Foundations of ItC blog

The Real Matrix

No, not that one. o

Time. Time is the real matrix.

Matrix, from the scholarly bastion of a Google search: “an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.”

Time is the matrix God created inside of which humanity could develop and come to know Him. Even more than that, it is the matrix we need in order to interact with God.

I heard someone recently talking about how God is outside of time–which is true–but regarding this universe He created, the first thing He did in creating the cosmos was to enter into time.

Without God subjecting Himself to the matrix of time, we could not have interacted with Him, because as such He would be absent from us.

The matrix of time. The matrix of Mary’s flesh. The matrix of His own flesh, and the passing of 30+ years. The matrix of human temptations, hunger, thirst, joy, and suffering. The unchangeable One took the changeable humanity upon Himself in order to change our destiny.

God made a universe so He could enter into His own creation, first as the One over us, then as the One who served us as a slave, even to the point of death… even death for our sin against Him.

And now, for all the passing time of eternity, God will accompany us in the matrix of time, never leaving or transcending away into His own private heaven. We are eternally bound to His loving being… that is, those who are re-born in Christ Jesus.

I would not want to be a human eternally bound to Him in time, yet under His wrath. Won’t you flee to His mercy today? Romans 1-3 is a good place to start.

Thanks for reading,

Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Jesus the Pinnacle of History, Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christianity Answers our Universal Amnesia (Worldview pt. 4)

We Were in a Bad Crash

But it was no accident when Eve disobeyed God and Adam let her. It was a willing crash into the brick wall of death while going 1,000 miles per hour, and all while the whole human race slept in the back seat.car-crash

As John Piper said, “we are all of us like car accident victims, walking around asking ‘who am I,’ and ‘where did I come from?’ And the only means by which we will get the right answers is to get them from someone who is not affected by the same disaster that we are all a part of” (paraphrase).

So then, who has perfect knowledge of all things before, during, and after the creation of the universe; how everything came into being, the fall of humanity into sin, and the subsequent disaster zone on earth?

God does. He has perfect knowledge, memory, and foreknowledge of absolutely everything, and this is the foundation of all true knowledge. The objective definition that no atheist can ever give is that of reality. What is reality? What is true? Where do logic and reasoning come from? If we do not begin with the existence, preeminence, omniscience, and omnipotence of God, then we cannot make justified knowledge claims about anything.

Standing on the Rock

What we believe about reality is the foundation of everything we think and do. What we believe is the most important part of ourselves. Yet because of our separation from God when Adam and Eve sinned, none of us is born with clear thinking about reality. Our biggest problem is that each one of us tends to base our beliefs on what we can feel, touch, and test within our experience. We innately believe that we are autonomous – that we are perfectly capable of discovering reality on our own.

We don’t think we need the input of God. We see Him as a rival God – someone who will take away our own lordship. “I’m my own judge.” “I’m the master of my own fate.” “I say what’s right and wrong.”

Or a real life example from a 2004 interview with then Senator Barack Obama:

FALSANI: “Do you believe in sin?”

OBAMA: “Yes.”

FALSANI: “What is sin?”

OBAMA: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

FALSANI: “What happens if you have sin in your life?”

OBAMA: “I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward; when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.”

In other words, Mr. Obama represents all of us when he represents himself as a god here. Yet the Christian response must be to lovingly dig down underneath such a fallacious mindset.

“Mr. Obama, how do you know that?” We look to expose the inconsistency of their worldview, because at the end of the questions, Christianity remains the only consistent, reality-based worldview there is. Logic demands it. Intuition leads to it. God made us to find Him.

“Mr. Obama, from where do you derive your knowledge that you are your own judge and measure of sin?”

Without the God of the Bible as his (and our) foundation, the only answer left is “from within myself, and from the pooled experiences of humanity.” Yet you may be seeing it now: if we are all of us amnesiacs who have forgotten who we are and from where we come, then how can we know with any certainty that we are not all deluded? How can we base our choices on faith assumptions – on a perception of reality that could be totally false?

We cannot, and so any truth claims, any worldview that does not begin with God is fatally flawed. All attempts to make knowledge claims (e.g. the universe began with a spontaneous big bang, creating itself) are therefore founded on assumption… and assumption is faith without justification. This kind of ruins the atheist party, although of course there are 1,000,000 arguments to be had to obscure the plain, elementary truth.

God has Spoken

No matter who you are, you wouldn’t deny this, right? God, who is the source of logic and sentience, is also omniscient and omnipotent – and He is therefore capable of revealing knowledge to us, His creatures, such that we are able to rise above our amnesia. When God communicates to us, we break out of the vicious circle of subjectivity that poor President Obama illustrates above. We can relinquish the devastating slavery of self-godhood once the one, true God has revealed Himself.

Once we get this simple, unavoidable axiom on the table, we can be reconciled to Him through what He has done for humanity in Jesus Christ. Sadly, our great barrier to reality is that we are at enmity with God, as I discussed earlier in this series.

Yet in His Word to humanity, God tells us who He is, how He created everything, why humanity is in turmoil, and why there is hope in Him. Nothing in the Bible is a contradiction of logic. This is the key. Honest atheists and those of other religions should be able to admit this. A universe spoken into existence in six days? If God is who He says He is, of course! A global flood to destroy a decayed, rebellious humanity while 8 people and some of all the animals survive on a big boat? Why not?

A talking donkey? Child’s play for the God who created everything.

Sun standing still for a while? Yes. God is who He says He is.

Atheism? Absolutely indefensible. That’s not an insult to anyone’s intelligence. That’s our shared reality.

We Are Who God Says We Are

According to God’s Word, we are His special creation – sharing with Him in our sentience, creative ability, and in our morality. Our right and wrong is generally universal, though may be seriously distorted in certain cultures. Our knowledge and assumptions about the past, present, and future are based on a belief in God. Yes, even atheistic parents, bus-drivers, and scientists are founded on an innate belief in God. This does not mean that they make a conscious acknowledgment of it, as they suppress the truth in unrighteousness; but through gracious interaction we can help people to recognize the reality they are bound to for eternity. Unfortunately, the internet is a terrible place to find gracious interaction. I’m fairly tremulous about hitting the “publish” key on this post, actually…

We do not create ourselves, we only live within the cosmos as God has determined things to be.

That is the Christian foundation and worldview. From this point we argue the biblical record and gospel.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. A related post from Apologia Radio: http://www.apologiaradio.com/?p=445

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Humankind in Distress, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can we Agree on This? Christian Worldview pt. 3

A reader asked me to define “Christian Worldview” before I go on any further in this series. Although I was doing so implicitly, it gave me the opportunity to answer him from the best of my understanding. I believe the definition below is a clear foundation from which Christians should be building their family lives, church lives, social lives, and ministries. I do hope all believers in Christ Jesus could agree to it. Here it is:

The Christian worldview is that there is one true God, eternal, uncreated, existing in three Persons, co-eternal, each one being God in all His attributes.

He is the Creator of all things, and He has created humankind for His own glory and purpose – chiefly so that we might know Him, honor Him for who He is, and enjoy His good gifts forever.

There is evil in the world because humankind chose to reach for autonomy from Him, to be “as gods.” We tried to become our own judge, our own standard of good and evil. This has resulted in the evil and chaos in the world – all sin and brokenness a result of this disconnection from our true relationship with God.

Although God is within His right as the Sovereign Judge to allow humanity to fully perish in sin, He yet intervened to save a vast multitude. He has done this through choosing a people, the descendants of Abraham, with whom He made an unconditional covenant of grace. Through the history of Abraham’s descendants, God has been slowly revealing His greatest moment of glory – the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of His Son Jesus Christ, who though eternally God chose to empty Himself to become a man, born of a virgin, and at the end of His life, the penal substitution before God for all who would ever trust Him and thus receive His forgiveness and salvation.

We need a Christian worldview because most people do not believe this is the real history of God’s interaction with the cosmos (world). When people believe other things, and do not repent of their own religions and sins, they cannot be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. They must hear His gospel and be baptized into Him – and He receives all who come to Him, never casting even one person out.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:3-5 ESV).

That is the battle cry for us to wage a war of truth against Satan’s world of lies. We are to use God’s Word to cut down arguments that are exalted against the knowledge of God so that the people in bondage to lies can be set free in the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead – there will be a resurrection of all people, some to hell, some to the presence of God in a renewed heaven and earth. Those who have turned to Christ Jesus will be received into the presence of God as if they were Jesus Himself, having received His own righteous standing before God as He Himself received our sin and condemnation on the cross.

In the end of all things, Jesus will reconcile all things to Himself in that nothing in the universe will be independent of His rule and reign, and all things will acknowledge that perfectly.

And, I should add this as well – that in Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). No human being knows anything apart from Christ having given them life, logic, reasoning, and the spirit of inquiry. This is the common basis for all human beings: we are created by the Son of God, and for the Son of God. Any structures of philosophy and religion which do not place Him at the blazing center of thought are faulty structures.

Right?

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). We can know nothing apart from Him. We cannot justify one iota of our knowledge without beginning with Him. This is the Christian worldview.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why is Christianity Ultra-Divided? (Worldview pt. 2)

Big Tent

Out of all the people who are counted in the big Christian family – over 2 billion alive today – the variation in beliefs is incredibly, depressingly broad. From Rome to the East, Southern Bible belt Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, wily Lutherans and Seventh Day Adventists, everyone is counted in when it comes to the umbrella label “Christian.”

And this is one of the greatest scandals I can think of – for it is in the writing of the Apostles that we see Jesus praying for the unity of His people (John 17), and Paul exhorting the Church to be all of one mind, speaking the same thing (1 Cor. 1). How could it be that there is so much disagreement as to what Christianity actually is and teaches?

Broken Body

The short answer is that much of what is called Christianity is made up of aberrations of the true Church. Many of the denominations in the world right now are Christian in name only, bandying about the flag of Christ with no earthly idea what they are doing.

Shattered Body?

Shattered Body?

The fallacy we can all fall into is concluding that since there are so many different groups claiming Christianity, that therefore there is none which is true. Muslims go for this conclusion, while Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses thrive on the visible division between churches. Yet if we are honest, none of this logically excludes the possibility that there is a church that represents the biblical formula, and which is the best visible representative on earth of Christ’s ancient promise that “the gates of hell would not prevail against” His Church.

Unity where God’s Word is Faithfully Represented

The Church is created by the Word of God (Acts 2:39, 47); is made up of individuals who have repented from sinful self-autonomy, idolatry, wicked lifestyles, and gross unbelief (1 Cor. 6:9-11); and who gather visibly to hear God’s Word proclaimed, celebrating the sacraments of baptism and the communion supper (Matt. 20:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). Anywhere in which these elements are gathered (born-again Christians who are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, led by officers of the Church as instituted by the New Testament instructions, hearing God’s Word, sharing in His body and blood at the communion table, and confessing the orthodox gospel to the world at large), we have the Church.

Over time, the Church has been more or less visible according to the degree of heterodoxy that has entered into official, hierarchical teachings. The ecumenical Church of the first 10 centuries after Christ was forever shattered by the East-West split in 1054, and so has never risen again. Since that time, and then with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, visible unity in Christianity has been elusive at best.

When Churches Teach What is Contrary to the Gospel

Although a physical church parish may have within it true Christians (those who are really born from the Spirit of God, justified in His sight through faith alone in Christ alone), the leadership and teaching ministry may stray far from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so imperil the visibility of that local church body.

The sacraments are only one element of the true Church (Rome and the East have the two biblical sacraments [plus additional sacraments by tradition and not Scripture], but have added to the Gospel in such a way as to bury it), while simply teaching the Bible without baptism and the Lord’s supper obscures the visibility of the Church as well (Salvation Army and others).

Any addition or subtraction from the core of what constitutes the Church puts that congregation/parish in jeopardy of no longer being part of Christ’s visible body. The form of Christianity may endure, and the true sheep of Christ may be present, but the unity of the faith is imperiled and destroyed by these amalgamations.

No Amount of Error in the Teachings of Men Can Negate the Christian Worldview

I have written this post to lay the groundwork for my coming posts on Christian worldview. Because so often error and hypocrisy in the churches and denominations of Christianity are held forth as proof positive that we are a false religion, I want to pre-empt that fallacious charge.

My long series on Christian hypocrisy from last year addresses many different angles of this same issue – please search the “Christian hypocrisy” tag on the right side to read those posts.

No matter how much junk is piled onto the Church of Jesus Christ, no matter how much error in teaching and living, no matter how many denominations, these things do not negate the fact that we have the one, true religion and worldview.

So many under the Christian umbrella are laboring in a false doctrine and worldview, not because Christianity is false, but because they have not believed Christian doctrine – rather they have followed a deviant path and retained the Christian label.

I would never have had to have defended Christianity in this manner just a few hundred years ago, but today modernism and post-modernism have wrought destruction on the thinking of Western humanity. We assume that truth is either impossible to know for certain, or that there is no universal truth.

Yet when the all-knowing, all-powerful God speaks, He is able to communicate Himself in such a way that we can know for certain that He has spoken, and so that we may know for certain the things He means for us to know.

Christianity is the Location of Ultimate, World-Framing Truth

So then the object of the Christian is to know God’s Word contained in the Holy Bible; the revelation of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Our mission is to then believe the things revealed therein, and to express these truths to all of humanity so they might be reconciled with God (1 Cor. 5).

We are supposed to be equipped with knowledge so that we can answer any objector – in fact, Jesus said “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:15 NKJV).

Do we believe that?

With over 80% of kids of Christian parents leaving the faith once they go to college, something has become seriously detached in American/Western Christianity. As our culture dies, we still have the opportunity to disciple and train the next generation. Let’s be busy learning God’s Word and will, and training people in the consistency and beauty of the Christian worldview.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Christianity as the True Worldview pt. 1

Allow me to Defend Christianity

Many times I hear folks dismiss the Bible as an accurate record of history because the Old Testament stories are too far-fetched. What rational person in 2013 believes that God created this entire universe in six days?

For one, I do. I believe that Genesis is all true, very true. I believe a donkey talked in the book of Numbers. I believe Moses really wrote the body of the first five books of the Bible, and that the sun stood still while Joshua led the Israelites into battle, and on and on. And my I.Q. is well over 100 – I’ve been tested a number of times since a boy.

What gives? I was a biology major for my first 2 1/2 years in college, taking plenty of chemistry, genetics, evolutionary theory, and math. I have a degree in English and creative writing, and I have an extensive library in my home. I’m working through a Master’s degree in Theology. I’ve traveled much more than the average person, and I understand at least three languages on a functional level, with reading comprehension in more.

What’s up with me? Many atheists tend to get huffy and rude, making light of anyone who believes in an inerrant Bible (and I can understand why – 9/10 Christians in the West seem to be about as able to argue their beliefs as an elephant is able to compose a symphony, leaving themselves wide-open to ridicule and scorn).

Yet there are many of us who are nobody’s fool. I believe in the full inspiration of every word of the Bible – nothing false or incorrect, and I am happy to argue for it.

Simple but not Easy

Being smart about consistencyyour faith does not mean being complicated. The simple fact is that without God we cannot know anything. The Christian worldview is the only way of looking at our world that is fully consistent. That is your mark of truth. Ultimate truth.

That doesn’t mean people will agree or recognize the consistency of the Christian worldview. There are major obstacles in the way:

  1. Every person conceived is fallen in the sin of Adam and Eve, and therefore their rationality is skewed. We can’t think straight. We won’t think straight, for as we do, our knowledge leads us right to the God against whom we have sinned. The Bible tells us that no one (outside of the work of the Holy Spirit) seeks for God, no not one. This means that every form of worldview that does not start and conclude with the God of the Bible is a demonstration of futile rebellion. We strive to escape the sovereignty of the God we all know, and our religions, philosophies, and educations are our main tools to do so.
  2. Christians are poorly equipped and educated. Many times I float around the internet looking at how Christians are arguing for the faith. It is a miracle anyone is a Christian who has ever seen the internet. The majority of the Christian voice out here is totally silly – plagued with straw-man arguments, baseless assertions, logical fallacies, and worse. This is not a failure of Christianity to be able to stand as the consistent explanation of all things – it is a failure of her adherents to know what they believe and why they believe it.
  3. Most of the Western world’s Christianity is a misrepresentation of the faith and thinking of the historical church. As I often do, I lay the lion’s share of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the anti-intellectual carnival barkers passing for pastors and theologians. Men and women within the church are far more destructive to the Christian message than anyone outside of it: Ed Young Jr. the 50+ screecher trying so hard to be 25, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Peter Lumpkins, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Ergun Caner and on and on it goes. We are absolutely outshouted by heresy, idiocy, prosperity hawking, and general provincialism. It’s no wonder we’re a joke to so many.

And there are even more obstacles. Christian truth is generally buried beneath a mountain of cultural trash in the church. Yet by God’s grace, there are many of us who still stand. We don’t have all points agreement on all things, but the best of Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, and Baptist Protestantism are still producing women and men who know how to defend the faith and worldview of Christ’s religion.

Next time I post, I’ll delve into the arguments for the Christian worldview. Keep in mind, I’m not a philosopher by trade; there are many others who do a better, more thorough job of defending Christianity. Yet as I do my best to explain our religion in all its glory, I provide another committed voice to the equation, showing that the words of Jesus are ever true: “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” (Matt. 16:18b).

Until next time,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why are there Missing Verses in the New Testament?

The basis of all certainty is the reception of the Bible as the perfect Word of the only true God. With that as my worldview foundation (and foundation of Interpreting the Cosmos), I’d better be able to reason about what the Bible is, and how it came to us here in the 21st century.

Burn Your NIV

I was brought to repentance and faith in Jesus by reading Psalms of repentance (51, 86, 143), and I had been reading my NIV when it happened. You could imagine my surprise when I found out a few years later that the NIV was missing at least 40 verses! What had happened to Acts 8:37? Why was it stuck down in the footnotes?

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Where’d it go?)

And where was Matthew 17:21 and 18:11 and a fistful of other New Testament Scripture? A conspiracy was afoot!

The local King James Onlyists had gotten a hold of me around late 2005. They gave dire warnings that the Satanic cults of mystery Babylon were alive and well in the modern world, and they had perverted all the Bibles except for the pure, only-holy King James Version (of 1611 of course). I was given a copy of Gail Riplinger’s book New Age Bible Versions, and taught all about how I did not have God’s Word if I didn’t have the King James Version.

Who could argue?

Who could argue?

Not the dreadful New King James Version, oh hell no – gimme that old paths, only-perfect, worthy of the Apostle Paul King James Bible… and burn your NIV. And so I began a journey of over seven years now, seeking to know the truth about the Bible’s “missing verses.” Thank y’all, King James Onlyists.

Don’t Burn Your NIV

There is just not that much more I could add here to the thorough refutations the KJV-Onlyists have suffered in the past 20 years. Scholars who love Christ have dismantled their position over and over, so I will leave off a full treatment of the controversy by pointing you to Dr. James White’s King James Only Controversy or D.A. Carson’s The King James Only Debate. The KJV-Only position is the product of a sectarian, elitist, fearful little group of fundamentalists, usually (unfortunately) known by its rancorous, mocking mouthpieces like Peter Ruckman and Sam Gipp (whom I have had the personal misfortune to debate).

No my friends, don’t burn your NIV, “missing” verses and all…

Let’s look at a single example of a missing verse, and see where we go from there.

Did Luke Write Acts 8:37?

The good doctor Luke was a dear friend and traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. He wrote his gospel and the book of Acts after he had “carefully investigated everything” pertaining to the life of Jesus “from the beginning,” telling his friend and sponsor of the book “I too decided to write an orderly account . . . so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4 NIV). The book of Luke is therefore a careful account of the historical events surrounding the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus; and Acts is the careful account of the beginning of His Church.

Yet when Luke recorded the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, did he write this amazing one verse exchange between them?

37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

What an amazing confession of faith! It would be a tremendous witness to the power of the Scripture that the eunuch had been reading moments before Philip met him if he were ready to confess such a direct, clear belief in Jesus as Christ and Son of God.

Yet the historical record is fairly straightforward: Luke probably did not write that verse. How do we know? From the time the New Testament was written, in order for it to be distributed around the Roman Empire, each manuscript had to be copied by hand onto new parchment. This means that over time as hundreds of copies were made, mistakes were made in the exact transfer of the original spelling, wording, sentence order, and even sometimes whole sentences would be accidentally dropped. The study of all the different types of textual mistakes is known as “lower criticism,” or “textual criticism.” Suffice to say, it is a complex, yet necessary science in the securing of our original Bible.

Naughty Little Scribes Added Stuff

Follow me now. This is important: although most reputable textual critics agree that in the 6,000 (or so) original Greek hand copies of the New Testament manuscripts the total number of copyist errors is as high as 400,000, yet there is absolutely no reason to panic. That 400,000 includes hundreds of thousands of spelling mix-ups and obvious mistakes that cast no doubt on the original wording behind them. As a matter of fact, even the greatest skeptics of the New Testament will admit that over 98% of the entire document is certain as to the original wording.

How so? Think of it this way. Let’s say we have 350 partial and full copies of Acts ranging from the mid-second century up through the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth-century (I’m not sure of the actual number, but work with me).  In a particular verse, of the 350 hand-copies of Acts,  335 show the word “Christ,” 13 have nothing there, and 2 have the misspelling “Crhist.” What was the original? In all likelihood, the 335 that have Christ would be original, right? Not so fast – the 13 that have nothing there are mostly from the second – fifth centuries. All those that have Christ are from later centuries.

See that? What becomes obvious is that some naughty little scribe probably added the word somewhere in the sixth or seventh centuries, and his addition was carried forward by all who copied him. It’s pretty clear that the word Christ was not there originally – not a big issue to solve. Furthermore, even if it was there originally, then somehow dropped out for a few centuries only to be added back in, it doesn’t change the meaning of the text either way.

That’s the story of almost all the differences between the manuscripts of the New Testament. Usually it is crystal clear to spot the stuff naughty little scribes added to the text. Why did they add stuff sometimes? Who knows – could be an honest attempt to smooth out a rough sentence, or perhaps there were two different manuscripts to choose from, and rather than risk losing a word from the original, he goes with copying the one that has the additional word… or perhaps it could have been done maliciously at some point by a person or two… but the point is that no one scribe ever has had the power to permanently alter the text of the New Testament. All the other copies that agree against the new reading testify against it, and help us today to make very clear choices about what the original really looked like.

The original New Testament is fully contained within the body of manuscripts preserved from the past 1,900 years of textual transmission.

Back to Acts 8:37

So did Philip ask the Ethiopian Eunuch to make a clear profession of faith before he was baptized? He might have – but Luke probably didn’t write that verse. It’s one of those that shows up in most of the manuscripts of Acts, but not the oldest ones.

This is a very simplistic explanation of the situation, but basically age of manuscripts usually outshines the number of them. 1,000 manuscripts from the tenth century may say Jesus ate strawberry jam, but if three manuscripts from the second century say no such thing (and if those three are from different geographical regions especially), then we know with a high, high degree of certainty that Jesus wasn’t having crumpets and jam on His way home to see Mom.

And so it is with Acts 8:37 – it’s earliest manuscript witnesses are sixth-century and newer, a full 500+ years after Luke wrote. Ask yourself how likely it is that over that 500 year period, the “true” text of Acts 8 was out there somewhere, but lost, and someone finally found it again and *forehead slap* – everyone had been copying Acts without verse 37! Not likely. Easily solved… as with so many New Testament textual variants.

King James and His Kids

The truth about the differences between modern Bibles is that they weren’t all translated from the same ancient manuscripts. The King James Bible, along with the New King James (and a few other minor versions) were translated from Greek copies of the New Testament dating back only to the middle medieval period. At the time when the King James Bible was created (early 1600’s), the manuscripts that were available for comparison were much fewer, and much younger than those we have available today.

No doubt the KJV is a fine Bible, and if you like a literary challenge, it can be comforting to read, but it is not a pristine version of the Scriptures. When you read the KJV, you are getting a translation of a set of manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries, on average.

We’ve done better than that in the past 400 years, now having found manuscripts that date to within decades of the writings of the Apostles… in other words, the manuscripts used to translate your NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, and many others are much more ancient, reliable, and reflective of the original words written by Jesus’ companions.

HOWEVER – the remarkable thing about it is that whether you read a KJV, NKJV, or one of the Bibles with a better manuscript foundation like an ESV, the differences between them is miniscule, and basically, without any major change to an ounce of theology. The Bible has been handed down to us with some bumps and scrapes, yet in virtually perfect shape. Take it to the bank, my friends.

Sorry to be so Simple!

That was the most elementary explanation of these things you may ever read from someone who is not King James Onlyist. I am only trying to give you a brief overview of the issues at hand, and to help you to know that our Bible, as it is today, is trustworthy as a near-perfect reflection of the original autographs of the writers.

Please leave a question or comment if anything here is foggy, or if I left out some salient point. You can also use the Questions and Comments page at the top right of the blog to correspond with me privately if you would prefer.

I hope that helped someone, and I will attempt more such posts with perhaps some technical lingo in the future.

Here are some links to the experts on the subject:

Daniel Wallace, textual critical scholar of top quality

James White’s Alpha and Omega website

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Interpreting the Cosmos Turns 1

It has been a thrill to begin blogging, and to see thousands of people from almost 80 different countries visit here over my first year. I know I am nowhere near a “big” voice on these here interwebs, but as I write, I pray that I am reaching someone, or someones who desperately need to tune into a passionate Christian voice. God has blessed this endeavor, and I hope you have experienced that with me in some way. Thanks to my subscribers and loyal readers for joining with me in this project. Please come back often to share your thoughts with me, and may God richly bless you in 2013.

Here are my 10 personal favorite posts from 2012 (hard to pick!). Please read them and share with someone who may be benefited by my writings. Grace to y’all!

-Justin

10. Darwin with Cataracts

9. The Bible is the Best Telescope

8. Cozying up to Goliath: Evangelicals and the Military

7. Why Not World Peace?

6. Poem: A Glance at Man

5. The True Meaning of Hanukkah

4. Government in the Image of the People

3. Do Roman Catholics Have the Gospel of Christ?

2. To Crush the Head of Cynicism: Christmas

1. God Wants You Really Filthy Rich!

Categories: Artistic Creations, Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy, Jesus the Pinnacle of History, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible, The Nature of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Living in the Death of Jesus – Death to False Hope

This is the last of a series of posts and interactions I have had with a few Roman Catholics. Please do take a few moments to read and think through the things previously said, although this post will be pretty much self-contained.

There could be few things more opposed to true Christianity than Roman Catholicism. True Christianity is unique and wonderful in the claim to a salvation completed, granted by grace through faith alone; all in and through the God who became Man, Jesus Christ alone. Roman Catholicism is the most potent force of Satan on earth in that the best deception always appears as truth – and Romanism uses the currency of truth to sell her lies. Satan’s favorite tactic is not booze, prostitution, and murder, but rather religion, dressed up in robes, smells, and rules to keep the people occupied… and looking anywhere but the finished work of the cross of Christ.

Ah yes… the cross.

The End of Counterfeit Religion

It is finished.

What happened at the cross? In general, torture. There are not too many historical examples of anything worse for capital punishment… but beyond the physical suffering of Jesus, why does His cross-work set His religion apart from everything else? Let’s contrast the cross with a general group of religions:

Buddhism = struggle to be a good person, and to be free of desire… (do)

Atheism = struggle to find reason within non-reason, and be a good person although “good” must be borrowed from theism… (do)

Hinduism = struggle to practice the never-ending rituals of appeasement for your 300,000,000 gods… (do)

Roman Catholicism = struggle to remain faithful to an institution which governs and doles out the bits and pieces of grace necessary to earn right standing with God, which apparently Jesus earned, but you must earn through doing the sacraments enough and by not sinning… (do)

Mormonism = struggle to follow the rules, believe and work hard enough – temple rites, sacraments, works of piety, etc… (d0)

Jehovah’s Witnesses = struggle to do enough of a number of things in order to receive the bits and pieces of grace necessary to not be eliminated by God at the judgment… (do)

New Age Mysticism = struggle to free oneself from ego and illusions, be a good person, find peace with the Universe through rejecting bad energy and attracting/producing good energy… (do)

Judaism = struggle to keep the Law and practice lots of rituals, be a good person… (do)

Legalistic, counterfeit forms of Christianity (can come in any package under any label) = because of what God did for you, now get to work to earn the receiving of salvation, be a good person… (do)

Get the picture?

However, Christ crucified, bare-naked faith in Him (the gospel) = be saved by a gracious act of divine, free-will sovereign grace…

(DONE)

And then live in a growing state of freedom from sin because everything necessary for your salvation is finished for you by Christ.

How Does it Happen?

From my previous posts, I show a little of how the Bible indicates that salvation is initiated, carried out, secured, and done for the glory of God, all by God without a splinter added to it by us, the redeemed. Yet the central question of the ages is how does God solve this problem:

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

&

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

If you don’t see God’s problem, it’s this:

man is wicked, God hates when the wicked is counted as just, and then God counts the wicked as just simply on the basis of faith.

HUH?! HOW DOES GOD REMAIN JUST WHEN HE JUSTIFIES THE WICKED?!

The entire host of heaven and hell is left breathless: the One who is righteousness and perfection has justified (counted as if righteous) the men and women who are anything but righteous. Everything outside of the gospel of Christ leaves us in the lurch, needing our effort and accomplishment to be made right… but in the truth, the gospel, God freely justifies and makes us righteous apart from who we are, what we have done or will do, and any other condition in us.

In Roman Catholicism, the basics of who Jesus is and who God is have really been kept intact.

Something seems... different.

Remember that the best, most effective lies present a large part of the truth as the sugar coating on the poison.

Yet in Rome the work of God in Christ is absolutely destroyed and replaced with a sacramental systems of works salvation. It’s the ol’ switcheroo – we’re told it is the same as the original, but when we go to the original source (Bible), our Roman Catholic friends tell us there is a better source… which is of course secondary and different than the Bible (Church teachings), but which they say trumps the original (but we can never admit it).

But in total contrast, Jesus says “this is the work of God; that you believe on the One whom He has sent.” John 6:29 Faith alone accomplishes the “work” of salvation in us. Faith in what, though? Should we exercise faith… in our faith?

No – our faith is to be in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That is what God counts as just. When Jesus became a Man, He was worth an infinite value – no limit to His worth. He lived a perfect life and was worthy to then willingly lay down His life as a substitution for the redeemed people of God. When Jesus was tortured and crucified, He somehow took into Himself the actual guilt of all of the sins of all of His people who would ever live before, during, or after His life on earth. When Jesus became our guilt in a mysterious, perfect work of selflessness – the Father then broke fellowship with Jesus as would have happened to each of us in hell – but Jesus carried the burden of our sin debt, paid the penalty for it in our place, and absorbed all of the justice and anger of God against sinners.

Jesus died physically by willingly paying with His life the entire debt of our sin by becoming a curse for us. God treated His Son like He would have justly treated us for eternity in hell – and because He is infinitely valuable, Jesus was able to offer Himself for a period of 3 – 6 hours under that holy wrath of God… and the entire penalty for our sin and rebellion was completely paid and finished.

John 19:30 “It is finished.”

When He died, Jesus declared that the entire payment was complete. What would have taken Justin Esposito a trillion years times a trillion trillion years times infinity to pay off (the debt of having rebelled against a perfect, holy, lovely Creator), Jesus paid for me and completed the entire work of salvation there. Nothing left to pay. No religious piety to count for a penance or for the expiation of sins. Jesus paid it all, and to Him I owe all.

Yet there is more. In order to have all of the credit for salvation given to God, even our entry into covenant with God is secured by His decision and act of free-will grace. Our will is always to rebel and run from Him – yet in unfathomable love He rescues us from that blind, dead revolt by giving us a new heart in regeneration. While we would look at the cross of Christ and call Him a fool and spit on Him, God decides to call us out of our insanity by the proclamation of the good news – everything I just spelled out about the cross… and the fact that He rose from the dead three days later. When men and women hear that gospel, the Holy Spirit gives new life and new hearts to His elect people – those whom the Father has given the Son (John 17:2, 6). This is all to the “praise of His glorious grace,” as Paul says in Ephesians 1.

Elsewhere, Paul puts it very, extremely, absurdly clearly in Titus 3:

3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs [a]according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (NASB)

The cross of Jesus was the end of man’s climb to God, and the revelation that God, although high and mighty, decided to come down to us in grace and love. From that day on, (and in reality, from the beginning), the works of man became and have always been futile and vain. Nothing can repair our relationship with God except the blood of Christ Jesus – and nothing can make us stand right before Him except Him standing in our place at the cross, guilty, condemned, and slain in our place.

Do you not see the freedom and beauty here? Please look carefully – go deep in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are still determined to live out your Roman Catholic faith, be assured you will stand before God uncovered in guilt, offering up the filthy rags of your religious piety as an attempted sacrifice – blasphemy in the face of Jesus’ finished work at the cross. Turn from the way of works righteousness, turn from the sin of self-morality, and place your full faith and confidence in the crucified Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take us home, brother Paul… from Romans 3

21 But now apart [k]from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [l]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all [m]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a [n]propitiation [o]in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, [p]because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who [q]has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28[r]For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works [s]of the Law. (NASB)

Find out what “propitiation” means, and revel in the joy.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God to Know Self

Let's begin at the beginning...

I want to be a good reader – don’t you? How does one learn to read? That depends on what it is we are reading. If you are learning to read words, you first figure out how to sound out the letters and then whole words, sentences and off you go, you’re a reader… but you’re not really reading until you understand what is being said.

We are bound to look for meaning in all we read and observe. Why do you think we see ponies, castles, and witches faces in the clouds as we lie on the soft summer grass? That brings me to the other type of reading. We learn to read the world. Hence, the interpretation of the cosmos. The object of my writing this for you is to awaken in us both a wonder and excitement to understand the world. Yet if we step back a little more, we have to ask why – why are we drawn to read the world? The answer is that we were made to do so. The Creator of the world has hard-wired us to wonder and search and seek for answers to where we came from and why we are here.

aaand begin here too...

The point of that wiring is to bring us to Him. Anyone in their right mind will conclude that there is God and that He is good. This is where we need to read the Word. We cannot read the world without reading the Word of God, yet we cannot read the Word without understanding the world and its literature – most importantly the Bible.

I admit I am riding the literary coattails of someone I consider to be a genius author and thinker, Pastor Douglas Wilson, who would readily admit he is riding the coattails of the many who thunk our thoughts before we were born.

Here is the post from which I am borrowing heavily for this post of mine. You will be entirely edified by reading it – Pastor Douglas Wilson, Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho is giving a book review about Mark Driscoll’s new marriage book “Real Marriage,” but the content is so rich and applicable for the life of our minds… you just gotta read it. And then maybe you’ll read the world with a bit more literacy.

I’ll leave it at this for now: Let’s be excited to know we can find eternally significant reality in Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God and Self.

I’m really thankful to know how to read. Are you?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin (looking into the clouds)

Reading God's world and Word = fullness of knowledge

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Earth: the Cosmic Gloryground of God

I use Twitter as my only internet social network (less baggage than the others). Recently I saw as evangelist Ray Comfort tweeted a pro-life statement concerning the personhood of the unborn. In reply, a guy called @JimtheAtheist called Ray a “s***stain” and derided him as a fool. I then began to converse with Jim, touching on a number of different subjects surrounding belief and worldview over the course of at least a week. Jim’s very telling final comment in our exchange is here:

See that? It seems he is not so much an atheist, but more of an anti-theist. Jim seems to interpret the cosmos as a universe which could have been created by someone, but if that someone does not fit his idea of what a good God should be like, if He doesn’t speak as Jim feels He should speak, then Jim, (and in extension what seems to be many anti-theists on the march these days), rejects the God of the Bible as the true and rightful ruler of the cosmos and spends his life trying to get others to do the same.

Now I am not trying to pick on Jim for personal reasons – as a matter of fact I appreciate that he is passionate about his worldview. One thing which stinks like 9-day-dead raccoon on a country road is an apathetic, non-thinking person who blows in the wind of what other people tell them to think and do. So Jim gets the badge of honor for at least having a worldview, and for attempting to persuade others to think like he does.

On the other hand, the anti-theists among us are like passionate gnats beating their heads against Mt Everest. The frantic drive to dethrone the Lord of the cosmos will be as successful as an Eskimo selling ice, or even worse. The never-ending conversation between Christians and anti-Christians in the ultimate sense doesn’t matter: in this conflict, either the Bible is truly God’s Word and to believe otherwise is suicide, or there is no God and we will return to the unfeeling dust of the cosmos in a few years, consciousness eternally ceased.

What you or I believe does not change the reality and truth under which we live, whatever that reality may be.

Yet what each of us believes does matter – and it matters forever.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos as we look through the lens of the Bible. So let’s look through the lens of God’s Word to see how God sees you.

Although you are only a speck of cosmic dust, you’ve been created in the image of God and therefore have profound, magnificent dignity as a person. The implications are far-reaching! That means that the most mentally-disabled child who cannot ever work a day in his little life, who offers nothing to his parents and who can only take from society is as valuable as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, or Mother Theresa.

Because of His valuing of each person, we have inherent dignity. Being created in the image of God is an astonishing honor! It is unique to the human race! When the question of life on other planets comes up, I have no problem believing that there are mind-blowing types of plants and animals scattered around the cosmos on gorgeous planets of teal, green, blue, and purple. Yet the Bible seems to show that the earth is the one and only place in all the unfathomable reaches of the universe which has been set apart as special. It is the stage of God’s redemptive history.

It is indeed the stage where God placed the human race who bears His image – the showpiece of the cosmos!

Privileged, unique, wonderful earth...

But above and beyond all of that, the earth is the place where God the Son poured out His eternal, unspeakable glories and willingly became flesh… even to become a peasant baby born in an animal stable. The eternal Jesus became human, was born of the Virgin Mary, grew up, and walked on this planet. But even beyond that honor, this planet had the blood of the God-Man Jesus shed upon it. He willingly became man, and willingly laid down His pure, perfect life on a Roman death cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. To begin to describe this glory, or further, the glory of His rising from the dead 3 days later, would be to pretend that words can capture infinity.

And yet I write. I write for each of us to spiritually feed and be filled upon the glorious truth of the Bible. The Creator of the cosmos has given us the Word which interprets His cosmos, and which reveals His intimate, personal work among humanity to redeem us from our rebellion against Him.

This Word reveals that Jesus is the Creator of the cosmos, and has become the re-creator of the new humanity in Him. The Bible clearly explains how sin has separated us from Him, and darkened the minds of those who have not trusted in Jesus for their reconciliation to God. He has spoken by His Holy Spirit through the pens of men to reveal a perfect record of His creation and redemption of fallen mankind.

For our friends like @Jimtheatheist, there is absolutely nothing about this which makes sense, or which sounds like salvation. It sounds like nonsense and ridiculousness. Yet the wildest thing is that we are all @Jimtheatheist. He is no worse than me – we are equally fallen and wretched at birth. None of us earns the right to enjoy and have fellowship with the Lord of the cosmos, yet we who are in Christ are better off because of the atonement of Christ Jesus on our behalf, and the application of it to our life by His Holy Spirit. The record of my sin is wiped away – I am a friend of God because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The antitheists would have many contradicting arguments, yet no matter what they say, the Bible is precious because it is God’s Word, and especially because it reveals Jesus. The Bible interprets the cosmos because it was inspired word by word by the Creator of the cosmos. His focus is Jesus, and humanity being gathered together to Him, some for redemption and eternal life, and some for judgment and eternal punishment. If your interpretation of the cosmos leads you away from this central, absolute truth, then I beg you to test your conclusions in the light of God’s truth – His Word the Bible.

If your life does not center on Jesus; His eternal nature as the 2nd Person of the Triune God, His true humanity as the Messiah/Christ of Israel, His perfect atonement for the sin of all who will trust in Him, His resurrection from the dead for our justification, and His eternal place of glory, reigning as King of the cosmos… then it is time to check your heart and life in submission to Him.

In my future posts, I will get into greater detail about the good news in the Bible – its focus on Jesus; His remarkable, unique life, and His historical truth claims which rocked the world down to our day… always with a reminder of how we should then live and interpret the cosmos.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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