Saturday, 15 August 2009

Edwards on Justification in the Old Testament

The excellent fledgling blog Christocentricism has a post taking the summaries of Johnathan Edwards' answer to the question "In what sense did the saints under the old testament believe in Christ to justification?".

You can find the full Edwards' answer here, starting at 372 (note, there's a lot of stuff there).

Here are the overviews of the 11 points:

I. The person that in Jeremiah 2:2 and in many other places is spoken of as espousing that people Israel to himself, and that went before them in the wilderness, and brought ‘em into Canaan, and dwelt amongst them in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple, was the Son of God, as is most manifest by that, that he is often called the “angel of the Lord,” “the angel of God’s presence,” “the messenger of the covenant,” etc.

II. It was plainly and fully revealed to the church of Israel that this person was a different person from him in heaven that sustained the dignity and maintained the rights of the Godhead, and acted as first and head and chief in the affairs of God’s kingdom; and that this person, that had espoused the church of Israel to himself and dwelt amongst them as their spiritual husband, acted under him as a messenger from him. And as this was sufficiently revealed to that people, so the church of Israel all along understood it.

III. One of the names by which that divine person, that was with the Jews in the wilderness and that dwelt with them in the land of Canaan, was known among them, was “the son of God.”

IV. The church of Israel understood that this person which has been spoken of had united himself to them in the strictest union, and had espoused them and become their spiritual head and husband, and had most nearly interested himself in their affairs.

V. The church of Israel had it plainly signified to ‘em that God, the first person in the deity, had committed them to the care and charge of this angel of his presence, that he had set him over them to be in a peculiar manner their protector, guide and Savior, and head of their communication and supplies, and God’s people trusted in him as such.

VI. The people of Israel could not but understand that this person was transcendently dear to God, i.e. to the first person in the deity.

VII. The saints in Israel looked on this person as their Mediator, through whom they had acceptance with God in heaven and the forgiveness of their sins, and trusted in him as such.

VIII. The saints in Israel were led to that apprehension, that their prayers and all the sacrifices which were offered in the temple were accepted, and that God was reconciled to those [that] worshipped and made their offerings there, as though atonement were made and a sweet savor offered. Not on account of the value of their offerings as in themselves, but through that person called God’s name who dwelt there as their Mediator, and through his worthiness.

IX. God’s people of old must needs understand that that divine person that had espoused that people, and that formerly went before ‘em in the wilderness and dwelt among them as their Lord, protector, Mediator and Redeemer, was he that was in future time come into the world in the human nature, who was the Messiah so often promised.

X. God’s saints in Israel supposed that the Messiah, when he came, or the angel of the covenant, when he should come to dwell amongst men in the human nature, would make an end of their sins and wholly abolish the guilt of then by an atonement which he should make; and that the guilt of their sins, though removed from them and as it were laid upon that divine person who dwelt on the propitiatory in the temple, and was by him taken on himself, yet would not properly [be] abolished and made an end [of] till he should come.

XI. The saints in Israel understood that the way that the Messiah was to make a proper and true atonement for sin, and make an end of it, was by his own suffering and by offering up himself a sacrifice for sin.

XII. God’s people brought and offered their sacrifices, depending upon them for reconciliation to God and acceptance to his favor, no otherwise than as representations of that great sacrifice and atonement of the Messiah, or as having reference and respect to that.

XIII. Such a dependence on the divine Mediator as has been spoken [of] was the revealed and known condition of peace and acceptance with God.

And thus I suppose the saints under the old testament trusted in Christ and were justified by faith in him.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

On Aliens...

This blog is fast becoming a random series of unconnected thoughts, rather than structured series on one issue, then another unconnected issue. However, never mind!

Someone, normally thought (wrongly) to be G.K. Chesterton, once wrote: "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything."

So people believe in all sorts nowadays - in the power of crystals, in ghosts, in homoeopathy, in astrology, in all sorts of stuff. Perhaps the most widespread of these is sentient extra-terrestrial life. Hollywood and television have helped to spread this belief - Star Trek and other sci-fi.

Here are some ramblings of mine on aliens.

Belief in aliens is like belief in God

There are many reasons why. The first is that we can only guess as to their existence from what we know and we have no idea, if we start from our reason alone, what God or aliens are like. We have no idea how many planets there are, how many can support life, or even the chance that on a given planet identical to earth, what the odds of intelligent life are. We have reasoned guesses, which could be right or not.

There's the low odds of the opposite being the case, given the data and assumptions we have. This isn't proof (yet many people erroneously assert it as proof). However many of those who support 'Intelligent Design' (I'm not counting young-earth creationism in this - their arguments are different) and many of those who support 'Intelligent Extra-terrestrial Life' do use this. You get stuff (and I've been guilty of both in the past) like "The odds of us being here by chance are so low that we have to be designed" and "There's so many planets that there has to be aliens". Oddly the two collide - one is taking about the low chance of life existing, the other is talking about how, despite, the low chance of life existing, there are lots of rolls of the dice, so to speak.

Thirdly, there's the also awful 'proof by longing' - the "I just can't believe we are alone" type-line.

Forthly, and back into the realms of good arguments for both - the existence of God and the existence of intelligent alien life can only be proven if there is contact between the two - God and the aliens need to speak to us, and better yet, meet us. The God of the Bible is a speaking God, who came and lived with us. The only proof we can have of aliens is if they do the same - speak to us and meet with us.

Does believe in aliens disprove Christianity?

No. However the lots of planets, therefore lots of life-forms argument undermines some of the bad arguments for God. Also there's the problem that aliens perform the psychological functions of God that people may want - the lack of 'loneliness' (there's over 7 billion other humans on earth - so I don't see how we are alone - we have each other) and so on. This leads to people not wanting God, as the psychological crutch they want him for is filled.

There is the problem about the specialness of man - how do we get around that? C S Lewis' two famous fiction series take different approaches - in the Cosmic Trilogy, the aliens aren't fallen - they don't even have a word for sin; they don't need a redeemer. Secondly, the Narnian books have sentient talking animals, and Aslan comes and dies as a sentient talking animal to redeem them from their curse. Both are possibilities. A third option exists - aliens could be fallen and un-redeemed - many angels fell but God hasn't come and died as an angel, redeeming them. However there are also unfallen angels, so that's kind of a special case. There's also no reason to assume that man isn't special, despite similar creatures - we don't deserve it, but that's grace for you.


Belief in aliens is symptomatic of man's longing for the unknown - it's a religion. What's ironic is that many 'new' atheists will happily believe in the existence of aliens, yet slam unicorns, dragons, etc - those aliens could be unicorns, dragons, or all sorts of things - we don't know. Belief in aliens is belief in future evidence - at the moment, we can't honestly say if there is - the data could go either way with the probability of aliens (and that doesn't say yes or no to their existence). We have to wait for contact from them, to know that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Also odd is that the 'new' atheists slam those who believe in God for believing in God, yet happily believe in aliens. After all, the way of proving if God exists is the same as proving aliens exist - have they spoken? have they visited? The best way to do this is looking at testimonies from people who claim it and to look in history to see if God/aliens have visited. I am certain that God has spoken and has visited, however I do not think that aliens have done either, due to the lack of evidence.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Angel is God - The Son in Exodus 3

Moses met God in the burning bush, but which person? Let's have a look.

Exodus 3:1-6 (HCSB)
1 Meanwhile Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. 3 So Moses thought: I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn't the bush burning up?

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses, Moses!"

"Here I am," he answered.

5 "Do not come closer," He said. "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then He continued, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
Moses sees the Angel of the LORD in a bush and goes and investigates. The LORD sees Moses and God calls out from the bush and says that he's the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God tells Moses to take his sandals off, for this is holy ground he's on. Moses realising who he's looking at hides his face as he, at the very least, thinks that the Angel of the LORD is God. He isn't rebuked for that action.

Is Moses mistaken the Angel of the LORD for God? Or is the Angel of the LORD the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

Let's see what Jacob says:
Genesis 48:15-16 (HCSB)
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said:
The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm —
may He bless these boys.
And may they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they grow to be numerous within the land.
The God of Jacob, whom he says his father and grandfather saw and walked with, is 'the Angel'. The Angel of the LORD, according to Jacob and Moses is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

What about the request to take sandals off? Here's the only other time this request is made:
Joshua 5:13-15 (HCSB)
13 When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, "Are You for us or for our enemies?"

14 "Neither," He replied. "I have now come as commander of the LORD's army."

Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, "What does my Lord want to say to His servant?"

15 The commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
The commander of the LORD's army is Joshua's Lord - that doesn't mean much though, what's more interesting is the worship - is it because the Commander is God? This strange figure also gives Joshua the same order as God gave Moses. Is this also the Son?

Finally, let's hear who the Angel of the LORD says he is:

First, Exodus 3:16-17 (HSCB)
"Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said: I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt.
Moses has seen God - but it was TAOTL in the bush that he saw - Moses has found out the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacobs's name - the LORD, Yahweh (they are the same word rendered differently). There's some plurality of God here - how can the LORD, and something 'of the LORD': the Angel of the LORD both be God - a singular? How can they be the same. You need some form of plurality and unity at the same time.

Secondly, Judges 2:1 (HCSB)
The Angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, "I brought you out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers. I also said: I will never break My covenant with you.
Who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt?

Exodus 20:2-3 (HCSB)
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

3 Do not have other gods besides Me.
The LORD brought them up about of Egypt and the first command is that the LORD, the God who is theirs, who brought them out of Egypt is the only God they should have. If so, how come the Angel of the LORD says he did. Also, what about that promise: Exodus 6:8 (HCSB)
I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD."
I think you'll agree with me that the The Angel of the LORD is claiming to be God, doing the things that God does. Either he is God, everything is very odd or the Angel of the LORD isn't 'of the LORD' but a blasphemer.

Jesus as God wasn't made up by those at Nicea in the early 4th Century. If it was made up at all, and not true, it was made up by Moses as he wrote Genesis, or even Abraham himself! This makes the Pharisees' claims of following Moses to be utter rubbish, this vindicates Jesus' claims about the Law and Abraham witnessing to him.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Saving Son in the Old Testament

Recently there has been a long discussion on this issue stemming from here.

Is Christianity some upstart 2000 year old thing, or is it the faith of Abraham, Moses and David? Did they just trust God (non-specific about which person), or did they specifically trust the Son? This isn't some theological discussion of little importance, this is an apologetic that is as relevant now as it was in the second Century when Justin Martyr was trying to show the Romans (who disliked modern ideas) that it's the oldest religion. If Christ is there, obvious, in the OT, it debunks the neo-Marcionism that there's a disparity from the God of the OT and the God of the NT; it debunks the idea that Christianity nicked stuff from the Pagans, as the dates for doctrines are pushed back well into the Bronze Age at least; it debunks all the Constantine/Paul made it all up nonsense completely; it debunks modern Judaism's claims to being old; it answers the critics of the NT's weird quoting of the OT; it addresses the problem of other religions; it debunks the type of dispensationalism that teaches that there was a different way to God for the Jews; it vindicates Jesus' rebukes of the Pharisees, scribes and teachers for not seeing him despite knowing the Law.

The Saving Son is PROMISED in the OT

Right from Genesis 3:15, a son is promised, a seed, that will crush the serpent, the deciever,'s head. God promises a solution. The focus narrows as he makes his promise to Abram in Genesis 12, and further still. David is promised a king among his descendants that never stops reigning, narrowing the blood line yet further and giving yet more details about the role of the Seed.

The Saving Son is PICTURED in the OT

There's a great many pictures - not least the Passover, the lamb that is slain to save from death. Also there's the Day of Atonement - one goat is called "the LORD", the other is called "scapegoat". "The LORD" is killed for the sins of the people. Additionally there's the whole load of cool theology in the setting up of the tabernacle (more on that at some point, I promise). Other pictures include various people: Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon as well as various events.

The Saving Son is PROPHESIED in the OT

Isaiah has some of the most obvious ones, not least the song of the Suffering Servant and the 'unto us a child is born' bit. There's of course other prophesies, by other prophets as well that tell us more about the who and what of the Seed.

The Saving Son is PRESENT in the OT

The controversial one - is the Angel of the LORD (TAOTL), God but also distinct from God? Are there times when the Son, the second person of the three, appears? I'll go into this in more detail in another post. However, here's something cool:
The Angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count." Then the Angel of the LORD said to her: "..." So she named the LORD who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, "Have I really seen here the One who sees me?" (Genesis 16:10-11a, 13)
She named the LORD "The God Who Sees", however it was the Angel of the LORD that spoke to her. The Sent One of Yaweh - not a sent one, but the Sent One, the God Who Sees. Hagar is confused, naturally - she can't believe God has spoken to her, not that she doesn't think that TAOTL might not be God.

And something else:
The Angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, "I brought you out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers. I also said: I will never break My covenant with you. You are not to make a covenant with the people who are living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed Me. What is this you have done? (Judges 2:1-2)
"I brought you out of Egypt", "I had promised", "My covenant with you", "You have not obeyed Me" - if the Angel was just that, an angel, then he has no right to say this, for it is the LORD who the the is about. If TAOTL was not God, he wouldn't be allowed this terrible blasphemy. There's no "this is what the LORD says" preface - the Messenger of God here is saying what he thinks, because he is God.

I find the footnote in the NIV for Jude v5 amusing - the main translation says that "the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt", with a footnote saying that the earlier manuscripts have 'Jesus', not 'the Lord'. The English Standard Version, New Living Translation, Wycliffe New Testament and the NET Bible are the only ones I could find that have the balls to make it explicit - 'the Lord' is a common New Testament way of saying Jesus and verse 4, calls Jesus 'our Lord' (also calls God 'the only Lord', but the Greek word for Lord is different - thanks Mr Strong and his numbers!)

Even the wimpy translations have 1Cor10:4 as Christ being in the wilderness with Israel after the Exodus. The New Testament proclaims that Christ appeared in the OT, that he is TAOTL.

There's lots more TAOTL passages which mostly raise the question - who is this, if not God? I won't deal with this now, as otherwise I'd have a huge post.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Happy Athanasius Day!

Not that I care much about Saint's Days and so on, here's a total legend who's worth looking at, who's day is today.

Mike Reeves has some excellent talks on Theology Network.

Athanasius fought and battled the Arians nearly all his life, the Council of Nicea happened fairly early on in his life - he was there as an assistant to his predecessor as Pope (Bishop) of Alexandria. Arianism remained despite being condemned, and Constantine's son and successor as Emperor of the Eastern Empire was an Arian. Athanasius spent a lot of time in exile (firstly for refusing Constantine's demand to install Arius as a deacon in Alexandria!). Athanasius decried that he was against the world - which wasn't too far off, though he had a lot of fans, not least the people of Alexandria.

Athanasius defended the gospel from attacks by showing how Jesus needed to be both fully human and fully God - "of one being with the Father, begotten not made" - otherwise Christianity would make no sense. Without the eternal Son becoming incarnate, Christianity becomes nonsense.

Here's to St Athanasius - a man that held firm to the gospel, when rulers and powers and what seemed like the whole world was against him.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Passover as a way to understand Good Friday

There are many links between Passover and Good Friday. The lambs that were slain every year at Passover (when Israel remembered: not at all often in the 500 years when Kings ruled over Israel - maybe about ten times in that period!) were a pointer back to the great salvation achieved in Exodus and a pointer forward to the far better salvation when the true Passover Lamb, God's own Lamb, was slain for many to go free. Likewise the death of Jesus was full of things that would make Jewish readers think back to the Passover, in order to help them understand what went on.

Firstly, Passover:

God wanted to redeem a people from slavery (Ex 3:9, 20:1) so they could worship him. (Ex 5:3)
So he sent judgement on the slave-master, Egypt. (Ex 11)
This judgement was deserved by the people whom God was saving, the Israelites. (Ex 13:11-15)
So God told them to kill a lamb in the place of those who should die as judgement from God. (Ex 12:6)
God's judgement 'passes over' those places which the door is covered by lamb's blood. (Ex 12:23)
This brings the nations to worship God (Ex 12:38)

And the Good Friday parallels:

Christ died on the day of the Passover (Jewish days are sunset-sunset, the Passover was eaten the evening before, and the day afterwards was the Sabbath, which followed Passover). (Luke 22:7)
God wanted to redeem a people from slavery so they could worship him. (Rom 6:17-18)
So he sent judgement on the slave-master, sin. (Rom 8:3)
This judgement was deserved by the people whom God was saving, the Christians. (Rom 5:8)
So God killed the Lamb in the place of those who should die as judgement from God. (1Cor 5:7, Mark 10:45, Rev 5:9)
God's judgement 'passes over' those people who are washed in the Lamb's blood. (Rev 7:14, Rev 12:11)
This brings the nations to worship God (Rev 7:9-10, Acts 11:18, Eph 2:11-13)

He Sat Down! Jesus as Great High Priest.

This is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn't need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself. (Hebrews 7:26-27)

He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

This man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:12-13)

Now the main point of what is being said is this: we have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle, which the Lord set up, and not man. (Hebrews 8:1-2)

Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession.(Hebrews 4:14)

Since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.(Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus is sitting there waiting - the sacrifice is over - "It is finished!" (John 19:30). No more needs to be done! Let us hold on, let us look at the large cloud of witnesses to this (Hebrews 11 for some examples), let us throw off burdens and the sin that traps us. Let us run to the end, with endurance, safe in the knowledge that he who endured a cross is now sitting at the right hand of God.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Dead and raised...

This topic has been coming up a lot for me recently - looking at Romans 6 and 7 (and just starting 8) at Church, and reading Colossians with an international student.

Those who are Christians, who are in Christ have been 'regenerated' or 'born again'. They have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection - it's what baptism symbolises, the death, burial and rising again of us in Christ.

We have died with Christ to the basic principles of the world (Col 2:20): sin, religious law, the Devil, religious rituals/festivals and so on, therefore we should act like it.
We have been raised with Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, therefore we should act like it.

Sin has no power over us - we do not have to sin. We don't have to follow religious law - it cannot condemn us (Rom 8:1), we are justified by faith, not obedience to the law. We don't have to hold the Sabbath or celebrate feasts or fasts - we don't need to give up things for Lent, we can eat meat on Good Friday (Col 2:16). We can taste, touch, handle as much as we want (Col 2:21) - pork, blood, shellfish can be on the menu, we can touch dead people, or menstrating women, or mildew without having to go through all sorts of rituals.

We should act as if in the presence of God: holy and blameless. Set our eyes on God (Col 3:1-2), on Christ, not on earthly things. An excellent practise of faith - looking to Christ, not how unsinful we're being this week, how much we are looking to Christ (we're on earth, remember), how much better/worse than others we are.

It's two sides of one coin, we don't have to follow the Law, but we want to do what pleases God. Shall we sin so grace increases? Because we can sin without condemnation? By no means!

We should throw off the remnents of our old self, the dead self - our sinful nature, our attempts at law keeping and other things that the cross defeated and put on the new self, full of fruit of the Spirit, "being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Col 3:10).

"Being renewed" - it's growing more like Christ, it's gradual process of God and you working together, with God finishing off the work when, one day, we'll be like the returning Christ. Sin has no hold, it's lost - it's still fighting, but it cannot win. Legalism has no hold, it's lost - it's still fighting but it cannot win. Regeneration, being born again, makes you free to live the life you were meant to - one that glorifies God, one that looks to Christ's lawkeeping, not our own.