Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defence of Christianity Against a Proud Scoffer

In answer to a believer's query about science and the Bible, I referred to this website: http://www.creation.com.

A scoffer replied by comparing the highly qualified and intelligent authors of the material on this website to "The Banana Man" (so quickly that I concluded that he had in fact not even looked at the website), and advised me to only pay attention to "REAL scientists", by which I supposed he meant, those who attempt to explain the world in a materialistic framework regardless of how awkward and self-contradictory the fit becomes. To answer this challenge for the sake of the believer who had first made the query, not for the professed atheist (since if one denies the Bible outright, it is impossible to prove anything to them, and irrational to try to do so, and therefore argument with them is unprofitable), I responded:
Absolutely, of course I prefer the theories of scientists who dare not contradict God, who created everything and was there when all was created. Since those who deny Him, who is the Author of all truth and history, are nothing but willfully ignorant fools (Rom. 1:18ff), then of course I would be insane to take their proud imaginations seriously. If they deny the very first principle of all knowledge, then surely all their speculation is worthless. What need could I possibly have to pay heed to their vain attempts to ignorantly explain what is now seen, within such a self-contradictory and godless framework, intent on calling God a liar. But while men can lie and be deceived, it is impossible for God to lie. And those who call Him a liar are calling themselves, who are mere creatures, the Authors of truth; yet without God there is no truth. But they were born as wicked men only a few short years ago, are finite, and their lives are like the flower that fades and withers away quickly; they were not there to tell how things came to be. But God is from everlasting to everlasting, infinite in power and knowledge and wisdom, He was there, and none else.
The professed atheist then attempted to criticise the Christian faith on the basis that:
  1. It only believes what reaffirms its presupposed ideas.
  2. These ideas cannot be based upon "tangible evidence".
  3. It is therefore, "deliberate stupidity".
Again, lest anyone be fooled by these empty and self-contradictory words, I responded:
Blind and godless Empiricism is also a presuppositional belief. The difference is that there is no man who has not heard the witness of God in their own consciences (and therefore their denial of it is universally self-evident, no matter how much evil men deny it), and since the Lord has graciously granted me faith, I believe God's testimony which is greater than any other, and indeed is the only way in which I can test all other witnesses, and see the world as He does, and apart from which, all my own interpretations would be merely groundless stabs in the dark. Hence, I have nothing to discuss with such lying fools as you, unless you assert that God alone is the authoritative Author of all truth, and denounce your own feeble understanding, in order to learn from Him how we are to interpret the data and evidence which He has set before us.
Not content with this (of course), the God-hater dug himself a deeper pit, by denying that his empiricism was presuppositional, and calling it rational instead (as if the latter did not demand the former)! And then he gave a definition of empiricism which he presented as a vindication of his philosophy, rather than its very indictment, which it actually was. He then also claimed that his criticism of Christianity was "kind and gentle", and that he was speaking for my benefit, and asked me to do the same as if he were willing to be persuaded (but of course, only upon his own presuppositional grounds of godless materialism, which is the very thing I refuse to do, and would consider wholly irrational), as if I had not already laid before him his errors. Since the believer responded by giving his own definitions of materialism and of theism, which were unsatisfactory, and did not display the folly of the professed atheist, nor the Bible's evaluation of such scoffers and their godless philosophies, I finally responded at length:

Materialism: Trusting in your own experiences and your own interpretations of those experiences, while willfully denying God's trustworthy testimony.

Biblical Theism: Trusting in God alone, by whose Word all our experiences must be tested and interpreted.

"I'd really hope someone would extend a hand of knowledge to me" - the Roman Catholics once put the Bible on their forbidden book list, but to you, I am sure it is readily available - even in your own language. How much less excuse then, you have for inventing your own theories about why the world is the way it is, when you refuse to learn from the Creator who is the only One whose testimony can be trusted altogether.

The natural world indeed speaks powerfully about the greatness of the divinity and power of God (Psalm 19; Rom. 1:18ff), and God has even given us eyes, ears and all the other senses by which we can perceive the created things and thereby know of the wisdom, divinity, and power of the One who created them. This witness is sufficient to leave us without excuse for our wickedness in not glorifying Him as God. No wonder then that many in our day deny this.

Yet if we deny this, by what means do we suppose we can trust anything we observe? What reason would we have to put any confidence in our senses? Would we not simply then we left adrift in nihilism, perhaps "I think therefore I am", and all our experience may be simply a dream? Therefore the atheist contradicts himself, when he speaks of empirical rationality, because if there is no God who does not lie, and who has created all things, and who has given us these senses, then there is no reason to presume that anything is real. This is why atheism, contrary to the popular, yet foolish misconception of it, is actually the death knell to all scientific endeavour, while true Christianity is its very foundation. And this is true both philosophically, and historically. Science was given birth by Christianity which believes in one Almighty God who created all things and orders them according to natural laws which only He may alter by miraculous works which display His sovereignty over these laws. Without this, all is merely proud, blind speculation, as I said.

But He has given a far greater light in the Scriptures by which we might see things as they truly are and understand God's purpose for them in His eternal will to glorify the Son through the salvation of the company of the predestinate by Him. By these Scriptures we understand the origin of the world, and the history of it (including the flood by which the world that then was, perished by water), and the purpose of it for the glory of God. And by these Scriptures too, it is revealed to those whom God grants the gift of faith, how we are to be saved from the terrible wrath which we deserve - and there is no greater blessedness than to have been given the knowledge and assurance of this. Those who believe these Scriptures are the only ones who can really tell about why things are the way they are (but even then, only to a very limited extent), and why things work the way they do.

Furthermore, the study of things as they currently are and as they currently work, cannot tell us how things were in the past, or even how things will be in the future. In Scripture this notion is explicitly denied (II Pet. 3), because God did not leave things to continue as they were from the beginning, but everything changed at the fall of Adam, and about 1500 years later, this wickedness had manifested itself so universally that God destroyed the world by water, in order to preserve the church, and so the world that we now see is the aftermath, and quite different. If a bomb causes a building to explode in to dust, do we suppose that we can tell by looking at the aftermath how things were beforehand? Maybe certain things can be speculated upon, but all is vanity if it is denied that the explosion ever occurred.

This is one example of the proud vanity of those who speculate upon the past.

As for the future, if one denies God's providence in upholding the world by the word of His power (just as they deny that He created it by the word of His power), then they again have nothing but groundless inductive reasoning to go by and it is folly also to presume that all things will also continue as they are. But Bible tells us that though we ought to plan ahead, we ought to do so in the fear of God and prayer, because we do not know what a day will bring forth. We cannot say what will happen tomorrow because it is God who is the author of history not us; we can only say that if the Lord wills, such and such will happen (James 4:13-16), and we must study Scripture to understand the will of God, and we trust in His good providence for His people, knowing that He works all things for the good of those whom He has loved with an everlasting love (Rom. 8:28ff).

The Bible explicitly condemns this notion too in the same passage (II Pet. 3), as coming from the mouths of scoffers who deny the Flood and the first coming of the incarnate Son of God. It explains that Christ will certainly return on the last day, to end history and destroy the world, this time by fire, and to judge the living and the dead. And it explains also that Christ is not slow in coming, but He is carrying out the Father's will, that He will not lose one of those whom the Father has given to Him (how could He since He is omnipotent and has paid fully for their sins by His own infinitely worthy sacrifice? - John 6:37-40; Rom. 5:9). So He is not willing that any should perish; He will bring all His elect to repentance and faith before He returns in judgment.

I have written this in defence of the Christian faith against the scoffers which were prophesied beforehand, which were ordained to this condemnation, but I hope that God would bring all who read this to repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, rather than for greater condemnation to be poured out on them for denying it - but if that is the Lord's will, then so be it.
 I hope that believers readers will understand more fully that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from scoffers who irrationally boast about their rationality. As our Canons of Dordt say in head 3/4, article 4:
There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.
It is sometimes amazing to observe what proud boasts men make with only their mere glimmerings of natural rationality, and how they use it, as with all their remaining "wholly polluted" faculties, in the service of sin and the devil, endeavouring with all their powers to hate God will all manner of contrived blasphemies, and to oppose the work of Christ in the salvation of His people. But every observation of this, rather than puff us up, should instead remind us that we are no different except for the grace of God, and so we ought to take occasion to be more humbled, and to be more grateful to God, and exalt Him alone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Irresponsibility of the "Evangelical" Supper.

It was the view of the Reformed churches that the Lutheran churches were indeed true churches (in contrast to Rome and the Anabaptist fanatics), but seriously erred on the issue of the Lord's Supper, and therefore believers ought to join Reformed churches, and leave the Lutheran ones. Because of their erroneous view (such that they would not say that Christ's physical body was not present), they ended up teaching the false doctrine of "the ubiquity of Christ's human nature". This was contrary to Scripture, and since a human body by definition cannot be ubiquitously present, when this error developed, it became a form of a denial of the reality of Christ's human nature.

The Reformed churches had a simple and easily understandable answer to this Lutheran view (and indeed the Roman view): the ascension of Christ. It could not be denied that Christ had ascended bodily into heaven, and therefore His resurrected and glorified human body is in heaven, not earth, and therefore not physically present in the Lord's Supper. Instead, they explained, Christ is really spiritually present, and we truly partake of Him only by faith. Except for the actual presence of Christ, the reality of the communion of Christ which is taught in Scripture (I Cor. 10:15-22), and the terrible judgments upon those who eat and drink unworthily (I Cor. 11:17-34), could not be maintained. In contrast Zwingli denied Christ's presence altogether, and as such Luther refused to even shake his hand (a refusal which I believe is too often criticised too harshly).

Today, many "Evangelical" churches are like Zwingli, teaching that Christ is not present at all at the Lord's Supper, and that it is merely an empty remembrance. Consistent with this, they do not guard the table with the oversight of godly elders, to keep away those who live in impenitence in life or doctrine. It is as if "anything goes" is the motto, since permission is given to the individuals themselves to decide whether or not they may partake, regardless of whether they live openly as hypocrites, or promote heresies, or are unbelieving heathen - the table is opened even to atheists. As if there was no communion of Christ whatsoever, and as if God can be mocked. No wonder then that such churches are becoming weaker and weaker in their doctrine, and becoming overwhelmed by ignorance and all manner of heresies - especially Arminianism.

The Lord's Supper is explicitly covenantal - it is a part of our living in fellowship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we know that Christ is spiritually present in fellowship with us at His table - and so the ungodly may not join in this holy fellowship, and all who do so will receive cursing, not blessing. When Christ took the cup, He said, "This cup is the new testament [lit. covenant] in my blood, which is shed for you." When we take this cup and this bread, we are professing that we, together with all those who eat and drink with us, are partakers of this new covenant together under His headship as His body, and that Christ's blood has been shed for all who partake.

Therefore those who partake are set apart (sanctified) from the condemned world of wickedness as the body of Christ, the church for whom Christ poured out His blood (Eph. 5:25-27). And therefore when an ungodly hypocrite takes this cup and bread, they are counting the blood of Christ as a worthless common thing - a thing that is powerless and that fails to truly cleanse from sin. In effect they slander and blaspheme the Son of God, trampling Him underfoot, as if He is not able to truly and effectually save His beloved people from sin, even though He poured out His precious blood for us on the cross to pay for all our debt of sin. And this is what is referred to in this passage - listen and tremble to the threatenings of God against those profane His name in such a manner, and the serious exhortations to persevere in the faith, especially by assembling together!
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - Heb. 10:25-31.
 And when those who demonstrate themselves to be living ungodly lives or professing damnable heresies are welcomed by the overseers of the flock (the elders) to this holy table and holy sacrament are guilty of permitting and promoting this blasphemy!

The blood of Christ is not a common thing. The sacrifice which Christ made on the cross confirms the new covenant in His blood. It is sealed. We, His elect people, are reconciled to God - and the evidence is plain before us, in that we have the Spirit, and know the forgiveness of our sins in our own consciences. This covenant cannot be undone by the rebellious will of man, because the will of man is not more powerful than the oath of the immutably faithful God sealed in the blood of His Son. The sinful will of man is broken and defeated by such omnipotent faithfulness, love, mercy and grace. Once Christ has made atonement for us before God, and clothed us in His perfect righteousness, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit not to come and change us powerfully from the inside out - no matter how stubborn and rebellious we are towards God. While we were yet His enemies, Christ died for us. Being therefore justified by His blood, how shall we not also be saved from wrath through Him (Rom. 5:1-12)?

If there are any who demonstrate by their life or doctrine to be unsaved, then they demonstrate that there are not members of this invisible true church, and that not one drop of Christ's blood was shed for them, and it would be a horrible evil for the elders in a church to knowingly allow such people to dare to partake of the bread and wine which are signs and seals of the covenant made in His blood and by His body broken for us. They may be saved people, for the Lord may bring them to repentance, but until He does so, they would add to their impenitence this grievous blasphemy by participating in the Lord's Supper. By doing so in such an unworthy manner, they say that Christ died in vain, as a hopeless, powerless sacrifice. But the prophet Isaiah tells us: 
"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." - Isa. 53:10-11.
No wonder then that Paul teaches that those who eat or drink unworthily bring condemnation and judgments upon themselves - for God not only punishes the wicked for this, but He also chastises His people to bring them to repentance. Therefore if it is the Lord's will, may the "Evangelical" churches be delivered from this horrible blasphemy and denial of the efficacy of the cross of Christ by such gracious yet painful chastisement. But if He will not bring them to repent of this, may they know that judgment will come upon them, especially upon the irresponsible and ungodly elders who allow this, and may they know why such judgment is coming from the good hand of our holy and righteous God who will not be mocked.