Who Holds the Key to Salvation?
Who holds the key to salvation? Hope, as the picture above rightly shows, is tied to this key called salvation; for there is no hope without salvation. The Greek word for salvation is sōtēria which means to deliver or rescue. In the Bible, salvation is presented in two ways: physical and spiritual. The Old Testament is filled with examples of physical salvation/deliverance; one such example is God’s deliverance of Noah, his family, and some selected animals from the great flood that God brought upon the Earth (Genesis 6-8). Another classic example is of Moses who, by the power and command of God, delivered the children of Israel from the land of Eygpt (Exodus) However, the most overarching message of salvation in the entire Bible is the spiritual salvation of people. Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, born of a virgin to die and atone for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2). In this blog we will critique both how this key to salvation can be obtained according to the Baha’i Faith and according to the Christian faith and whether the Baha’i Faith or the Christian faith as presented in the Bible is a realistic way of obtaining it.
Baha’is and the Work of Who?
As I presented in my blog Christology of the Baha’i Faith and Christianity: A Comparative Overview, the Baha’i Faith does not believe that the work of Christ–His death on the cross–was satisfactory in accomplishing the work of atoning for the sins of the whole world and making salvation avaliable to all who repent of their sins and believe in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, according to Baha’u’llah, was not an adequate enough solution to the problem of the depravity and sinfulness of humanity. There was yet a need for additional manifestions of God which is ultimately found in the person and teachings of Baha’u’llah. What exactly is the way to salvation according to Baha’u’llah and the Baha’is? It is to obey the Word of God. Maya Bohnhoff, who is a New York Times best selling author and Baha’i disciple attempts to make this point from the Bible using I Peter 1:22-25 & 2:1-3 to teach that obedience to the Word of God is what is necessary to obtain salvation. You read that correctly: salvation is obtained through following the teachings in the Word of God, but which Word of God? The teachings of Baha’u’llah of course since, according to the Baha’is, he is the final manifestion and revelation of God and His teachings .
If you believe that I’m misunderstanding what Bohnhoff is teaching, let’s dig a little deeper into this. In Bohnhoff article Sacrifice and Resurrection, she recalled a Bible study entitled “Cult Night” where her pastor by the name of Dan asked the question, “Wasn’t the message the disciples delivered to their audiences about the blood atonement and the resurrection?” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) Bohnhoff answers this question with a no by saying that the disciples actually taught new disciples according to Matthew 28:20a, “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” Bohnhoff goes further in her elaborations,
“The Gospel says simply that the new believers must love God, believe in the One He sent, and observe His commandments — a message so simple a child could understand it.” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) So we see here that observing the commandments of God are a part of the Gospel message according to Bohnhoff.
Furthermore, Bohnhoff acknowleges that the disciples of Jesus would have told their listening audience about the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, but it would be linked to obedence to the Word of God. (Sacrifice and Resurrection) In concluding her article, Bohnhoff says, “While the disciples spoke of Christ’s sacrifice and the shedding of His precious blood, it was not His blood, but the “pure milk” of His word that they offered to those they taught.” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) Bohnhoff reiterates this point in another article about the same subject where she appeals to John 15:3-17, and afterwards says,
“One of the first things Christ Jesus affirms in this passage is that: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” What is especially significant about this passage is the context: He is in Gethsemane, preparing His disciples for His arrest. He does not speak to them of His sacrifice, His resurrection, or His blood. He doesn’t mention atonement. He doesn’t remind them about baptism or mention the Trinity. Instead, Christ simply lays out clearly and unambiguously what they must do to be His “friends”, to stay connected to Him, to abide in God’s love, and to bear fruit.” (Agent of Salvation) So according to Bohnhoff, Jesus didn’t speak to His disciples about His impending sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection, but Jesus does teach them that in order to remain His disciples, they must simply abide in Him through the Word of God He taught them. Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that belief in God plus keeping the commandments of God equals the key to salvation.
A critique of the Gospel of the Baha’i Faith
In this section we will do a step by step critique of the Gospel of the Baha’i Faith of how a person can obtain salvation. Bohnhoff, in her article Sacrifice and Resurrection, attempted to answer her pastor’s question of “Wasn’t the message the disciples delivered to their audiences about the blood atonement and the resurrection” by quoting Scriptures from the Bible in order to show that the message which the disciples delivered to their audience was not the blood atonement and resurrection of Jesus, but rather to obey the commandments of God which are able and necessary in order to obtain and keep one’s salvation. Furthermore, according to Bohnhoff, Jesus Himself did not speak to His discipes about His impending sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection. Instead, Jesus emphasised the need for the disciples to abide in His teachings which Bohnhoff referenced to in John 15:1-4. Is Bohnhoff right or is there a gross case of misinterpretation of Scripture passages going on here? Sadly this is a gross case of misinterpretation of Scripture passages. Let’s first revisit I Peter 1:22-25 and see if the primary message of the Apostle Peter in this chapter was in fact not the blood atonement and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but keeping the commandments of God.
The proper and correct way for anyone to interpret any Scripture in the Bible is to interpret Scripture with other Scriptures which speak on the same topic. In this case we need to examine all of I Peter 1 in order to see if this claim which Bohnhoff makes is true or not, and not hang our theological claim(s) on just a few passages of Scripture that appear to teach a particular doctrine. To begin, let’s look at the opening verses in I Peter 1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” Right out of the gate the Apostle Peter mentions to his believing audience the blood of Jesus Christ. Granted though, however, a Baha’i disciple my say “yes, but it also says for obedience as well as the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Indeed it says that, but the blood of Jesus is presented as a critical aspect of the believer’s identification as one of God’s elect, but let’s not stop here.
In I Peter 1:3 we read, ” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …” In verse 3 the Apostle Peter articulates to his audience that their salvific hope is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So far we have seen the Apostle Peter emphasize the blood of Jesus and has articulated to his audience that their salvific hope is through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, not the necessity of keeping the comandments of God for and in order to keep one’s salvation. The Apostle Peter, however, is not yet quite finished.
In verses 18 and 19 the Apostle Peter says, ” knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” The Apostle Peter for the second and final time emphasizes the blood of Jesus Christ and this time focuses on how Jesus’ shed blood redeemes those who place their faith in Christ Jesus, but the Apostle Peter is still not quite done.
The Apostle Peter in verses 20-21 keeps the focus on Jesus (which he has done consistently thus far) and for the last time brings up…yes you guessed it..the resurrection of Jesus, ” He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Here the Apostle Peter emphasized the truth of God the Father raising Jesus from the dead and because God raised Jesus from the dead we can have faith and salvific hope in Him.
Unlike Bohnhofff’s claim that disciples like the Apostle Peter primarily focused on the necessity of keeping the commandments of God in order to receive and keep their salvation, the truth is that Peter as well as the other disciples did in fact put the soteriological doctrine of the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus at the heart of their message to their audience. So in light of the passages that came before them, how should I Peter 1:22-25 be interpeted? What did the Apostle Peter mean when he said, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth..?” What truth must a believer obey which has the power to purify the soul? The truth of the Gospel which is the truth about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Merely obeying a list of commandments themselves is not enough to purify anyone. Believing in the Gospel message and the One who is the centerpiece and foundation of that message, being born-again, and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is what makes keeping any commandments possible, but even then one must understand that even after this, our salvation rest in our continual faith in Jesus Christ, not our works, such as keeping the commandments. As Jesus rightly said in John 15:5, ” I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We can only abide in Christ through His Gospel; not apart from it. Therefore obeying the Word of God and its teaching has no role in how we recieve and keep our salvation. Obeying and keeping the commandments of God and His Word is the result of already having salvation through Jesus Christ.
A Further Response to Bohnhoff
Before closing out this part of Bohnhoff false claim that the disciples of Christ primary message to their audience was to obey and keep the commandments of God, let’s see how the Apostles Paul, John, and the unknown writer of the book of Hebrews emphasized the sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrrection of Jesus. Let’s also examine Bohnhoff’s statement concerning Jesus not mentioning His sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrection to His disciples in the garden of Gethemane, but rathered emphasized what was required in order to be His “friends” and remain connected to Him.
The Apostle Paul to His Audience
Unlike Bohnhoff’s claims previously stated, one is hard pressed to miss the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s shed blood, death, and resurrection. Throughout the book of Romans all three aspects of the Gospel are presented to his audience. In the first chapter the Apostle Paul mentions the Gospel as of grave importance. In Romans 1:9, Paul speaks of serving with his spirit “in the gospel of His Son..”. In Romans 1:16 Paul boldly proclaims that he is not ashame of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God to save. In Romans 3:21-26 Paul states that salvation/righteousness is obtained by faith in Jesus Christ and that He made redemption possible by His blood. In Romans 5:9 Paul teaches that Christ disciples are justified by the blood of Jesus and save from the wrath of God through Him. Other passages which the Apostle Paul emphasize the importance of the blood of Jesus include Ephesians 1:7 and 2:13. Regarding the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus and it’s importance to followers of Jesus Christ, look no further than the entire 15th chapter of I Corinthians. Especially in verses 14-17 which, in a nutshell, teaches that without the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, our preaching of the Gospel and our own hopes for salvation are futile or in vain. Thus we can see that the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead was strongly emphasized to his audience.
The Apostle John to His Audience
The Apostle John, who is one of the closet followers of Jesus also emphasized the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus. I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The Apostle John at the opening of his letter emphasizes the blood of Christ as that which cleanses us from all sin. In connection to this passage, John in the second chapter and the second verse says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” In other words, Jesus is the atonement for our sins, done through His shed blood on the cross. This truth is further echoed by John in I John 4:10. Other passages of Scipture where the Apostle John emphasizes the blood of Jesus and its importance includes Revelation 1:5, 5:9, 7:14, and 12:11. Regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John in Revelation 1:17-18 recounts the words that Jesus Himself said to John as John bowed in dreadful fear of the sight of Jesus, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” The Apostle John highlights Jesus’ claim to His own resurrection from the dead. Prior to this, John himself declared that Jesus was the firstborn from the dead in verse 5. Thus, the Apostle John did in fact emphasize the resurrection of Jesus as well. Most of them as they came from the mouth of the resurrected Jesus Himself.
The book of Hebrews to its Audience
In the book of Hebrews from chapter 6 to chapter 10 the unknown author goes into great depth and detail about the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus. Time will not permit us to go into every single detail, but it is unmistakable what and who the emphasis is on here. On your own, take the time to read these chapters for yourselves and you will further see why Bohnhoff is wrong in light of these chapters. Hebrews 2:14 teaches that Christ overcame the devil by His death on the cross. In Hebrews 9:14, we are taught that through the blood of Christ our conscience is cleansed from dead works in order to serve God. So much more could be said here, but in a nutshell, both covenants, old and new, are never initiated without the shedding of blood because “…according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” In other words, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. The good news now is that disciples of Jesus are now able to enter into the presence of God(the Holy of Holies) by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19).
Jesus to His Audience
Finally, a look at Bohnhoff statement that in the garden of Gethsemane: “He does not speak to them of His sacrifice, His resurrection, or His blood. He doesn’t mention atonement.” But “Instead, Christ simply lays out clearly and unambiguously what they must do to be His “friends”, to stay connected to Him, to abide in God’s love, and to bear fruit.” I’m afraid there is a huge problem with Bohnhoff’s argument. While it is true that Jesus did not mention his sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection in the garden, Jesus had been mentioning these very things throughout His three years of ministry and taught them to His disciples numerous times as seen in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus first taught His disciples about His impending death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21) Jesus would repeat this same claim again in Matthew 17:22 as well. Mark repeats the same claim in his gospel, (Mark 8:31, and 10-32-33). Luke (9:21-22; 44, and 18:31-33) and John (12:27-34 and 2:19-22). Last, but not least, the theme of the Last Supper was about Jesus impending shed blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28). Since Jesus over and over again taught His disciples the necessity of His sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrection throughout His three years of ministry, Jesus obviously did not see it necessary to mention it again in the garden of Gethsemane.
The Baha’is Gospel of Work Summarized
In order for a person to receive the key of salvation according to the gospel of the Baha’i Faith, a person must work for it through obeying the laws and commandments of God as dictated by their teacher Baha’u’llah. Baha’is belief that it is possible to obtain salvation through good works and in keeping commandments is due to the fact that they believe that a human being is basically good morally. According to Kenneth E. Bowers who currently serves as a member of the national governing body of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Baha’u’llah did not agree with the Christian church’s doctrine of original sin (Salvation, Miracles, and the Baha’i Teachings). Baha’u’llah, according to Bowers, did not believe that people were born in sin or, in other words, born with a sin nature due to the sin of Adam and Eve against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) as explained by the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:12). Thus, if humans are born free of sin, then it is possible to keep the commands of God as dictated by Baha’u’llah. Is this true though? Since the Baha’is often appeal to the Bible in an atttempt to validate their doctrines, let’s see what it teaches about our moral condition.
Original Sin, Law, and the Gospel
While Baha’u’llah denies the doctrine of original sin, the reality of it is taught throughout the Bible. As mentioned earlier, the Apostle Paul explained to us that it is through Adam that sin came into the world and is passed on from person to person (Romans 5:12). The way to judge if this is in fact true is to see if it corresponds with our everyday reality. Everyday acts of immorality are before our eyes: murder, lying, adultery, etc. If we rightly acknowledge that there are acts of immorality that happen everyday, then we are acknowledging that morality exist: both good and bad. If we acknowledge the reality or existence of good and bad morality, then there must be a moral law to which to judge what acts are considered moral and which acts are considered immoral. If we acknowledge the existence of a moral law, then we must acknowledge the existence of a moral Law Giver who in essence is the Judge or what is moral and immoral. Not only that, but this Judge must be perfectly impartial in His judgment of what is moral and immoral, and this can only be possible if this Judge is Himself morally perfect. The description of such a Judge can fit none other than God.
Has this perfectly moral and impartial God given a moral law in order to tell us what is morally right and wrong? Yes. Where is it? In the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and beyond. Do any of us keep the law perfectly? No, because “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”(Romans 3:23). So if we break a law(s), is it not true that punishment for breaking that law(s) should surely follow? If God is indeed a perfectly good and impartial Judge, then God is just to punish lawbreakers. The punishment, for breaking the moral law of God is Hell. If God simply pardoned a person just because they said they were sorry, God would be unjust for not upholding the moral law and applying the punishment required for violating the law. A morally imperfect earthly judge doesn’t even allow that, so why should we expect the perfectly moral Judge, God, to do so? We can and should expect God to only do what is right (Genesis 18:25).
Since original sin is a reality by evidence of the fact we do commit immoral acts all the time like lying, stealing, murder, adultery, and other sins, and justly deserve to be punish by God for our sins…what is the solution according to the Christian church? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to teach us how to be morally good people (as the Baha’is teach) because we are by nature immoral (Romans 3:10). The key of salvation is found in the Person and work of Jesus. We can be forgiven of our sins and receive the key of salvation and hope through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. We broke the law of God, but Jesus paid that fine in our place on the cross and it was finalize through His resurrection from the dead. The purpose of the law as explained by the Apostle Paul was to be a schoolmaster or tutor to point us to where salvation is truly found; in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). Now when a Christian does good works and seeks to obey God’s commandments, it is because they have salvation through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works and a desire to live godly and holy are the fruits/results of the salvation a Christian has from Christ (James 2:14-24).
The Key to Salvation and Hope belongs to Jesus
In conclusion, the keys to salvation and hope are only found in the Person and work (death, burial, and resurrection) of Jesus Christ. The Baha’i Faith is wrong in saying that we can obtain the keys of salvation through our own moral efforts. This works oriented gospel message at its surface is no different than the other works oriented gospel messages taught by all the other world religions. In Christianity alone one is taught that the only work necessary for one to receive salvation was done by Jesus Christ on the cross followed by His bodily resurrection from the dead. Salvation is the gift of God which God is ready to give to all who will turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savor, the Son of God who is the only way to God (John 14:6). If you been reading this blog and you’re not a Christian, perhaps your a Baha’i disciple, then strongly consider all that has been said, especially about the Law and the Gospel. It is seriously a matter of Heaven or Hell for eternity.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. –Romans 10:8-10
Jesus: Mirror of God or Incarnation of God?
In my last blog “Christology of the Baha’i Faith and Christianity: A Comparative Overview”, I began a comparative view of Christianity and the Baha’i Faith teaching about who Jesus Christ is. A comparative view of the nature of Christ held by both faiths was previously done. It showed that Christianity affirms the deity of Christ, which is the teaching of the incarnation; Jesus as God in human flesh. In the Baha’i Faith, however, the Baha’is deny the deity of Christ and hold to the view that Jesus was no greater than any other religious leader. Jesus, in Baha’i Christology, is just a mirrored image of God, but not God Himself. Finally a comparitive view of the work of Christ was examined. Christianity teaches that Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of humanity in order to meet and fulfill the righteous requirements of God. Three days after Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus rose bodily from the dead and conquered death so that now Christians have the hope of their own physical resurrection on the Last Day. In Baha’i thought, however, Jesus’ death on the cross was only a temporary solution to the problem of sin. The ultimate solution is found in the person and teachings of Baha’u’llah. As far as the physical resurrection of Christ is concerned, they deny it and say that Jesus rose in a “figurative body.” What really rose from the dead was the faith of Jesus disciples (the Body of Christ), which died with the death of Jesus. In this blog though, we will look more deeply into the nature of Christ as taught by both the Baha’i Faith and Christianity and explain why the Baha’i view of the nature of Christ is problematic and inferior to the Christology of the Christian faith.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
According to Baha’i theology, as presented by Alex Gottdank, who is said to have both a Jewish and Christian background, Jesus merely mirrored the image of God during His time here on Earth. In his article “Is Christ God“, Gottdank attempts to reconcile what appears to be contradictions in the New Testament about the deity and humanity of Christ. Gottdank lays out some scriptural examples of this like the supposed contradiction between John 10:30, “I and the Father are one” and John 14:28, “…for the Father is greater than I.” One more example given by Gottdank is John 14:9, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” and John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God… which seems also to contradict each other.
So how does Gottdank attempt to reconcile these supposed contradictions between Jesus being divine and human? Gottdank goes over to Colossians 1:15 which reads, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” It is here that Gottdank and the Baha’is present their argument that Jesus just merely reflected the image of God. According to Gottdank, “One simply has to consider how a physical mirror functions to understand Christ’s role as a spiritual mirror or image of God.” (Gottdank, Is Christ God) Gottdank then gives an illustration of how when we see the sun in a mirror, we know the sun is not actually in the mirror itself, but only the reflection of the sun that we see in the mirror. In the same way, according to Gottdank, when people looked at Jesus, they saw the image of God in the Person of Jesus, not God Himself. Gottdank concludes his argument by saying,
“Similarly, if one looks into the spiritual mirror of Christ, one would see God — but would know that God’s image, Christ, is not God Himself but God’s reflection, for God does not descend into the mirror. Instead, His attributes of love, power, omniscience, etc. reflect in the mirror.”(Gottdank, Is Christ God)
Therefore, according to Gottdank, it is impossible for God to be incarnate. God cannot come into the world as a human being just like the sun cannot come into a mirror. While Gottdank does not exactly say so, it is clearly implied by his illustration of the sun and the mirror. Just like it is not possible for the sun to descend into a mirror, it is also impossible for God to descend from Heaven to Earth via the virgin birth into human flesh.
Denial of the Omnipotence of God
In order for the incarnation of God (Jesus Christ) to be impossible, we must completely deny the omnipotence of God; which is exactly what Gottdank and the Baha’i Faith must and is doing in order to hold firmly to their Christology of the nature of Christ. If God is not all-powerful, then Gottdank and the Baha’is have a valid argument against the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If God is all-powerful, however, then it is perfectly possible that God could have came in human flesh, while still remaining God, in the person of Jesus Christ: One Person with two natures simultaneously existing within Himself. In theological terms this is called the Hypostatic Union.
Explanatory Power of the Hypostatic Union
A proper understanding of the Hypostatic Union helps in understanding the supposed contradictions presented by Gottdank. In John 14:9 and John 1:18 we see the Hypostatic Union in full view. Yes, both statements by Jesus are equally true when we view these passages of Scripture through the lenses of the Hypostatic Union: Jesus is one Person with both a divine and a human nature within Himself. Jesus is telling us the truth in John 1:18 that no one has seen God, which is to not have seen God in His full glory. In the Amplified Bible it reads, “No one has seen God [His essence, His divine nature] at any time; the [One and] only begotten God [that is, the unique Son] who is in the intimate presence of the Father, He has explained Him [and interpreted and revealed the awesome wonder of the Father].” So it is true that no human being has ever seen God and God made it known to Moses why in Exodus 33:20, “But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” No human being can behold the unveiled nature of God and live, but one could see God if God is in fact veiled. This was the case in the Person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. Jesus is God veiled in human flesh and could therefore say in John 14:9,”…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” . Jesus throughout His ministry revealed who God was through His teachings, His perfect moral conduct, His miraculious works such as healing people and raising the dead. In light of understanding the Hypostatic union these two passages of Scripture harmonize together perfectly.
Explanatory Power of the Trinity
Finally, Gottdank’s failure to reconcile John 10:30 and John 14:28 must be addressed. There is a need to delve a little deeper here in order to explain these supposed contradictions. Once again, both of Jesus’ statements are equally true. Yes, Jesus and the Father are one and yes, the Father is greater than Jesus. As have already been shown earlier in this blog, the Father and the Son (Jesus) are by nature equally divine; they are both by nature God. The question that really needs to be answered is how is the Father greater than Jesus if in fact both are by nature God? It is here that the doctrine of the Trinity is brought into play. The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God who exist as three eternal person: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three persons are equally the same in nature and substance, but different in person and office (position). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God in nature, but in person and office they are different. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are their own person individually. Jesus is not the Father and vis versa and neither of them are the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is neither of them. An illustration of the Trinity can perhaps be summed up with an example of a family of three: Father, mother, and child. All three persons share one nature: human. Postionally, however, the Father as the head of the home is greater than his wife and child, and the wife positionally is greater than the child. Neither of the three persons are greater in nature to one another, which is human, but positionally they are in the order given. Likewise positionally the Father is greater than the Son (Jesus), but by no means is the Father greater than Jesus in nature. Both equally have the same exact divine nature. Without the explanatory power of the Trinity, these would be contradictory statements, but with such explanatory power Jesus statements harmonize perfectly.
In conclusion we can confidently declare that Christ is indeed God. Jesus is far more than just a person who “mirrored” or reflected the image of God. Also in light of what has been said and the comparsions which have been made Christologically between Christianity and the Baha’i Faith concerning the nature of God, it is more than safe to say that the Jesus of Christianity is superior to the Jesus of the Baha’i Faith. While Gottdank and the Baha’is attempt to use Scripture to support their idea of Jesus merely being the “mirror” of who God is, they fail to acknowledge and use the whole entire counsel of God. Gottdank and the Baha’is need to study not just John 1:1;14, but also look at verses 2-3 as well. If they did they would see more clearly who the Word is and His equality with God the Father. Perhaps it would help them to read and consider Jesus claim to deity in John 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus declared Himself to be the I AM of Exodus 3:14 who is none other than YHWH Himself. Since Christ is God, it makes Jesus mission and work of upmost importance and, for better or worst, has an eternal impact on our lives and existence. In the next blog we will see exactly how true this is.
Christology of the Baha’i Faith and Christianity: A Comparative Overview
In the previous blog “The Baha’i Faith and the Delusion of Inclusivism” , I made a logical and theological case for why the Baha’i Faith is wrong when it claims that all religions are basically the same. This was done by looking at how certain doctrines of other religions were contradictory to one another, such as in regard to the nature of God and salvation. I also laid out the undeniable fact that all religions worldwide are exclusive by nature; including the Baha’i Faith. In the up and coming blogs a more indept look into the Christology of the Baha’i Faith will be done and compared to the Christology of the Christian faith to see how differently they really are from one another. While the Baha’i Faith pays lip service to Jesus Christ, the Baha’i Faith has a totally different understanding of who Jesus is. In this week’s blog, a simple comparative breakdown of the Christology of the Christian faith and the Baha’i Faith will be done in regards to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Nature of Jesus Christ
Throughout the history of Christianity the Christian church has held, without equivocation, to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians hold that the Deity of Christ is firmly grounded in the Bible; both in the Old and New Testament. Also Christians, via the Nicene Creed, has expressed this Christology about the Deity of Christ as follows:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
To sum it all up in the simplest way possible: Jesus is fully God and fully human in His Person. Jesus is one person with two natures; a human and divine nature. Biblical references to the Deity of Christ (though not exhaustive ) include: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, John 1:1-3;14, John 8:58, Philppians 2:5-8.
In the Baha’i Faith, however, Jesus is not the incarnation of God; in other words, Baha’i do not believe that Jesus is God in human flesh. Jesus by nature is no greater than all the other religious figures of human history (Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, etc.). According to the Baha’is, Jesus merely mirrored the image and attributes of God, but was not by nature God Himself. In fact, to the Baha’is, the incarnation is impossible! They quote this from Abdu’l-Baha,
“If we claim that the sun is seen in the mirror, we do not mean that the sun itself has descended from the holy heights of his heaven and entered into the mirror! This is impossible. The Divine Nature is seen in the Manifestations and its Light and Splendor are visible in extreme glory“. In other words, it is impossible for God to enter into our world as a human being just like it is impossible for the sun to enter into a mirror. Again, according to the Baha’is, Jesus is like a mirror. Jesus merely reflects to humanity who God is.
The Work of Christ
In Christianity the Church teaches from the Bible that Jesus’ primary purpose for coming into the world was to atone for the sins of humanity. This was accomplished on the cross at Calvery. Furthermore, the Bible teaches Christians that three days after Jesus died and was buried in a sealed up tomb, Jesus rose physically from the dead. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of the gospel message as presented to us by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Jesus’ shed blood and death on the cross met the perfect righteous requirements of God and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead not only conquered death and gave Christians hope of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and their own resurrection at the Last Day, but the resurrection of Jesus also put the stamp of authority on who He claimed to be: The Son of God, the Messiah, and God in human flesh.
On the other hand, however, the Baha’is have a totally different view of what the earthly work of Christ was.
Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. . . the unchaste and wayward were healed. . . . the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified. . . . He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 85.
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? At first glance, the words of Baha’u’llah appear as though he and his followers believed the same about the work of Christ on the cross as Christians, but the truth is that they are not actually speaking about Jesus death on the cross and what it accomplished in the same way as Christians do. While Baha’u’llah said that the atonement was “extraordinary” and that it “purified the world“, and that Christ “left nothing unfinished or incomplete”, still due to many people rejecting Jesus and His mission, His sacrifice was unsatisfactory:
The sacrifice of Jesus: Bahá’u’lláh declared that the sacrifice of Jesus was indeed extraordinary, for it was through that sacrifice that Jesus “purified the world.” Bahá’u’lláh says that those who failed to accept Christ deprived themselves of “beholding the face of God.” The Bahá’í writings affirm that Christ “left nothing unfinished or incomplete.” But of course Jesus knew that humankind’s response to His mission and sacrifice would not be adequate and so He prophesied that He would return: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12). In other words, the atonement of Christ Jesus was a temporary solution, and not the ultimate solution to the depravity and sinfulness of the human race. The ultimate solution would be found in the person and teachings of Baha’u’llah.
The Baha’is also reject the physcial resurrection of Jesus. Instead they hold that Jesus rose in a “figurative body.” What does that mean according to the Baha’is? The Baha’is equate “the body of Christ” with the Christian church which consist of believers: Christians. So then, when Jesus died on the cross, His teachings and life was buried in the broken and disdraughted hearts of His disciples who had come to believe in Him. The disciples lost faith, but on the third day after Christ’s death, they regained their faith. Therefore, according to the Baha’is, the resurrection of Jesus is believed to be spiritual and figurative, not literal.
In conclusion, the Christology of the Baha’i Faith and that of Christianity are vastly different indeed. In the next blog a deeper look into these differences beginning with the Nature of Jesus Christ as understood by both faiths will be achieved. Following that blog, a deeper look into the Work of Christ as taught by both faiths. In both blogs I will aim to demonstrate that those differences are highly sufficent and have serious ramifications to those who hold dearly to the Christology and Soteriology of the Baha’i Faith. Ultimately this demonstration will hopefully cause some in the Baha’i Faith to reevaluate what they believe about Jesus and salvation and why.
The Baha’i Faith and the Delusion of Inclusivism
The Baha’i Faith prides itself as a religion that is inclusive. In other words, the Baha’i Faith does not claim to be the one true religion as other religions do such as Islam or Christianity. In the Baha’i Faith one can keep the religion of their choice and still be a member of the Baha’i religion. On the Baha’i’s website, visitors to their website are greeted with this:
“Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.” (www.bahai.org)
So according to Baha’i these well known religious figures or “divine Educators” has been sent independently over the course of history to reveal to humanity God’s teachings “for the advancement of civilization”. It is in the person of Baha’i’s “prophet” Bahá’u’lláh that it is made known that all these previous messengers and religions are part of the “one religion of God”. Is that true though? Are religions like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and especially Christianity, branches from the same tree which Baha’i call the “one religion of God?” I will show theologically and comparatively how it is impossible for the religions of the world along with the Baha’i Faith, to be inclusive.
The Nature of God
In the Baha’i Faith’s theological understanding of God, God is completely unknowable and is a monothiestic Being. Even though Baha’i’s teaches that God is unknowable, yet this unknowable God has progressively revealed himself throughout history through individuals like Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Jesus, etc. Furthermore they teach that God is
“the Creator of the universe, is all-knowing, all-loving and all-merciful.” (www.bahai.org/beliefs/god-his-creation/revelation/)
On the surface it seems that Baha’i agree with the three monothiestic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Is that so though? If the god of the Baha’i Faith is in fact all-knowing (omniscience), why do we see contradictions in the description of who God is in the religions of the world? Hindu theology hold to polytheism, which is the belief in the existence of many gods. In some branches of Buddhism it can either be polytheistic or atheistic. Yet in Christianity, God is a triune Being: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if the god of the Baha’i Faith is omniscient, then this god should surely know who he is nature wise. Is this god triune(Christianity)? Is this god polytheistic (Hinduism)? Is this god strictly monothiestic in nature(Islam, Judaism, Baha’i)? They all cannot be true. Either one is correct about the nature of God or none of them are. Two or more contradictory teachings about the nature of God cannot be equally true and therefore calls the god of the Baha’i Faith into question epistemically.
Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation)
According to Bahá’u’lláh, the messenger of the Baha’i Faith,
“[I]s not the object of every Revelation,” He asks, “to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?” (Bahá’u’lláh,The Kitab-i-iqan) So salvation according to the Baha’i Faith is both an outer as well as an inner transformation of the entire person. In the Baha’i Faith salvation seems to be focus on an earthly universal transformation of all of humanity. Bahá’u’lláh says that religion is
“the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle of the Son of the Wolf) This is truly a universal and inclusivistic soteriology and is not shared by those of other faiths.
At the heart of every religion on planet Earth is an exclusivistic worldview of itself. Every religion believes that they alone have the one true view about the world and ourselves and strongly believes that those of other faiths has it wrong. In Islam every person must submit themselves to the will of Allah. In Sura 40:67 it reads, “Say, ‘I have been forbidden to worship those whom you call upon beside Allah since there have come unto me clear proofs from my Lord; and I have been commanded to submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.’ This sura teaches that there is no god one should worship other than Allah and to submit to him.
In both Judaism and Christianity, they share the same view on worshipping Yehwah alone. Both readily point to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3, “you shall not have any gods before me.” Such a command continues to be expounded throughout the entire Bible. Furthermore in Chrisitanity, it becomes even more exclusivistic in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ boldly claimed to be the only way to God in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later backed His claim. Jesus did not shy away from letting people know that they cannot have a relationship with God or even know God until they believed in Him (John 5:23). The Apostle Peter in Acts 4:12 boldly proclaimed that salvation is alone in Jesus Christ, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” In I John 2:23 we read, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” Christian soteriology makes it clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.
Clearly the religions of the world are by nature exclusivistic, not inclusivistic. Interestly enough, even the Baha’i Faith itself is exclusivistic. According to the Baha’is, Bahá’u’lláh is the promised one supposedly foretold by Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh’s forerunner, the Bab, “”Bahá’u’lláh—the “Glory of God”—is the Promised One foretold by the Báb and all of the Divine Messengers of the past“. This is indeed an excusivistic claim that Bahá’u’lláh is superior to all the above mentioned. Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957) , who was an appointed guardian of the Baha’i Faith in his lifetime definitely gave superior status in his praises to Bahá’u’lláh, “Dominating the entire range of this fascinating spectacle towers the incomparable figure of Bahá’u’lláh, transcendental in His majesty, serene, awe-inspiring, unapproachably glorious.” (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh) Furthermore Shoghi Effendi refers to Bahá’u’lláh as “the supreme Theophany which means that Bahá’u’lláh was the supreme manifestation of God on Earth. This also is an exclusivistic attitudinal claim as well since it makes Jesus (God incarnate) inferior to Bahá’u’lláh. If this is the case, then we can only conclude that Baha’i Faith is superior to all other religions which is the complete opposite of what it means to be inclusive.
Inclusivism is Impossible
In conclusion, it is completely impossible theologically and comparatively for there to be inclusive union among all religions of the world; including the Baha’i Faith. On theological doctrines like the nature of God and salvation, the religions of the world are obviously different; especially Christianity. Contradictory worldviews cannot all be equally true. Either one of them is right or all of them are wrong. Inclusivism is impossible with the existence of contradictory teaching on such doctrines as salvation, God, Jesus Christ, the afterlife, etc. The fact that the Baha’i Faith exalts Bahá’u’lláh and themselves above all other faiths and their beloved religious figures proves how intolerate and exclusivistic they actually are. Superiority cannot exist in an inclusivistic mindset. So who or what is this “one religion from God”, this tree, which all the branches or world religions stem from? It’s none other than the Baha’i Faith!
Lest as Christians We Forget.
Another election has come and gone and once again I find myself grievously frustrated with many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Once again on full display was how so many Christians seem to set aside their Christian worldview–a biblical worldview–in the name of their political affiliation. It grieves me greatly to see those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savoir and identify with Christianity, but yet support and vote for politicians who do not share any of the moral principles laid out in the Bible. Worst yet, some who profess to be Christians vote for particular political candidate(s) due to an irrational vendetta against the President of the United States. While I do not claim to endorse President Trump, I am saying that a Christian’s vote for a political candidate should not be driven by some irrational vendetta against him or any other political figure. The Christian’s vote for a candidate should always be cast with the biblical worldview as its guide.
So how is this to be done? First it is always important to actually know what the issues are and where the candidates stand on those issues. It is a well known fact that so many Christians vote for candidates and are not really informed about where their candidate of interest stand on important issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. Other issues are important to know about as well such as where they stand on the economy, crime, international affairs, and immigration. At the end of the day, however, it is morality that matters for the Christian when deciding who they are going to vote for. Biblical/Christian ethics is the lense which the Christian voter uses in order to vote in a God-honoring way.
There are those who read this post and say, “Well government cannot legislate morality.” Is this a valid argument? It really isn’t since government has been doing so since the country’s inception.
Micah Watson who is Associate Professor of political science at Calvin College said,
“You can’t legislate morality” has become a common turn of phrase. The truth, however, is that every law and regulation that is proposed, passed, and enforced has inherent in it some idea of the good that it seeks to promote or preserve. Indeed, no governing authority can in any way be understood to be morally neutral. Those who think such a chimerical understanding is possible could hardly be more wrong. For, in fact, the opposite is true: You cannot not legislate morality.” –Public Discourse, Nov. 4, 2010.
If government did not legislate morality, there would be no moral laws to abide by. Theft, rape, murder, lying on your tax forms, drunk driving, etc. would go unpunished if the government did not legislate morality. So why would we think any differently about legislating morality as it pertains to abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and other issues of morality?
As Christians we cannot allow love for patroitism and political party to precede our moral convictions. Even Malcolm X understood this and he wasn’t a Christian!
“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”
― Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary
Today we are living in a time where what is moral is now considered immoral and what is immoral is now considered moral. The prophet Isaiah in chapter 5:20a “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” So if we know as Christians what is right and what is wrong as the Bible lays it out for us, why do some of us vote like we don’t know? Voting for a candidate(s) or voting a straight ticket for a politcial party who could have candidates who’s moral worldview does not agree with ours as Christians is just plain wrong and is damaging to our Christian testimony. We as Christian must vote in a biblically moral and God-honoring way. Voting any other way is a direct contradiction to who we claim to be: Ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
I honestly don’t care if there are more women in congress than ever before. I care more about where they stand on moral issues across the board. I honestly don’t care if a person of a particular ethnic group is the first ever to be elected to a particular political office. I care more about where he or she stands on moral issues across the board. While it is right to acknowledge such achievements and milestones, still I as a Christian dare not celebrate it like non-Christians do and neither should you as a Christian.
Lest as Christians we forget, we as Christians are held to a higher standard morally because Jesus saved us from our sins and trangressions against the holy Triune God and are now new creatures/creations in Christ. (2nd Corinth. 5:17) We are called now to be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:16) and to conduct ourselves as such in all we say and do. (I Peter 1:15, I Corinth. 10:31) Our conduct everywhere and in every place should display holiness, righteousness, and goodness. This includes how we approach politics and how we vote and who we vote for. The eyes of the world and Satan is on us lest as Christian we forget.
“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Meme’s and Apologetics: My Concern with using Meme’s in Apologetics.
Meme’s have become very popular these days. Those everyday pictures which suddenly produce either laughter, deep thinking, or ridicule with some short and witty statement. Some of these Meme’s can be of good taste, but in most cases they are classless and just plain offensive. Meme’s like other things placed in the hands of the wrong people can produce some sinful and evil material. I would go even further to say that Meme’s in the hands of the right people can ultimately produce sinful and evil material. I have nothing against Meme’s. I think Meme’s can be fun to produce as long as it is clean and uplifting. Positive Meme’s are produced all the time. I see Christians producing some biblically based Meme’s which can be inspiring as well as funny. As of late, however, I have found Christians producing some “apologetic and theological” Meme’s which have rubbed me the wrong way as a Christian apologist. A few examples would be helpful to begin:
As a born again believer, Christian apologist, and one who is formerly of a cult group (Church of Christ), I find these Meme’s very offensive and troublesome. I would even go further to say that Meme’s like the ones posted above are a stumbling block and danger to the work of apologetics. In no way whatsoever do these Meme’s and others like them demonstrate the love of Christ to those spiritually trapped in false doctrine. I know if Meme’s was around during the time I was trapped in the false doctrine of the Church of Christ and I saw my church being mocked and made fun of by “apologists” via Meme’s, I sure would have remained in the Church of Christ until some loving Christian would have showed me biblically why the doctrine of the Church of Christ is not biblically sound. At the core of Christian apologetics we should find this at work, “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (Ephesians 4:15).” Try to find this core in these Meme’s! It’s nowhere to be found in these Meme’s! The only things I find at the core of these Meme’s is pride, mockery, immaturity, and a lack of love and sensitivity for those who follow false teachers and false doctrine.
It will be no surprise to me if some who read this will get offended and say I am making a mountain out of a molehill. Some will attempt to defend this pseudo way of doing apologetics by perhaps claiming this is just a springboard to engage people in conversation about the false teacher(s) and false teaching(s) they are following. Nonsense! Purposely sparking anger and outrage in the person you are attempting to reach with the truth of the Scriptures defeats your “apologetic outreach” and disqualifies you from having any future dialogue with that person. As Christian apologists we are instructed to do apologetics with humility and reverence for God (I Peter 3:15). Speaking the truth in love is at the core of Christian apologetics and the Holy Triune God is the foundation of Christian apologetics. When God is the foundation of Christian apologetics, humility and reverence must follow. When God is not the foundation of Christian apologetics, pride, mockery, immaturity, and insensitivity must follow. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias hits the nail on the head when he said:
“Yes, if truth is not undergirded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive.”
Christians who produce Meme’s like the ones posted at the beginning of this blog need to take heed to the Scriptures giving in this blog as well as heed the words of Ravi Zacharias. It is true indeed that these Meme’s are to both seasoned apologists and those trapped in false doctrine alike both obnoxious and repulsive. It’s one thing for a person to be offended by the truth of Scripture presented by the messenger, it’s a whole different thing, however, for that same person to be offended by the messenger.
The goal of apologetics is to defend and declare the truth of the Christian faith with the hope that many souls will have the veil of deception removed from their minds and hearts so that they may receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the forgiver of their sins and their Savior. The function of apologetics is to tear down the lies of Satan ( the doctrine of demons) with the truth and knowledge of God:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” — II Corinthians 10:3-6.
I find Meme’s such as those at the beginning of this blog to be very carnal and loses sight on where the war truly lies at. The war lies in the spirit realm, not in the flesh. The war lies with Satan’s many lies and deceptions, not with the people who are being lied to and deceived by Satan. It is true that there are many people who exchange the truth of God for lies, however, they are never to be the object of our warfare. If you do not know this simple truth, it is better for you to leave apologetics alone until you mature and finally understand the true purpose of apologetics.
In conclusion I hope this blog helps some, if not all, to realize the damage they are doing with such “apologetic” Meme’s as these. Such “apologetic” Meme’s only repels people from the Christian faith. The love of Christ is absent from such Meme’s as these. Humility and respect, as it should be exercised in apologetics, is nowhere to be found in these Meme’s. God is not glorified in these Meme’s, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinth. 10:31).” So please stop with these insensitive Meme’s for the sake of Christ and His work which is being done in the field of apologetics. Please stop hindering the preaching and teaching of the gospel with Meme’s that produce theological pride and Ad hominem’s (attacks on the person, not dealing with the issues). The work of apologetics is challenging enough as it for us. Please my fellow Christians, don’t make it even more challenging for us with these Meme’s your producing. Repent and pray for us as we pray for you all.
Homosexuality, the Church, and Apostasy.
On June 19, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by a vote of 371-238 agreed to allow pastors to perform same-sex marriages. When I read about this historical and tragic decision I was greatly grieved, but in no way surprised by this decision. We who are Christians and know their Bible knew this was coming. Some, if not most of us, may have just never thought it would happen in our lifetime. It was inevitable and unavoidable. Despite the apologetics being waged against same-sex marriage and homosexuality overall, still this day arrived and now we as the Christian Church must deal it whether we like it or not. Not only must we deal with the support of same-sex marriage and homosexuality from outside the Church, now we must deal with the support of same-sex marriage and homosexuality from within the Church via the apostates. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church are clear examples of apostates. These “Christian” denominations departed from the faith when they failed to affirm the biblical teaching on marriage which is heterosexual union between a man and a woman. As Scripture says in I Timothy 4:1, ” Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” Furthermore in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 it says, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition..” Apostasy must happen before the Lord Jesus returns to earth and right now the issue of same-sex marriage in the Church is creating perhaps the greatest amount of apostates we have seen so far. Whether you are a Christian who holds to the doctrine of Eternal Security and say these apostates were not saved in the first place or whether you are a Christian who believes you can lose your salvation (Reform or Wesleyan Arminianism) and say these were once Christians who have departed from the Christian faith, still the reality is that apostates are among us and are perverting the truth of God’s Word as it pertains to marriage. In the remainder of this blog we will revisit the biblical argument against homosexuality and lastly a philosophical argument against same-sex marriage by arguing from the origin of marriage.
It is both amazing and disturbing how groups like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can support same-sex marriage and have little to no biblical arguments for their position on the issue. The main argument for their position on same-sex marriage typically comes down to three words: God is love. While it is true that God is love (I John 4:16), these three words do not address the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in any way at all! Homosexuals and supporters of same-sex marriage will argue that if God loves us He will allow us to marry whoever we want for happiness sake. In a nutshell, If God is love, He wants us to be happy. A god who opposes our right to be happy via same-sex marriage is not a God of love. The problem here is just because something makes a person happy doesn’t means it’s morally good. Some people can be happy abusing a animal, but it doesn’t mean it’s morally good. Some people can be happy jumping from one sex partner to another sex partner, but it doesn’t make it morally good. God, the Moral Lawgiver, judges what is morally good and what is morally evil and His judgment on homosexuality is found in the Bible.
In Leviticus 18:22 it says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Many will argue against this by saying this is Old Testament law and it does not apply to today. The problem with this argument is two-fold. First of all chapter 18 is God’s moral law dealing with forbidden sexuality. No part of God’s moral law, including those of sexuality is out-of-date and yes, sex is a moral issue according to God. Secondly, if we accept the argument that Leviticus 18:22 does not apply to today, then none of Leviticus 18 applies to us at all! That means it’s acceptable for a brother to have sex with his brother’s wife (v.16) and it’s acceptable to have sexual relations with your aunt (v. 13) and uncle (v. 14). Let’s not forget also that based on this argument it would be perfectly acceptable for a son or daughter to have sexual relations with either their mother or father (v.7) or to have sexual relations with animals (v. 23). No holds barred sex-o-rama! No human being has the authority to pick one sexual act and say “this is acceptable” and continue to say that all the other sexual acts are wrong and sinful. Either all of the sexual acts in Leviticus 18 are wrong or none of them are wrong. There is no middle ground to stand on.
In Romans 1:26-27 we read, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” For most of us as Christians this is quite clear; however for some it may not be as clear. In these verses we see both gay and lesbian sexual relationships labeled as unnatural. We see in verse 26 that women exchange or in other words trade in the natural sexual passions for men for unnatural passions with other women which is described here as “what is against nature.” In verse 27 we see men leaving the natural passions for women and trading it in for sexual relations with other men and it is described here as shameful. God defines these same-sex sexual passions and acts as vile. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the definition of vile is: 1. a: morally despicable or abhorrent. b: physically repulsive. So we see here God views homosexuality as morally despicable and abhorrent and homosexual sex acts as physically repulsive. Before leaving Romans 1:26-27 we find something else that God is telling us also about homosexuality: It is a personal choice. Two action verbs are used in verses 26 and 27: Exchanged and leaving. The women “exchanged” the natural sexual desire of men for women and the men are described as “leaving” the sexual desire of women for men. Both have the free will to choose to stay heterosexual or to become homosexual. It is a choice. It is well known that one of the main reasons why men and women become homosexual is because they were unsuccessful in finding the right mate of the opposite sex. Teens confess that truth on social sites like Facebook all the time. While it is true that some homosexuals claim that when they were heterosexuals they constantly felt homosexual tendencies, still they made the choice to cross that dividing line between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Just because it feels right does not make it right. Feelings and emotions does not determine what is true and moral; God determines what is true and moral.
Lastly there is a philosophical argument against same-sex marriage. This one deals with the origin of marriage. Where did marriage come from? Who or what started this institution which we call marriage? If marriage has a originator, what is this originator’s view or rules of what is marriage and what is not marriage? If there is a originator of marriage, is this originator fallible or infallible? Sadly this has not been dealt with by those in the homosexual community or among it’s supporters. Why? Because they can not answer any of these questions. Because they can’t answer any of these questions, they make it out to be a civil rights issue and a constitutional issue. Marriage, however, is a universal institution, not an United States institution. Therefore, no country has the right to define marriage unless they are the originator of it. A country’s government should seek to know what or who is the originator of marriage (if there is one) and inquire into what the originator’s definition and purpose for marriage is before changing it’s definition. Of course, if the originator of marriage is a fallible being, then who’s to say this being’s definition of marriage is right? If this being is infallible, however, then the definition of marriage and the purpose of marriage is unchangeable and non-negotiable. If a government goes on to redefine marriage and it’s purpose, then that government is a dishonest and self-seeking government looking to serve a dishonest and self-seeking people who demand the redefinition of marriage. The Christian on the other end do know where marriage originated from and knows who the originator is. This originator is none other than God. It’s the most logical explanation possible with or without the Bible! In the Bible we see the first wedding between a man and woman; Adam and Eve, ” Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:22-24).'” The origin of marriage goes back to God in the Garden of Eden with the marriage of Adam and Eve. There is no place in the Bible where same-sex marriage is condone by God. Nowhere in the Bible is homosexuality look at in a positive light by God. This we already saw earlier in this blog. The only question left now is whether God is a fallible Being or an infallible Being? According to Scripture and just plain logic, God is an infallible Being. If God was not infallible, God would not be God at all. Even philosophers know this to be true. Malachi 3:6 says, ““For I am the LORD, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” Since God does not change, then His moral laws on sexuality and marriage has not and will not change. God’s definition of marriage is heterosexual only. God owns the institution of marriage and it’s definition no matter what anyone else thinks, feels, and does.
In conclusion, same-sex marriage is unwarranted biblically and philosophically. If a local church or denomination is honest with the Bible, then they should never reach the conclusion that it is alright to embrace homosexuality and same-sex marriage. To reach such a conclusion is not to know the heart of the God they claim to teach about and worship. As we have seen, the Bible is clearly against homosexuality and calls it what God intends for it to be called: sin. When a local church or denomination strays from the Bible, it is a matter of time before they begin to spiritually die and eventually become apostates and depart from the Christian faith. The Psalmist said, ” Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” Let us as Christians walk in the light of God’s Word and not be engulfed in the doctrine of demons as we sadly see happening right now. Let us proclaim who the originator of marriage is and why it is important to know this originator of marriage who is God. Ultimately let us pray that it will lead us to share with them the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ that they may be saved from their sins and God’s final judgment and eternal wrath.
There is STILL a Dire need for Sound Doctrine.
Recently my lovely wife Joselyn was invited by a coworker to her church. It is always a pleasant feeling to a Christian to be invited to another house of worship; especially when it’s someone you know or have regular contact with. It is a completely different and troublesome feeling, however, when you go to this “church” only to find out that the teaching there is anything but Christian. Sadly the latter feeling was the case for my wife. She kindly and eagerly went to her coworker’s church only to find it teaching contrary doctrine to orthodox Christianity. Behind the pulpit the pastor openly denied and attempted to debunk such essential doctrines of the Christian faith such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and justification by faith alone in Christ. This group by the way is Iglesia ni Cristo which in English is translated “church of Christ.” This group is not affiliated with the Campbellite restoration movement,”Church of Christ”, even though they have the same doctrinal stances regarding water baptismal regeneration and the belief that they are the one true church. As me and Joselyn prayerfully prepare for our soon to come conversation with this coworker, I am reminded of the importance of sound doctrine as a Christian. Unlike the Trinity Broadcasting Network which can feature Trinitarians and Modalists having fellowship on the same platform, under the banner of Jesus, as if their opposing views are minor doctrinal issues, sound doctrine derived from the Bible is needed in order to join us unto Christian orthodoxy and protect us from heresy. In this blog we will see the Biblical emphasis put on the importance for having sound doctrine. In the next blog we will put it to work by examining Iglesia ni Cristo.
Doctrine or teaching is in no way foreign to the Bible. Both in the Old and New Testament we see the word doctrine mentioned many times: 51 times in 50 verses in the King James Bible. These numbers, however, fluctuate from translation to translation. Solomon spoke of teaching doctrine in Proverbs 4:2, “For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.” Solomon saw the need to give his son good doctrine and of course it is only good doctrine if it is in fact sound doctrine! We can also draw from this the importance for parents to have sound doctrine themselves in order to give sound doctrine to their children. The doctrine parents pass on to their children will shape their worldview either for better or for worst both now and for all eternity. God saw this need and gave instruction on when to begin teaching sound doctrine, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts (Isaiah 28:9).” We see here that for parents teaching sound doctrine begins very early in a child’s life. Teaching sound doctrine to children is taught both in verbal and non-verbal ways. Verbal ways such as “don’t lie, tell the truth,” and non-verbal ways such as pulling a baby away from a electrical socket.
In seeing the need for good doctrine as we saw in the Old Testament, it is only reasonable to beware of false doctrine. In the New Testament we see warnings about false doctrine. In Matthew 16:12 Jesus warns His disciples about the false doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducee’s, “Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducee’s.” Jesus was no stranger to dealing with false doctrine. In Matthew 22 alone He dealt with two false doctrines: The Sadducee’s denial of the resurrection and the Pharisees doctrine of the Christ being the son of David. How much more then should we do the same in our day and age? This is only possible of course if we as Christians have sound doctrine ourselves. The Apostle Paul spoke of the need for being mature in Christian doctrine by giving us a descriptive picture of what a Christian without sound doctrine looks like, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:14).” A good example of this is the founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo Felix Manalo. Felix came up in the Catholic church, then left them and studied the doctrines of various denominations and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. From this he formulated what is now the doctrines of the Iglesia ni Cristo which consist of Campbellite and Jehovah’s Witness theology. This is why the Apostle Paul saw the need for us as Christians to be nourished in sound doctrine (I Timothy 4:6).
Finally it is the responsibility of those of us who are teachers, preachers, and pastors to make sure sound doctrine is being taught to those whom God has giving to feed spiritually. Teaching the Word of God is a great responsibility to us who teach it to others. So much so that James tell us in James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Those of us who teach God’s Word are under God’s radar. God holds us accountable for how we teach His Word in every area from Christian living (Christian ethics) to doctrine (theology). This is why apologetics is so important. Apologetics is present because false doctrine is present: both theologically and philosophically. Sound doctrine exposes and corrects false doctrine. Sound doctrine exposes false doctrines such as Jesus being a created being and sound doctrine exposes and corrects false philosophical doctrines such as moral relativism. Where false doctrine exist, sound doctrine must be proclaimed in order to expose false doctrine for what it is. Those of us who are teachers of God’s Word are giving this sweet piece of instruction, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).” This is done both by teaching sound doctrine and exposing false doctrine, Every Christian teacher is more than happy to proclaim the glorious truths of God, but very few want to be Christ-like in exposing false doctrine like Jesus did. God hates false doctrine (Rev. 2:15), so it is critically important for us to have sound doctrine rooted deep within us and expose false doctrine.
In conclusion we see that there is STILL a dire need today for sound doctrine. It is our responsibility to pursue sound doctrine at all cost. Many Christians in the past have died because of false doctrine and their stance for sound doctrine while many more lost family, friends, jobs, and social status of other sorts in the name of sound doctrine. Reformer Martin Luther lost his social status with the Catholic church because of sound doctrine and exposing Catholicism’s many false doctrines such as indulgences. I’m pretty sure C.S. Lewis lost his social status in the world of atheism when he believed in the existence of God and received the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ and the gospel. I lost the vast majority of my friends in the Church of Christ when I left them due to embracing the sound doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To have sound doctrine is costly, but it’s worth it in knowing who God is and what God wants from us. A Christian cannot truly know God and have a relationship with Him on the basis of religious experience alone. It is this plus sound doctrine as well which will make a healthy and meaningful relationship with God possible. Sound doctrine is the sure and solid foundation which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:24-27. Without this solid foundation called sound doctrine, we are destined to fall and be destroyed by Satan and his doctrine of demons.
Mormonism and the gods.
Mormonism is known for its many doctrines which are contrary to Christian theology. Such doctrines include tritheism–the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate individual gods, not Triune where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are individually by nature the one and the same God. Other doctrines include God as a physical fleshly being with bones, the spiritual brotherhood of Jesus and Lucifer, water baptismal regeneration, and many other doctrines that run contrary to Christian theology. Here in this blog we will look into a doctrine of Mormonism which truly stands out and deviates from Christian orthodoxy: The plurality of gods. The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Jr. introduces the doctrine to us in the Journal of Discourses volume six, page 5, “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.” Is it true that there is a multiplicity of gods in Heaven? What does the Bible say about this doctrine, if anything at all? Lastly is there any philosophical problems with this doctrine? Let us begin and find some answers.
The first question: Is it true that there is a multiplicity of gods in Heaven? The answer is a resounding no. Mormonism, however, do have a key passage in the Bible which they believe makes their case. In I Corinthians 8:5, “For even though there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)…” Joseph Smith appeals to this passage in a attempt to show us that there are actually many gods who exist other that the God of the Bible. In verse 4, however, we see the Apostle Paul state that there is actually one God, ” Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.” So is there only one God or many gods? Both cannot be true! It sure seems at this point that the multiplicity of gods doctrine is not fairing very well biblically so far.
Now we move on the second question: What does the Bible say about this doctrine, if anything at all? Well, as we have seen in the previous paragraph, there is really no scriptural proof at all. I Corinthians 8:5 was the closet thing to supporting the doctrine of many gods, but in light of verse 4 we see that there cannot possibly be many gods when the Apostle Paul clearly states to us that there is only one God. Even though something or someone may be called a god and lord, in actuality there is only one God according to the Bible. In Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Hebrew Shema, we read, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” This is the doctrinal declaration which Jews, Muslims, and Christians all agree and give their amen to. Other scriptural passages seem to dismiss this plurality of gods doctrine as well. For example, in the book of Isaiah from chapter 40 to chapter 47 it is full of declarations of their being only one God, such as we see in Isaiah 44:8b we read, “You are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.” This verse alone demolishes the existence of a plurality of gods, however, we cannot hang our theological position on this verse alone. In Isaiah 43:10 we read, “‘You are My witnesses’, says the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before me no God was formed, nor shall there be after Me.” We read here from the very words of God Himself that there is no other gods but Him. This clearly debunks the teaching of a plurality of gods because according the God Himself there was no gods in existence before Him, which is impossible since God never had a moment when He didn’t exist which automatically disqualifies the idea of any gods existing before Him. Furthermore God makes it clear that there will be no gods formed after him, which means He will never create any other god(s) or promote anyone to Godhood. So we see God debunking two theological ideas in Mormonism:
1. The plurality of gods.
2. The teaching that Mormons can become gods themselves in the afterlife.
Therefore I think we can safely conclude that there is no plurality of gods in existence. Only the one true God exist and is forever praised, amen.
Last but not least we need to answer the question: Is there any philosophical problems with the Mormon doctrine of the plurality of gods? I definitely think there is. As Charles Darwin attempted (and failed) to explain the origin of species on purely evolutionary grounds, we must ask Mormons the question: In Mormonism what is the origin of the gods? Unfortunately I have yet to hear or read an answer to that question. Joseph Smith in Journal of Discourses suddenly introduces to us this plurality of gods, but does not tell us who is the First Cause of the chain of gods that exist. In Theism, particularly in Christian Theism, we know that the Cause of the existence of the universe, plant life, animal life, and human existence all are caused by God. The universe, plant, animal, and human life are contingent whereas God is a necessary being. The universe, plant, animal, and human existence are dependent upon God, otherwise none of these could exist for they cannot exist in and of themselves. God’s existence does not depend on anyone else for there is no god but Him. So who or what caused the chain of gods? Sadly in Mormonism there is no Uncaused First Cause like there is in Christianity. We seem to be left with an infinite regress of gods, which means that no matter how far back you go in the chain of gods you never arrive at the First Cause. This probably explains why Mormonism teaches Henotheism, which is the belief in many gods, but worship only one of the pantheon of gods. Mormonism chooses to worship God the Father, not all the plurality of gods because He is the Creator.
Thus in light of the Bible and philosophical reasoning we can conclude that there is no reason to believe in the existence of a plurality of gods in Mormonism. We have seen biblically that there is only one God. In the Hebrew Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 we see the proclamation and declaration of there being only one God. Throughout the book of Isaiah we read over and over again from chapter 40 through chapter 47 that there is one God and there is none like Him; neither was any God in existence before Him nor will there be any gods to come into existence after him. In I Corinthians 8:4 the Apostle Paul teaches that there is only one God, even though there may be other so-called deities that are called lords and gods. Philosophically we have seen that Mormonism has the daunting task to explain the origin of the plurality of the gods, but have failed to address this issue so far. Since Mormonism does not have an Uncaused First Cause to explain the origin of the gods, Mormonism is left with a infinite regress of gods. This is contrary to Christian theology and philosophical reasoning metaphysically. So we must judge the plurality of gods in Mormonism as false and heretical on both biblical and philosophical grounds.