Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees?

By now, I suppose that we’ve all heard this one if we’ve been on the internet in apologetics discussions for any length of time. I was quite stunned though to hear a well-known skeptic in the public arena use it Saturday night. This argument has been going around and when a non-Christian speaks, he references this as if it is a good argument?

Bizarre.

Now let’s suppose I granted the main assumption. Let’s suppose that no amputees have been healed. I say this because I don’t know about all miracle cases past and present. Could it have happened somewhere? Maybe. I’m certainly open to the possibility and if one is there, then it would seem the atheists will need a new track. (Which will be just as bad.) Let’s suppose though that they’re right and no amputees have been healed.

First off, the skeptic who presented this presented it as if this was something obvious unlike cancer which would have just gone into remission. We all know there are cases out there that doctors describe as just miraculous. Maybe I should believe them? Because X is not healed, then that means Y was not healed? It does not follow. If cancer is removed in a way described as miraculous, it does no good to say “That couldn’t have been God because an amputee wasn’t healed.”

Let’s also keep in mind that we all know what it’s like to pray for someone to be healed and it doesn’t happen. I’ve been through enough sicknesses and hospital visits to know about that. It doesn’t always happen and frankly, it won’t. Eventually, everyone is going to enter into this little condition that we like to call death.

However, this brings us to another point and this is again assuming the stance that no amputees are healed. One can ask “Why should God do so?” The answer I received was that it would be something more obvious. One wonders then if God should heal an amputee just so the atheist will say that he has something obvious to look at. Will that lead someone to immediately falling down and embracing Christ as Lord? Could not one then simply form a God of one’s own choosing?

Now could there be some that would convert? Possibly. Yet as I ponder that, I think that God must have a reason. Could it be such a person would be a flaky Christian who would fall away? Could it be that God knows that person will come to Christ in another way that will lead him to lead a richer life? We don’t know and frankly, I tend to not like to speak about such things when I have no business as I’m in a position of ignorance. When people would ask me if Hurricane Katrina was the judgment of God, I would say “It’s not my call.” Then it’d be a quick turn to Luke 13 with the message of “Repent anyway.”

Notice this though. Let’s suppose I was straight-forward when asked this question and just said “I don’t know.” What has been proven by the non-Christian? It’s been proven that I am not omniscient. Well geez. If that was your goal at the start of the debate, all you had to do was ask. I’d have been glad to tell you that I was not omniscient. 

The skeptic though is the one making an assertion in saying that he knows there is no good reason for God to not do this. Oh really? How would you go about demonstrating such? It would be something impossible to do. I’m fine to just say “I really don’t know” and go about my day. Some may think that’s kind of shallow, but other factors must be kept in mind.

For instance, this question is not asked in a vacuum. If all we had was this, I could understand skepticism. However, I live in a world that I believe is designed, that I believe contains absolute moral commands that I ought to follow, where there exists a Bible that I believe to be an accurate account of historical events including miraculous ones, where I believe that a man named Jesus who claimed to be the incarnate Son of God lived among us, died, and rose agian. I live in a world where I can philosophically reflect on many arguments such as the infinite regress and believe a God exists, or see the argument from beauty and believe God exists, or see the philosophical backing of such Christian documents as the Trinity.

I’d consider it foolish to abandon all of that just because I don’t understand how God works in one area, like I was ever supposed to….

Yet I consider it just as foolish though for one to abandon all other areas in the interest of one. This argument will not stand on its own. I’ve got all the other arguments and I’m happy to live with another unknown variable. One wonders if the skeptic wishes to use this as a main argument if he is not just putting forth an emotional doubt masking itself as intellectual.

Virgin Birth: The Expression “Jesus Christ”

Friends. This will be a short one for tonight’s entry at http://www.wallsofjericho.info doesn’t have much. I am giving the link again so anyone can be sure of the argument I am dealing with:

http://www.wallsofjericho.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=32

The claim is that the NT has fostered the idea that Jesus Christ is the name of the central figure in the NT and the name is exclusive to him.

If you mean name as in a birth name, no. A birth certificate of Jesus would not say “Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the given name. Christ is a name describing his position. 

Our writer is correct that Jesus is the variant of Joshua and would be read as Yeshua. It was a common name even in the time of Christ. There are even some reports that Barabbas, whom Pilate released instead of Jesus, was named Jesus and Barabbas was a surname. If that is the case, it would have meant his name was “Jesus, son of the father” in opposition to Jesus, Son of the Father.

Our writer is also correct that there are four other people in the Bible named Jesus. Again, this goes along with it being a common name. 

Our writer is also correct about Christ meaning “Anointed one”, which could have a limited perspective as it did for Cyrus, but the Jews were also waiting a specific anointed one, a greater one that we would call “The Messiah” today and Jesus was certainly claiming Messianic status for himself and there can be no doubt that’s what the Christians at least meant to attribute to him by calling him Jesus Christ.

Our writer wishes to say that since this information was so lost and distorted beyond recognition, then this can explain how the same could happen with a fact like the birth of Christ.

No. Instead, it shows that the church today is ignorant. A friend of mine tonight was talking about Zeitgeist and I said that while it is quite false, most Christians couldn’t answer it. This friend asked me if I really believe most of the church is that uninformed. I sadly had to say yes. I really wish I was wrong. I do. I don’t think I am though.

I don’t think Walls of Jericho gives good arguments against the virgin birth. However, it does tell me that our churches need to be better informed for in our state, we will even succoumb to bad arguments for a false position. Keep this in mind fellow apologists. Just because you see an argument as pathetic, it doesn’t mean the person sitting in the pew next to you does.

Virgin Birth: Isaiah’s Prophecy

Tonight, we continue our look at the doctrine of the Virgin Birth in reply to wallsofjericho.info. For those wanting another installment last night, I apologize, but I had a busy evening and I had to get up early today and as I heard someone say in quoting that great philosopher of the last generation, Red Skelton, “Late to bed, early to rise, makes me a lot sleepier than other guys.”

For those interested, I will be dealing with the argument here:

http://www.wallsofjericho.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=31

We are first told that the foundation of the virgin birth is Isaiah’s prophecy cited in Matthew. Matthew spells it out more explicitly, I’ll grant, but I think the case could easily be drawn out of Luke as well. The difference is that Matthew does cite the OT and whether that citation is valid or not is certainly an important question. To use a reference I’ve referred to before, I suggest the reader try to get a copy of “Jesus: Divine Messiah” by Robert Reymond. Reymond spends nearly 20 pages on this one prophecy and he devotes more time to others afterwards.

Walls of Jericho states that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled within his lifetime. There is no problem with this. I have no doubt that Isaiah was speaking of a young woman in the court and saying “That woman will be with child!” That the child will be able to survive would be a sign that God had delivered his people from the threat that was coming.

The point is also made on how Matthew is going with a dual fulfillment of prophecy in that one fulfillment is greater than the other. For those who believe in the virgin birth, while Isaiah did speak of a young woman who would have a child, which would be a more natural sign, Christ is the ultimate fulfillment in a greater way in that he would be conceived of a virgin. This will be looked at more later. For now, let us look at the word used in Isaiah that is translated as virgin by some translations.

I will agree that Almah does not mean virgin. However, it does refer to a young woman and it does not refer to a married woman. It can mean a virgin though. That is all that matters at this point. While there are various references given, none of them really address the argument. I could agree with much of what is said and not have a problem.

Also, was the young woman already pregnant? I don’t know if she was or not. My thinking is that she wasn’t, but that is left for the Hebrew scholars. I would simply ask “Does it make a difference?” For the prophecy of Isaiah, not really. When it comes to Matthew, he would apply it properly for his own time and again, I don’t see much difference. If the virgin is with a child while a virgin, it still counts. If the virgin will miraculously conceive without sacrificing her virginity, it still counts.

It’s also noted that Matthew did not mention Isaiah’s sign. Why should he though? This is the style of format called pesher where there didn’t have to be a literal one-to-one correspondence on everything but that rather there was a type of sorts being shown which is a rather “This for that” method of interpreting a passage in the OT.

There is not much need to speak on the name Immanuel and how it was used. Our writer says that none of the other names refer to someone being God when used of them. I think the ones that he has such as Elijah meaning “God Himself” could better be read “The Lord is God,” and Elihu could best be read as “He is my God.” Immanuel though while a name for the child in the sense that God is with his people, was fulfilled in a greater sense in Christ with God literally being with his people. This gets into a Trinitarian attack and while I would be glad to focus in on that, that is for another blog entry. This isn’t about the Trinity but the virgin birth.

A point is also made about other Greek translations that don’t translate as Matthew does the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. However, all of these were second century and Aquila, for instance, was done in response to the Christians and trying to get a translation to avoid the Christian ideas that were coming from the OT.

Now we get back to our earlier point about Matthew showing Jesus re-living the history of Israel. Our author is right on that but doesn’t grasp the full connotation. Let’s consider.

The child goes to Egypt like Israel.

The child leaves Egypt like Israel.

The child is baptized as Israel was vis a vis 1 Cor. 10.

The fulfillment of Israel in Matthew 4.

Then we get to Matthew 5 and Jesus goes up and gives the law from the mountain. This is why it says “out of his mouth” even. That would seem obvious that that was where his words came from, but Matthew is making a great statement. Jesus is the lawgiver par excellence that exceeds Moses. Moses received the Law. Jesus GAVE the Law. This is a strong argument for who Jesus is.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are also referenced and it is said that they say nothing about a virgin birth. I read this and I’m thinking “You were expecting them to?” I really don’t see the difficulty with this. If this is a miraculous fulfillment to come in the future, why would the Jews have been expected to know about that entirely? (I do understand that there are some findings that call the claim that the DSS don’t see the prophecy that way into question.)

Overall, I really think the article in this case is sound and fury with no substance.

A Theology Of Sex

I’ve had a busy night and I have to get up early tomorrow morning. Tonight’s blog is going to be an article I wrote a long time ago called “A Theology of Sex.” It can be found on TheologyWeb also. Enjoy.

Perhaps one of the great developments of modern theology, and a witness to our age, which needs it so desperately, will be a glorious new theology of sex. (Kreeft TGWLY 153)

 

            I was rather pleased when I read that sentence in Kreeft’s book. Kreeft has been a philosopher that has put the finishing touches on something I had pondered for so long. As a Christian, I do not believe God created characteristics of this world on accident, and that includes sexuality. Being a young man thinking about sex, I kept pondering why God did things the way he did and if he’s revealing something of his nature, especially since Scripture is replete of terminology of a marriage relationship such as the bride of Christ and Hosea and Ezekiel 16 and the entire Song of Solomon.

            Thus, I am here to present a theology of sex. I will be looking at what I see in the Scriptures and in general revelation. If God is revealing himself in both places, it behooves us to understand what message he is given us. In modern American culture, one would have to be blind to deny that sex is the national obsession. Perchance a good theology of sex will help us realize the beauty that God intended sex to be and the shameful way the world treats it.

            Already, some who know me may be raising an objection. “You’re a virgin! What can you tell us about sex?!” At first, this seems to have weight, except that I also parallel sex with Heaven, something else I have not experienced, but I believe through Scriptural revelation and through the desires placed in our heart, such as C.S. Lewis has done in such works as “Surprised By Joy,” we can get clues as to the nature of Heaven. By looking at desire and what little I do know, I could give an alternative view that more parallels mystery and wonder.

            To begin with, I would like to suggest that we start talking about what sex is. We often look at it is as something that you do, when in reality, it is something that you are. If you will consider a nun or a monk, both of them are sexual creatures. The nun does all that she does as a woman and the monk does all that he does as a man. That neither of them function in a sexual way does not deprive from either of them being fully male or fully female. We cannot say that the lover on his honeymoon acts and then he becomes a sexual being. He acts, because he is already a sexual being. Thus, I will be referring in the future to the act itself as intercourse and the status of the person as sex.

            Now that the terms are defined, it is time to look at where this wonder came from. Christians will agree that sex was first the idea of God. However, could it be that sexuality comes closer to the heart of God than we realize? Could it be that what we consider sexuality is actually an aspect of the nature of God?

            Let me be clear to the first argument I anticipate. John 4:24 says that God is Spirit. Are you describing God in physical terms? The problem with such an argument is that it views sex as purely physical. I am not in anyway describing the Trinity as having male or female genitalia. While intercourse is a physical act no doubt, I believe it’s an act of the soul as well. I believe that while there are male and female characteristics of our bodies, we also have souls that are male and female. Based on the doctrine of traducianism, I would say that our bodies are often matched to correspond to our souls.

            Is there any biblical evidence for saying that sexuality belongs at the heart of God? There is. In Genesis 1:26-27, we are told that God created man and woman in his image. Christians do not believe that the image is something physical. While there may be differing interpretations, I see the image of God as humanity bearing many attributes of God though in a far lesser sense. We are rational, have a spiritual sense, possess morality, have an implicit understanding of logic, etc. Along these lines, I will include sexuality.

            This shouldn’t be a shock. We know that masculinity and femininity is more than how the body is built. One can be a heavyweight bodybuilder and still not be a man at heart. A female could be a supermodel dazzling every male onlooker with her beauty, and still not be a woman at heart. Instead, we see certain traits that embody each gender. For instance, the masculine gender is a warrior gender that longs to be the breadwinner for the woman, to conquer the world for her, to defeat the enemy, and to protect her from all evil. The feminine gender we tend to picture as the caring and sensitive one, the nurturer for the wounded child, the heart for those who are downcast, and the sustainer of life.

            All of these characteristics come from God and God put the male and female together with each embodying some of the characteristics that he possesses in unique strength. When we look at God though, we have to realize that while he possess attributes that we would consider masculine and feminine, he also transcends them. I believe that God identifies himself in male roles simply because leadership was to be the responsibility of the man. Having the first person of the Trinity describe himself as Father and the second reveal himself as Son shows us the value that masculinity plays, while not downgrading the role of the feminine.

            What do I mean by this? Now is the time to start explaining with romance. The idea of dating is a new phenomenon. However, I do believe that our desires still indicate much of the truth of what God intended. Of course, I can only speak entirely from a guy’s perspective, but this is probably for the best since it will parallel how God pursues his bride in Scripture.

            The romance starts with seeing the beauty. Something about her stands out and before too long, one is thinking of Song of Songs 4:7. “You are altogether beautiful my darling, and there is no blemish in you.” The sight of the beauty leads to the desire. Before too long, the beauty is all that can be thought about and every moment of the day is spent wondering what can be done to win over the heart of the beauty. Dante will not allow anyone to tell him that Beatrice is just a peasant girl and neither will the man longing for the desire of his eyes.

            For the true man who is seeking to win her heart, while he is no doubt thinking about intercourse, he wants more than that. He can’t describe it. He wants her. He cannot separate her beauty from her or her sexuality from her. It is built into her just as her DNA is. If he just wanted her body, we could present him with a corpse. He wants more. He wants body and soul.

            Let us suppose this man is blessed and wins the beauty. What a night this must be! The beauty reveals herself little by little inviting the man to go to places he’s never been before and experience wonders he’s never experienced before. She is ready to trust him and she must be. She has to expose herself fully and make herself vulnerable for the act to be true. Nudity is not essential, but it would lessen the mood as it would make one think that something was being held back. No. Nothing must be held back at this moment.

            So, the woman invites the man to come into her. He is invited to release his strength and his life into her and the woman receives with expectation. He gives her all that he has and she willingly receives. The woman does not have to give anything back as simply her trust and love of him is enough. All he asks at that moment is for her.

            Such a beautiful scene this is and how it rages up desire within the soul, especially for those of us who still wait for this. We are truly getting a portion of eternity within this moment. Intercourse is a picture of the most powerful commitment on Earth and is a reflection of the love of God. How much we must respect this sacred and holy gift!

            Too many today though are not respecting this gift though. Instead, intercourse is seen as merely a tool for pleasure. Indeed, many a man in our society says he is looking for a woman, but that is the last thing he wants to find. He is looking for pleasure and he just wants a female body to be the tool to bring about that pleasure.

            I recently thought about this more as I have a situation where I think a friend of mine might be living with his girlfriend. Picture if this is true the pressure each is put under. The woman realizes that she is being tested for marriage so she must perform sexually to please. There is no freedom to be who she is. She has to perform or she doesn’t get the commitment. The man also is lowering himself. Does he just believe that he’s not sure if he can please the woman? Is he not testing himself as well?

            Intercourse must take place in the proper order. Trust must be given before there is fellowship. How romantic is it to be giving all of yourself to someone of the opposite sex realizing that they just aren’t willing to commit to you? We cannot reduce sexuality to a mere function. It is the nature of our souls and we only lower ourselves in the process.

            Furthermore, consider the spiritual implications. When we split apart the atom, we end up with Hiroshima and Nagasaki ruins. If we cause that much damage in the physical realm for treating physical bonds lightly, will we not suffer for treating spiritual bonds lightly in the spiritual realm? When we come to see sex as sacred though, we will honor it more and hopefully, enjoy it more.

            This is truly something beautiful on Earth, but what if we took it further. Consider that in Genesis 2:24, the man and woman are described as echad. In the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, the same word is used to describe God as one. This refers to a one that is a unity. Unity in diversity in fact, is a strong philosophical argument for belief in the Trinity.

            What if this love is a picture of the relationship within the Trinity? We have to remember that we cannot label the persons of the Godhead as purely male or female. Instead, they transcend both. This is where the Filoque clause comes into such importance. The Son we say in Trinitarian theology is eternally begotten. There has always been love going on then between the Father and the Son and from the love of the Father and Son proceeds the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that when we have the love of man and woman on Earth, that out of that love proceeds new life?

            Thus, the most intimate of relationships on Earth is a picture of the intimate love that goes on in the Trinity. The physical act has a spiritual counterpart. This doesn’t downplay the physical. The physical is good. God created it after all and God has blessed the marriage union within the context of marriages. It should not come as a surprise since it’s picture of the love that we are invited to partake of.

            Could this be what our great desire of? Could this be what the human heart entirely is longing for? We are looking for the awesome love of God and too often, are trying to find it in casual intercourse. Even marriage will not totally satisfy this desire, but it will get us closer. Also, if we consider this pleasure as a picture of Heaven while being the experiencing and two persons coming together in union, then we could say that this is a correspondence to Heaven. In the latter case, we desire to be with God and be in him and he in us.

            Could it also be that God is showing us some of this in miracles? God is releasing his love into the world and new life comes in as a result. Miracles are indeed heaven sent as God sends his love down to us each time, with the greatest of all taking place in the resurrection, where God showed us exactly how much he loves us and desires to be with us, the strongest of romantic gestures.

            We should also learn from this that sex is to be relational. God is relational at his very heart and we should be relational as well. Christianity has no place for someone to be a lone wolf. This would lead to us being confessing Trinitarians and practicing Arians. We are to be relation in our existence as the Trinity is relational.

            This also tells us then how to love others which effects how we love sexually. We are to love each other for who they are not for what they do. The Father loves the Son simply because he’s the Son. So, we should love our fellow man simply because they bear the image of God. Today, we often love people based on what they do, a contradiction to what we see in the Trinity.

            In conclusion, I would like to suggest that we take sexuality more seriously. We cannot shame this as a disgusting part of the creation. On the other hand, we cannot fully indulge in it carelessly as a small part of our being merely for pleasure. Sex too is a revelation of God and we should thank him for it and enjoy it.

            

Virgin Birth: Luke

We’re looking at wallsofjericho.info now and going over their critique of the Virgin Birth doctrine and tonight, covering the book of Luke.

The first point to address is that of the address to Zacharias vs. that of Mary. Why is it that no one thinks of a virgin birth in the case of John the Baptist? There is a simple reason for this though. This was Elizabeth we were talking about and considering that they were married, it’s quite likely that Elizabeth wasn’t a virgin and so there wouldn’t be a virgin birth. Zacharias would have ruled that out immediately. He is doubting God’s power then to do what he says based on Elizabeth being old. (You gotta wonder if this guy was sleeping in priest school when Abraham was talked about.)

Mary’s question is not an objection but pointing to a mystery. A virgin birth had never been done before so when this virgin hears that she’s going to have a son, she wants to know how this can be. This is not the same as saying “God cannot do this.” This was more along the lines of saying “How can God do this?” In response to what she said though, WallsofJericho makes this interesting observation:

Mary’s question directly addresses this conundrum, and nothing more. This becomes clear when we consult the Greek, in which Luke’s gospel was composed, to see what is meant here by the word know.

Young’s Concordance shows the Greek word used in Mary’s question is ginosko – to know.  Luke uses it on 22 other occasions, for example in Zacharias’ question:

18  And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man,

     and my wife is well advanced in years.”

On these 22 occasions, ginosko (to know)  never refers to sexual intercourse. Each time it is used in the sense of “learning” or “knowing” about something.

 

 

This sounds convincing at first until one considers an obvious problem. They weren’t frequently talking in the gospels about two specific people having sexual intercourse. For instance, our website makes no mistake in saying that when Matthew uses the term of Joseph knew her not until they were married, that it would refer to sexual intercourse. That’s the only time Matthew uses it that way though! Does it mean it’s wrong? No. It was an idiom Jews would recognize. There just wasn’t a reason to use it.

The idea is that Mary was wondering how this would be since she knew not a man with the credentials needed. I’m left wondering “What? Is Mary going to be raped on the way to visit her cousin or what?” The idea is something that is thrown in ad hoc. There is no reason to read it any other way than referring to sexual intercourse.

We’re also told about how when the Holy Spirit came on others, we’re not told of a virgin birth? Why in this case?

Could the context be a clue?

Let’s look at the ones given also.

  • Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; And I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  (Jeremiah 1:4-5) 

  • So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.  (Ruth 4:13)
  • And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. (1Samuel 2:21)
  • And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.  (Genesis 21:1-2)
  • Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man from the LORD.”  (Genesis 4:1)
  • And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.  (Judges 13:3)

The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  (Job 33:4)

 

 

These all involved people that were married. Presumably, Jeremiah’s parents were married and had sexual intercourse. Adam and Eve would also be married by God and have sexual intercourse. What Elihu’s statement has to do with this is a good question. Maybe we should ask if Elihu has the Spirit of God, why isn’t he pregnant? That just gets us into absurdities though.

We are also told the term holy one refers to being the firstborn. Why think such though? When a Jew thought of the holy one, they would not think of a firstborn son. If one wants to say “That’s what David said though. His son would be firstborn!” That just makes the case. This is a unique son unlike any other. This is the unique Son of David.

For Son of God, WallsofJericho says that this doesn’t refer to a biological son. We agree. No one is talking about the biology of God. This Son of God bypassed the normal means. It is granted Son of God does have multiple meanings within Scripture and again, context determines usage. Son of God along with Holy One and the rest of the book points to Jesus’s divine identity as the eternally begotten of the Father and the Messiah of Israel.

Tomorrow, we shall look at Isaiah’s prophecy.

Virgin Birth: Genealogies

We covered the genealogy of Matthew Monday night, so tonight, we look at the genealogy in Luke. Our author at wallsofjericho.info states that the church has known that Davidic descent must come through somehow. If not Joseph, it has to be Mary. I saw no reason on Monday to discard the idea of Joseph’s lineage if we take Matthew’s genealogy to be telling us about Joseph. What about Luke?

Much is made of Luke 3:23 to indicate that Jesus is the son of Heli. Greek scholar A.T. Robertson though points out that the passage is said in light of the earlier passage in Luke 1 indicating a virgin birth and the reader at this time is to understand that that reference should be kept in mind here. Our writer deals with the Luke Account in the next installment of the event and so will we. (One wonders though why that wasn’t dealt with first.)

Thus, Mary would be the child of Heli and this fits since there is a tradition of Mary being the son of Joachim which would be a variation of that name. It is a puzzle also for a person wanting to make a serious case why he cites the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. For those who don’t know, this is the translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our writer certainly isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness though as the Witnesses do affirm the Trinity. 

The question is also raised of how Mary could be of Judah and Elizabeth of Levi and they be cousins. It’s not much of a difficulty at all. They are relatives and there is nothing that precludes someone from the tribe of Levi having a relative from the tribe of Judah. If our writer wishes to push more, it is up to him to make the case. Thus, I see no reason to think that they have made their case that Mary is of the tribe of Levi.

I really wish there was more, but there isn’t. Near the end, the writer does go into the idea that so many doctrines were inherited from the pagan world and includes the Trinity in there. That is not the focus, although I certainly would welcome a good discussion on the Trinity. We shall look at the next section tomorrow.

The Virgin Birth and Joseph

We continue today our look at the Virgin Birth from www.wallsofjericho.info. For all who want to know, the webpage I am going to be dealing with tonight is the following:

http://www.wallsofjericho.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=28

There is a reference to the two genealogies passage. We will look at that at a later date. For now, we’re going to deal with the “arguments” from this site on Joseph.

To begin with, it’s important to note that Matthew and Luke, which are the referenced gospels, both state that Joseph was not the father of the child. That is important to note for as you go through this, you should be wondering “Then if he isn’t the father of Mary’s child and Mary was not a virgin, then what does that say about Mary and her child?”

Yet why then do the passages say that Jesus was seen to be the son of Joseph? This is only the appearance. Walls of Jericho agrees that Joseph is not the father, but the messiah had to be of the lineage of David. There is a problem supposedly then in the genealogies in that Jeconiah is mentioned in both genealogies. The author says the way Luke deals with it is in another article, so we will look at it for Matthew for now.

The problem is in Jeremiah 22:

24 “As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “even if you, Jehoiachin [c] son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. 25 I will hand you over to those who seek your life, those you fear—to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to the Babylonians. [d] 26 I will hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country, where neither of you was born, and there you both will die. 27 You will never come back to the land you long to return to.”

 28 Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, 
       an object no one wants? 
       Why will he and his children be hurled out, 
       cast into a land they do not know?

 29 O land, land, land, 
       hear the word of the LORD!

 30 This is what the LORD says: 
       “Record this man as if childless, 
       a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, 
       for none of his offspring will prosper, 
       none will sit on the throne of David 
       or rule anymore in Judah.”

The problem is how can the Messiah be brought through that line? However, it’s quite likely that since this was right before the exile into Babylon, YHWH was referring to immediate descendants not prospering and sitting on the throne of Jerusalem. 

Consider how, for instance, in the next chapter, we have a prophecy about a branch still being raised up:

 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.

It’s my thought also that the “curse” was reversed in Haggai 2.

20 The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. 23 ” ‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Zerubbabel is put in the leadership position and is made like a signet ring. Notice the striking parallel to the Jeremiah passage.

Glenn Miller of the Christian-Thinktank states that even the rabbis thought this was the case.

for no man of his seed shall prosper -In this, too, no man of his seed shall prosper, namely that no one will occupy the throne of David nor rule in Judah. Although we find that Zerubbabel, his great grandson, did rule over Judah upon the return of the exiles, the Rabbis (Pesikta /’Rav Kahana p. 163a) state that this : ‘was because Jehoiachin repented  in prison. They state further: Repentance is great, for it nullifies a person’s sentence, as it is stated: inscribe this man childless.’ But since he repented, his sentence was revoked and turned to the good, and  he said to him, “I will take you, Zerubbabel, and I will make you a signet” (Haggai 2:23). They state further: Said Rabbi Johanan: Exile expiates all sins, as it is said: Inscribe this man childless,” and after he was exiled, it IS written: ‘(I Chron. 3:17) And the sons of Jeconiah, Assir, Shealtiel his son–Redak” [Judaica Books of the Prophets, in loc]

If this is the case, then the problem is removed.

What about the angel speaking to Joseph? We are told that Matthew 1:20 is speaking about the child and not of the conception. The comparison is made to Luke 1:15, but there is a distinct difference there. Luke 1:15 says the child will be filled of the Spirit but does not say the child will be of the Spirit. 

I am amazed that someone cannot see the difference.

What’s the conclusion though of Walls of Jericho?

Wonder no more:

Some argue that Joseph would not have taken Mary as his wife if she had been pregnant by another man, and therefore this shows that Joseph believed in the “virgin birth”.

This argument cannot be sustained. The reality is that Joseph knew Mary was pregnant by another man, and he had decided to end the betrothal. But after receiving instructions from the angel, Joseph acted contrary to his original intention.

It was not a matter of Joseph doing whatever he was inclined to do. It was a matter of doing what he was instructed to do.

 

 

So rather than go with what the Scriptures, say, let’s make Mary have a child out of wedlock….

Let’s hope they do more homework next time.

Was Jesus Virgin Born?

A reader has sent in this website asking that it be looked into.

www.wallsofjericho.info

The concern is that Walls of Jericho is denying the Virgin Birth. As I look, it’s denying a lot more, but it centers on the Virgin Birth. For an example of the deeper heresy involved, simply check this paragraph:

[Jesus was a normal man, chosen from among his fellows by God. This was the whole issue. He did not meet with the approval of the priestly establishment of his time. To them he was a malcontent, a man who stirred up the people. The priests desired a messiah made in their own image and likeness. They did not want God’s messiah; they wanted their own — fashioned according to their own delusions of grandeur. It was only natural that they should accuse Jesus of being deluded.]

I hope many readers recognize the adoptionist heresy in which Jesus is not God incarnate. Instead, he is a man chosen to be the vessel that God would use amongst many other possibilities. If there is no virgin birth, then it would seem likely that Jesus is not fully deity. If there is a virgin birth though, then that certainly increases the likelihood that he is.

I was honestly expecting a lot more, but when I went to the site, what I saw is scant and hardly convincing. Also, real sources on the virgin birth are not used.

Let’s look at the first Scripture cited. It’s Luke 3:23:

 23Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

Which this tells us the information we need. In the eyes of the world, Jesus was seen as the son of Joseph. (One can imagine the thoughts that would go through the minds of the average populace had Mary said that Jesus was virgin born. It could be the exact same as went through the mind of Joseph. (Yeah, right. Granted, that’s not what he said but considering he was wanting to give her a certificate of divorce, it’s likely he was believing a virgin birth account even if she told him.)

Instead, Jesus was presented as the son of Joseph, which makes great sense in a Hebrew society that placed stock on parentage and family.

Our next verses will come from the gospel of John:

40Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

49Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

One wonders why the 49th verse is included. Naturally, Jesus in social circles as was said would be seen to be the son of Joseph. This isn’t a problem for the virgin birth. If he’s thought of as the Son of God, it does point to a divine status though. This passage is to be understood much like the last one was.

Our next look involves Luke 2 and the passages of Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem. We will put the two relevant verses although six are given. Anyone can go to the site though if they think I am taking things out of context.

49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Again, I wonder why this is included. All this tells us is that they didn’t understand what he was saying. There is no reply of Joseph saying “Son, this isn’t my house.”

John 7:1-5 and Mark 3 with Jesus’s own family being confused about him are cited next. What does this show though? All it shows is they thought he was crazy. While we would think a virgin birth would be talked about often, it’s not likely that it really was. Even if that had been what was told, could it be the brothers would not grasp what that meant?

The last one to be addressed will be Mark 6:

 1Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.   “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

 4Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

Which shows Jesus had a house where his family lived. Somehow, this is supposed to argue against the virgin birth?

As we go on, we are told that only two gospels mention this virgin birth. I wonder if Walls of Jericho is skeptical though of the Sermon on the Mount. Only two gospels mention that also and it happens to be the same two gospels.

There is also the argument that no other sources mention the virgin birth in the NT. So what? They don’t mention the Sermon on the Mount or the feeding of the 5,000 and the latter is in all four gospels. Acts is interested in the ministry of the apostles and the epistles are the outworking of doctrine based on the life of the historical Jesus. None of them would need the virgin birth.

We will look at other passages tomorrow.

Can An Atheist Be Right?

I was in a debate today on the nature of politics online with someone responding to a Christian who posted a message about someone prophecying about seeing a spirit of violence coming out of Barack Obama and how we need to stop him. Now I’ve made it clear I in no way support Obama. However, I thought a message like this was just nonsense. Even if he really is a violent person like the poster thought, I don’t give much credence to such prophecies today.

Neither did the atheists that saw it.

Unfortunately, the only reply was to point out that this person is an atheist and somehow, their opinion is automatically false.

This concerns me for two reasons mainly.

First off, an atheist can be right about some things. If I go to a doctor, my first question isn’t “Are you an atheist or a Christian?” Now I like my doctors to be Christian as there’s that common bond we share in Christ, but if they’re not, that’s fine with me also. I’m not going to look at the prescription they give me after I leave and say “Geez. He says to take this, but he’s an atheist. Maybe I should go back to my workplace and think it’s not as contagious as he says it is.”

Now are there times I think an atheist could be more guided by his worldview and so at those times I take it with a grain of salt? Of course. I would think they’d do the same with me and expect it. I am saying though that just because an atheist says something, we don’t need to automatically assume that what they are saying is false. Now it could very well be, but it wouldn’t be false because they’re an atheist. If what they say is not true, it’d just as much be false if a Christian or Muslim said it or any other faith. (Excepting personal statements of course relating to them as individuals.)

The other thing that concerns me is our appearance to the world. It seems when I go into a dialogue with a non-believer, they already have an idea of what a Christian is and push that idea on me. It’s usually a bad one. They’ll often say that I’m one who believes that God is talking to me at night. Well, no. I’m not. I think the Almighty doesn’t need to discuss his personal plans with me.

However, whenever a remark is made of the type I mentioned at the start of this blog, that further increases the stereotype. Telling someone they’re an atheist and thus invalidating their opinion because of it only leads to that person invalidating Christianity more. I was told when I called this person out on that that the sword cuts both ways. True. I realize the way I live gives an impression.

Hopefully, that impression is that you can be intelligent and be a Christian. Hopefully it’s that Christianity is not about an emotional experience but growing in grace and knowledge. Hopefully, that impression is that you can be tough if you have to be but you can be soft for those who are really seeking truth and need someone to talk to. Hopefully, that image is someone who does enjoy discussing ideas and especially with those who disagree.

Hopefully. Maybe we won’t even have to ask this question as much if many atheists could see Christians who would give them something to embrace instead of a brain-dead stereotype.

I Think You’re Wrong

Yesterday, a news story broke about how some kids in Tennessee had had a plan to try to assassinate presidential hopeful Barack Obama. While I am a strong McCain supporter, I can say that thankfully, the plan did not succeed. I don’t want Obama in the White House at all, but this certainly is not the proper way to prevent that from happening. Murder is always an evil.

I’m also on the Facebook application. Several of you are probably on there as well. I’ve found many of my high school class who have, unfortunately, drunk the Obama Kool-Aid and one of them put up a link about the story. What was most amazing though was that in her comment on the story, she was blaming the religious right.

I read the story that she put up and it said nothing about religious beliefs. (Well, it did say they shot out the window of a church. Last I checked, religious people don’t normally do that.) What was said though was that we all know what happens when the religious right starts acting with literal interpretations of Scripture.

I’ll also point out that what I’m saying is paraphrase and there is no intention to misrepresent what was said. Unfortunately, it looks as if the comments that I made aren’t there any more. However, I was told in reply that we’re from different worldviews so there can’t be any discussion and that this poster has a real beef with the religious right.

My reply was simple. If you have a real beef with the religious right, that’s just fine. It doesn’t mean though that they’re to blame for every evil out there. However, if we also have different worldviews, the thing to do is to meet in the open marketplace of ideas and discuss them. We can find out which, if any, of our views are true. As much as we should be eager to share beliefs we think are true, we should always be open to the possibility that we’re wrong. I also stated that my Facebook IMs were open for such a discussion. The reply I got was simple:

“Ugh.”

Then, there was a change to this one saying they were being personally attacked in describing their activity. This really stunned me. Personally attacking? I was simply stating a divergent viewpoint. (If anything was an attack, it was insisting that the religious right were the ones behind an attempt by neo-nazis to assassinate Obama.)

It makes me think we’ve lost something in our world today. It’s getting to where you can’t tell anyone that they’re wrong about anything. This is something especially evident in political circles today. Thomas Sowell has written a great article telling how presidential candidates back in the 1800’s got called far worse things than anything McCain or Obama have been called.

Some people might find my stance on negative campaign ads odd. I’m all for them. If someone goes too far, the public will see it. However, I think it’s perfectly legitimate for any candidate to call his opponents view into question. Let me see his record. I want to see that. I don’t want to just hear the good things being promised today.

It’s what Sowell refers to as record vs. rhetoric. If someone has a problem with someone on an issue, it’s perfectly all right to say so. This is the way ideas get sharpened and improved. I have my own stances on theology. If I meet a Christian, I’m more than wiling to discuss our disagreements. (There is one exception. If that disagreement becomes a point of fellowship, I no longer want to discuss it. It seems that what divides us has then been put above what unites us, our faith in Christ.)

If we live in a society where we can’t even say someone is wrong without considering it an attack on the person, there’s a problem. I’m not saying I’m against cold hard truth at times either. If someone is honestly being an idiot, I have called them on it before. I don’t prefer to beat around the bush. There are several people though I don’t use the tactic on. The ones that get the toughest treatment are the ones I believe are not really seeking truth but simply to destroy the flock.

Either way, they do have a right to raise questions though and we should answer them. If we have reached a point in society though where we cannot call something into question though, then we definitely need to take a second look. Anyone of us could be wrong and we dare not try to play God and act as if we can’t.