Monthly Archives: January 2014

“The world isn’t like that, my brother.”

Maybe we should be a little more flexible regarding murder. We need to stop thinking in terms of black and white truth. Let us listen to the voice of the murderer!

Maybe we should listen more to the voice of the gang rapists. Don’t just say “Here is the wall. Rape is wrong.” That is intolerant, isn’t it?

Maybe we should listen to the voice of the torturer. We should not close our minds and say that torture is wrong. Stop being so narrow minded!

Maybe we should be more flexible regarding the child molester. We should not close our minds to the virtues of child molestation.

Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, German bishop of the Regensburg, looks on during a religious conference at the Vatican

I know many will say that these statements are outrageous, and they are (though I suspect there would even be some out there that would agree with or defend them). But recently, a top, influential aide to the Catholic Pope Francis rebuked another Catholic for being too rigid and unrelenting in his affirmation of Catholic doctrine, especially on the subject of marriage and divorce.

I am not a Catholic so it doesn’t matter to me what goes on inside the Catholic church, and I believe the Catholics are in error on many points, anyway. But the aides’ condemnation–a condemnation, I might add, that has stood without papal rebuke–seems to me to be a reflection of the general tendency in our society to dismiss absolute standards and objective truth. The aide is reported to have said “The world isn’t like that, my brother.”

The aide went on to say, “You should be a bit flexible when you hear other voices, so you don’t just listen and say, ‘here is the wall’.” Furthermore, he said we think “too much in rigid black-and-white terms.” This is the attitude so many in our society take regarding truth in general. To many, truth is whatever anyone wants it to be. Yet most everyone–except the most depraved–would dismiss as ludicrous the statements which began this post.

Some will say that those statements are not on the same level as church doctrine regarding marriage and divorce. But the problem with such a view is that it fails to recognize that God and not man determines what is right and wrong, even in religion. Especially in religion! It fails to understand that all truth is objective.

The Pope’s aide says “The world isn’t like that, my brother.” Well, no, because there is sin in the world. Sin is a violation of the will of God (I John 3:4). The world is so full of sin that Jesus referred to satan as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30). Paul said he is the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4). John said that all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:15). So, no, the world is not black and white–but God’s will most certainly is!

John said “whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (II John 9). Jesus said he that is not with Him, is against Him (Matt. 12:30). There is no middle ground when it comes to Truth and Right (Matt. 6:24). Many, however, have and continue to try to “change the truth of God into a lie” (Rom. 1:25), an action they will ultimately regret deeply when God shall reveal His wrath against those who do wrong (Rom. 2:1-11; II Cor. 5:10). Jesus told the woman taken in adultery, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). How narrow minded is that? Didn’t Jesus know He should be a little more flexible?

What is even more sad is that this Catholic aide doesn’t even recognize that he holds an untenable position. The aide urges tolerance toward other views but is being intolerant in his condemnation of his fellow Catholic. Either he doesn’t even recognize that he contradicts his own position or, worse, he doesn’t care.

Eric L. Padgett

What Makes Something True?

What makes something true? Many people believe something is true just because they want to believe it. Some people believe things because their parents believed it. Others believe things because their preacher said it. Some people believe things because it has always been taught that way. Unfortunately, most people never question why or how they believe what they believe.

Believing or not believing something does not make it either true or not true. If a man believes he can fly and he jumps off the roof of a ten story building, regardless of what he believes, the truth will soon become apparent. Just because your parents told you there is a Santa Claus, doesn’t mean there really is. Just because a preacher says drink the cool-aid, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

Truth correlates to reality. If I say it is raining outside my house, how would you know if I was telling the truth? You would look outside my house to see if it was raining. If I am telling the truth, it will be raining outside my house. The truth of my statement will correspond to the reality of the situation. But then how do we know what is real?

Do we get to make up our own reality? The man who jumped off the roof of a ten story building didn’t get to make up his own reality and neither do we. Reality is settled by virtue of creation. In other words, reality depends on God. God created the world in a certain way. In order to get from one point to another, for instance, I have to move through time and space. The distance of the earth from the sun at any given point in time is a certain distance (roughly 93 million miles). We don’t get to vote on that distance to change it. That distance is not one distance for you and another for me. It is as God created it.

Why should we think the nature of moral-spiritual truths are any different than temporal-spatial truths? A thing is morally true if it corresponds to reality and reality is determined by God. Just as we don’t get to vote on the distance of the earth to the sun, we don’t get to vote on whether drunkenness, murder or homosexuality are sins. These things are not morally right for one person but wrong for another. Moral truths, as temporal-spatial truths, are also determined by their correspondence to the reality of God’s creation. But how do I know if any given moral statement is true or not true?

If I make the statement it is raining outside my house, I can check that by looking outside my house. If I say the sun is 93 million miles from earth, I can measure that (after a fashion). But how do I know if the statements “murder is a sin” or “homosexuality is a sin” are either true or false? Just as we look in the Book of Nature to objectively discover temporal-spatial truths we must look into the Book of Revelation (i.e., the Bible) to discover moral-spiritual truths. When someone says homosexuality is a sin, how do I know if that is true? I look into the word of God and see if that is what it teaches. That is how all moral and spiritual truths are determined. In principle, it is determined the same way we discover temporal-spatial truths.

But someone will object and say not everyone agrees on moral-spiritual truths. That is true, but not everyone agrees on temporal-spatial truths either. Many scientists believe in evolution, but many scientists do not. The history of science is filled with failures, men and women believing things about the natural world, like spontaneous generation, etc., that are not true. The scientific method is used to discover temporal-spatial truths and sacred hermeneutics is used to discover moral-spiritual truths. When properly handled, these methods advance truth, when improperly used, they extend ignorance.

What makes a statement or proposition true, then, is its correspondence to the way God created the world. He created certain temporal-spatial truths, which are discoverable through the scientific method and He created certain moral-spiritual truths which are discoverable through sacred hermeneutics. The heavens declare the glory of God just as the Word declares His will for man.

What so many people fail to do, however, is to be guided in what they believe about moral and spiritual matters by what God has revealed in His word. Many who do hear or come somehow to understand what the Bible teaches will still reject it. They will cast doubt on the reliability of God’s Word as a standard of authority or they will say “That is just your interpretation,” asserting that no one can really know the truth about morality.

But without recognizing God’s word as the objective standard, they leave themselves open to subjectivism. For if moral “truths” are determined by human opinion and not divine revelation, there is, in effect, no moral truth. If human opinion determines morality, murder may be wrong to you, but it may not be wrong to someone else. Thus, there would be no truth concerning morality, only individual opinions, and opinions differ widely.

But those who either take an agnostic posture with regard to morality or dismiss objective, moral standards outright, will inevitably, but inconsistently, assert some moral standard as absolute. Everyone will at least assert “It is wrong for you to take my life.” They understand the God-given right to life (though they may not recognize it as such). But when they do this, they give up any claim of an agnosticism of morality and admit there is an objective moral standard.

The truth is, there is an objective, moral-spiritual truth to which all men are amenable–the Word of God. It is just as much a part of God’s creation as are the temporal-spatial truths. All of these truths and laws were codified in creation. We come to understand or discover all of these laws and truths through observation and study.

What makes something true is that God has declared it to be true.

Eric L. Padgett

Through a Glass Darkly

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (I Cor. 13:12)

teen-mirror-110127-02Some passages of scripture are more often misinterpreted than others. I Cor. 13:12 must surely fall into this category. Many interpret this passage to mean that we cannot understand all the abstruseness of this life, that all is an unknowable mystery to us in this present state and that it will only become clear to us in some future aeon after we have crossed through the veil. For instance, John Gill states in his commentary that the word “now” is referring to “in this life” and the word “then” refers to “in the other world or state.” But such an interpretation does an injustice to the Text.

The passage in question occurs in the context of the duration and utility of miraculous gifts. Paul began the chapter with the observation that miraculous gifts, without the guiding principle of charity, are nothing and profits nothing (vv. 1-3). In the previous chapter the apostle illustrated how that there were various gifts given by the Spirit, but that there is but one Spirit of God (12:1-31). In the succeeding chapter the apostle described the divine etiquette of the miraculous gifts in the first century church (14:1-40). This passage, then, is sandwiched between two descriptions of the miraculous.

The more immediate context concerns not only the miraculous but specifically contrasts the abiding nature of faith, hope and love with the temporary nature of the miraculous gifts (13:8-13). Tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease (V. 8) but faith, hope and charity will continue (V. 13). The miracles were a constant source of conflict and jealousies; what was needed was love. Paul described tongues, prophecy, and knowledge as mere parts of the whole (“perfect’). The word “perfect” is the Greek “telos” and means “completeness.” The “complete” or “perfect” is contrasted with the “parts.” The parts are identified as tongues, prophecy and knowledge, all miraculous gifts given to reveal and confirm the word of God (Mark 16:20; John 13:16; 14:26; 20:30,31; Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:1-4). When the word of God was completely revealed and that word confirmed, then there was no longer any need for the miraculous.

Paul then gives two examples illustrating the provisional nature of the miraculous. The first is of a child turning into a man. As a child, he spoke, understood and thought as a child, but when he became a man, he put away those childish things. Because he was demonstrating the point previously made, he associated miracles with childish things, proper in their own time and order, but to be put away when maturity–in this case, completed revelation–was reached.

The second illustration given is our text. It is but another illustration of the point already made, i.e., miraculous gifts were temporary. Seeing through a glass darkly, then, is the equivalent to using childish things. Seeing face to face is equivalent to being mature. This maturity was identified previously with completed revelation. Therefore, seeing face to face is equivalent to completed revelation.

What this text is saying, then, is this: We see now (during the early part of the first century, during the age of the miraculous) through a glass darkly (because we do not yet have all that God wants revealed) but then (when revelation shall be completed) we shall see face to face (because we have the completed revelation, all things that pertain to life and godliness – II Pet. 1:3). Now (during the early part of the first century, during the age of the miraculous) we know in part (because we do not yet have all that God wants revealed) but then (when revelation shall be completed) shall I know (because we have all things that pertain to life and godliness – II Pet. 1:3) even as also I am known (i.e., I can know myself as God sees me and wants me to be).

James also portrays looking into the word of God as looking into a mirror. “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:23-25). God’s word is a mirror that reflects both what God wants us to be and what we are. Now that we have all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3), we no longer need miracles, which belonged to an age of immaturity, to an age in which we had incomplete knowledge. That is no longer is our state!

The time in which we see face to face and in which we know as we are known is now! It is not in some future state beyond this earthly realm, but in the Christian dispensation! We have God’s revealed will which lightens our life (I John 1:7). We now have God’s complete word-revelation to man and “hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (I John 2:3).

Eric L. Padgett

Thoughts on the New Year

Before the children of Israel left Egypt, the Lord instructed them that they should institute the Passover (Ex. 12:1ff). Naturally, this deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the commemoration of it was an important event in their history. But it also teaches us several lessons about how God would have us approach the New Year.

First, it teaches us that with God we can always Start anew. To mark this new beginning, this was to be the beginning of the year for the children of Israel (Ex. 12:1,2). Even though Israel had been in bondage for hundreds of years (Ex. 12:40; Acts 7:6; Gal. 3:17), they were going to be set free! The lesson for us is that we, even though we may have lived lives of sin, can be set free from that sin and have a new beginning. In Christ we become new creatures and all things become new (II Cor. 5:17). This year we ought to determine within ourselves that we will be new creatures, obeying the Lord and becoming Christians, if we are not, and living our lives as though we are new creatures if we have obeyed the Lord (Col. 3:1ff).

Second, there was an emphasis upon Strengthening the family. The celebration of the Passover centered around the home (12:3). The home has been important since creation when God formed a wife, that is, a help suitable for Adam, out of Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:18-25). It is to this sacred union, wherein one man and one wife become one flesh, that children are entrusted. These children are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-13). This year we ought to make a point of seeking opportunities to teach our children more about God (Deut. 6:4-7).

Third, there must be Sacrifice. The lamb that was to be eaten was to be the best, a lamb without blemish (12:5). We cannot offer to God second best. David said that he would not offer to God that which cost him nothing (II Sam. 24:24). Should we do any less? By inspiration, Paul tells us we should present our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1,2). This coming year may we offer to God the very best we can in what ever we do for Him.

Finally, the children of Israel were Sanctified by the blood of the Passover Lamb on their door posts (12:7). This blood served as a token by which the Angel of Death would know to pass over that house and spare it from death (12:13). The Egyptians were not so marked and this resulted in the death of their first-born (11:4,5). In the Christian Dispensation, we also are marked by the blood of the Lamb, the Son of God (Mark 14:24; Rom. 5:9; Heb. 9:18-22). This year may we be sanctified for the service of the Lord (Eph. 5:26; II Tim. 2:21).

Eric L. Padgett