It would
explain the absence of life-giving sun for plants, food for
animals, etc., as God supplied them miraculously for this
"beginning." (2) It would give additional meaning to
"God's rest" at the end of the week. The universe,
especially living things, functions as a composite, well
described by Leibniz' fictitious "monads," modern chaos theory,
and many other attempts. It could only function as a whole
when it became "whole" at the end of Creation Week. It was
not a whole prior to that time, thus God had to miraculously
sustain it during that week. However, once completed, the
universe could function as a whole according to what we call
"natural laws and order." Thus, God rested from this
necessary sustenance from the end of the Sixth Day onward.
He still sustains it (Hebrews 1:3), but according to a
predictable ordering and without a continually sustained miracle.
Genesis 1:22ff Be
fruitful and multiply... have dominion... and more!
See Glossary here:
The Creation Mandate.
Genesis 1:27 God
created man in His own image
Then God said,
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of
the air, and over the cattle, over all
the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the
So God created man in His own image;
in the image of God He created him; male and female He created
them. (Genesis 1:26-27, NKJV)
Genesis, Chapter 1 (and
2) Ancient Language and Modern Science
Neither science nor theology can answer the problems of Creation
Week. The “problems”
are the length of “day”; the intricacies of the interaction of
light, plant life, etc. that are different from present natural
conditions; the conflict of literal Biblical days and
radioactive dating that is millions of years old; and others,
especially those about which “young-earth” and “old-earth”
Science. Science cannot
answer the questions definitively because the very nature of
science is tentative and conditional.
It is tentative by the
empirical method of induction: taking a small sample and
assuming a universal conclusion; arbitrary decisions of what to
measure and how; personal decisions of “what” to study;
subjective conclusions of the data gathered; and a host of other
arbitrary and conditional choices in the methods of science (re:
Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge). Young-earth
scientists and old-earth scientists use the same “facts,” but
interpret them differently. What
better example can be given of the tentative and conditional
nature of science when those committed to Biblical inerrancy
Scripture. Moses wrote to be
understood by a pre-scientific culture.
Yes, it was also written
for all times and all peoples, but it had to be written in the
language of that time to be understood
before the scientific
age. The language of
Genesis will not allow any accurate correlation with the
language of modern science. All
linguists state that one language cannot be fully translated
into another. How much
more so is that fact true with more than 2000 years and
extremely diverse cultures between them!
Day. There are strong
Biblical evidences for yom
(Hebrew “day”) being a standard calendar day.
(1) There was “evening
and morning” each day. (2)
The 4th Commandment fits a standard 7-day week.
The overwhelming use of
yom is a literal
But there is a difference between “strong
Biblical evidence” and an absolute conclusion.
yom of Genesis One
occurs during a week of miracles which are not subject to
natural conditions of time and space.
Yom is used for longer
periods of time, as in “those days,” in other places in
Scripture. That reality
allows the possibility, not the certainty, of something other than a calendar
A calendar day is not
absolutely necessary to retain all the theological meaning of
texts that refer to “days” of Genesis One.
(4) I use “calendar” day
because a day is not exactly 24 hours, but about four seconds
less. To require 24-hour
literal days is to lose one’s argument from the start.
Conclusion: This review has been a quick and superficial analysis.
illustrates that conditionals and imprecision of words and
language will always prevent absolute agreement on all these
issues concerning Genesis One. However,
one must be careful here. (1)
The genealogies that begin in Genesis are an entirely different
matter. There is
no compelling reason
to not accept those years as literal years, as we understand
them. (2) Genesis One
(and Two) is a unique text whose hermeneutics do not necessarily
correlate with the hermeneutics of other texts.
(3) It is modern science
that has compelled a re-thinking of Genesis One.
Any challenge by modern
science according to its tentative and conditional nature must
be taken as tentative
and conditional. Modern science
is a logical fallacy in its methods and conclusions.
It is never truth.
Therefore, one must not
be compelled by science to change one’s view on Genesis One. (4)
The Bible is the most certain and only truth known to mankind.
Therein is truth and
“You shall surely die…” Did Adam die?
so, what type of death?
Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall
surely die.” At first
glance, Adam did not die! He
lived another 930 years (Genesis 5:5)
So, did God fail to
punish Adam with death? The
only conclusion is that Adam did not die
physically, but he did
is, he became estranged or
separated from God. Herein
is the Biblical concept of death—separation.
There are four types of death in the Bible.
Spiritual death. Man
“is dead in trespasses and sins”—that is he is spiritually
separated from God. That
is what happened to Adam, and in him all men die’ (I Corinthians
Physical death. “It
is appointed unto man once to die (physically), and after that
the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). (3)
Death to the “old man.” “For
you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God … put to
death your members which are on the earth” (Colossians 3:3, 5).
The second death. “Then
Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the
second death” (Revelation 20:14)—separation from God forever and
finally. By contrast, there are four types of “life”—life in the
Garden of Eden, physical life on earth, regenerate life after
being “born-again,” and life in heaven.
What is common to these four types of death
The life of the person
does not end—even in physical death, because he lives eternally
in Heaven or Hell. Once a
person is conceived, he lives eternally—for a while on earth and
eternally thereafter. Thus,
the Bible student must come to understand death, as separation,
not cessation of life. Contrast
these four types of death with naturalism which knows only one
type of life and one type of death—that which is physical.
Genesis 2:19-20 Adam Naming the Creatures
"Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field
and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to
see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each
living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave
names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast
of the field."
“In our present state we can find out about
things only by observation and analysis (Ed: empiricism,
induction, and scientific method), but in Paradise it was not
so. For we read that
God brought animals to Adam and that Adam perceived their nature
in such a way that he gave them names at first sight.
Naturally, this cannot mean that, as the animals went by
him, he uttered a sound without thought or sense.
Imagine that someone carried two or three hundred
suitcases in front of you and that you randomly made a sound at
the sight of each, one after the other.
Before you reached the hundredth, you would have
forgotten the name of the first.
Besides, what purpose did Adam’s naming the animals
serve? Eve was not
there. Nobody heard
him. The passage
makes sense only if it is understood that Adam, directly
penetrating to the essence of each animal, expressed his
insight in a name that
corresponded to that essence.
“Adam’s ability with respect to the animal
world no doubt be applied just as much to vegetation, indeed, to
all of nature. The
faculty of immediate comprehension we no longer possess.
If we want to learn more of a plant or animal, we have to
study it closely and for a long time and draw conclusions about
its nature [aard] from
our observations; but we will never thus understand its essence
Even its instincts remain an unsolved riddle.
But Adam had
Recognizing that, we grasp how Adam, without the entrance of
sin, would have immediately come to a science of all Creation
that would have lead on to a direct understanding of all
Creation with respect to origin and destiny.
“This too, Adam, not only penetrated to the
essence of things but
named them as well.
This naming is also lost to us.
We can give a name to a strange thing but take it over
from another people or make such a name with the help of Greek
roots, as with telegraph, telephone, electricity, etc.
But new names in our own tongue expressing the essence of
things we can only from by composition or by taking over two
words already in use.
We can no longer create language.
Adam, however, could.
In him concept stood in organic coherence with
essence and word with
He never learned to speak from his mother but spoke
automatically and as God already spoke to him, which in turn he
must have understood.
All this shows at how high a level his language and
conceptual ability must have stood.
We do not exaggerate in saying that Adam possessed a
clarity and insight in his own world of thought, in his own
consciousness, that is lost to us.
Without sin science would have had a completely different
course and would have been built with an immediacy that we can
hardly imagine…. To Adam, science was an immediate possession;
for us it is bread we can only eat in the sweat of our minds,
after hard and strenuous labor.”
Genesis 2:20 "But for
Adam there was not found
suitable for him"
18 Then the LORD God
said, “It is not good for the man to be alone;
I will make him a helper
suitable for him.... 20 but for
Adam there was not found
suitable for him (Genesis 2:18, 20, NASB).
God did not create for "man" (masculine) another man; He created
a woman--a being different physically, sexually, hormonally,
emotionally, instinctually, and other ways in contrast to the
man. The word "help-meet" has to do with completion; a
single man is not complete without being married to a woman.
He is inadequate without a wife. The vocation of a woman
is to complete a man—be a "help-meet" for
him and to be a mother... to bring all the differences in her
to complete the man.
For anyone who believes that the Bible is the Word of the
omniscient, "all-wise" God, this verse destroys feminism,
same-sex marriages, and individualism. Men and women
necessitate each other (with one exception below).
Man is not "all that he can be" without a woman. A woman's
nature is to complete the man, as husband and father, and she as
wife and mother.
The institution of marriage is established that forms the
cohesive and godly unity for raising children "to be all that
they can be." Empirical ("scientific") studies illustrate
this truth overwhelmingly. The family becomes the building
unit for society with its own "sphere of sovereignty" (Kuyper)
and second tier of government. (The first tier is
"Male" and "female" establish the hermeneutic of different
sexes, destroying homosexual and feminist interpretations.
The highest telos for women is to serve their husband
first and secondarily their children. While "the hand that
rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world" may not be a
Biblical statement, it has a great deal of truth in it.
If feminists want "power," what greater "power-trip" could they
have? How many great men thank their mothers? This
writer believes that the use of "she" by the large majority of
Christians in philosophy is a capitulation to feminism that
undermines the authoritative design of the family and society.
Man is the one to exercise power which he cannot exercise fully
without his wife's help. (This method also strikes
as the authority of the Trinity which is explicitly masculine.
Ecclesiastically, only men may serve in leadership as pastors,
preachers, teachers, and government. Again, they cannot
complete their roles without the help of their wives.
Together with "husbands of one wife," these verses strike down
churches that require celibacy for such leadership roles and
allow women in church offices.
All these instructions have great implications for ethics.
The reader can clearly see the implications without my spelling
There is one exception to marriage. Some men and women are
called to singleness to serve God in vocations other than wife
and mother. This exception is a gift of the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 19:11, I Corinthians 7:7-9). The large majority
are called to marriage and family that they my fulfill their
callings under God.
Genesis 3:1 The First
Question about Epistemology Answered by the Greatest Certainty:
Satan challenged Eve on the trustworthiness of the epistemology
of God, "Has God not said...," clearly inferring that indeed God
had lied! Both Adam and Eve failed in this epistemological
test. Thus, death has become the most certain (not taxes)
knowledge among the human race. There are no sane persons
on planet earth who denies that every person dies. They may
differ on what happens after death, not the fact
of death. It is the greatest certainty no matter what one's
epistemology. Not being certain of God's word, the
of Life, our first
parents brought the certainty of physical death! The
greatest certainty of all.
Readers should also note the unity of epistemology and
ethics. What "God had said" concerned both
knowledge and ethics. Many philosophers, both pre-modern,
modern, and post-modern (and both Christian and non-Christian),
divorce discussions of epistemology from those of ethics.
However, the certainty of one's knowledge controls the certainty
of one's ethics, and their being acted upon in one's life. The Bible summarizes this position
simply, "The fool (a moral or ethical term) has said in his
heart, there is no God." Romans 1 says that although men
"know" God, they "suppress" this knowledge. Suppression is
an active, ethical choice. Epistemology and ethics are
inseparably linked, both on a Biblical and secular basis.
One is responsible for what one knows, as well as, what
one thinks and does.
Genesis 6:2 "Sons of
"Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of
the earth, and daughters were born to them,
2 that the sons of
God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful;
and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose"
The "sons of God" were the godly line of Seth, not angelic
beings. John Murray in Principles of Conduct (pp.
243-249), working from the commentaries of C.F. Keil and F.
Delitzsch, makes seven arguments for this position. (1) In
the movement from vs. 1 to vs. 2, there is no compelling reason
to consider that both "sons of God" and "daughters of men" refer
to any beings other than generic humans. (2) In the
preceding context, the godly line is indicated in Seth, "Men
began to call upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 4:26).
Thus, "sons of god" is opposed to "daughters of men" (the
ungodly line). (3) The meaning is clear from vs. 1-2 that
these marriages were a "grievous" wrong in the context of the
following verses of Genesis 6 where other wrongs are listed.
(4) There are no passages anywhere in the Bible that angels can
have sexual relations with themselves or with humans. (5)
"And they took wives for themselves" is the common O.T. phrase
for marriage. (6) "Sons of God" is a common term for
humans in the Pentateuch in particular and the O.T. in general.
(7) There is no necessary causative link of vs. 1-2 with vs. 4,
especially with vs. 3 in between. Moses is merely citing
evil events of that time: godly men marrying pagan women and the
I have minimally outlined Murray's much more substantive
arguments in his book. I refer reader to that work for
those expanded arguments.
“I AM WHO I AM.”
“I AM WHO I AM” is the translation of this
phrase in the NASB and NJKV.
For all its brevity, it is perhaps one of the most
powerful in the Bible relevant to philosophy.
“Being,” as metaphysics and/or ontology, is one of two
major divisions in philosophy.
(The other is epistemology.)
While “being” appeared before Plato, “being” or “Being”
was central to his philosophy or as he sometimes called it, “The
Philosophy.” It has been a
major focus of many philosophies since Plato down to the 21st
Century. It is a subject that needs a long treatise, even
a book, on its relationship to philosophy, but in keeping with
shorter themes here, I can only introduce it.
John Calvin in his Commentary on Exodus is on target both
theologically and philosophically.
I have italicized
to emphasize certain of his comments.
The verb in the Hebrew is in the future
tense, “I will be what I will be;” but it is of the same force
as the present, except that it designates the perpetual duration
of time. This is very plain, that God attributes to himself
alone divine glory, because
he is self-existent and
therefore eternal; and thus gives being and existence to every
creature. Nor does he predicate of himself anything common,
or shared by others; but he claims for himself eternity as
peculiar to God alone, in order that he may be honored according
to his dignity. Therefore, immediately afterwards, contrary to
grammatical usage, he used the same verb in the first person as
a substantive, annexing it to a verb in the third person; that
our minds may be filled with admiration as often as his
incomprehensible essence is mentioned.
But although philosophers discourse in grand
terms of this eternity, and Plato constantly affirms that God is
peculiarly τὸ ὄν
(the Being); yet they do not wisely and properly apply this
title, viz., that this one and only Being of God absorbs all
imaginable essences; and that, thence, at the same time, the
chief power and government of all things belong to him. For from
whence come the multitude of false gods (including the
of the philosophers"), but from impiously tearing the
divided Deity into pieces by foolish imaginations? Wherefore, in
order rightly to apprehend the one God, we must first know that
all things in heaven and earth derive Precario
From this Being all power is derived; because, if God sustains
all things by his excellency, he governs them also at his will.
And how would it have profited Moses to gaze upon the secret
essence of God, as if it were shut up in heaven, unless, being
assured of his omnipotence, he had obtained from thence the
buckler of his confidence? Therefore God teaches him that He
alone is worthy of the most holy name, which is profaned when
improperly transferred to others; and then sets forth his
inestimable excellency, that Moses may have no doubt of
overcoming all things under his guidance. We will consider in
the sixth chapter the name of Jehovah, of which this is the
I offer only a few comments on Calvin’s words
for our focus here.
Everything, inorganic or living, in the universe is
created except God
philosophers, especially those in continental philosophy, speak
of “being,” they err in attributing that concept to anything
other than God alone. Further, everything in creation is utterly
and entirely dependent upon God for
continued existence (Acts
17:28, Hebrews 1:3).
Second, everything is becoming and thus is not static, as being requires.
Everything except God is changing—losing some attributes
and gaining others—Heraclitus’ flux, for example.
And, what they
are becoming is determined by His Providence, as well.
Thus, philosophers err to speak of “being” as
an attribute of any created thing.
This truth limits, if not
destroys, a needless area of philosophical, humanistic
speculation, especially in continental philosophy.
Such focus needs to be
re-directed to epistemology and ethics.
philosopher—Jacques Derrida, however, does write about an
urgency for morality and ethics.
The world might be better served with more attention to,
and action based upon,
Biblical ethics, than all the mis-directed focus on “being.”
Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other
Gods before me”*
William Lane Craig wrote an article entitled,
“The Resurrection of Theism,” as the Introduction to Volume 3 of
The Truth Journal in
1991. In that
article he uses the various terms of “philosophical theism,”
“traditional theism,” and mostly just plain “theism,” which is
perhaps more commonly known as “classical theism” or “god of the
philosophers.” I find this term problematic for Christians, as
declared clearly in this verse from Isaiah.
For example, Alvin Plantinga in his book,
Knowledge of God, a
debate with Michael Tooley, equates “classical theistic belief”
with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Are we called to defend false beliefs, as indeed we would
all agree that the latter are false beliefs, or at least Judaism
is an incomplete belief since Messiah has not come in their
system. By contrast
and appropriately Greg Bahnsen, in his famous debate with Gordon
Stein in his introductory remarks declared that he was defending
…not general theism—whatever that might be.
I have not found the non-Christian religions to be
philosophically defensible, each of them being internally
incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.
Since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot,
from the heart, adequately defend those religious faiths with
which I disagree. My commitment is to the Triune God and the
Christian world view based on God's revelation in the Old and
Interestingly, that position confused Stein.
He was prepared to argue against classical theism which
Bahnsen was not defending because other Christians, whom he had
debated, had used that approach.
In another direction, there has been much
rejoicing in Anthony Flew’s “conversion” to theism, especially
in the publication of his book,
There Is a God.
But is theism, even classical theism, sufficient for
includes no orthodox specifics about Jesus Christ.
Without Him and His work there is no salvation.
So, is Anthony Flew in Heaven or Hell today?
I would not dare speculate, but Romans 10:9 declares, as
far as belief is necessary for salvation, “that if you confess
with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that
God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
It says nothing about a confession of a “god of theism.”
Blaise Pascal warned that the "The God of
Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob (was) not the God of the
course, one could use the terms “Christian theism,” as do
Cornelius Van Til and others, or even something like “maximal
But being consistent with a Biblical epistemology, why not
advocate and defend Biblical theism?
Why not defend the jealous God before whom there is no
*Excerpted from my paper,
Christian Philosopher? Some Concerns among the Successes
and modified slightly.
References for citations may be found there.
Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image"
One traditional approach to epistemology—how
to be certain about what we know—is empiricism. Empiricism
is the basis of the scientific method and the necessarily
predominant approach to knowledge in our modern physicalist universe.
Thomas Hobbes, representative of empiricists, said, "There is
nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses."
Exodus 20:4 necessarily refutes all empiricists, including many
Christians who have fallen into that way of thinking. God
has forbidden us to have an image of Him, affirmed again
powerfully in John 4:24. (1) God is Spirit (again in the
context of worship)—a spirit has no
image and thus an image can never represent God. (2) If we
are both commanded not to worship God in image, and
are to worship him in "spirit and truth," empiricism, as a
method of knowledge is absolutely refuted! To worship God,
we must have knowledge of Him. That knowledge cannot be
one of image—by both positive and negative command. Thus,
the highest form of knowledge, that required to worship God,
cannot and should not be gained through empiric
methods. And, since only God is truth, all other methods
to knowledge are false. Indeed, it is recognized by almost
all philosophers that induction (another name for empiricism) is
a fallacy of process!
As a corrective, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said, "There is
nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses... except
the mind!" He was one of the most Biblical of philosophers
of the modern period.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
Philo-love, sophia-wisdom: philosophy is the love of wisdom...
the love of Gods' unity in His Creation. Click
Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'
Verses with the same theme: Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33; Isaiah 11:2
"Philosophy" is a compound word of "philo-" which means "love"
and "-sophy" which means wisdom. Thus, philosophy in the
true (Biblical) sense is not possible without a "fear of the
Lord." And, the fear of the Lord can only be known in its
fullest and most authoritative sense in the Scriptures.
Thus, any philosopher, despite his claim to be a Christian, who
does not place the authority of Scripture above all other
knowledge, and who also does not make Scripture his controlling
epistemology, has no claim to a "Christian" philosophy.
There are other dimensions to this verse. (1) "Fool" in
Scripture has a more serious meaning than in English. In
Scripture it has a hardened moral dimension of someone who is
not only unrighteous, but one who is committed to "walking in
the paths of sinners" (Psalm 1:1) and "not only do the same but
also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32).
(2) A "fool" denies what he knows to be true. He "knows"
much about God—His attributes, power, and
Godhead (Romans 1:19-20), yet denies this knowledge. While
he may reach a point where his heart is hardened, prior to that
time he is aware that he is self-deceived. These mental
gymnastics may be more prevalent among philosophers because they
know that their systems are tenuous at best without some unity
of knowledge and power holding them together. This grasp
at unity is seen in their "theism" that is not Biblical theism,
for example, the god of Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant, as well as
the Begriffe (Absolute, Reason) of Hegel.
Corinthians, Chapters 1-2 below.
Perhaps, the best discussion of "the fear of God" anywhere is
found in Chapter 10 of John Murray's book, Principles of
Proverbs 8:35 "All those that hate me love death"
I wonder how those who define God as "love" would interpret this
verse? Their concept of love has no place for "love of
death" which this verse states for those who hate God.
Their only concept of love is a sentimental, anything-goes,
situational ethic of Joseph Fletcher. The opposite of love
is hate; if one loves passionately, he will hate the opposite of
his love passionately. Jesus told us about "lukewarm" love
in Revelation 3:16. Lukewarm love is lukewarm hate.
Both are nauseating. Christians are called to "love God
with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength." They
cannot practice this love without hating what God hates with
"all their heart, soul, mind, and strength."
See I Peter 4:8 below to understand what Biblical love is and
how it should be practiced.
Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory
of God to conceal a matter."
(1) Young Earth Creationism.
One argument raised against Young Earth
Creationism (YEC) is that God would not deceive mankind by
creating a universe that appears to be old when it is not.
For example, the light of dead stars is still visible to
telescopes and even unaided eyes. This verse and others (for
example, Deuteronomy 29:29) states clearly and definitively that
God may conceal whatever He likes. Jesus Christ spoke in
parables in order that only His disciples and followers would
understand. So, the Biblical position (that is, God's
position) that He may conceal whatever He wishes from anyone at
any time. This argument against YEC is no argument at all.
One fact that is revealed that goes against
this argument, also, is that Adam and Eve, the animals, and
plants were created fully grown. An objective observer who
came along after Creation Week would think that they have grown
up from babies and from seeds. Wrong!
(2) Limited use of logic.
"Computers would have been much more useful than they
are in the field of philosophy, since they are eminently useful
for managing relations of ideas, and the remaining part of
knowledge would have been attainable by 'going and having a
look,' assuming you found reason to care. Kant's model leaves us
with hidden truths; truths which may be attainable, in part at
least, but which cannot be reached by applied logic alone.
Perhaps Kant would have appreciated Proverbs 25:2 in light of
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and
create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
There is a great deal in this verse, but I
want to focus on possibly the most difficult statement, "create
evil." Other translations substitute "evil" with calamity,
disaster, good times and bad times, discords, troubles, and woe.
Perhaps, there are three levels to be dealt with here: (1)
natural disasters apart from the actions of man, (2) the
evil actions of men, and (3) evil at the hands of God directly.
These seem to have a progression of difficulty in which many
Christians believe (1), fewer accept (2), and very few would
think (3) consistent with Scripture. For brevity here, and
simplicity, if (3) is true, the others follow.
The argument is really simple because God has
been explicit in the Bible. What could possibly be the
greatest evil? The death of God Himself as the incarnate
Jesus of Nazareth only would fit this criterion. Acts
2:22-23 states “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of
Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and
signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves
also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and
foreknowledge of God... The greatest evil was
orchestrated by God the Father on His own Son. If then
this greatest evil was not only executed, but planned from
eternity before time, then all other lesser "evils" are of no
consequence being attributed to the planned actions of God.
But there is more, much more. (1) God
is omnipotent—almighty, all powerful.
He has all power. The reader will have to wrestle with
this concept. To have all power includes control of
secondary powers. Scripture is clear that He turns men's
thoughts and actions to His own ends (hardening Pharaoh's heart,
directing Samuel to David, making Nebuchadnezzer insane,
etc.). Thus, while God is not the agent (secondary cause),
He is controlling the power that makes men act. (2) More
simply, "(God) works all things after the counsel of His own
will" (Ephesians 1:11). All things simply means all
things—all natural events and people and their actions. (3) God
is good; He can do no evil. From this last verse, there is
really no evil. Certainly, from man's perspective the
universe contains monstrous and heinous evil. But from
God's perspective, all is not only "good," but "very good."
We need to ponder with some effort to understand His perspective
and not the narrowly finite scope our perspective. God
creates everything... including evil.
Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law
in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.”
The full verse is “But this shall be the
covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those
days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts,
and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they
shall be my people” (KJV).
However, my focus is “in their inward parts.”
The transliteration for this Hebrew word is
The various translations of this word in the Old
among 62, midst 33, within 22, entrails 20, in
13, middle 7, heart 5, through 3, inside 3, nearby 2, throughout
2, with 2, him 2, herself 1, heat 1, In 1, group 1, from their
own 1, contaminated 1, before 1, around 1, core 1, courage 1,
estimation 1, deeply 1, grave 1, inwardly 1, stomachs 1, seeped
into 1, recipient 1, stroke 1, threaten 1, us 1, to 1, presence
1, possessed 1, minds 1, intensified 1, inner thoughts 1, near
1, on 1, owned 1, out of 1, inner 1 (from
I want to suggest two particular applications
(1) The first and
most frequent translation is “among.”
The 2nd and 3rd are “midst” and
“within.” I suggest
this translation of our verse: “I will give my written Word (the
Bible) to be placed and used among my people.”
If one examines Psalm 119 in particular, and the
remainder of the Bible in general, one will find that “the law”
often is a synonym, designator if you will, of the entire Bible.
Thus, this verse only states what God has done, that is,
placed the Bible (His Word) among His people to be learned and
The NKJV translates
kereb as “mind.”
Too often “heart” (which follows in this verse) is understood as
feelings or emotions.
However, if one searches all the uses of “heart” in
Scripture, the overwhelming use refers to
thoughts and thinking (for example, “as a person thinks in his
heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
Thus, “mind” counters this modernist error of some
nebulous entity called the heart—the concern of Jeremiah is the
mind—thinking, understanding, thoughts, enlightenment, and
ultimately wisdom. For more on this understanding of
Now, link this phrase with Romans 12:2, “be
transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The power of this “transformation” is seen in its only
other New Testament uses as “transfiguration” in (Matthew 17:2,
Mark 9:2) and “transformed” in the heavenly state of believers
(II Corinthians 3:18).
So, this phrase in Jeremiah 31:33 is not some
ethereal “writing” of the law (the entire Bible) on nebulous
“hearts,” but the placing of God’s Word among His people to be
studied, yes diligently studied, and obeyed so that they will
indeed be “transformed.” Thus,
they will “transform” families, culture, and civil governments.
God’s mind wrote the Word to communicate to the minds of
His people for transformation.
Modern Christians have mostly failed in their study and
application of Jeremiah 31:33, perhaps, because they have
misunderstood what it actually says!
And worse, perhaps, because they have just been negligent
Hard Sayings of the Bible: Book reference
"Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly"
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Justice was one of the four virtues of
Ancient Greek culture and a central concern of many philosophers
since then. It is central
to this verse that is often quoted by diverse Christians: from
those of a sort of “liberal” persuasion to the most
the context of these quotes denotes a superficial understanding
of what has broad and deep meaning.
To “do justly,” one must
know what justice is. To
love mercy, one must know what “love” and “mercy” are.
“To walk humbly with your
God,” one must know the essence of humility and who “God” is.
Hardly a day passes that both children and
adults exclaim vigorously, “That’s not fair.”
In courtrooms, fairness
(justice) is pursued extensively and passionately.
But justice demands a
standard by which it can be measured.
It is no accident that
one synonym for the Bible is “canon” which means measuring
stick.” And, “to do” is
bettered translated “promote, work, or accomplish.” (See
NetBible online.) So,
justice is Biblical justice—the full application of
all the passages of Scripture that concern one’s relation with his
fellow human beings and
with God. This
implementation requires a thoroughgoing knowledge of Scripture
and how to apply it!
“To love mercy” is no less comprehensive.
Is it always merciful to
give to others? The
Apostle Paul said, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he
eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10). So,
“mercy” is not simply giving handouts; sometimes it is merciful
to withhold handouts! Thus, mercy must have Biblical guidelines,
again requiring a considerable knowledge of Scripture and how to
apply it. This method is
described further in II Peter 3:8 below on “love.”
“To walk humbly with your God” is not a
“sentimental journey.” The
first requirement is regeneration—that a person’s soul has been
“born again” by the Holy Spirit that produces the only great act
of humility—repentance: a change of mind and confession that one
is totally corrupt and without hope apart from the work of God
in one’s soul. Then, one
must live according to the instructions of the Sermon on the
Mount in its intricate detail of holy living and right attitude
along with everything else the Bible teaches.
And, with what God do you walk with: the God
of the Old Testament or the God of the New Testament?
Rather, He is the God of
both. The God who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent to
implement his predestinating and sovereign plan in eternity?
There are some 200 or
more names for God in the Bible—do you know them?
Do you “know” this God is
all the fullness and perfection described by Scripture?
You should be getting the picture by now.
Micah 6:8 commits a
Christian to no easy task. It
requires not less than Jesus’ “If you love me, keep my
commandments!” There are
a lot of commandments in the Bible.
counts 613 in the Old Testament, and there are more than that in
the New Testament. One
could say that these verses are a short summary of a large work:
the totality of conversion and the Christian life (“walk”).
So, when we say or hear
this verse, let us realize the full impact and weight of its
meaning. This obedience
is not earning our salvation—that is a gift—but living out what
He has already given us.
For more on this verse, see the book written
by George Grant, The Micah
"Man shall not live on bread alone..."
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but on
every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (NASB).
The necessity of bread (a symbol of all necessary foods) for the
nourishment and health of the body is obvious. Less
obvious, but made apparent by this verse, is the necessity of
the Word of God for "life." "It is the Spirit who gives
life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you
are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63—NKJV).
The reading and digesting (studying, meditating, memorizing,
etc.) of Scripture are as necessary to the health of the soul
(spirit) as food is to the body. This emphasis is not a
five or ten minute "quiet time" each day, but a vigorous
approach to all of the Bible from Genesis to
Revelation. I daresay that this necessity is as true for
philosophers, as theologians and laymen.
Note further that Jesus says here, "every
word." Every word means every word. Again,
we are to know the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. "Thus
says the LORD!" Are you as a philosopher as engaged in His
Word, as you are in the words of other philosophers?
Matthew 4:4 "...
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"
"The orientation of philosophy is “to major
on minors” and to focus on “lesser” things to the exclusion of
the “major.” This
situation is true of non-Christians and too many Christians.
Metaphysical investigation into the supernatural is called
Modern neuroscience is claiming eventually to explain all
thinking, even morality, on the basis of understanding brain
Divisions of this effort include neurophilosophy, neuroethics,
and even neurotheology.
Because of the Fall, man is driven to
consider virtually every whim of knowledge that comes along to
the exclusion of Jesus’ reply to Satan in the wilderness.
First, science is empiricism (induction), and induction
by definition is a fallacy: a
narrowly defined and
investigation that claims
Thus, all scientific knowledge,
including that of
neuroscience, is based upon a fallacy.
Now, that is not to exclude empiricism for having a
that is, being pragmatic and functional.
While water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and is quite
practical information, there is no actual place on earth where
that happens except under artificial conditions (sea level,
distilled water, precision of measurement, etc.)
Second, even apart from Revelation, the
physical can only be based upon the spiritual; spiritual here
meaning the thoughts and values of men and women.
Michael Polanyi called this foundation “personal
knowledge,” which is also the title of the book that he wrote in
breadth and depth about this subject.
All knowledge, including natural science, is based upon
personal preferences and values
throughout the scientific
Third, Jesus told us over and over about the
greater importance of the spirit.
Our verse here, Matthew 4:4 states this priority clearly.
Here, Jesus is starving, and Satan tempts Him to use His
miraculous powers for
Jesus does not deprecate the importance of bread, but
shows the greater importance of
Further, He is clear as to
what this spiritual
nourishment is: every word that proceeds from the mouth
of God. God has
spoken from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
Two emphases should not be missed.
The vital link to life is
God’s Revelation: the Bible.
Some have claimed that “revelation” includes natural
revelation. But, as
we have just seen, while empirical knowledge is valuable for
practical results when used carefully, it is not truth but a
fallacy. What the
human soul (spirit) needs is spiritual truth as food.
word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
That means the entire book of the Bible needs to be
studied a systematic form.
This systematic study is true science, defined as the
systematization and categorization of the subject (the Bible)
Neuroscience and all of its metaphysical
claims are wild speculation, but are dangerously claiming the
pedestal of truth.
Even conservative Christians are falling for their speculations.
But for all its claims, neuroscience is still science,
and science is based upon the personal choices of the
scientists, their authority as a community, and finally, by
definition, a fallacy.
Dear reader, what are your priorities?
Do you study the Bible as much as you do other subjects?
If not, perhaps this verse will lead you to re-consider
Feed on the vital substance of life—feed on
every Word that proceeds
from the mouth of God.
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the
“Do not fear those who kill the body but
cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy
both soul and body in hell.” There is a substantial number of
evangelical Christians who are physicalists, that is, they
believe that only God created only matter.
Man has no immaterial or
non-physical substance. Other
names for this theory are materialism, naturalism, scientism,
physical monism, positivism, objective realism, epistemic
reductionism, property dualism, and many others.
Be careful of Christians
in academia using strange and/or new scientific terms.
While many will be
partially or thoroughly orthodox, many will not.
Thus, “they say,” any activities of the mind
are epiphenomena, a type of identity theory, philosophical
behaviorism, eliminativism, or some else esoteric.
Also, look for terms,
such as, “wired,” “hard-wired,” “integration of neuroscience and
the Bible,” “biological bases of spirituality and personhood,”
“behavioral neuroscience,” “neuroethics,” “non-reductive
physicalism,” and others.
variety of strict physicalism, disallowing an immaterial soul
(spirit, mind, heart), is anathema and violates any Biblical
breathed into Adam a “living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
Matthew10:28 quoted here.
The body as a “temple of
the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6:19).
The body dies to give new
life; “the body is sown in corruption”; “it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body”; and the “mortal must put
on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:35-54).
The “earthly house” (home
for the soul), being “naked” (soul without body), and “being
home in the body” (for the immaterial self) of II Corinthians
5:1-6. Unless an
immaterial soul survives the decay of the body, then all
personal identity and knowledge are lost.
And, on and on.
Bible defines man as both body and soul.
This tenet is one that
rivals, if not exceeds, that of Biblical creationism in
importance for Biblical-Christian orthodoxy.
So, beware of scholars and others citing new
“science,” especially something new from
psychology,” “evolutionary psychology,” any word with “neuro-“
to form a compound word.
“Come to Me, all you
who labor and are heavy laden…”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My
yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in
heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is
easy and My burden is light.”
I have observed the interest and involvement
of Christians in psychology and psychiatry for almost 40 years.
I have seen instant
acceptance and credibility given to these professionals in
positions of responsibility and leadership in the most
conservative of Bible-believing churches.
I have counseled
Christians who have been given “diagnoses” and labels which
severely hampered their spiritual growth.
Many Christian students
have been counseled to enter psychology and psychiatry, as a
means to assist Christians is their spiritual growth and walk.
Many in these fields
screen missionary candidates and “treat” their problems on the
Why does psychology have this instant and
profound credibility? There
are many reasons. (1) The
most critical mistake is to limit the application of Biblical
truth. The only way that anyone can find “rest for their souls” is to “take
(Christ’s) yoke upon (them) and learn from (Him).”
Is the Bible a book on
“Yes!” The “psych” of
psych-ology means soul or spirit.
The Bible presents the truth of God about the soul and
its needs. Psychology, as
a pseudo-science, presents only theory (several hundred of them)
and an a-moral science (no “ought” comes from an “is”—David
Hume). (2) The mistaken
and shallow concept of “All truth is God’s truth.”
(3) Psychology is
“scientific.” (I have
already dealt with that claim.) (4)
Christians in these fields who have a Sunday School knowledge of
the Bible, no philosophical-logical training, and eight or more
years of indoctrination from pagans who teach psychology in the
colleges and universities.
Paul Vitz in his book,
Psychology as a Religion,
presents some of the conflict between psychology and
really is another religion. That
Christians take to it so readily shows their superficial
understanding of science and truth.
What does psychology have to do with
philosophy, epistemology and ethics in particular, determines
his or her thinking and practice.
If one’s epistemology is not solidly grounded in
Biblical Revelation, then that person will be led by all sorts
of false epistemologies.
I have written a great deal about psychology
“In the regeneration”
Unity of the Material World with Man’s Morality
Matthew 19:28 “Jesus 1
said to them, “I tell you the truth:
In the age when all things are renewed.”
Other verses to support this theme:
Genesis 1:3ff "Then God said..." All created things
were spoken into being. See John 1:1
Genesis 3:17 “Cursed is the ground for your sake."
Genesis 4:10 “The voice of your brother’s
blood cries out to Me from the ground.”
Numbers 35:33 “So you shall not pollute the
land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement
can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it,
except by the blood of him who shed it.”
Many, many times the
shedding of blood is linked to the land.
Joshua 4:24 "that all the peoples of the
earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty,
that you may fear the LORD your God forever." Stones
John 1:2 "All things were made through Him
(the Word; John Calvin—the Speech)
Luke 19:40 "If they (the crowds celebrating
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem) keep quiet, then even the stones
will cry out"
Romans 8:22 “For we know that the whole
creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
II Peter 3:10-13 "New heavens and a new
earth." Description of a purifying process
The predominant metaphysical position of
secular philosophers today is that of materialism: the only
substance that exists is material (atoms and their subatomic
has even been espoused by some Christian philosophers.
Then, there are some who
get the Biblical position correct as to the existence of both a
material and immaterial (spiritual) universe.
However, there are few
who know the Biblical link between man’s morality (his actions,
his righteousness) and the physical universe.
The Greek word for being “born again” or
palingenesis, is only used twice in the New Testament.
(There are other
synonyms, such as being “born again” (John 3), crucifixion
(Galatians 2:20), and several others.) First, as any
knowledgeable Christian would suspect, is the “washing of
regeneration” that applies to believers (Titus 3:5).
But what may not be
commonly known is that the other use of
palingenesis in the New Testament concerns the entire physical
universe. The literal
interpretation of Matthew 19:28 of this word is “in the
regeneration,” that is, when all things will be regenerated.
The passage from Romans
8:22 demonstrates that the universe has been cursed (Genesis
3:17) and awaits the undoing of that curse through the same
process by which Christians are “renewed” or “regenerated.”
This purifying process is
seen in II Peter 3:10.
The reader can do his own homework, just
looking up all the references to “blood,” “justice,” and
“righteousness” in the Old Testament.
The New Testament echoes
this theme, but it is not one that is common known among
Bible-believing Christians today because our age is so
predominantly physically oriented.
The “new heavens and the
new earth” are participants of God’s renewal process. One cannot
have a Biblical philosophy without a philosophy and theology of
the link between the physical and the spiritual.
25:34-36; II Corinthians 5:10 Judgment by Works
It has long seemed strange to me that God
will judge both the
regenerate (believers) and the unregenerate (unbelievers)
on their works!
We see this judgment in Matthew 25:34-46 concerning the
sheep (regenerate) and the goats (unregenerate).
Also, II Corinthians 5:10 we see a judgment of works in
The huge question is, “If God’s plan through
all history has been to prepare and fulfill salvation in His
Son, on judgment day, why is He not seeking the Evangelical
Explosion answer to their first question, ‘Why should I let you
into my Heaven?’” That answer is, “You should let me into heaven
because Jesus Christ died in my place.”
But nowhere is Scripture is eternal judgment based upon
acceptance or rejection of Christ.
This morning the answer came, as I was
pondering Romans 1:18ff where God says that the unregenerate are
“without excuse” in not “honoring” and “thanking” God, in spite
of the abundant evidence in the
cosmos of His “eternal
power and divine nature.”
There, God is judging men for their failure to
acknowledge what their own minds see.
In the passages named here, God is judging men by their
own moral standards and found eternally wanting—literally and
fairness and equity—indeed his longsuffering—extends far beyond
what men themselves would call “reasonable" in both cases.
Luke 22:19; I
Corinthians 11:24 “Do this in remembrance of me” - The
tremendous necessity and power of memory
Often, the glory of God is “hidden in plain
sight.” While Holy
Communion is the greatest “glory”
in these two verses, I want to speak of
In a dozen or more Chapters of Book 10 of Augustine’s
Confessions, he speaks
of “The Power of Memory,” “Remembering Abstract Things,” “Memory
Is the Soul,” “Mind and Memory,” “Remembering Absent Things,”
and several other topics.
A few of his comments are these (chapter numbers from
Book Ten are cited).
“Even when I am dwelling in darkness and
silence, I can draw colors into my memory, if I wish, and
distinguish between black and white, and any other colors I
will…. Though my tongue is still, and my throat silent, I sing
as much as I will…. I distinguish the scent of lilies from that
of violets, while smelling nothing.”
For what literature is, what skill in
argument may be, or categories of questions, whatever I know of
such matters, is not in my memory in such a way that I have
taken in the image and left out the reality…. or like a passing
odor, dispersed upon the wind, leaving it image on the memory
which we can capture in recollection.
In truth, when I hear that there are three
kinds of questions: “Does a thing exist?
What is it?
What is it like?,” I retain the images of the sounds of which
these words are composed, and I know that they passed through
the air with a noise, and no longer exist…. In my memory, I
stored away, not their images, but the things themselves.
These short quotes do not do justice to the
many pages in which Augustine richly discussed his concepts of
memory, but perhaps they give a flavor that will stir the reader
to read Augustine further.
Memory is necessary to simple communication
and listening to music.
Read the last sentence that I wrote, one word at a time.
Suppose that you could not remember “memory” when you
came to “is”, and could not
remember “necessary” after “memory is,” and so forth.
Without memory, there is no throught conveyed by
succession of words.
Indeed, without memory, one could not “remember” the meanings of
words, so a word would only be meaningless symbols on a page.
The same is true or music.
Isolated notes would have no more meaning that an
isolated pitch, sounded one at a time without accompanying
memory, music could not exist.
There would be no rhythm, melody, or parts.
Any musical piece would be a cacophony of isolated
Indeed, as Augustine said, memory is “The
Soul.” I am my
memories from the earliest age to memory to the present, and
memories form the basis of all my decisions in the future.
So, the simple command, "Do this in remembrance of me," invokes
one of God's greatest gifts, i.e., memory, in the church's
greatest celebration. Reader, exercise your mind
and your memory, and project beyond my thought here to the
powers of memory as a reflection of the glory of God in
Luke 23:39-43 - The Thief on the Cross: What Did He Believe?
Faith and belief are central to any complete
discussion of philosophy and theology.
They are synonyms, one of the idioms of the English
language that “faith” has no verb form.
(See Faith in Glossary.)
Both are usually associated with some sort of “religious”
one of the overlooked dimensions of faith by Christians and
non-Christians alike is the dimension of “generic” faith.
In the present context we are most interested in the
“knowledge” (notitia) element of faith.
Perhaps its importance is most focused in these verses.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”
(Acts 16:31). “If
you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your
heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”
(Romans 10:9). The
question is, “Did the criminal have the ‘saving faith’
For sure the penitent criminal was saved, as
Jesus declared, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with
Me in Paradise” (v. 43).
So, how do we reconcile proper “belief” and salvation?
Was the notitia of the thief sufficient for salvation?
What did the criminal know?
(1) He feared God, as he said to the other
criminal, “Do you not fear God?”
This man knew that a greater judgment awaited them than
the one that they had just experienced in Roman court.
It was a strong belief, one that was able to penetrate
the excruciating pain and suffering of the cross.
He also knew that mocking Jesus would add to their guilt
at this final punishment before God.
(2) He knew that Jesus was innocent.
“This Man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41).
Perhaps he referred only to the crime of which Jesus was
accused. Perhaps he
referred to Jesus’ entire life.
We do not know.
However, he knew that he could incur greater punishment
before God by mocking Jesus because He was innocent.
(3) He knew that Jesus could “save” him!
“Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”
(verse 42). Was it
Not likely. There is
no doubt or hesitancy in his request.
Whether he could read the inscription, “King of the
Jews,” that Pilate had placed above Jesus’ head or not, he would
have known from the voices and shouts of the crowd that Jesus
was condemned for His claim to be a King.
(4) He knew that Jesus had or would have a
Kingdom! Here is a
man on a cross, experiencing great suffering, facing imminent death, yet able to recognize in
Jesus, who faced the same awful prospects that day, as
possessing a Kingdom or would someday possess one.
This faith contains knowledge and understanding beyond
that of the disciples, many of whom had not grasped the clarity
of Jesus’ message to this extent.
What great faith!
What great knowledge and understanding to see beyond the
immediate, dire, and seemingly hopeless circumstances.
So, while the thief may not have known the
Four Spiritual Laws or the presentation of Evangelism Explosion,
he had “saving faith.”
He knew that he was justly condemned, facing a worse
condemnation by God after death, that Jesus was innocent (a
spotless lamb?), that Jesus had great power, not only to
establish a Kingdom, but to bring him, a criminal, into that
Kingdom. I fear that
such knowledge and power of conviction might contrast to the
“weak” faith of many professing Christians today with their
access to the clarity of the Bible and numerous other “helps”
for their study.
There are two final points.
(1) Not only
is right belief with its
notitia necessary for salvation, so is
Especially, see the Book of John, Chapter 3.
(2) No two people or imminent theologians can agree on
precisely what is the content of “saving faith.”
Certainly, it includes certain specifics about the birth,
life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus
Christ, but there is no precise list.
Personally, I think that belief in the entire Bible which
has as its central message, the Son of God, is the most
important “belief” for the Christian.
Through study of This Book, “little” faith can be turned into “great
For more on belief and faith, see
John 1:1-16 "In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God." The Prologue to John's Gospel
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God.... In Him was life, and the life was the light
of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
did not comprehend it....
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This
man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all
through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was
sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light
which gives light to every man coming into the world.... And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace
and truth.... For the law was given through Moses, but
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:1-16,
John 1:1 asserts a Biblical and God-based epistemology in a
blunt and dramatic statement. Verses follow that further
illuminate this posited proposition. John Calvin in his
commentary on the book of John translates logos as The
Speech. Augustine believed that "the true Light which
gives light to every man" was the giving of knowledge.
Not only is the so-called problem of epistemology answered,
but language theory, as well. The whole of Special
Revelation from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 validates the
essential nature of communication through language. God
has spoken from the "beginning," "Let there be light" (Genesis
1:3), and from God to man when He walked with Adam in the "cool
of the evening" (Genesis 3:8).
For a complete book on the subject, see
Vern Poythress' book (allow time for PDF file to load).
John 1:3 "All
things were made through Him..."
"All things were made through Him, and
without Him nothing was made that was made" (John
1:3) From the ancient Greeks to modern continental
philosophy, philosophers have discussed various aspects of
“being.” The Greeks
used ousia to denote that objects had “being,” “substance” or “essence,”
that is, what a thing is in itself.
Aristotle focused on the
physis of a thing,
that is, its nature.
John Locke discussed the idea of “substance” and what a human
“being” is. Martin
Heidegger wrote his major work entitled
Being and Time.
Transcendence and being continue to be major themes of
continental and postmodernist philosophers.
However, John 1:3 virtually destroys such
speculative thinking on being, substance, essence, or Kant’s
ding an sich. Jesus Christ
created all things; as the Creator, He is uncreated—Biblically
there are only two classes of things that exist: God as Trinity
and all that Christ created, that is, created things.
We can never know what “a thing is in itself,” unless we
can know God, and all that we can ever know of Him is what He
has revealed. All
that we can ever know about a thing is its characteristics.
The atomic table is possible because we know that atoms
are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
But what is a neutron “in itself?”
A proton? What is
their essence, substance, being, etc.
All that even modern
science which has been able to split the atom can manage is to
describe their characteristics.
Their essence is still unknown and always will be.*
There are profound implications of all
material things not having “being.”
(1) The whole of speculative philosophy about “being” is
just so much nonsense.
All that can be said about some thing “being” is that it
was created by God with certain characteristics.
(2) Science can never know reality because it can only
describe, it cannot discern ultimate causes which is the
Description is not
essence; description is not cause.
Gravity attracts all material objects because that is the
way that God created it, not because of any inherent property in
the “substance” of material objects.
The sooner that
philosophy, especially that done by Bible-believing Christians,
recognizes these truths, the sooner an increasing progress will
be made in being obedient (ethics) to all that God has
commanded: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Look soon for a major discussion of "Being"
*I wrote this section before I became aware
of relational ontology. That is, a thing is defined by its
relationship to its own particulars (components) and to other
objects. In my opinion, relations is what Heidegger meant
John 1:4-5 "In Him
was life, and the
life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not
The reader will want to
search other verses for commentary on “light” above and below,
as I want to focus on “darkness” here.
At first reading, at
least for me, one imagines “darkness” as literal darkness—a
picture of the brightness of Christ coming into a dark, gloomy,
foreboding landscape. But,
that is not the metaphor at all!
In fact, the verse clearly links "darkness"
with "not comprehending."
If light, the contrast
here to darkness, is understanding and insight, then darkness
must be a failure to understand and grasp the
you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and
that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31) and
the other truths of the New Testament and the entire Bible.
As Jesus says elsewhere,
“? Do you not yet see or understand? Do
you have a hardened heart?
Having eyes, do you not see?” (Mark 8:17-18).
If anyone has ever been in a completely dark
place, and alone, one has some grasp of the impact of darkness.
begins to demonstrate the despair and hopelessness that resides
in spiritual darkness
(a lack of understanding, seeing with the mind’s eye).
Jesus also talked about
“the blind leading the blind” who fall into a ditch.
understanding is epistemological and ethical darkness* that
destroys one’s earthly life and ends eternity in the “outer
*See Romans 1:18 on the “noetic effects of
John 1:9 "The true Light... which ... enlightens every man."
"There was the true Light which, coming into
the world, enlightens every man" (NASB).
“But since the Evangelist employs the general
phrase, every man that cometh into the world, I am more inclined to
adopt the other meaning, which is, that from this
light the rays are diffused
over all mankind, as
I have already said. For we know that men have this peculiar
excellence which raises
them above other animals, that they are endued with
reason and intelligence,
and that they carry the distinction between right and wrong (Ed:
ethics) engraved on their
conscience. There is no man, therefore, whom some
perception of the
eternal light does not reach."
"But as there are fanatics who rashly strain
and torture this passage, so as to infer from it that the grace
of illumination is equally offered to all, let us remember that
the only subject here treated is the common light of
nature, which is far inferior to faith;
for never will any man, by all the acuteness and sagacity of his
own mind, penetrate into the kingdom of God. It is the Spirit of
God alone who opens the gate of heaven to the elect. Next, let
us remember that the light of reason which God
implanted in men has been so obscured by sin, that amidst the
thick darkness, and shocking ignorance, and gulf of errors,
there are hardly a few shining sparks that are not utterly
extinguished.” (From the Commentary on John by John Calvin—bolding
John 1:12 "But
as many as received Him..."
as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, to those who believe in His name" (NASB) The universal brotherhood of man has long be
proclaimed by liberal Christians and secular humanists alike.
This verse destroys that false "unity." The Bible,
including the Gospel of John's Prologue, describes two
populations on planet earth: those of the light and those of the
darkness. To "as many as received Him, He gave the right
to become children of God." To receive Him is to embrace
all that He stands for—all the truth of
the Bible or at minimum the theology of the Apostle's Creed.
A rejection of this orthodoxy is a rejection of Christ Himself
and a rejection of the brotherhood of His followers. This
rejection, then, is an affirmation of being
anti-Christian and an identity apart from Christ—the brotherhood
of secularists and all other belief systems (both philosophical
and religious). All men and women descend from Adam, and
all have fallen in Adam (and their own sinfulness). But to
"as many as received Him" only belongs the brotherhood
of God and of His Christ by the Holy Spirit. This verse
(and many others) destroys the notion of the universal
brotherhood of man and establishes two brotherhoods:
Biblical Christians and non-Christians. Augustine of
Hippo, possibly the greatest Christian philosopher, established
this identity in post-New Testament history with his City of God
and City of Man.
"Earthly and Heavenly Things"
"If I have told you earthly things and you do
not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly
things?" (John 3:12)
John Calvin in his Commentary on John
If I have told you earthly things. Christ concludes
that it ought to be laid to the charge of Nicodemus and
others, if they do not make progress in the doctrine of the
Gospel; for he shows that the blame does not lie with him,
that all are not properly instructed, since he comes down
even to the earth, that he may raise us to heaven.
It is too common a fault that men desire to be taught in an
ingenious and witty style. Hence, the greater part of men
are so delighted with lofty and abstruse speculations.
Hence, too, many hold the Gospel in less estimation, because
they do not find in it high-sounding words to fill their
ears, and on this account do not deign to bestow their
attention on a doctrine so low and mean. But it shows an
extraordinary degree of wickedness, that we yield less
reverence to God speaking to us, because he condescends to
our ignorance; and, therefore, when God prattles to us in
Scripture in a rough and popular style, let us know that
this is done on account of the love which he bears to us.
Whoever exclaims that he is offended by such meanness of
language, or pleads it as an excuse for not subjecting
himself to the word of God, speaks falsely; for he who
cannot endure to embrace God, when he approaches to him,
will still less fly to meet him above the clouds.
Earthly things. Some explain this to mean the
elements of spiritual doctrine; for self-denial may be said
to be the commencement of piety. But I rather agree with
those who refer it to the form of instruction; for, though
the whole of Christ’s discourse was heavenly, yet he
spoke in a manner so familiar, that the style itself had
some appearance of being earthly. Besides, these
words must not be viewed as referring exclusively to a
single sermon; for Christ’s ordinary method of teaching —
that is, a popular simplicity of style — is here contrasted
with the pompous and high-sounding phrases to which
ambitious men are too strongly addicted.
Philosophers, even philosophers who are
Christians, are often enamored with "ingenious and witty" terms
and styles, "lofty and abstruse speculations," and
"high-sounding words," as opposed to the "low and mean" words of
Christ and of Scripture. But "the wisdom of men" is
"foolishness" to God, and the "foolishness of God" is true
wisdom, knowledge, and truth. See
Commentary on I Corinthians 1, 2 below.
John 3:16 “For
God so loved the
“World” (Greek kosmos) is a
very common word used by the Gospel and Epistle writer, “John.”
Consider the following:
(1) the whole universe
of created beings (John 1:10); (2) the inhabitable earth (John
1:10, 1st occurrence; John 16:28); (3) designation of
unconverted people (John 15:19); (4) that group of sinners who
are so wicked that Jesus does not even pray for them (John
17:9); (5) the elect only (John 1:29, 6:33); (6) those people
who have followed Jesus (John 12:19): (7) the whole universe
(John 1:10, 2nd occurrence); and (8) the greater part of
humanity (John 1:10, 3rd occurrence).
In none of these usages does "world" mean
"all" or the "whole" of what is designated. Thus,
John 3:16 does not mean the whole world, but those for whom
Christ died intentionally and specifically.
(These definitions were
adopted from Gordon Clark's First John: A Commentary,
There are many other words in Scripture that
the simple hermeneutic of “meaning in context” (verse, chapter,
book, and whole Bible) could prevent aberrant doctrines and
teaching. These words
include faith, love, hope, joy, and many others.
Several have been
addressed on this website—see Glossary
6:63; 10:30; 15:26; 16:13; 17:17 Trinity, Word, and Truth:
Jesus Christ as "Word" and "Truth" are well
known among Christians who have any familiarity with the Bible.
What might not be as well known, or at least held consciously,
is that all members of the Trinity have their own personal
identity with word and truth. "God is Spirit, and those
who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).
"The words that I speak to you are spirit,
and they are life" (John 6:63). "However, when He, the
Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for
He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He
hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John
16:13). Other verses could be cited, but these identify
the Holy Spirit with "word" and "truth."
The following verses show the Father's
identity with the same. "“But when the Helper comes, whom
I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who
proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me" (John 15:26).
"Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
"I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).
These verses clearly show that "word,"
"truth" and "spirit" are necessarily and dependently linked with
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Of course, logically, this
unity is necessarily the case. If all members of the
Trinity are omniscient, and the Church has proclaimed this
understanding as orthodox since the early centuries of
Christianity, then they all know everything that each other
knows—which is everything!
John 14:6 "I
AM the way, the truth and the life..." A Unity of Subjectivity
Especially since Kant and then with the
postmoderns, an intellectual battle has raged between the
contribution of knowledge and truth by persons (subjects) and by
the real world (objective). In this verse, as
representative of the nature of truth in the Bible, one finds a
wonderful unity of the two.
Michael Polanyi has posited a vigorous and
virtually irrefutable argument of the presence of the subjective
in the most objective of sciences: chemistry (his own field),
cosmology, and modern physics. (See his book
Physical Knowledge.). In fact, modern physics now
flirts with, if not crosses over into, the philosophical and
mystical. "String theory" is as much a transcendental
hope, as it is a valid theory of the coherence of the universe.
Evolutionists have posited extraterrestrial travel to account
for life on earth. The very idea of a an all-encompassing
cosmic "disorder," called The Big Bang, is a far greater reach
than an Organizer. (For more on the "unknowns" of the
"hard sciences," as discussed by a non-Christian, see
John 14:6 posits truth in a Person.
First, all knowledge is personal. Knowledge cannot reside
in a non-person. Knowledge in a book or computer storage
came from a person and exists for a person. Nothing in the
universe pursues knowledge except persons. (Perhaps
animals do so in a very limited way.) But the great
problem is that every person on earth differs with every other
to a varying extent. So, how do we learn true knowledge?
(I am ignoring "justified true belief" here because of its
complexity. I have dealt with it
elsewhere.) While truth resides in Jesus Christ, is
there an objective source of truth?
I ask the reader this question, "What
knowledge of Jesus Christ do you have that is entirely and
completely true?" Of course, the answer is the Bible:
God's revealed mind—His revealed
Person—His revealed personal knowledge. And, this
knowledge is totally objective. If fact, I would contend
that this knowledge is the most objective that is known to
mankind. For sure, it came through persons writing it and
then choosing the books of the canon, but all under the perfect
direction of another Person—the Holy Spirit—another
So, the great philosophical search for an
entire and perfect source of objective knowledge ended with the
identity of the Biblical canon. That the great problems of
the world have not been solved is because very few philosophers
(including Christians) have recognized this perfect unity of
subjectivity and objectivity. May God increasingly bring
His Word forth as objective truth to be applied to our
14:6 (continued) ... no man comes to the Father but through
"All things came into being through Him, and
apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being"
(John 1:3). All things includes the law of
the law of contradiction, but noncontradiction more accurately
reflects what the term means. The law of noncontradiction
states that two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at
the same time and in the same sense, else they would
"contradict" each other, and any meaning of any statement or
proposition would be lost.
Jesus limited the way of salvation ("to the
Father") in an absolute sense—"but by me."
The law of noncontradiction absolutely prevents there being
another way. Jesus knew logic because he created it.
Today, even among Christians in philosophy, there is much
discussion of "common ways to God" or salvation. But here,
Christ thunders in absolute logic that any consideration
of another way of salvation is not possible. In Galatians,
more than once, the Apostle Paul thunders that anyone who
suggested another way was anathema (accursed). In
John 14:6, Christ has made the same curse as did Paul—He just
stated it differently.
Simple communication would not be possible
without the law of noncontradiction because meaning of words is
limited to one meaning in context. If any word had
multiple meanings in context, then no definitive understanding
would be possible. In this passage, Jesus has used logic
to counter any other "way" of salvation. Without logic,
indeed, there might be other "ways." But then there would
be nothing—no creation and no persons to
sin and then be saved. Thus, logic answer the the
question, "Why is there something rather than nothing."
Jesus Christ created particular "somethings."
17:22-32 Paul's Speech to the Athenians
The following is Greg Bahnsen's own summary of
a longer article on this text.
Areopagus address in Acts 17 has been found to set forth a
classic and exemplary encounter between Christian commitment and
secular thinking—between "Jerusalem and
Athens." The Apostle’s apologetical method for reasoning
with educated unbelievers who did not acknowledge scriptural
turns out to be a suitable pattern for our defending the faith
(2) Judging from
Paul’s treatment of the Athenian
was not prepared to dismiss their learning, but neither would he
let it exercise corrective control over his Christian
perspective. The two realms of
thought were obviously dealing with common questions, but Paul
did not work to integrate apparently supportive elements from
pagan philosophy into his system of Christian
Because of the truth-distorting and
ignorance-engendering character of unbelieving thought, Paul’s
challenge was that all
be placed within the presuppositional context of revelational
truth and Christian commitment. The
relation “Athens” should sustain to “Jerusalem” was one of
(3) Rather than
trying to construct a natural
the philosophical platform of his opponents—assimilating
autonomous thought wherever possible—Paul’s approach was to
between himself and the philosophers.
He never assumed a
knowing that the natural theology of the Athenian philosophers
was inherently a natural
He could not argue from their unbelieving premises to
Biblical conclusions without equivocation in understanding.
Thus, his own distinctive outlook was throughout placed
over against the philosophical commitments of his hearers.
remotely similar to what is called in our day the historical
argument for Christ’s resurrection plays a part in Paul’s
reasoning with the philosophers. The declaration of Christ’s
crucial, of course, to his presentation.
However, he did
not argue for it independently on empirical grounds as a brute
historical—yet miraculous—event, given then an apostolic
interpretation. Argumentation about
a particular fact would not force a shift in the unbeliever’s
presuppositional framework of thought. Paul’s concern was with
this basic and controlling perspective or web of central
convictions by which the particulars of history would be weighed
(5) In pursuing
between Christian commitment and secular
Paul consistently took as his ultimate authority Christ and
God’s word—not independent speculation and reasoning, not
allegedly indisputable eyeball
experience, not the satisfaction or peace felt within his heart.
revelational truth—learned through his senses, understood with
his mind, comforting his heart, and providing the context for
all life and thought—was his
It was the
presuppositional platform for authoritatively declaring the
truth, and it was presented as the sole reasonable option for
men to choose.
appeal was to the inescapable knowledge of God which all men
have in virtue of being God’s image and in virtue of His
through nature and history.
A point of
contact could be found even in
pagan philosophers due to their inalienable religious nature.
that unbelievers are conspicuously guilty for distorting and
suppressing the truth of God.
motivation and direction, Paul’s argumentation with the Athenian
He set two
contrast, exhibiting the
results from the unbeliever’s commitments and presenting the
precondition of all knowledge—God’s revelation—as the only
His aim was to
effect an overall change in outlook and
mind-set and to call the unbeliever to
repentance by following the
procedure of internally critiquing the unbeliever’s position and
presenting the necessity of the Scripture’s truth.
Through it all,
it should also be observed, Paul remained yet earnest.
His manner was one of humble boldness.
The full discussion of Bahnsen's paper can be found
Romans 1:18-32: One of the
Great Texts for a Biblical Philosophy
18 For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness
of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19
because that which is known about God is evident within them;
for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the
creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being
understood through what has been made, so that they are without
excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did
not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in
their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in
the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals
and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over
in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies
would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged
the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the
creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them
over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the
natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and
in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of
the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men
with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own
persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see
fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a
depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29
being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil;
full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are
gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent,
arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving,
unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance
of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death,
they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to
those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32, NASB)
Dualism of systems. Reading
this passage, one gets the notion of thesis and antithesis.
God is the thesis and
man the antithesis. God
have provided grace (vs. 1-17), yet man continues to want to “do
his own thing,” in spite of the clear revelation of God found in
nature. God has
given—man does not want to accept, but goes his own way.
Then, God says, “OK,
then, I will take ‘give’ again, but this time “giving them over”
to degradation that they would not have experienced otherwise.
Man arrives at the worst
that he can be when he “heartily approves” of all the gross
immorality that man has brought forth.
of God and works.
The Apostle Paul has just presented the amazing grace of God
in salvation: “the just shall live by faith” (1:17)—faith itself
being a grace (gift—Ephesians 2:8-9).
This offer of salvation is the absolute antithesis of all
other philosophical and religious beliefs which are simply
salvation by one’s own efforts—works salvation.
The former is the only way to grace, mercy, and peace—the
very words of Paul uses in the introduction to his epistles.
Another attribute of God: wrath.
Following this grace, God’s wrath is “revealed from
heaven” (v. 18).
While philosophers may speculate with their arrogant belief in
their autonomous thinking, God reveals his wrath.
John Murray comments, “Wrath is the holy revulsion of
God’s being against that which is the contradiction of His
holiness.” (p. 35)
He is no sterile, inert, open-minded Person who allows “many
approaches to God and salvation.”
He has spoken—not
just here but “long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many
portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us
in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
This son said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No man comes to the Father by me” (John 14:16).
It is not as though Christians have chosen an exclusive
way of salvation—Christ Himself declared
only one way.
“Since the creation of the world” (v. 20) God
has implemented one
plan of salvation through “His only begotten Son”—the Second
Person of the Trinity.
By the first promise to Adam and Eve that Satan’s head
would be crushed, through Noah, the Mosaic system, the Kingdom
of David, and the Prophets, God has worked this free offer of
salvation—free to His people, but infinitely costly to His Son
in the Incarnation and the Cross. God has worked the totality of
Creation and all history towards His plan of salvation.
And, after this incomprehensively complex and
powerful task, He shows
“wrath” that man actively rejects His offer—that
philosophers and religions still attempt another way.
His “wrath has been revealed from heaven.”
This “revealing” is both Natural and Special.
While man might attempt to say, “Well, the Bible (Special
Revelation) is just a little too much to believe.
After all, it was written to the small nation of Israel
(Old Testament) and fabricated by enthusiastic followers of the
obscure man called Jesus.”
Or, “The Bible was never available to me.
I lived in a time and place where it was not available to
me.” And, amazingly, God
allows this argument! But…
is condemned by the same natural revelation by which he chooses
to seek knowledge.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible
attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been
clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so
that they are without excuse” (v. 20).
Aristotle’s natural science caused him to reflect on An
Unmoved Mover. By
extreme contrast, modern “enlightened” scientists posit anything
but God—2000 years “A. D.” and some 1700 years after the
agreed-upon Biblical canon.
Further, modern man has a far more extensive knowledge of
nature than did Aristotle—making him that much more “without
do they see that they reject?
The specifics here are “eternal power” and “divine
nature.” Apart from
Biblical Christianity, philosophers and scientists (modern
science was once called “natural philosophy”) have believed that
the universe was eternal.
Even belief in the Big Bang posits eternality for all the
“stuff” that preceded that event.
But, the idea of eternity is foreign to man’s experience:
from where did the concept of eternality come?
“God made it evident to them” (v. 19).
Man has an innate capacity to grasp eternity, but he
applied that understanding to nature, and not to God.
He confused the eternal
attribute of the Creator with His Creation..
This power is also seen in the great, system
and dynamism of the universe.
Today, scientists speak of The Finely Tuned Universe.
The conditions for the existence of life, the structure
of the atom, and the precise orbits of the planets around the
sun are recognized to be an extremely delicate “dance.”
With very small changes, any of these systems could
collapse, and life would come to a sudden and stark end.
Indeed, even the effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve are
seen, as this delicate balance is destabilizing and will one day
collapse (“the creation was subjected to futility,” Romans
8:20). That is, the
system is amazingly complex and stable, but not perfect.
So, it is “evident” of both a complex balance and one
that is degenerating.
The complexity demonstrates the great mind of a Creator,
but something has caused
damage to the original.
Behind all this complexity and fine-tuning is
a power that cannot really be grasped by man.
He can only stand in awe of our Sun, much less the
galaxies and nebulae of the universe.
“God’s power is eminently “evident,” but also His “divine
attribute is “clearly seen,” “understood” (v. 20), and one that
they “know” (v. 21).
Further, they know God’s ordinances (rules, precept,
commandments, ethics, righteousness, etc—v. 32).
This grasp of the “divine nature” has been called the
In presenting the Gospel to unbelievers, none hearing it
can say that they do not “know” God.
Paul proclaimed to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in
Athens (Acts 17), “This unknown God I proclaim to you.”
For all their philosophies and myriad religions, these
Greeks even had an altar for the true God!
Even in this panoply of beliefs, God was and is “clearly
Failure to worship and give thanks.
From this evident knowledge, men and women have failed to
“glorify” God and “give thanks” to Him (v. 21).
A pursuit of mankind, especially since the Greek
philosophers, has been to find “happiness.”
But, happiness is inescapably linked to worship.
The telos (the
endpoint, goal) of man is worship of God.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do
all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).
Is there any wonder that
modern man is so “unhappy” in the midst of the wonders of
technology and prosperity?
Is there any other reason that “life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness” is almost unrecognizable today?
In America, there is a particular application
of not giving thanks.
While our forefathers founded Thanksgiving Day to thank
almighty God for His provisions, state departments and state
education throughout our nation are using the force of law to
take this thankfulness to the Biblical God out of the event—“for
even though they knew God, they did not … give thanks” (v. 21).
God’s wrath will be
revealed for this neglect and rebellion.
Disastrous and degrading effects of these causes.
(1) Futile in their speculations” (v. 21).
In philosophy, the activity of pondering anything
metaphysical or supernatural is called “speculation.”
One translation of this verse reads “they began to think
up foolish ideas of what God was like” (NLT).
The God of the Bible and the Creator of the Universe has
become the “god of the philosophers” or “classical theism”—a
sterile idea of power and perfection in some being about whom
everyone can agree and not be bothered by any duty to Him.
(By bizarre and irrational reasoning, even many Christian
philosophers argue for “classical theism.”)
Going back to Greek philosophers and happiness, happiness
was inseparably linked with
knowledge—which cannot be obtained without Special Revelation.
Thus, the first effect of this denial of God was an
irrationality of the intellect which became moral corruption.
(2) “Their foolish heart was darkened” (v.
21). For man to
understand what he is and what he is to do, he needs true
in rejecting the worship and thanks of God, he has lost the
light. And, this
light is not one that he can find on his own.
After more than 2500 years, there is no essential
agreement among philosophers and there is an enormous plurality
of religions. On
Mars Hill, Paul said that even though God “is not far from each
one of us,” but the unregenerate can only “grope” (Acts
17:27—feel their way in the “dark” without “light”).
Man is hopelessly lost in the dark without the “light” of
“Foolishness” in the Bible is a far more
profound attitude than that which is commonly ascribed to this
word. A man is
foolish to spend all his time in pursuit of money.
A woman is foolish to care so much about her appearance.
Governments are foolish
to think that they can govern without God.
Foolishness is anti-God.
“The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.”
Foolish ways are the opposite of God’s ways (Proverbs).
A fool is a person who has excluded God from his life in
every way possible.
He is on a downward spiral to destruction and disaster while
living in darkness.
(3) “Suppressing the truth in
unrighteousness” (v. 18).
This process of God-denial is not passive; it is
profoundly active and aggressive.
It is not as though man has overlooked something.
He has actively rejected any idea of God and is working
to cover-up anything that could remotely demonstrate God or His
requirements of man.
He has become an enemy of God and a friend of Satan.
He has joined the army that fights against God.
“In professing to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22)
(4) “Without excuse” (v. 20).
The reader should not miss the compounding of man’s
situation under God in these few verses.
God has made Himself “clear and evident” in His Creation.
He has given a clear God consciousness (sensus
divinitatis) to all men.
All this evidence comes through natural revelation—man
can never claim that he did not receive the Bible, God’s Special
Revelation when he has had natural revelation “since the
creation of the world.” So,
“the wrath of God” (v. 18) in what follows here is justified.
The patience and longsuffering of God with man cannot be
And, what follows is ugly—profoundly ugly!
(5) “They exchanged the glory of the
incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man
and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (v.
22). Instead of
participating in the “image of God”—man’s highest nature—he
chose the lowest, most base nature—the fleeting and degrading.
It gets worse!
(6) “God gave them over” (v. 24, 25—twice
stated). Even God’s
patience has an endpoint.
He does not just allow men and women just to experience
the consequences of their sin; he removes much of his
(He never removes all his restraint because what he
targeted would simply cease to exist!)
causes greater evil than man could have achieved with his own
And, it is here that perhaps lies the most
important message for modern society—we
are under God’s wrath presently.
The rampant presence of homosexuality of both women and
men is not of man’s own making, but of “God giving them over.”
Our situation is worse because God has removed many
restraints from certain men’s thinking and behavior.
Thus, the proper understanding of our current perverse
culture is not that
God will judge us if we do not repent, but that God has
judged us already.
(7) “Exchanged the natural function for that
which is unnatural” (v. 26).
God has given wonderful “natural function” to men and
women. Anyone who
has experienced the sexual pleasures that can exist between men
and women in marriage knows how incredible that gift is.
There are no
bad consequences, only good ones—including the bearing of
unnatural acts have consequences that are severe, even deadly.
While HIV/AIDS may not be a direct judgment of God, it is
certainly a natural
judgment of God in his natural order.
Homosexual promiscuity greatly weakens the immune system
to the extent that organisms, which would not otherwise be a
problem, cause serious infectious diseases and death.
From this “culture medium,” HIV/AIDS spreads to
intravenous drug addicts and the heterosexually promiscuous.
(It is a blessing of God that HIV/AIDS is almost entirely
restricted to perverse sexual and immoral activities.)
The devastation goes far beyond this disease.
Male homosexuality has an increased presence of virtually
every disease and immoral social and illegal behavior, as well
documented by Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute.
“God gave them over” a third time (v. 28).
The situation continues to get worse.
(9) “All unrighteousness, wickedness, greed,
evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are
gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent,
arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving,
unmerciful” (vs. 29-31).
We do not need to go through this list.
These thoughts and behaviors are all around us.
Just remember that this
is a result of God’s active wrath of “giving them over.”
“They … give
hearty approval to those who practice them”
(v. 32). For a
society to be entirely perverse, those in authority must “give
approval” to such practices.
In a (relatively) righteous society, homosexuals could
not “come out.”
Rampant sexually transmitted diseases would be eventually
limited in their spread.
Crimes would be punished, limiting its increase.
However, when the officials of society give their
approval, the situation just spirals downwards towards moral and
and reflect on these verses. I
recommend a reflective and serious study of these verses.
There is double and triple evidences and characteristics
of what God is saying here.
It is certainly relevant to today’s culture—even to some
extent among “Christians” and “churches.”
Direct link to “philosophy.” A
traditional division in philosophy in philosophy has been
epistemology, ontology, and ethics.
Their interrelationship is seen in this description from
Romans. Where God
is not acknowledged as Creator (ontology), thinking
(epistemology) becomes “darkened” (irrational), and morals
(ethics) become perverse.
Consequences extend far beyond the practitioners
themselves as society spirals downward.
Christian philosophers have a great opportunity to change
the situation, but I fear that they are influenced more by
secular philosophers, than having a Biblical orientation, and
too often make the situation worse rather than better.
morality without “religion”: “Those therefore who would
merge religion into morality, or who suppose that morality can
be sustained without religion, are more ignorant than the
heathen. They not only
shut their eyes to all the teachings both of philosophy and
history, but array against themselves the wrath of God, who has
revealed His purpose to abandon to the most degrading lusts
those who apostatize from Him.”
(Hodge, 42) How
applicable is this message in
21st century in America!
For several decades,
public schools have attempted to teach morality without
religion. And, what do
we have—“degrading lusts” in abundance on TV, movies, and even
in public parades!!
Seeing the invisible.
“Invisible attributes… clearly seen, being understood” is
a description of “what is invisible” to the senses to “sight” or
“light of the mind.”
We use the expression “seeing with the mind’s eye.”
So, here Paul says that an understanding of the
“invisible” is sight.
This sight is more important than seeing the created
world with physical sight because the latter does not give
explanation of origin—only that the
cosmos is there.
While this text does not contain the word
“light,” it does have “darkened” which inescapably includes its
opposite, “light,” by contrast.
Today’s science is a study of “light” in the natural,
And, senses include not just seeing with the eyes, but hearing
with the ears, smelling with the nose, feeling with the skin and
other organs, and tasting with the mouth and nose.
But when the Bible uses these senses, it is mostly
referring to seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling
with the mind.
To see is to understand, “Your word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105).
To hear is to understand truth, “He who has ears, let him
hear” (Matthew 11:15).
To taste is to understand truth, “O taste and see that
the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
To smell is to understand truth, “For we are the aroma of
Christ” (II Corinthians 2:15).
To feel is to understand truth, “We looked upon and have
touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (I John
This application is crucial in our
“super-sensed” world, as psychology is based upon “how you
feel.” Science, the
unquestioned “truth” of modernism is based in the senses—what
one can see, hear, and observe, including those activities that
use instruments to enhance the sense (microscopes,
Love is a feeling.
People go to physicians because they “feel” bad, are
“anxious,” or are “depressed.”
The concern of the Scriptures, however, is to understand
with the mind, not to feel.
And, one of the insights of philosophy has virtually
always been that “sensed” objects must be interpreted by what
one believes. So,
there is not so much evidence in what we see, feel, hear, or
otherwise sense, but our interpretation of it—or “insight” is
what is crucial to our understanding.
Romans 1:19-32 cannot be
understood without that understanding!
Attributes of God revealed in this passage—“his divine nature”:
righteousness, creator, patience or longsuffering, grace,
mercy, omnipotence and sovereign (working history to his ends),
wrath, justice (mercy and wrath together), love, savior, and
inherent in θείοτης—“divinity” (v. 20). “Goodness
was regarded by many of the heathens as the primary attribute of
Deity. Among the Greeks, goodness — τὸ ἀγαθὸν, was the
expression by which the Supreme Being was distinguished. And it
appears evident from the context that the Apostle included this
idea especially in the word θείοτης.
(From footnote in Calvin’s commentary.)
validates the transcendental argument.
argument is one that moves from physical (sensed) data
(phenomenal) to inescapable conclusions about supernatural
causes (noumena). “For
since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His
eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being
understood through what has been made, so that they are without
“invisible attributes” (noumena) “have been clearly seen…
through what has been made” (phenomena).
Thus, God Himself has
authorized this transcendental argument.
(materialists, naturalists, atheists, etc.) “are without
excuse.” Thus says the
(Curiously and in self-condennation, Immanuel
Kant in his discussion of phenomena and noumena,
did not think that
the transcendental argument was valid.
It was an antimony—an
argument that could be interpreted either way.
Here, God says
Evidence of foolishness. “The
universal practice of idolatry among the heathen,
notwithstanding the revelation which God had made of Himself in
his works, is the evidence which Paul adduces to prove that they
are ungodly, and consequently exposed to that wrath which is
revealed against all ungodliness.” (Hodge, 40)
International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to
the Romans (1968).
John Calvin’s Commentary on Romans found
Commentary on the Epistle
to the Romans (Eerdmans, 14th Printing, April
Natural law: This passage is "arguably the fundamental text on natural law,"
although this theory rejects Scripture as the necessary basis
for moral and civil law. See
Romans 1:18 “Who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”
Ethics, not epistemology is the problem—the noetic effects of
Romans 1:18-23: For the
wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in
unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God
is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible
attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things
that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so
that they are without excuse, 21 because, 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, 23 and changed the glory of the
incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and
birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Various philosophers for
the past 2500+ years have argued that epistemology or ontology
or a combination of the two is the ultimate ground for
However, these verses and much of the Bible argues that the
problem of “knowing” is a problem of unbelief or ethics.
Epistemology and ontology are then fundamentally moral
problems. (I am
equating morality and ethics here.)
Natural man does not
barely have “knowledge” of God, but a “manifest”
knowledge—“clear and distinct,” if you will… “for God has shown
it to them” (v. 19).
Further, they “clearly see” (“see” means “to know,” as when one
says “I see” in solving a problem).
They are easily able to make the connection between the
“things that are made” with God’s “eternal power and Godhead,”
that is, “invisible attributes” of the spiritual realm.
By denying knowledge that is “clear” and “manifest,” they
are immoral and unrighteous.
Their decision is an ethical problem, not an
They compound this immorality by thinking themselves to
“They are without excuse.”
That is, they have more than enough epistemological
understanding to “glorify God” and be “thankful” to Him.
This lack of excuse connects with every description of
Judgment Day in Scripture, e.g. Matthew 25:31-46 and II
God’s righteous judgment will not accept their “unrighteousness”
ultimately and finally.
Merold Westphal writes relative to Calvin’s opening
chapters in his Institutes
of Christian Religion:
First, (Calvin) explicitly
gives to this problem the same universality that he gives to sin
in general. All of
us are involved.
Second, this is not simply a matter of ignorance or weakness.
To emphasize our responsibility, Calvin insists that we
“intentionally stupefy” ourselves and have “deliberately turned
(our) thoughts away from God.”
Finally, the result is not so much a spiritual vacuum as
suppress God’s truth by
substituting figments of our own imaginations to worship
(“Taking St. Paul Seriously: Sin as an Epistemological Category,”
in Thomas Flint, Ed.,
Christian Philosophy (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre
Dame Press, 1990)
That ultimately ethics is
the issue turns the concerns of epistemology and ontology by
philosophers and others into misdirection.
Romans, Chapter 1, has declared that man’s problem is not
“knowledge” and “origin,” but confessing what he knows “clearly”
and “manifestly.” In
order to get his epistemology, one must acknowledge “in his
heart that there is God” (the opposite of Psalm 14:1).
Addendum: Romans 1
declares that man “clearly” knows.
One wonders how Western philosophy might have been
different if Rene Descartes had declared that God in Creation
was “clear and distinct,” instead of his own
“Their conscience also bearing witness…
“Their conscience also bearing witness…, and
between themselves their thoughts accusing or else
excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets
of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Romans 2:15
Karl Menninger wrote
Whatever Happened to Sin
in 1973 in which he pointed out that “sin” was being eliminated
from human life. He did
not mean that people were getting more righteous, but that the
concept of sin as a moral transgression and failure of
responsibility was being lost as a viable concept.
Instead, laymen and
professionals were making excuses for all kinds of behavior that
once were called “sins.” Parents,
society, or genes were responsible, but not the individual.
Much of this change came
in the name of “freedom”—no authority can tell me what is right
and wrong. That was
almost 40 years ago, and we have progressed downhill since that
There are many severe fallouts from those
changes, but I will only deal with two.
First, the obvious is a
degradation of everything
in society that is meaningful: personal relationships,
marriages, family, education, manners, civility, culture and the
arts, etc. The second is
less but fuels all the problems that I have named already—that
issue is guilt. Man’s
greatest problem is guilt—in two ways.
(1) Guilt before a holy
God results in death. I
have already dealt with that issue herein--"You
shall surely die…."
(2) Guilt hinders the potential of an
individual and claws at his very being.
One’s conscience is
“bearing witness…accusing or else excusing.”
This turmoil is churning
on a day by day basis. But,
included in that storm is the future that Jesus Christ will
judge “the secrets of men” in the day of judgment.
I am not talking about
“guilt feelings” or even conscious thoughts.
I am talking about
true guilt caused by the
curse of God on the entire human race.
This guilt exists whether
one feels it or not. It
prevents clear thinking; it prevents happiness, joy, and peace;
it interferes with all relationships, especially those that are
intimate; it can even result in impotence towards any
achievement, and even suicide.
greatest problem of mankind is not even recognized by
“professionals” in psychology, psychiatry, child development,
social theorists, and
philosophy. It is
perhaps the most dramatic example of “light and darkness.”
Scripture is the light;
all others are the darkness. Apart
from Biblical revelation and the regeneration of the individual
human spirit, this darkness cannot receive any light.
Unfortunately, many Christian “professionals” are wrong about
guilt because they are wrong on the applicability of Scripture
to speak to the human condition.
So, this problem is not limited to the human secularists
There are only two
answers to the problem of guilt.
First, a person must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
Second, he must be
a diligent student of Scripture to be sure that
“whatsoever is of faith, and not of sin.”
Romans 3:8 “And why
“Let us do evil that good may come?”
“One of the most compelling ethical arguments
to the natural (fallen) mind is that of
“the end justifies the means.”
But there are at least two major problems with this
approach. (1) There
is no restriction on the means.
My family may be starving, and I know that my neighbor
has plenty of food.
So, to feed my family (“the end”), I may simply steal, or I may
even kill my neighbor to accomplish this “good” end.
On a gigantically heinous scale, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao
Tse Tung justified the killing of millions for their own twisted
philosophies of “higher ends.”
(2) This verse in Romans that is our focus
here, spoken sarcastically, as that by which Paul and others
were accused, is categorically against teleological ethics.
And in greater argument still, all other Scriptures
destroy this ethical approach as Biblical directives are
A form of teleological ethics is
utilitarianism—whatever act provides the greatest good for the
greatest number. The
practical problem is, “How does one determine what is ‘the
greatest good,’ and how can the harm of the minority be weighed
against the ‘good’ of the ‘greater’ number?”
How many persons must benefit to fulfill to qualify as
“good.” One of the “fewer” who dies by such choices may be the
boy who invents a cure for cancer.
Several of the “greater” number may be rogues, thieves,
murderers, and eventual dictators.
But, again Scripture, as the norm of God, destroys
There is an almost hidden feature of God’s
ethics: it will provide the greatest ends and the greatest good
for the greatest number simply because only God (in his
Sovereignty and foreknowledge) can determine these ends.
Scholars, including Christians, have proposed
various systems of ethics.
Deontological ethics is focused on duty.
ethics calls for action according to the particulars of the
instruct “right” actions according to some standard or norm.
(This method is concerned in the Euthyphro dilemma
Virtue ethics is what the
“virtuous” person does or would do in a certain situation.
C. S. Lewis in his
Abolition of Man names the
Tao as a universal standard that even God must obey.
Then, there is Kant’s categorical imperative
a maxim is determined by what should be applied by everyone
there are many other designations for man’s attempt to determine
right and wrong.
John Calvin comments on Psalm 119:105. “Your
word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
In this verse the Psalmist testifies that the
Divine Law was his schoolmaster and guide in leading a holy
life. He thus, by his own example, prescribes the same rule to
us all; and it is highly necessary to observe this rule; for
while each of us follows what seems good in his own estimation,
we become entangled in inextricable and frightful mazes. The
more distinctly to understand his intention, it is to be noted,
that the word of God is set in opposition to all human counsels.
What the world judges (to be) right is often crooked and
perverse in the judgment of God, who approves of no other manner
of living, than that which is framed according to the rule of
his law. It is also to be observed that David could not have
been guided by God’s word, unless he had first renounced the
wisdom of the flesh, for it is only when we are brought to do
this, that we begin to be of a teachable disposition. But the
metaphor which he uses implies something more; namely, that
unless the word of God enlighten men’s path, the whole of their
life is enveloped in darkness and obscurity, so that they cannot
do anything else than miserably wander from the right way; and
again, that when we submit ourselves with docility to the
teaching of God’s law, we are in no danger of going astray.
In typical fashion, John Calvin has nailed
the human situation.
Man (“the world”) has contrived all sorts of “ethics” and
“ethical” schemes that are “crooked and perverse” in the “wisdom
of the flesh.” He even
uses the word, “enlighten,” but
in direct contrast to
the Enlightenment and which the Psalmist calls “endarkenment”
(the area no illuminated by God’s “lamp” and His “light.”
The reader should keep in mind that “law,” as
used in this Psalm and throughout Scripture is equivalent to
modern use of “ethics.”
Psalm 119 uses various synonyms for “law”: “precepts,”
“statutes,” “ the way,” “His ways,” “commandments,” “righteous
judgments,” “justice,” and others (taken from the NKJV).
When Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments,”
he is only saying what this verse, Psalm 119, and all of
Scripture is saying in God’s instructions for mankind.
One should also note the
inseparability of the character of God as Righteousness and
“law.” Thus, these
synonyms continue into the New Testament, as one seamless whole.
(These synonyms include ceremonial laws, case
laws, and other laws that were exclusive to the nation of
discussion about making distinctions between those laws and the
ones that remain applicable in the Christian era are far beyond
my discussion here.)
Plato through Socrates proposed what is
called the Euthyphro dilemma:
“Are moral actions (ethics) right because God commands
them,” or “Does God command them because they are morally
question is left hanging in the
Euthyphro, but the
Bible unequivocally states that there is no dilemma.
“You shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:3);
“I am the Lord and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5); any passage
that says, “Thus says the Lord”; and others all throughout the
command theory, voluntarism, and other names are given to
However, we must not separate ethics from the character of God.
Holiness, righteousness, goodness, and justice are among
Ethics are thus derived from Him and written down in the
Scriptures. We err,
and we sin, if we seek ethics in any of the ways or means
devised by man (including professing Christians) apart from the
All God’s requirements (ethics) of man are
summarized in the Ten Commandment which are further elucidated
by all the 613 laws of the Old Testament (traditional Jewish
number) and (someone has estimated) more than 800 instructions
in the New Testament.
Since God is One, they are all unified, although one may
need to do some study to arrive at Romans 14:23, “Whatever is
not of faith (right thoughts and action) is sin.”
The Bible provides the only system in which
there is never any
conflict between what is right for the individual, the
family, social groups, the church, nations, and international
duty is synonymous with happiness, blessedness (The Beatitudes),
health, sanctification, etc.
There is one qualifier for Biblical ethics.
There is a form of situational ethics for Christians.
The situation does determine
which Biblical standards
concept is not situational ethics because God has determined the
norms beforehand that are
applicable to all situations.
For example, in Exodus 22:2-3
a person killed in the act of theft carries no guilt upon
the owner of the property,
if during darkness.
But in daylight
the owner can be found guilty of murder.
There is the same thief and same property theft,
the situation(night vs.
day) is different. A modern
example would be an ectopic pregnancy which cannot survive and
must be removed to save the life of the mother.
A pregnancy in utero (where it should be in the uterus)
would violate the Sixth Commandment against murder.
Both are pregnancies with live human beings, but there
situations (ectopic vs.
Biblical ethics does not need a qualifier—the
Bible is God’s reflection of His own righteousness for humans to
follow. Much more
work needs to be done in this area to enlighten God’s people in
these times of man-made and virtually “anything goes” ethics.
For more on Biblical ethics, see
Biblical Ethics in Medicine which has general principles, as
well as some specifics on medicine.
Romans 3:11 Calvin on the
"Greatness" of Philosophers
In his commentary on Romans 3:11, John Calvin states, "for empty
is the man in whom there is not the knowledge of God, whatever
other learning he may possess; yea, the sciences and the arts,
which in themselves are good, are empty things, when they are
without this groundwork." What does this statement say
about the "greatness" of philosophers who do not acknowledge God
and His Word as the ground for their being able to do
philosophy? What more does it say about Christians
in philosophy who ground their thinking without recourse to
God's Special Revelation!
Romans 8:20, 22 The
creation was subjected to futility... (and) groans and labors
with birth pangs...
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but
because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from
the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors
with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:20-22).
In accordance with God's plan, when Adam fell
into sin he dragged down the creation with him. As God said to
the man, "Cursed is the ground because of you" (Genesis 3:17).
The result was not that man must learn to take care of the earth
and cooperate with it in order to bring forth sustenance from
it. Rather, God said that the earth would now resist the man, so
that the man must subdue the earth to take from it what he needs
(v. 18). Then, after a while the man would die and his body
would return to the earth (v. 19). When two parties struggle
under God's curse, neither comes out as the winner. Since that
time the whole creation had been groaning for liberation right
up to the time of Paul, and it has continued its groaning until
now because what it longs for still has not arrived.
Thus long before creation became polluted
with plastic bottles, it was polluted with sinners, with
non-Christians. It groans not because it longs to be rid of
factories and skyscrapers, but to be liberated from the bondage
and decay that came upon it because of sin. That day is marked
by the revelation of the sons of God, that is, when God shall
definitively vindicate his people and complete their adoption by
the redemption of their bodies, or the resurrection of the
saints. Its liberation is bound up with the salvation that
Christians enjoy, or with "the glorious freedom of the children
of God." The corollary to this is that creation yearns to be rid
of the non-Christians, so that the meek shall inherit the earth.
Cheung's commentary here is well stated, but he goes on to
condemn Christians who are concerned about and active for the
environment, instead of preaching the Gospel and exegeting
Scripture. However, I see that concern for the environment
is consistent with the Creation Mandate and the broad scope of
the Kingdom of God. A great example is
The Cornwall Alliance
which is also a model for all organizations that would profess
and actively pursue "subduing the earth" and "ruling over it,"
which includes unnecessary harm and maximal productivity within
a Biblical structure.
Romans 14:23 “Whatever is not from
faith is sin”
Sometimes, some of the most important Bible
verses are sort of “hidden away,” as only a part of a verse and
a small part of a chapter. Romans
14:23 is one such verse. Whatever
is in our thoughts, speech, and actions that is not “from faith”
is sin! How many of these
situations do we have each day—hundreds, if not thousands.
How can they all be “from
First, one has to know what faith is.
I have worked on this
definition for about 20 years. Faith
is the disposition to say or act in a particular way according
to some knowledge (understanding) with an expected outcome which
may or may not happen according to Reality.
Generically, I plan a
trip on faith based upon knowledge of where I want to go, ways
to get there, what I will need for travel, how much time it will
take, etc. When I act on
this knowledge, there are many things that may prevent the trip
happening at all: car breakdown, closed highways, family
emergency, etc., etc. These
unforeseen events may be from inadequate knowledge or
unfortunate events (Reality, that is, God's Providence).
What we want to avoid is
disasters that come from poor knowledge or entire ignorance.
Biblically, the knowledge that must enter a
decision is Biblical knowledge. Herein
is the central teaching of this verse.
Decisions must be made from any and all knowledge in the Bible that
pertains to that particular matter!
The Bible contains
hundreds, if not thousands, of instructions and principles that
apply to every situation that one faces everyday on planet
an extensive knowledge of
Scripture is required to fulfill the intent of this verse.
Do you have that
extensive knowledge? If
not, you need to make a concrete plan by which to learn it.
Now, God does not expect us to know the Bible
comprehensively early in our Christian lives.
Thus, he gives us mature
believers and sources which have such knowledge: preachers,
teachers, books, CDs/DVDs, and now the Internet.
These can be consulted,
and should be, both for insight and for certainty that one has
made right decisions.
Please do not miss the import of this verse—all
our thoughts, words, and actions that are not from faith (a
knowledge of Scripture) is sin.
Of course, we can never
achieve this goal perfectly—but far and away, our problem lies
with a poor breadth and depth in our knowledge and understanding
of Scripture more than a lack of perfection.
Reader, what is your plan to fulfill this
verse? Do you have a
plan? Are you daily
unaware of the application of Scripture to your many decisions?
Then, this verse condemns
your thoughts, words, and deeds.
Make your plans today to rectify your ignorance of
Scripture so that “everything is
of faith and thus
For more on what faith is and how to
understand it better, see
the comments herein on Hebrews 11:6.
Chapters 1-2 Concentrated Epistemology: The Wisdom of God
vs. Wisdom of the World and Its Philosophers
Until this week (January 9, 2010), I had thought of the book of
I Corinthians as a "practical" book, that is, one that addresses
the schismatic and immoral practices of those in Corinth.
But the first two chapters have within them some of the most
concentrated occurrences of words that are foundational to an
epistemology. Of course, this foundation (see "foundation"
in I Corinthians 3) would be expected for such a tumultuous
congregation—only on a solid foundation
can such confusion be grounded and set right. (The reader
can use various online Greek-English Interlinear texts which is
only what I have done here. I used the NASB for English
Logos is best known in John 1:1 as "Word" (see
above), appears seven times in Chapters 1, 2 and is variously
translated as "speech," "word," and "message." Sophia
is translated "wisdom" and appears 19 times.
Its opposite "foolishness" (stem, moira) appears 5
times. Derivatives of gnosis or "knowledge"
appears 6 times. Other words that occur once or only a few
times are translated such as "testimony" (evidence), revelation,
informed, meaning, clever, preaching, proclaiming, mystery,
speaking, see and hear (understand), heart, teaching, faith, and
mind. All these are words that concerning thinking and
There are some interesting links and contrasts. Opposing
"Spirit" or "spiritual" (stem, pneuma—appears
9 times) are "natural," fleshly," "worldly," "wisdom of
this age," "natural" (see I Corinthians 15), and "weakness."
3 times) is associated with right-thinking and Biblical wisdom.
(I leave the reader to work on that association.) I
Corinthians 3 discusses the "foundation in Jesus Christ."
Chapters 1 and 2 have clearly and exhaustively revealed what
that foundation is: Biblical understanding and wisdom that is
"the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:16—see
I understand that I have introduced complex issues in these few
paragraphs. An exposition of these two chapters would be
book-length. But the way to end divisions and give moral
directions is clearly laid here—that of
careful Biblical understanding—a foundation for one's
epistemology. We should all investigate these matters more
thoroughly, and these chapters call us to that task.
I Corinthians 2:14
have the mind of Christ.”
“The bald assertion that we have the mind of
Christ is the refutation of all pietistic, nondoctrinal,
anti-intellectual, antitheological ‘Christianity.’
It is undoubtedly true
that we do not have all the mind of Christ and that we need more
instruction, but it indubitably true that the doctrines already
received are Christ’s mind. What
we think and what Christ thinks (in these cases) are identical.
Our concepts are not
inadequate concepts (granting, of course, that we lack other of
Christ’s concepts), nor are they analogical or similar concepts.
They are indeed Christ’s
concepts, His own mind, the very wisdom of God.”
There is today a great emphasis and almost
endless discussion on “interpreting the text.”
Rightly so—as long as
“truth revealed” is not lost in the process.
Jesus stated, “You will
know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
No one may negate in any
way that we possess “the truth.”
That position is necessarily foundational to
Christianity and to those who believe it.
The truth is found in
God’s Revelation—The Holy Bible.
Whatever disagreements that we have about interpretation
(and there are many), we can never lose sight that God has given
us truth. This
proposition also necessarily implies that we can understand it,
because it “will make us free.” “We
have the mind of Christ”—and nothing can disprove or refute that
Corinthians 3:11: The Foundation
“No creed but Christ”
A large number of Christians and
denominations claim, “No creed but Christ.”
There are serious
misunderstandings about this phrase.
I grant that their intent
is highly praiseworthy: Christ in all that makes Him unique in
Trinity and the salvation of souls is central to their belief
there is nothing to be
known about Christ other than what is said in the Scriptures.
Therefore, the truth of
the Bible is prior to any knowledge of Christ.
We know nothing of Christ
other than what is said in the Scriptures, and all that is said
of Christ there is said in propositions—sentences that posit
knowledge (truth). Christians
who are concerned about being pious sometimes do not like
discussions about Christ as “propositions,” but
logically, nothing that is true of Christ can be said in any
Here we come to the verse cited, “For no
other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which
is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11).
This statement is another
way of saying what the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter, “On this
rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not
prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Also, all the
truth of Christ is the
“cornerstone” (I Peter 2:6-7).
In epistemology, all systems are built on a
foundation—a first principle, basic belief, starting point,
presupposition, and all the other names that are synonymous with
one’s most basic proposition. Christ
is not actually the first principle—the truth of Scripture is.
However, the central
focus of Scripture is unquestionably the Second Person of the
Trinity. But one could
even say that Christ and the Scripture are One: “In the
beginning was the Word (logos)…
and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The desired pietism of the “no creed”
statement is impossible to defend the Christ in every necessary
way, but the propositions are perfectly adequate.
The degree to which this pietistic attempt fails is the failure of
Christianity to be true. This
position is no small matter, but strikes at the very survival of
the Christian faith.
There are several other problems with “No
creed but Christ.” (1)
All translations of the Bible are creeds because they must be
translated from the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into one’s own
vernacular language. (2)
All translations must be selected from all the surviving
manuscripts. (3) There
are numerous creeds of Christ of which many are false: Jehovah’s
Witness, Mormonism, Islam, Marcianism, Manicheanism, etc.
To choose among these,
one must have a “creed” by which to choose a creed about Christ.
(4) The statement, “No
creed but Christ” is itself a creed, a performative
contradiction of the statement itself.
However, sufficient refutation of this
creedal “no creed” has been made here.
philosophy, linguistics, and logic can be misused and
misapplied, in this formulation they demonstrate this
disastrously false claim.
I Corinthians 6:1-8 Going
before Pagan judges... not!
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against
another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before
the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints
will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by
you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3
Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more,
things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you
have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do
you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to
judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that
there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be
able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother
goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure
for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you
not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let
yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves
do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to
A recurring theme of Scripture, one that I
try constantly to emphasize, is that there are only two systems
of belief and that they starkly contrast with one another: (1)
the Biblical system and (2) all others.
Too often, especially
today, the church has not lived this contrast, but virtually
reflected the culture around her.
Modern Christians are quick to condemn the Corinthians
to whom Paul addressed this letter with their sexual
promiscuity, eating meats, idolatry, abusing The Lord’s Supper,
on this issue we are as guilty as there were.
The message of this passage is clear.
First, we are not to be
so touchy and thin-skinned, but to suffer wrongs, rather than
take our brother or sister to court.
“Now therefore, it is
already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one
another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not
rather let yourselves be cheated?
No, you yourselves do
wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your
brethren!” (verses 7-8) I,
for one have rarely done that, have you?
God through Paul commands
us to do so.
Second, it compounds our sin to go before
pagan judges. God has
given us His instructions in Scripture by which to judge; the
pagans make up law from whatever customs, declaration, or
legislation that has happened within their culture
without reference to the Bible. God
even gives special gifts of knowledge and wisdom (I Corinthians
12) in the Church for the exercise of this function.
For example, civil courts
today allow for “no-fault” divorce.
In Biblical justice,
there is always fault. With
two sides to every issue, a judge has to decide (1) who has the
higher Biblical right (perhaps both are equally right or wrong),
and (2) whether that right is sufficient for divorce.
He may even refer the
case back to the Church for counseling and resolution and not
judge for divorce! (The
only two sins for which divorce may be granted by the Church are
adultery and desertion.)
All these directives are not to say that
going to civil court is wrong. Paul
appealed to Caesar in his trial before Festus.
But, here again, God has
provided instruction. If
the Church judges that the accused is guilty of sins for which
excommunication is necessary (Matthew 18:17; I Corinthians 5:5,
9), then that person is declared a pagan and may be taken to
I Corinthians 8:1
"Knowledge Puff Up"
“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all
have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies”
(I Corinthians 8:1,
NASB). The KJV says,
“Knowledge puffs up.” It
is beyond reasonable comprehension how often this verse has been
used to limited one’s Biblical education.
As such, this passage is
an excellent illustration of (1) a necessary hermeneutic and (2)
How does one reconcile this admonition that
knowledge makes “arrogant,” and all the other exhortations
throughout the New Testament to increase one’s knowledge: “to
prove what the will of God is” (Romans 12:2, NASB), “to have the
mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16—see following here), “the
rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (II Peter 1:2),
“for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one
who called us” (II Peter 2;1), and many, many more—not to
mention all those exhort us to wisdom (a synonym for knowledge).
Well, first, is the hermeneutic—context.
There are several levels.
“Love puffs up” is not an
isolated sentence, but is part of a larger sentence.
The context is also the
paragraph and chapter in which it appears, as well as the book
(I Corinthians), and then the whole Bible.
It is the immediate hermeneutic (context)
that the second illustration is seen.
The whole verse is
balanced: knowledge without love is what puffs us.
That is, one can greatly
increase one’s Biblical, theological, and philosophical
knowledge without love—the
practical application of instruction to our families, neighbors,
our church, and our world. (See
I Peter 3:8 following here for more explanation.
Also, see I Corinthians,
Chapter 13.) There is a
real sense in which one cannot have enough knowledge of all that
the Bible teaches about God and our needed obedience to the Two
Great Commandments: to love Him and our neighbor (the entire
world as it presents ourselves to it).
That knowledge just needs
to be practically implemented.
The Christian faith is a rational, logical,
detailed, and coherent system, so all verses, and particularly
parts of verses (as “knowledge puffs up” is), must be placed
within that system (context). Yes,
this system rests on faith—“I believe in order to understand”
(Augustine)—but then it must be worked into a coherent system.
will be tripped up in their understanding, as often happens with
this verse in isolation from that system.
"Be temperate in all things"
The sentence is “And everyone who competes
for the prize is temperate in all things.”
A consistent theme in
philosophy from Plato, and before, to modern times has been
concern for happiness and “the good.”
In God’s world, these are
only found in temperance (moderation).
So often the focus of
both Christians and non-Christians is what God restricts. Some
even say that God just does not want us to have any fun.
Actually, the exact
opposite is true: God
wants to give us His “good” which is always the best.
One could say that the
only restriction is that we must “get the good” according to his
sexuality is one of
the central themes of modern culture.
The truth is that God
wants everyone to have the greatest sexual experience possible.
Have we forgotten that
God designed sex? Have we
recently read the extreme joy of the Song of Solomon?
Contrary to contrived
history, the Puritans were a lusty bunch.
One wife complained to
the church that her husband was not performing to her
key is sexuality within marriage!
Interestingly, there are
two large surveys by a leading women’s magazine that show that
women find more sexual fulfillment in marriage that those that
I struggle with
gaining weight, so for the last few years I have learned to eat
only the foods that I
enjoy, to eat them in smaller bites, and smaller quantities.
am enjoying food more! I
don’t have the uncomfortable feeling of being bloated, having
heartburn, guilt of eating too much, and large food bills.
feel better and have more energy.
I could go on about money, relationships,
possessions, hobbies, exercise, entertainment, alcohol, etc.
etc. All these are not
bad in themselves unless they are overdone and then they are
worshipped. God has given
us all great things to enjoy… temperately.
In temperance, we get all
the blessings and none of the evils.
And, a final "good" that may not
be recognized here is the first part of this verse that
temperance is necessary to "compete for the prize." That
is, to achieve the "greatest good" in this life and reward in
heaven cannot be achieved without temperance. The
successful athlete is the one who competes hard, but moderating
his life to achieve the "prize."
Corinthians 10:20 “Gentiles sacrifice to demons”
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I
speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.
The cup of blessing which
we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The
bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of
Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one
body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Observe Israel after the
flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the
altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what
is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which
the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God,
and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot
drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot
partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we
provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”
(I Corinthians 10:14-22)
Demons are intimately intertwined with Greek
(In) a very early form of Greek popular
religion … one such daimon
is attached to a person at birth and determines, for good or
evil, his fate…. Socrates is at least partially in the archaic
religious tradition when he speaks of his “divine something”
that warns him to avoid certain actions…. notable is Socrates’
constant use of the word or synonym “divine sign”…. The idea of
the daimon as a kind of “guardian angel” is still visible in Plato,
although there is an attempt to escape the fatalism implied in
the popular belief…. At one point Plato himself identifies (this
daimon) with the
soul…. (The notion) of the
daimon as an intermediary between the Olympians (Olympian
gods) and mortals, is also present in Plato…. This position had
a great vogue among the later transcendentalists of both the
Neopythagorean and Platonic variety…. Plutarch had a highly
developed demonology, and with his typical religious
conservatism he traces the cult of these intermediaries back to
oriental and primitive Greek sources.” (F. E. Peters,
Greek Philosophical Terms,
Of particular note is the concept of
eudaimonia which is translated “happiness” or “human flourishing.”
That is, the achievement
of these ends is dependent upon “good”
Happiness is a central
theme of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
In various twists and
turns, these daimons
continued into the Roman Empire and early centuries of
In the Gospels demons are encountered
repeatedly by Jesus, giving them a greater reality than ever
before, even though they were found in the Old Testament (mostly
by other words, such as gods or idols).
But the inspired Apostle
Paul states that Gentiles (Greeks and Romans) of his day
“sacrifice to demons.” Quite
clearly, and virtually unarguably, demons are the fallen angels
of Satan’s army.
Among many modern Christian philosophers,
there is an overt friendliness, even to giving credibility to
the “happiness” of the Greek philosophers.
While the gods of the
Greeks and Romans may have had multiple origins, and may not all
be instances of demon worship, this statement of Paul should be
sufficient warning to necessarily categorize these entities as
dangerous and viciously opposed to God’s Kingdom.
Those who get too close
to the fire are going to get burned!
Corinthians 13:13 The Relationship of Hope and Faith
"Hope is nothing else than
perseverance in faith For when we have once believed the
word of God, it remains that we persevere until the
accomplishment of these things. Hence, as faith is the
mother of hope, so it is kept up by it, so as not to give
way." (John Calvin, Commentary on I Corinthians 13:13)
is an epistemological position, also known as fideism, dogmatism
presuppositionalism, basic belief, etc. As breadth, depth,
and understanding of knowledge is the only way to have mature
faith, the same is true for hope, as a sort of synonym or
postulate of faith.
But, also remember that
love is "the
greatest of these."
Hebrew, Greek, and Roman
Cultures Were Looking for The Christ
“For it is the God who commanded light
to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to
give the light of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The Hebrews symbolized as an Ideal, for
example, “We have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2) and “In your
light we see light” (Psalms 36:9)—hope in
their Messiah whom they did not recognize.
The Greeks were
ultimately concerned with “knowledge” with their
(epistemology) and ginosko
(knowledge). The Romans
were concerned with “glory,” as in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The
grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome.”
All these peoples were
actually searching for their highest ideals and hopes that are
found in Jesus Christ, as defined by this one verse!
Note: This idea and content came from one of
Ravi Zacharia's talks
was for freedom that Christ set us free!”
One of the great debates among philosophers
and theologians is “free will.”
Perhaps lost in this debate is the concept of freedom.
This verse in Galatians explodes into a profound
description of the Gospel and of law!
Of course, the whole of Galatians is about law, and it is
in this context that this verse erupts into a principle that is
both particular and universal—an ultimate expression of the one
and the many—individuality and community—the essence of love.
Perhaps, both the particular and the universal may summed
us as “harmony” or “peace” with oneself and one’s
community--both secular and spiritual (the church).
What is freedom?
Freedom is best expressed negatively because its positive
features are virtually limitless in their potential.
My working definition is that freedom
is the lack of hindrance to a thing or person to fulfill its
let’s dig deeper.
What is a nature—Greek phusis? Nature is what a
thing or person is created by God to be, that is, how it is to
function in His universe.
Let us start with simple objects.
Iron, as ore, sits in the ground and seems to be free,
but it is encumbered with all sorts of contamination and no
purpose to its existence.
Dug up, smelted, and purified the iron may be the Golden
Gate Bridge, railroad tracks that stretch from one end of a
continent to the other, or simply the straight pins that a
seamstress uses to hold her sewing materials together.
When, then, is iron most free?
I remember reading somewhere that
Michelangelo saw the images in the marble from which he carved
them. He just “set
them free” from the surrounding marble.
When were these images most free?
When is a train most free?
When it is bumping across the countryside where it will
only travel a few feet before bogging down or when it is “riding
the rails” at 60 miles per hour or more?
I have a little King Charles Cavalier
Spaniel. As a
creature in the wild, she might seem most free, but she would
likely not last a day due to starvation and predators.
Even outside with us, she is on a leash--but a leash
protects her from cars which she does not understand will kill
her in an instant.
She is most free within the closed doors of our home and on a
leash where her freedom is a defined role of her existence in
which she is free to be our companion and safe from dangers that
are common to small dogs.
Ah, what about human beings?
What did the Apostle Paul mean by Galatians 5:1?
Well, the great discussion of this book of the Bible is
about law, slavery (bondage), and “another gospel” (“anathema”
or cursed). Too many
readers contrast law and freedom or law and grace, and law and
slavery. In so
doing, they miss entirely the great concept of freedom in this
verse and in this New Testament book.
We get an idea from the above examples.
Iron ore is most free when it is structured according to
the laws of nature and design.
Michelangelo’s marble is most free for its highest end
when it found its fullest expression in its carved image.
My little spaniel is most free within the “rules of the
house” and the extent of her leash.
Mmmm… does this application of law does not
seem to be consistent with the theme of Galatians?
Are not law and freedom opposite?
Dear readers, this link is the central message of
Galatians: freedom is
impossible without the laws of a thing’s nature being fully
are two strong arguments to be made here.
(1) Freedom for a person in the Biblical sense is unified
with the freedom of all things: to find their highest
fulfillment in the fullest expression of their nature—the laws
by which God created them to function.
(2) There is the problem of freedom of the
individual vs. that of the community—the classical “one and the
many” dilemma. True freedom must be freedom for all—but true
freedom cannot limit the freedom of others.
Rousseau, Marx, and Hegel wrote about the freedom of the
individual virtually without restraint.
We see the result of their “freedom” in the bloody and
chaotic French Revolution, the pogroms and poverty of Russian
communism, and the Blitzkriegs and gas houses of the Nazis.
By contrast, the government of the United States was most
consistently founded upon Biblical law of any nation in history.
While not perfect, one has only to look at America’s
fruits to see the possibility of the freedom brought about by
“the law of nature’s God.”
(3) Now, is it possible to understand the
freedom of Galatians in this context of freedom, law, and
fulfillment? Is not
the message of Galatians freedom
Are we not under grace and not under law?
I have traversed material things, animals, and civil law
to demonstrate that law is necessary to the freedom of Galatians
which is the freedom of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps, some comments about regeneration will help here.
This “new birth” is analogous to human birth as Nicodemus
understood clearly (John 3).
From the moment of its birth to maturity, the child is
being educated or instructed or
taught law—the rules
of being human in a family and in society.
Would one expect the “new born” of God
not to need education,
instruction, and law?
Again, the nature of man, as in all nature, necessitates
this governance. To
be “free” in the liberal sense is to have no direction or
instruction at all—a totally wild and purposeless thing!
The great nature of the Gospel and its
contrast to any other religion is its “giveness”—grace freely
given—free to its recipients (but, at great cost to the Son of
God). So, centrally
and essentially, man can contribute
nothing but nothing to satisfy God’s requirement of perfection for
ability for man to give anything towards his own salvation is
the anathema of
another way, this book is concerned with any
merit that man may
achieve with God—any action that
obligates God to any man in any way.
This obligating of
God is the essence of legalism—being “under the law”
Thus, Paul’s concern here is that one might follow the law and
expect to merit or obligate God because of his works.
Law, then, becomes synonymous with merit or any
contribution towards one’s salvation—before or after
regeneration . The
letter of the law is not the problem, but what man expects from
God because he has fulfilled the law (at least in his own
mind—man can never perfectly fulfill the law).
Such expectation is fulfilling the “letter of the law,”
instead of the “spirit of the law” (Romans 7:6).
Legalism is also our making ourselves
obligated to the law—being
under the law as a burden to obey.
We find our freedom
in freely following the law.
Love is freely
obeying Jesus’ commandments (John 14:15).
Thus, the law retains its place as
instruction for the new and growing regenerate person, as well
as its necessity to fulfillment to a thing’s nature.
The law per se
fails in any contrast with grace.
The law becomes instruction for those under grace; the
law becomes “the perfect law of freedom” (James 1:25).
The law becomes the means “to know the truth and the
truth (to) make you free”
(John 8:32). The law
is in effect “till heaven and earth pass away” (Matthew 5:18).
Those who “teach” and do not “break these commandments”
(law) are “great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
The Scriptures never deprecate nor nullify the law.
Therefore, there must be unity of grace and law.
The key question is, “How is the young (or
growing or old) Christian to know what are his instructions: how
is he or she to think and to act as a Christian?”
Law in the Bible is simply instruction—read all the
synonyms of law in Psalm 119 to get an idea of what Biblical law
is. We moderns
confuse the idea of civil law—the power and force of
government—with God’s law which is instructional and
directive—“Your word (law) is a lamp unto my feet, and a light
unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Of course, there are the case laws of the Old Testament,
but they are simply practical applications of civil law with
J. I. Packer in
Baker’s Dictionary of
Theology under “Freedom” states.
“The theological idea of freedom thus comes
to mean, on the one hand, deliverance from all created forces
that would prevent men from
Creator, and on the other, the positive
happiness of living
in fellowship with
God in the place where He is pleased to
It is a free gift
of grace, bestowed on
those who serve God
according to His covenant
condition of freedom from
bondage to the created is therefore
(Ed-following law) to
the Creator. Freedom
is God’s gift to his own
slaves. This is
the essence of the Biblical concept.”
(I have bolded corresponding words to my own text here.)
The answer to the first question of the
Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith is
ultimate, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him
obeyed God “even to death on the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
is doing the instructions of another—instructions by those in
authority are laws.
We gain no merit with God for obedience, although he chooses to
reward good works—but rewards are not gained merit—we cannot
claim that God is obligated to give us anything, because He is
Even God’s freedom is limited
by His own law—that of justice, righteousness, and all His
freedom is His own nature—He is most free when He is consistent
with that nature.
Even God is not “free” to do anything that He wants—He must act
freely within His own nature.
Thus, if we love God, we will “keep His commandments”
(John 14:15). We
keep His law, not out of obligation, but
freely because that is how
we love Him.
Love (good works) is freedom
in the law: “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
To paraphrase, “freedom is the fulfillment of the law.”
To misunderstand the use of Biblical law is to
misunderstand the Good News—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be under law
is to attempt to obligate and obtain merit with God.
To be set free from
the law is to love one’s neighbor by fulfilling the law.
anathema the rejection of the law as instruction for New Testament
believers, not the law (love) itself.
(For more on the subject of love and law, see II Peter
To illustrate the broad and central nature of
freedom and law, I have listed here the synonyms and associated
terms—not all—that would be a long list!
Synonyms: peace, law, love, good works,
righteousness and justice, free will, anti-slavery, Kingdom of
God (Kingdom of Heaven), Heaven, opposite of Hell, ultimate
being, community and individuality, a truly “civil” society,
happiness, blessedness (Beatitudes), fruits of the Spirit,
sanctification, responsibility, joy, obedience, etc.
Ephesians 1:11 "Christ works all
things according to the counsel of His will"
What is" is "what ought to be."
From the standpoint of total predestination, the consistent and
logical position of those theologically Reformed (Calvinists,
Presbyterians, Puritans, etc.), any object, event, or situation
that "is" or "occurs" was planned by God from "eternity past."
Now, I am not presenting this proposition as a means to
understand ethics. Biblical ethics is the norm that we are
to pursue in society and civil law—it is the God-given standard
by which we are to live. In that sense, the naturalistic
fallacy applies, "What is" is not necessarily "what ought to
be." The "is" of America's laws that allow abortion is not
"what ought to be."
things work together for good to those who love God, to those
who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans
8:28). The conflated attributes of omnipotence and
holiness (righteousness, good, goodness, justice) allow no evil
(from God's perspective) in the universe. "The Lord gives,
and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job
1:21). "You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is
stayed on you" (Isaiah 26:3). All that "is" is indeed how
He has planned time and eternity.
There is one caveat. I strongly believe
what I have just said, but my ability to live at peace within
this scenario is beyond my ability. I am never at perfect
peace, and I doubt that you are either. Soli Deo
Note: My tag, "supernatural truth,"
opposes the "naturalistic
fallacy," which is the idea that "what is" is not "what
ought to be," or that there is no "ought" from an "is."
"Transcendental ethic" links ethics to God's perspective, rather
than earthly-oriented man. From God's perspective, all
events are "good," because He is perfectly righteous.
Whatever He does is just and good.
Ephesians 4:17-24 The
Total Life Re-orientation of Regeneration and Sanctification -
Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics
This I say, therefore, and testify in the
Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[d] the
Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their
understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God,
because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the
blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given
themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with
greediness. But you have
not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have
been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off,
concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt
according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit
of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created
according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians
Regeneration is a central and necessary theme
of salvation. As such,
there are many verses that could be used to refer to this event.
For example, regeneration
is variously designated in the New Testament, as resurrection
(Galatians 2:20), renewal (Titus 3:5—Greek
anakainosis), born from above (John 3:3), transformation—renewed
mind (Romans 12:2), new
birth (Matthew 19:28, Titus 3:5—Greek
palingenesis), life in
Christ (Galatians 2:20), repentance (Matthew 18:3), baptism
(“washing,” Titus 3:5), new creature (II Corinthians 5:17), of
water and the spirit (John 3:5), circumcision of the heart
(Romans 2:29), new heart—new spirit—heart of flesh (Ezekiel
36:25-27), and others that I have
overlooked in this brief survey.
There are a few points to be made here.
(1) Regeneration is the
beginning of sanctification—a total re-orientation of one’s
thinking and behavior. It
is so radical that one who does not love Christ, love His Word
in serious Bible study, love His people in vibrant Christian
community in a local church, and earnestly strive to keep His
commandments, may rightly be challenged whether they are indeed
(2) It is the work of the
Holy Spirit who operates where, and in whom, He chooses (John
3:8). As in natural
birth, the recipient is passively changed.
However, once changed,
the vigorous life of sanctification, just described, begins.
(3) Thus, regeneration is
the powerful change that begins sanctification.
There is much more to regeneration that I
have introduced here. Interested
readers can read more about it from the following references.
The Centrality of
Regeneration, Faith, and Sanctification in a Biblical
Born from Above
Colossians 2:8 Do Not Be
Taken in by Pagan and Jewish Philosophies
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus
the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and
established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in
it with thanksgiving.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and
empty deceit, according to the tradition of men,
according to the basic principles of the world, and not
according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the
Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of
all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:6-10).
“Sometimes this verse is used to discourage
Christians from studying philosophy…. whether or not …
Tertullian’s famous phrase, ‘What does Jerusalem have to do with
Athens?’ (is quoted). It should be noted that Tertullian
advocated a (particular) philosophy; and strange to say, it was
a materialistic philosophy.
If Tertullian had studied more philosophy, he might have
of the material and spiritual is the Biblical position—Ed.)
In fact those Christians who know little logic and less
philosophy are precisely the ones who are most apt to be
deceived by persuasive fallacies.
As a nontheological layman can be deceived by Jehovah’s
Witness or some other heretical theory, so a person whose mind
is formed by current opinion does not know the sources of
his ideas and therefore dilutes what little Bible he knows with
themes from Hegelianism, Logical Positivism, or more usually in
the present decades (1970s-1980s), Existentialism.
(In the early decades of the 21st Century,
these philosophies would be
post-modernism—Ed.) … (The people whom Paul was writing to,
as well as those today) followed, or at least they were in
danger of following, of being carried away as prey by, the
traditions of men.”
Following these statements in
Colossians: Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message, Gordon
Clark goes on to present a case that the “philosophy” which Paul
was here concerned about was not Greek, but
Clark then quotes Josephus (Antiquities,
18,1, 2), “The Jews had for a great while three sects of
philosophy peculiar to themselves, the sect of the Essenes, and
the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was
that of those called Pharisees….”
Also, the use of “traditions” in the Biblical text
suggests a Jewish rather than a Greek background.
Elsewhere, Clark has stated that one’s
hermeneutics (how one understands and interprets the Bible) is
almost entirely dependent upon one’s view of epistemology.
Thus, if one does not know the various epistemologies
that are possible, then one cannot know how he interprets the
Bible. Two dominant
philosophies of the 21st century have already been
mentioned here—empiricism and post-modernism.
If you do not know these in some detail, then you will
not know how the modern worldview is developing, and worse,
you will not know how you
are affected by those philosophies!
Can secular and religious philosophies
But the means by which to avoid such corruption is to
know sound Biblical theology (for example, the Westminster
Confession of Faith or Louis Berkhof’s
and at least the rudiments of the major epistemologies within
pagan religions and philosophies.
Corruption arises because of ignorance about Biblical
theology and understanding,
not these pagan
influences per se.
2:9 “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”
This verse is the essence of the Incarnation
which was the ultimate anthropomorphism—God appearing in human
form. In the Old
Testament, Christ, the 2nd Person of the Trinity,
often appeared as the Angel of the LORD.
For example, after one such visitation, Samson’s father,
Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have
seen God!” (Judges
13:22) He feared for
his life, not because he thought that he had seen an angel, but
because he had “seen God.”
Having grown up with the idea of the
Incarnation, both modern pagans and Christians in the West
hardly pause at the idea.
Sometimes, however, the powerful idea of the Incarnation
is stated by someone, such as Soren Kierkegaard, who called it
“absurd” and “a contradiction.”
(By these striking terms, he was not refuting its
reality, but demonstrating its conflict with common human
experience. Contrary to many modern Christian existentialists,
He had an orthodox
Lutheran view of Scripture and theology.)
This verse illustrates the power in a
similar, if not more powerful, manner.
All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ’s body!
Because Jesus denied knowing the hour of His Second
Advent, we know that He was not omniscient as a human, so what
does it mean by the “fullness?”
It means that “I and the Father are one,” “He who seen me
has seen the Father,” and that He forgave sins (Matthew 9:5).
Any and every attribute of God could be found in the
earthly Christ in some form.
What He is and was in his essence, ego, or person as the
2nd Person of the Trinity was found in His body.
He was a contradiction to those Greek philosophers who
had developed the idea of a
Logos as some
metaphysical something to give unity, substance (hypostasis),
and permanence to the constant change of the universe.
became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
The Incarnation is one of those events that
we cannot fully understand except that God was “fully” (pleroma)
in Christ’s body.
Let us elevate our wonder and worship at its reality, and its
contradiction of metaphysical and physicalist claims by pagan,
and sometimes, “Christian” philosophers.
Note: I give credit to Gordon Clark in his
Commentary on Colossians and to Geoff Gleason, pastor of
Cliffwood Presbyterian Church for certain thoughts presented
anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
The context of this verse is the following,
II Thessalonians 3:7-12:
7 For you yourselves know how you ought to
follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we
eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and
toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,
9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an
example of how you should follow us.
10 For even when we were with you, we
commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he
eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a
disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12
Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord
Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own
There are two directions for my focus here.
The first is theological
and categorical; the second is literal and a balance to
“charity”: a conclusion based upon the first.
I have just returned from
a conference where one of the featured talks was a new
investigation into a much hackneyed subject: Christians should
give to the poor, virtually to the extent that we have no more
than they do. Ronald
Sider wrote Rich
Christians in an Age of Hunger, first published in 1977.
But, giving to the poor
has been a major theme from loosely scriptural evangelicals to
the liberation theology of communists and socialists in Central
and South America.
Now, evangelicals are certainly to be
generous, probably beyond what most of us give.
But there are balancing
themes in Scripture. This
focus is theological and categorical, or perhaps better stated
as “systematic.” The
theology and ethics of the Bible must be systematic, and this
verse illustrates that need. Jesus
commanded the Rich Young Ruler to give all that He had to the
poor, but He did not command Nicodemus to the same extent.
He noted the Poor Widow
who “gave all that she had,” but chastised Judas when Mary
anointed His feet with expensive perfume, instead of giving its
worth to the poor. Jesus’
instructions were not to give indiscriminately, but to give
according to all his
systematic approach prevents the false dominance of one theme
over against another.
This verse in II Thessalonians is one “on the
other side.” There is a
responsibility for those who can work
I will let John Calvin in
his commentary on this book speak here:
The blessing of the Lord is upon the hands of
him that laboreth,it is certain that indolence and idleness are
accursed of God. Besides, we know that man was created with this
view, that he might do something. Not only does Scripture
testify this to us, but nature itself taught it to the heathen.
Hence it is reasonable, that those, who wish to exempt
themselves from the common law, should also be deprived of food,
the reward of labor. When, however, the Apostle commanded that
such persons should not eat, he does not mean that he gave
commandment to those persons, but forbade that the Thessalonians
should encourage their indolence by supplying them with food.
It is also to be observed, that there are
different ways of laboring. For whoever aids the society of men
by his industry, either by ruling his family, or by
administering public or private affairs, or by counseling, or by
teaching, or in any other way, is not to be reckoned among the
idle. For Paul censures those lazy drones who lived by the sweat
of others, while they contribute no service in common for aiding
the human race. Of this sort are our monks and priests who are
largely pampered by doing nothing, excepting that they chant in
the temples, for the sake of preventing weariness.
Well, the reader can do his or her own Bible
study which may take several years since I have heard one
estimate that there are over 2000 verses on economics in the
Bible. Only a
however will bring
justice to all that God has to say on the subject.
Hebrews 2:13-15, 9:27 "Fear of death ... the judgment"
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken
of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that
through death He might destroy him who had the power of death,
that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death
were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15).
“And as it is appointed for men to die once,
but after this the judgment.” Hebrews
Certainty of knowing (epistemology) has
always been a conscious goal of many or most philosophers
throughout history. There are basically three theories of
epistemology: empiricism (induction, scientific method,
experience), rationalism (reason, foundationalism, coherentism),
and faith (dogmatism, authoritarianism, fideism).
Within these three, there
are almost as many theories as there are philosophers.
But the greatest certainty by whatever route
one arrives at it— is death. Those
advanced in age see their friends, family members, and
associates die of various causes.
Parents sometimes see their children die “before their
time.” The obituaries
carry thousands of those from around the world who died from
yesterday to today. As
one ages, he sees stark evidence of “dying” as body parts sag,
diseases increase, interests wane, and strength weakens.
People have several pets
in a lifetime that always die. Death
is all around us, immediate, and certain—absolutely certain.
The writer of Hebrews confirms this
certainty, “It is appointed for men to die once…”
But, to the stark reality
of death is added… “after this the judgment.”
What and by whom?
Judgment is by the only
one who can give life…true life… Jesus Christ (Matthew 25).
Further, the writer of
Hebrews says that men know of this judgment: “who through fear
of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (2:14).
What does this certainty and fear of death
say about philosophers? They
have not dealt with their greatest certainty and fear.
What does death and
judgment say about all the modern “academies of higher learning”
with their myriad of both classical, esoteric, and eclectic
subject matter? What does
the Bible (God) thus say about all “experts” in whatever field
of study? No wonder God
calls man’s epistemologies and all forms of
which they call
foolishness—the cross of Christ (I Corinthians 1)—is the only
means to life and avoidance of condemnation in judgment.
Who is the fool?
So, where are the wise men (philo-sophy—lovers
of wisdom) of any age? Indeed,
where are the Christian philosophers who make death the greatest
certainty and focus of their epistemology, instead of the
death-avoiding philosophies of the pagans? Was ever there a more
profound illustration of a greatest truth being “hidden in plain
sight?” I think not.
Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please God"
Apart from love (below), there may be no more
greater misunderstanding and wrong thinking than faith.
(The words "belief" and "believe" have an equivalent, univocal
meaning.) The first problem is to think that faith,
because it is central to Biblical teaching, is some special
"faculty" of the mind that is only concerned with the religious.
However, "generic" faith has exactly the same function as
Biblical faith (except when faith is denoted as "the faith," the
entire teaching of the Bible about Christianity, as in "the
faith once delivered"). I do not think that one can grasp
Biblical faith until one understands generic faith. The
following links will give you that understanding.
Faith in the Bible and in Everyday Life
What Is Faith? From many philosophers and
Simply, faith is the decision to act, based
upon some form of knowledge, with an expected, but not entirely
certain outcome—whether that outcome
happens depends upon Reality. (For more on this
definition, see the "Faith in the Bible... link above.) If
one does not act, then one does not have faith; that is, one has
knowledge without faith. To say that "I believe (for
example) that I should study my Bible more, and not to do it, is
not truly to believe your statement in the first place.
Thus, Biblical faith is acting on one's
knowledge of Scripture. The more one knows of Scripture,
the better one is able to act on faith. There is no
"whelming from within,
" somehow conjuring some force inside
oneself to cause God to act according to what we desire to
happen, for example, to be healed, to get a job, or to find a
The second mistake is to overlook that a
special gift of faith is given to some (I Corinthians 12:9).
It is a gift to expect God to act in frequent, miraculous ways.
George Muller is perhaps the best example of this gifting.
All Christians cannot have faith the way that he did; only those
The third mistake is to think that we can
obtain "miraculous" gifts simply by asking. Jesus said to
several that He healed, "Go you way, your faith has made you
whole (healthy)." The "knowledge" part of the definition
of faith (above) is the specific and particular knowledge
that that person would be healed in that particular time and
place. It was knowledge imparted by God Himself.
We are free to pray for that knowledge, but we always must end
our prayers with "nevertheless, Your will be done" (The Lord's
Prayer). For more on this subject, see the section "Faith
to Move Mountains" in
Kinds and Degrees of Faith.
I am baffled at the best theologians, much
less educated Christians, who do not understand these
dimensions. Many people have been harmed trying to "have
enough faith" to be healed or to achieve some other end.
Or, they have "acted on faith," only to experience financial
disaster or other failure. Study, study, study... until
you understand faith. I have given you the "knowledge" so
P.S. If you have gone to the above
references, you will know that I have a
book on faith online. I also have hard copies
available if you email me
James 1:17 "No variation or shadow of turning"
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes
down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation
or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). With all the "human" references
to God (anthropomorphisms), especially in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:14; II Samuel
24:16; Jeremiah 26:19—and many more), it
is understandable that some Christians think that God changes His mind.
Consistently, they even think that He has emotions.
But the attributing of emotion to God has roots in modern,
secular psychology which many Christians have accepted
without the application of logic to Biblical truth.
(They have even carried this distortion into love, as an emotion. See
"Love Covers a Multitude of Sins below.)
The history of "emotion," however, is central here.
The Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of the
Latin root as the adjective "of action." Its French origin means
"to move out." Definitions 1, 2 and 3 are listed as obsolete.
The fourth definition is "Any agitation or disturbance of mind,
feeling, passion; any vehement or excited mental state." Of
importance here is "disturbance of mind." Readers can
easily identify with this latter meaning, as the "disturbance"
present in the feelings of anxiety, worry, fear, frustration,
sadness, and anger.
There are major Biblical and philosophical considerations here.
(1) If God knows the future (foreknowledge), then He can never
be surprised. That is, He can never experience emotion.
(2) More strongly and Biblically, He is Sovereign—He
has planned everything that has ever happened and will happen.
Over these events both great and small, He has no worries,
fears, or frustrations (anger). (3) Being omnipotent, He
controls all forces that could ever shake Him, i.e., cause a
"disturbance of mind" in any way. (4) The future that He
has planned, regardless of one's eschatology, cannot be
implemented unless He controls all things. (5) The
salvation of believers is not guaranteed if this control is not
This verse negates that there is the most minute, infinitesimal
chance that God could be ever be affected by anything or anyone.
Thus, God has no emotions! He has no shadow of
turning. The Westminster Confession of Faith has it right—God
has no passions (Chapter II.1). Christians may squirm,
protest, wonder, and attempt to explain otherwise, but this
verse (and many others, e.g., Hebrews 13:8). That God is
omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresence precludes any emotions
(feelings, sensations, perceptions, palpitations, etc).
The argument is solid, regardless of the emotions and protests
that this proposition may provoke. Many readers will no
doubt protest or wonder how to fit this understanding into their
belief system, but for God to be God, this position is
James 2:19 Even the demons believe––and
“You believe that there is one God. You do
well. Even the demons believe––and tremble!” James 2:19
This verse is puzzling and fraught with
But, like many verses in Scripture, paying attention to what the
verse actually says is a way to avoid confusion, and a solid
principle of hermeneutics.
There is only one belief in the context: monotheism.
Anything beyond that explicit proposition is speculation
However, it may be helpful to explore the reasons for so much
misunderstanding of this simple text.
Belief always leads to action (where the belief affects
one’s person—see below). We
see evidence of this connection in v. 17, “Thus also faith by
itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The action of saving faith in the Christian sense (about
which this context is clear) is the “good work” of clothing and
feeding “brothers and sisters” with these needs (v. 15).
(Faith and belief are synonyms.
There is only one Greek stem,
pist-, for the noun
and verb in the New Testament which may be translated according
to grammatical and narrative rules, as “faith,” belief,” or
“believe.” Unfortunately, English does not have a verb form of
“faith.”) Thus, the
specific action of faith here are those two charitable works.
mechanism of faith is the same whether in saving faith or
generic faith (below).
Does the faith of the demon have a “good work?”
Yes, he has a work, but not a good one—he trembles for
fear of this God of whom he has understanding.
Faith that has a
personal element always leads to action.
This passage has demonstrated the actions of
Christian believers and of demons.
However, for one to believe that Paris is a great city in
France does not affect one personally (unless one is going
there). So, there is
no resulting “action” or “work.”
(Perhaps, one might postulate that giving the correct
answer to a question in school about the geographic location of
Paris might be considered an action or “work.”)
But maybe there is a little more to the
demons’ knowledge of God than simple monotheism which alone
could be vague and remote, like Paris to a person in America.
Trembling means fear, and fear is a belief that harm
might come in some form.
We know a little of what Satan and other demons might
know of God and his plan that might cause this reaction.
Apparently Satan really believed that Job
would curse God…. he did not believe in the perseverance of the
saints…. Possibly Satan believed the promise he himself made to
Eve…. (and) that he might tempt Christ to sin.
If he had believed (the latter action)
impossible, why should he have tried three times?
Therefore there must be a good bit of the Bible that
devils do not believe (in the way that Christians do—Ed).
(Gordon Clark, What Is Saving Faith, Trinity Foundation, 2004 edition, p. 153)
Faith is common and generic in every decision that a person
makes every day.
I “believe” that my alarm clock will go off for the time that I
set it. I believe
that my car will get me to my destination.
I believe that my candidate will be best in the office
for which he is running.
I believe that my employer will pay me at the end of the
For every decision and
action, there is a belief.
The process is inescapable.
In this way, as I have demonstrated, demons also believe.
process of belief and action is the same for generic belief, as
for saving faith.
Now, “saving faith” here includes the act of belief at
the moment of conversion and
all subsequent acts
in sanctification that
occur for the rest of one’s life.
There is no mystery
to the mechanism of faith.
Once this “how” is understood, the mystery of faith is
removal is of great importance to Christians.
How can a person have “enough” faith to be healed?
God must give him or her the knowledge that they will be healed,
as He did those to whom he said, “Go!
Your faith has made you whole.”)
Such special (implanted) knowledge was directly given by
God. The same is
true of having “enough” faith “to move mountains.”
He must give that knowledge.
But He has given us the knowledge of His mind
for our life.
The object of faith must be the revealing of God’s knowledge to His
people in the Scriptures.
This object is the knowledge of faith, or
academicians like to say.
This knowledge is common to all Christians—it
is virtually the only current knowledge for faith.
There is no real need with the detailed revelation in
is the norm—the normal and almost exclusively means by which God
makes available and gives knowledge to His people.
Implanted knowledge is miraculous and can by no means be
caused by man’s actions, including prayer.
Well, a short verse has opened up a much
longer discourse—one that may have brought more questions than
answers. I invite
readers to read a current essay* that I have written that will
explain in much greater detail.
Also, I have book available online,
Without Faith It Is Impossible to Please God.
There is no greater understanding needed for modern
Christians than to understand Biblical faith!
a More Complete Understanding of Biblical Faith and Its Powerful
Impact on a Theory of Epistemology
I Peter 4:8 Love Covers a Multitude of Sins
I Peter 4:8 “Above
all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love
covers a multitude of sins.”
This verse is often used to counter Jesus’
commands in Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15-17 that believers
who have offended the other should immediately go and get the
From Matthew 5:23, the importance of the matter supersedes
worship. But I Peter 4:8 can be re-translated using
Jesus own words in another place.
Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John
14:15). Thus, love
is keeping Jesus’ (all of God’s) commandments of the Old and New
Thus, I Peter 4:8 is re-translated, “Above
all, keep fervent in ‘keeping all of God’s commandments’ towards
one another, because ‘keeping all of God’s commandments’ covers
a multitude of sins.”
It is strange that God has provided the
precise mechanism for disagreements and hurts between brethren
in the verses cited of Matthew 5 and 18, yet Christians still
look for excuses not to go.
He even provided for others to be involved should the
two offending parties not be reconciled on their own (Matthew
18:16-17). I have
shown by substituting Jesus’ own definition of love in I Peter
4:8 that that verse cannot be used to avoid the “going.”
If fact that verse, as correctly translated here,
actually says the opposite.
“Love is the fulfillment of the commands to ‘go’ to each
other. This method is that of the "peace-making" of the
Beatitude, "Blessed are the peace-makers for they will be called
sons of God" (Matthew 5:9).
Now, who are you at odds with?
“Go, now, quickly.”
Apart from not knowing some basic doctrines (Hebrews
6:1-3), there is no greater problem in the church today.
Love is the fulfillment of the law. Or perhaps
better to add an attitude of mercy, Love is the sacrificial
fulfillment of all the "laws" of God. "I will not
give to the Lord (or to my "neighbor") that which costs me
nothing" (II Samuel 24:24).
See I John 4:18: "There
is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear."
There is no fear because one knows that he has loved,
that is, kept the law. There is nothing to fear from God
when one is obedient to Him.