Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

William Lane Craig explains the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement

Probably one of the most common questions that you hear from people who don’t fully understand Christianity is this question: “why did Jesus have to die?”. The answer that most Christians seem to hold to is that 1) humans are rebelling against God, 2) Humans deserve punishment for their rebellion, 3) Humans cannot escape the punishment for their rebellion on their own, 4) Jesus was punished in the place of the rebellious humans, 5) Those who accept this sacrifice are forgiven for their rebelling.

Are humans rebellious?

Some people think that humans are not really rebellious at all, but it’s actually easy to see. You can see it just by looking at how people spend their time. Some of us have no time for God at all, and instead try to fill our lives with material possessions and experiences in order to have happy feelings. Some of us embrace just the parts of God that make us feel happy, like church and singing and feelings of comfort, while avoiding the hard parts of that vertical relationship; reading, thinking and disagreeing with people who don’t believe the truth about God. And so on.

This condition of being in rebellion is universal, and all of us are guilty of breaking the law at some point. All of us deserve to be separated from God’s goodness and love. Even if we wanted to stop rebelling, we would not be able to make up for the times where we do rebel by being good at other times, any more than we could get out of a speeding ticket by appealing to the times when we drove at the speed limit, (something that I never do, in any case).

This is not to say that all sinners are punished equally – the degree of punishment is proportional to the sins a person commits. However, the standard is perfection. And worse than that, the most important moral obligation is a vertical moral obligation. You can’t satisfy the demands of the moral law just by making your neighbor happy, while treating God like a pariah. The first commandment is to love God, the second is to love your neighbor. Even loving your neighbor requires you to tell your neighbor the truth – not just to make them feel good. The vertical relationship is more important than the horizontal one, and we’ve all screwed up the vertical relationship. We all don’t want God to be there, telling us what’s best for us, interfering with our fun. We don’t want to relate to a loving God if it means having to care what he thinks about anything that we are doing.

Who is going to pay for our rebellion?

The Christian answer to the problem of our rebellion is that Jesus takes the punishment we deserve in our place.

However, I’ve noticed that on some atheist blogs, they don’t like the idea that someone else can take our punishment for us to exonerate us for crimes that we’ve committed. So I’ll quote from this post by the great William Lane Craig, to respond to that objection.

Excerpt:

The central problem of the Penal Theory is, as you point out, understanding how punishing a person other than the perpetrator of the wrong can meet the demands of justice. Indeed, we might even say that it would be wrong to punish some innocent person for the crimes I commit!

It seems to me, however, that in other aspects of human life we do recognize this practice. I remember once sharing the Gospel with a businessman. When I explained that Christ had died to pay the penalty for our sins, he responded, “Oh, yes, that’s imputation.” I was stunned, as I never expected this theological concept to be familiar to this non-Christian businessman. When I asked him how he came to be familiar with this idea, he replied, “Oh, we use imputation all the time in the insurance business.” He explained to me that certain sorts of insurance policy are written so that, for example, if someone else drives my car and gets in an accident, the responsibility is imputed to me rather than to the driver. Even though the driver behaved recklessly, I am the one held liable; it is just as if I had done it.

Now this is parallel to substitutionary atonement. Normally I would be liable for the misdeeds I have done. But through my faith in Christ, I am, as it were, covered by his divine insurance policy, whereby he assumes the liability for my actions. My sin is imputed to him, and he pays its penalty. The demands of justice are fulfilled, just as they are in mundane affairs in which someone pays the penalty for something imputed to him. This is as literal a transaction as those that transpire regularly in the insurance industry.

So, it turns out that the doctrine of substitionary atonement is not as mysterious or as objectionable as everyone seems to think it is.

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How early are the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity?

Here’s a great post from Tough Questions Answered.

The post describes evidence for the Incarnation and the Trinity in the writings of Ignatius, who was the third Bishop of Antioch from 70 AD to 107 AD.

Here’s the raw quote from Ignatius’ “Epistle to the Ephesians”:

But our Physician is the only true God, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.  We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”  Being incorporeal, He was in a body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

And TQA discusses the passage:

There are several aspects of this passage which demonstrate that Saint Ignatius held beliefs consistent with the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ.  First, he refers to two separate Persons, God the Father and Jesus Christ, yet he calls both of them God.

[...]Second, Ignatius refers to Jesus Christ as begotten “before time began”.  This is almost word for word identical to the Nicene Creed, which says, “I believe in. . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. . .”  Some today claim that the Early Church believed Christ’s being ”begotten” of the Father was in relation to His birth from Mary (specifically, this is an LDS claim).  However, Ignatius’ comment here demonstrates that the Early Church’s understanding of Christ’s nature as “only-begotten” was a relationship with the Father that was “before time began” and has nothing to do with His earthly incarnation.  It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “only-begotten” both here and in the New Testament is ”monogenes”.  Monogenes literally means “one of a kind,” and to the Church Fathers it connoted Christ being of the same nature as the Father. . . something that was entirely unique to Him.

In addition to calling Christ God and claiming Him to be the “only-begotten” of the Father “before time began”, Ignatius tells us that “afterwards” Christ “became man”.  Ignatius then goes on to point out some aspects that Christ’s becoming man added to His nature.  He says that although Christ was incorporeal, He was in a body; although He was impassible, He was in a passible body; although He was immortal, He was in a mortal body;  although He was life, He became subject to corruption.  These differing aspects of Christ’s nature, aspects that are polar opposites to one another, speak to Christ having two natures, one as God and one as man, and demonstrate that Saint Ignatius understood Christ in this manner.  As God, Christ was incorporeal, impassible, immortal, and life itself.   However, as man He was corporeal, passible, mortal, and subject to corruption.

Now I think you can pull the Incarnation and the Trinity right out the Bible, but it’s still nice to see such a prominent church father writing about it decades after the events.

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How early are the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity?

Here’s a great post from Tough Questions Answered. They find evidence for the Incarnation and the Trinity in the writings of Ignatius, who was the third Bishop of Antioch from 70 AD to 107 AD.

Here’s the raw quote from Ignatius’ “Epistle to the Ephesians”:

But our Physician is the only true God, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.  We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”  Being incorporeal, He was in a body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

And TQA discusses the passage:

There are several aspects of this passage which demonstrate that Saint Ignatius held beliefs consistent with the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ.  First, he refers to two separate Persons, God the Father and Jesus Christ, yet he calls both of them God.

[...]Second, Ignatius refers to Jesus Christ as begotten “before time began”.  This is almost word for word identical to the Nicene Creed, which says, “I believe in. . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. . .”  Some today claim that the Early Church believed Christ’s being ”begotten” of the Father was in relation to His birth from Mary (specifically, this is an LDS claim).  However, Ignatius’ comment here demonstrates that the Early Church’s understanding of Christ’s nature as “only-begotten” was a relationship with the Father that was “before time began” and has nothing to do with His earthly incarnation.  It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “only-begotten” both here and in the New Testament is ”monogenes”.  Monogenes literally means “one of a kind,” and to the Church Fathers it connoted Christ being of the same nature as the Father. . . something that was entirely unique to Him.

In addition to calling Christ God and claiming Him to be the “only-begotten” of the Father “before time began”, Ignatius tells us that “afterwards” Christ “became man”.  Ignatius then goes on to point out some aspects that Christ’s becoming man added to His nature.  He says that although Christ was incorporeal, He was in a body; although He was impassible, He was in a passible body; although He was immortal, He was in a mortal body;  although He was life, He became subject to corruption.  These differing aspects of Christ’s nature, aspects that are polar opposites to one another, speak to Christ having two natures, one as God and one as man, and demonstrate that Saint Ignatius understood Christ in this manner.  As God, Christ was incorporeal, impassible, immortal, and life itself.   However, as man He was corporeal, passible, mortal, and subject to corruption.

Now I think you can pull the Incarnation and the Trinity right out the Bible, but it’s still nice to see such a prominent church father writing about it decades after the events.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The doctrine of the Trinity: one being and three persons

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

Here’s an article by Jonathan M. to explain what the Bible says about God and the doctrine of the Trinity.

Excerpt:

So, what exactly do we mean when we talk about the Trinity? Writing in the early third century, in hisAgainst Praxeas, Tertullian is credited with first employing the words “Trinity”, “person” and “substance” to convey the idea of the Father, Son and Spirit being “one in essence — but not one in person”. Indeed, Tertullian writes,

“Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are, one essence, not one Person, as it is said, “I and my Father are One,” in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number.”

This concept was established as church orthodoxy at the famous Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. The Nicene Creed speaks of Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

It is this definition that I am going to assume in the discussion that follows. Succinctly, then, the doctrine of the Trinity may be defined thusly: Within the one being or essence that is God, there exists three co-equal and co-divine distinct persons – namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — who share that essence fully and completely. This concept is not to be confused with polytheism, which maintains that there are multiple gods. While orthodox Christianity emphatically holds there to be only one God, we nonetheless understand God to be complex in his unity. The concept is also not to be confused with the ancient heresy of modalism, which maintains that God exists in three different modes. The Son has never been the Father and the Holy Spirit has never been the Son or the Father. Modalism is refuted by the picture given to us in all four gospels (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice is heard from Heaven “This is my beloved Son. With him I am well pleased.” Similarly, it should be noted that the Father, Son and Spirit do not each make up merely a third of the Godhead. Rather, each of the three persons is God in the full and complete sense of the word.

Having shown that Scripture emphatically rejects the notion that the Father, Son and Spirit are synonymous persons, only five propositions remain to be demonstrated in order to provide Biblical substantiation for the concept of the Trinity. Those propositions are:

  1. There is only one eternal God.
  2. The Father is the eternal God.
  3. The Son is the eternal God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is the eternal God.
  5. Although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are non-synonymous persons, the concept of the Trinity does not violate the law of non-contradiction.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

He then takes a close look at what the Bible says about God with respect to those assertions. There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches that God is one divine substance, and three persons.

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Is Mark Driscoll afraid to hold women accountable for their own choices?

Watch this video.

Who is to blame for this woman’s troubles? Well, I agree with Driscoll that her family, the church and other Christians were to blame for not telling her the truth about sex. On that we all agree. Christians do a lousy job of explaining sex to young people, because they don’t want to talk about “dirty” stuff, and they don’t want to use arguments and evidence, and they don’t want to go outside the Bible to give real reasons and evidence. But thumping the Bible is a poor response to peer pressure and pop culture.

But she and Mark Driscoll also seem to think the man is to blame. Is the man to blame?

Well, the man certainly did bad things, but I think that none of these bad things could have happened to this woman in particular if this woman had not first chosen this man from all the other men that she knew, and then given him the opportunity to do these bad things. Without her own free choices, she would never have been harmed. So her own bad choices played a part in her suffering but she didn’t mention her own choices at all. So, let me take a look at how she could have made better choices below.

Can women expect a non-Christian man to act like a Christian man?

Women need to be careful to realize that they should avoid being alone with non-Christian men, especially when they are not even old enough to be dating men at all. That’s what courting is designed to prevent, by the way – the man has to go through the father to get to the woman, and they need to be accompanied by a chaperone at all times. And in any case, a woman can get love without touching a man just by listening to the man’s words, reading his writings, letting him serve her, washing a car together, and accepting gifts from him.

Women: you don’t go to a deserted beach with a non-Christian man. Don’t take risks like that. Especially when you have probably already done a lot with the guy. And don’t drink alcohol, it impairs your judgment. The purpose of men is to marry them, not to have a good time with them. No alcohol is allowed!

Paul says that you cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians, which is exactly what many Christian women do.

1 Cor 5:9-13:

9I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—

10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

And, 2 Cor 6:14-16:

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Christians should not pursue non-Christians romantically – it’s disrespectful to God to leave him out of your romantic operations.

Women can stop a lot of the bad behavior of men just by choosing authentic Christian men by using rigorous objective criteria to evaluate men. If a woman chooses a non-Christian man, then she cannot complain if he acts like a non-Christian man. And there is more to a man being a Christian than just saying that he is, memorizing Bible verses and singing praise hymns in church. Christianity is a worldview. It has to be applied across the board. Christian women need to study to develop a Christian worldview of their own so they know how to evaluate the worldviews of candidate men.

What else can we learn from the video?

Here are a few more things that stood out to me in the video:

  • She should take more responsibility for their actions, instead of blaming others
  • She should study these things (not just the Bible!) on her own before she starts dating, to know why God puts these boundaries in place to protect her from harm
  • Her parents should have studied these things (not just the Bible!) more, and helped her more by being more convincing, to know why God puts these boundaries in place to protect her from harm
  • The church she grew up in should provide her with extra-biblical arguments and evidence from the objective external world so that she could resist ideologies like atheism, postmodernism, liberalism, feminism, etc. – she can’t act morally unless she believes that God exists and that morality is real

Women should also know that the decision to have sex before marriage with a man who isn’t a Christian doesn’t magically change him into a Christian. Sex isn’t magic. It doesn’t cause a man to like a woman, or to fall under her control.

Women go to school for 4 years to learn a trade and they need to put some effort into studying courtship rules so they can be wise about their own choices with men. Jumping into a car and trying to drive it without lessons is a good way to get killed. And emotions, intuitions, peer-pressure and pop-culture don’t help you to know how to drive a car. Be careful, think for yourself.

I also recommend that young, unmarried women  become informed about anti-family, anti-father policies. If women don’t want to be hurt by men, then vote for stronger families, lower taxes, and policies that promote good husbands and good fathers. Girls need to see love modeled between a husband and wife as they grow up, and they need to have fathers in the home. Good public policies encourage men to marry and stay married.

Women need to get better criteria for choosing men

A while back, I posted on some of the criteria women have for choosing men, and here are a few:

  • Being tall
  • Being aloof and disinterested
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Well-dressed
  • Stylish shoes
  • A deep voice
  • Handsome face

What do women expect when they choose men based on criteria like that? It makes no sense to blame a bad man for being bad. He’s BAD! Don’t go near him, he’ll be bad to you, too!

Shouldn’t women judge themselves first, before judging a man?

Shouldn’t women begin by removing the plank in their own eye before removing the speck from the man’s eye?

I think an excellent first step would be for Christian women to take a good look at the music they listen to, the movies they watch, and also what they read. Are they listening to Melissa Etheridge, watching “Thelma & Louise”, and reading Margaret Atwood? Are they informing themselves about truth in many areas, like economics and cosmology, so that they can make informed choices of men? Are they building resistance to cultural trends?

What is wrong with the woman in that video?

Shouldn’t this woman have put some effort into testing out the claims of her parents and the church by reading the Bible itself? I mentioned reading extra-biblical stuff but even the Bible doesn’t ground anything that she was doing or anything the church was telling her to do that was wrong. Driscoll seems to think that women are not obligated to read the Bible, and that if someone in the church tells them a lie, then the church is to blame. But shouldn’t we expect people who attend church to test these things out for themselves? I realize that she wasn’t a Christian, but in order to take responsibility, she could have said “I should have checked things in my Bible and so I share the blame”. She doesn’t say that because she doesn’t blame herself at all for anything that happened. Well, probably she went to church for the singing and never read what the Bible had to say – or didn’t take it as an authority. But she never blames herself for either one of those.

I noticed that she claims that if the church tells her something and she does it, then the church is to blame. Well, the church (or at least her parents) undoubtedly told her not to have sex before she was married, but she didn’t mention that in the video. Why not? Well, she only mentions things that other people tell her to blame them. When they tell her the right thing and she doesn’t do it, she doesn’t mention what they told her. Because she won’t blame herself for any reason. And Driscoll has nothing to say about that, either.  Any time the church tells her something bad and she does it… it’s the church’s fault. Any time the church tells her something good and she DOESN’T do it… she just doesn’t mention it because she isn’t responsible for anything she does – it’s always the fault of someone else.

I don’t mind if she explains the circumstances surrounding WHY she made bad choices. I don’t even mind the bad choices, because I make bad choices. I just don’t like her blaming other people, I especially don’t like her blaming bad men. Bad men are bad. Don’t blame them for not being good – it’s your fault for choosing them. There are other men who are good who get no attention from women at all.

We need to learn from Theodore Dalrymple

Remember this post?

Excerpt:

With increasing frequency I am consulted by nurses, who for the most part come from and were themselves traditionally members of (at least after Florence Nightingale) the respectable lower middle class, who have illegitimate children by men who first abuse and then abandon them. This abuse and later abandonment is usually all too predictable from the man’s previous history and character; but the nurses who have been treated in this way say they refrained from making a judgment about him because it is wrong to make judgments.

And again:

Why are the nurses so reluctant to come to the most inescapable of conclusions? Their training tells them, quite rightly, that it is their duty to care for everyone without regard for personal merit or deserts; but for them, there is no difference between suspending judgment for certain restricted purposes and making no judgment at all in any circumstances whatsoever. It is as if they were more afraid of passing an adverse verdict on someone than of getting a punch in the face—a likely enough consequence, incidentally, of their failure of discernment. Since it is scarcely possible to recognize a wife beater without inwardly condemning him, it is safer not to recognize him as one in the first place.

This failure of recognition is almost universal among my violently abused women patients, but its function for them is somewhat different from what it is for the nurses. The nurses need to retain a certain positive regard for their patients in order to do their job. But for the abused women, the failure to perceive in advance the violence of their chosen men serves to absolve them of all responsibility for whatever happens thereafter, allowing them to think of themselves as victims alone rather than the victims and accomplices they are. Moreover, it licenses them to obey their impulses and whims, allowing them to suppose that sexual attractiveness is the measure of all things and that prudence in the selection of a male companion is neither possible nor desirable.

Read the whole thing, you young women. And judge men hard. It’s good to judge them beforehand so that you don’t have to condemn them for being bad later.

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