A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce

The original source for this article is found here)

Rebecca VanDoodewaard is the author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians and Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You Marry. She is married to William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History at Puritan Theological Seminary. They have four children.

She writes:

God hates divorce, doesn’t He? Absolutely. Isn’t the gospel about forgiveness and love? Yes, it is. And pastors and elders can use these two truths in isolation from the rest of Scripture and biblical principles to deny people divorce for biblical grounds. “But marriage is a precious thing,” one pastor told a woman whose husband was in prison for pedophilia. “It would be a wonderful picture of God’s grace to move on from this and focus on your marriage,” another one told the husband of an adulteress. “We’re working with him; he’s really struggling, and so you need to forgive him,” a session tells a woman whose husband has been using pornography for years.

Evangelical and confessional churches are striving to maintain a high view of marriage in a culture that is ripping the institution to shreds. So extra-biblical barriers to divorce can be well-meant. They try to protect marriage by doing everything possible to avoid divorce. In doing so, they not only fail to keep a high view of marriage. They also spread lies about the gospel, divorce, the value of people, the character of God, and the nature of sexual sin.

The first lie is that forgiveness means that the offended party is bound to continue living with the guilty party once there’s an apology. Wives in particular are told that God requires that they forgive a repentant spouse, which is true, and that this means that they need to stay in the marriage, which is not true. It’s like saying to parents who discover that the babysitter molested their children: “Oh, but the sitter said sorry. It would be unloving to not ask them to watch the kids again. You need to demonstrate your forgiveness.” The argument is that Jesus forgave you and took you in: why can’t you do the same for a spouse? Because I am not God: I am human, too, and can’t atone for my spouse’s sin in a way that can restore an earthly marriage.

Sacrificing a person to save a relationship is not the gospel. The gospel is that Someone was sacrificed to free us from sin and bring us to God. We cannot always bear the relational punishment for someone else’s sin. We can forgive them, and will if we are a Christian, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with them. You can forgive someone and divorce them. Scripture commands forgiveness where there is repentance, but it never requires that a relationship be continued in the way that it was before covenant was shattered. This lie of “forgiveness” places the burden on the innocent party. The sinner gets counsel, support, help, and prayer, while the sinned-against gets pressure, guilt, and a crushing future. Acceptance is often labelled the “Christian” thing to do. Since Christ gave divorce as an option in some circumstances, divorce can be the Christian thing to do, too. Forgiveness is always the Christian thing to do, and it simply means that the guilty party is forgiven, not absolved from all earthly consequences.

The second lie is implied: God hates divorce more than He hates abuse and sexual sin. To put the lie a different way, God loves marriage more than He loves the women in it. While God created marriage, loves marriage, and says that it is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, Jesus didn’t die to save marriage. He died to save people. He sacrificed His life to protect His sons and daughters, and hates when they are abused, violated, and humiliated, particularly in a relationship that is supposed to picture Christ and the church. Continue reading

4 Incredible Blessings of Giving

by Jordan Standridge (original source here)

By the time the average human being reaches the age of 20, he will have watched one million commercials. 1,000,000. Think about that. Most people will watch almost four million commercials in their lifetime, and that’s only talking about regular cable television. Four million times you are being told that you need things. You are being told how to use your money. You are being told what will bring you happiness. Every one of us is willing to subject ourselves to this and very seldom do we question the motives of the advertisers despite the fact that they don’t have our best interest at heart, they simply want to make money.

In the church, it is the opposite. People complain all the time about churches being “money-hungry” or “greedy.” Many people leave churches if they feel that the pastor talks about giving too much. But Paul never shied away from talking about it. Not only did he talk about it, he asked for it and thanked people for their gifts. But, at the end of Philippians, we see something incredible. Paul believes that the Philippians will benefit from giving to him. Not because he is anything special, but because he believes that giving towards the progression of the Gospel will bring great blessings to the life of a believer.

You and I are called to give. In the New Testament, there isn’t a specific amount or percentage that we should give, but we are to give sacrificially and with great joy. Each person is called to give in secret and each person is accountable to God for every single dime that they spend during their lifetime. And while it is too easy for so many pastors to give rules and to tell people what they can and can’t buy, Paul uses a different approach. In Philippians 4:14-19 he tries to persuade people to give by telling them how much they will be blessed. He doesn’t tell you not to buy the extra house or to not go on that vacation, but he does try to encourage you to be willing to sacrifice your rights because of the great blessings you will receive. So, here are four incredible blessings of giving.

1) It progresses the Gospel

“…no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone…” Phil 4:15
Paul says something incredible here. Because the church in Philippi gave, they became partners with him. They partook in Gospel ministry with Paul. The idea of sharing here brings Paul and the Philippians together in this work. Every missionary needs a sender and the Philippian church longed to hear of how their money was advancing the Gospel.

I remember coming on furlough with my parents to the United States. One church, in particular, announced my father as missionary number 276 on a Sunday morning. While I’m sure the $20 he received from the church was helpful and he was grateful for it, there was a sense in which they weren’t close partners in crime for the Gospel in Italy. The Philippians here gave sacrificially to Paul, they loved him and desperately wanted to hear from him, but most of all they wanted to hear about how the Lord was using him.

It is imperative that you give most if not all of your money to organizations whose main goal is the progress of the Gospel. That’s why I recommend giving most of your money to your local church. As long as that church is biblically sound, then their desire will be to advance the Gospel. In faithful churches, elders have been chosen who qualify, and who can be trustworthy with the church’s money. Regardless, giving to churches or Gospel ministries and actually praying and being an active sender will allow you to be an active participant in the work of the Gospel.

2) It brings great profit

“I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Phil 4:17

This is the heart of a true pastor. One that isn’t greedy or a lover of money. This is someone who desperately wants the people he loves to be eternally minded and to buy treasure in Heaven. Paul is content. He’s already said that in Philippians 4:11. With much or with little he has learned the secret of contentment. This lesson he learned has freed his conscience to be able to talk about such a taboo subject like money. He is able to shepherd his churches and tell them to give without having wrong motivations. Pastors ought to follow his example here. They are to call their people to give, not because of how that might benefit their ministry or bank account, but because of the fact that giving—to gospel ministries—increases their people’s eternal bank account. Continue reading

God of the Hills and Valleys

Tauren Wells – Hills and Valleys (Acoustic Video)

Hills and Valleys

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God You give and take away
No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life to the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone
You’re God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what
I know I’m safe inside Your hand

Father You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain over it all

On the mountains I will bow my life
In the valley I will lift my eyes

And I am not alone

Prayer & Dunkirk

How a day of prayer saved Britain at Dunkirk

Article by: J.John (original source here).

As a new Hollywood blockbuster commemorates one of the Second World War’s most important events, J.John explains why he believes a National Day of Prayer saved Britain from Hitler’s army at Dunkirk:

It’s beginning to look as if one of the unmissable films of summer is going to be Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Released in UK cinemas today, the film reminds us of one of the more extraordinary events of the Second World War.

Most of us are uneasy about war stories, particularly those that revel in the quantity of death and destruction we unleashed on our enemies. In fact, for the Second World War there are now only three big military events that retain a hold in the public memory. These are Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and D-Day.

I find it significant that each of these echoes with the great themes of the Bible: Dunkirk is about rescue; the Battle of Britain about deliverance and D-Day about liberation. Dunkirk, however, is a uniquely enthralling story. Who can resist the tale of how, surrounded by overwhelming enemies and faced with imminent annihilation, an entire army escaped to safety by sea? It almost seems like a reworking of the miracle of the biblical Exodus, with the English Channel replacing the Red Sea.

Yet Dunkirk is not simply a gripping story; it is also a thought-provoking one because even today the word ‘miracle’ hangs over it. Nevertheless, even for the most skeptical, the reality of what happened at Dunkirk is intriguing.

On 10th May 1940, Hitler unleashed a military onslaught on France and Belgium. Within days the British Army – out-manoeuvred and unprepared – along with soldiers of other Allied nations, found themselves with their backs to the sea and hemmed in by enemies. The German High Command was able to boast with confidence that its troops were ‘proceeding to annihilate the British Army’. That the total destruction of an entire army was imminent was a view shared by many in the military and political leadership of Britain. Prime Minister Winston Churchill found himself preparing to announce to the public an unprecedented military catastrophe involving the capture or death of a third of a million soldiers.

But it didn’t happen. On 23rd May, King George VI requested that the following Sunday should be observed as a National Day of Prayer. Late on the Saturday evening the military decision was taken to evacuate as many as possible of the Allied forces. On the Sunday, the nation devoted itself to prayer in an unprecedented way. Eyewitnesses and photographs confirm overflowing congregations in places of worship across the land. Long queues formed outside cathedrals. The same day an urgent request went out for boats of all sizes and shapes to cross the English Channel to rescue the besieged army, a call ultimately answered by around 800 vessels.

Yet even before the praying began (in my experience, prayer often works like that) curious events were happening. In a decision that infuriated his generals and still baffles historians, Hitler ordered his army to halt. Had they continued to fight, the destruction of the Allied forces would have been inevitable and the war would have taken a different, darker and more terrible path. Yet for three days the German tanks and soldiers stood idle while the evacuation unfolded.

Not only so, bad weather on the Tuesday grounded the Luftwaffe, allowing Allied soldiers to march unhindered to the beaches. In contrast, on Wednesday the sea was extraordinarily calm, making the perilous evacuation less hazardous. By the time the German Army was finally ordered to renew its attack, over 338,000 troops had been snatched from the beaches, including 140,000 French, Belgian, Dutch and Polish soldiers. Many of them were to return four years later to liberate Europe.

Now you could argue it was all a coincidence, but I think not. It certainly wasn’t considered so at the time. Sunday 9th June was declared a National Day of Thanksgiving and, encouraged by Churchill himself, the phrase ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’ began to circulate.

We live in a world where people are not simply cautious about miracles but they prefer to rule them out entirely. In much of public culture it is an unchangeable and unbreakable rule of life that the miraculous cannot and does not occur. The view is that while we may pray, there is no one on the other end of the line. It’s curious how we have come a full circle: in the past, few dared argue with the religious faith that saw the hand of God everywhere; now few dare argue against the atheistic faith that sees God’s hand nowhere. The events of Dunkirk might make us want to reconsider the elimination of God as an actor from history and politics. On a more practical level, looking at the challenges facing the British nation, the idea of praying to God for deliverance seems to be something well worth encouraging.

Indeed I think Dunkirk stands as an extraordinary encouragement to pray in faith. However great our problems, God is greater than them all. That ‘Dunkirk encouragement’ to pray in times of need applies at every level of life and to every challenge, from what may be a petty domestic crisis to a national disaster. And although our nation may not face imminent military catastrophe on the scale that it did in 1940, you don’t have to look hard to see major and overwhelming problems. Dunkirk may have been a military epic that should be remembered but, far more importantly, it is an encouragement to pray.

Ten Things You Should Know about the Biblical Covenants

by: Thomas R. Schreiner (original source here)

Thomas R. Schreiner (MDiv and ThM, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

1. Covenants are the backbone of the biblical story.

Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum have argued that the covenants advance the storyline of the Bible in their book Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, and they are on target. If one understands how the covenants function in the Bible, one will have a good grasp of how the Bible fits together. If we see the big picture in Scripture, we will do a better job of interpreting the details, and the covenant plays a fundamental role in seeing the big picture.

2. Covenant can be defined as follows: a covenant is a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

A covenant should be distinguished from a contract because it is a personal relationship which people voluntarily enter. The definition of covenant here is rather broad, but that is because there are many different kinds of covenants in Scripture. Marriage is a good illustration of a covenant, for a man and woman choose to enter into a relationship with one another and make promises to one another. Not all covenants were alike in the ancient world. In some covenants a person with more authority made a covenant with those having less authority and power. Such was the case when a king made a relationship with his subjects.

3. Some definitions of covenant are too narrow and don’t fit every covenant in Scripture.

Some scholars have said that covenants always presuppose an already existing relationship. The Gibeonite story shows that this is not the case, for Israel didn’t have any relations with the Gibeonites before entering into a covenant with them (Josh. 9:3–27). Also, some say that all covenants are enacted with blood, but this isn’t true of the marriage covenant or the covenant between Jonathan and David (1 Sam. 18:1–4). Nor is there evidence of a sacrifice at the inauguration of the Lord’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7). We need to distinguish, when talking about covenants, about what is often true and what is always the case.

4. Virtually all the covenants have both conditional and unconditional elements.

Since covenant partners obligate themselves to one another with promises and call curses upon themselves if they disobey, we are not surprised to learn that virtually all covenants have both conditional and unconditional elements. There are clearly conditions in the covenant with Israel made at Sinai. Some scholars say that the covenant with Abraham and David are unconditional, but when we look at the text carefully, conditions are clearly present (e.g., Gen. 17; 2 Sam. 7:14). What needs to be investigated is how the conditional and unconditional elements relate to one another. The principle enunciated here, however, also has exceptions. The covenant with Noah, for instance, seems to be unconditional.

5. There are good reasons to believe there is a covenant at creation.

Some scholars doubt whether there was a covenant with Adam, but we have good reasons for seeing a covenant at creation. Even though the word covenant is lacking, the elements of a covenant relationship are present. The word covenant doesn’t need to be present for a covenant to exist since the term covenant isn’t found in the inauguration of the Davidic covenant. The claim that all covenants are redemptive isn’t borne out by the use of the term in the Scriptures. The elements of a covenant were present at creation, for blessing was promised for obedience and cursing for disobedience. Continue reading

Everybody Worships

“Think of it this way: Worship is simply about value. The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most. That’s why worship is that thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Worship is about saying, ‘This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me . . . it’s the thing of highest value in my life.’ That ‘thing’ might be a relationship. A dream. A position. Status. Something you own. A name. A job. Some kind of pleasure. Whatever name you put on it, this ‘thing’ is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you. And whatever is worth most to you is—you guessed it—what you worship. Worship, in essence, is declaring what we value most. As a result, worship fuels our actions, becoming the driving force of all we do. And we’re not just talking about the religious crowd. The Christian. The churchgoer among us. We’re talking about everybody on planet earth. A multitude of souls proclaiming with every breath what is worthy of their affection, their attention, their allegiance. Proclaiming with every step what it is they worship.

Some of us attend the church on the corner, professing to worship the living God above all. Others, who rarely darken the church doors, would say worship isn’t a part of their lives because they aren’t ‘religious.’ But everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne. So how do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship. Sure, not too many of us walk around saying; ‘I worship my stuff. I worship my job. I worship this pleasure. I worship her. I worship my body. I worship me!’ But the trail never lies. We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than our words.”

– Lou Giglio – The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life

Improving Public Prayer

* This article has been excerpted from chapter 7, “Reading and Praying the Bible in Corporate Worship,” in Give Praise to God: A vision for Reforming Worship, ed. Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III (P&R, 2003).

Recommendations for Improving Public Prayer*

Let us make several recommendations for the improvement of public prayer.

PRAY IN THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE

First, pray in the language of Scripture. Obviously this is our primary point. Listen to the voices from the past as they universally urge this practice. Matthew Henry says, “I would advise that the sacred dialect be most used, and made familiar to us and others in our dealing about sacred things; that language Christian people are most accustomed to, most affected with, and will most readily agree to.”[1] Patrick Fairbairn urges that the whole prayer “should be cast much in the mould of Scripture, and should be marked by a free use of its language.”[2] R.L. Dabney says, “Above all should the minister enrich his prayers with the language of Scripture,” explaining,

Besides its inimitable beauty and simplicity, it is hallowed and sweet to every pious heart by a thousand associations. It satisfies the taste of all; its use effectually protects us against improprieties; it was doubtless given by the Holy Spirit to be a model for our devotions. Let it then abound in our prayers.[3]

Samuel Miller says,

One of the most essential excellencies in public prayer, and that which I feel constrained first of all, and above all to recommend, is, that it abound in the language of the word of God.[4]

Thomas Murphy says,

The prayer of the sanctuary should be thoroughly saturated with scriptural thought and expression. The language of the Bible is that which the Spirit prompted, and which must therefore be most in accordance with the mind of God. For the same reason it must be Bible language which is best calculated to express those devotional feelings which are the work of the Spirit in the heart.[5]

John Broadus counsels,

The minister should be consistently storing in his memory the more directly devotional expressions found everywhere in the Bible, and especially in the Psalms and Prophets, the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation…most of us greatly need in our prayers a larger and more varied infusion of Scripture language.[6]

But perhaps some are still unpersuaded, or are concerned that what worked in the past may not work today. Consider the following.

1. This is the pattern found in Scripture itself.

This is not merely the opinion of the Reformers or of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century evangelical theologians. It is also the pattern that we see in Scripture. The biblical saints learned God-pleasing devotional language from the Bible. They often used the language and themes of Scripture to interpret and express their experience. Consider for instance Moses seminal revelatory experience in Exodus 34:6,7.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

The echo of this revelation is heard on at least thirteen additional occasions in the Old Testament as later prophets learned from Moses how to praise God (Num 14:18; 2 Ch 30:9; Neh 9:17,31; Pss 103:8;111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; etc). As we have seen Mary at the annunciation drew upon the Song of Hannah (Lk 1:46-55, c.f., 1 Sam 2:1-10; Solomon at the dedication of the temple incorporated Psalm 132:8,9 (2 Ch. 6:40-42); Jesus on the cross used the words of Psalms 22:1 and 31:5 (Mt 27:46, Lk 23:46); and the early church in the face of persecution cited Psalms 146 and 2 (Acts 4:24-30). In each case the language of Scripture provided the language for prayer.

Where then are we to learn the language of Christian devotion if not from Scripture? That this is less than self-evident to a tradition whose defining principle has been that worship must be regulated by God’s word is surprising indeed. Since our minds are “factories for idols,” borrowing Calvin’s phrase, we must be taught the language of prayer. Isn’t that the point of the disciples’ request of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)? Isn’t that indeed the point of the Book of Psalms? Were the Psalms not provided to teach the people of God the language of devotion with which God is pleased? If Jesus in the supreme crisis of his life drew upon the Psalter in order to understand and express His devotion and experience, then we can do no less.

2. There is a special efficacy in Scripture-based prayer.

It then follows that there is a special efficacy in Scripture-based prayer. No prayers more accurately reflect the will of God than those which use the language which God Himself puts into our mouths. No request is more sure to be granted than that which expresses what God Himself has promised to fulfill. No petition is more sure to be answered than that which pleads for that which God already commands. Pray the promises and commands of Scripture. This principle is evident in James 1. Does God command that we be wise? Of course He does. It follows then that we should ask for it. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Similarly, pray the promise of 1 John 1:9, that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Claim the promise of John 3:16 in prayer, that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” Plead that the people of God will be holy even as God is holy (1 Pt 1:16). Plead that they will love one another and bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). Faith comes by hearing the word of God doesn’t it (Rom 10:17)? The word prayed in the hearing of the congregation will be efficacious to the salvation of their souls.

3. There is a special comfort in scriptural prayer.

There is a special comfort in scriptural prayer. It is one thing to pray, “Lord, please be with us through this day.” It is quite another to pray, “Lord remember your promise, ‘I will never leave nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5). Can’t you sense the difference? It is one thing to pray, “As we begin our prayer, we thank you for the privilege of bringing our petitions to you.” It is quite another to pray, “We come at Your invitation, O Christ, for you have promised, ‘Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ And so we come asking, seeking, and knocking” (Matt 7:7,8). It is one thing to pray in the midst of tragedy, “Lord we know that you have a plan.” That is a true, valid, and comforting thing to pray. Even so, it is quite another to pray, “O Lord, you have numbered the hairs upon our heads. You are working all things after the counsel of your will. Not even a sparrow may fall from a tree apart from you. You cause all things to work together for good for those who love you, and are called according to your purpose” (Matt 10:29,30; Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28). More effectively comfort the hearts of your people by echoing the promises of Scripture in your prayers. Continue reading

The Starting Point for Knowledge

In an article entitled Are You Epistemologically Self-Conscious?
(original source here) Dr. Jason Lisle writes:

Epistemology is the study of knowledge – how we know what we know. When a person has a belief, it is reasonable to ask the person “how do you know this?” The way in which a person responds to this kind of question will reveal his or her epistemology. All people have an epistemology because they have some beliefs, and they have reasons for their beliefs. But not all reasons are good reasons. And if the reason isn’t very good, then there is a good chance that the belief is wrong. So epistemology is very important if we want our beliefs to correspond to reality.

Most people have not consciously reflected on their own epistemology. They haven’t stopped to ask themselves, “How do I ultimately know anything? What are the standards by which truth is determined? And are these standards reasonable?” It is obvious that all people do have an epistemology because it would be impossible to know anything without some kind of system of knowledge – and people do know things. But most people are not aware of their own epistemology. They are not epistemologically self-conscious.

Some might say, “Who cares? I’m not a philosopher. So why should I be concerned with epistemology? It is enough that I do know things.” But in fact, our epistemology is crucially important because if it is wrong, then many of our beliefs derived from that faulty system will also likely be wrong. If our epistemology is wrong, then we could be wrong about everything we think we know.

The reason for a belief must itself be believed for a good reason – and so on. Suppose Jenny says, “I understand they are building a new apartment complex down the street.” We might ask, “How do you know this?” Jenny responds, “Bill told me. He said he talked with the construction crew.” Is this a reasonable answer? It depends. The reason for Jenny’s belief is Bill’s statement. But is Bill’s statement reliable? If it is, then Jenny’s belief is reasonable. If not, then Jenny’s belief is irrational. So we must know something about Bill in order to know if Jenny is being rational.

For example, it could be the case that Bill is a notorious liar. If Jenny knows this, then it would be irrational for her to believe his statement without additional reasons. But let’s suppose that Bill has shown himself to be trustworthy. Even in this case, Bill could still be mistaken. Maybe he has a mental disorder that causes him to hallucinate from time to time. Bill may honestly believe that he talked with a construction crew, when in fact it never happened. So Jenny’s belief is contingent upon both Bill’s honesty, and the reliability of Bill’s mind and sensory organs.

Jenny’s belief also depends upon the reliability of her own mind and senses. Perhaps Jenny hallucinates on occasion and only thought that she talked with Bill. Perhaps Bill does not actually exist, being only a projection of Jenny’s delusion. How can Jenny know that her own mind and senses are reliable, such that she can know that she really talked with Bill? Most people just assume that their senses are reliable without thinking about whether or not this belief is reasonable; they are not epistemologically self-conscious. But these questions must be answered if we are to be confident that we have knowledge of anything at all. If we are to be considered rational, then we must not continue to act on unsupported assumptions.

Christian epistemology makes knowledge possible.

The Christian worldview alone makes it possible for us to answer these questions and have genuine knowledge. This is because knowledge stems from the nature of God (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3). God has revealed some of His knowledge to us. Some of this knowledge is hardwired directly into us, and other knowledge is revealed by God through tools that He has given us – like logic and reliable sensory organs. The Christian worldview gives us rational justification for all the things that we rely upon in order to have knowledge. Continue reading

Does God Predestine Sin?

God brought the greatest good the world has ever known out of the most horrifying sin the world has ever seen. And it was His plan from before creation.

Audio Transcript

So we want a handle on how to manage this paradox or mystery, that God forbids things he brings about, and God commands things that he hinders from happening — that in one sense something is the will of God and in another sense that same something is not the will of God. Without this category of thought, I don’t think you can make sense out of the Bible or the God of the Bible, so let’s look at these two kinds of “willing.”

God’s Will of Decree

Here’s number one. Let’s call it either the sovereign will of God or his will of decree. It means God’s sovereign control of everything that comes to pass. It’s one of the clearest teachings of the bible. Let’s look at some verses. Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in Gethsemane and he prays like this: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

What does “as you will” mean? What kind of “will” of God is that? Well, it means His plan for Jesus to be crucified. “If there’s no other way, Father, if that is the infinitely wise way, the infinitely loving way, the infinitely just way, do what you must do.” And he did it.

A Script with Sin

And here’s the crucial thing to observe: it was shot through with sin and could not have happened without sin. It’s a sin to kill the son of God. It’s a sin to mock the son of God. It’s a sin to whip the son of God with the stripes prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:5). It’s a sin to be expedient and wash your hands and hand Jesus over (Matthew 27:24).

And yet we all know from Acts 4:27: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to take place.”

The script was written for Jesus’s betrayal in Gethsemane and Good Friday in great detail in Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22, and in many other passages. The script was written. The will of God is a fixed, determinant purpose to bring about the death of his son. Isaiah 53:10, “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him,” and it was full of sin, which means we must have a category of thinking that says God can ordain that sin happen without being a sinner.

If you don’t have that category in your mind, you can’t handle the cross and the prophecies. God ordains that there be sin in the particulars of the death of his son because he couldn’t have been crucified without it, and he is not himself a sinner in ordaining that sin be.