Discussing the Benedict Option

I recently had an hour and a half podcast discussion with Len Pettis on the creeping Romanism that is the Benedict option. One of the more baffling things I have watched the last few months is evangelicals rushing to praise Rod Dreher for his alarmist proclamation that American culture is dead and Christians need to retreat into spiritual safe spaces of what really amounts to M. Night Shyamalan’s, The Village.

We discuss pros and cons, examine the main arguments for the thesis, and offer what I believe to be a more biblical way of thinking through the demise of Western society.

Check out the link here, The Benedict Option.

Announcements and Stuff

I thought I would toss up this brief announcement for any long-time blogging readers who still stop by here on occasion.

I am not quitting.

Thought I would start out with declaring that first, knowing how announcements appearing on a blog that has long spaces of inaction between posts typically indicate the blog has reached the death throws of extinction.

No, that isn’t happening. What has happened is that I have been occupied with raising kids and doing family stuff. Yep. Amazing how school, ball games, play practice, and the like sucks the time out of your life.

Additionally, two wonderful privileges have entered my writing life.

First, I help teach third graders at my church. I rotate the teaching with two other fellows; but still, the message prep for a 25 to 30 minute lesson can be grueling. If you aren’t sufficiently prepared to teach 50 third graders, you’ll be killed. That includes learning to master powerpoint so I can illustrate lessons. Powerpoint is the new flannel board.

Secondly, and this is new for me, the fine folks over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, asked me to contribute articles to their blog section. BTWN gets thousands of viewers a week, dwarfing the traffic I get here at my blog which exists at the outer fringes of the internet. I was thrilled for the opportunity and jumped immediately on the invite. Granted, a lot of what I have posted so far are older articles I have written for my blog that I have dusted off and retooled for the BTWN readership, but I hope to produce some original content in the future.

Meanwhile, my personal blog, though slowing down a bit, will still keep on chugging along. I plan to return to my review of Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis, and I have plans for another book review in the future, hopefully sometime later this year.

In the meantime, take a look over at the BTWN site. I will try to post something at least once a week when I am able. Posts can be found HERE.

AHA Takes Me On

Just a quick note. I don’t plan to respond to every crackpot missive the proponents of Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) may pass along to me. I have other topics of interest I wish to explore on my blog, as well as a life to maintain. So apart from a Facebook note I wrote answering some questions, this will be a final response to the group for a while. I can tell here at the outset this post may be a bit lengthy, and rather ponderous, so do not feel the need to slog your way through it all. I figured a lot of folks won’t have the interest in the subject except for those who may encounter AHA on an occasional basis. 

——

I want to offer some comments on this post written by an AHA member, Alex Johnson,

An Abolitionist Responds to Grace to You’s Fred Butler 

A couple of thoughts just on the title,

First off, just for clarification sake, though I work for Grace to You, I am not speaking on their behalf. Now, I would imagine everyone I work with at the ministry will agree with the sentiments I expressed in my review of an AHA pamphlet that their members were passing out at our church. However, I was never tasked to speak on GTY’s behalf regarding the group, nor would management necessarily ask me. I just want to make sure no one is confused by the title of the article.

Secondly, the title itself is dishonest. I personally would be for the abolition of abortion. Most Christians would agree abortion is a wickedness our society needs to abolish. Why the title is dishonest is that Johnson is deceptively equating the ideology of abolishing abortion with the group, AHA. They are not one and the same. A person can adhere to abolitionism regarding abortion and have nothing to do with AHA and their church repent project.

Moving along to the introduction.

A fellow named John Reasoner provides a few opening remarks to the post. Let me zero in on the second paragraph,

This radical Dispensational denial of the applicability of over half of God’s Word is quickly becoming the only Theological refuge of the stubborn anti-abolitionist. Furthermore, Fred hides behind all of the typical pietistic arguments of the Evangellyfish American Church culture. When we ask “Do We Love Theology More Than God and Our Neighbor?”, the pietist will answer along with Fred Butler with an emphatic “YES”.

If one were to read my original review, I pointed out that AHA has the bad habit of misappropriating OT prophetic passages that clearly were only applicable to theocratic Israel and claiming they apply to NT churches. The two passages I highlight in my review were Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s pronouncements against Israel immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Pointing out AHA’s misuse of those passages justifying their habit of standing outside churches to call them to “repentance” is hardly the denial of half of God’s Word. Nor does it have anything at all to do with Dispensationalism or pessimistic eschatology. That’s just reading the Bible correctly.  

It is important to keep in mind that a number of AHA promoters are postmillennial and theonomic in their views of eschatology and church government. Hence the smear about me being Dispensational. For instance, the blog where this response article is posted links as favorite websites, American Vision, Apologia Radio, and Axe to Root, all of which are maintained by postmillennial theonomists. I take it that Johnson falls into that category, like Reasoner.  

On to the main article.

I’ll pull out a few comments and respond,

Already a false accusation. They were out at the local abortion mills and on street corners the rest of the time during that conference. They even met Ray Comfort out there while both groups were preaching. Don’t assume that because they come to visit you that they’ve stopped visiting others.

The false accusation is the fact that a number of AHA members were hassling ShepCon attendees by stopping them as they walked from the parking lots onto the campus. It doesn’t matter if other AHA members were at abortion mills in LA at the same time. There were at least a dozen or more of them, including AHA leader, Toby Harmon, outside of Grace Church confronting attendees about their non-existent apathy toward abortion. That means there could have been at least a dozen other abortion mills covered. Yet the opportunity was missed as AHA members dawdled outside Grace passing out literature that was unnecessary, ignored, or discarded later.

Also a false accusation. Don’t assume church has to be held at a specific hour.

Johnson was upset that I chided AHA for skipping out on worship, and claims churches don’t need a set time of worship. Sure, I guess. Unless you are one of those seeker-sensitive churches that has a Saturday afternoon worship service so as to free up folks to sleep in on Sunday. The reality is that the bulk of solid, Bible-believing congregations in the world, meet early the first day of the week. AHA knows this, thus the reason they were at Grace the Sunday following ShepCon.

We don’t see ourselves as faithful. We too need to do more to stop this slaughter. We see ourselves as guilty as well. Hence, our slogan, Repent With Us. Sanctification is a continual process.

I’ve noticed the recent trend with AHA proponents has moved away from calling churches to repent to calling churches to “repent with us.” We are told that they too need to repent. Some how, that is supposed to make their message confronting our so-called apathy toward abortion more receptive. Problem is: I don’t need to repent of anything. I don’t consider myself apathetic, nor is abortion activism a Gospel issue. It is nowhere commanded in Scripture to pursue.

I understand that when dealing with non-Christians, but you’re dealing with brothers in Christ through Faith alone who are trying to make a case.

Another tactic they employ is to complain that any harsh critics, like myself, who liken them to cultists, are slandering faithful brothers in the Lord. Yet, because the bulk of AHA members do not attend or participate in a visible, local church, and their behavior is, shall I say, cultic, I am under no obligation to believe any of them are “brothers” in the Lord regardless of the so-called orthodoxy of their words.

None of us believe you have to affiliate with “AHA” in order to be “doing it right.” Jesus didn’t wear the AHA symbol. But do get in the fight and do not use compromising tactics

His comment is dishonest. Yes, they do insist Christians must be abolitionists in order to be “doing it right” and they further believe AHA is the gold standard of abolitionism. Ask any AHA member what he thinks of the term “pro-life” or “incrementalism.” In fact, Johnson goes on in this article to disparage the very term. Moreover, Scripture never tells us to “get in the fight” especially social activism. The only warfare that is spoken of in the NT is spiritual warfare, which is a warfare against false worldviews with the the use of God’s weapons of biblical truth.

The point is to show how broken-hearted God is over the oppression happening. Regardless of covenantal views.

There is lots and lots of oppression happening right at this moment all over the world. Wickedness that would stagger the mind. Nowhere in Scripture is the church called out to specifically confront that wickedness in the form of any social activism. Like I stated in my initial review, I believe a result of the Gospel will be a changed culture as men and women in those individual cultures are converted and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Then he cites a quote from Johnny Hauser who was commenting at some forum on my correction of AHA’s misuse of 1 John 3:18,

The remainder of his argument [that’d be me, Fred] is founded on the assertion that because the context specifies material and financial needs, no other needs fall within the requirements of love. Therefore, your sister being raped or your brother being massacred essentially require no response from of you as a Christian. That is, the lesser needs like money are specified so you must concern yourself with them, but no other needs, not even the far greater, critical, life-or-death needs, must be a concern for Christian brothers and sisters.

The apostle John is addressing the marks of genuine love which in the context of his epistle is the way Christians treat fellow Christians. It is a misappropriation to extend that passage to encompass social activism including against abortion as “loving your neighbor.”

However, Hauser goes on with the typical argument from AHA members. I’ve encountered it numerous times before on social media, particularly in meme form. That being, if I saw my sister being raped or a brother being murdered, I would most certainly intervene, so why don’t I do it with the slaughter of the unborn? Well, because the slaughter of the unborn, while a wicked sin, is not the same as having the ability to stop a sister from being raped or a brother from being murdered. I would most certainly stop the rapist or murderer from performing their actions even with the means of lethal force if necessary. Would AHA do the same against an abortion doctor? Against the feminist mother treating her child as if it is a colon polyp needing to be removed?

If acting in love is the same as stopping abortion as it is with stopping rapists and murderers, why isn’t AHA doing the necessary duty to stop those abortionists? They would physically stop a rape or a murder from happening if they could, even to the point of lethal force, yet they seem to think holding up graphic signs, passing out literature, and preaching outside abortion clinics is the same thing. It is not.

But loving your neighbor is not applicable only to the Old Testament. Just because the prophets lived under the Old Covenant doesn’t mean we have no reason whatsoever to imitate any of their bold actions.

Their bold actions never engaged in social activism. However, I know AHA apologists will insist the prophets were social activists for rebuking Israel for ignoring widows and orphans and perverting justice. But that was within the borders of a theocratic nation of Israel. They were not rebuked for their apathy against the Babylonians or the Assyrians enslaving other nation states.

After I dealt with AHA’s abuse of Scripture, I moved to addressing the logical fallacies of the pamphlet. My first example was the inaccurate comparison between the message of repentance Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees and Luther the Catholic Church, with the abolitionists during the early 1800s calling churches to repent of slavery. I pointed out that the first two examples of Jesus and Luther dealt specifically with repentance of a false Gospel message, where as the call to repent of slavery was not a Gospel message issue.

In response, Johnson writes this convoluted comment,

Likewise, so are the souls at the abortion mills, performing the abortions, getting the abortions, supporting the abortions, escorting the women to get abortions, the Roman Catholics who believe works are required to obtain forgiveness, etc.

He seems to miss my entire point. He doesn’t even address the disjointedness between the first two illustration and the third. Oh well.

Okay, you’re an Incrementalist. Thank you for telling us. I was too, for years before I became an Abolitionist. Realize, though, that Wilberforce recanted his incrementalist beliefs that he had held to for years. The Abolitionists of slavery spoke out against incrementalist ideas.

Here we see AHA’s vitriol toward incrementalism begin to surface. Three things, however. First, being familiar with Wilburforces life, he was an abolitionist from the get go. I’d like for Johnson to document when he had an awakening from incrementalism to abolitionism. He always wanted slavery to be abolished. Secondly, how he sought to have slavery abolished was incrementally, toiling to pass laws that eventually ended the slave trade and slavery across the British empire and eventually the United States. Incrementalism, as a legal strategy, is not sinful or even in need of recanting. It is gaining political victory little by little in order to reach the end goal, the abolishing of abortion in society. Third, once again, holding to abolitionist ideas is not akin to being AHA.

Then responding to my rebuttal of the two ridiculous illustrations mentioned in the pamphlet he writes,

Which is worse, people being legally raped or people being legally murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

Which is more ludicrous, children legally being kidnapped or children legally being murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

The latter is certainly our reality, but the means that I, or any other non-AHA anti-abortionist, have chosen to deal with that reality, AHA disparages. For instance, raising money for a crisis pregnancy center is an entirely helpful way to combat abortion, but AHA thinks it is apathetic. Voting for pro-life political candidates and pro-life legislation is a legitimate means to combating abortion, but AHA tells me its not enough. Churches and Christians that do confront women at abortion mills, who plead with girls seeking to abort their babies, are still in need of repenting according to AHA propagandists. Why?

The world is the church’s report card. And it looks terrible. The culture itself may look bad, but the culture is made up of millions of souls, most of whom have not heard the Biblical Gospel of repentance and faith alone in Jesus Christ. That also doesn’t look good on our report card. Which is why we call the church to action.

The church has only one mandate from the Lord: to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Engaging in social activism is not on that agenda, and Christians shouldn’t be shamed into thinking they are apathetic because they do not pursue one group’s passion for a particular social issue. Social activism may spring out of a culture where the Gospel takes root and God begins changing lives.

Regrettably, you have missed the vital point we have been trying to make. We’re not claiming to be better than you. For all the criticisms you see Abolitionists make against incrementalism, Romanism, etc., we have a ton more criticisms of each other that you don’t see. We constantly encourage one another to get more active. To reform our doctrine. To make sure not to align with damnable heresy.

His final comment utterly lacks any self-awareness, a recurring characteristic of AHA apologists and propagandists. They most certainly have claimed to be better than everyone else, or their members wouldn’t be standing around outside churches telling the Christians they need to repent for not caring enough like AHA. It is a subtle form of works righteousness, “we care more about abortion than you.”

What AHA has done is to become the self-appointed gatekeepers defining pure and clean abortion activism. Any Christian who does not manifest the same level of passion, zeal, urgency, and mental consumption to combat abortion like AHA, is an apathetic and uncaring person who needs to repent. If my support of crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life causes are apathetic according to AHA, I choose to remain apathetic.

Reviewing an AHA Tract

So Abolish Human Abortion took precious time away from pleading with the women at abortion mills to favor the Ninevite hirelings attending the 2017 Shepherd’s Conference with a pamphleteering campaign.

In addition to the Thursday and Friday of the conference, they also skipped Sunday morning worship at their churches to run the members of Grace through their sidewalk gauntlet.

I was able to secure one of the pamphlets they were passing out and thought I would offer up a review.

To begin, I have to say that I am mightily impressed with the physical pamphlet. If I had to guess, I would say it is 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 booklet. It is printed on sturdy paper stock with a nice, glossy sheen, so we’re not dealing with flimsy, Chick tracts paper quality that is typical of sidewalk activist types. Some good money has been put into the production.

Additionally, the pictures have an artsy look with lots of swirly designs set off with bold colors. Similar to the kind of artwork you find in those popular adult coloring books. And each picture captures a talking point of AHA. Take for example the cover posted above. Here we see a ship being tossed about in a red sea. I’m taking it that the sea represents abortion blood, and the wayward ship is the guilty Christians who love theology more than God and neighbor and do not participate in non-stop abortion activism. A whale’s tail is seen crashing through the waves of gore, which is the faithful abolitionists standing outside the local church handing out pamphlets.

However, in spite of the colorful graphics and professionally done booklet, that probably cost a lot of money to print, when we open it up and review the actual content of what the pamphlet writer is conveying, Scriptural misappropriations and logical fallacies explode off the page. Just a surface level scrutiny reveals how embarrassingly bad the argument for AHA tactics truly is.

Let me begin with the Scriptural misappropriation; what we can call, “taking verses out of context.”

Look again at the cover picture. In the lower left and right hand corners are two OT passages. One is from Ezekiel 6:1-6 and the other from Jeremiah 7:2-7. Obviously, AHA is attempting to build a biblical case for their methods of abortion activism and the need for Churches to repent for their apathy and blood guilt. Alas, neither passage addresses such issues.

I’ll cite the passages in full.

First Ezekiel 6:1-6 states,

 1 And the word of the LORD came to me saying,
 2 “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them
 3 and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys: “Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places.
 4 “So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols.
 5 “I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars.
 6 “In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out.

Now lets turn to Jeremiah 7:2-7

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD!'”
3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.
4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,
7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

Both passages speak of the promised threat of God’s judgment. But is God promising judgment against the modern church that AHA believes is apathetic with regards to abortion and the Christians who do not engage the culture with the tactics of AHA’s abortion activism? Nope.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah describe God’s judgment against the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. Both prophets are exilic prophets, meaning their message was heard immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Their words have meaning exclusively to national Israel during that time, and unless you adhere to CT or NCT views of the church now being the “New Testament Israel,” they are no more relevant to Christians in today’s world as Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise to a college guy that he will marry the pretty girl from his math class that he has a crush on.

One more example. Consider 1 John 3:18, Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. John’s words are quoted as if loving in deed and truth is equivalent to AHA abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t as urgent with abortion activism as AHA is not loving and are “Christians” in word and tongue only.

The problem, however, is that John clearly explains in the preceding verses what it means to love in deed and truth: it is meeting the tangible needs of fellow Christians when you have the ability to meet those needs. If you see your fellow Christians in need, defined as material and financial according to John, and you ignore those needs when you have the ability to meet them, you are NOT loving your brothers faithfully. Again, this passage has absolutely no application to a cultural engagement with abortion activism in the manner that AHA insists Churches must do.

Those are just three examples. Every verse cited and utilized in the pamphlet to make a biblical case for Christians to repent of their so-called apathy regarding abortion and embrace the AHA model of abortion activism, has been ripped out of context. None of them have anything whatsoever to with Christians repenting, or being guilty of not loving their pre-born neighbors, attacking child sacrifice, or any of the other Orwellian AHA newspeak terms they employ against abortion in the modern United States.

What about logical fallacies? I’ll focus on two illustrations.

First, read this page from the pamphlet:

Three examples are provided of when the religious (you know, Christians who have loved theology over God and neighbor like the Ninevite hirelings attending the Shepherd’s Conference) were called to repent. First is when Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy regarding God’s law that exploited the Jews and enriched themselves. Next, when the Reformers called out the Rome Catholic Church and it’s unbiblical use of indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. And then, when Abolitionists, servants of Jesus, called churches in the pre-Civil War south to repentance for slavery. The first two examples are related, the third is a non sequitur.

The first two examples pertain directly to biblical theology and truth that distorts the means of salvation. In other words, what the scribes, Pharisees, and Rome Catholics did prevented men from experiencing salvation. Men’s eternal souls were at stake.

While slavery is a terrible sin against humanity, it is not distorting the message of salvation. In fact, a number of slave owners educated their slaves as to the true Gospel and they were subsequently saved as a result. Certainly that doesn’t justify slavery; but to equate those three particular examples as being one and the same regarding the need to call men to repent is illogical.

Ironically, the slave illustration unintentionally contradicts AHA’s big talking regarding immediatism and incrementalism. AHA advocates for immediatism, or the immediate abolishment of human abortion. The idea of incrementalism, or the gradual chipping away at abortion in our culture, is odious to them and represents gross compromise against God.

However, historically, human slavery was stopped by Christians incrementally passing laws to stop the slave trade and eventually slavery throughout the Western world including the United States. William Wilberforce’s efforts in Britain is a prime example of the effectiveness of incremental laws changing a society and the entire world.

One more example of illogical argumentation. Read this section from the pamphlet,

The section presents a couple of absurd illustrations AHA believes demonstrates the need for Christians to engage in AHA abortion activism. The first ridiculous illustration presents a scenario where there is a society that allows, by law, people to rape wives and children. Sort of a twisted version of the fake prima nocta rituals that never really existed.

The second illustration is even more ludicrous, a park where any predator can kidnap any child at will. Even more, they are allowed not only by law to do the kidnapping, but they are also protected by law enforcement from anyone who would attempt to prevent the kidnapping.

What is truly facepalming about those two farcical situations is that AHA genuinely believes they are powerfully establishing their argument for churches to repent and be as stirred up for abortion activism as they are. Of course, the one thing they are missing with both those illustrations is the fact that women willing go to abortion clinics to murder their children. They are not innocently sitting at a park when a total stranger runs up and rips their baby from their tummy. If the illustrations were to be true to life, it would be a society where women willing allow themselves to be raped and parents intentionally take their children to that park for predators to kidnap them.

On the back of the pamphlet is a picture of a fish, representing the fish that swallowed Jonah and took him back to Nineveh. See the picture below,

Etched on to the fish are various excuses people supposedly give as to why they don’t want to engage in abortion activism like AHA. On the right fluke of the fish’s tail are the words, “The church’s mission is to make disciples, not change the culture.” That is allegedly a terrible excuse, because the church is to change culture, not just make disciples.

But where exactly in the NT is the church told it is to change the culture? Where exactly did Christ convey such a command? While it is true Christians change cultures and societies (think the Western world), the cultural change is a result of making disciples, not just changing the culture.

Regrettably, AHA seems to miss that vital point. Instead, they have made an idol out of their brand of abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t engaged frequently, or at all, in abortion activism like AHA is condemned as apathetic and needing to repent. Any church that merely gives financially to a crisis pregnancy center or chooses a legislative strategy of incrementalism are labelled compromisers.

The danger for AHA is the more they use such rhetoric against faithful Christians who don’t do activism like them, the more they marginalize themselves as kooks, along with diminishing the important work of ending abortion in our nation.

Gleanings from Judges [16]

samson

Samson and the Retaliation Against the Philistines – Judges  15

In my study of Judges, I have come to the unusual, but extraordinary life of Samson.

First, he had a special calling. He was born to a barren mother, and was told to be a Nazarite before his birth.
Second, he had a spectacular mission. He was stirred to action by the Holy Spirit against the Philistines and empowered with superhuman strength.
Third, he had a separated life. His special calling led him to take on a separated life from specific defilement. He was meant to demonstrate the separation Israel was to have from the Philistines.

Yet, in spite of such an unique work of God in Samson’s life, he was a morally flawed man. We see him as a compromiser, as one pursuing a marriage to a woman who was from the very enemies God had raised him up to conquer. It is as if Samson forgot who he was, why he was born, and it appears that if God had not “rushed” upon him to drive him to action against the Philistines, he would never have done what God wanted him to do.

But God wants His people separate; a holy people set aside to Himself. In spite of his flaws, God uses Samson as the disturber of the peace between Israel and their Philistine overlords.

Initially, Samson had seen a Philistine girl (Judges 14), and acting upon his lust, wanted her as a wife. His parents, alarmed by the request, give into his demands anyways and arrange the marriage. During the wedding feast, Samson states a riddle to the men appointed to watch him. The riddle was based upon his killing of a lion with his bare hands and bees making a hive in the carcass. The loser had to pay with 30 garments.

Only he alone knew about this lion bee hive, so before the allotted time expired, the Philistines force the girl to find out the answer and cheat Samson. Enraged by the deception, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon him and he kills 30 Philistine men in Ashkelon in order to hold up his side of the gamble by paying the wedding guests 30 garments of clothing.

Those events are merely the precursor to the next level of events which escalate Israel’s situation with the Philistines to an all out war.

Samson and his father-in-law (15:1-8). Chapter 15 opens with the words, After a while. We are not sure how much time elapsed. We know it was the wheat harvest, so these events could have started in late May, early summer.

Samson takes a young goat and goes to claim his bride. She, however, has been given to another man. Her father offers her younger sister, but Samson is not satisfied. He vows to do the Philistines harm for this outrage of injustice. The idea of harm is meant to cause strife. Similar to how God sent an ill spirit between Abimelech and men of Shechem so that the men dealt treacherously with Abimelech. Samson begins to rupture the comfortable peace between Israel and the Philistines.

Samson seeks revenge. He captures 300 foxes, or possibly jackals (not an easy feat), ties them together and ties a torch between them. He then sets them loose in the grain fields of the Philistines burning their crops. That would obviously be a serious situation for the Philistines, because they would have no food. Samson was striking against their economy, livelihood, and their fertility gods.

The Philistines knew immediately that Samson was the culprit. The even knew why: because his father-in-law gave away his wife to another man. They in turn kill the man, his family, and burn his house down with fire. Samson avenges their murder by attacking the men who killed them, smiting them hip and thigh with a great slaughter (15:8). He then leaves and dwells in the caves of Etam.

Samson and Judah (15:9-17). While he is hiding in the caves, the Philistines go to elders of Judah and threaten war. They force the men of Judah to arrest Samson and then hand him over to them.

Gathering their army, the men of Judah go down to where Samson was hiding and call him out. He is causing problems with the Philistines, they insist, and they were there to seize him and hand him over. Samson allows himself to be taken and bound with new rope. As soon as the Philistines see him come out bound, they run down to attack him. At that moment, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson, the ropes were burned off of him, and Samson takes a fresh jawbone of a donkey and slays 1,000 men with it.

His slaughter of them was so spectacular that Samson renames the place where the battle took place, Ramath Lehi, which can mean, Jawbone Hill.

The reader will note a couple of important truths.

First, Samson does not initiate the move against the Philistines in order to deliver Israel. His actions were purely personal vendettas against those who hurt him.

Secondly, seeing his own actions and renaming the two spots, where he defeated the Philistines with a jawbone and where he called for water and God miraculously supplied it, it is clear he has his own interests in mind.

But all of those events is for an occasion against the Philistines. God will have His people separate and He raises up a severely flawed man to accomplish the freedom of Israel.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [4]

animals

The Creation Week – Chapters 3-6

I continue in my review of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Again, my purpose in reviewing this work is to offer a corrective to his creationist apologetic that is adopted without criticism by a number of mainstream Christian ministries and amateur apologists who desire to defend the Christian faith within the general public.

I want to center my review this time on chapters 3-6. They are Ross’s treatment of the events of the creation week, and I want to review them as a whole rather than one by one individually. The primary reason being is that the material is so overwhelmingly bad, that in order to address it in full would require a number of lengthy posts. My goal is not to turn my reviews into a long, extended series of detailed analysis, but to provide a basic framework demonstrating that Ross’s apologetic is detrimental to a defense of biblical Christianity.

As much as I know there are readers who would enjoy reading such a detailed analysis, I refer them to works available online at Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International, as well as two book length treatments by Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, and Jason Lisle’s Understanding Genesis.

With that in mind, these four chapters cover the creation week up to the seventh day. Chapter 3 discusses the beginning of creation which is Genesis 1:1,2, chapter 4 is creation days one and two, chapter 5 is creation days three and four, and chapter 6 is creation days 5 and 6.

Let me back up and provide a review of some of the critical flaws I see with his understanding of the creation week.

First, Ross has a strident, unflinching reliance upon modern scientific conclusions as factually accurate. I’ve made passing mention of this in my previous reviews. His reliance upon scientific analysis misleads him to an uncritical utilization of it as an overriding authority when interpreting Scripture. That dependence only pushes him into dark holes of wild speculation when it comes to reading the Bible and developing a theology of creation.

He cites heavily from a variety of secular scientific papers, reports, and books, because he believes they lend insight to how Christians should read Genesis 1. Glancing over his end notes, he uses articles published in Nature, the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Astrophysical Journal Supplement, Sedimentary Geology, Astrobiology, and Science, just to note a few.  While certainly it is fine for any author to reference such works if he is writing a book on the topic of Genesis and creation, the problem with Ross is his use of those sources as providing factual conclusions as to what we are to believe about the history of an ancient cosmos and life on earth and how those beliefs should inform the Christian’s interpretation of Genesis, even when those conclusions drastically contradict the narrative of the creation week.

Let me give you some examples.

In chapter 4, on page 38, Ross discusses how the Bible describes God’s spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. Seizing upon that description, he states how that picture is found in other portions of Scripture of a mother eagle or hen using her wings to protect her young. He then shifts to the “record of geology” referencing at least four secular sources to explain how science confirms that the earliest life on the planet was single-celled microorganisms that provided nourishment for the oceans and oxygen for the planet. He believes those sources provide some apologetic nugget about how God cares for His creation as a loving creator.

Following up that discussion, on page 39 of the same chapter, Ross talks about what he calls the “moon miracle.” Appealing once again to the secular astronomy version of how the moon was made, Ross retells how scientists know the moon was formed when there was a planetary collision with the earth by a body at least the size of Mars. That collision, Ross confidently explains, would have blasted nearly all the Earth’s original atmosphere into outer space, while the cloud of debris arising from the collision would have orbited the Earth and eventually coalesced to form our Moon [40].

smod

Of course, that is entirely whimsical speculation; but he cites the experts who have mathematical models and he provides the numbers showing how that the moon just had to have been formed in that fashion. There is no explanation as to whether or not how all the life giving microorganism in the ocean discussed previously could have survived if a Mars sized planet hit the earth, but oh well.

Indeed, Ross’s appeal to the secular, scientific literature is rather troubling, because the way he utilizes those sources, the reader is left with the impression that the Genesis account itself would be unconvincing as a revelation from God. It is as if he thinks he is helping out God by mentioning how popular atheist, Richard Dawkins, is flummoxed by the appearance of life in the Cambrian explosion because he has no way to really explain its sudden appearance [59]. In some unspoken fashion, the Bible is supposed to be much more reliable because Ross has highlighted various scientific factoids pertaining to modern evolutionary theories regarding the earth. How could anyone have believed what Genesis was saying about creation before old earth apologists synchronized secular theories with the text?

Another flawed problem area with his presentation is Ross’s mishandling of the original Hebrew language. He is dependent upon secondary sources, and even then it is a limited source like the Theological Wordbook of the OT. Other sources noted aren’t linguistic experts either, but other authors and apologists who are also ineptly attempting to reconcile deep time views of the secularists with what the Bible plainly says in Genesis.

For example, Ross appeals to Psalm 104 as a supplemental creation text [31]. He specifically notes Psalm 104:6, which reads, You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains, and suggests this is speaking of the conditions on the first three days of creation. But a reading of Psalm 104 tells us that the Psalm is referencing the global flood as recorded in Genesis 7, not the events of creation. In fact, the same expression, the waters stood above the mountains, is used in Genesis 7:19,20. Here we have Ross taking a passage out of context and misapplying it to an unrelated section of Scripture.

He does a similar thing with Job 38:9 which reads, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,… suggesting this passage describes the opaque enshrouding clouds that blocked light from the already created sun from reaching the earth, [31]. But, while Job 38 is recording God’s creation of the early earth, it is an inaccurate misapplication to claim the darkness covering the earth is a result of the light from an already created sun being prevented from reaching the surface. The two are really unrelated, especially given the fact that the sun light is not created yet.

Ross also claims that God, rather than creating the sun and stars on day four for the first time, merely caused the already heavenly bodies to “appear” in the sky by rolling the clouds out of the sky. He argues that the Hebrew word, asah, translated as “made,” is not a synonym for “create,” but is a word that means “made to appear.” He writes, “The Hebrew verb, asa, translated “made,” appears in an appropriate form for past action. There are no verb tenses in Hebrew to parallel verb tenses in English…Verse 16 makes no specification as to when in the past the Sun, Moon, and stars were made, [54].” He goes on to write that the phrase “heavens and earth” in Genesis 1:1 places the existence of the Sun and stars before the first creation day.

Ross’s interpretation of the fourth day of creation is not only a disparate attempt to explain away the text, but it is also dishonest. Ross puts himself forth as a champion apologist for understanding creation and the Christian worldview, but here he does a great disservice to anyone who would utilize his argument in a discussion.

First, the word asah, as it reads in 1:16, is also used in 1:25 where the text states, And God made the beasts of the earth… Given the context, it is clear the word made is a synonym for create. The beasts hadn’t previously existed and then were “made to appear.” Further more, 1:26 has the Godhead stating, let us make man in our image, or asah. Was Adam “made to appear” in the same way that the stars were “made to appear?” Ross’s view is akin to the heretical arguments of Biologos who insist that there were many evolved humankinds and Adam was a chosen representative, or God “made him appear” out of all of humanity. Given Ross heterodox teachings about soulless hominids, his interpretation of asah comes dangerously close to affirming Biologos’s heresy.

Secondly, asah is used in Exodus 31:17, For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, 2 Kings 19:15 [Isaiah 37:16], You alone have made heaven and earth, and 2 Chronicles 2:12, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has made heaven and earth. All of those instances are synonyms to Genesis 1:1 where it says God created the heavens and the earth.

And then thirdly, if God wanted to communicate that the Sun and stars were already in existence on the first day and that they appeared in the sky from the vantage point of looking up into space from the surface of the earth, Moses had already used a perfectly good word to describe such an event. Genesis 1:9 states, Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. The Hebrew word raah, means exactly what Ross is forcing asah to mean, appear.

This is a major reason why Ross’s progressive creationists apologetics are detrimental for unlearned, but eager apologists. Instead of carefully researching and staying faithful to Scripture, Ross has only formulated a strained proof-text for his problematic apologetics. He is not defending the faith at all, but instead has led his readers astray into gross error that when scrutinized, will only bring them embarrassment, placing a major stumbling block before unbelievers.

Gleanings from Judges [15]

samsonlionSamson Stirs the Phillistines – Judges 14

When we come to the judgeship of Samson, we learn from out of all the previous judges, his was especially unique. He was called by God from before his birth to fulfill his roll as a judge. Both he and his mother, at least for her until she gave birth to him, were under the Nazarite vow. Samson would live a life-long commitment to the vow, at least for the most part as we shall see. But most importantly, Samson’s birth was unique because it was “miraculous.” His mother had been barren since her marriage to his father, Manoah, and she conceives after God’s pronouncement.

Samson’s birth and eventual ministry is entirely orchestrated by the LORD. He had to move to deliver His people, because they wouldn’t attempt to leave their circumstances. They lived under the dominion of the Philistines, and it becomes apparent as we move through the record of Samson’s life and judgeship that Israel was content and comfortable with that arrangement. God was going to move, however, to disturb the peace. He wants them separate from the Philistines.

Coming to Judges 14, we have the first instance of Samson acting in his judgeship. It is an event totally driven by the LORD. The section really begins in 13:25 where the text states that the “Spirit of the LORD began to stir him.” The word “stir” has the idea of compelling. God was directing Samson to be an instigator that would make the Philistines angry with Israel. Coupled with Judges 14:4, we see that God was moving upon Samson, because He was seeking an occasion, or opportunity, against the Philistines.

The catalyst for God’s occasion against the Philistines was a Philistine girl.

Samson goes to Timnah, a town about 6 miles west of Samon’s hometown. While there, he sees a Philistine girl and is immediately smitten by her. He returns home to tell his parents to get her for him as a wife. His parents, as any good God-fearing parents would be, are distraught by his request. Doesn’t he want to marry a nice Jewish girl? Instead he goes to an uncircumcised Philistine girl, which is to say, a girl who is outside the Covenant the God made with Israel.

Samson brashly follows his flesh and lusts. “She is right in my eye,” he says when he demands his parents get her for him as his wife. The comment speaks to what he values most, outward appearance. He is also willing wishes to align himself with a pagan culture. Reluctantly, his parents approve.

Samson and his parents travel to Timnah to ask if the girl’s family would be willing to give the girl in marriage. At some point, Samson is alone in a vineyard, which raises concern about him violating his Nazarite vow. Why is he alone in a vineyard when he isn’t to have any wine? Never the less, he is by himself when a lion attacks him. The Spirit of the LORD rushes upon him and he kills the lion with his bare hands.

At some point later, he goes to make wedding preparations, and so he happens to turn to see the dead lion. Bees had made a hive in the carcass, which is a strange occurrence, because bees don’t normally make hives in rotting corpses. Violating the Nazarite vow of touching unclean things, like a dead body, Samson scrapes up the honey and eats it, and even gives some to his parents without telling them from where he got it.

When he gets to Timnah to be married, he prepares a feast for the men of the town, which it can only be guessed that involved the use of alcohol. Already Samson is on the brink of becoming a seriously compromised man.

As is the custom, Samson is appointed 30 companions. They were “brought” to Samson, which has the idea of being conscripted, or made to be with him. Men who were more than likely told to keep an eye on him, but they give the appearance of being around him in goodwill. He proposes a riddle to them based upon his dead lion with the honey. Obviously, Samson is the only one who could possibly know because he was alone.

Irritated that they could not figure out the riddle, the Philistines tell his wife that she is to find out the answer or they will burn her house down and kill her family. So she did what all manipulative women do: she nagged him until he broke. He tell her the answer and she in turn tells the 30 men. They in turn tell Samson the answer.

Angered by his loss, he now has a need to pay off a substantial gambling debt. He does it by having the Spirit of the LORD rush upon him and by picking a fight with the Philistines. Travelling nearly 20 miles away, he goes to Ashkelon and single-handily kills 30 men! And unbelievable event. He takes their garments and gives them to his companions.

Obviously, the brutal killing of 30 Philistine men by the hands of just one Jewish man would not go unnoticed, and this becomes the event that eventually brings God to using Samson to destroy the Philistines.

Books I Heard or Read in 2016

libraryMy yearly review of all the books I either heard on audio or read via print or ebook. Reviews for previous years can be located HERE.

Audio Books I Heard

The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – Michael Morrell

Morrell is the former deputy director of the CIA. The book tells his life story of how he was recruited into the CIA, how he worked his way up through the ranks to eventually become the daily CIA briefer for George W. Bush. The book really picks up when he gives his eye-witness recounting of the events of 9/11 and the decade long manhunt for Bin Laden that ended in his eventual killing. That section of his book was fascinating. Where I thought the book began to go off the rails is the latter portion. There he attempts to defend Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s incompetent handling of the Benghazi attacks.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle the Set Them Free – Hector Tobar

This book tells the story about the San Jose mine collapse in August 2010 down in Chile. I remember being riveted to the news when it was discovered the men were still alive and the subsequent attempt to rescue them. The author does a great job of detailing the individual lives of each of the 33 miners. In fact, it was so detailed that the flow of the story got bogged down a bit with the human interest angle. He even goes into the personal background of all the Chilean government officials and special operators who led the rescue efforts. It wasn’t until the 8th hour of listening that I finally got to the rescuers breaking through to the miners and the book focusing on keeping the miners alive and getting them out.

The Wright Brothers – David McCullough

This book started out a bit slow. The first disk was a dry, biographical sketch introducing us to Orville and Wilbur, their sister, and parents. I suppose it was necessary to set the story up. But once I made it past that section, the book picks up pace as McCullough recounts the experimentation the brothers went through to build a working glider, then an engine propelled glider, and their eventual triumph becoming the first men to ever successfully fly a working airplane.

Normal Books I Read

I actually read more books this year than I heard.

History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame

An outstanding and well done overview of the key philosophers and theologians, beginning with the ancient Greeks and moving through to early Christian apologists, Medieval theologians, the major Reformers, Renaissance philosophers, Enlightenment era skeptics, and modern era philosophers like Bertrand Russell. Frame provides a brief biographical sketch of all the thinkers, what it was they taught, and offers a biblical critique. I’d highly recommend this book as a solid reference work. I was thankful I picked this up the first of the year when P&R publishers was offering it on sale through Westminster books.

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters – Sinclair Ferguson

I heard Ferguson lecture on this topic a number of years ago, so I was glad to see his material written up into book format. The topic of the extent of law-keeping and Christian liberty has always been a struggle for believers to work through. Ferguson frames his study around the events of the Marrow Controversy that took place in Scotland in the early 1700s. The controversy is still relevant for us today as Christians need to have a working understanding of Christ’s liberty and how the law of God should shape our faith given to us freely by grace.

17 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be on September 22nd, 2017 – No Man Knoweth

Title and author is fairly straight forward what this book is about. See my fuller review HERE.

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating – Daniel Anderson, with his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing. The primary focus of the two authors is to help teen girls specifically navigate the perils of teen dating and how if they do it stupidly, their choices will wreck their futures. The book was a big disappointment as I explain in a fuller review HERE.

Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare – Jim Osman

Pastor Jim Osman works through all the false teaching on spiritual warfare from charismatics and provides a thorough rebuttal. He evaluates the concepts of praying hedges, binding the devil, and generational curses, while at the same time presenting a biblical perspective on how Christians should think about spiritual warfare. See my fuller review HERE.

Evangelical White Lies – Mike Abendroth

My good pal Mike has written a splendid little book that addresses a number of bad teachings that have appeared throughout the years in evangelical churches. The book is short, to the point, and would even be a worthy of a men’s Bible study. See my fuller review HERE.

One of the cool things about Logos, or any Bible software program I would imagine, is the app gives me access to my Logos library on my tablet and phone. It is kind of neat to be standing in line waiting to board the Matterhorn at Disney Land and being able to search all my commentaries on the pastorals. Maybe folks have been aware of this wonderful tech for years, but I just discovered that beautiful feature and it is like aliens have landed. My entire reading habits have been expanded and transformed. Along with reading the commentaries I have for 2 Timothy when I prepare my sermons for my volunteers, I have been reading other books in my library.

Heretics for Armchair Theologians – Justo and Catherine Gonzalez

A brief study on all the main heresies that have popped up ever since the first century to trouble the church. He covers Marcion, Montanism, Donatists, Pelagius, and Arianism to name a few. I would recommend this as a handy introductory work for new Christians who have never been exposed to church history.

The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained – John Currid

I have the Welwyn Commentary series on Logos and they have published some short, but well written commentaries on a number of OT books. I found that they have a large collection of the minor prophets. My goal is to read through the titles covering the minor prophets because my knowledge of those books is lacking. I like Currid’s work, so I started with Habakkuk, which I found to be an encouraging devotional study of that short little book. I plan to do Zephaniah next.

I am currently reading three books that I was unable to finish before the years end, so they will be on the 2017 book review post next year. I have liked them so much I did want to briefly mention them.

First is Matt Waymeyer’s, Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model. It is his dissertation work from TMS and is an excellent treatment critiquing the most recent of Amillennial authors like Sam Storms, Kim Riddlebarger, and NCT advocate, Dean Davis. He not only offers a rebuttal to amillennial arguments against premillennialism, but his primary focus is to show clearly the biblical teaching of an intermediary, earthly kingdom.

Next is Richard Heitzenrater’s biographical study on John Wesley, Wesley and the People Called Methodists. I have a friend who graduated from a Wesleyan college and he recommended it because it is one of the better biographies that is not ashamed to mention Wesley’s theological errors and other personal foibles.  I am not a fan of Wesley and I believe his false doctrines he promulgated during his life, and that were picked up by his ardent followers, are the seed of a lot of theological ills in the modern church.

Next is Jason Lisle’s book, Understanding Genesis: How to Analysis, Interpret, and Defend Scripture. The book talks about reading Genesis, but the bulk of Lisle’s study deals with the hermeneutics of reading Scripture and applying what you read. I would highly recommend this book for both new and seasoned believers. We can never get enough teaching about studying the Bible accurately and correctly.

Studies in Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

ezekiel

I posted these articles a few years ago when I was doing my study on eschatology.

Since I wrote them, they have become some of my most read posts that draws some of the biggest traffic to my otherwise small, obscure blog. The one thing I failed to do, and should have, because I was short sighted as to how popular they would be, is post them in one article for easy access. Rather than having to find all 6 via the link tags, here they all are in one place for easy availability.

I would encourage folks to read them in order from start to last, because they build upon themselves as I get to the thorny question as to a real, historic and future temple where animal sacrifices will function and how that relates to the work of Christ on the cross.

Resources on Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

Interpreting Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

Literally Reading Ezekiel 40-48

Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48

Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifices and Hebrews

Answering Objections to Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifice

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [3]

scienceChapter 2 – Reasons for Resistance

I am doing a review and critique of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Introductory post can be read HERE.

With chapter 2, before he delves into his study of the creation week, Ross attempts to identify obstructions many have to the Christian faith that pertains to the book of Genesis. One of the key objections he hears frequently when he interacts with non-Christians is that the book of Genesis is unscientific. People will skeptically ask, “Why should I believe the message of a book that at the start contradicts the known facts of science?”

Ross then highlights four creation models that have been developed by believers and unbelievers alike in order to answer that objection.

First is a separatist model that says science and Scripture are completely independent of one another. Stephen Gould’s philosophy of non-overlapping magisteria is probably the most notable example.

Second is a conflict model, or the idea that science and Scripture are in direct opposition to one another and can never be reconciled. Atheist Richard Dawkins is a proponent of this model. He says that because religion makes existence claims, that obviously means scientific claims, and because religion is wrong about science, it is ultimately wrong about our existence. It then cannot be trusted and should be rejected.

Third is a complementary model that says science and Scripture compliment each other. Generally, those who hold to theistic evolutionary beliefs will utilize this model.

Fourth, is a constructive integration model, also called concordism. It states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God. Ross and his apologetic crew would fancy themselves as constructive integrationists.

After discussing the models, Ross further explains how he has identified additional forces he says is working to sustain separatism between science and faith. Ultimately it is a “turf war,” writes Ross, that erupted a few centuries ago when scientific specialists and biblical specialists were competing to establish the ownership of truth.

First is a database difference. The canon of Scripture was completed at the end of the first century and is now a closed database, whereas the database of science is always growing with the inclusion of new discoveries. Second is the isolation of specialization, in which scholars who specialize in the various sciences remain isolated from those scholars who specialize in biblical studies and theology. And then third is the intellectual resistance people have to what Genesis records and what it tells us about reality.

By identifying those obstacles, Ross is hoping that the remainder of his book will help tear down any mistrust anyone has in Scripture.

Review and Critique

turfwarRoss is partially correct when he writes that the battle between Christian faith and so-called science is a “turf war” between specialists for the ownership of truth. Where he is mistaken is that this war did not erupt only a few centuries ago around the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, but it is a battle that began as soon as Satan asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said?”

According to Ross, unbelievers cite intellectual problems they have with Genesis as one of the motivating factors why they reject Christian faith. People regularly ask him why they should believe the message of a book that contradicts the known facts of science right from the start. He even notes how “new atheists” and popular skeptics like Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris openly mock the book of Genesis in their talks and written materials.Their widespread appeal and intelligent articulation of their views is compelling argumentation with audiences who are largely ignorant of what Scripture teaches. But is that entirely accurate?

I’ll outline a few problems I have with his thesis regarding the unbeliever’s resistance to truth.

First, skeptics of the Christian faith are not hostile to Christianity because they have an intellectual problem attempting to reconcile alleged contradictions between modern science and the Genesis record. They are hostile to the Christianity because they are sinners who have a moral problem with their creator. That is what the Bible clearly teaches throughout its pages, for example Romans 3:9ff., 8:7,8; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16;  Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:18,19.

Ross, and his RTB gang of apologists, could provide all sorts of airtight responses that soundly answer all the objections of a skeptic, but that skeptic will still find something to be skeptical about. As much as he wishes to think he is removing stumbling blocks to faith with his apologetic, it is doing no such thing. The skeptic’s problem is a rebellion against God problem and only a supernatural work of God can change that.

Second, a so-called “turf war” between Christians and skeptics vying for ownership of truth didn’t first appear just a few hundred years ago. Skeptics challenging biblical truth have existed since the world began. In fact, the NT church was forged in a crucible that involved refuting challenges to their faith, even during the time of the apostles. Consider that by the end of the first century AD, early Christian apologists began writing against skeptical Jews like Trypho and hostile, non-religious sectarians like Porphyry.

By the end of the first millennium, Christians were interacting with Muslim critics, and by the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholic apologists threatened the claims of sola scriptura and the other theological truths the Reformers were proclaiming. The challengers from the so-called scientific realm really didn’t come around until the last two hundred years or so, and they stand at the end of a long, long line of other sundry cranks. In all of those instances Christians interacted with skeptics long before the science specialists came on the scene, and none of them took Ross’s approach of constructively integrating the truth of Christianity with perceived “truth” found in their challenges.

Third, one may object that what Ross has in mind with “constructive integration” is specifically identifying truth from specialists who deal in the science pertaining to nature, or God’s creation. Seeing that Scripture speaks of nature telling forth God’s existence, it is entirely appropriate to apply constructive integration between those two areas.

Ross claims the Belgic Confession even confirms his constructive integrationist model. He writes, “Article 2…states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God, giving testimony to God’s attributes and handiwork,” [19].

However, he is overreaching.The entire article from the confession states,

Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God

We know him by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

Reading article 2 carefully, it is saying that God is known by His creation, which would be the nature part. That is standard orthodoxy with regards to general revelation. But that is not what he has in mind exactly.

Ross tends to overemphasize the importance of nature as a revelation for God, conflating it with the modern views of the specialists. For example, because cosmologists say the universe is billions of years old or geologists claim a global, Noahic flood could never have happened, those positions are considered to be legitimate revelation regarding nature. Hence, the biblical record has to be accommodated to explain that “revelation.” That is not what article 2 of the Belgic Confession, or any historic confession for that matter, is saying about general revelation.

What Ross is saying represents the so-called revelation of nature is really man’s interpretation of the nature, and interpretations that have only existed for as little as half a century or so. Such knowledge is not only questionable as legitimate, but it has not been accessible to all men at all times, a crucial component to general revelation.

Additionally, I take his unquestioned confidence in the findings of those specialists to be a major weakness for his apologetic. It is as if he just assumes all of them are biased-free and reporting their findings honestly. In many cases, they are not; but they have a significant agenda to promote. Any attempt to constructively integrate biblical truth with what Ross has mistakenly identified as the “truth” of nature is a major compromise that has manufactured a hybrid view that is comprised of truth, partial truth, and maybe even intentional lies.

Fourth, Ross has something of a troubling, continuationist view of natural revelation. He writes,

“The biblical canon…has been completed since the first century…AD. In the sciences, the databases never stops growing and in some cases doubles within a decade or less. Because scientists’ aim is to break new ground and replace old understandings with new ones, science claims exclusive rights to tell the unfolding story of what really happened,” [21].

He goes on to suggest there may be some instances when misinterpretations of texts need to be revised due in part to these new discoveries in nature.

That is an extremely dangerous position to hold with regards to revelation, and in my mind, it is the most disturbing area of Ross’s apologetic. He essentially places God’s special revelation of Scripture in conflict against the general revelation of nature. Whereas the special revelation of Scripture is fixed and unchanging, according to Ross, general revelation is fluid and can change every year depending upon what specialists discover. Not only that, those new discoveries can influence how Christians interpreted Scripture for centuries.

I am left wondering if he is aware of the significant inconsistency he has created? If new discoveries within general revelation can revise interpretations regarding special revelation, then what exactly were generations of Christians believing before those discoveries? They taught a view of Scripture according to what was a normal, exegetical interpretation of a text that is now overturned due to a discovery by specialists in a field of study. If this is the case, God’s revelation is in conflict with itself. How can Christians be certain that what they teach from Scripture today will not change next week depending upon something supposedly added to the database in nature?

Ironically, this continuationists, neo-orthodox apologetic of God’s revelation unintentionally creates a separation between biblical authority and nature’s “authority,” the very kind of separation Ross is attempting to bridge with his book. We will see it play out again and again as I work through his book.