Transgenderism & The Biblical Worldview

FeaturedTransgenderism & The Biblical Worldview

About a week ago The European Congress of Endocrinology (ECE) held its annual event, which took place this year in Barcelona, Spain. This event is a gathering of researchers and scientists from Europe and all over the world to share new scientific research and thier findings in their respective disciplines. One of the presentations at ECE was a professor by the name of Julie Bakker, who was the lead researcher with a team at the University of Liege in Belguim. The team presented what they stated as evidence for the reality of transgenderism, which is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as follows:

Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.

APA (2018). What does transgender mean? Retreived from: http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx

Julie Bakker and her team observed 160 males who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a psychological diagnosis that is characterized, generally, by an individual who may have a desire to remove primary and secondary sex characteristics and are convinced they were born the wrong sex.  Julie and her team of researchers performed brain scans using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on these men and compared them with the brain scans of women, and these men who were tested were found to have similar brain activity to that of women. 

Those who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria are usually taken in to see a therapist or a psychiatrist for treatment. However, Julie and her team, due to their findings, hope that those who struggle with this are given more resources to assist them in their uneasiness about being in their own body. Julie Bakker, in presenting highlights this when she said the following at the ECE below:

“Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with GD, as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender…We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously.”

Transgender brain scans promised as study shows structural differences in people with gender dysphoria (2018). Retreived from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/transgender-brain-scans-promised-study-shows-structural-differences/

In addition, there are various religious institutions that have sought to deal with the issue of transgenderism. One such example is a woman by the name of Joy Everingham who became the first Methodist minister to be appointed to ministry as a transgender.  Another example was a Lutheran church in Hoboken New Jersey which a transgendered parishioner, at the main service, took on the name of “Peter.” With the culture using various methods and arguments to advance the ball of transgenderism how are those who hold to a biblical worldview to believe in terms of this societal movement?

In the book of Genesis, we find God in the sixth day of creation, declaring that He is going to make man in His image and likeness, giving them dominion over all of the creatures that He has made, and expresses He will create mankind male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). This creation of mankind is also observed where God took the dust of the earth, formed man, breathed into His nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Gen. 2:7). Later in the narrative, Eve is formed from the rib that is taken from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:10-21). God brought her to Adam and he observed one that is made just like him, thus the being was called “woman” (Gen. 2:23). 

What does this passage have to do with transgenderism? It was not until God breathed into man’s nostrils that man became a living being (or living soul). The point here is that the spirit of man is who a person truly is, not just the body that the spirit inhabits. A person may be able to alter the body, a person may feel uncomfortable in their body, but the true self is housed within the body, and this does not change, because one true identity comes from God.

In addition, Scripture tells us it is God who determines who we are (and it is biology that is the means for accomplishing this). In the Psalm, David glorified God in how he was fashioned in his mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13-16). Concerning Jeremiah and his call by God to be a prophet to the nation of Israel God says this:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “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 1:4-5 NASB emphasis mine

In the text, we observe that before God formed him in the womb of his mother He knew Jeremiah. God, in His attribute of omniscience (i.e., all-knowing), knew who Jeremiah was before Jeremiah even existed, and this included his sex. Once more this highlights that God is the creator and that one’s identity comes from God Himself, and not an subjective feeling one has or does not have, about themselves.

It would also appear one’s identity is static even after one leaves their physical body. One such example is found in Luke 16:19-31 concerning the rich man and Lazarus, where both of them die, are buried, and the rich man, due to his lack of faith is sent to be tormented. However, Lazarus is sent to be comforted in “Abraham’s bosom” (a place where those who believed in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob went). In this passage, there are several things to note in this particular text.

  • One’s identity is retained after death: Jesus said that the rich man, being in torment saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (v. 23). The rich man even asked Abraham for Lazarus by name that the rich man may be comforted by him with just a drop of water (v. 24). This highlights that rich man recognized Lazarus even though they were deceased, and no longer in their physical body.
  • Abraham addresses Lazarus as a man after death: The rich man, when requesting that Abraham send Lazarus to cool off his tongue with a drop of water Abraham replies, “…’Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony'” (v. 25 emphasis mine). In this verse, it is observed that Abraham refers to Lazarus as a “he.” This is after Lazarus is not in his physical body.

Researchers have observed biologically that the sex of an individual is determined by the chromosomes, however, this picture from a biblical worldview is incomplete. Brain scans, as interesting as they may be, should not be the factors for determining one’s sex. God, by His omnipotence, and sovereignty chooses one’s sexual orientation, which can be either male or female. The means by which His will is accomplished is seen in the biological working of these chromosomes. In addition, the physical body is an important thing, but it is not the only thing. One may feel that they are not comfortable in their physical body, one may even detest their physical body, and this is unfortunate, but this does not change the reality that the true identity is found in one’s spirit (in fact, it is not far-fetched to say that the physical body reflects the spiritual nature of one’s identity).  Furthermore, It is physical nature that displays the invisible power, divine attributes, and glory of God, which includes the creation of mankind (c.f., Rom. 1:20). However, a denial of this is a willful rejection of what God has made, which reveals the complete depravity of mankind who continues to deny God and suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18-19).

Let us as believers who hold to a Biblical worldview to continue to observe mankind, not only physical beings, but spiritual beings, whose true identity comes from God who has given it to mankind physically to display His eternal power, divine nature, and glory. Amen.

Until next time… 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

 

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Biblical Counseling: Integrationism vs. Dispensational Approach (Part Two).

FeaturedBiblical Counseling: Integrationism vs. Dispensational Approach (Part Two).

In the last article, the term integration in light of Biblical counseling was explored.  It was shown that the word integration was about the worldview, which is how a person perceives the world around them. Furthermore, when a person attempts to reconcile two different worldviews this is what the author had termed “worldview integration.” By contrast, a counselor, working from a dispensational system would not engage in a synthesis of worldviews but would reject all worldviews that were not compatible with a Biblical worldview.

This left two unanswered questions from the last article:  What does an integration of worldviews look like, and what are its implications?

In an article titled, “The Integration of Christianity and Psychology” Psychologist Sara Rainer gives her perspective on how to integrate Christianity with psychology. This author encourages you to read the article in its entirety, which can be found here. At the start of her article, Sara Rainer writes:

Secular psychologists operate on a biopsychosocial model of human development and behavior. This model proposes humans develop and operate according to biological, psychological, and social influences. Accordingly, we are products of our biology and environment, both bearing equal importance.

In more recent years, psychologists have begun recognizing that our spirituality impacts our lives, but have yet to say it is imperative for life. While the traditional psychological theories and models that are based upon naturalism are insufficient from a Christian worldview, not all of secular psychology is wrong. Indeed, there are many helpful and positive aspects of psychology to consider, which is why there is a need for integration.

Sara Ranier commented that secular psychologists operate on a biological, psychological (or cognitive), and sociological model (i.e., a biopsychosocial model). She mentioned that these aspects of man the secular psychologist focus on carry equal value. Additionally, she added that these qualities of mankind are not bad, however, they must be considered when counseling, emphasizing the need for an integrative psychology. 

Even though there is a benefit to understanding these aspects of man there is one thing that is missing from her paragraphs. Sara Rainer does not define the term secular. This particular word originated from the 13th century and is defined as “living in the world, and not being a part of a religious order.” As a worldview, the word secular is a term that focuses on the well being of man in this present life, without any regard for the afterlife (since there is a disregard for God’s existence). Sara Rainer admits even though a secular psychologist may find the spiritual aspect of mankind important, to the secular psychologist, or counselor, spirituality is perceived as a coping strategy to assist counselees with the overwhelming problems in a temporal existence. This is the reason why secular psychologists, or counselors, do not primarily focus on the spiritual aspect of man because their worldview does not account for this reality.

In another section of her article Sara Rainer writes that a believer who is counseling should operate on what she referred to as a middle ground:

As a trained secular doctor, I appreciate the biopsychosocial model of human nature. Learning about the complexities of humanity provides me with a better framework for understanding and helping my clients. The intricacies of the human brain, the environmental influences on our personality, and the social and culture impact on our lives remind me that pathology cannot simply be reduced to issues of morality or sin..

On the other hand, as a Christian, I acknowledge that all humans are inherently separated from God. This separation causes disorder, sin, and disease of every kind. However, we serve a loving and just God that provides a way out of our depraved state through Jesus Christ. He longs for us to seek Him and His promise of eternity.

Due to the love of this God, I also cannot reduce all pathology to a naturalistic model of humanity. I propose that Christian mental health professionals operate on a middle ground, the bio/psycho/social/spiritual model, which considers both our dignity and depravity as humans

There are several things to observe in these above paragraphs. Sara Rainer acknowledged the doctrine of sin. She argued the reason why there are diseases and illnesses was due to the curse of the Fall. She also endorsed that all mankind has a depraved nature and that Jesus Christ is the only hope to be redeemed from this corrupted state. Furthermore, Sara Rainer also admitted that mental illness and pathology cannot be boiled down to just naturalism, which those who hold to a biblical worldview can appreciate. However, within Sara Rainer’s article, there are several concerns to highlight, which are explored below:

  • Addressing herself as a trained secular doctor: Sara Rainer wrote that she was trained as a “secular doctor.” Even though she mentioned Christ and the forgiveness of sins in her article this is incompatible with the word secular, which she uses to define herself in terms of her training. As previously mentioned above, secularism, due to it’s forsaking God in its worldview, only seeks to find pleasure and purpose in this temporal life, and disregards an afterlife.
  • There is no “middle ground:” Sara Rainer commented that believers who work in the mental health field should operate on a “middle ground.” When it comes to a secular worldview and the Biblical worldview there is no middle ground. The primary presupposition of the secular worldview (i.e., “there is no God”) is antithetical to the central presupposition of the Biblical worldview (i.e., “in the beginning God…”). There cannot be a middle ground in terms of a secular and biblical worldview.
  • The bio/psycho/social/spiritual model: The word of God does speak on these aspects of man. However one of the shortcomings of biopsychosocial model is that it places the order of the spiritual quality of man last, not first. This is not consistent with Scripture where God created the man out of the dust of the earth, and it was only when God breathed into man’s nostrils that he became a living being (c.f., Gen. 2:7). In other words, the spirit God gave man animated the body. Therefore there should be a greater importance placed on the immaterial aspect of man, in relation to the material (perhaps the spiritual/bio/psycho/social reality). 
  • This argument assumes the biblical worldview lacks an aspect of mankind: Sara Rainer, in desiring to seek a middle ground between the two adds the spiritual to the biopsychosocial model. This assumes that believers need to add the spiritual component of man rather than recognizing it is the secular humanist that has removed this aspect of man. The biblical worldview underscores all these qualities of man because this perspective begins with the presupposition that God created mankind with these qualities. It is the secular humanist that borrows from the biblical worldview, not the other way around. 
  • The spiritual aspect of man in this model deemphasizes the doctrine of sanctification: The bio/psycho/social/spiritual model that Sara Rainer promoted in her article is one that is only concerned with the salvation of man from wrath and eternal damnation from God, which is important. However, there is not an emphasis in this article about the importance of positional and progressive sanctification under the grace of God, and looking forward to the blessed hope of Christ appearing (c.f., Tit. 2:11-14). While there is an emphasis on justification in Christ alone, there is an underemphasis on sanctification in the Holy Spirit (i.e., positional, progressive, and perfect).

This article is an example of worldview integration. Sara Rainer has taken two worldviews and attempted to find centrality between these perspectives, when in fact these positions, at their core, are diametrically opposed to one another. As a result of wanting to be neutral Sara Rainer has unknowingly given much ground to the psychologist who denies that God exists. In addition, it is more justification driven, affirming the gospel of Christ (which is important), but ironically it gives little to no emphasis on the life to come. Furthermore, there is still greater weight placed on the “here and now” only, rather than a “here and now” in terms of positional and progressive sanctification, and future glorification. 

Let us as believers seek to understand the aspects of man from what God has revealed to us within the pages of sacred Scripture. Additionally, let us refuse to  integrate the biblical worldview with perspectives put forth by secular humanists, who begin with an incorrect presupposition that “God is not.” By doing this we glorify our God and His revealed word, and we decrease the risk of adopting beliefs that could be potentially misleading to us and the counselees we look to serve.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

Biblical Counseling: Integration vs. The Dispensational Approach (Part One).

Biblical Counseling: Integration vs. The Dispensational Approach (Part One).

In the last series, we discussed the distinctions between a Reformed (Covenant) approach and a dispensational approach to Biblical counseling. It was observed while the Reformed approach uses Scripture and the Reformed tradition, a dispensational approach uses Scripture alone relying on a consistent literal-grammatical historical (and even cultural) hermeneutic to solve problems with counselees. As a result of these two approaches, both would result in different ways of how to assist people in counseling.

There are some in Biblical counseling who are convinced that the integration of psychology with a Biblical worldview should be pursued and encouraged. However, there are Biblical counselors, within the Reformed tradition, who do not believe psychology is not only unnecessary, but unbiblical, and should be avoided. Jay Adams, the founder of nouthetic counseling comments below:

Integrationist counseling seeks to combine the insights of psychology with those of the Bible. From my perspective, such counseling, though it purports to be biblical, is not, no matter how well intentioned the one who does it may be. The danger is that believers who are the subjects of such counsel think that they are being counseled to do God’s will, when they are not.

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/competent-counsel-interview-jay-adams/

When it comes to the issue of integration of psychology within Biblical counseling there are people on both sides of the spectrum of this particular topic. Furthermore, there are many other counselors who believe that psychology in the study of Biblical counseling does have merit, although some fail to tell us what these specific merits are. In light of this subject, one question from the writer’s observation should be asked, and answered: what is exactly being integrated into Biblical counseling? This writer submits several reasons below:

  •  The meaning of words matter: The etymology of the word psychology is “the study of the soul” or “the study of the mind.” It comes from two Greek words psuche meaning “soul, or mind” and logos meaning “the study of.” In other words,  psychology is simply a discipline, or a field of study, which a person observes plainly. Just like biology is the study of all types of life, and astronomy is a study of the heavenly bodies and phenomena found seen in the physical universe (i.e., sun, moon, stars, planets, orbits, etc.) psychology is no different than these other fields people engage.
  • Adjectives matter: When the name of a discipline, or field of study, has an adjective this describes how one approaches or perceives this particular field of study. For example, the term secular philosophy tells you not only the field of study being investigated but the worldview that is used to examine this discipline. The word secular describes to a person how he/she is going to approach the discipline of philosophy. A person with a secular worldview will approach this discipline without any regard for God and His truth.

So examining the points above what are we talking about when we speak of integration? This author is convinced when one is speaking of integration in Biblical counseling they are primarily addressing the worldview of the counselor. 

Our worldview is the way we perceive the world around us. If a secular counselor believed, according to their worldview, counselees are only made up of hormones and neurotransmitters (i.e., the material aspect of mankind), neglecting the reality of an immaterial spirit, then their approach, and goals, to resolving the counselee’s problem will originate from this perspective. By contrast, if the Biblical counselor, holding to a biblical worldview affirms the reality of both the immaterial (i.e., spirit) and the material aspects of man, then the biblical counselor’s goals and approach will be very different than a secular counselor. The biblical and secular counselors may even use some of the same techniques for their counselees, but the ideology of why these techniques are used will be different. This is what Gary Barnes highlights when he comments below:

“Some argue that the Bible and psychology are competing truth systems, that their sources of knowledge are different, and that their resulting understandings cannot be compatible. They conclude that an integration of psychology and theology is not only unnecessary, it is, more importantly, impossible.”

Cary Barnes (2006). Can Biblical Counseling and Psychological Counseling Somehow Fit Together? Retieved from https://voice.dts.edu/article/can-biblical-counseling-and-psychological-counseling-somehow-fit-together-c-gary-barnes

How do counselors, working from a dispensational system address this issue of integration in biblical counseling? The dispensational counselor, holding to a consistent historical-grammatical approach to Scripture, which is their ultimate source of authority, will refuse to combine any other worldview with the biblical worldview (this is what the author will call worldview integration). In fact, the dispensational counselor will be quick to point out, and reject, any other worldview that runs counter to Scripture because these competing worldviews ultimately do not support the sine qua non of the glory of God. 

This is why Paul warned the saints in Colossae not to be robbed through the philosophy, vain conceit, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8). All of these things Paul mentioned in this verse have everything to do with how one perceives the world around them. A person who integrates, or attempts to harmonize, a false worldview into the biblical worldview would be like placing excrement in their cake batter and mixing it before one bakes a cake. Just like they have spoiled their cake batter, they have spoiled their worldview.  

It appears there must be some caution in how biblical counselors use the word integration. Integration in Biblical counseling has to do with a counselor’s worldview. The trouble begins when one attempts to harmonize an opposing worldview to make it compatible with the biblical worldview (i.e., worldview integration). The dispensational counselor will reject any worldview that is not compatible with their source of authority (i.e., the Bible) using a consistent literal-grammatical historical method because they understand this conflicting worldview would not give glory to God.

However, this leads us to another two other questions: What does worldview integration look like and what are its implications? These will be the questions this author will answer in next article.

Until Next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

A Biblical Case For the Consistent Normal Grammtical Historical Method from the life of Joseph

A Biblical Case For the Consistent Normal  Grammtical Historical Method from the life of Joseph

The most important rule in hermeneutics, which is defined as the ability to explain (or interpret) the Scriptures properly is a technique that is commonly known as the literal historical-grammatical method. One such website describes the literal historical-grammatical method in this manner:

Literal interpretation asserts that a biblical text is to be interpreted according to the “plain meaning” conveyed by its grammatical construction and historical context. The literal meaning is held to correspond to the intention of the authors. 

Hermenutics. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/hermeneutics-principles-of-biblical-interpretation

There are several qualities to note in terms of this description of the literal historical-grammatical method. The first quality to note in the above description is the words in Scripture are to be explained in their plain sense in the context where they are found. A second quality to observe about this particular description is Scripture must be explained by observing the normal rules of grammar, and the historical context of the passage. Failure to pay attention to grammar and history may leave the reader prone to explaining a passage of Scripture incorrectly. The last quality to observe in this description is this method seeks to observe the original intent of the author. The reader is not to attribute their own meaning to the text they are observing (i.e., eisegesis), but to draw out (i.e., exegesis) what the author desires to communicate.  For proper application of the Biblical text, one must follow this method in a consistent manner. In addition, a corollary quality of the consistent literal grammatical-historical interpretation of the sacred Scriptures is the glory of God. Once the reader understands and explains God’s word rightly a person can think and act in such a way that gives God glory because His word is understood properly.

One such example of the consistent literal grammatical-historical method can be found in the life of Joseph, as recorded in Matthew 1:18-25:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Matt. 1:18-25 NASB

Observing the account of Jesus birth Mariam (Mary) had been betrothed to Joseph and discovered that she had been found to be with child by the Holy Spirit (v. 18). When Joseph discovered that she was pregnant, he did not condemn Mariam but made in mind to divorce her quietly (v. 19). While he was sleeping an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told them to take Mariam as his wife and that the baby that Mary carried was from the Holy Spirit (v. 20). It was then that the angel communicated the name of this Child, Jesus, which was associated with the purpose of why he was born, which was to save his people from their sins (v. 21). Matthew underscores this was a fulfillment of the what Isaiah the prophet had written concerning a virgin who would bear forth and son, and this son was to be named “Immanuel” (God with us) (v. 23). Joseph by the command given by the Lord through the means of an angel did what was commanded of him and took Mariam as his wife (v. 24). The last verse in this section tells the reader what Joseph did while Mariam was pregnant. The text reads that he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son (v. 25). In other words, Joseph did not lay with his wife until after she conceived because it was important that she remain a virgin due to the prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah.

How does this particular account in Joseph’s life highlight a consistent literal-historical grammatical hermeneutic? Let us observe several points:

  • Joseph understood the term “virgin” in Isa. 7:14: The Hebrew term for the word virgin found in Isaiah 7:14 is the word almah (עַלְמָה). Notice the angel told Joseph to take Mariam as his wife, however, the Lord by way of the angel did not tell Joseph that he was not supposed to have intimate relations with Mariam. The fact that Joseph kept her a virgin until she conceived the Child revealed that he observed this particular word in the book of Isaiah in its plain sense. 
  • Joseph understood the historical context of this event: Joseph being a Jewish man heard all of the Law and the Prophets. He, like all of the other Israelites, was waiting for the appearance of the coming of the Holy One of Israel to deliver them and dwell with them forever. In addition, this underscores Joseph’s response when an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Due to the fact that Joseph kept her a virgin until she conceived highlights that Joseph understood the historical context of the book of Isaiah and how God would send the Child through Mariam who would save His people from their sins. 
  • Joseph understood the original intent of the author: This point is highlighted by Matthew, who wrote this account to affirm that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who was sent by God. Joseph being an Israelite would have understood this well.  The fact that he did not know Mariam in an intimate way stresses he knew the intent of what Isaiah, inspired by God, was communicating to the Jewish people. 
  • Joseph understood this birth was tied to the glory of God: Joseph understanding this truth concerning the virgin birth was extremely important to the glory of God. If Joseph did lay with his wife at this time Mariam was pregnant, then God would have been a liar, and His word could not be trusted because Mariam would not have given birth to Jesus as a virgin. God’s glory hinges on the reality that God is faithful and truthful to all His promises. Joseph understood this reality and acted accordingly, and this gave God glory by His conduct showing that God’s word is indeed true.

There is no question that Joseph consistently observed this prophecy, and all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah in their plain sense, taking into account the cultural aspects and the grammar surrounding the context of the Old Testament. He understood that physical Israel would be delivered from their sin and idolatry concerning this Son who would be born of a virgin (based on the audience that God was addressing in the book of Isaiah). He understood that the nations would also be blessed by the Jewish Messiah and the deliverance of Israel (based on the prophecies found in the Old Testament). In addition, He also understood this Messiah would be King over the nation of Israel, who would rule on the throne of David (which was a part of Joseph’s lineage), and would bring in an everlasting righteousness (also discussed in the Old Testament). Joseph understood these promises plainly and consistently, and there was no reason for him to believe anything else other than what the original author had intended.

As believers let us consistently observe all of God’s revealed word as Joseph did, using a consistent literal-grammatical historical method. Let us observe the words of sacred Scripture in their plain normal sense considering the surrounding context of the passage. Furthermore let us also consider the original intent of the authors of the books of sacred Scripture, paying close attention to the history and the culture of the sacred Text. By doing this we will not only explain God’s word rightly, but we ensure God in what He has communicated to us in His word will be glorified properly. 

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

The Lord’s Supper, The New Covenant, and Its importance to National Israel

The Lord’s Supper, The New Covenant, and Its importance to National Israel

The Lord’s Supper is celebrated in churches all across the world. Although there are many variations of how this practice is celebrated in each fellowship (e.g., every week vs. once a month. Grape juice vs. wine, etc.) there is no doubt that believers are convinced this is an important practice in the body of Christ.

However, when it comes to this particular practice believers in Christ must not forget the importance of the New Covenant and its intimate connection to national Israel.

Paul writing to the saints in Corinth mentioned the New Covenant within the Lord’s Supper in his epistle:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

1 Cor. 11:23-26 NASB

Paul, writing to the saints in Corinth recalled the evening that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot when Jesus took the unleavened bread, gave thanksgiving, and broke it (which is customary at a Passover feast), and said the bread was His body, pointing to the reality that His body was to be broken for them. Paul then recalled the cup (this particular cup in the Jewish tradition is known as the cup of redemption in the Passover feast, which comes after the meal) in which Jesus says this cup is the new covenant in His blood. As often as they drank of this cup they were to remember the blood that was shed concerning Jesus death.  

This Supper is extremely important not just for the body of Christ, but for national Israel and the new covenant. Jeremiah in his book mentioned the details of the new covenant God will establish

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB

There are several details to note concerning this particular covenant in this passage. This new covenant will be made specifically with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (i.e., national Israel as a whole) (v. 31; 33). This covenant will not be like the Old Covenant  (i.e., the Law of Moses) recalling the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their rebellion (v. 32). God would personally write His law on the hearts of the house of Israel and Judah (v. 33). No one will have to teach them and God will forgive their iniquity (v. 34). The reason the blood of Christ is intimately linked to the new covenant mentioned in the Lord’s supper is that the death of Christ is the means by which the new covenant will be a reality for national Israel in the future. The death of Christ assures that national Israel will receive all of the blessings the new covenant listed above.

How does this relate to the body Christ and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper since the church is not national Israel? Paul wrote as often they (i.e., the saints of Corinth) ate the bread and drank the cup they were proclaiming the Lord’s death until He came (v. 26). When a believer participated in the Lord’s Supper they were proclaiming the Lord’s death, that is the means by which national Israel, and the church, is forgiven.

Second, the Lord’s Supper relates to the church is that it underscores the grace of God.  The new covenant mentioned was historically written around the time when Israel was rebellious to God (Jer. 31:32). They did not earn or deserve God’s favor and blessing. Yet it is God, despite their unfaithfulness who promises national Israel that He will complete these things for them (in fact, God uses “I will” seven times in Jer. 31:31-34). The death of Christ no one has earned, or deserves, but has been given due to God’s grace, which is discussed by Jeremiah and highlighted in the Lord’s supper.

Furthermore, when the previous temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans it may have been very easy to be convinced that the God was finished with national Israel. Especially after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD), there were many theologians and Christians that believed the church replaced national Israel. One such example is Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) who wrote the following:

“And when Scripture says, ‘I am the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, who have made known Israel your King,’ will you not understand that truly Christ is the everlasting King? For you are aware that Jacob the son of Isaac was never a king. And therefore Scripture again, explaining to us, says what king is meant by Jacob and Israel: ‘Jacob is my Servant, I will uphold Him; and Israel is mine Elect, my soul shall receive Him. I have given Him my Spirit; and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, and His voice shall not be heard without. The bruised reed He shall not break, and the smoking flax He shall not quench, until He shall bring forth judgment to victory. He shall shine, and shall not be broken, until He set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ 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 Martyr, Chapter CXXXVX. Retrieved from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxxxv.html. emphasis mine.

Even when the Israelites were scattered throughout the world the Lord’s Supper was to be a reminder that God would remember and fulfill His promises found in this covenant to national Israel. 

Third, it is a comfort to the believers knowing that as the Lord will fulfill His promises to Israel He will fulfill His promise to the body of Christ. Paul emphasized this when He wrote to the saints in Corinth, when partaking of the Lord’s supper, they proclaim His death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).  This underscores the Blessed Appearing of the Lord Jesus and the gathering of all the saints in Christ to take them to the Father’s house (c.f., Jn. 14:1-4; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Once the gathering of the Church Age saints has occurred, God will commence with fulfilling His promises to physical Israel. The new covenant, connected to the death of Christ, reminds the body of Christ as God has been faithful to physical Israel, He will be faithful to the body of Christ also.

The Lord’s supper is a wonderful practice that God has given to His saints. It points the believer to the death of Christ, reminding the saints of the grace that has been given to them, and how they are saved. It underscores the certainty of the new covenant promises given to national Israel and how God has not abandoned them, but that their deliverance from this present evil age as a nation is near. Furthermore, it gives the church age saints comfort, knowing as God has been (and continues to be) faithful to Israel, He will also be faithful to the church age saints. 

Let us as believers continue to remember and proclaim the death of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s supper. By doing this we are remembering the past and how God has given us His Son for our redemption, but we are also looking forward to the future, not just our deliverance, but the ultimate deliverance of physical Israel, because we understand by this God is most glorified. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

Artifical Intelligence and The Nature of Evil

Artifical Intelligence and The Nature of Evil

In the previous article artificial intelligence, human beings, and human rights were examined. It was observed that even though artificial intelligence may resemble the characteristics of human beings this does not make “humanoids” (i.e., artificial intelligence with the physical features of men and women) human beings. What makes human beings unique is the reality they are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), humans have a spirit within them that lives eternally (i.e., the “breath of life”) (Gen. 2:7). It is this quality that makes man distinct from every creature on the planet. In terms of artificial intelligence “humanoids” should not be given human rights because intrinsically they are not human beings. 

In light of this rising and developing technology, there are people who are increasingly concerned about the nature of artificial intelligence.  Stephen Hawkins in a conference lecture in Lisbon, Portugal expressed his concern about artificial intelligence:

“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it…Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it…AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.”

Hannah Osborne. Stephen Hawking AI warning: Artficial intelligence could destroy civilization. Retrived from: http://www.newsweek.com/stephen-hawking-artificial-intelligence-warning-destroy-civilization-703630.

Stephen Hawking suggested mankind needs to discover another planet in the galaxy in order to survive. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and futurist, also shares his grim outlook on the potential evil nature of AI:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful…With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.” 

Cited by Samuel Gibbs (2014). Ed. Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat. Retrived from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/27/elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-ai-biggest-existential-threat.

Elon Musk’s desire is to colonize Mars within the next 7 years for the purpose of avoiding the extinction of humanity. Could artificial intelligence become so self-aware that it eventually becomes an evil machine (e.g,. Skynet from the Terminator franchise) capable of destroying mankind? How does a biblical worldview address artificial intelligence and the nature of evil?

Genesis chapter 3:1-15 gives the account of the serpent who deceived Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 1:1-6). Adam also transgressed against God (v. 6). As a result of Adam’s actions, this brought death into the world for all of mankind (Gen. 3:19). Additionally, there was another quality that invaded creation, and this was the evil intent found within man:

5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky ; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Genesis 6:5-7 NASB emphasis mine

Jesus also highlights this reality concerning mankind and evil. Jesus discussing this to Peter about how mankind becomes unclean before God states the following:

Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated ? 18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications , thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

Matthew 15:16-20 NASB emphasis mine

From a Biblical perspective, a human being need not fear artificial intelligence but should have a healthy fear of the architects behind AI, and their intent to build it. Mankind has used technology for many good things. From automobiles, airplanes, household computers, cell phones, prosthetic limbs, and modern medicine mankind has created many things for the benefit of mankind. By contrast, from human trafficking, pornography, genocide, and computer viruses mankind, due to its evil nature, has used technology for dark and destructive purposes. The same reasoning can be used for artificial intelligence. It can be used to do wonderful things for mankind, or it can be used to do evil things to mankind. However, the evil that it is capable of exhibiting will not be due to an artificial intelligence’s intrinsic nature to become evil. If artificial intelligence becomes corrupt, it will be because mankind programmed it to exhibit this behavior.

For Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and others in the engineering, ethics, and scientific community to sound the alarm concerning the dangers of artificial intelligence is understandable. This frontier is new and exciting, and we as human beings have only begun to scratch the surface of all the things we can accomplish with AI. However, their perspective of the intrinsic dangers of AI is misguided. When observing artificial intelligence and the nature of evil from a Biblical worldview the problem, as Scripture reveals, does not lie with the AI itself, but with the nature of mankind who builds them.

Artificial intelligence has already proven to be very useful. Artificial intelligence has been placed on our cell phones where they can recognize our voices and our fingerprints to make our phones more secure. Artifical intelligence is changing the way medical practitioners diagnose, training machines equipped with AI to recognize certain illnesses and diseases. In addition, it is possible that artificial intelligence could be used to assist Bible translators in other countries to translate the Bible more rapidly than they did in the past. However, it would not be far-fetched to say artificial intelligence will also be used for evil means because of the evil in men’s hearts. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, this has always been the pattern.

Let us as Christians, promoting a Biblical worldview be amazed at the living in this time of wonderful technological advances. Artifical intelligence highlights the imago Dei and how God has created mankind with creativity and intellect to build AI, for the service of mankind, to the glory of God. However, let us as believers have a healthy respect for this technology, not for fear of a hostile takeover of evil robots who may develop an intrinsic nature of evil, but understanding the total depravity of man, and that evil originates in the very heart of mankind.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

 

Artifical Intelligence, Human Rights, and A Biblical Worldview

Artifical Intelligence, Human Rights, and A Biblical Worldview

Artifical Intelligence has been receiving much attention in recent months. The first inklings of artificial intelligence were seen in 2011 when a supercomputer named “Watson” in the game show Jeopardy beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of the greatest Jeopardy players to date. Ever since this epic win by “Watson” the topic of artificial intelligence has been slowly, but surely, become a hot topic around the world.

Since then there have been many developments in the technology of artificial intelligence.  There are many companies and products that are already using artificial intelligence like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix to improve lives in the way people search the Internet, shop, and live. Additionally, there are organizations who are working with artificial intelligence that may have even greater ambitions than just using it for making personal suggestions to the consumer.  In March of 2016, a robot made from Deepmind, a company funded by Google, defeated the top GO player in the world in five rounds.  In July 2017 Facebook conducted an experiment in which they tested AI robots with the task of negotiating with one another. The result was the two “chatbots” seemingly developed their own way of communicating using the English language.  In October 2017 Saudi Arabia in a historic move granted Arab citizenship to an artificial intelligence robot named “Sofia.” It appears in the not too distant future, we may be talking and chatting with robots who will be able to resemble physical and emotional characteristics of human beings.

With this science fiction becoming reality there are many people who welcome artificial intelligence and observe this as a great benefit to business, education, and commerce. However, there are many who oppose this move forward convinced this is opening Pandora’s box. Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned scientist when expressing his thoughts concerning artificial intelligence commented

the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race

Cited by Rory Cellan-Jones. Stephen hawking warns artifical intelligence could end mankind. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540.

Elon Musk, creator of Tesla and SpaceX shares some of the same fears of Stephen Hawking when had this to say about artificial intelligence:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful…With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out,” 

Cited by Samuel Gibbs (2014). Ed. Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat. Retrived from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/27/elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-ai-biggest-existential-threat.

As we enter into this brave new world there are many questions that are being posed by philosophers, scientist, and ethicists alike: What are we to make of artificial intelligence when we are literally are face to face interacting with machines that very much resembles human life? Should the government regulate this technology? When robots are walking among us should we grant them human rights? All these questions are good questions, and this writer is convinced that a Biblical perspective can answer all of these inquiries. All of these questions will not be examined at this time. However, in terms of this article, the topic of robots and human rights in light of a Biblical worldview will be examined. 

In Genesis chapters one and two, we observe the account of the creation of mankind. After six days when God creates the universe, earth, and all of the vegetation and creatures within the earth He turns His attention to male and female, creating them in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). It is God who blessed them and told them to multiply and fill the earth, originally giving them rule over the creatures that He had made (Gen. 1:28). He also provided them food to eat (Gen. 1:29). They were created by God with the faculties, abilities, and nature to complete what God had commanded them to do. 

In chapter one it is told that God created male and female however in chapter two it is revealed how He accomplished this. God takes the dust of the earth and forms man and then breathes (Heb. word nĕshamah) into His nostrils (Gen. 2:5-7). It is here the Scripture says that the man, who God created became a living being (Gen. 2:7). It was only after God breathed into the man when he became a living active person. This emphasizes that man has been given a spirit by God that is unique only to man and woman, and no other created thing.

So what does this have to do with artificial intelligence and human rights? No matter how intelligent a robot becomes, or no matter how much it resembles a human being, intrinsically it is not a human being. The unique quality is that we have been given a spirit, and are personally fashioned by God in the womb (c.f., Ps. 139:13-16). A humanoid is not born like a human being, it is created by human beings. Artificial intelligence may have the ability to learn on its own however it has been built by human beings to do this very thing. When a humanoid “dies” it just becomes a heap of metal, moving electronic components, wires, and latex skin, nothing more.

In addition, God has set eternity in the heart of man, which causes mankind to question their own existence (Ecc. 3:11). When a human being dies their spirit goes to God (Ecc. 3:21), and in the coming ages all those human beings who have died will be resurrected and judged by God Himself (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:1-6; Rev. 20:11-16). No robot equipped with artificial intelligence will be judged by God because they do not possess the qualities of a spirit.

Human rights are established because all human beings should be treated with equal respect and dignity, which also is found in the Biblical worldview. This is highlighted in Scripture when God gave Noah the command not to murder because mankind is made in the image of God (c.f., Gen. 9:6). Human life, because of the Creator, is to be respected. This is a right that comes from God concerning human beings. This does not extend to humanoids.

Artifical intelligence has the potential for great things, and of course destructive things. According to a Biblical perspective, human rights are only reserved for human beings, who are fashioned in God’s image. It is the reality that man and woman have a spirit that makes mankind God’s unique creation on earth. As we marvel at how artificial intelligence is being made by the hands of men let us also marvel even more at not just how we are made, but who has made us, in His image and likeness, lives in us, and will dwell us forever. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.