A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

FeaturedA Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

In a previous article, a common criticism raised from Covenant theologians brought forth from promoters of Dispensational thought is Covenant theology promotes what some would call “replacement theology.” An article, promoting Covenant theology, brought forth a counterargument that the term “replacement theology” is alien to Covenant theology arguing that Dispensationalism promotes an Israel-centered grid when reading the Scriptures. However, it was noted that the term “replacement theology” is used intentionally, and was shown that there were theologians throughout the centuries that promoted the idea that the church had either superseded or replaced Israel when it came to future promises. It was shown by the biblical text there are exclusive promises that are given to national Israel that have not yet been completed, and if God fails to give these promises to the people whom He had addressed, then God’s glory is nullified.

In this same article, the writer commented that Israel was only an instrument God used to bring about what God prophesied to the serpent in the Garden of Eden

[Dispensationalism] assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. 

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Does Ephesians 2:11-22 prove that Israel was only a “means to an end?” A brief exposition of the Ephesians 2:11-22 will be examined below.

In the broader context of Ephesians chapter two Paul summarizes the Ephesian saint’s life before Christ, and that by God’s mercy they have received forgiveness (vs. 1-6). Paul also told them that in the future they will be displays of God’s grace, and how all of these benefits that were given to them was not based on any merit of their own but was all a work of God (vs. 7-9).  Due to this reality, they were to complete the good works that God had laid out before them to complete (v. 10).  Paul, in the next verse, discusses how the Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) were excluded from the “commonwealth” (this refers back to the back to the theocracy found in with Israel in the Old Testament, as the Law was specifically given to the Israelite people). Paul also wrote they were strangers (lit. “aliens”) to the covenants of promise (these are the promises that are associated with the commonwealth of Israel such as land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom). Paul writes they were without hope and God in the world (as far as these personal promises to national Israel are concerned).

Paul then explained they had been brought (or “made near”) by the blood of Christ and continued the metaphor of this spiritual reality by bringing up the dividing wall that surrounded the Temple of God. The dividing wall was a physical structure that was around the temple of God and separated Jew and Gentile. The non-Jew could not cross past this wall as it resulted in death to the gentile who crossed over it. Paul wrote due to the work of Christ these two groups that were once separated would be unified. Paul then underscored this truth by quoting from the Old Testament and gave the result of the work of Christ for the non-Jew: They are strangers and aliens no longer, but fellow citizens with the saints in God’s personal household. Paul also spoke of the foundation of God’s household which was built on the apostles and those prophets that spoke in the early church, and that the Gentiles are being built up in the Lord.

There are several qualities to note about this epistle. Paul could have made it very clear that the church is spiritual Israel or the new Israel as some past theologians have written. However, Paul in verse 14 used the word εἷς (“one”). Paul then further specifies what this number signifies in verse 15 by using the Greek phrase εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον (“into one new man”). If Paul wanted to express the church were one new nation he would have written εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἔθνος (“into one new nation”) or εἰς ἕνα καινὸν Ἰσραὴλ (“into one new Israel”). In addition, Paul uses other terms in this particular passage to describe the unification of Jew and Gentile such as οἰκεῖος (“household”), οἰκοδομή (“building”), and naos (“temple”). In other epistles, he uses the word σῶμα (“body”) to describe the spiritual unity of the church (c.f., 1 Cor. chap 12). However, Paul when talking to the Gentiles in explaining the reality of the Church never uses the word nation, or Israel, to describe such people.

Paul outlined the blessings that the Gentiles have been given by God in chapter one of Ephesians. The Gentiles had been made holy and blameless before God (v. 4), they had been predestined to adoption to be sons and daughters of God the Father (v. 5, 11). Redemption through the blood of Christ to be reconciled to the Father (vs. 7-8). He had given them “the mystery of His will” through the apostles (v. 9). There is an inheritance that the Gentile saint would receive (v. 11), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing the inheritance we will receive (i.e., their glorification) (v. 14). These details outlined in chapter one are important because in none of these blessings that Paul mentioned in chapter one are the physical promises Israel is to receive (i.e, land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom).

Furthermore, Paul used the temple as a metaphor to describe the reality of the spiritual unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ Jesus. However, this does not mean that Paul is making an argument national Israel is a means to an end. From the context, observing the words in their plain sense Paul is arguing that the ministry of Christ brings these two different people groups together and unifies them. The dividing wall, as Paul wrote metaphorically has been destroyed between the two groups, but to claim this passage is an argument that the promises directly given to national Israel are now obsolete when the words Paul uses in the text do not express this idea, is overstepping the bounds of the author’s intent.

The author in the article above seemed to imply that dispensational thinkers observe Israel as an end in itself. This writer would have to respectfully disagree with his analysis of dispensationalism. The end of all things according to the dispensationalist is the glory of God, not the nation of Israel. As stated previously the reason Israel figures prominently is that there are still promises that are given to Israel personally by God that He must fulfill. If God does not give these promises to the people He said He would give them to this will, in effect, minimize the glory of God.

Israel and the church are not juxtaposed beside each other.  As Scripture has revealed there are physical blessings that are personally given to Israel, and they are spiritual blessings that are given to the church. Ephesians 2:11-22 show that the Gentiles are unified with Jews (which was not seen in the economy of the Law). The Gentiles are fellow sharers of the spiritual blessings outlined in chapter one of Ephesians, and this is all a working of God’s multifaceted plan, for His own glory. Amen.

In Covenant theology, it is expressed that the body of Christ was seen through Israel, which served as a type and shadow that the church has always existed. In the next article, this author will contend that is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

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A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

In greater evangelical Christianity there are two major systems of theology: Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. Although there is a common thread between the systems (i.e., the glory of God), there is a major difference in how the glory of God is ultimately displayed. For the Covenant theological system, the glory of God is primarily redemptive. This redemptive plan according to Covenant theology is observed by God establishing two (or possibly three) covenants with mankind: The covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. In Dispensationalism, there are three qualities that govern the system: the doxological purpose of God (which this author would argue governs the two other  qualities), consistently observing the words of Scripture in their plain and normal sense (i.e., the consistent normal historical-grammatical reading), and the distinction between Israel and the Church (in plan and purpose). From a dispensational view, the glory of God in all of His works is the focus and not only the salvation of mankind. 

One of the common criticism from those who adhere to Covenant theology is dispensational thinkers have an Israel-centered hermeneutic rather than Christocentric hermeneutic, as one such website notes

The very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement.

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Even though the word “replacement” has not been used in the past, this particular use of the word has not been without reason. There have been theologians throughout history that have stated that Israel as a nation, in comparison with the church, is now irrelevant. Justin Martyr (130-202 A.D.) in Dialogue with Trypho wrote:

Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race.

Justin Marytr. Dialogue with trypho. Retrived from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxxxv.html.

Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), another early theologian in his work An Answer to The Jews made a similar comment about Israel, using the historical narrative of Jacob and Esau he commented:

Accordingly, since the people or nation of the Jews is anterior in time, and greater through the grace of primary favour in the Law, whereas ours is understood to be less in the age of times, as having in the last era of the world attained the knowledge of divine mercy: beyond doubt, through the edict of the divine utterance, the prior and greater people — that is, the Jewish — must necessarily serve the less; and the less people — that is, the Christian— overcome the greater.

Tertullian. New Advent. An answer to the Jews.  Retreived from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm

Those who subscribe to Covenant theology connect their hermeneutic back to the early church fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.), as one author noted:

In the history of theology, the elements of what we know as covenant theology; the covenant of redemption before time between the persons of the Trinity, the covenant of works with Adam, and the covenant of grace after the fall; have existed since the early church…Indeed, Reformed readers who turn to the early church fathers (c. 100–500 AD) might be surprised to see how frequently they used language and thought patterns that we find very familiar.

Clark., S (2006). The history of covenant theology. Retrieved from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/history-covenant-theology/

However, when a person observes Scripture in its plain meaning there are promises that are explicitly given to national Israel. For example, God promised Abraham’s descendants physical land that stretches from Egypt to the River Euphrates (as far as Egypt to what is now modern day Iraq) (Gen. 15:18). 

future-map5
The future borders of Israel outlined in Gen. 15:18. Retrieved from http://www.ahavat-israel.com/eretz/future.

In addition, God promised David a physical King that would come from his line and rule Israel on his throne to usher in an everlasting righteousness (2 Sam. 7:8-14). Furthermore, the promise of the new covenant is given specifically “to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Ezek. 31:31). The future promises that are given to national Israel are associated with the consistency of creation itself described by the prophet Jeremiah!

Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease. From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord

Jer. 31:35-37 NASB

How would a Covenant theologian explain the land promise found in Genesis 16:18? John Calvin in his works does not even comment on how much land Abraham’s descendants would receive but he comments the covenant in this specific text is essentially a shadow of the sacraments of the church. John Gill, another prominent theologian mentioned in his commentary that the River Euphrates was the boundary line during the rule of King David. However, there has never been a time in history where Abraham, nor Abraham’s descendants have received land by the Nile River in Egypt. The Covenant theologian, based upon a predominant “ecclesiastical” hermeneutic at the most replaces the promises given to Israel to the church, or at the least supersedes the promises of God that are given to Israel to the church.

By contrast, the dispensational view, consistently observing Israel in the plain normal sense, would recognize that these things mentioned above (land, king, and spiritual renewal) are given directly to this nation whom God has promised these things to. If God fails to give these things to those whom He has addressed, or if He exclusively transfers these promises to another group of people in effect this would diminish His very glory.  In short, the method a person uses to read the Bible (i.e., hermeneutic) is how one is going to explain the Scriptures.

The critique that dispensational thought employs an Israelological grid to explain the Scriptures is false. The system of dispensationalism has at its very core a doxological focus. It must be noted that Israel does figure prominently in the Old Testament and even the New Testament Scriptures. However, this is due to the promises God gave to them as a nation, and these promises are directly associated with His glory. 

There is no denying God’s redemptive work for mankind. Both Covenant and Dispensational systems acknowledge this. Both systems also recognize the glory of God as the ultimate end. How God’s glory is understood in relation to human history is determined on the method that is employed by each system. For the Covenant theologian due to the hermeneutic they use they observe the glory of God primarily in the salvific act of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. For the dispensationalist, the glory of God is observed in all His works, and this includes not only the salvation of those who are part of the church but God fulfilling the future promises to the people who will receive them, which is Israel.

Yet there are those who subscribe to Covenant theology that believe dispensationalists juxtapose Israel and the church. In the next article, this author will demonstrate from the Book of Ephesians that this is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

I have a YouTube channel where there is new content being published every day titled Urban Theologian Media! Please go and check out the channel, view some of the shows there, and if you like the videos please subscribe at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTKYllo-vyDe76Mpj4R0TOw

The Hypocrisy of Evolution and Man-Made Climate Change

The Hypocrisy of Evolution and Man-Made Climate Change

There are many scholars, educators and even theologians that are convinced of the theory that is known as evolution. The theory of evolution is described below

Broadly defined, biological evolution is any heritable change in a population of organisms over time. Changes may be slight or large, but must be passed on to the next generation (or many generations) and must involve populations, not individuals.

Evolution. New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://web.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Evolution

This theory was first proposed by Charles Darwin in his book The Origin of Species (1859) where he outlined several qualities found in evolutionary theory: Animals change over time (a process that Darwin titled “descent with modification”), all creatures in the world find their origin in a common ancestor,  the main process which strong traits from an organism are passed down for adaptation (a process that is known as “natural selection”), and different types of creatures come from the region of their descendants (what is termed as biogeography). The main ingredient of the progression of the species, according to evolutionary theory is large amounts of time, as one researcher commented below

Usually macroevolutionary changes cannot typically be observed directly because of the large time scales generally involved, though many instances of macroevolutionary change have been observed in the laboratory (Rice & Hostert 1993). Instead, studies of macroevolution tend to rely on inferences from fossil evidence, phylogenetic reconstruction, and extrapolation from microevolutionary patterns. Often the focus of macroevolutionary studies is on speciation: the process by which groups of previously-interbreeding organisms become unable (or unwilling) to successfully mate with each other and produce fertile offspring.

Forbes, A (2010). Evolution is change in the inherited Traits of a Population through Successive Generations. Retrieved from http://web.iitd.ac.in/~amittal/SBL101_Evolution.pdf

Due to the large course of time in history proponents of evolution have sought to mark out the amount of time that has passed from the start of the universe to the origin of man. Evolutionist place the beginning of the universe, which they believe started when “The Big Bang” occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. They assert the universe underwent a radical process of extreme heat and gases to become the universe of stars and galaxies we know today. Within our own galaxy is the earth, which is estimated by those who subscribe to evolutionary theory to be 4.6 million years old. The earth, much like the universe, on a much smaller scale, had a very chaotic and hostile beginning. A website details what this early beginning of the earth

In the very beginning of earth’s history, this planet was a giant, red hot, roiling, boiling sea of molten rock – a magma ocean. The heat had been generated by the repeated high speed collisions of much smaller bodies of space rocks that continually clumped together as they collided to form this planet. As the collisions tapered off the earth began to cool, forming a thin crust on its surface. As the cooling continued, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth’s early atmosphere. Clouds formed and storms raged, raining more and more water down on the primitive earth, cooling the surface further until it was flooded with water, forming the seas.

How old is the earth? (2015). Extreme science. Retrieved from http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm

The start of creatures who could walk on two legs (i.e., bipedal) was estimated to be about 4 million years ago, with other biological human advancements and developments evolutionist claim these occurred about 100,000 years ago.

So what does all of this information about evolution have to do with climate change? Climate change is defined as an increase in global temperature, which leads to the rising of sea levels and erratic atmospheric conditions. This is mainly due to the rise of the burning of fossil fuels from production and industry by mankind. It is the case that some who promote evolutionary theory believe that mankind is destroying the earth and point to the phenomenon of climate change as irrefutable evidence of this reality. However, to believe in both one would have to suspend the foundational beliefs in either evolution, or climate change to reconcile both beliefs. 

Take the advancement of fossil fuels as the culprit of climate change. In addition to the fact that fossil fuels are a natural source (hence the word “fossil” in fossil fuels), industry for human beings has been around for only 259 years (the Industrial Revolution began in 1760). Production, in the course of human history from the perspective of evolution, is extremely young, whereas catastrophic events that have happened due to weather and atmospheric conditions on the earth, whether man has been here on earth or not, are extremely old. For one to believe mankind has this much power to destroy the planet one must suspend the belief that the planet has gone through much worse than mankind in its long lifetime. As stated earlier the earth has endured molten rock, sulfur and methane atmosphere, raging storms, and colossal upheavals, meteors and asteroid collisions, magnetic pole reversals, and an extremely long Ice Age (which evolutionist believe happen 2.4 million years ago and lasted over 2.3 million years long!) that produced drastic changes on the planet over time. The point is all of these events according to the evolutionist happened before mankind even appeared on the earth. 

If one truly believes in the evolutionary theory then one also must adopt the belief that climate change has been occurring for billions of years without human intervention. Furthermore, it also underscores that a person must adopt the belief that the earth can adjust its climate over a long period of time, as it has done so in the distant past (if one believes that the origins of complex man were 100,000 years ago). 

Climate change has as one of its solutions for this problem the idea of population control. The fewer people there are on the earth, the more the earth’s resources will last and the earth’s climate will be preserved. However, this is also against the evolutionary theory due to the instruction of natural selection. Climate change assumes human beings will not adapt to their environment, with nature choosing the strongest to survive as a result of adaptation. Therefore, according to the solution to climate change, it is not nature that determines the progression of the creature, but mankind either volunteers or is coerced by external sources other than natural selection, not to populate for the sake of preserving the planet. To summarize, evolution and climate change at their very cores cannot coexist, because to assert climate change is to deny crucial information about the evolutionary theory concerning the creation of the earth and the development of mankind.

The biblical worldview (the worldview to which this author subscribes) concerning the earth and the climate activity within the earth does not teach that climate change is man-made, or the evolutionary theory.  The Scriptures instruct that God created the heavens, the earth in six literal 24 hours days and not over billions of years (Gen. 1:1-31; c.f., Exo. 20:9-11). The Scriptures do not teach that man derived from distant descendants of primates over millions of years, but that mankind was created in the image of God on day six (Gen. 1:26-28) and were personally created by Him (Gen. 2:7, 2:18-21). Furthermore, In terms of the weather and climate as mentioned in a previous article atmospheric patterns found in the earth are cyclical and natural phenomena that occur on the earth. It is the weather, in addition to all creation, that reveals the power and transcendent nature of God (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). 

Evolutionary theory assumes that over a long period of time, through many chaotic processes the earth has become what we know today. By contrast, the beliefs of climate change are in conflict with the fundamental beliefs of the theory of evolution.  If one submits to one of these perspectives, they cannot be beholden to the other. Furthermore, the biblical worldview contends against these two paradigms highlighting that God is the one who has created weather, climate, mankind and all of creation for His glory. 

Let us continue to look to God’s word to inform us of the cycles of the climate and the origins of creation. 

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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The Bible and The Implications of Climate Change

The Bible and The Implications of Climate Change

Many scientists, meteorologists, and climate experts are convinced of the catastrophic phenomenon known as climate change. NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) describes climate change in the paragraph below:

Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.

Callery, S. (Ed.). (2019, February 07). What’s the difference between climate change and global warming? – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/12/whats-the-difference-between-climate-change-and-global-warming/.

NASA in their description of climate change makes a distinction from global warming. They describe global warming as the extended warming of the entire planet due to the increase of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which has increased about two degrees Fahrenheit respectively. NASA stated that this slight increase in temperature is due to the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Although global warming is related to climate change it is not exclusively defined as climate change.

Due to this phenomenon of climate change, there are individuals who are concerned that humanity’s future is at stake if this issue is not addressed. A senator from New York had declared if the United States does not address the issue of climate change the world will end in 12 years. In addition, the senator also added that climate change is as serious as World War II.  Jerry Brown, The former governor of California, in an interview with Meet The Press discussing President Donald Trump’s agenda, said the President should make this the forefront of his presidency and said the following comment below:

I would point to the fact that it took Roosevelt many, many years to get America willing to go into World War II and fight the Nazis. Well, we have an enemy, though different, but perhaps, very much devastating in a similar way. And we’ve got to fight climate change. And the president’s got to lead on that.

Kamisar, B. (2018, December 30). Jerry Brown: Climate change challenges are as serious as those faced in World War II. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/jerry-brown-climate-change-challenges-serious-those-faced-world-war-n952446.

There are others who believe the overpopulation of the world, the increasing use of fossil fuels, and the consumption of the earth’s resources is intensifying the problem and that the solution may be to reduce the population at some point in the future. Even some believers, arguing from omission, holding to climate change are convinced that human beings have the capability to destroy the earth as author notes below:

As scientists, we know the importance of evidence; whether revealed through God’s written word or through creation. There is nothing in the Bible that says human-induced climate change isn’t possible. And there is plenty in creation that tells us that it is…there is only really one thing we Christians are called to do: to fearlessly express Christ’s love to others. In the case of climate change, how do we express this love? Through acknowledging the reality of the issue; supporting action to help others who are being harmed now, today, and in the future; and taking our responsibility to care for God’s creation seriously.

Hayhoe, K. (2019, June 19). Why All Christians Should Heed Pope Francis’ Call to “Care for Our Common Home”. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://biologos.org/blogs/archive/why-all-christians-should-heed-pope-francis-call-to-care-for-our-common-home.

However, should a believer hold to this stance regarding this climate change and the subsequent consequences of this phenomenon? Does the Bible observe the issue of the climate as a threat to the earth itself due to manufacturing, fossil fuel, and overpopulation? 

The answer is highlighted in the book of Ecclesiastes, whose author was Solomon, the king of Israel, who conducted a social experiment about life under the sun. He concluded in his survey that the purpose of man is to honor God and follow his wisdom concerning life (Ecc. 12:13). Solomon is also credited in Scripture as being the wisest man that has ever lived (1 Kings 3:12-13). This was due to Solomon petitioning God for wisdom to guide the Israelite people, and as a result of this prayer, God granted Solomon’s request (1 Kings 3:6-11). This knowledge is important because Solomon was making observations regarding life and nature from the wisdom God had given Him. In the introduction of Ecclesiastes and examining creation he wrote the following:

What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever.  Also, the sun rises and the sun sets, And hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses, the wind returns.  All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. (Ecc. 1:3-7 NASB).

Solomon details some of the natural actions of the earth. He observed there is a cyclical nature of the actions of the earth and even though there have been many generations of human beings, the earth will continue to endure.  King David in the Psalms connects the constancy of nature with the consistent nature and glory of God, who has created the heavens and the earth (Ps. 19:1-7). According to a Biblical worldview, the planet’s cyclical pattern as observed by King Solomon is the natural process of the earth and how God has established it. There are climates and regions in the world that experience alterations frequently and yet the earth, and the patterns that are found within the earth, will continue to remain constant. One recent study underscored this reality as climate researchers observed the glaciers in Iceland. The research revealed the rise in the temperature of the earth is not a new phenomenon. The results of the study are shown in the graph below.

Screenshot_2019-02-24-20-57-03
Whitestone G (2019). Inconvenient Facts App (version 1.0.24) [mobile application software] Retrieved from: https://inconvenientfacts.xyz.

This is not to say that Christians are not to be concerned and responsible for the creation and the environment.  Believers understand that the earth itself and everything in the earth, is created by God (Gen. 1:1), and one of the first acts that God had commanded Adam do it when God placed him in the Garden was to work the ground and care for it (Gen. 2:15), which underscores that man was to utilize the resources that God had provided in the earth He made. There are many verses in Scripture that speak of the grandeur and order of creation (Ps. 19:1-7). God is the one who causes the rain to fall providing nourishment for the earth (Ps. 65:9). Christians, as a good work, and to the glory of God care for the environment and nature (2 Cor. 10:31). The Scriptures also emphasize the physical kingdom of God in the future has with it the reality of the saints inheriting the earth (c.f. Matt 5:5; Rev. 20:1-6).  When God speaking with Job giving the reasoning for Job’s affliction points to the constancy of creation as His answer to Job (Chaps. 38-41). From a biblical worldview when it comes to the change of weather patterns and climate these are things that fluctuate irrespective of the usage of fossil fuels. In addition, climate change is not exacerbated by the overpopulation of the world since God commanded mankind to populate the earth (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:7). 

Climate change is a natural phenomenon that occurs on earth. However it is not due to the result of the actions of mankind, or the arrival of industry, but because the world and its natural systems are not static, but dynamic. The Scriptures are clear highlighting God is the creator of heaven and earth, and while generations of human beings have passed away, the earth will continue to endure forever. Mankind, according to God’s word is to reproduce and use the resources on the earth that God has provided (wood, oil, water, land, etc.) for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. 

May we as believers continue to marvel and be amazed at what God has made, as it all reflects His eternality, power, and transcendent nature.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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Human Growth & Development, & The Biblical Worldview

Human Growth & Development, & The Biblical Worldview

Human growth and development is a significant subject to observe in the discipline of psychology. How a human being changes across the lifespan and how they develop cognitively, physically, biologically, and socially is important. There have been many that have observed the behaviors that occur at certain periods of human development. Such examples include Erik Erickson, who developed what was known as eight stages of psychosocial development. Erik Erickson posited that each developmental stage had two developmental outcomes (a positive outcome and a negative outcome) and a crisis that one needed to overcome. If one did not overcome the crisis at each particular development they would lack positive qualities and outcomes in their life. However if one could overcome the crisis in that particular stage of development they would develop these characteristics as shown below:

McLeod, S (2018). Erik erickson eight stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved from  https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html.

Erik Erickson’s theoretical model has greatly influenced human growth and development and has been significant in writing countless textbooks, articles, and other resources on the subject. In addition, there was Jean Piaget, who observed how human beings, specifically young children and preadolescence, build their perception of the world. His model became known as the cognitive developmental model. He theorized that a human being, from the time they are an infant, makes sense of the world predominantly through the use of their five senses. Over the course of time as they continue to grow they acquire more skills in their development. The stages in Jean Piaget’s theory are shown below:


Life span development: psychologist and their contributions. Retrieved from https://ysglifespanpsychologists.weebly.com/jean-piaget.html.

Jean Piaget’s theory has also had a significant impact on psychology, specifically in the discipline of primary education. Many have developed teaching styles and instructional models based on his theory. However, despite the influence these men had in observing human growth and development there was one area of their observations that was missing, and this was the spiritual quality of mankind. For Erik Erikson, he believed that Christianity was a coping strategy one used to resolve the crisis that they were to face at a particular stage of development:

[Erik Erikson] used [Martin] Luther’s example to discuss in much greater detail than before the fifth stage of his eight-stage psychosocial schema, Ego Identity versus Role Confusion, as it culminates in an identity crisis. Martin Luther resolved his identity crisis, according to Erikson, by advancing a new concept of man’s relationship to God, thus initiating the Protestant Reformation.

“Erikson, Erik Homburger.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/erikson-erik-homburger

For Jean Piaget, he did not deny the existence of God and rejected Darwinian evolution. However, Piaget saw God as a creative force or energy and saw knowledge as the highest pursuit. Both theorists missed an important spiritual quality of the human being. How would this specific aspect in the context of the lifespan be observed from a biblical worldview? 

Sacred Scripture reveals that human beings begin in the mind of God. This truth is highlighted in the Book of Jeremiah concerning the prophet Jeremiah when God says:

 Before I formed you in the womb I knew youAnd before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Jer. 1:5 NASB emphasis mine

Before Jeremiah physically existed God had intimate knowledge of who he was as a person. In addition, the sacred Scripture also highlights human beings are not just physical beings, but spiritual beings, as seen in Genesis 2:5-7:

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Genesis 2:5-7 NASB emphasis mine

The sacred Scripture also underscores that God fashioned (or built) Eve from the rib of Adam (Gen. 2:22-24). David emphasized in the Psalms that it is God, by the means of conception, who had knit (or wove) David in the womb of his mother (Ps. 139:13). In short, man’s origin does not begin with the physical aspect of man, but from the biblical worldview, it begins with God.

The development of human beings across the physical lifespan is nothing short than amazing. In fact, mankind was created during day six of creation week and was marked as the capstone of God’s creation (c.f., Gen. 1:26-31). It is the physical development of mankind to grow and develop from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that reveals, along with the rest of creation, in clear detail God’s invisible attributes, power, and divine nature (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). Human growth and development also shows the reality of the curse of the Fall of man. Since all of mankind is affected by this curse this is the reason mankind grows old and eventually physically dies (c.f., Gen. 3:1-19; Ecc. 12:1-7; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 6:23). 

Although Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget observe some of the developmental changes in mankind they, due to their worldview cannot account the development after one dies physically. However, the biblical worldview does account for this aspect of mankind. Sacred Scripture revealed that one exists beyond their physical bodies, with complete cognition, intuition, and volition. For the one who believes in what God has said concerning Himself and His Son has eternal life, that is, they know God and His Son whom He has sent (Jn. 3:15-16; 17:1-3). When one physically dies the believer is carried into Paradise (c.f., Lk. 23:29-43), and is in the presence of the Lord (c.f., 2 Cor. 5:6-9). For living saints, the imminent appearing of Christ is in view with the reality of the rapture of the Church-Age saints (1 Thess. 4:12-19). Believers will be given a new body that will match their spiritual identity (1 Cor. 15:20-57). By contrast, a person who does not have eternal life will be ushered into what is known as outer darkness (c.f., Lk. 16:19-31). Prior to the start of the Eternal state, they will be resurrected, pronounced eternally condemned, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). The precise finality of man, from a biblical worldview, is not when one physically expires, but just like the origin of mankind began it will end with God. 

Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget contributed much to human growth and development in the discipline of psychology. However, both theories when compared to a biblical worldview are incomplete. They acknowledge mankind has the ability to learn and grow however they fail to observe the origin of why mankind does this: Because mankind comes from a Creator who has made mankind with these qualities. By this development, this underscores the invisible attributes and divine nature of God in creation. Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget acknowledge the reality of growing old, however, they fail to know the reason why human beings grow old. This is due to the curse of the Fall that all mankind is subjected to. Finally, both theorists acknowledge the physical expiration of man but they fell short in providing an answer as to what happens after man physically dies. It is the word of God that gives a complete overview of how mankind is to view human growth and development.

Let us as believers in Christ observe the study of the whole man in light of what God’s word has revealed. It is here that mankind is more than just a physical body, but a spiritual being whose purpose is to make much of His Creator. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

For more resources please visit: www.drluthermsith.com

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Special Blog: The Overlooked Reality of Transgender Identity

Special Blog: The Overlooked Reality of Transgender Identity

The Miss Universe Pageant was held this past Sunday evening. The location of the pageant was held in Bankok Thailand and there were a total of 47 contestants that participated in this year’s event from all over the world. One of the pageant runners was a person who goes by name of Angela Ponce, who was a contestant from the country of Spain. Angela Ponce was not the actual winner of the of the 2018 Miss Universe pageant (this honor went to the contestant Catriona Gray from the Philippines). However, Angela Ponce is receiving massive media attention due to the reality Angela was the first transgender contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant. Ponce, who was crowned Miss Spain in June 2018, mentioned the desire for the world to progress further as it relates to transgender identity when Angela commented to the Associated Press after the contest

“If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,”

Fitzpatrick. H. (2018). Angela Ponce makes history as 1st transgender Miss Universe contestant. Retreived from https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/angela-ponce-makes-history-1st-transgender-miss-universe/story?id=59859591

Angela Ponce’s attention and influence in regarding transgender identity and influence in women’s competitions has not been an isolated case. This year there was an event where a transgender wrestler in the state of Texas won a female wrestling competition. The previous year a transgender male won the girls state wrestling championship (it should be noted that she wanted to compete against the boys, but the competition would not allow her to do so because of her sex), and just last week a person by the name of Patricio Manuel became the first transgender male to win a professional match in boxing

How is transgender identity (or transgenderism) defined?  Transgender identity carries with it the idea that cultural norms and traditions have defined what one is to be when a person is conceived (i.e., a boy or a girl) in society. Transgender identity does not seek to be defined by these cultural and societal traditions as noted in this description below:

[Transgender is] an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Transgender. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Definitions. Retreived from https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions

There may be those who are convinced due to these recent trends that the world is progressing forward. Some believe that this may be a healthy expression of psychological and sociological development. Many believe this trend actually promotes equality. However there is one fact that transgender identity fails to observe: That in attempting to promote equality, it actually undermines it. 

Take for example the Miss America Pageant. The reality is a man, who took hormone treatments that altered him into (somewhat) a woman who participated has now received worldwide attention and accolades in contrast to the winner, who by nature is a woman. Another example is the young woman who took testosterone treatments because she identified as he. As a result of this she was able to overpower the competition and as a result, the woman, who by nature was a female, lost the match. 

What about the woman who identified as a man and won the boxing match? There are two things to note here in this story: This also undermines females because the woman, who believed she identified as a man had to be modified as a man to defeat a man the boxing ring. This underscores the overall physical differences between men and women. In fact, Patricio Manuel’s coach commented after the match below

“This is bigger than boxing,” Gomez said. “It’s for all sports. The story is, I don’t care who you are, what country you come from, what nationality. It doesn’t really matter. If you’re good enough to compete, you’ll be able to compete. All you need is a chance. I’m just happy to be a part of it”

John. A (2018). First transgender male boxer wins in professional debut. Retreived from: https://www.stargazette.com/story/sports/boxing/2018/12/09/first-transgender-male-boxer-pro-debut/2256858002/

This is the irony and the sad reality found in this above statement. It really is not about if a person is “good enough” to compete. Patricio Manuel did not feel that she was good enough to compete unless she modified herself to become a man and compete like a man. She had to deny who she actually was in order to become what she felt she was. No matter the amount of hormones Patricio Manuel, or Angela Ponce injects into them this does not alter the chromosomes, which has determined their sexual orientation. No matter what, in these particular scenarios, and many others, when it comes to transgender identity, equality for women (and men) always loses, because who a person is by nature is eclipsed by how one feels.  

However, the biblical worldview promotes true equality between both sexes. True equality comes from the reality that we are created by God, and are made in His image (Gen. 1:27-28). The Scriptures also mentioned the uniqueness of women as the woman was personally fashioned (or built) by God in creation (Gen. 2:22). According to these truths, there are some points that should be underscored when observing the Biblical worldview concerning the sexual orientation of men and women: That God, not man, by these genetic and biological means determines the sex of an individual (c.f., Job. 10:8-11; Ps. 139:13-16). This is irrespective of how one may feel about their sexual identity. In addition, the physical bodies men and women naturally have magnified and made much of God displaying His power and divine nature because He has given us the physical body (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). To deny this, or alter the physical body to reflect the sex we were not given does not honor Him, and in essence, denies the truth of God who created man and woman for His glory. 

In the paradigm of transgender identity, there is no room for true equality (in fact, if one was to raise these issues one would be criticized and observed as being intolerant of this position). True equality, from the Biblical worldview, comes from recognizing there is a Creator, who has made us according to His image and likeness. To deny this is to deny the very foundation of what true equality is based on, not “I feel,” but “God says…”

Let us continue to look observe who male and female are from what God has told us from His word. In this, we glorify God, recognizing the origin of true equality. In effect, we will serve one another rightly as we observe who we really are in light of His truth. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S. 

 

 

Did God Really Say? A Challenge To An Observers Analysis of Leviticus 18

Did God Really Say? A Challenge To An Observers Analysis of Leviticus 18

Within Western culture there has been an increase to legitimize and validate what has become known as the LGBTQ movement, which has several objectives: To promote and advocate for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer individuals, to change and nullify what was known as sodomy laws, which prohibited homosexual acts between men and women, and to end discrimination (and stereotypes) in social interactions in various institutions (e.g., business, academia, etc.). In addition, this movement, particularly, desires to challenge what promoters of this movement describe as “archaic and traditional social constructs” that are found in the body of Christ. As as result this has led to a translation of the Bible that alters the passages that discuss homosexuality, promoting the homosexual clergy in the church,  and establishing what is being labeled as “inclusive” churches all over the world.

There are others who have chosen to take their pen and write against what they perceive as prejudices attempting to make their case from the Scriptures that homosexuality was a sanctioned practice in the Old Testament. One such scholar by the name of Dr. Idan Dershowitz, in an opinion piece titled, “The Secret History of Leviticus” asserts that chapter 18 of Leviticus, the chapter that prohibits homosexuality, was not written by the same author, but by several authors of a long period of time:

Like many ancient texts, Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer. Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed. An earlier edition of Leviticus, then, may have been silent on the matter of sex between men.

D.I. (2018). The Secret History of Leviticus. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/21/opinion/sunday/bible-prohibit-gay-sex.html

He attempts to provide an even stronger argument that earlier editions of a law found in Israel allowed this behavior. He adds there were “editorial interventions” in this chapter due to what he believes is a sudden break in the flow of the chapter involving what he refers to as “incest laws,” as he notes below

Each verse in Leviticus 18’s series of incest laws contains a similar gloss, but the others are merely emphatic, driving home the point. (For example, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.”) Only in these two cases — the father and mother, and the father’s brother — do the glosses alter our understanding of what is prohibited. A law prohibiting sex with one’s father fades away, and a law against sex with one’s uncle is reinterpreted as a ban on sex with one’s aunt…What we have here is strong evidence of editorial intervention.

D.I. (2018). The Secret History of Leviticus. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/21/opinion/sunday/bible-prohibit-gay-sex.html

Based on Biblical evidence, I am convinced there are several counterpoints that make his argument concerning the explanation “editorial intervention” in the Book of Leviticus a risible explanation. They are described below:

  • The divine authorship of Leviticus: All throughout the Old Testament we observe the authoritative speech of God (i.e., “The Lord said” or “the Lord God said”) the term Lord (i.e. YHVH in Hebrew, usually written in all capital letters) is the divine personal Name of God Himself, and this name in particular highlights the supreme authority of God and His word. This personal name for God occurs 273 times in the book of Leviticus, and occurs five times in chapter 18:1-30. In this text, God makes it clear to the nation of Israel that it is Him who is passing down these commands on how the nation of Israel should conduct themselves before Him, not several authors over a period of time.
  • The consequences of the other nations due to these practices: The Lord, in outlining these prohibitions mentioned the overall reason why God does not desire this behavior. It is found in the proceeding verses in this chapter of the Book of Leviticus:

24Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled25 ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants

Lev. 18:24-15 NASB emphasis mine.

God was removing all of the former inhabitants of the land that was given to the Israelite people because there were nations that were defiling themselves by doing these behaviors. This included all of the actions that were described above passage. In fact, God tells them that they were not to practice these customs and traditions that would defile them, or the land they were to live on,  five times in this chapter (vs. 24, 26, 28, 29, 30). In addition, they were not to do these customs because He is their God, the Lord (YHVH). The reason why the nations that lived in the land were removed prior to the Israelite people because of their acceptable use of these practices, which were against God.

  • The word usage in the Septuagint in Leviticus 18 and the New Testament: The Septuagint is the translation from the Hebrew Old Testament to the Greek language. The word that is used for “one that lies” in Lev. 18 is the word koite (κοίτη) meaning “to bed.” (an idiom used for sexual intercourse). This same word is used of Paul, who was a proficient scholar and teacher of the Old Testament (c.f., Phil. 4:3-6). When addressing the churches of Corinth he writes:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate , nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God 

1 Cor. 6:9-11 NASB emphasis mine

The Greek word used here for “homosexuals” is the word arsenokoites (ἀρσενοκοίτης), which means “to bed men.” Paul used the same word found in the Septuagint and uses it to tell them that those who identify with this behavior will not inherit the kingdom of God.

  • An omission of historical precedent In his observation: In the context of Leviticus, the Lord was prohibiting behavior from the nation of Israel that was already a common practice in the ancient world. For example, there is history that the ancient Egyptians were involved with same-sex acts. This was not only true of Egypt but all of the other nations as well (as observed in the Leviticus passage above). In short the Lord was prohibiting them from conducting themselves with activites that were considered socially acceptable. This was also true of Corinth in the New Testament. The act of a male engaging in sexual acts with another was permissible during the time of the Roman Empire. Observing the context it does not make any sense that the Book of Leviticus would have an “editorial intervention” in an attempt to hide this behavior when it was acceptable and moral among the known world at that time. 

This argument presented by Dr. Idan Dershowitz is similar to the serpent who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. The serpent approached Eve and the first statement to come out of the serpent’s mouth was the question, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the Garden?” (Gen. 3:1) (before the serpent could undermine what God communicated to Adam and Eve the serpent had to place a lack of assurance in their minds regarding the veracity of God’s word). This narrative Dr. Idan Dershowitz is presenting is not about homosexuality or tearing down traditional social constructs in society. This argument is really about the authority of God’s word and how one can undermine what God has clearly said to affirm or validate what God has not sanctioned. Tragically, it is these arguments within the culture that prevent an unbeliever from hearing and recieving the grace of God in the gospel that Christ has died for the sins listed in Leviticus 18 (and 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Furthermore, it may lead a believer to lack assurance in God’s eternal word concerning where one’s identity comes from, much to their own grief.

Let us as believers be confident in the word that God has revealed. promoting the truth as He has given it to us, knowing that by the promotion of this truth God is truly glorified. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.