7 Views on Messianic Prophecies

Source: 7 Views on Messianic Prophecies

By: Brian G. Chilton | December 18, 2018

 

How does one interpret passages in the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a., the Old Testament) in light of the New Testament? Even in the conservative evangelical world, this issue has become somewhat controversial. In his book The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?, Michael Rydelnik of Moody Bible College argues that much of this dispute has come from a medieval Jewish rabbi named Rashi whose commentaries “reflect his desire to counter Christianity” (Rydelnik, Messianic Hope, 116). Rashi held that a prophecy should only be viewed in light of the current history transpiring when the text was written and not look to a future, messianic, eschatological prophecy. Many in the Christian community were eventually influenced by Rashi’s interpretation methods. As time progressed, seven positions on how to handle messianic prophecies developed.

 

  1. Historical Fulfillment. This is the view held by critical scholars (Rydelnik, MH, 28). This view holds that an OT text is merely the “outgrowth of history” (Rydelnik, MH, 29) and has little to no relevance to a future Messiah. Ironically, Rashi held this view only for those aspects that relate to the first advent of Messiah, not for the eschatological rule of Messiah.
  2. Dual Fulfillment/Sensus Plenior. Held by numerous evangelical and Roman Catholic interpreters, advocates of dual fulfillment hold that prophetic passages hold two meanings. One of the meanings impacts the historical time of the prophet. The other meaning influences the coming Messiah. This interpretation contends that Old Testament passages could often hold a double meaning.
  3. Typical Fulfillment. This category could also be called typological fulfillment. Many evangelicals also hold to this position which contends that a prophecy may typologically address the Messiah although it finds its roots in the historical context of the time it was written. The historical fulfillment at the time of the prophet served as a symbol for what would happen to the future Messiah.
  4. Progressive Fulfillment. Conservatives who desire both a messianic hope and a historical context will argue for the progressive fulfillment Biblical prophecy is sown and developed in a progressive manner through historical figures until it finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. This system is also called epigenetic fulfillment.
  5. Relecture Fulfillment. The term relecture means “re-reading.” According to this view, the NT writers re-read the OT prophecies in a new light, adding new meaning to the texts, to relate them to the Messiah. Critical scholars hold this view although some evangelicals have espoused something comparable to relecture fulfillment.
  6. Midrash/Pesher Fulfillment. Advocates of this view contend that the NT writers used the midrash method of early Judaism to allegorize the OT prophecies to apply them to Jesus. The trouble is that the style of midrash referenced was used well after the first-century. Proponents of the view hold that the NT writers could successfully employ the midrash method especially as they were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Mostly critical scholars hold this view although some evangelicals do, as well.
  7. Direct Fulfillment. The most traditional of the viewpoints is titled direct fulfillment. This view argues that the messianic prophecies written in the OT find a direct link in their fulfillment with the Messiah. The view contains two schools of thought within it. The first is the Dogmatic/Confessional Approach which holds that the NT is the final authority on messianic meaning. E. W. von Hengstenberg held this view. The second is the Compositional/Canonical Approach which holds that the books of the OT were written with a messianic intent. The NT writers merely interpreted the intent of the OT prophecies. Rydelnik seems to favor this view as does John Sailhammer and William Horbury.

It may be that some prophecies fit better in certain categories. Some prophecies may hold more of a direct fulfillment than others. But it is intriguing to me that most scholars before the time of Rashi interpreted messianic prophecies directly. This is an issue that needs further exploration. At this time after having read Rydelnik’s book, I am inclined to accept the compositional approach within the direct fulfillment category as most appropriate within many prophetic contexts, yet I can see the value in sensus plenior and the typological approaches. My biggest concern is that we do not become so shortsighted that we neglect the power of God to speak through his prophets. If God can make all that exists from nothing but his voice, then most certainly God can provide a comprehensive prophecy about a future person—his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

 

Source

 

Rydelnik, Michael. The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? NAC Studies in Bible & Theology. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010.

 

About the Author

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

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(Podcast 7.14.18) Is Isaiah 7:14 a Messianic Prophecy?

Click the following link to access the podcast. Source: (Podcast 7.14.18) Is Isaiah 7:14 a Messianic Prophecy?

Recently, host Brian Chilton wrote an article asking if Isaiah 7:14 is a Messianic prophecy, that is, does it refer to the coming Messiah? On this edition of the Bellator Christi Podcast, Brian further explains why thinks that this passage of Scripture does indeed refer to the coming Messiah. The passage in context also provides a sign for the king during the days of Isaiah. The prophecy works, as Arnold Fruchtenbaum suggests, in a double reference style.

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About the Host

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years, is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and currently serves as the senior pastor at Westfield Baptist Church.

About the Podcast

The Bellator Christi Podcast is a production of BellatorChristi.comand is protected under Creative Commons copyright. All rights reserved. The theme song is “Crucified,” written by John and Michaela Lemonis, performed by Crosby Lane, and produced by Mansion Entertainment (https://crosbylane.com). The views expressed on this podcast may not represent those of Bellator Christi or its affiliates. Be sure to subscribe to BellatorChristi.com to receive all the articles and podcasts in your inbox for free. Also, be sure to check out The Bellator Christi Podcast on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher and Google Play to subscribe for free.

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

 

(Podcast 12.13.18) Re-airing of The Morals of the Story (Pt. 2 w. Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett)

In celebration of their recent book award in Christianity Today, Bellator Christi will re-air the previously recorded podcast with authors and professors Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett on their book The Morals of the Story. This is part 2 of the two-part interview with the Baggetts. Hear the podcast by clicking the following link. Source: (Podcast 12.13.18) Re-airing of The Morals of the Story (Pt. 2 w. Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett)

(Podcast 12.13.18) Re-airing of The Morals of the Story (w. Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett)

In celebration of their recent book award in Christianity Today for their book The Morals of the Story, we are re-airing an interview conducted with authors and professors Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett. Catch it here by clicking on the following link. Source: (Podcast 12.13.18) Re-airing of The Morals of the Story (w. Drs. David and Marybeth Baggett)

Is Isaiah 7:14 a Messianic Prophecy?

By: Brian G. Chilton | December 10, 2018

More and more scholars are becoming skeptical of Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Bible—that is, the Old Testament. Michael Rydelnik notes that “Although evangelical scholarship still recognizes that there is something messianic about the Hebrew Bible, for the most part it sees it as a story that finds its climax in Jesus, not as predictions that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled” (Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 3-4). Yet, such skepticism is not justified. Sure, some passages in the Hebrew Bible have been stretched beyond its scope, something that can become a dangerous trend. Nevertheless, certain passages in the Hebrew Bible enjoy a status of being both Messianic in context and in its history.

One such Messianic prophecy is found in Isaiah 7:14. Four schools of thought have developed on how one should interpret Isaiah 7:14. Some hold to direct fulfillment indicating that the text only speaks to the fulfillment found in Messiah. Others hold to a historical fulfillment which claims that the text only addresses a birth of a child in Isaiah’s day. A third view holds to a double fulfillment in that the prophecy was fulfilled to a degree in Isaiah’s day and later in the Messiah. A fourth view is espoused by Arnold Fruchtenbaum. He calls it double reference (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 364). A double reference “states that the one piece of Scripture actually contains two prophecies, each having its own fulfillment” (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 364). After researching the passage, I must agree that in Isaiah 7:14 one finds a double reference. Although Isaiah 7:14 is among the most controversial of Messianic prophecies (Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 147), several good reasons exist to accept the prophecy as Messianic in scope.

  1. King Ahaz and House of David. To understand the passage, one must understand the chapter in which Isaiah 7:14 is found. Isaiah comes to King Ahaz while Ahaz and King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel were reigning. Yahweh (the personal name for God) tells Isaiah to bring his son Shear-jashub with him to meet Ahaz (Is. 7:3). Yahweh speaks to Isaiah again telling him to ask Ahaz for a sign (7:10-11) but Ahaz refuses (7:12). After Ahaz refuses, Isaiah turns his attention to the house of David (7:13) asking if they would try the patience of Yahweh. It is then that Isaiah delivers the Immanuel prophecy. From keeping the text in context, Yahweh through Isaiah is addressing two distinct groups of people. On the one hand, he is addressing King Ahaz. On the other hand, he is addressing the house of David. The Immanuel prophecy is given to the house of David and not to King Ahaz. King Ahaz’s sign was found in Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub who already reached the age of accountability and chose to do what was right. Ahaz was much older and still chose to do what was evil. Thus, Ahaz’s kingdom was coming to an end.
  2. Singular and Plural Language. A close examination of the Hebrew text shows a difference in the language used directed toward Ahaz as opposed to the house of David. When Isaiah is addressing Ahaz, he uses singular language and uses plural language when speaking to the house of David. As Fruchtenbaum noted earlier, the text appears to be giving two differing prophecies—one to Ahaz and one to the house of David. Since the Immanuel prophecy is directed to the house of David, it is not necessary to hold that the prophecy only addresses Ahaz and even his time.
  3. Present and Future Language. In the Immanuel prophecy, Isaiah uses the Hebrew imperfect verb yitten, which means “he will give,” to describe the timing of the prophecy. The imperfect verb in Hebrew describes something that is incomplete and will transpire at some point in the future. Thus, the sign for the house of David was a sign given by God to transpire at some point in the future. When? The text does not say. Therefore, it is completely appropriate to think that the text could find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah.
  4. ‘Almah and Parthenos. The Revised Standard Version translation made a great deal of waves in the Christian community when it translated ‘almah as “young woman” instead of the classical translation of “virgin.” Does the term refer to a young woman or a virgin? The answer is both. ‘Almah is almost always used in the Hebrew Bible to denote a young woman who has just reached the age of marriage who had not yet wed. ‘Almah is used in the following passages in the Hebrew Bible: 1) Gen. 24:43 used of Rebekah; 2) Ex. 2:8 used of Miriam, Moses’s sister; 3) Ps. 68:25 used in the divine royal procession, the virgins symbolize purity; 4) So. 1:3 refers to the purity in marriage; 5) So. 6:8 contrasts the purity of virginity with the impurity of concubines; 6) Pr. 30:18-19 also contrasts virginity with adultery; and 7) in Is. 7:14 (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 364-365). In Jewish culture, a young woman who just reached the age of marriage most certainly implied the woman’s virginal status. The translators of the Septuagint (LXX) understood this to be the case. The LXX translates ‘almah in Isaiah 7:14 with the Greek term parthenos which most certainly means “virgin.”
  5. Current and Future Understanding. Isaiah connects the birth of the child from Isaiah 7:14 to the prophecies given in 9:6-7 and in 11:1-10. Thus, the prophet took the view at the time the prophecy was given that this promised child would come at some point in the future. This child would be linked intrinsically with God in some fashion. But not only did Isaiah understand the prophecy in this way, other did also. Micah is one such example. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah’s, linked his prophecy in some sense with that of Isaiah 7:14. Micah notes that “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times” (Mi. 5:2). As already noted, the translators of the LXX understood Isaiah 7:14 to refer to a virgin in the 100s BC. Therefore, Isaiah 7:14 was recognized to be Messianic, or at least more prophetic than some modern scholars, as well as by early Christians, such as Matthew 1:23.

Isaiah 7:14 is a glorious passage that prophesies the birth of a royal, divine king that was to be born in the most miraculous of fashions. In our attempt to properly interpret the Bible, let us not be drawn to a hyper-skepticism that very well could combat the very thinking of the writers of the New Testament. They held the text to be Messianic not because they made it that way, but because that was the prophetic intention of the text.

 

Sources

 

Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective. Volume One. San Antonio, TX: Ariel, 2017.

 

Rydelnik, Michael. The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? NAC Studies in Bible & Theology. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

Source: Is Isaiah 7:14 a Messianic Prophecy?

Was John’s Use of the Logos a Jewish Concept?

By: Brian G. Chilton | December 3, 2018

One of the questions that people often pose concerning John’s Gospel is that it appears that John is greatly influenced by Hellenism—that is, Greek culture. One aspect of John’s Gospel that tends to stir this thinking is his use of the Logos in John 1. The Logos, or Word, was understood by the Greeks to be the wisdom of God(s) which was often thought to have been a physical manifestation.

I have often toyed with that idea, too. That is until I read Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum’s book Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective. In Yeshua, Fruchtenbaum contends that John is more closely aligned with Jewish theology than Greek philosophy especially with the Logos principle. The Christian view of the Word, Logos in Greek termed davar in Hebrew and memra in Aramaic, is a divine principle that is more closely aligned with rabbinical thinking than the Greco-Roman interpretation. As noted earlier, Memra is the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew davar which is logos in Greek. Fruchtenbaum argues ancient Jewish rabbis held that the Memra was a divinely embodied person, sometimes associated with the Angel of the LORD, or the Metatron (the highest messenger of God in rabbinic angelology). The Memra possessed the following six characteristics according to Targumim, a body of Jewish rabbinical commentaries on the Torah and other Scriptures.

  1. The Memra is the same as God but holds certain distinctions. According to Fruchtenbaum, the Memra is “sometimes distinct from God, but other times the same as God” (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 211). It appears that the rabbis left the paradox intact without attempting to explain how it was that the Memra was God but was distinct from God the Father. One such example of this is found in Targum Neofiti 1 in the comment on Leviticus 19:1-2 where it is written that “the Lord spoke with Moses saying: ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy, for I am holy in my Memra. Thus says the Lord your God.” This bodes well for an understanding of Christ’s divine nature while remaining distinct from the Father.
  2. The Memra is involved in creation. Fruchtenbaum notes that the Memra was understood to be an “agent of creation” (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 222). John notes that “all things were created through him (referencing Jesus as the Logos), and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (Jn. 1:3). According to Fruchtenbaum, John’s teaching is rooted in the rabbinical understanding of the Memra. The Midrash notes that “From the beginning with wisdom the Memra of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth” (Midrash Rabbah: Genesis IV.3-4).
  3. The Memra is an agent of salvation. Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus is shown to be the provider of salvation to those who receive (Jn. 1:12). This also bodes well with the Jewish understanding of the Memra as it was believed that the Memra not only provided physical salvation, but spiritual salvation as well (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 227). The Targum notes that “the people feared before the Lord and they believed in the name of the Memra of the Lord and in the prophecy of Moses, his servant” (Targum Neofiti 1: 14:30-31). Another rabbinical teaching states, “Here I am about to send an angel ahead of you to guard you on the road, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Beware of him and listen to his Memra, do not refuse to listen to him, for he will not forgive your sins, because his Memra is My Name” (The Targum Onqelos to Exodus 23:20-23, 69).
  4. The Memra is a manifestation of God. The Memra of the Lord was a way that God became visible. That is, the Memra was a manifestation of God himself. As Fruchtenbaum notes, God often manifested himself by means of light, fire, a combination of the first three, or by the Angel of the Lord (Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua, 235). This presence was often referred to as the Shechinah glory of God. The rabbis associated the Memra with the Shechinah glory such as the following midrash, “And it was manifest before the Lord that Moses had turned to see, and the Memra of the Lord called to him from the midst of the thorn bush and said to him: ‘Moses, Moses’ . . . And Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look on the Glory of the Shekinah of the Lord” (Midrash Rabbah: XIII.2). It appears that John may have linked Jesus to the very same Memra. Some Jewish commentators linked this divine presence with the Angel of the Lord whom they called Metatron. Here, I need to warn that Metatron is sometimes associated with New Age practices and Jewish mysticism. Some Jewish mystics believe that Metatron was a created being. Even if this is the case, John reveals that Jesus as the Memra was co-eternal with God. He was not a created being, but rather the eternal God who became flesh (tabernacled) with humanity (Jn. 1:14). Nevertheless, the theology is quite interesting when considering John’s use of Logos in his Gospel.
  5. The Memra is the signer of covenantal agreements. In John 1:17, the Gospel notes that the law came through Moses, but that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The rabbinical writers of the Targum held that the Memra of God signed the covenants established by the Father. One rabbinical commentator noted that God said, “I shall remember in my Memra the covenant I made with Isaac on Mount Moriah, and I shall also remember with mercy the covenant I made with Abraham between the divided parts” (Targum Neofiti 1: 42).
  6. The Memra is the revealer of revelations. John connects Jesus the Logos with the Father whom Jesus had seen (Jn. 1:18). The Logos came to reveal the Father to the world. An example of this is seen in the rabbinical commentary on Exodus 4, saying, “And now go, and I, with my Memra, will be with the speech of your mouth, and I will teach you what to say” (Targum Neofiti 1: 4:12). Another passage states, “She gave thanks before the Lord whose Memra had spoken to her, and she spoke thus, ‘You are the Living and Enduring One, who sees but is not seen;’ for she said, ‘Behold, here indeed the Glory of the Shekinah of the Lord was revealed, vision after vision’” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Gen. 16:13).

John’s Gospel is far more Jewish than previously imagined. Now, even the Logos principle, which has often been thought to contain strong Greek philosophical thought, is shown to have its roots in Jewish rabbinical teachings. Arnold Fruchtenbaum is to be greatly applauded for his work illustrating the Jewishness of John. If John the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel, which this writer argues that he does, then it would make sense that John would have focused more on Jewish thinking than necessarily the Grecian alternative. While it may be that John adopted some aspects of the Greek understanding of Logos, I think after reading the rabbinical teachings on the Memra of the Lord that John’s theology was more deeply rooted in Jewish theology than Greek philosophy.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

Source: Was John’s Use of the Logos a Jewish Concept?

Remembering the Reason for the Christmas Season

By: Edward Duke, III | December 3, 2018

Christmas time is coming! Hang the Greens. Put the ornaments on the tree. String the lights. Mail the Christmas cards. Buy the presents. Put out the cookies and milk. Wait! Did I forget something? Is that everything? I feel like I’m forgetting something. What could it be? I look around the room and notice a box under a table. I bend down and pull it out. It’s the manger scene. We forgot to put out the manger scene. I take out the pieces one by one: the shepherds, the angels, the animals, Joseph, Mary, the manger. I keep reaching down into the box. Where is Jesus? How can you have a manger scene without Jesus? Then I realized what I had truly had been missing. How can you have Christmas without Jesus? I stopped and prayed to God and asked him to forgive me for my carelessness. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I had forgotten what it is all about. I started to take out all the paper wrappings to find Jesus. I had become like a kid opening presents on Christmas day. I had to find Jesus! Finally, there was something small, wrapped as if in swaddling clothes. I carefully unwrapped the tiny baby statue and held it in my hand. Tears came to my eyes as I realized what God had done. He came from the glories of a perfect place with no tears, pain, or sorrow. He did not come as a mighty prince born in a palace. He came as a normal, ordinary, poor, homeless, infant. Not laid in a bed made of gold but put in a feeding trough. Not born with the announcement of trumpets but announced only to some shepherds in a field. Here I was in a nice warm home with many presents and more than I really needed. I was so wrapped up with my life I forgot that he gave up His for me. I knelt down and laid the tiny statue in the manger. I thanked God, my heavenly Father, for loving me so much. I thanked Jesus, my Savior, for living a human life and dying for my sins. I thanked the Holy Spirit, my guide, for helping me to see what it is all about. So, Merry Christmas and remember Jesus is THE reason for the season.

About the Author

Edward Duke is an ordained minister living in Pilot Mountain, NC.  He studied Music Education at Gardner-Webb University and graduated from Campbell University with a degree in Religion.  Since the age of 15, he has directed choirs and led music ministries in multiple churches.  He enjoys singing, preaching, and discipleship.  He also enjoys spending time with his wife and three boys.  He is the published author of The Kid That Got Coal for Christmas.     Note: The views expressed by guest writers are their own and may not reflect the opinions of Bellator Christi Ministries or its affiliates.

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

Source: Remembering the Reason for the Christmas Season

4 Views of Free Will

Source: 4 Views of Free Will

By: Brian G. Chilton | November 26, 2018

 

Are humans free or are they programmed to make the choices they do? This issue is prevalent within Christian theology. Calvinists and Arminians, and Thomists and Molinists continue to debate these ideas today. But this question is not limited to Christian theology. Jewish theologians of the first century held differing ideas pertaining to the limitations of human freedom. Sadducees believed that people had total freedom with little to no interaction from God. The Essenes and the Sadducees were polar opposites. They contended that God had predetermined all things and that everything was left to fate regardless of what one may decide to do. The Pharisees held to varying views in the middle which embraced both God’s sovereignty and human freedom. Even in the scientific world, people debate how much freedom people have as opposed to what is programmed in them by nature. The following points list out four views that people hold concerning human freedom: determinism, compatibilism, concurrence, and libertarian free will.

  1. Determinism: Fate with No Freedom. Determinists hold that humans have no free will and that everything is left up to God’s sovereign choices (Christian theism), fate (other religious perspectives), or nature’s hardwiring (naturalism). In Christianity, this view is held by hardcore Calvinists. Some Calvinists even argue that such a belief extends past what one would call classical Calvinism. Nevertheless, in determinism, free will is an illusion. No one has the power to change one’s fate. Of ancient Jewish sects, the Essenes best fit this category.
  2. Compatibilism: Freedom within Fate. The compatibilist view is sometimes called soft determinism. Most Calvinists, especially moderate Calvinists, and Thomists fit this category. Compatibilists hold that people have free will, but that freedom is restrained by previous events that limit the freedoms that people have. Compatibilists hold to an idea called event causation which holds that, like a series of dominoes falling, a person’s choices are determined by previous causes that preceded them. Thus, God determines the paths of every person by limiting what choices a person can make. A person’s choices are also limited by the person’s inclinations and desires to do certain things. So, determinists do believe that people are free, but that the person’s choices are limited and dictated by God and by one’s desires. For compatibilists, a person can freely choose whatsoever they can within restricted confines, but their choice is already predetermined. The Pharisaical Jewish sect fell somewhere between compatibilism and concurrence, which is the next view to be discussed.
  3. Concurrence: Fate within Freedom. Concurrence is a soft version of libertarianism. Molinists best fit the concurrent philosophical framework. Concurrent ideas are very comparable to compatibilism in many ways, however, concurrents maintain that people are responsible for their own actions despite what may have happened in the past. In other words, they are not simply a domino falling into a pattern, they are free moral agents.

Concurrent advocates hold that people do have limited choices, but God works through what he knows people will choose. Concurrence argues five principles: 1) ultimate responsibility—moral agents are responsible for their own actions; 2) agent causation—a person is the origin for his or her own sins and not God; 3) principle of alternative possibilities—each person has the possibility of choosing or refraining from a particular task; 4) will-setting moments—separating concurrence from hardcore libertarianism, concurrence holds that certain choices limits, reduces, or withdraws future free choices; 5) distinction between freedom of responsibility and freedom of integrity—freedom is a permission granted to a person by God, but that freedom (freedom of integrity) is not the same for all people; therefore, a person who is redeemed will have a greater range of possibilities from which to choose than a person who is not because of the infusion of the Holy Spirit. A person’s freedom of integrity is greatly limited in some people more than others. The more a Christian is sanctified, the greater range of spiritual possibilities the person holds. The perfected saint of God in heaven will have the greatest range of positive choices without any negative choices.

Looking at the overall sphere, concurrent advocates would hold that God sovereignly operates by granting people the best opportunities to make the best available choices while knowing completely what the person will choose. His knowledge of their choices does not impede upon their freedom to make their choices. Furthermore, God is still sovereignly moving but does so while allowing people to have the freedom to make choices, albeit limited choices on some occasions. A person’s desires may limit one’s options, but the person maintains the freedom to choose within certain parameters. As mentioned earlier, Pharisees fit somewhere between compatibilism and concurrence.

  1. Libertarianism: Freedom with No Fate. In stark contrast to determinism, libertarianism (or libertarian free will, LFW) argues that if people are to be free, then they must have complete freedom to make any and all choices. If people are completely free, then God must not limit our choices in any way. Some branches of Arminianism and open theism best fit into this category. For those who hold to hardcore versions of LFW, God does not interfere in a person’s choices. This is another area of distinction separating LFW from the milder concurrence ideology. Concurrent advocates argue that God may interfere to provide better choices for individuals. The Sadducees and Samaritans both held to LFW.

We have examined four views of free will. What one believes about the choices people can make shapes how the person views God’s sovereignty, his interaction in the world, and human responsibility. Both determinism and LFW are problematic. Determinism removes human responsibility for sinful actions and places the blame at a holy God’s feet. LFW resolves the issue of human responsibility, but greatly restricts God’s power and knowledge. Compatibilism and concurrence are both able to handle the balance of divine sovereignty and human freedom in ways that determinism and LFW cannot. Both compatibilism and concurrence hold many strengths, but in my estimation, concurrence might hold a slight advantage to compatibilism.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

10 Things For Which I am Thankful as an Apologist

Source: 10 Things For Which I am Thankful as an Apologist

By: Brian G. Chilton | November 21, 2018

 

Thanksgiving is upon us—a time to reflect on the blessings of life. I have many things for which I am thankful. I am most certainly thankful for my relationship with Christ and for my wonderful family. It is not often addressed, but it is not always easy on one’s family when a person is an apologist, and even moreso when a person is in the ministry. The time spent researching and studying may take away from family time if a person is not careful. I am thankful that my family supports me in pastoral ministry and in my apologetic ministry. But, as an apologist, there are certain things for which I am extra thankful. The following comprise ten of the things for which I am thankful in no particular order.

  1. The evidence for the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection. The evidence for Jesus’s resurrection is sound and strong, so much so that to deny the resurrection of Christ takes a larger leap of faith than accepting it does. A big thank you goes out to Gary Habermas and his research on this issue.
  2. The manuscript evidence for the New Testament. The manuscript evidence is so strong that scholars can know with 99.7% certainty what was in the original manuscripts. That is amazing! Big thank you to Daniel Wallace, Craig Keener, and Craig Blomberg and those like him who have researched this issue.
  3. The arguments for God’s existence. I have become increasingly convinced that it takes more faith not to believe in God than it does to believe in him. Big thanks go out to the work of William Lane Craig, John Lennox, and many countless others for defending God’s existence.
  4. The apologists who have spent countless hours defending the faith. I have mentioned some of the apologists in my previous points. Nevertheless, I am where I am today in my faith because of God’s use of countless individuals in the apologetic ministry. In addition to Habermas, Craig, Lennox, and Wallace, I must add Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, Frank Turek, Craig Blomberg, Paul Copan, J. Warner Wallace, Tim Stratton, and the list goes on and on. Thank you for those who have invested your time defending the faith! Thank you also for the early apologists for their work, as well.
  5. Professors who have invested their time in their students. I have many professors I could list here. Good professors make a difference in the lives of their students. I have been blessed by Leo Percer, Chet Roden, Chad Thornhill, Daniel Mitchell, Gary Habermas, Kevin King, David Baggett, Perry Hildreth, Ron Williams, R. Wayne Stacy, Stephen Lowe, Gary Yates, Kent Blevins, and many, many more. Thank you for your work, your lives, and your ministry.
  6. Pastors who are not afraid to address apologetic and theological issues. Unfortunately, there are not as many pastors involved in apologetics and theology as I wish. However, for those who are, they are trailblazers! I am thinking of Bobby Conway of the One Minute Apologist and Voddie Baucham. Other pastor-apologists include Anthony Weber, Carl Gallups, Christopher Brooks, Dan Kimball, David Robertson, Derwin Gray, Edgar Andrews, Erwin Lutzer, Jack Wellman, Joe Boot, Mark D. Roberts, Matt Rawlings, Mike Spaulding, Phil Fernandes, Rice Broocks, Tim Keller, Michael Boehm, and Todd Wagner. There are others I am sure I have missed. Thank you!
  7. The growing number of young Christian apologists who fervently seek to defend the faith. A revolution is taking place. A massive number of young Christians are becoming more and more interested in apologetics and theology. This is great news because they realize that evangelism must include apologetics! May the Lord increase the number of young apologist-evangelists.
  8. The growing number of women taking an interest in apologetics. Women are becoming involved in apologetics and are doing excellent work. I am thankful for Melissa Cain Travis, Melissa Pellew, Holly Ordway, Nancy Pearcey, VT Clark, Hillary Morgan Ferrer, Alisa Childers, Mary Jo Sharp, and many others. I also think about the ladies in the Ph.D. program at Liberty University which includes the first female graduate of the program in Amy Downey, also Merissa Davis, Michelle Johnson, Carol Twyman, Sherene Kouri, Lori Peters, Deanna Huff, Gabrielle Alexis, and others I am sure I have missed.
  9. Apologetic writers who have spend tiring hours churning out high-quality and sound books. This point is similar to the fourth. I am who I am today because of those who have invested their time in writing books for those who are struggling in the faith. That is the driving focus behind BellatorChristi.com. I receive no funds for the website. In fact, I have certain expenses in keeping the website going. I do what I do because of my desire to share the reasons for the faith with those who may be struggling. Answers exist for the questions that people have concerning the faith.
  10. Those who are, and those who have come to faith because of the evidence which illustrates that God uses apologetics as an evangelistic tool. Some claim that people do not come to faith through evidence. However, many conversions prove that to be a fallacious claim. The conversions of J. Warner Wallace, Lee Strobel, and Josh McDowell are among many that illustrate the convicting power of the evidence for Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the evidence for the faith to lead people to salvation. He may also use it to strengthen the faith of those who may be struggling. My testimony is also evidence of that fact.

I have many more things I could share. I have many more people for whom I am thankful. This list merely skims the surface of an ocean of thanks that we all should have. Most importantly, I am thankful that there really is a God who really gave his Son and his Spirit to all who would believe. So, no matter what circumstances in which you find yourself this holiday season, if you are a believer and have been impacted by the power of Christian apologetics, you have a lot for which you can be thankful.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

Do We Have Reasons to Believe in God’s Existence?

Source: Do We Have Reasons to Believe in God’s Existence?

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 23, 2018

Recently, news agencies filled the airwaves and the internet with the news of Stephen Hawking’s last book to be published and released posthumously. The book released on October 16, 2018 is entitled Brief Answers to the Big Questions. Hawking argues through a series of essays why he didn’t think that God existed, did not think it was possible for God to exist, and did not believe in an afterlife. He appeals to quantum mechanics and the bizarre behavior of quantum particles which seemingly appear to pop into existence from nothing to argue his case. However, it should be noted that quantum particles do not really pop into existence from nothing as philosophically understood to be “no-thing.” Rather, quantum particles derive from a quantum vacuum—a very physical thing with very physical properties and processes. Thus, while admittedly I am not a physicist nor a physicist’s son, Hawking’s claim is not honest with the scientific data.

This causes one to ask, do we have good reasons to believe in God’s existence? I would like to propose ten reasons why we can believe that he does. To be forthright, there are many, many more. These represent some of the more popular reasons to believe that there really is a God who transcends reality and a few that I think stand to reason by the very nature of the way the world works.

  1. Necessity of a First Cause (Cosmological Argument). Physicists Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin discovered a mathematical theorem which dictates that all physical universes, including the theoretical multiverse, must have a required starting point. There was a time when physics (even quantum physics), time, and matter did not exist. How did it come to be? Atheists will argue that it just is. However, the data seems to suggest that an eternal, metaphysical (beyond the physical realm), Mind brought everything to be. That Mind would need to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. That Mind is who we know to be God.
  2. Designed Creation (Teleological Argument). Hugh Ross has argued that there are over 180 cosmological constants in the universe so finely tuned that if they were to be changed by the nth degree, life and the universe itself would not exist. Even the theoretical multiverse would need to be designed to such a degree that it would require a designer. I believe wholeheartedly that physicists will eventually find design attributes and constants in the quantum realm if they haven’t already. Design argues for a Designer.
  3. Objective Morality (Moral Argument). Leaving the scientific realm for the philosophical and ethical, objective morality argues for an Objective Lawgiver. God is the best explanation for why objective morality exists. As Brian Manuel, a good friend of mine, said recently, “We can just know certain things to be right and wrong without even being taught.” He is absolutely right! People have an innate sense of morality. That comes from a Moral Lawgiver who we know to be God.
  4. Necessary Being (Ontological Argument). In the end, one only has two options. Either an eternal nothingness (meaning again, “no-thing,” not even quantum particles) brought forth something from absolute nothingness, or an eternal Being brought everything that exists into being. The latter makes far more sense and actually adheres more to the scientific method than the former.
  5. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.
  6. Science and Mathematics. Ironically, the scientific method and mathematics appeal to God’s existence. Scientists hold that the universe operates according to certain laws on a regular basis. The ability to do science itself means that human beings have been given cognitive abilities to observe the universe and, interestingly, have been placed in a position where the universe is observable. One must inadvertently appeal to the divine to even do science and mathematics. To add to this point, the beauty one finds in nature would have no real aesthetic value unless God exists.
  7. Historicity of Jesus’s Resurrection. One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’s resurrection is quite intriguing because he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead. For Jesus to have risen from the dead indicates that the one whom he mentioned did what Jesus claimed he would do. The resurrection of Jesus points to a transcendent reality we call God.
  8. Miracles and Spiritual Encounters. Craig Keener wrote a two-volume work describing the many documented miracles in modern times. While God may not always perform a miracle in every circumstance, a good deal of evidence suggests that God has performed miracles throughout history. Added with the many spiritual encounters people have had with the divine provides an added case that God does indeed exist.
  9. Near-Death Experiences and Consciousness. This is a fascinating area of study. Gary Habermas has noted that there are over 100 medically confirmed cases of near-death experiences where people have died and reported events that happened on this side of eternity which could be corroborated by others. The events described along with experiences of meeting God and the feelings of peace add to the case for God’s existence. Most certainly near-death experiences prove that materialism is a dead philosophy.
  10. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that “religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.” I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that “atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.”

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

The BGV Theorem: An Unexpected Asset for Christian Theism

Source: The BGV Theorem: An Unexpected Asset for Christian Theism

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 15, 2018

 

Turn on the Discovery Channel or the Science Channel and you may find interesting theories pertaining to how the universe came to be. Some propose that an eternal multiverse gave rise to our modern universe. Others will hold that eternal wiggling dimensions or planes collide to form universes. In 2003, three theoretical physicists discovered a theorem that dispelled the idea of an infinite regress of physical past eternal universes—infinite regress describes an eternal chain of past events. Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin developed the theorem based on the well-established fact that anything traveling on a geodesic (shortest point between two points on a curvature) through space-time becomes what is known as redshifted (when light or electromagnetic radiation from an object is increased in wavelength, shifting to the red end of the spectrum, or moving away from the observer).[1] The physicists argue,

“Our argument shows that null and timelike geodesics are, in general, past-incomplete in inflationary models, whether or not energy conditions hold, provided only that the averaged expansion condition > 0 holds along these past-directed geodesics. This is a stronger conclusion than the one arrived at in previous work in that we have shown under reasonable assumptions that almost all causal geodesics, when extended to the past of an arbitrary point, reach the boundary of the inflating region of spacetime in a finite proper time (finite affine length, in the null case).”[2]

While the language is quite technical, the theorem provides three unintentional helps for the Christian theist.

 

  1. The BGV Theorem pinpoints the need for the beginning of our physical universe. First, the theorem agrees that our universe had a beginning. Ideas of an eternal, self-existing universe is growing quickly out of favor in the scientific community at least at this stage. Our universe, the laws of physics found in our universe, and time itself had a beginning at what scientists call the singularity.
  2. The BGV Theorem pinpoints the need for a beginning of all physical universe. The BGV theorem is especially helpful in noting that not only does our universe require a beginning point, but all physical universes require a singularity. Any physical universe including the theoretical multiverse must have an initial starting point. Thus, while it could be that a multiverse exists, a multiverse does not get around the need for a starting point which leads to the third point that needs to be considered.

 

  1. The BGV Theorem assists cosmological argumentation for God’s existence. The BGV theorem does not prove God’s existence. But, it does indicate the necessity for something beyond the scope of the physical world to account for the existence of any physical thing. Experimental particle physicist Michael Strauss argued,

“As an experimental physicist I tend to draw conclusions based on what is known observationally and experimentally rather than on conjecture or speculation. So what are the facts about the origin of our universe? The equations of general relativity suggest that the universe had an actual beginning of space, time, matter, and energy and the BGV theorem along with the expansion of the universe would require that this universe had an actual beginning of the expansion.  Other ideas about the origin of the universe like those proposed by Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll do not have real scientific evidence to back them up. They are conjecture.”[3]

 

Oddly, while Christian theists are accused of holding no evidence for their beliefs, Strauss seems to indicate that the exact opposite holds true. Cosmological arguments like the kalam are strengthened by the BGV theorem. With the BGV theorem and other mounting evidence supporting the claim, one holds good reasons for believing in a transcendent God who brought forth everything that exists into existence.

[1] Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2011), pg. 498.

[2] A. Borde, A. Guth and A. Vilenkin, Inflationary space-times are not past-complete, Physics Review 90 151301 (2003): 3.

[3] Michael Strauss, “The Significance of the BGV Theorem,” MichaelGStrauss.com (January 28, 2017) http://www.michaelgstrauss.com/2017/01/the-significance-of-bgv-theorem.html, retrieved October 15, 2018.

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.