Why I am a Calvinist

Tulip-8

It’s been suggested to me that I back down or refrain from preaching or teaching the doctrines of Grace i.e. Calvinism. I’d like to explain why these doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election/ predestination, limited atonement, effectual calling, and the perseverance of the saints are so treasured by me that I cannot back away from them even if it costs me my current job or a future job in an SBC church.

 

First, they are precious doctrines because they are biblical. That should be all the grounding that any believer needs. God has saw fit to reveal in his Word these teachings for us to study and to treasure. His word is the standard for all of our beliefs and practices. Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Second, these doctrines exalt God and humble men. Salvation is 100% God’s working. We contribute absolutely nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary. God will share his glory with no one. It is humbling to know that if not for the sovereign grace of God, I would take myself straight to hell. Yet it causes me to shout in praise of God that he took a dead sinner like myself and made me alive. He has lavished his grace upon one who hated him and could not and would not choose him of his own will.

 

Thirdly, these doctrines are exquisite because they reveal the love that God has for his elect. That in eternity past, God the Father chose a people for himself. He chose to reveal his love to his people by sending God the Son to the cross and dying to save them. He died not just to make salvation possible in generalities but to actually save his specific sheep.  And because God is the one who saves then those who are saved can never be lost. Those he predestines he calls, justifies and will glorify. What great comfort and assurance is found in Christ.

 

Fourthly, these doctrines fuel our evangelism and zeal good works. Because God prepared our salvation beforehand, he also prepared our good works as well. He has chosen to use saved and sanctified sinners to take the glory of the gospel into the world to reach his children. Whether I preach in the pulpit or in the street, I can be confident that my job is just to be faithful to his word and that He is the one who is responsible for the results. I can be confident that God has chosen that the power of the gospel can overwhelm the enslaved and dead will of a sinner and cause them to be born again so that they will now freely chose to obey him. I can pray with confidence for God to save my friends and family, knowing that God actually has the power to save them if he so chooses.

 

Fifthly, and related to the last, because I trust in the sovereignty of God, I do not have to resort to merely pragmatic and worse yet emotionally manipulative means in order to try and get a decision while sharing the gospel. I can faithfully preach the commands of God without being embarrassed by things that our culture finds antiquated. I don’t have to rely on half-truths or the nuancing of things to death so as not to offend. I can trust that God is sovereign and that he has determined to use the proclamation of his word to either save his sheep or to drive away the goats. Consequently, I am free to be faithful to share the gospel with my neighbor without fear that if I mess something up or if I am not the greatest communicator that my neighbor won’t be saved because something I said. Salvation is of the Lord and not of the will of man.

 

There are plenty of other reasons I can think of for why these doctrines are so amazing and precious. Hitting home for me is that God has used the preaching of these beliefs to bring me to repentance and faith in him. And because of that there is no way that I can ever refrain from believing, teaching, preaching, and celebrating the doctrines of Grace.

 

 

Additional Sources:
A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon

John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion

Robert Dabney Defends the Five Points of Calvinism

Arminian Errors

 

A Word on “Discernment Blogs”

There seems to be this unwritten rule that if you disagree with someone theologically, be it on minor or major issues, it is now fair game to use whatever tactics you like to take that person down. You can take comments or quotes out of context, rely on hearsay or anonymous “sources”, look for any innocent mistake, and impugn motives or positions that the person doesn’t hold to as long as it makes your “opponent” look bad. A whole cottage industry of “discernment” bloggers has risen looking for controversies to stir up and people to take down.   They find heretics under every rock and a “downgrade” daily[i].   It is the ultimate in Monday morning quarterbacking and the online equivalent of the bitter old lady in church who has nothing good to say about anything that happens in her church.

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I would remind us all that the Holy Scriptures command us to be loving and just (1 Corinthians 13:1).   Discernment is meant to be done for the sake of abounding in love as Philippians 1:9-10 says : “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,”     There is nothing loving about nitpicking and causing division among brothers.   There is nothing loving about stirring up foolish controversies.   There is nothing loving about looking for “gotcha” quotes or taking your opponent’s quotes out of context (1 Peter 2:1). We are to judge righteously.  There is nothing righteous about making judgements without knowledge of the facts.   There is nothing righteous about using misquotes or only hearing one side of the story (Proverbs 18:17).

We should seek to be unified in Christ. We should give brothers the benefit of the doubt and assume that their motives are pure even when they slip up. We must guard against a knee jerk reaction to respond to something that someone said in a sermon, on a podcast, or online without doing due diligence of first checking the context, secondly asking the person for clarification and thirdly being willing to overlook minor errors or disagreements.   Sometimes true Christian discernment means overlooking a brother’s faults.

None of what I am writing is meant to excuse dealing with error, gross sin, or heresy. We must be discerning to guard our doctrine and practice. Yet even to those who are in sin, error, or heresy we must deal  fairly and represent them accurately.   This does not mean that there won’t ever be times to break out the serrated edge by using satire, humor, and even tough language.  But in all things the believer should grow in love with discernment so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

 
[i] I would like to remind everyone that while Charles Spurgeon faithfully stood strong against what he called “the downgrade” among the Baptist Union, he ,however, did so with sober thought, reluctantly dividing only when he saw no way forward. This is a far cry from some who have appropriated the “downgrade” term today.

Beard Wars: 2 Samuel 10

 beard

BEARD WARS: 2 SAMUEL 10

On May 1, 2013, relations between Bolivia and the United States took a sour turn. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Bolivian president Evo Morales was expelling from the country the U.S. Agency for International Development whom he accused of conspiring against his government. “’Surely to think that you can still manipulate us economically, politically — those times are past,” Morales said at May Day celebrations in La Paz, according to the Bolivian national news agency.”1 Those within the United States responded that the Bolivian people will be the ones hurt by removing this aid organization. Whatever the outcome, the lack of trust between the two governments will have to be overcome to return to better diplomatic relations. This news story is reminiscent of other recent events involving soured relations between countries. In 2009, North Korea ordered weapons inspectors to leave the country.2 This had the effect of ratcheting up war rhetoric and putting the Korean peninsula on high alert ever since. War was the result of Iraq’s expulsion of weapon’s inspectors in 2003.3

In each of the above cases, mistrust led to the expulsion of diplomatic teams, the erosion of diplomatic ties, and in the case of Iraq led to war. The Bible tells a similar story in 2 Samuel 10. In this chapter, the Ammonite King, Hunan listened to lies that caused him to spurn the good efforts of David which led to a war that would prove God’s provision over his people, Israel and be the beginning of King David’s fall into sin.

Chapter 10 of 2 Samuel is a transitional text. It ties the highs of God’s promise into the setting of the low’s of David’s fall. Bill T. Arnold says of chapters 9 and 10, “We have seen that Yahweh’s covenant with David in chapter 7 is the ideological mountain-top of 2 Samuel. Now with these chapters we come to the point at which the book begins its gradual descent into the valley.”4 Kenneth Chafin writes that,“the account of the Ammonites was incorporated into the story of the succession to David’s throne because it provides the setting for the story of David and Bathsheba.”5 While the story does provide the setting to David’s fall, it also provides the antithesis to the previous chapter in which David shows kindness to Saul’s descendent. “The present story serves as a significant foil to the previous episode. In both narratives, David is shown expressing compassion and generosity toward individuals from the region of Gilead whose royal forebears had recently died.”6 The chapter works then as a transition from the heights of David’s reign to the depth of his sin while showcasing the sovereign provision of God to protect his people and keep his covenant.

The chapter begins with the death of the Ammonite king Nahash. The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot by his incest with his younger daughter. The Israelites were commanded in Deuteronomy 2:19 to avoid conflict with them when the Israelites took the promised land. They lived east of the Dead Sea and Jordan. “From Jerusalem to Amman was a journey of about fifty miles.”7 They had been enemies of Israel’s king Saul and several commentators have speculated that Nahash may have shown David kindness when David was a fugitive wanted by Saul.8 Robert Bergen concludes that “Israel had previously defeated Nahash in battle and David had apparently maintained a peace treaty with the Ammonites that recognized Israel as the superior party.”9 After the death of Nahash, David sought to show kindness to the new Ammonite king and son of Nahash, Hanun. “The present chapter stands out in sharp contrast to the account in the preceding one of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. They are parallel in that each records David’s seeking to return a kindness to a son for the sake of the Father.”10

When the head of state dies, often those countries with close diplomatic ties will send delegates to give condolences and show concern. David did just that. There is no hint of malice or evil intentions in his sending of delegates. The response that the delegation receives is not what David would have expected. Hanun makes several mistakes in this passage but the first mistake is to listen to the lying advice of those around him. The Ammonite commanders or princes begin to put doubt in Hanun’s mind with carefully crafted questions. “The purpose of the two questions asked by the Ammonite leaders is to cause hostility and destroy confidence between David and Hanun.”11

George Buttrick points out the similarity between these questions in 2 Samuel 10:3 and the account of the serpent in Genesis. “Almost word for word with the bad counsel noted above was the lying witness of the serpent in the Garden of Eden concerning God’s attitude toward the covenant agreement with Adam and Eve regarding the forbidden fruit. . . How tragic the consequence of misapprehending God’s commitments!”12 It seems to be the ploy of Satan to convince people that what is good is actually evil. In the garden, Eve believes the lie that God really is trying to keep her from something good. She believes the lie that causes her to mistrust God’s command. This is the lie that Satan still uses today to convince people that what is right is wrong and that what is wrong is right. Hanun in this passage believes the lie and attributes evil to God’s servant, David. Chafin says that “it shows how war can be started over nothing more than an unfounded misunderstanding. What is true of nations applies equally to families and to churches.”13 This is more than a simple misunderstanding however because Hanun chose to believe a lie. This unfounded belief started the Ammonite war just as in Genesis when an unfounded belief started the conflict between man and God.

David had chosen to show kindness to Hanun just as David had chosen to show kindness to Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan in 2 Samuel 9. The response of Hanun could not be more different than Mephibosheth. Gordon Keddie points out that “this contrast is instructive in that it illustrates graphically both the way that God deals with men (i.e., he is slow to anger and rich in mercy) and the differing ways in which men respond to the Lord’s dealings (i.e., acceptance versus rejection).”14 God has chosen to show kindness to man but man often responds like Hanun to David’s kindness.

Far removed from the culture and time of David, Hanun’s next actions almost seem comical. He seizes David’s men, whom he had sent in good faith, and shaves off half of their beard and cuts their garments at the waist leaving them exposed. “Even if they seem on the face of things to be more like practical jokes, the reality is that in terms of of international relations they are tantamount to acts of war, because they deliberately set out both to humiliate another nation before the world and to violate its integrity in some way.”15 In Jewish and Middle Eastern history the actions of Hanun are far from comical. “Hanun’s treatment of the men would have desecrated the men’s bodies, their clothes, and their national mission. . .Except for the performance of certain religious rituals (Lev 14:9; Num 6:18; Ezek 5:1) or to express profound emotional distress (ezra 9:3), Israelite men always wore beards. To remove an Israelite male’s beard forcibly was to force him to violate the Torah (Lev 19:27) and to show contempt for him personally.”1617

When David heard about the humiliation his men suffered at the hands of Hanun, he certainly was angry. He made sure though to take care of his men by having them stay at Jericho until their beards regrew. He saved them the dishonor of returning home humiliated. God shows the same tender care towards his servants. Many of God’s witnesses will be mistreated by the world but God will uphold the honor of his servants. God will respond accordingly to protect his people.

In what is a “duh” moment, Hanun suddenly realizes that what he did made David angry. “The metaphor that they used had to do with odor and means that they realized that what they did ‘smelled.’ Yet rather than attempt to rectify their mistake and make peace, they hire soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zoba to help them face David.”18 This is Hanun’s second mistake. When he realized that David was upset and that the two peoples were on the brink of war, Hanun could have reached out to David. David was known for being a merciful person and perhaps Hanun could have avoided war. Yet, Hanun decided to add injury to insult by heading out to war.

Hanun turns to his neighbors for help. He hires soldiers and mercenaries from the Syrians. “Especially powerful is the kingdom of Zobah (also known as Aram-Zobah), which is the dominant political power of southern Syria during this time. Located to the extreme north of the Promised Land, Zobah probably extended from the northern Beqa Valley in what is modern Lebanon east of the Anti-Lebanon range to the north of Damascus.”19

David in turn sends his great general Joab to defend his kingdom from the Ammonites and their hired help. David did not go out with his army. This one little fact will lead to a great problem for David in the next chapter.  It is not completely clear from the text that this particular occasion is the exact one that caused David to fall but it certainly will set the precedent for the next chapter in which David will stay home from battle and fall into adultery and murder. Sometimes by avoiding the hard battles in life, one can put themselves onto the path of temptation. Avoiding the hard responsibilities of Kingship is the one thing that set David on the way of sin.

Even while David is at home, his best general is leading the battle and more importantly God is with is people. Joab first leads his men out to face the Ammonites at the front of the Ammonite city but this put him into a predicament. One half of the Ammonite/Aramean army had come up from behind Joab. Joab faced forces on both sides. “He did not panic in the face of the formidable odds, but strategically deployed his forces so as to allow for flexibility as the battle progressed.”20

Joab deploys half his forces towards the front and places his best soldiers in behind to fight the hired Arameans. If one side of the battle where to go badly, forces from the other side would turn and join in to help. Not only did Joab show himself to be a great strategist but Joab also showed himself to be a man of faith as well. In verse 12, Joab gives three commands to his soldiers. They are to be strong, fight bravely for their people and for the cities of God.21 “Joab’s third statement to the troops suggests that for him this battle was ultimately a religious conflict; it was a tangible expression of Israel’s commitment to the Lord.”22 Joab then puts full trust in God as he says “The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” Bill Arnold says that “effective servants in God’s kingdom will exhaust their resources and energies doing whatever they can, while acknowledging that the fruit of their labors is ultimately in God’s hands. Or as someone has said, saints pray as though the outcome depends solely on God and work as though it depends on them.”23

God is with his people as he always is. Joab and his men rout the hired thugs from Syria and the Ammonites seeing their help flee also retreat into their city. For whatever reason, Joab and his men did not press the advantage and lay siege the Ammonite city but instead returned home. Hanun still did not learn his lesson however but regroups for another battle. Again they bring in hired men to fight. This time David when he hears of these rumors of war, leads his army out across the Jordan to Helam. And once again God is with his people. David and his army kill Shobak the commander of the Aramean army. This brought fear into those hired by the Ammonites and they sought peace with David.

The chapter ends with the Arameans unwilling to help the Ammonites continue their war. “This meant that the consolidated Israelite tribes had subjugated the powerful Aramean states to the east and north, and secured control over the main trade routes that connected Egypt and Arabia with Syria and further afield.”24 Bergen points out that though this small chapter was begun by the evil acts of men it had the effect of bringing about some completion to God’s promise. “David’s apparently unsought victories against the Aramean coalition had the desirable effect of greatly expanding Israel’s influence over the territories north of Damascus, thus helping them fulfill the Torah promise first given to Abraham.”25

This seemingly strange incident brought about by mistrust had the effect of securing territory that was first promised to Abraham. It is here that the passage becomes a part of the larger story of the Old Testament. The books of Samuel “present a theological history of Israel, evaluating Israel’s past in light of the covenant relationship established in Deuteronomy.”26 God had begun a covenant as far back as in Genesis by promising Eve that one of her seeds would crush the serpent (Gen 3:15). God then reestablished that covenant through Noah and then through Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would become a mighty nation that would bless the entire world. God promised Abraham that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed (Gen 12:3). God’s promise to Abraham would be fulfilled first though the nation of Israel before finding their ultimate completion in Jesus. In 2 Samuel 10, God is true to his promise to curse those who curse Israel.

This chapter is also set inside the covenant promises to David. “The significance of these events must be seen in the context of the flow of redemptive history and not merely in terms of the fleeting political situation in a corner of the Near East 3,000 years ago.”27 In 2 Samuel 7, God pledges to David to make one of his sons reign forever as king. This covenant with David is a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant. Greg Nichols in his book on covenant theology writes concerning the Davidic covenant that “the principle partaker is King David, Gods righteous servant. As with the Noahic servant covenant his royal posterity participates as beneficiaries of this pledge. As with the covenant with his righteous servant Abraham, Christ is its ultimate heir and partaker.”28 This covenant with David is a promise to kingship forever. “God pledged permanent rule to David. He swore to him that his dynasty and kingdom would abide in perpetuity. . . His pledge concludes with David’s ultimate heir, the Christ, who will reign on his throne forever.”29

William Schneidewind says that this covenant pledge to David becomes one of the ruling thoughts and documents for the Israeli people. “The Promise to David was a constitutional text. That is, it was an idea and also a text through which Israel would define itself as a nation, as a people, and as a religion. In this respect, it functioned something like the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.”30 2 Samuel 10 and the Ammonite War sets itself within the context of the covenant. God had declared that he would be true to his people and even though enemies would rise against God’s people, God protected them.

Yet 2 Samuel 10 leads into 2 Samuel 11 and David’s fall. David who had been the recipient of the great promise would fall into sin. This in turn points to the need for a greater fulfillment of the covenant to David. Someone greater than David would have to come. As time would progress, the nation of Israel would fall into sin and fracture in two. The Northern kingdom of Israel would be defeated and eventually the Southern Kingdom of Judah would too fall into sin and be taken into exile. The temple would be destroyed and the earthly reign of David’s sons would end. “The destruction of these institutions precipitated something of a constitutional crisis during the Babylonian exile.”31 God however was faithful through this time. “He kept his promise in spite of sin. . . He kept the dynasty intact in spite of the sins and plots of evil men and women. Eventually the dynasty came an end when God judged Judah for their sin. This created a tension that he psalmist laments. . . This created expectation and hope. God’s people waited for the day when God would keep his pledge to David.”32 This waiting and hoping would reach its zenith at the beginning of the New Testament when God himself would break into human history and fulfill his covenant. “The New Testament identifies the Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth. It certifies his identity as the son and heir to David. It confirms God’s faithfulness to this pledge. It affirms its fulfillment in the coronation of Christ on the throne of David by his resurrection and session at God’s right hand.”33

Back in 2 Samuel 10, God is shown protecting his people, keeping his promises, and ultimately in spite of the attacks by Hanun and the eventual sin of David preparing the way for the ultimate fulfillment of his covenant promises in Jesus. “Israel’s defeat of Ammon and the Arameans indicates the Lord’s intention to preserve the honour of his name and the integrity of his people. He notes when his disciples are abused. And the same unjust persecution and affliction which achieves in the believer an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”34

2 Samuel is not a passage that receives much attention in sermons. The almost comedic strangeness of Hanun’s actions in humiliating David’s men will seem foreign to most. Yet the passage calls to the reader to respond. God extends his offer of kindness through Jesus who fulfills the covenant promises. Some will respond like Hanun by believing the lies about God. Also like Hanun, “outside of Christ, the godless will sit besieged in their own [city] of the Ammonites, fearful of the pending judgement but unwilling to change their ways.”35 The passage ultimately calls for a response to God’s goodness through the gospel. The gospel demands an answer. George Keddie concludes correctly that “the fall of the Ammonites presages the ultimate victory of the Lord and calls for a response to the gospel now. Now is the day of salvation, the day of the Lord’s kindness, the day in which Jesus Christ calls to you to come to him, that you might have eternal life.”36

1 Emily Alpert, “Bolivia, Angered by Kerry, Says It Is Ejecting U.s. Aid Agency,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2013. http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-bolivia-kerry-ejecting-usaid-20130501,0,2165962.story (accessed May 2, 2013).

2 Malcum Moore, “North Korea Expels Un Nuclear Inspectors,” Telegraph (UK), April 14,

2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/5155821/North-Korea-expels-UN-nuclear-inspectors.html (accessed May 2, 2013).

3 Hamza Hendawi, “Weapons Inspectors Leave Iraq,” Associated Press, February 11, 2003.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500257_162-544280.html (accessed May 2, 2013).

4 Bill T. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel: the Niv Application Commentary from Biblical Text– to Contemporary Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2003), 518.

5 Kenneth L. Chafin, Preacher’s Commentary – Vol. 8- 1,2 Samuel (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 295.

6 Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (USA: Holman Reference, 1996), 357.

7 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 245.

8 Arnold, 520 and Chafin, 295

9 Bergen, 357.

10 Gordon J. Keddie, Triumph of the King (2 Samuel) (Welwyn Commentary Series) (Welwyn Commentaries) (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1993), 82.

11 Roger L. Omanson and John E. Ellington, A Handbook On the First and Second Books of Samuel (New York: United Bible Societies, 2001), 2: 804.

12 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible (Volume 2) the Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard Versions with General Articles and Introduction, Exegesis, Exposition for Each Book of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1957), 1095.

13 Chafin, 295.

14 Keddie, 81.

15 Keddie, 81.

16 Bergen, 358.

17 Buttrick, 1095 “Herodotus has an interesting parallel to this incident in the story of King Rhampsinitus’ treasure house. A thief who is trying to recover for burial the exposed body of his dead brother makes the guards drunk, and while they are torpid with wine, he shaves the right side of their faces as an additional insult.”

18Chafin, 296.

19 Arnold, 520.

20 Baldwin, 246.

21 Keddie, 87. “The cities of our God is probably a reference to the trans-Jordanic territories of Israel, through which the Arameans must have passed on their way to Ammon, and which might well be lost to Israel should they lose the battle.”

22 Bergen, 360.

23Arnold, 522.

24 Baldwin, 246.

25 Bergen, 361.

26 Arnold, 26.

27 Keddie, 87.

28 Greg Nichols, Covenant Theology—a Reformed and Baptistic Perspective On God’s Covenants (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2011).

29 Ibid.

30 William M. Schniedewind, Society and the Promise to David: the Reception History of 2 Samuel 7:1-17 (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1999), 3. This is a good insight by Schniedewind who mainly uses historical-social critical methods.

31 Schniedewind, 4.

32 Nichols

33 Ibid.

34 Keddie, 87.

35 Keddie, 87. The word cities has been inserted by the author of this paper for the word Rabbahs. Rabbah was the city of the Ammonites that the Ammonite army retreated to after being defeated by Joab.

36 Ibid, 87.

The Prayer of the Arminian

The Prayer of the Arminian by Charles Spurgeon – The Prince of Preachers

.Any one who believes that man’s will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall…

But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer – for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

“Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them.”

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, “I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?” If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, “My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Do I hear one Christian man saying, “I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me”? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o’erflow;
‘Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

A Journal Entry

I just wanted to share with everyone the entry from my journal that I wrote last night.

May 2, 2012

Today is a day I’ll never forget.  As usual on Wednesday I went to church to work with the students.   Weng (my wife) was especially tired after work so she decided to stay home.  She works hard at her job and was really worn out.  About half way through the student choir practice she sent me text asking if I had to stay late for any meetings.  I called her to if she wanted me to pick up some food because that is what I thought she was texting for.  She said yes to KFC but also that I needed to hurry home because she had good news.  I immediately knew what it was.  Thoughts, fears, and praises flooded into my head.  I raced home full of anxiousness to find out the good news.  Weng opened the door for me to come in and showed me the pregnancy test.  It was positive.  My jaw dropped and I was speechless.  After a moment of hugging and kissing, I suggest we go get another test to make sure.  It too was positive.

I am going to be a dad.  Wow.  I had always dreamed of this day.  I can remember as a little boy looking forward to being a dad just like my dad.  I am so excited and overwhelmed.  I already love the baby with all that I am.  I just want to be a worthy father.  I want to be a godly man like my father.   I am so excited.

Thank you God.  I pray that you will give us a child that will serve you.  I pray you will already have the day of our child’s salvation planned.  I pray for your guidance and providence.  Thank you for sending your son to die for me.  We can never repay you.  And now you see fit to bless me with a child.  I love you God.

The Symptoms of a Heart of Worship

(The following is a manuscript of a sermon I preached for preaching class in seminary.)

     Please turn with me in your copy of God’s word to James 1:26 -27. When we first started this class and found out we would be preaching a sermon, I was excited. However, when I found it was to be on a passage in James my excitement turned into dread. The epistle of James has always been a difficult book for me. I’ve struggled with understanding how James’ teachings are compatible with Paul’s teaching on grace. I would not go as far as calling it an “epistle of straw” as Martin Luther did but never the less I still struggled with the book. Thankfully through studying for this sermon I have come to a greater appreciation for James. I think it helps to examine the context into which James writes and to examine the intended recipients of this letter. James was writing early in Christian history to Jewish Christians. Because his audience were Christians, James was not writing to expound the theological significance of the Gospel but instead was writing to explain the practical implications of the Gospel. James is not primarily concerned with the “how” of salvation but with the results of salvation. Some including myself in the past have been critical of James perceived lack of theology and in particular a perceived lack of Christology. Douglas Moo rightfully argues though “Appeal to God’s person, the values taught in his Word, and his purposes in history under-girds virtually everything in this letter. And while Jesus’ person and work might be generally absent, his teaching is not.” Much of James comes straight from the mouth of Jesus. James then is concerned not with how one’s heart is changed through salvation but his primary concern is with the symptoms of a changed heart.

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:26-27

There was once a young boy who went to spend the week with his grandfather on the farm. While walking around he noticed the chickens, they were scratching and playing around. The little boy said, “They ain’t got it”. Next he saw a colt in the field playing and kicking up its heel’s to which he replied, “He ain’t got it”. After examining all of the animals on his grandfather’s farm and seeing that none of them had “it”, this boy finally found the old donkey in the barn. When he saw the donkey’s long, frowning face and the way that the donkey just stood there he screamed for his grandfather to come quick. “I found it, I found it” the boy kept yelling. When his grandfather asked what he had found he said, “Pawpaw, I found an animal that has the same kind of religion that you have.”

That boy may have not known much about his grandpa’s religion but his simple insight shows how important outward manifestations are to identifying religion. James too is concerned with how our faith is lived out. In fact the primary concern of James is how one’s faith is shown. In our particular passage James is talking about how our actions identify our worship. James uses a word in this passage that is only found four times in the Bible. Two of those usages are in this passage. That word is “religion.” In Greek it is θρησκεία which means religious worship. It is slightly different then what we may use the word “religion” for. Today when one uses the word “religion” they are using it to identify the beliefs and teachings of a particular faith. John MacArthur says this Greek word “has to do with ceremonial public worship. It is so used, for example, by Josephus when he writes about the worship of the temple. It has to do with the outward ceremony. Paul uses it in Acts 26:5 in the adjective…in the noun form of the ceremonial worship of a Pharisee. So the word “religious” here has the idea of external trappings, religious ceremonies, rituals, routines, liturgies, rites, external forms.” James’ Jewish Christian audience would have been familiar with this word. It is interesting then that James uses it to describe things that we do not usually associate with the ceremony of worship. I think then it is incredibly helpful to look at this passage as primarily explaining what true worshipers will look like. This is particularly valuable when looked at from the perspective of the so called “worship wars.” James is calling us not to look at what kind of music we will use or what liturgy but instead he is calling us to look at something completely different.

While in this passage, James is talking about worship he is also concerned with the heart. We see that it is those who think they know how to worship and think that they are religious but don’t exhibit the outward manifestations of a changed heart that deceive themselves. They are revealing a heart that has not been changed. This is important because when viewing James we have a tendency to look at everything as works and human effort but James is saying that it really is a heart issue. The heart must be first changed before one can begin worship. It is only a heart that has been transformed by the Gospel that can exhibit true worship. Once that heart has been changed then it will show signs of God honoring worship. Worship that is pure and blameless will manifest itself from the heart outward. James then is now like a doctor looking at a patient. In this passage, he is going to give us a check-up. We are going to see three symptoms of a heart that has been changed, three symptoms of a heart of worship.

The first symptom of a heart of worship is the Taming of the Tongue:

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. – James 1:26

A very important topic in the book of James is bridling the tongue. The tongue is such a small part of our body yet takes such a large role in our lives. Various studies have been done on the amount of words we speak in a day. In one such study, Dr. Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco states that “A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000.” Another study puts average word use at around 16,000 for both men and women. Even if you are on the low side, we all spend an overwhelming portion of our lives talking. Words are powerful. The bible is full examples on the power of speech. Words have the power to create. God created the entire universe with His words. Words have the power to tear down. Satan used words to deceive Eve into sin. Jesus said that it is not what goes in us that makes us unclean but what comes out of us. Our speech can be like the smooth rock that David used to defeat Goliath or it can be like the first crack in the walls of Jericho. As seminary students preparing for ministry we know and appreciate the power of words.

I may not look like it now but I was once in the US Army. At basic training, I had a certain Drill Sergeant who used to every day joke about how he hated us privates. He once said that he had to hold a gun to his head to keep from cutting his throat while shaving because he was thinking about us. He would say this with a laugh but when it came down to difficult training situations he was one of the best users of words. With his use of colorful language, he could motivate a cat to go swimming. It was on the last day of training that I really felt the power of his words. He came up to each private and said that it was an honor training us and that he would gladly serve in a foxhole with any of us. I can remember beaming with respect and honor after that.

Words also can reveal our heart. Jesus who is the master of words once said, ““You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” – Matthew 12:34 And in Luke, he said, ““The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” James echoes that here. A person who thinks he is religious but doesn’t bridle his tongue deceives his very own heart.

After I graduated basic training, I went to what is called AIT. This is where a soldier learns his particular job that he will be doing for the military. At this AIT we had drill sergeants as well. One particular drill sergeant used to brag about how she was always looking out for the best interest of us. Yet there came one day when a general was scheduled to visit. We spent the entire morning cleaning the barracks to make them spotless. However someone accidentally spilled some kind of yellow clothing detergent on the floor right as another private happened to be buffing the floor. Needless to say the floor was shining with a bright yellow stain waxed in. The drill sergeant was livid but it was what she said that undermined everything she had said before about looking out for our best interest. She said, “ I -expletive-  hate all you privates and could care less if you all died in battle.” She then went on to say that she never wanted to be a drill sergeant and that we were going to cause her promotion to be lost. It was only a few brief words but none of us privates ever looked at that drill sergeant the same. In just a few words she had revealed that she was not motivated by a desire to train us but a desire to be promoted.

Words can reveal our hearts but so can our actions. It is to some of these actions that we turn. The second symptom of a heart of worship is Taking Care of Others.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27 a

. Earlier in James, he talks about looking at ourselves in the perfect mirror of the law. Warren W. Wiersbe says that “After we have seen ourselves and Christ in the mirror of the Word, we must see others and their needs.” John Calvin in his commentary says, ““James does not define generally what religion is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentioned is nothing.” James then is not saying in comprehensive detail what all of worship entails but he does give us some very practical things. These practical things are specifically to visit orphans and widows in their distress.

A heart of worship will be a heart that cares about what God cares about. The Bible is full of exhortations then to love those who are less fortunate. Exodus 22:22 says, “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.” God has a special place for those who have no family. Deut 14:29 says “The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Isaiah 1:10-17 says that our sacrifices, our worship is no good God because of the injustice we do to those around us. In verse 17 it says, Learn to do good;
Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” Jesus later sums up this entire approach in this way “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus did not say that by our music all men will know. He did not say that by our nice church buildings they will know you are His disciple . He did not say that by even our theology but by how we love each other.

In America, the church has given over much of its God given responsibilities to the state. We now rely on the government to take care of the elderly, the poor and the orphaned. While I do not have time here to go into the proper role of the government, it needs to be said that these things are not the responsibility of the government but of us the church. When we hand over our roll to the government then we also diminish our impact in the world. As the government has grown, the importance of church in influencing our society has diminished. It is time again that we future pastors, church leaders, seminary professors, and missionaries reclaim that responsibility for the Church. This is a worship issue. If we are going to be a worshiping Church then we have to be a Church that takes care of the needy. Great preachers and men of God in the past have understood this. One of the greatest legacies of Charles Spurgeon is the orphanages that he built. This seems to be something that our catholic friends understand more than us. I challenge each of us then as future leaders to encourage our churches to take care of the needy. The book of acts gives us a model. Those who had much sold what they had to provide for those who had nothing.

A heart of worship must tame its tongue and take care of the needy. The third symptom of a heart of worship is to Turn from the World.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

Douglas Moo in his commentary says that “The third mark of true religion is more general than the other two and less concrete: to keep oneself from being polluted by the world… The “world” is a common biblical way of referring to the ungodly worldview and lifestyle that characterize human life in its estrangement from the creator.” Charles Spurgeon puts it this way,

“If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I …daily consorted with the assassin who drove the dagger into my brother’s heart; surely I too must be an accomplice in the crime. Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?”

A true picture of a worshiping heart, a regenerate heart then is that it will not go back to what it once was. We were once estranged to God but by His Son, He reconciled us back to Him. Christians who have ended the estrangement by accepting the reconciling work of God in Christ must constantly work to distance themselves from the way of life that caused the estrangement which surrounds us on every side. We live in a materialistic society where advertisements and temptations to join in with the world bombard us daily. Are we caught up in the concerns of this world or are our concerns set on Jesus? How do we spend our time, money, and energy? The answers to these questions and more will reveal how friendly we have become with the world.

On the surface, it may appear that the book of James is only concerned with works. We do not believe in a works based salvation but as James says our faith will be made manifest. Our heart will reveal itself. The symptoms of a heart dedicated in worship to Jesus are the Taming of the Tongue, the Taking Care of Others, and the Turning from the World. Will we be people of God who use our words to lift up others, speak the truth, and honor God or will we be like the one who thinks he is religious yet uses his tongue to speak ill of others. Will we be a Church and people who take personal responsibility to take care of others? Will we be friends with the world and enemies of God or friends with God and enemies to the world? Do you have the symptoms of a heart of worship? I ask along with James, how’s your heart?

Creation and the Age of the Earth

 How old are you? Every gentleman should know that you never ask a lady her age. The earth is a different kind of lady and scientists, scholars,and bible believers have been asking her age for a couple hundred of years now. Like any other lady, earth has done a good job of hiding her age, causing quite a lot of speculation. Scientists, like a medical doctor with a patient of unknown age, have inspected the earth looking for telltale signs of age. Bible scholars however have the birth certificate, though there are several disagreements on how to interpret it.

The Issue

For much of history, science and the bible had been agreeable. William H. Jennings, professor of Religion at Muhlenberg College, writes, “In Newtonian science, the universe operates like a well-ordered machine. The spectacular success with which scientists of that day predicted many astronomical phenomena seemed to demonstrate this, and there was a growing confidence that all the created world could be seen as operating in a similar harmonious and predictable way.”i Science was expected to confirm the Bible and it did. Science confirmed the theological assumption that God’s hand was in the world at creation and at work today. “Newtonian science presented a model by which Christianity and science could exist side by side in harmony.”ii This harmony was not to last for in 1859 Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. Jennings says that, “A dramatic revolution in science occurred in the twentieth century, a revolution for which Darwin was a harbinger. From physics to genetics, from astronomy to anthropology and all the other disciplines, science today pictures the world as dynamic and ever-changing, built upon inner energy… a world that in many ways is different from the way Newtonian science had described it.”iii Darwin had ushered in a radically new model of nature, science and even biblical interpretation. With this new development, theologians began looking to the bible for answers. A new look was given to the book of Genesis to see if it could be harmonized with Darwinism. From this return to Genesis has risen a debate over the age of the earth and the timing of creation. At the heart of this debate is the issue over the authority of scripture and the authority of science. To illustrate the importance of this debate, a 2011 Gallup poll found that only 3 in 10 of Americans say that the Bible is to be interpreted literally as the word of God.”iv This was down from 40% of Americans in 1980. While there may be other factors involved in this decline, certainly the evolution-creation debate has played its roll. The passage of scripture at the center of the debate is Genesis 1 and 2. The passage describes God’s creating of the world seemingly in 6 days. However, if this is true then the earth must be much younger than what many modern scientists are saying. In an attempt to harmonize the science and biblical date, new interpretations of the passage have risen. This paper will first describe two of these alternate interpretations, their weaknesses and then affirm that the literal interpretation is still the most faithful to the text and to the question of the age of the earth.

POSITIONS

Because of a so-called discrepancy between the sciences and Bible, several theologians have been hard at work at trying to harmonize the interpretation of Genesis with the sciences. One theory that gained much traction in the 19th century and blossomed in the 1960s is the Day-Age View. This theory states that the days of creation should be not understood as a 24-hour day but as 6 ages or distinct periods of time. Two of the biggest proponents of this theory Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer describe their position in a book entitled The Genesis Debate. “We build our day-age interpretation upon the conviction that we can trust God’s revelation as truth in both the words of the Bible and works of creation including the physical world.”v “Our day-age interpretation treats the creation days literally as six sequential, long periods of time.”vi The obvious reason that the day-age interpretation exists is because scientists have insisted that the universe is billions of years old. Even Ross and Archer admit , “Before English translations were available, animosity over the length of the Genesis days did not exist, at least not as far anyone can tell from the extant theological literature.”vii While those who promote this viewpoint would claim a commitment to “sola scripture” it seems that their first commitment is to have science interpret the scriptures. Interestingly enough it is two proponents of another interpretation, the framework view, Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline who provide the best advice when interpreting scripture. “In contrast to this science-driven approach, we believe it is best to set scientific questions to the side while exegeting the text.”viii Henri Blocher another proponent of the framework view puts it this way. In the case of the opening chapters of Genesis, it is not plausible that the human author knew what we are taught by astronomers, geologists and other scientists. Therefore we must curb the desire to make the scientific view play a part in the actual interpretation;the interpretation must cling solely to the text and its context. The inescapable comparison with the sciences of cosmic, biological and human origins will not come until after….ix Irons and Kline sum up this constraint as a “Scripture first, science later methodology (that) accords best with the nature and purpose of Scripture, which does not normally speak in scientific terms for the purpose of answering purely scientific questions.”x The Day-Age view has the hermeneutic backwards. It starts with science first and then seeks to interpret the scriptures accordingly.

Day-Age proponents do seem to make some convincing arguments from the text but ultimately are constrained by the current model of science. What if the current scientific viewpoint were to change? Would theologians be asked to change their interpretation once again? Wayne Grudem in his masterpiece Systematic Theology even asserts that the day view has several difficulties within science. The sequence of events in Genesis 1 does not exactly correspond to current scientific understanding of the development of life, which puts sea creatures (day 5) before trees (day ), and insects and other land animals (day 6), as well as fish (day 5),before birds (day 5). The greatest difficulty for this view is that it puts the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4) millions of years after the creation of plants and trees (Day 3). That makes no sense at all according to current scientific opinion, which sees the stars as formed long before the earth or any living creatures on the earth.xi It is safe to say then even by changing the interpretation of Genesis to have long days, that there are still major problems in fitting within modern science.

Another position mentioned briefly above is the framework view of Genesis. In attempting to keep science out of the exegesis, this view holds that the seven-day creation account was never meant to be taken literally but instead is a literary device used to address theological issues. In this view, Genesis is not an explanation of how God made the universe but is a symbol to illustrate the purpose of creation. This theory basically asserts that the creation week can be divided into two sets of three days each. Lee Irons explains, “ the first triad (days 1-3) narrate the establishment of the creation kingdoms, and the second triad (days 4-6), the production of the creature kings.”xii He goes on further to say, “This deliberate two-triad structure, or literary framework, suggests that the several creative works of God have been arranged by Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in their particular order for theological and literary, rather than sequential, reasons. For this reason we believe the days of the creation week are a figurative framework providing the narrative structure for God’s historical creative works.”xiii

While on the surface this may look like a sound approach, it is an artificial structure applied to the text.  J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall explain the real problem with the framework approach in their critique of a framework essay.” The framework essay claims to liberate the text from received interpretations and, serendipitously, to have removed the ‘false expectations that have muzzled the text in the past’ so that the theological message may shine through. By making this claim, framework adherents disenfranchise virtually all earlier exegesis and sport an eccentric view that purportedly rescues the theological message….Moreover, the framework view requires more than anyone may credibly posit about the literary sophistication of (1) the original audience, (2) all subsequent Old Testament epexegesis, (3) New Testament commentaries on creation, and (4) the orthodox understanding of the Christian Church until relatively recent revisions.”xiv The framework view basically asserts that the real interpretation of the passage was hidden for thousands of years and has only been revealed in the past 50 years.

SUPPORT

Since both the day-age and the framework view are lacking, it may do to return to the literal 24-hour view. The 24-hour view states that each day in the Genesis account correlates to one 24-hour day, thus God created in six days and rested on the seventh. This has been the normative view for most of Christian history. Duncan and Hall explain why this is, “The historical Christian tradition, which is rooted in a cumulative history of interpretation, has viewed these days mainly as normal days because it has viewed the Genesis account as historical. No significant debate existed on the matter before the nineteen century because the plainest and most straightforward reading of the text ha no sustained challengers.”xv It is important to realize that the literal 24-hour view was never really questioned until the recent theories of evolution. Even James Barr, a Hebrew scholar at Oxford University and no friend to a historical christian view, comments that: there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience.xvi

History also confirms that the literal interpretation was the norm for most of Christianity. Basil the great, one of the three Cappadocian Fathers, wrote: “And there was evening and morning, one day. Why did he say one’ and not ‘first’?…He said ‘one’ because he was defining the measure of day a night… since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day.”xvii Ambrose another early father writes a description of the creation days echoing Basil: The end of day is the evening. Now, the succeeding day follows after the termination of night. The thought of God is clear. First He called light “day” and next He called darkness “night.” In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a “day,” not the “first day.” Because a second, then a third day, and finally the remaining days were to follow, a “first day” could have been mentioned, following in this way the natural order. But Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent.xviii Thomas Aquinas said, “The words one day are used when day is first instituted, to denote that one day is made up of twenty-four hours.”xix The reformers also believed in a literal six day creation. In John Calvin’s commentaries on Genesis he describes God’s creation of days, “That is, God willed that there should be a regular vicissitude of days and nights; which also followed immediately when the first day was ended… Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men.”xx Martin Luther especially was vocal about his belief in the literal six days, “He [Moses] calls ‘a spade a spade,’ i.e., he employs the terms ‘day’ and ‘evening’ without Allegory just as we customarily do, we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit.”xxi One last quote should be suffice to prove that the literal view has been the view point throughout Christian history. Charles Spurgeon ,who was open to the gap theory, was critical of the day-age theory and confirmed, “There is nothing said about long ages of time, but, on the contrary, “the evening and the morning were the first day”, and “the evening and the morning were the second day”; and so on.”xxii

While it is suffice to say that the literal view has been the norm though out Christian history, that still does not provide a complete defense for this view. For that we will now turn to the Scriptures to see if the literal view is truly correct.  The creation account begins with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (NASB).”xxiii Something that all Christians can believe without argument is that God existed before the beginning and was the creator of everything. Some have proposed a gap of time between this first statement and the next,“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”xxiv It seems more likely that the first verse stands out as the main idea and that what follows is the description of this main idea. For example it would be like saying, “I made cookies. First, I added eggs, Second I added butter and so forth.” The clue to this structure is the use of numbers in a chronological sequence. Verse 2 then explains the “chaos of the first created matter and God’s method of crafting the formlessness and emptiness to the order and fullness which we now experience, even in this fallen world.”xxv

Next, God in His mighty power creates light with His Word. The apostle John tells us in his gospel that this Word was Christ. It is near impossible to image a time before light existed but it is in verse 3 that God through Christ creates light. In a sermon about creation, Louie Giglio says: I hear people say things all the time that they don’t think about, “I would like to have been there when God created the world.” No, you wouldn’t have wanted to be there when God created the world. You would not have wanted to be there the day He said, “Let there be light” because when He opened His mouth, light came flying out the mouth of God traveling 186,000 miles per second. That’s the speed of light.xxvi When God created light it must have been truly remarkable.

God then separates the light from darkness. It is in verse 5 that the word day is first used. Interestingly the word day is defined by God. The light is day and the darkness is night. “Then there was evening and there was morning, one day.” It is exactly what one expects to be a day from a Jewish stand point. The new day begins at evening and lasts till the next evening. Those looking to make the day into ages have a hard time looking past the very definition given by God. Duncan and Hall say, “Those who voice this objection have no reason, other than cosmological assumptions, for construing yôm(Hebrew word for day) to mean anything other than a normal day, the way the passage was understood by audiences from time of Moses to Jesus.”xxvii

Another important thing to look at is the usage of sequencing with the word for day. When yôm is used in the Genesis account is accompanied with a numerical denotation. This is a clue that the word is used to mean a literal day. Francis Humphrey writes,” The fact that for the bulk of the passage, the word yôm is accompanied by sequential numerical denotation and the language of ‘evening and morning’ gives a prima facie case that regular 24-hour days are in view.”xxviii Even those who hold the framework view agree with this assessment of the 24-hour day. “At this point we agree with the 24-hour theorists that at the literal level, Genesis 1 speaks of seven ordinary days, and that the sixfold evening-morning formula signifies the ordinary cycle of sunset and sunrise.”xxix It is quite obvious then that Moses meant six literal 24-hour days when describing creation.

God then creates all of creation in six days. On the seventh day, He rests from His work of creating. Some have argued that this seventh day is still ongoing because God is still not creating and because the description of the seventh day does not end in the usual wording of “And there was evening and there was morning.” There are several reasons why it is not necessary that the seventh day be ongoing. One reason is that the seventh day marks the end of the description of the creation week. The use of “And there was evening and there was morning” was to provide a marker to signify the end of one creation day and the beginning of the next day of creation. It is a clue that there is more to the story of the creation account to come. Since the seventh day is the end of the account there is no need to continue with a description of another day because the description of the creation week is over. For example, if you where to describe your vacation to a coworker, you might describe what you did Monday morning and evening, Tuesday morning and evening, and so forth. When you get to the end of your description and say, “On Friday, I came home”, the description of the vacation is over. There would be no need to describe what happened Friday evening nor would there be an expectation to describe what happened Saturday. You might think the co-worker was a bit crazy if he thought that your Friday continued in-definitely because you did not tell him what you did on Saturday. The Genesis account of the seventh day is just like the Friday description of your vacation. It is the end of the creation description. God also ends the account of that day by blessing and sanctifying it. This is important because God will use this account later to lay out for his people the command of keeping the Sabbath.

OBJECTIONS

There are several objections that others might have about a literal 24-hour day and a 6 day creation week. Most of these objections can be heaped into two categories, objections based on science and objections from the test. We will first look at the objections based on science before taking a look at one objection from the text. When dealing with objections based upon science it is important to remember the principle laid out earlier, “Scripture first, science later.” As argued above, the scriptures are clear about the length of a day. Some will argue then that the scriptures do not agree with what scientists are telling us about evolution and the age of the earth. That may be true. The scriptures might not agree with what some scientists are saying but as Protestant Christians we affirm the authority of scripture over and against the authority of science. That said, the problem is not really with science but with the modern presuppositions behind those scientists. The defining presupposition behind most modern scientists is naturalism. Naturalism is the view that everything can and must be explained in a natural way apart from any supernaturalism. Richard Lewontin famously said, “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”xxx Thus it is a commitment to exclude God that will always keep many scientists from agreeing with scripture. Paul writing to the Romans puts it this way, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”xxxi

The above said, there are still those who work in the science fields who do not have these presuppositions and are working to show that the scientific record is not at odds with a young earth and six 24-hour days of creation. A description to one book published in 2003 entitled In Six Days highlights the work being done, “In this book are the testimonies of fifty men and women holding doctorates in a wide range of scientific fields who have been convicted by the evidence to believe in a literal six-day creation.”xxxii This one book is but just a small example of the many publications being written by Christians working in the many different fields of science, from geology to microbiology. While it is true that much of the creation science has not caught on in the mainstream, it is also not true that science must disagree with a young earth.

The second line of opposition to the young earth comes from those who argue within the text. One such argument is that the days can not be literal 24-hour periods because the events of the sixth day would take more than 24-hours. It is argued that because God created three different types of land animals,created both Adam and Eve, and assigned Adam the task of naming the animals then 24 hours would not be long enough time. “It must have taken a good deal of study for Adam to examine each specimen thoroughly and decide on a suitable name, especially since he had absolutely no tradition in nomenclature behind him.”xxxiii One proposal by young earth proponents is that Adam would have had a superior intellect not corrupted by the fall. While such speculation may provide an answer, there is not much information from the text to prove this claim. The easier answer is that the text does not claim Adam had to have completed this task in one day. It is more likely that part of Adam’s daily life was tending to the Garden and taking care to name the animals as they came to him. The text also does not say that Adam named every creature on earth but that “he gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field.”xxxiv This excludes reptiles, insects, water animals, and so forth.

The second reason that it is argued that the sixth day must have been long is because “apparently, Adam had sufficient interaction and time with both the plants and animals of the garden to realize that something was still missing from his life.”xxxv Once again a careful reading of the scripture will alleviate this so-called problem. Genesis 2 verse 18 says, “ Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” No where is it said or implied that Adam was lonely or complaining. Instead God who is not limited by time and is the very definition of wisdom is the one who knows that it is not good for Adam to be alone. The passage goes on further to explain that the reason God made animals is for the man. More importantly it explains God’s special care in creating the woman. Far from saying that Adam was lonely in one day, this passage shows the love of God in his reasons for creating both animals and the woman. It would be a distortion of scripture to say that God created Adam and then found out after a period of time that He had forgotten or neglected to create Adam a suitable partner. Thus it is not necessary that the sixth day be a long period of time but may be more necessary that the sixth day be a short period of time.

While there may be other objections forthcoming against the literal 24-hour view, this view will stand the test of time. Because the 24-hour view is the view that is most faithful to the text, it also must be understood that the earth must be much younger than billions of years. One important idea that is upheld by a young earth is that death and destruction did not enter this world until man sinned. When man sinned, he corrupted the world. The beauty of this is that by another man, Jesus, death was defeated and one day the world will return to a pure and deathless state.

The question over the age of the earth may still rage on but fortunately we have the birth certificate, the Bible. A belief in the authority of the Bible will help one from being swayed by the arguments of the current age. It will keep one from a slide into naturalism. A belief in the literal six-day creation will uphold the beauty of not only of God’s work at creation but His work in redemption. The young-earth and literal 24-hour day view is the view most faithful to the text and to the witness of Christian scholars throughout time. It has been said that “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”xxxvi By remembering the principles of sound exegesis and a respect for those who came before, one does not have to become a widower when the views of scientists and fanciful theologians change.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

III, J. Ligon Duncan, David W. Hall, Hugh Ross, Gleason L. Archer, Lee Irons, and Meredith G. Kline. The Genesis Debate: Three Views On the Days of Creation. Mission Viejo, CA: Global Publishing Services, 2000.

 

Ashton, John F., ed. In Six Days: Why Fifty 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2001.

 

Brocher,Henri., In the Beginning:The Opening Chapters of Genesis. trans. David G. Preston Downers Grove, IL: Varsity Press, 1984.

Garner, Paul. The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theory On a Biblical Foundation. Webster, NY: GRACE DISTRIBUTION, 2009.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994.

Jennings, William H. Storms Over Genesis: Biblical Battleground in America’s Wars of Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Articles

Lewontin, Richard (1997), “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review, January 9.


Websites

Calvin, John. “John Calvin Commentaries On Genesis.” John Calvin Commentaries. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/m.sion/cvgn1-03.htm (accessed April 5, 2012).

Giglio, Louie. “Indescribable.” October 4, 2008. Youtube.com. FLV file. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewKtSKbWZUI (accessed April 5, 2012).

Humphrey, Francis. “The Meaning of Yôm in Genesis 14: 1–2.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/the-meaning-of-yom-in-genesis-1 (accessed April 5, 2012).

Jones, Jeffrey. “In U.s., 3 in 10 Say They Take the Bible Literally.” Gallup.com. http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/say-bible-literally.aspx (accessed April 5, 2012)

Jones, Stephen E. “Letter of 23 April 1984 from James Barr, Then Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University, to David C.c. Watson.” Creation/Evolution Articles. http://members.iinet.net.au/…sejones/barrlett.html (accessed April 5, 2012).

Irons, Lee. “The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary.” Ordained Servant 9, no. 1 (January 2000): page nr. http://www.upper- register.com/papers/framework_interpretation.html (accessed April 5, 2012).

Spurgeon, C.H. The Greatest Fight in the World. N.p.: Pilgrim Publications, n.d. http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/gfw.htm (accessed April 5, 2012).

Van Bebber, Mark. “What Was Martin Luther’s Stand On Creation/evolution?” ChristianAnswers.net. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c027.html (accessed April 5, 2012).