Posts Tagged With: controversial

Christian Hypocrisy: Cancer in the Body

Perhaps the greatest difficulty for a Christian wanting to interpret the cosmos is to figure out why there is so much evil done in the name of the God of the Bible – specifically in the name of Jesus, which name is the highest of all names, as we see in Philippians 2:

9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NASB)

So then we ask: if Jesus is the high and glorious God of the universe, if He is all powerful, if He desires His name to be exalted and feared as holy, then why does He allow so much evil to be done under the banner of “Christian”?

Does the reality of the wickedness done by professing Christians mean that the Bible, the gospel of Christ, and His promises are not really true? Aren’t these tragic, pervasive realities proof that Christ is not truly able to subdue wickedness done in His name? Should we look for absolute truth, hope, and light in another religion? Most self-professing atheists (with which I have interacted) seem to be so because of the (at least perceived) hypocrisy and horrors committed by Christians. I am constantly confronted with the regretful resentment and personal barriers of non-Christians who have been scandalized by those who claim to be believers in Jesus.

Because this is so serious and horrific…

For at least the next month, I want to deal almost exclusively with the topic of “Christian hypocrisy” and how we as Christ’s followers can answer for it without pretending it isn’t there. We must explain what it means; how this greatest of evils could be so very… real, present, persistent, destructive, and then (to my utter chagrin) downplayed by Christians who would try to wash it all away and move on to another topic.

We will look at, among other topics:

1) “Holy” Wars like the Medieval Crusades

2) Splintered Church: thousands of denominations all fighting against each other?

3) Pedophiles in the pulpit

4) Adultery and homosexuality in the pulpit

5) Holier-than-thou attitudes

6) Anti-semitism

7) Prosperity pimps on TV stealing grandma’s social security money

8) Anti-Muslim rhetoric

9) Poor stewardship: Christians carelessly harming the environment

10) Westborough Baptists and the blistering hatred of sign-holding preachers

(if you have a suggested topic, email me or leave a comment!)

How do we interpret this cosmos of ours – a world filled with the evil of men who claim to be following Christ, who at the same time create chaos and injury in every corner of the globe? This is a… maybe the stumbling-block of them all in people refusing to hear the gospel and follow Christ alongside the people of His Church.

I’ll do my best to deal with this issue from a number of different angles. I may even feature a guest writer or two. Please watch for these posts and leave comments which add to the conversation.

Also, you can and should subscribe to Interpreting the Cosmos by looking along the right column of this page for the box “Follow Interpreting the Cosmos via Email” and add your email to our list to get an alert whenever a new post is published.

Interpreting the Cosmos because there is freedom and joy to be found in the truth.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

Categories: Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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

Salvation by Grace Alone: Reformed View pt. 2

The Joy of Sharing the Gospel – a Thanks to the Readers

In part 1 of this title, I attempted to give a biblical, glorious, joyous overview of man’s condition in sin and God’s role as initiator, Savior, and majestic, merciful, gracious, loving Lord of salvation.  My Roman Catholic opponent Letting Smoke Out diverted the discussion back to issues of where doctrine comes from – which is understandable. He cannot get past the different assumptions we have in starting out in order to then discuss salvation, and so our dialogue has come to a stand-still of sorts.

That, as unfortunate as it is, has not stopped me from being filled with the overflowing desire of joy to share the gospel with him, and with all of you other readers. It has been a fulfillment of a great pent up energy in me to begin this blog – and by the grace of God, to His glory, I have seen around 2,000 visitors since January come and read these posts. What a great privilege and responsibility I have been given! It is my humble hope that the Lord would be pleased to use something written on this website to bring great honor to His Name. This dialogue between the Roman Catholic perspective and my own of the Reformed has been perhaps somewhat amateur, but all the while a privilege and joy. Thank you to everyone who has read, responded, and/or prayed for me in this venture. Please continue to pray for our Roman Catholic friends who have visited and interacted with me here. No, seriously – please stop and pray for them before you continue 🙂

God the Judge – God the Initiator – God the Path – God the Destination – God the Savior

My first post laid out our need for salvation – and how it is initiated by the very One who is our fearful Judge. This is the great mystery of the Christian faith – that God is both our greatest enemy because of our sins, but also our only hope and salvation because He is gracious and merciful. Every false religion or philosophy cannot reconcile these things – and every false religion, Roman Catholicism as chief, reconciles sinful man with God through man’s response, effort, and cooperation.

The stand-alone truth out of all religions is found in the Bible: that God the offended Judge initiates the reconciliation of Himself with His sinful, rebellious creatures… but not only does He initiate and make a way for us to “get right,” He then Himself becomes the path of that salvation in the Man Jesus Christ. LSO (my Roman Catholic opponent) had named our proposed debate “the path to salvation,” which is wonderful since then our focus would be squarely on Christ who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life”! Wonderful! See, there is not “a path to salvation” except if we are talking about the Person Jesus the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. So far Rome would agree…

We begin to radically depart from one another from here – God the destination and God the Savior. The (inspired, inerrant, infallible) writing of Paul in Ephesians 1 begins to cut through the surface of religion, way past the man-centered doctrines of Romanism, and into the unfathomable depths of God… look:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Did you see that? Read verses 3 – 6 again slooooooowly and with all of your mind engaged with what is being said – go on! Let’s answer a few questions to get us to the point:

1) Who is doing the blessing? Answer: God the Father.

2) Who is getting the blessings? Answer: us.

3) What are the blessings? Answer: every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.

4) How is He blessing us? Answer: in Christ, having chosen us in Christ before the world began.

5) What is His goal for us in all of this? Answer: that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love!

6) What was God’s motive in all of this unspeakable kindness and power and glory and love? Answer: the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

7) Why was all of this done by God? Answer: For His glory, by His grace, for our good.

8) How did He bring us into Christ while satisfying justice? Answer: stay tuned for my next post on the cross 😉

Listen friends, no religion in history can touch these truths. Roman Catholicism comes so close to these truths, but basically in word only, not in practice. When we begin to inspect the meanings and dogmas underneath their words, Romanism could not be further from the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Word of God. Look further:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Who is the worker in all of these things so far? God – and God alone. This defines “grace.”

which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

His grace for His glory and for our good…

10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos: all things by Christ, for Christ, and ultimately back to Christ.

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

According to verse 11, who is working our salvation? Us, or God? Whose will is determinative in our salvation? By His grace, for his purposes, because of love, for our good. Yes!!!

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.(NKJV)

Can a person walk away from salvation once God has applied it to us? Paul? What say you, dear Apostle? “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” And why has God done all of this? Paul? “To the praise of His glory.”

God is the destination of salvation – He has begun it, worked it out, He is working it out right now, it was His covenant, His initiative, for His fame and glory, because He is good, because He is love, because Christ Jesus is worthy… for the praise of His glorious grace.

But what does Rome say?

From the Roman Catholic catechism section 2010:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (emphases mine)

Sly, slick, almost true. That is always Satan’s best move – the truth with a twist… a little something extra, a little poison in your milk… and billions have been captured by it. It sounds so good – “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace…” Great! Wow! One problem: the Judaizers of Galatia were saying the same thing, and what does Paul say to them?

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (NKJV)

The gospel is a gift of grace, a love gift which is not merited in the start of it, the middle, or the end. It is all of grace, thank You Jesus my Lord!

This gospel is good news for you, dear Catholic friends. Not against you, never! Don’t be ashamed of having to repent of your religion and good works – they will not save you and it is not worth it to trust in them. I love you because of Christ’s grace and mercy – and I call you in the name of Jesus to repent of your religious works and trust Christ for the righteousness He alone has earned, and receive His forgiveness of sins. He is enough, He is enough for your salvation.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. My next and most likely last post on this subject will be focused on the cross of Christ.

P.P.S. I realize many of you would take the time to deconstruct the basket full of logical, historical, biblical fallacies presented by LSO. I would like to do that too, but I do not want to only post and write on Roman Catholicism on this blog… but perhaps I will return to it someday. Feel free to pay him a friendly visit and interact with his ideas.

———————-

Previous posts in this series, starting at the first:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority” – Interpreting the Cosmos

What is the Biblical Path to Salvation? Reformed View pt. 1” – Interpreting the Cosmos

On Clarity and Authority” – Letting the Smoke Out

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Sola Scriptura Stalemate” – Letting the Smoke Out

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

Is the Bible a Good Cosmic Lens?

Let's take a closer look

If the Bible is truly the unique and only Word from the unique and only God, then there should be a blog post about it.

Best selling book of all-time, preserved in remarkable fashion, loved by billions, hated by billions, sadly unknown to millions, claiming to be the sole infallible revelation of the sole, reigning, eternal God of the cosmos. Is it a good lens through which to see ourselves and to accurately interpret the cosmos? If it is truly the unique Word of God who is omniscient, then of course it is the lens through which we ought to look to see our world and universe.

Mocked, ridiculed, torn apart by critics, misinterpreted by wild-eyed zealots and politicians, scorned by the elite of the world, scoffed at by many of all classes, embraced to the death by believers, banned by the Roman Catholic Church of the middle-ages, burned by Muslims and Hindus, prohibited by Communists, patronized by the self-righteous and religious, outright dismissed by atheists and the indifferent, and generally controversial to the human race. There is nothing else like it.

So, what is the Bible? Basically, a library… of sorts.It is a collection of the specific, directly inspired, perfectly recorded words which God intended to be written. It stands above any other literature as the sole infallible (can’t be wrong), inerrant (whatever it addresses is perfectly accurate), and sufficient (has every necessary answer for life and godliness) book of absolute truth. There is nothing else like it.

You see, the Bible is different from other religious texts because it was written over 1,500+ years by at least 40 authors. Books like the Qur’an and Book of Mormon were written within the lifetime of one person, dictated or written by them, and which are obviously dependent on human understanding, as there are simple, basic flaws in them concerning history and archaeology (they are not inerrant).

The Bible, on the other hand, is a composition of daunting proportion. It was begun around 4,000 years ago and completed around 2,000 years ago. Its 66 parts/books/letters were written by men who lived in all different places such as Israel, Greece, Italy, modern day Turkey, modern day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and possibly other places. The writers were diverse as well: kings, peasants, farmers, court officials, fishermen, lawyers, doctors, and the list goes on. The focus of each letter could range from a short “hello/exhortation” to a small group of Christians, (3 John), all the way up to an enormous book of songs for a nation to use for 1,000+ years – (Psalms). There is narrative history, poetry, law code, and apocalyptic visions. There is material which would be too gruesome for even an “R” rating at the movie theaters, and yet it is a true and unvarnished look at human history and the redemptive actions of the one true Lord of the cosmos. There is really nothing even close to it.

The one and only...

Let’s be sure that no matter what our conclusion about the Bible, that it is informed, carefully researched, and honest. I have much to learn, yet have been convinced beyond description of the Bible’s perfection as the revelation of the Creator. Though I yearn for the same conviction to visit each of you, I understand it ultimately takes a work of the Holy Spirit to convince someone of what the Bible truly is. I don’t have that power, which actually frees me to speak without needing to bring negatively slanted coercion. Let’s seek the truth!

I will post some more on the Bible in general, and then in future posts move into topics like prophecy, internal and external evidences, etc. I hope you’re hungry to learn and think critically.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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