(Podcast 9.14.18) Who Was the Other Apostle Who Left John the Baptist to Follow Jesus?

Source: (Podcast 9.14.18) Who Was the Other Apostle Who Left John the Baptist to Follow Jesus?

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Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

Source: Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

By: Brian G. Chilton | September 10, 2018

 

The Gospel of John has been one of my favorite Gospels since I first started studying the Bible. The Gospel of John is theologically rich as well as historically accurate. One of the important sections of John’s Gospel is found in its opening chapter. John says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it . . . He was in the world, and the world was created though him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be the children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 10-14a).[1]

 

The best evidence suggests that John the apostle wrote these words. John bar Zebedee is confirmed as the author both by internal and external evidence (especially by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, and later Eusebius).

John also confirms an additional segment of information in his first letter. He writes, “This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well” (1 John 2:22-23). That is to say, the truth is that Jesus is the Word as described in John chapter 1. If one denies this truth, then one denies a core fundamental of the faith.

Such information is important to know because John chapter 1 combats three modern forms of theology that must be eschewed by the believer who seeks to accept the truth of God’s word. These three false modern doctrines will be described in this article. Note, however, that I realize that there are many good people in the groups I will discuss. Their problem is theological and not necessarily moral. Good people can hold to bad theology.

John 1 Combats Jehovah Witness/Arian Theology. The Jehovah Witness movement was started by one Charles Taze Russell. Their theology is not that original in scope as they borrow from an ancient heresy known as Arianism. Arius of Alexandria (256-336 AD) was a presbyter who formulated the idea that Jesus was not really God, but rather an archangel. Jesus was the first created being according to Arian theology. Arianism was successfully combated by Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 AD) who stood for the orthodox Christian view that Jesus was God come in the flesh. Athanasius’s victory was not without cost. He was exiled at least three times until it was finally resolved that Athanasius’s view corresponded with biblical truth.

Unfortunately, in today’s fragmented ecclesiastical structure, there is not as much church authority to combat false doctrines such as Arianism. For that reason, Charles Taze Russell’s theology was able to succeed. He developed a very similar doctrine as Arius’s and formulated the Jehovah Witness movement. Yet, John 1 stands opposed to any claim that Jesus was merely an angel. Jesus was God (Jn. 1:1) and not a mere angelic entity. Thus, the Jehovah Witness doctrine finds itself falling short from biblical orthodoxy just as Arius’s view did.

 

John 1 Combats Mormon Theology. Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont on December 23, 1805. Smith claimed to have seen an angel by the name of Moroni who supposedly gave Smith a newer testament called the Book of Mormon which describes how the risen Jesus purportedly visited a group of Native Americans known as the Nephites. According to Mormon theology, Jesus was the first spirit-child originating from the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother. However, John 1 greatly combats that idea. Jesus is presented as being co-eternal with the Father. Thus, Jesus was not the first spirit-child. Rather, Jesus was God who existed since from before the beginning of all creation and who came in flesh “and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a).

 

John 1 Combats New Age Theology. New Age theology holds that each person is his/her own god. Ironically, it seems that false doctrines deescalate the person of Jesus and elevate the human being, whereas orthodoxy elevates the persona of Jesus and deescalates humanity. Nevertheless, John 1 teaches that “all things were created through [Jesus], and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (Jn. 1:3). Thus, if “all things” (Gk. panta) really means “all things,” then human beings cannot claim to be any form of god much less their own.

 

Each Christian must test truth each doctrine they come across philosophically and theologically by God’s word. While we need to remember that we must love each person with whom we come into contact, we cannot accept false doctrines. Stay true to God’s word and the theological power found within its pages. Leave everything else by the wayside.

 

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

Determining the Apologetic Starting Point

Source: Determining the Apologetic Starting Point

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 28, 2018

I am fully immersed in a fantastic course describing apologetic methods. I have been engaged in apologetics since 2007. But, I never realized that there were so many various methodologies employed. One of the most off-putting of the methodologies that I have encountered has been one version of a method called presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics (PA) holds that one should begin with the assumption that God exists and that the Bible is inspired as one evangelizes a person as opposed to more empirical methods such as classicalism (where one shows evidence for God’s existence and then shows evidence for the Bible’s reliability) or evidentialism (where one provides evidence for God’s existence by showing the evidence for the reliability of the Bible).

At first, I was appalled at the system. I was especially troubled at how some in the PA movement disregarded all empiricist methods. However, after talking with some who hold to the PA methodology, I can see some viability in its use while I readily admit that it is not my preferred method. In reality, all apologetic methodologies may hold a place in the apologist’s toolbelt as he or she seeks to reach different kinds of people in differing places in their lives. The starting point is, in many ways, based on three areas.

 

The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Assumptions. What does the person assume to be true about God and the Bible? It may be important for the apologist to combat those assumptions before engaging with the evidence. PA can have an influence in this area if the person holds some belief in God. However, if a person goes the route of PA, I personally think Alvin Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemological model works better than the traditional form of PA as found in Cornelius Van Til’s model. Plantinga argues that belief in God is a warranted belief—that is, a belief that is so evident that one can accept the belief without substantial evidence. From there, he builds his apologetic defense for the faith.

Already, some of the readers will say to themselves, “Oh yeah! That makes sense.” Others will say, “Come on! Really?” Thus, this model will not work for some because some people need hardcore evidence to back up the claim that God exists. For those, empirical apologetic models would work best. Quite honestly, PA would not have worked with me when I had doubts about the Bible’s reliability.

 

The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Behaviors. Many apologists have noted that a person’s doubts come not so much from intellectual problems, but from emotional issues. If a person’s doubts come from issues of theodicy (i.e., why a loving God would allow evil in the world), then the apologist must first deal with the emotional issues blocking a person’s acceptance of Christian truths. The justification of certain behavioral issues may cause a person to doubt. This will cause different starting points with different people.

 

The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Commitment. Does a person commit oneself to historical methods and science? If so, why not share the historical and scientific evidences for the Christian faith? Why argue over the use of the scientific and historical methods if we can use the scientific and historical methods to show the reasons to believe in Christ? It is odd that a person would avoid empirical methodologies if it would have a positive impact on the listener.

 

The point of the article is simple. Use whatever apologetic methodology that would be most beneficial for the person being evangelized. If a person’s presuppositions are the problem, then use a version of PA. If a person wants to know the empirical reasons to believe in God, use the classical method. If a person wants to know whether there is evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or the reliability of the Bible, use the evidential method. If a person wants to see the overall evidence for Christianity, use the cumulative method (evaluating all the evidence for Christianity and building a case out of the overall evidence). Use the method that would best benefit the person being evangelized. Such is necessary, along with the Holy Spirit’s involvement, for the obstacles to be cleared which stands in their path to faith. So, how does one determine the best apologetic starting point? It is determined by the person being evangelized. But, all in all, I think empirical methods will be more useful than PA methods with most people in society.

 

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

7 Ways to Tell if a NT Text Contains Early Content

Source: 7 Ways to Tell if a NT Text Contains Early Content

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 21st, 2018

 

One of the most powerful ways a person can know that the testimony of Jesus is not the product of late legendary fictions is the evidence of pre-New Testament (pre-NT) material found in the New Testament text. Perhaps the most popular and important of the pre-NT material is the resurrection creedal formulation of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Other important pre-NT material includes Colossians 1:15-20 and the hymn of Philippians 2:5-11. Gary Habermas also includes the following texts from Acts as pre-NT material: Acts 1:21-22; 2:22-36; 3:13-16; 4:8-10; 5:29-32; 10:39-43; 13:28-31.[1] Habermas’s writings indicate that there are many, many more of these early texts.

A person recently asked me, “How can we tell if a text is early and predates the NT document?” Gary Habermas provides the answer. Habermas notes seven ways a person can tell if a text comes from material that predates the document being written.[2] In other words, it shows that the author is pulling from material that predates his or her writing.

 

  1. Delivered Material. The first way that a person can tell if the material is earlier than the writing is if the author claims that he is providing material that was received. Going back to 1 Corinthians 15, Paul starts off the creedal statement by saying, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received” (1 Cor. 15:3).[3] The admission that the material was received strongly indicates that the text is early. Many scholars have dated 1 Cor. 15:3-7 to no later than 3-5 years after Jesus’s resurrection, some indicating that it may be dated to within months after the resurrection.

 

  1. Parallelism and Stylized Accounts. Jewish writings use certain styles especially in their poetry. Jewish poetry did not focus so much on rhyme as much as they did on parallelism. In the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the OT), at least three forms of parallelism were used: synonymous (repetition of a phrase that builds upon the previous statement, see Ps. 2:4), antithetic (the second line states something in contrast to the first, see Pr. 15:2), and synthetic (the rest of the phrase builds upon the concept first presented, see Ps. 1). These methods may have helped individuals memorize the text. Nevertheless, when a form of parallelism is found in the NT text, it serves as an indication that the author is pulling from earlier material that did not originate with him.

 

  1. Proper Rather than Popular Names Employed. Often, one can tell if a text is early if proper names are used rather than the more popular versions. For instance, when the Aramaic form of Peter’s name is used, Cephas, the text comes from an earlier source than the author.

 

  1. Triple Hoti Clauses. Habermas notes that another indicator of early material is what he calls the “triple hoti clauses.”[4] Hoti is translated as “and that.” When the term hoti is used three times, it indicates a style of Hebrew narration that indicates that the material is earlier than the author’s writing.

 

  1. Scripture Being Fulfilled. Habermas notes that there are times when the author provides early material to prove that the event fulfills Scripture. This indicates that the material used is early as the author is making an apologetic point.

 

  1. Indications of Aramaic Originality. Aramaisms (words left untranslated from Aramaic) indicate that the material is very early. An example of an Aramaism is in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus raises a little girl back to life, he says “Talitha koum” (Mk. 5:41). This is an indicator that the material is very early.

 

  1. Differing Terminology. Finally, if the terminology, diction, and/or structure of the material is different from that which is normally used by the author, there is a strong indication that the material is derived from a source earlier than the author.

 

The more I read about pre-NT material, the more I am convinced that the entire NT is riddled with early material. While I hold to traditional NT authorship (that is, that the early church historians noted correctly who wrote the Gospels and NT texts), this pre-NT material actually ensures that even if the NT documents were written later they pulled from material that originated with the early church. One who holds to the historicity of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection stands upon a sure foundation. The one who discredits Jesus’s historicity stands upon sinking sand.

Notes

[1] Gary Habermas, “Evidential Apologetics,” in Five Views on Apologetics, Stanley N. Gundry and Steven B. Cowan, eds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 110, fn 58.

[2] Ibid., 108-109.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

[4] Ibid, 109.

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

The Beautiful Truths of Ezekiel 18

Source: The Beautiful Truths of Ezekiel 18

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 9, 2018

Christian leaders are hit with many concerning issues within the modern church. Church attendance is in a state of decline in many areas. Even in the Bible Belt, the culture is becoming post-Christian. As a Christian leader myself, I have had great anxiety over these issues. One of the important truths that has helped me cope is the doctrine of divine sovereignty, realizing that God is in control. Quite honestly, as one can see in Revelation, it may be that God himself is removing the light of many churches from their lampstands due to a loss of their first love (Rev. 2:5).

Yet, another area that I have struggled with is the idea that I, as a pastor, am personally responsible for the actions of others. If a person doesn’t respond to the gospel or if someone has caused issues, I thought that I was responsible for their actions, or the lack thereof. However, I recently came across a wonderful chapter that illuminated many beautiful truths that have brought me hope. Ezekiel 18 teaches three important truths one must remember when ministering in this culture.

 

The Beautiful Truth of Personal Accountability. The first truth that must be considered in Ezekiel 18 is the issue of personal accountability. Ezekiel gives three test cases that notes how God holds each person responsible for his or her own actions.

Test Case #1: The Righteous Man (Eze. 18:5-9). Ezekiel considers the righteousness of a man who probably lives in a sinful area. The man lives according to God’s standards and “does what is just and right” (18:5).[1] The man trust God as he does not commit idolatry (18:6a) and treats others justly (18:6b-8). The man of faith is not held accountable for the actions of the society around him. Rather, God holds him accountable for his own actions (18:9).

Test Case #2: The Wicked Son (Eze. 18:10-13). The son is nothing like his father. One can assume that the father was a good parent. The wicked son has chosen his path. He is guilty of violence (18:10), idolatry (18:11a), adultery (18:11b), and abuses others (18:12-13). The judgment of the son is not the father’s fault. Instead, as Ezekiel states, “Since he has committed all these detestable acts, he will certainly die. His death will be his own fault” (18:13).

Test Case #3: The Righteous Grandson (Eze. 18:14-20). The wicked son has a son who is the righteous man’s grandson. The grandson sees the evil deeds of his father and chooses to live in faith according to God’s laws. This individual is not held responsible for the deeds of his father. Rather, “the righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him” (18:20). No matter where a person comes from and no matter how bad a person’s parents are, God does not hold the child responsible for the actions of his or her parents. Each person is held accountable for their own actions.

Understanding this truth has brought me great peace. We are responsible for getting the message of the gospel out there. We give defenses for the faith. But ultimately, each person is responsible for him or herself. We cannot change anyone. Only God can. So, be faithful in what God has called you to do and leave the results up to him.

 

The Beautiful Truth of Providential Ambition (Eze. 18:23-29, 32). Another great truth shown in Ezekiel 18 is God’s desire for people to be saved. God asks, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked . . . don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?” (18:23) Again in verse 32, God says, “For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death . . . So repent and live!” (18:32). In both of these passages, God shows that he does not take pleasure in judging and condemning anyone. God desires that people repent of their sins and turn to him so that they can avoid judgment. I believe that Simon Peter probably had this chapter in mind when he wrote “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Some may question God’s grace, such as those mentioned in Eze. 18:25-29, but it must be remembered that God does not desire for anyone to be in hell or for anyone to face judgment. Ezekiel 18 makes this vividly clear!

 

The Beautiful Truth of Penitent Acceptance (Eze. 18:21-22; 30-31). The final great truth found in this amazing chapter is that God accepts a person’s repentance. Since each person is held accountable for one’s own actions and that God desires for all to be saved, then it is no surprise that God willingly accepts the genuine repentance of anyone who calls upon his name. If a wicked person genuinely repents from all the sins he or she has committed, God will forgive him (18:21-22). God appeals to Israel and to all people to repent and turn to him

These truths are remarkable and quite revolutionary when properly understood. Some believe that the God found in the OT is a mean, vengeful being. But, such is not the case. The God of the OT is the same God of the NT because he is the genuine God over all creation. God holds each person accountable. Each person will have to stand before God in judgment (Heb. 9:27), including Christians (Rom. 14:10). So, don’t think that you will be held accountable for another person’s actions. In addition, don’t think that God is unwilling to accept your or anyone one else’s repentance. He will because it is not God’s will for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

 

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

The Question of the Shroud’s Authenticity and the Certainty of the Resurrection’s Historicity

Originally Posted at: The Question of the Shroud’s Authenticity and the Certainty of the Resurrection’s Historicity

By: Brian G. Chilton | July 24, 2018

A recent article on Newsmax broke the news that according to a new study, the Shroud of Turin was deemed a fake, most likely originated in medieval times.[1] According to a recent study, scientists used bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA) by placing tubes into the wrists of a volunteer to simulate the dripping of blood as well as in the place where the sword entered the side. The experiment did not match the blood stains as found on the cloth. The author of the article appeals to a 1988 carbon dating test that dated the cloth to medieval times.

I am quite skeptical of this test. I feel there are several reasons to doubt the findings and the conclusions in the article. First, my understanding is that droplets of blood were used in this test. Small droplets of blood do not account for the massive amount of blood that would have been lost after Jesus would have been taken from the cross. Second, the Shroud, if authentic, would not have necessarily remained in one position. It may have been that the body would have been repositioned while the blood was pouring out of the body to until it reached its final resting state. It seems that this study does not take that into account. Third, the stains on the cloth have been deemed as authentic AB hemoglobin.[2] Thus, even if the flow of blood did not match identically to the recent test, that the stains are indeed blood, old blood at that, is nearly indisputable. Fourth, the article seems to hold to the authenticity of the 1988 carbon testing. The problem is that the fiber of the Shroud used for testing came from the patchwork used to repair the Shroud in a fire that took place in medieval times. Particles of pollen found on the cloth originate in areas found in and around Jerusalem. Many of those pollen particles date to the first-century.

I do think that the evidence for the Shroud is far more convincing than evidence against the Shroud. However, I want to emphasize that the resurrection of Jesus is not determined by the Shroud’s authenticity. The Shroud would certainly help, but it is not necessary or essential to the case for the resurrection’s historicity. So, how can we know that the resurrection of Jesus took place? Some have proposed an acronym RISEN to explain the evidence for the resurrection.[3] Using the acronym, I’m going to change the terms slightly from what others have used to emphasize the historical evidences for Jesus’s resurrection. I cannot give a full treatment of each detail, but I will provide a brief summary of each.

R         Records of Jesus’s Death and Resurrection. Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection are recorded not only in the Gospels, but there are records indicating this occurrence in the numerous writings of the early church fathers, as well as extra-biblical Roman and Jewish writings.

I           Irksome Details. Some of the details of Jesus’s resurrection are quite irksome and embarrassing for the early church. Why in the world would the early church have claimed Mary Magdalene as the first witness of Jesus’s resurrection when a woman’s testimony was not held in high-esteem? To make matters worse, Mary Magdalene could have had something of a bad past history. This is just the tip of the iceberg considering the irksome details for the early church in Jesus’s resurrection event.

S          Sightings of Jesus’s Appearance. Jesus was not seen just once. He was seen numerous times over the course of a forty-day period. 1 Cor. 15 notes that over 500 people saw Jesus at one time. Seeing that the early creed in 1 Corinthians does not contain any female witnesses and the fact that only men were counted in public gatherings, I think the number is probably more likely around 2,000 that saw Jesus alive at one time.

E         Early Confessions and Creeds. The New Testament is caulked full of early creeds and confessions. Some of the more prominent entries include 1 Cor. 15:3-9; Rom. 10:9; Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:5-11; among many others. Some of these creeds and formulations date to within 3-5 months of Jesus’s resurrection (esp. 1 Cor. 15:3-9).

N         Newfound Faith. The transformation of Paul of Tarsus and James the brother of Jesus is legendary. These two individuals were against Jesus and his ministry until they witnessed the risen Jesus. In addition, the church changed some details of their worship in a radical fashion after Jesus’s resurrection. They switched their day of worship from the Sabbath day to Sunday to commemorate Jesus’s resurrection.

 

So, while I am not convinced by the recent test contra the Shroud, I also hold that the resurrection of Jesus stands strong historically with or without the Shroud. No matter what the final verdict turns out to be concerning the Shroud, the resurrection of Jesus is, as far as I am concerned, historically verifiable.

 

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 enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

[1] “New Forensic Tests Suggest Shroud of Turin is Fake,” Newsmax (July 18, 2018), retrieved July 24, 2018, https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/shroud-turin-fake-jesus/2018/07/18/id/872517/.

 

[2] Kelly P. Kearse, “Blood on the Shroud of Turin: An Immunological Review,” Shroud.com (2012), retrieved July 24, 2018, https://www.shroud.com/pdfs/kearse.pdf.

[3] In example, see Jason Jimenez’s use of the acronym in Jason Jimenez, “Five Pieces of Evidence that Jesus Has Risen,” StandStrongMinistries.org, retrieved July 24, 2018, https://www.standstrongministries.org/articles/five-pieces-of-evidence-that-jesus-has-risen/.

Transitions and Faith in the Fear of the Unknown

Source: Transitions and Faith in the Fear of the Unknown

By: Brian G. Chilton | July 16, 2018

 

This past weekend was difficult. For it was this weekend that I announced my resignation from my position as pastor at Huntsville Baptist Church due to having accepted the senior pastor position at Westfield Baptist Church in the Mount Airy area of North Carolina. I have many reflections concerning this move. However, the greatest reflection that comes to me is the importance in having faith in God when facing fears of the unknown.

I must confess. I am not one who enjoys moving or change for that matter. I am, by and large, like many people—a creature of habit. So, as we face this transition, there is a bit of fear. Fear of the unknown. Such fears raise several unknown questions. What if the people don’t like me? What if I am unable to do the job? What if something happens to me or my family? Fear can be debilitating if left to itself. However, when we face fears of the unknown, we have a powerful tool to combat its effects—faith.

Biblical faith is a trust in God’s abilities and in his character. It is not something that results from an unreasonable belief. Rather, it is built upon a trust upon a knowable person. In this case, that Person is God. So, how can faith combat fear of the unknown?

 

Faith Combats Fear by Trusting in God’s Plan. I have been preaching a series of messages through Acts. One thing that has struck me in this study is the amount of trust that the apostle Paul placed in God’s direction. Paul continued to journey where God led him. For instance, “Paul resolved by the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem” (Ac. 19:21).[1] Even though a riot developed after Paul’s travels through the area going to Jerusalem, God providentially provided for Paul.

Here’s the point that we need to remember. If God is leading us to do something great or to go somewhere distant, we must first make sure it is God leading us, and second, we must trust God’s direction and leadership. If God is in the process, then he will see you through the unknown situations. God knows past, present, and future. We do not. So, we must trust God’s plan.

 

Faith Combats Fear by Trusting in God’s Purpose. God has purposes which we do not always understand. Looking at Paul’s journeys, it may not have made sense to some people for Paul to have gone to Athens. Athens was the intellectual capital of the ancient world. Would anyone listen to him there? Surely, Paul must have wondered about why God would send him there. Yet, after his message given on the Areopagus, some people became Christians including Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris (Ac. 17:33-34).

When faced with fears of the unknown, trust God’s purposes. He may need you to reach people that other people can’t. Even when times do not make sense, trust in God’s sovereign plan.

 

Faith Combats Fear by Trusting in God’s Power. In reality, fear does not come from God. It comes from a trust in oneself rather than a trust in God’s power. Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor, saying, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim. 1:7). Where does fear arise? True, it can come from Satan. But, more to the point, it often comes from our false trust. When we trust in our abilities, we have every reason to doubt. But, when we trust in God’s power, we really have no reason to fear at all. Consider what Paul said to the Romans, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11). Not only do we have the promise of resurrection and eternal life, we have the promise that God is with us and that he will never forsake us. If God is for us, then who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?

 

Westfield, Huntsville, my family, and I are all facing times of transition. Transitions can bring fear as it leads us into unknown territories. Maybe you are facing a fear of the unknown. Maybe you are facing unknown financial problems. It could be that you are facing health problems for you or a family member. Maybe your marriage has crumbled, and you don’t know how you are going to make it. For whatever circumstances you are facing, don’t let fear strangle your faith in Christ. For he who raised Christ from the dead lives within you if you have placed your faith and trust in Christ. If you are a Christian, then you are an overcomer and serve a God who is already in your future. Cast aside fear and embrace faith.

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

(Podcast 7.5.18) Message: “Ministry Fire: The Role that the Holy Spirit Plays in Ministry (Acts 19:1-22)

Source: (Podcast 7.5.18) Message: “Ministry Fire: The Role that the Holy Spirit Plays in Ministry (Acts 19:1-22)

Did God Create Evil?

Source: Did God Create Evil?

By: Brian G. Chilton | July 3, 2018

After Bible study one evening, a good friend of mine and I discussed the problem of evil. He asked an excellent question, “Did God create evil?” I said, “No, I don’t think he did.” However, my friend objected because he said, “God created everything, so he must have created evil.” This conversation was quite good, and we found common ground by the end of our discussion. This article relates some of the issues that we discussed.

One of the first issues we needed to define was the nature of evil. What do we mean when we say something is evil? He was using the term to define any type of disaster or bad thing. I was using to term to define immoral behaviors, such as torturing babies. How do we answer this question? Did God create evil? In this article, I would like to look at four common tricky areas that need to be dissected in order to answer the question.

 

Ontology and Epistemology of God and Evil. The terms ontology and epistemology are philosophical terms but are important to this area of conversation. One cannot neglect philosophy because bad philosophy often leads to bad theology. First, let me define the terms and how they play a role in this discussion.

Ontology is the study of the nature of being. It deals with how we know something exists. For instance, does a pizza exist? How do we know a pizza exists? These are ontological questions that deal with the nature of pizza’s existence. And oh, how tragic life would be without the existence of pizza!

Epistemology deals with the theory of knowledge.[1] This area deals with how we know something to be true. What is the nature of such and such? To use our illustration of pizza, ontology would ask, “Does pizza exist?,” whereas epistemology would ask, “Is pizza good? Can we know that pizza is tasty?” So, a created thing would deal with the area of ontology, whereas the nature of the thing would deal more in the area of epistemology more or less.

When we talk about God creating all things, we must understand that God created everything that exists including the potentials to do certain things. However, if we grant the existence of human freedom, then God is not responsible for the actions that people take. Yes, God provides the means and conditions that can lead to a person’s actions and God knows the free actions that a person will take, but the person is responsible for his or her own actions.[2] Therefore, God created all things and created the conditions where a person could do good or evil. But, God did not create evil, because evil is not a thing to be created. It is not like a virus or slab of concrete. Evil is an attribute. It is a personal rejection of the good, the good which is an attribute of God.

 

The Moral Character of God. God is thoroughly identified in the Scriptures as being the ultimate good. John tells us that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Scripture also indicates that God is absolutely holy, which means that he is set apart and absolutely pure (1 Sam. 2:2; 6:20; Ps. 99:9; 1 Cor. 3:17; Rev. 4:8). Since God is the absolute good and absolutely pure, it is false to claim that God does evil. James says that “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself does not tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (Jms. 1:13-15). James answers the question for us in great detail about God’s relationship to evil. God cannot do evil because God is the absolute good.[3]

So, how do we know what is evil and what is good? If you are driving down a highway, you will see a sign that posts the speed limit. In town, the speed limit will most likely be 35 miles per hour. How do you know that you’re breaking the speed limit driving 55 miles per area in that zone unless there is a speed limit posted stating that one should only go 35 miles per hour? The law must exist before you can know if you’re breaking the law. Moral standards must exist before one can know that he or she is doing evil. Objective moral standards come from God. Again, evil is not something to be created. Evil stems from a rejection of God’s moral goodness.

 

Ra’ah, Disaster, and Evil. Let’s face it. Biblical interpretation is tough especially when it comes to the original languages. Some individuals have spent their entire lives seeking to master the biblical languages but are still left with questions. If that is the case, should those of us with less training in the biblical languages not have much more humility when it comes to such terms? I think so.

Often, Hebrew words can take several different meanings depending on context. I remember when taking Greek that Dr. Chad Thornhill would often emphasize context, context, context when interpreting a confusing term. In Hebrew, one such example is the confusion that occurs with the term ra’ah. Ra’ah describes a disaster but it can also be used to describe something evil. Ingrid Faro explains with the following:

“For example, the Hebrew root “evil” (ra’ra’ahr’ ’) occurs 46 times in Genesis and is rightly translated into English using at least 20 different words, and nuanced in the Septuagint by using eight Greek forms (11 lexemes). Yet English-speaking people often incorrectly assume an underlying meaning of “sinister, moral wrong” and interject that into each use of the Hebrew word.”[4]

In Amos 5:3, it is noted that “If this is a judgment announcement against the rich, then the Hebrew phrase עֵת רָעָה (’et ra’ah) must be translated, “[a] disastrous time.” See G. V. Smith, Amos, 170.”[5] Thus, the term ra’ah can indicate a disaster that has befallen a group of people and does not necessarily mean “evil” as some older translations have indicated.

But, doesn’t disaster indicate something evil? If God brings disaster, does that not indicate that God does something evil? No, not at all! God is holy. If a people are unrepentant and are unwilling to stop doing evil, then God is completely justified in bringing judgment. The disaster is not evil if it is due justice. Like a parent disciplining a child or a judge executing judgment against a convicted criminal, disasters are sometimes the judgment of God poured out upon an unrepentant people. I think it was good that the Allies stormed into Germany to overtake the evil Adolf Hitler. Likewise, it is actually good for God to bring judgment as it coincides with his holy nature.

 

Evil Allowed to Permit the Ultimate Good. So, the final question that must be tackled is this: If God is good, then why would he allow evil to exist in the first place? Why would he create a condition where evil could exist? The answer to this is quite simple. God’s allowance of evil is to allow a greater good. What is that greater good? Love. For love to truly exist, it must be free. It must be freely given, freely received, and reciprocal between both parties. God could have created us as robots or automatons. But, that would not provide true love. The ultimate love was given in Jesus, who experienced the horrors of torture and experienced the just punishment that we deserve. He did so that we would have life eternally. The penalty of our eternal punishment was paid on the cross at Calvary. God lovingly confers his grace to all who would willingly receive. His grace is freely offered and is freely received. This kind of love would not be possible if God had not allowed the conditions that would allow evil to exist. A greater good has come. One day, those who have trusted Christ for their salvation will no longer need to worry about evil because evil will be vanquished. The redeemed of Christ will be transformed. We will experience the bliss and glory of the heaven that awaits us. To God be the glory!

So, did God create evil? It depends on what you mean. God created the conditions for evil to exist but did so to allow a greater good which is the free love that is experienced between the Lover (God), the beloved (us), and the spirit of love between the two. Evil is not a thing to be created. Rather, it is a condition that exists when a person or group of people reject God’s goodness and his holy moral nature.

Notes

[1] “Epistemology is the discipline that deals with theory of knowledge. The term can be broken down into epistem-ology (Gk. episteme, “to know; logos, “study”). It is the study of how we know.”[1] Norman L. Geisler, “Epistemology,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 215.

[2] In Ezekiel, God notes that each person is responsible for his or her own actions. “But suppose the man has a violent son, who sheds blood and does any of these things, though the father has done none of them . . . [The son] will not live! Since he has committed all these detestable acts, he will certainly die. His death will be his own fault” (Eze. 18:10-11,13). It is true that God has control over history and the like. But remember, a person is responsible for his or her actions. God’s sovereignty does not negate human responsibility. God does not force a person to do anything. His Spirit may woo a person to receive his salvation, but he will not force a person to do so. Unless otherwise noted all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

[3] The Bible makes clear that God cannot operate in a manner that betrays his moral nature. For instance, Paul writes, “God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Ti. 1:2).

[4] Ingrid Faro, “Semantics,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Am 5:13.

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. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2018. BellatorChristi.com.