Mary Meets Elizabeth

We’re going through the New Testament and looking for Trinitarian clues to further our understanding of this essential doctrine. Right now, we’re in the gospel of Luke. Last night, we covered the appearance of Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1. We’re going to be continuing that tonight with looking at Mary’s visit to Elizabeth who by a miracle due to her age is pregnant with John the Baptist.

 39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

I’d like to focus on an aspect of this I find extremely revealing. Let’s consider the role of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is an elderly Jewish lady and she is married to a priest in the Levitical system. The earlier part of this chapter has this to say about her and her husband. 

 5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

So when we consider this, we need to realize the unique event that happens when John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth upon the entrance of Mary and how Elizabeth is immediately filled with the Spirit.

One important question to concentrate on is “Who is the mother of Elizabeth?” I would contend that Elizabeth was speaking by the Holy Spirit and knew that YHWH had come and taken an incarnate form to dwell among men, which I have shown in prior posts can be deduced from the Old Testament texts.

A hesitating Christian might wonder what it means to speak of Mary as the mother of God. I’m not Catholic as I’ve said, but I believe even my Catholic brethren would agree with me on this. When we speak of Mary as the mother of God, we do not mean that Mary gave birth to God as if God came into being at that point in time.

Remember that persons give birth to persons. Mary is a person who gave birth to a person who in addition to his humanity happened to have the full nature of God. In that sense, Mary is referred to by that title. Those of us who are Protestants disagree with the high place that Mary is given in Catholic circles, but make no mistake about this friends. The Bible refers to Mary as a blessed woman and we have to admit that. Mary was chosen out of all the women to be the mother of the Messiah. While we believe Catholics tend to overdo her role, let us not make the opposite mistake and downplay her role.

Mary was the chosen vessel to bring the incarnation into the world. What about you? Are you going to be the vessel that reveals the good news that happened starting with Mary to the world?

The Son of the Most High

We’ve been going through the New Testament in trying to understand the Trinity. Recently, we finished the gospel of Mark so now we’re going to start Luke tonight. I’d like us to begin at Luke 1. After all, the first chapter seems like a good place to begin anything. 

 26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[c] the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

It is a passage like this that emphasizes the need to be familiar with the Old Testament. There are many places in the New Testament where an Old Testament passage is not being discussed, but the ideas in that passage are in the mind of the writer. Most noted is the book of Revelation where it has been said that 2/3 of the text has an allusion to the Old Testament. I can only think of one Scripture quotation right off in the book. Christians who only read the New Testament deprive themselves as you need that rich Old Testament heritage to understand the language that is being used.

Let’s look at a few passages. First will be 2 Samuel 7:

12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me ; your throne will be established forever.’ “

Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to David and the emphasis of the Son ruling forever means that this passage had to be in Luke’s mind somewhere. Next is Jeremiah 23:

5 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, 
       “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, 
       a King who will reign wisely 
       and do what is just and right in the land.

 6 In his days Judah will be saved 
       and Israel will live in safety. 
       This is the name by which he will be called: 
       The LORD Our Righteousness.

This was just after the description of a wicked king being deported and none of his descendents sitting on the throne, but God is saying that this won’t be a permanent situation. A great king will come who will reign wisely. The final passage will be Daniel 7:

 13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

This is one I’d say definitely had to be in Luke’s mind. So what does this tell us?

All of these passages are coming into fulfillment in the time of Christ. The hope the Jews had been waiting for was coming to pass. God was sending the Messiah. There are many Jews today who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, but imagine the joy of those today who do know that he is. Imagine then the joy of a Jew living in the time of the Messiah when he realizes that that moment, the moment his parents had told him and their parents had told them and theirs had told them etc. when God would break into the world and send his Messiah, imagine the joy when he realizes that that moment had come.

Who is the Messiah? The Son of the Most High. We’ll look at the meaning of “Son of God” later on, but this does show the unique nature of this one being born, something we will look at again very soon.

Mark’s Resurrection: Awe and Wonder

A friend of mine had a video on Facebook yesterday of a comedian named Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show. This comedian started talking about how we take so much for granted in our age of technology. I’ll warn you that he is a bit crude at times, but the profanity is all bleeped out. I loved listening to this guy speak as I think he’s entirely accurate. The video can be found here:

I have found wonder to be an important theme in my life and I find a non-theistic universe tends to kill wonder. When we go to the beach, I can tell you the spot that it always happens at, I will begin to talk about wonder at one point on the way. I am sure I have done it so much by now that my friends are sick of it. The ocean is always a place of wonder for me.

This is also something that I see in Mark’s gospel, but that wonder is also including a sense of fear. What is going on? Let us look at the account.

1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

 4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 6“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”

 8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

I’ll also say that I do not believe verses 9-20 to be authentic. For those who want to know why, I recommend going to your local library, Bible College, or Seminary and reading some books on textual criticism or some commentaries on the gospel of Mark. You can also go to a website like Tektonics to see what my friend J.P. Holding has to say on the topic.

Thus, the last time I read Mark, I stopped at verse 8 to try to figure out what it would be like to end with those verses and I did see a marked difference. (No pun intended.) I think this was the way Mark’s gospel was meant to end as it leaves you with that fear.

The word amazed is ekstasis. This could bear resemblence to our word “ecstatic” and the meanings seem to be similar. It refers to a fear and amazement that is not in the normal state of mind. The idea of their fear is the word phobeo which is where we get our word phobia. This was terror they were feeling.

This is typical of Mark. Mark likes to leave you in fear and awe. He wants you to catch the awesomeness of what is happening in the resurrection of Christ. Now imagine going through the gospel and having it end at verse 8. Better yet, go through the gospel sometime yourself and stop at the end of Mark 16:8.

You can picture the reader asking “Okay. And then what?”

But you don’t know.

Now Mark has said a number of times in the gospel that Jesus will rise from the dead. Is Mark wanting you to realize that for yourself? Are you to get to the end and think “Wow. He really did it.” You could be left wondering, “But if he rose from the dead, what happened after that? What difference has that made?”

And isn’t that the question?

What difference has it made?

Has the empty tomb left you in fear and trembling? Are you amazed and filled with wonder or is it just the same story you’ve heard all your life and it just doesn’t faze you anymore.

Of course, if that story doesn’t faze you, what will?

And what of Mark’s question?

What are you doing with the empty tomb? Are you going out and giving the rest of the story or sitting back doing nothing?

The Atheist and the Piece of Chalk

A friend of mine is trying to track down something for me that’ll help with the blog on Mark and the resurrection, so today, I’m going to write about a video that someone sent me on Facebook. It was of a story that I’d heard before, but as I watched it, I found myself being quite bothered by it.

The video can be found here:

First off, this is passed off as a true story. It is not one. I think it would be interesting if it was, but it isn’t. It does no good to the Christian cause when we speak a story that we claim is a true story that a simple check to a website like can disprove. In fact, TruthorFiction’s piece on it can be found here:

In fact, notice how they start their reply to it:

This has been one of the most commonly circulated inspirational stories on the Internet and one of the most commonly asked-about at

That’s not my only gripe with the story. I think it reveals a great problem in Christianity.

The story is told of an atheist professor and no one could get past his impeccable logic. That’s my first problem. Why is the Christian immediately told that the atheist has impeccable logic? I’m not denying that atheists can be logical, but why start off by telling the viewer that the atheist has impeccable logic? It is simply a way of saying “His arguments could not be defeated.” Now if his arguments cannot be defeated because they are logical proofs, well sorry then friends. We should all be atheists in that case.

The atheist professor is said to try to destroy belief in God and apparently succeeds. At least, he silences the opposition. Now that’s nothing new. I have no doubt that that goes on. It seems sadly that we’ve forgotten that the education system is meant to be a place where the sciences are used to find truth. (By sciences, I mean areas of study in that philosophy and theology are sciences. I do not mean just the physical sciences.) 

In this story, no one is ever able to stand up to the professor at the end. He gives the argument that if God exists, then he could stop this piece of chalk from breaking if he dropped it. He would drop it and it would fall to pieces and the students would just sit there unable to answer.

This is just so ridiculous on so many levels.

First off, any atheist actually using this argument ought to be embarrassed. It’s simply saying “If God exists, he could do X. God isn’t doing X. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.” It doesn’t follow. Now if it was God must do X, and X doesn’t happen, then you’d have something. I could just as well say “If God exists, he could put $1,000,000 in my bank account. I do not have $1,000,000 in my bank account, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Now if an atheist used such an argument involving a piece of chalk and considers it valid is bad enough, it’s even worse that Christians in the audience feel that their faith is destroyed because a piece of chalk was not stopped from breaking. 

This is simply getting us to an era in our thought where truth is determined by experience and what God does in our lives. If God doesn’t do what I want him to do, he doesn’t exist. If God does what I want him to do, he doesn’t exist. Whatever happened to the day when we determined the existence of God based on logical argumentation? Now I’m not saying that experience isn’t a part of a worldview. It is. I’m saying experience isn’t the final qualifier. It is one, but only if it contradicts a necessary component of the worldview. For instance, someone who is a moral relativist is contradicting their worldview by their experience if they complain about being treated unjustly.

What are we told in this story? That one student didn’t want to be intimidated so he prayed that he would be able to stand up at the end of class and affirm that he believed in God.

Now we need to pray, no doubt, but sometimes we pray when we should be doing something as well in addition to what we’re doing. Think of Nehemiah 4:9. Nehemiah says that they prayed and they posted a guard. The problem with the prayer we pray today is that often, we’ll pray that God will give us a new job for instance, and then sit at home and wait for someone to call or ring our doorbell and hand it to us. Pray for things you can’t do anything about, yes. If you can do something about it though, pray and do your own part as well. It is an insult to God to insist he fill in the gaps because we are lazy.

In the end, this student does stand up and through a series of events, this professor drops the chalk and it doesn’t break. The professor gets stunned and runs out of the room and the student goes up and shares about his faith in Christ.

Okay. So someone’s testimony will be “I became a Christian because a piece of chalk didn’t break.”

Now I’m not against miracles of course and I believe they can give evidence of God’s existence, but I think it needs to be a substantial miracle. Why not have the truth be based on the arguments for the resurrection or the philosophical defense for the existence of God? Nope. Reason will not be able to counter the attacks of atheism so we must go for experience!

And we wonder why we have a self-centered “All about me” generation that determines everything by experience.

We also wonder why so many Christians go into the Mormon church. We have Jehovah’s Witnesses visiting us at my place now and one of them has said that he was a Methodist until he was 54 and so I’m just listening and thinking “What happened? Why was this person left uneducated about the doctrines of Christianity so that he got suckered in by this group?”

Because it wasn’t reason, it was experience.

A lot of Christians are passing around this video as if it’s such a wonderful story. To me, it’s a disgrace. It would be far better were we passing around excellent resources on the truth of Christianity rather than personal anecdotes that will only make atheists laugh but hey, who cares if it gives us warm fuzzies.


More On The Crucifixion

We’re going through the New Testament and we’re looking for clues of the Trinity. We have commented on the crucifixion in Matthew already and when looking at it from the Markan perspective, I’d simply like to note some thoughts that I’ve recently had on the crucifixion.

There’s a story that says that when the king Clovis was hearing about the life of Christ for the first time, that when they got to the crucifixion account, he reached for his sword and remarked that if he had been there, that wouldn’t have happened.

Now we can all look and say that we’re thankful ultimately Clovis wasn’t there since that is the event that brought about our salvation, but on another level, I think we should all be ready to cheer Clovis on. Do any of us react that way to the crucifixion? Has thinking about the good that came about from it not allowed us to see it for the heinous evil it was?

Now there can be no doubt that God used it for good, but that does not mean because God uses something for good that that thing is good. The crucifixion was an evil action that was done by evil men for evil means. There was nothing good about it in their motivation, in their intended desire, and in the action itself.

If any action was ever evil, it was the crucifixion.

It takes on a whole new magnitude when you consider that this was their God who was on the cross. This was the one who had brought them out of Egypt and they actually thought that a service was being done to YHWH in crucifying this one.

Rest assured also friends that we cannot place the blame on Jews for all time. It was only the ones that were alive at the time who are responsible in the official sense for the death of Christ. In the sense of sin putting him on the cross, all of us are indeed responsible and no one is singled out. 

The crucifixion should anger us and it should anger us when we see our sin and how it took the crucifixion to pay for it. How the ultimate sacrifice was given should make us look with animosity of the worst kind on the evil that we see in the world today. The crucifixion should impel us to live holy lives.

Why doesn’t it?

Could it be we’ve lost sight of the God who is there? Consider how the Jehovah’s Witness publication of “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” even states that if Jesus was God, the price paid for sin would be too much!

As if there was a limit on the treason we’ve committed against a holy God. It is either a low view of God, a low view of Christ, a low view of sin, or some combination thereof. From that perspective, I’d actually say it’s all three.

And I’d say when we are not aware of the reality of what happened, it is all three for us.

Yes. We can still say good came from it. That happens with any evil in the world, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see that evil as evil. Yes. It was the will of God from the foundation of the world, but it was his will to use evil men to bring about a good result. It doesn’t mean the actions of those evil men was good.

Maybe tonight, you should really ponder the crucifixion. Of course, I should also. Has it really sunk into us what happened?

A Review of Push

Last night, I went with a friend of mine to see a movie called Push. Now if you’re planning on seeing this soon, you might want to wait until after you see it before you read this blog. I generally try to avoid giving spoilers out as much as I can, but sometimes it’s hard to help. If you keep going on past this point, you’ve been warned.

Push is set in modern times with the story being that some people with psychic powers were tested by the Nazis in an attempt to create a super army. The Nazis were defeated of course, but their plan was not as numerous countries set up government centers to do the same thing. In America, the center is called “Division.”

There are a number of kinds of gifted individuals. Watchers are people that have the ability to see the future. Movers have telekinetic powers. Pushers can implant thoughts into people’s minds that they will believe are true. Sniffers can tell where someone is by sniffing an item. Shades can keep other people from being detected by sniffers. Shifts can alter physical objects for a temporary time. There are others such as shriekers who can make deadly sound waves with a scream and one called a stitch who seems to be able to move bones.

The story involves a chase to track down one girl who is the first to survive an experimental drug that is supposed to up a psychic’s power. She’s a pusher. After she survives, she goes on the run and now Division is looking for her as well as the heroes of the story and another group with their own agenda which I won’t share.

An odd aspect is that Division has numerous people with powers working for them. This is a theme that happens throughout the movie. Why are psychics working for Division? You’re never really told. As I was pondering this, I was working on trying to figure out the worldview that the author or authors come from.

After pondering on it for a bit, I became convinced that I was watching a postmodern story. Of course, that’s kind of a contradiction. A postmodern is presenting a story and wanting it to be seen as a true story. How does that make sense in a postmodern universe? Of course, I figured that’s probably why much of what went on in the movie didn’t make sense.

One clue that leads me to this conclusion is that the watchers can often be wrong. For the story, the future is constantly changing and when something is done, there is a new future developed. It makes one wonder what good the gift is if what you’re seeing doesn’t stay the way it’s supposed to. What good does it do to have sight in a world where everything is in constant flux?

Also, the many powers all had to do with altering reality. With a shift, you cannot trust the substance of physical reality. A shade gives one like a sniff a false view of reality. Pushers are the ones I’d think the most dangerous as they alter what people believe to be true. How do you know you’re thinking something true instead of having the pushing of a push?

The whole message would seem to be then that you cannot really know reality. The shade is hiding what is really there. The watcher cannot tell you what they are watching. You cannot even trust your own thoughts as they could be thoughts that are implanted in you by another.

When you reach the end, you don’t have a lot of questions answered. In fact, you have more questions. Sometimes, that’s good. In a story though, that’s not often the case. The story should sum up many of the questions. It doesn’t. Instead, you wonder about pieces of the plot that didn’t fit which makes you reach the point where you consider “maybe they weren’t supposed to fit.”

As far as other matters go, they were okay, but frankly, I wasn’t too impressed sitting through this one and I can’t think of one really memorable scene. Of course, that makes sense if my analysis is correct and I’ve seen a postmodern film.  That’s something about stories that do come from a more theistic perspective. Consider a story like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. In those, you are engaged. I know some Christians might balk at this, but I’d consider the Harry Potter stories in the same light and I do believe they come from a Christian perspective. 

My overall conclusion? Wait till the DVD in this case if you really must or go see a matinee. Of course, I got to spend time with my friend and I think get some looks into the postmodern culture, so I don’t consider that a waste. However, the action and sci-fi type genre has much better to offer.

Is Jesus Ignorant?

We’ve been going through the Bible looking for clues to a Trinitarian understanding of the text. Last night, we look at one objection, which is the rich young man who came to Jesus. Tonight, we’re going to be looking at another one and one that is more difficult and has had theologians discussing for centuries. Why doesn’t Jesus know the day or hour of his coming? (Keep in mind again everyone, I am not wanting to get into the eschatology involved here. I do have an eschatological stance that I hold to strongly and a number of readers know what that is, but I do not bring it up as my blog is meant to be about the truths that unite us.)

The relevant text is Mark 13:32.

 32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

What’s fascinating is that this seems to be the one text that Arians always like to go to. Luke tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, for instance, in Luke 2:52. When we get to the Philippians passage, it indicates that Jesus emptied himself of something. That is something that is key to understanding this passage.

Trinitarians do not deny the reliance of Jesus on the Father, which we will explain more in-depth when we come to the relevant passages in John. If the Father were to go out of existence, (An impossibility to be sure, but it is simply to make a point.) then Jesus would also go out of existence. 

In the same way, Jesus enters a position of a unique subordination where he is only given information that is necessary for his mission. Jesus does play by the rules and for all we know, there could have been such communication going on between God and man before the fall happened. We are dealing with a unique situation in that there are no other perfect human beings around that we can make a comparison to.

This being the case, Jesus on a human level does not know the day or the hour of the coming. This doesn’t mean that this ceased to be divine knowledge and that Jesus in his state of deity does not know the date of the coming. It only means that in his humanity, the date is a mystery.

Ironically, one could press this against the Arians as there is a passage in Revelation 19 that has Jesus coming back and what is said about him?

12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

Does the Father not know? What reason do we have to think otherwise? Now while an Arian would love to see Jesus as not knowing in his deity, what is to be done with Revelation 19:12? 

This could simply be the case that what is going on is that there are things that can be known about God apart from revelation, but there are things we cannot know unless God himself expresses them. This is true for us on a human level. You can find out many things about me by reason and study. However, if you wanted to know what I was thinking at any time, you could guess some things by reason, but you would not have knowledge apart from revelation.

That means Rev. 19:12 would be an indicator of divine knowledge going on, with things that could not be known apart from revelation. (God can and does know what I am thinking without my having to express it. He does not have to watch me and wonder what it is I’m thinking.) Jesus is a possessor of such divine knowledge after the resurrection and that knowledge can only be known to us by revelation.

Thus, instead of seeing this as a defeater for Trinitarian belief, I instead see it as a wonderful place to look at the nature of humanity and the nature of deity and see how the two relate in the person of Christ and how we as humans are to relate to God.

And of course, we shall continue shortly.

The Rich Young Man

We’ve been going through the Bible examining the doctrine of the Trinity. Up until this point, we have largely been giving prooftexts for the Trinity. Tonight, we’re going to look at a text that is often used as an argument against the Trinity. The account shows up in the other gospels, but it does show up in the Markan account and it is found in Mark 10. We will only take the relevant verses from the passage.

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

At this point, the Arian will rise up and say that Jesus is here saying he is not God. He makes a clear distinction between him and God and he proclaims that no one is good but God alone. How could Jesus be God when he says no one is good but God alone?

In fact, the Jehovah’s Witnesses publication, “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” has on page 17 this:

Jesus further showed that he was a separate being from God by saying: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 19:18 JB) So Jesus was saying that no one is as good as God is, not even Jesus himself. God is good in a way that separates him from Jesus.

I hope some astute readers have already figured out the problem.

Can someone point to a place in the passage where Jesus denies being good? Can someone point to a passage where Jesus denies being God? The problem is that you will not find either in any of those passages. The Witnesses are claiming something is being said in the passage that frankly isn’t.

Let’s ask the first question to the Witnesses. Is Jesus good? If yes, then what do you think follows when we are told that no one is good but God alone? If not, then why should I trust Jesus for my salvation when he’s not even good? 

Now they might say he’s not as good as God. Okay. What goodness is he lacking? Let’s see what Hebrews 7 says about Jesus.

26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

Sounds pretty good to me. Jesus is said to be holy.

What is really going on is that Jesus is testing the claims of the rich young man. He is asking him why he’s calling him good. He’s not saying he shouldn’t. He’s wanting to know if the rich young man is ready for that level of commitment. Will he treat the words of Jesus the same as he has treated the commandments of God?

Sadly, the story indicates that he does not.

As we go through Scripture, as we come across other problem passages, we will deal with them. This one certainly does not qualify and it should instead enlighten us more as to who Jesus is.

Does the Bible Explain Reality?

A recent commenter has raised a question. I’m hoping I’m understanding the question properly, but he’s wondering if someone could come up with a more thoroughly explained book of God, if all the old religions would disappear. I take it to mean if there was a book with more explanatory power of reality as a whole, would I reject the Bible?

First off, let’s get something clear. There are too many people that are turning away young people that are asking questions in the church. It doesn’t help us at all. The Christian faith is not meant to be an anti-intellectual faith. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our minds.

My reply is partially what Thomas Aquinas once said which can be found in the biography G.K. Chesterton wrote on him. In asking why he believed Aquinas said “It is not based just on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves.”

There was a day and age when Christians were intellectuals and were reading the literature of the time. Calvin even instructed that people in the schools should be reading the wisdom of the pagans and their literature. We should approach them with the idea that all truth is God’s truth. Plato and Aristotle said a lot of great things. Naturally, we don’t agree with all of it, but I would say that that’s nothing we should be surprised at. Even in Christian circles, I have a number of heroes in the faith and I disagree with them on some issues.

When I begin a defense of Christianity, I will normally start with defending the existence of God. That can be done in a number of ways but the philosophical arguments are the ones I use. I will use the kalam argument, the moral argument, and one of my favorites as many readers know is the argument from beauty. 

I realize there a lot of Christians who begin with the resurrection. I have no problem with that. If the critic is wanting to attack the New Testament, I could go there as well because if Jesus did rise from the dead, it’s quite likely that he did so by a supernatural power and the first candidate would be the God he proclaimed. 

But let’s suppose I have convinced you that God exists. Now we get to the question of which book best explains reality. I’ll tell readers now that I have read books in other religions. I have read the works of Confucius. I have read the Koran. I’ve read the Book of Mormon and I’m going through the Doctrines and Covenants. I have copies of the Tao Te Ching and the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita and they’re waiting in line. 

It would take much more to say why I believe the Bible and each of these could be several blogs in itself and after we finish the Trinity series, I might just do that. Keep in mind that we could be discussing the Trinity for awhile though.

I believe the Bible first off because I find it to be consistent. I do hold to inerrancy, which is a strong reason for believing it’s divine, but I’d say consistency tells me something. There is a great unifying nature to this book. 

Second, I believe we have the text that was included. The Bible is more backed textually than any other ancient work and to deny the Bible, we have to deny every other work in ancient literature textually.

Third, I believe it’s backed by archaeology. Now are there still some questions? Yeah. I give the benefit of the doubt to Scripture because we’ve had too many times where we’ve been told the Bible is wrong and a later discovery shows it to be right.

Fourth, I believe that there’s been prophetic fulfillment in the Bible. I believe the prophecies of Daniel are quite accurate and the prophecies that Christ fulfilled came about. I also believe many of the typologies that we see of Christ in the Old Testament are striking.

Fifth, I believe the Bible is the correct one because it does match with the statements I do see in the philosophers. I see a God in there that matches very closely what I can get from reason. I believe there are aspects I could not know about him of course, unless he revealed them, but the ones that I can know I see in Scripture. (I’d add ones that must be revealed, like the Trinity, have great explanatory power for reality.)

Sixth, I believe the teachings of Christ work on an experiential level. Jesus Christ shows me not just who God is, but he shows me the nature of humanity. Imagine if I wanted to show you how a product worked, but every example of that product I gave was defective. You might wonder what a real functioning product was to look like. Look around you. All humans fall short of the nature of humanity. We don’t know what it means to be truly human. That is, we don’t know until we look at Christ.

For all of these reasons, I believe God has spoken in the Bible and if he has, I don’t believe he’s going to say anything that will contradict this message. If the Bible is true and Jesus did rise from the dead, that will not change ever. Even if new revelation comes, the Bible will still be the Word of God.

I hope this helps the questioner out.

What About Those Dietary Laws?

We’re going through the gospels looking for Trinitarian implications. Frankly, much of what is in Mark has been covered in Matthew. Mark gives a different perspective also, but if it seems like we’re rushing through, there’s a reason. John will give us much more and we will spend a lot of time in John. For now, we’re going to look at Mark 7 and I am going to quote a long passage.

 1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

 6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 
   ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, 
      but their hearts are far from me. 
 7They worship me in vain; 
      their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

 9And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

 14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ”

 17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

 20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “

Now we can notice many things here, but I’d like to note the way Jesus handles these situations in such a “matter-of-fact” way. He suddenly brings in the Old Testament dietary laws, which were not an object of debate at all and Mark throws in a phrase in verse 19. Go back and read it.

(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

Consider the magnitude of this. Where did the dietary laws came from? They came from Moses, the great deliverer who brought the Pentateuch. If there was one thing the Jews could all agree on for sure, it was the importance of Moses. 

And the Law then? The Law came straight from God! It is his holy message. You do not alter it at all. Israel had been destroyed once because they did not keep the Law and they were going to make sure that that did not happen again.

Along comes Jesus and not only does he declare all foods are clean, entirely overruling the statements of Moses, but he doesn’t precede it with anything like “Thus sayeth the Lord!” He’s speaking it by his own authority. We really need to sit back and think about the magnitude of what is being said in that statement.

There’s a reason Ben Witherington III in the Case for Faith DVD says he’s not surprised that Jesus was crucified. He’s surprised Jesus lasted three years before he was. Our view of Jesus is often of him as giving wise sayings and just suddenly the last week things went wrong. No. Jesus was doing good wherever he went of course, but he left a storm of controversy always.

Why? Because of statements like this and we have to realize what was being said. He is claiming to be able to set aside the Law of God. Who can say the old covenant is no longer in effect and not precede it with “Thus sayeth the Lord.”?

Maybe, just maybe, it was the Lord….