Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Reformed Baptist Blog Has Moved

I am writing this post to inform our readers that the Reformed Baptist Blog has moved. This Blogger version will remain online at the address, but the custom domain has been moved to the new WordPress version of the blog. With the help of Danny Thursby, a new addition to the blog, we have successfully migrated all of the content to the new site, having lost nothing in the process, although it will be organzied somewhat differently. Thanks to all of our readers for your continued support! check out the new site here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review of David Allen's The Extent of the Atonement

Recently Jeff Johnson posted a review of The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review by David Allen at the Founders Ministries blog. Jeff offers a succinct description of the book, as well of the strengths and weaknesses he has identified in it. For example, when discussing the strengths of the book Jeff asserts that:
Though this is not the only historical survey of the doctrine of the extent of the atonement, it is the only comprehensive survey of the topic. From Irenaeus (AD 130-202) to David Schrock (b. AD 1980), and with almost every notable theologian in between, Allen has provided us with a valuable catalog of the history of the extent of the atonement. Therefore, I am thankful, first of all, for now having such a resource available for my own study on the subject.
However, when discussing the weaknesses of the book, Jeff asserts that:
Allen is mistaken when he limits the extent to sufficiency alone. He is wrong when he says: “For all who affirm limited atonement, the atonement can only be sufficient for those for whom it is efficient.” This is not true for the majority of 5-point Calvinists who have affirmed that actual (extrinsic) sufficiency extends to all universally.Consequently, the extent of the atonement includes more than just its sufficiency. For 5-point Calvinists, limited atonement means limited efficacy. Thus, to disprove limited atonement, as it is presented in the Canons of Dort, Allen has to do more than disprove the limited extent of its actual sufficiency. Allen has to do something more difficult, he has to disprove the limited extent of its inherent efficacy. Without making the distinction between the two sides of the extent of the atonement, Allen muddies the waters a bit. And this, I think, is a real weakness in the book.
I hope these two excerpts will inspire our readers to check out the entire review as well as Jeff's own excellent book He Died for Me.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Mark 10:17-22 – Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: In his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, Kent Hughes relates the following account:
Amy Carmichael … described in her famous book Things as They Are sitting with a Hindu queen in her palace as the queen revealed her spiritual hunger. As the conversation developed, she kept pushing Miss Carmichael regarding what was necessary for salvation, and Amy attempted to deflect her, saying she should wait. “But she was determined to hear it then [Amy wrote] and, as she insisted, I read her a little about what He [our Lord Jesus] says about it Himself. She knew quite enough to understand and take in the force of the forceful words. She would not consent to be led gently on.’No, I must know it now,’ she said; and as verse by verse we read to her, her face settled sorrowfully. ‘So far must I follow, so far?’ she said, ‘I cannot follow so far.’” (Mark, Vol. 2, p. 63)
Today we will learn about another person who discovered he could not follow our Lord Jesus so far as He demanded. He was only willing to follow to a certain degree, but no farther. In fact, he initially ran to catch up to Jesus only to remain behind after meeting Him. With this in mind, let’s get into the passage.
NKJ Mark 10:17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running,  knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
There are several things we must take special note of here.

First, Mark tells us that this rich young ruler "came running" up to Jesus. This demonstrates the eagerness of the young man not to miss the opportunity to meet with Jesus. It also indicates the gravity of the man's situation, for he was apparently somewhat desperate to have an answer to his question.

Second, Mark tells us that the young man "knelt" before Jesus. This was an an open sign of respect for Jesus.

Third, the reason for the young man's earnestness is quickly apparent when we see the question that he had for Jesus. When he asked Jesus, “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”, he was no doubt thinking of the eternal life that is to be ours at the resurrection, about which the Prophet Daniel has spoken:
NKJ Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
The young man was apparently worried about his ultimate salvation and thus sought assurance from Jesus about it. Unfortunately, he would never find such assurance until he quit asking the wrong question, namely, “What shall I do...?” As we shall see, Jesus confronts this attitude head on!

Now, the other two synoptic Gospels tell us more about this man who came running up to Jesus and who so humbly knelt before Him. Matthew tells us that he was a young man (Matt. 19:20), and Luke tells us that he was a “ruler” (Luke 18:18).  And all three synoptic Gospels describe him as a rich man. This is the reason that he is so commonly referred to as the rich young ruler. This also means that he was almost certainly a leader in the local synagogue, and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin (BAGD3, 1167, 2a).

It is all the more astonishing, then, that this young man would would have adopted such an undignified stance by running up to Jesus and falling on his knees before Him! In my opinion, this shows that the young man was sincere in his quest for an answer and in his respect for Jesus. Yet, rather than immediately answer the young man’s question directly, our Lord Jesus instead responded with a question of His own.
NKJ Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."
It is important to understand first of all that such a form of address as that used by the rich young ruler with respect to Jesus –  calling Him “good teacher” (vs. 17) – is without parallel in the Judaism of Jesus' day. They simply did not use such an address when speaking to men (William Lane, The Gospel of Mark, p. 365). This may help us to see more clearly why Jesus seized upon this title in His response to the young man. But how are we to understand Jesus' response? We will consider first a wrong view and then a right one.

A wrong view concerning the meaning of Jesus' answer would be to see it as a denial by Him of His own goodness. This cannot be right, for elsewhere Jesus affirms His own goodness and even claims to be God in the process. For example, in John 10 Jesus claims to be the “Good Shepherd,” applying to Himself the language of Ezekiel 34, which foretells a time when the LORD Himself (Yahweh) would shepherd His people:
NKJ Ezekiel 34:7-12 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 “as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”-- 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! 10 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” 11 For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.”
As I have already indicated, our Lord Jesus takes up this language with reference to His own Messianic ministry:
NKJ John 10:11-14 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
So, in applying Ezekiel 34 to Himself, Jesus not only calls Himself “good,” but He also proclaims Himself to be God. We know, then, that Jesus was most definitely not denying His own goodness, and that He therefore must have had another reason for asking this question of the young man.

A right view concerning the meaning of Jesus' answer would be to see Him as challenging the young man to think about what he was really saying, for he was either 1) implying a belief in Jesus' divinity or 2) using the term “good” in a way that supposes that a man can indeed achieve “goodness.” So, Jesus was forcing him to stop and think about the implications of his words. Did he really mean to imply that Jesus is God? Or did he really think Jesus was merely a man, thus revealing his faulty understanding of moral perfection as achievable through human effort?

As we have already seen, that the young man does wrongly believe in the possibility of a man achieving true righteousness through his own efforts was implied in the question he has asked Jesus in verse 17: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Just how deeply this notion was ingrained within him becomes apparent as Jesus applies the law more fully to the man's life.
NKJ Mark 10:19 You know the commandments: "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not bear false witness," "Do not defraud," 'Honor your father and your mother."
Jesus cites from the Ten Commandments, with the exception of the command, 'Do not defraud,' which either stands in place of the command not to covet, or, better, is an application of the commandments not to steal or bear false witness, which immediately precede it in Jesus’ list. I would suggest to you that Jesus must be stressing this particular point for a reason, perhaps because it is an area in which a rich person may have had struggles.

But why does Jesus take this approach to the young man? Although the text doesn't clearly indicate why at this point, I would suggest that it is because Jesus is using the law in accordance with one of its divinely appointed purposes. Consider, in this regard, the teaching of the apostle Paul concerning the law:
NKJ Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
NKJ Galatians 3:22-24 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
That Jesus was, in fact, applying the law with this purpose in mind becomes clear as we see His further interaction with this earnest young man.
NKJ Mark 10:20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."
Here we have the real source of the young man's apparent lack of assurance, for as long as he placed his confidence in his own ability to keep the law, he hadn't yet been able to place his faith fully in God. And the law had not yet fully accomplished its purpose in his life. So, in order to drive this purpose home, Jesus exposed the young man's true nature by giving him just what he asked for … something to do in addition to all he had claimed to have done already.
NKJ Mark 10:21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,"One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
There are several important points to observe in this verse.

First, Mark tells us how Jesus directed His gaze directly at the young man and that He loved him. Mark wants us to know that the very challenging command that Jesus gave the young man was motivated by His love for him.

Second, we must understand that the command that Jesus gave this rich young ruler is not expected of all who follow Him, but was given specifically to this rich young ruler precisely because it was the clearest point at which he had not, in fact, kept the law as fully as he had claimed. For he had not, as we shall see, obeyed the first commandment:
NKJ Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Third, when Jesus commanded the young man to “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me,” He not only required him to renounce his love for – and faith in – his worldly riches, but also to place his faith fully in Jesus as Lord, following Him and trusting Him with his life.

Jesus was simply proclaiming the truth to this rich young ruler, as Mark has already told us was characteristic of Jesus’ ministry. Recall Mark’s earlier description of our Lord’s ministry back in beginning of his Gospel account:
NKJ Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Even so, Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to recognize and repent of his sin and to demonstrate this by forsaking his former idol of riches. He was also calling the young man to trust in Him and to demonstrate this by a willingness to follow Him even unto death. Sadly, however, the young man loved his money more than God, as we see in the next verse.
NKJ Mark 10:22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Notice that this young ruler's riches had not brought him peace, for if they had, he wouldn't have been so desperate in his search for assurance from Jesus. How sad that the torment his love for his riches had brought him was not ended for him that day. Instead, he weighed the cost and chose this world's riches over the treasure of Heaven and the eternal life that he ostensibly come to Jesus to find. He came seeking assurance, but he left without it because it can only be had by those who trust in the Lord rather than in their own efforts or possessions or prestige in this world.

Conclusion: For those of us who already know Jesus Christ Lord and Savior, let us renew our commitment to follow Him even unto death. Let us call upon God for His grace to that end. And for those who have not yet trusted Him as Lord and Savior, I urge you to turn from your sins and trust in Christ alone to save you, for only then will you receive the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life that He freely offers, and only then will you find the peace and assurance of He can provide.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Facebook Etiquette

Have you noticed that Facebook, especially the theological forums, can bring out the worst in us?

My first experience with a theological forum was about 20 years ago when I was in college. Being excited to throw in my two cents, I jumped into the theological discussion. So exciting to see something I had written on the world wide web. After hitting the submit button, however, the excitement quickly dissipated. I was like a naive lamb happily walking into the blucher shop. The next thing I know I was being lectured, criticized, belittled, and chastised for my ignorance, foolishness, and stupidity. Before getting butchered I was pounced on by a pack of lions. I had no chance of survival. One person in particular let me have it. According to him, I was stupid. After belittling me, however, he was gracious enough to offer to be my teacher. Needless to say, I had no desire to become this hateful and prideful man’s disciple, so I left the forum and returned to doing more happy things with my time.

I wish my initial experience with theological forums was an anomaly, but the online evidence seems to say otherwise. Currently I am a member of a few theological forums on Facebook. Most of them I enjoy. But it is not without reason that these forums have rules of engagement. What is even sadder is that these rules often have to be enforced. Some posts and threads must be deleted because of their uncharitable nature.

I understand that tone is hard to convey in brief statements. Text messages and Facebook posts tend to be more direct, which can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. I also believe that it is a good thing that public comments are subjected to public approval and criticism. Truth needs to be defended and error needs to be corrected. Moreover, when saying something publically we need to realize that we are asking others to read and judge what we are saying. Others have the right, and in some cases, the responsibility to challenge us. It is not good or healthy for us to be so thin-skinned and easily offended that we cannot receive rebuke or correction. If we cannot defend our statements or receive correction, then we do not need to be commenting and posting at all. Because we all see through a glass darkly, discussion and disagreement are beneficial. In fact, this very blog post is a challenge, correction, and rebuke to Christians who display their pride, arrogance, and hatefulness in their Facebook posts. So I am not opposed to healthy debate.

Yet, here are a few things I think we need to seek to avoid when starting or entering into a conversation on Facebook:

Avoid Speaking the Truth without Love 

Speaking the truth is not the only thing we must be concerned about. Not only do we need to speak the truth, but we need to be concerned about speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Too many seem to be only worried about the first thing—speaking the truth. I am not saying love is more important than truth, but speaking the truth without love is like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). Hearing Dong, Dong, Dong, Dong, Dong, Dong gets on all of our nerves, yet the banging continues in so many Facebook threads. I have seen both sides of a debate drum so hard that no one seems to be listening all. Truth may be defended, but I don’t think Christ is being glorified in such cases. Should we not treat others with respect and kindness even when we disagree with them?

Avoid Treating a Person’s Profile as If They are Not a Real Person

Am I the only one who has noticed some Christians will say things on Facebook that they likely would never say in a personal conversation? Disagreements are typically more amiable and gracious in person than they are on Facebook. Yeah, I know there are some people who are uncharitable in any situation, but sadly Facebook brings a temptation to say things in a manner that we would never say to someone in person. I don’t know if typing on an impersonal device, like our computers or phones, emboldens us to become less personal, but we tend to loose some healthy restraint when we are not face to face with others. Can you imagine someone saying, “that’s stupid,” or “that’s bogus” to someone at the church potluck? Pick out some of these heated threads and imagine your elders in your church talking to one another in such a fashion. But why does Facebook give us the liberty to speak uncharitably? Should we not guard against the temptation to become impersonal and unloving? I would think that we shouldn’t say anything on Facebook that we wouldn’t say to someone who was visiting our church on Sunday.
Avoid Pride

The Bible instructs us on how we are to disagree with people. When we reprove those who oppose the truth, we are called to be gentle (2 Tim. 2:25). Yet, sometimes meekness is lacking when we communicate on Facebook. It is pride that just wants to win the argument and not the person. But I am convinced that the wisdom that comes from above is not only pure, it is also peaceable and gentle (James 3:17). Why would we purposefully want to say something inflammatory? Are we not to avoid slander and seek to be peaceable and considerate and gentle toward all people (Tit. 3:2)?

Much more could be said about things we should avoid, but these three things are enough for us to monitor ourselves. A list of do’s and don’ts is not what we necessarily need, but a spirit of love and humility. May God help tame our fingers and not just our tongues. 

I am sure this article could have been more balanced, so I welcome friendly comments, corrections, and criticism.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Baptist Confession on Lawful Oaths and Vows

In the seventeenth century, certain sects of Christendom, such as the Anabaptists and, later, the Quakers, denied the legitimacy of taking oaths or making vows. The teaching of this chapter was designed to clarify the meaning and confirm the lawfulness of oaths and vows when properly used. The Baptist Confession (2LCF) retains the substance of the Westminster Confession (WCF), but it abbreviates the form.1

Concerning Lawful Oaths (23.1-4)

The first four paragraphs address nature, propriety, solemnity and sincerity of lawful oaths.

The nature of a lawful oath (23.1)

Original Text
A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth,[1] and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.[2]
Modern Version
A lawful oath is an element of religious worship in which a person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment solemnly calls God to witness what is sworn and to judge the one swearing according to the truth or falsity of it.
[1] Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:2   [2] 2 Chronicles 6:22, 23
The first paragraph describes the nature of an oath. An oath is a solemn promise made to another party in which God is called upon to act as a witness and judge.

There are two kinds of oaths: (1) an assertory oath is used to confirm the truthfulness and reliability of one’s testimony. This type of oath is often used in the courtroom setting; (2) a promissory oath is used to confirm one’s intent to fulfill an obligation or promise. Those assuming some public office or a contractual obligation, like marriage, often use this type of oath. Traditionally, oaths have been viewed as religious in nature2 since God is evoked as a witness.3 However, in modern times oaths have begun to lose their religious character with the increase of secularism.

The Bible contains numerous examples of oaths. Sometimes civil or religious authorities would require an individual or community to confirm a plea of innocence with an oath when suspected or accused of a crime (Exodus 22:10, 11; Leviticus 5:1; 6:3; Numbers 5:11-28; Matthew 26:63, 64). Oaths were also employed to confirm one’s fidelity to his covenantal commitments and responsibilities (1 Kings 2:43; Ecclesiastes 8:2; Hebrews 6:16, 17).

Oaths often included such verbal formulas as “I swear by God” (1 Samuel 30:15; Nehemiah 13:25), “God is witness between you and me” (Genesis 31:50; 1 Samuel 12:5; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 1:8), “As the Lord lives” (1 Samuel 14:39; 19:6; 20:3; 2 Samuel 15:21), or “May the Lord do so to me if I do not” (Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17; 14:44; 2 Samuel 3:35; 1 Kings 2:23).

Oaths were also often accompanied by physical gestures, such as raising one’s right hand heavenward (Deuteronomy 32:40; Psalm 106:26; Isaiah 62:8; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 10:5, 6) or, less commonly, placing one’s hand under another’s thigh (Genesis 24:2; 47:29).4 In modern times, the adjured raises his right hand or places it upon a Bible and swears to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help [him] God.”

The propriety of a lawful oath (23.2)

Original Text
The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence;   therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred;[3] yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God;[4] so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.[5]
Modern Version
People should swear by the name of God alone and only with the mot holy fear and reverence. Therefore to swear an empty or ill-advised oath by that glorious and awe-inspiring name, or to swear at all by anything else, is sinful and to be abhorred. Yet in weighty and significant matters, an oath is authorized by the Word of God to confirm truth and end all conflict. So a lawful oath should be taken when it is required by legitimate authority in such circumstances.
[3] Matthew 5:34, 37; James 5:12  [4] Hebrews 6:16; 2 Corinthians 1:23 [5] Nehemiah 13:25
Having briefly described the nature of an oath, the Confession defends the propriety of lawful oaths in the second paragraph.

First of all, “sinful” oaths are identified and condemned. Idolatrous oaths are those in which invoke any one or thing except the one true God as witness (Joshua 23:7; Jeremiah 5:7; Zephaniah 1:5). Vain oaths are those taken flippantly for trivial matters or with the intent to deceive (Exodus 20:7; Matthew 23:16-22). Rash oaths are those taken in haste without proper forethought or solemnity (Numbers 30:6; Ecclesiastes 5:2-5). All such oaths are forbidden and condemned by Scripture (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 6:13; Jeremiah 5:7; Matthew 5:33-37).

Especially strong is Christ’s censure in the Sermon on the Mount:
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.” But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No.” For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matt 5:33-37, NKJV).
Because Quakers and some Anabaptists frequently cited this censure, which is repeated by the apostle James (5:12), the Puritans felt constrained to defend the propriety of lawful oaths in the second half of this paragraph. They affirmed that, in certain circumstances, “an oath is warranted by the word of God.” In fact, the Puritans not only viewed lawful oaths as appropriate, but also as mandatory when imposed by a lawful authority.5

The Scripture offers the following support for lawful oaths:

1. The commands to swear in Jehovah’s name and the prohibitions against swearing falsely assume the propriety of lawful oaths (Exodus 20:7; Leviticus19:12; Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20).

2. The Mosaic Law sometimes required the swearing of an oath (Exodus 22:10, 11; Leviticus 5:1; 6:3; Numbers 5:19-22; 1 Kings 8:31).

3. The example of many OT saints vindicates the use of lawful oaths: Abraham (Genesis 24:2); Jacob (Genesis 47:30-31); Joseph (Genesis 50:25); Elijah (1 Kings 17:1); Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:12; 13:25); and Ezra (Ezra 10:5).

4. The example of Christ and the Apostle Paul vindicate the use of lawful oaths (Matthew 26:62-64; Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 1:8).

5. The example of God Himself vindicates the use of lawful oaths (Genesis 22:16; Numbers 14:28; Deuteronomy 32:40; Psalm 95:11; Jeremiah 22:5; Amos 6:8; 8:7; Luke 1:73; Hebrews 6:13-17).

But if lawful oaths are appropriate, then why does Jesus say, “Do not swear at all” (Matthew 5:34)? Why does He say, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37)?

In light of the ample biblical support for lawful oaths, we must not interpret Christ’s censure as an absolute prohibition against all oaths. Rather, as indicated by the context, Jesus is condemning Pharisaic casuistry and misuse of the Law.

The Pharisees took the Old Testament command “do not swear falsely, but perform [one’s] oaths to the Lord,” and they shifted the emphasis from the integrity of the oath to the formula of the oath. No longer was the emphasis upon keeping one’s promise, but now it was on the phrase “to the Lord.”

As a result, the Pharisees concluded that one might break his oath provided that he did not swear by the Lord.6 In fact, they devoted an entire book to distinguish between the kinds of oaths that could be broken and those that were obligatory! (cf. Matthew 23:16-22). Thus, Jesus’ censure was not against lawful oath-taking but against sinful oath-taking.7

The solemnity of a lawful oath (23.3)

Original Text
Whosoever taketh an oath warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knoweth to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns.[6]
Modern Version
Whoever takes an oath authorized by the Word of God should consider with due gravity the seriousness of such a weighty act and to affirm nothing in it except what one knows to be true. For the Lord is provoked by ill-advised, false, and empty oaths, and because of them this land mourns.
[6] Lev. 19:12; Jer. 23:10
The third paragraph underscores the solemnity of oath-taking. Oaths should only be taken when required by a lawful authority or when circumstances demand it.8 The Baptists added a closing phrase, which highlights the consequences of sinful oath taking—God’s anger is provoked and society suffers. But Baptists also omitted a significant section of the WCF, which they apparently felt was sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the chapter.9

The sincerity of a lawful oath (23.4)

Original Text
An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.[7]
Modern Version
An oath is to be expressed in the plain and ordinary meaning of the words, without any ambiguity or mental reservation.
[7] Psalm 24:4
The fourth paragraph addresses the need for absolute integrity in oath-taking. As pointed out earlier, some of the Pharisees were “spinsters.” They were experts at twisting the meaning of words and phrases (Matthew 5:33-37; 23:16-22).

But such dishonest “word games” were not limited to Jesus’ day. Today, an American president can justify perjury because he intended something different than his interrogator when he used the word “is.” Liberal pastors and theologians can confess adherence to evangelical doctrinal standards after they “reinterpret” such words and phrases as “inspiration,” “deity of Christ,” “virgin birth,” “resurrection” and so on. Taxpayers can justify “fudging” on their tax return form on the basis of a loose interpretation of the phrase “to the best of my knowledge and belief.”

This is precisely the kind of dishonest casuistry censured by this paragraph and forbidden by Scripture (Leviticus 19:12; Matthew 5:34-36). As G. I. Williamson appropriately remarks,
The taking of an oath with secret intention of double meaning, not disclosed to others, or with mental reservations, whereby the mind silently voices dissent from part or all of what is being sworn, is a sin of enormity.10
That is because the Bible commends absolute honesty and fidelity (Psalm 24:4; Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).

The WCF includes some important qualifying and clarifying remarks, not included the Baptist Confession:
[An oath] cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.
I am uncertain why the Baptist Confession omitted these remarks. But I find them helpful.

To begin with, an oath to do something sinful is non-binding. For example, an individual might wrongly swear allegiance to an apostate church. Later he is converted and realizes his error. In such a case, he not only may, but he must break that oath. A. A. Hodge notes that in such a case, “The sin is in taking the oath to do the unlawful thing, not in breaking it.”11 One might add that breaking an oath that leads to sin is act of obedience.

On the other hand, the WCF indicates that oaths resulting in personal loss or inconvenience are not to be broken. The righteous man “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 15:4).

In the spring of 1992, I made a commitment to serve another year as a Graduate Assistant teaching Greek at seminary. Just before the school year I realized I would have to use a good portion of my savings to supplement our living expenses and regretted the commitment I had made. However, to resign my post would place the university in a difficult position. In light of the biblical teaching on the sincerity of oath-taking, I decided it would be better for me to suffer loss than to break my word.

The WCF also addresses the issue of oaths made to heretics or infidels. Historically, the Roman Catholic Church had justified the practice of breaking oaths to those judged to be heretics or infidels. One of the most notorious examples was the case of Bohemian Reformer Jan Hus. In 1414 the Emperor Sigismund invited Hus to a council in Constance and promised him safe conduct. But the Catholic authorities arrested and imprisoned Hus. Under pressure from the Church, the emperor informed Hus that he was not bound to keep his promise of safe conduct since Hus was a heretic.12

The Puritans rightly condemned such deceptive behavior. They commended the virtuous example of Joshua, who kept his oath with the Gibeonites though they had deceived him into making the oath (Joshua 9:1-20).

Concerning Lawful Vows (23.5)

Original Text
A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness;[8] but popish monastical vows of perpetual single life,[9] professed poverty,[10] and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.[11]
Modern Version
A vow must not be made to any creature but to God alone. Vows should be made and performed with the most conscientious care and faithfulness. However, Roman Catholic monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverity, and obedience to monastic rules, are by no means steps to higher perfection. Instead, they are superstitious and sinful snares in which Christians may not entangle themselves.
[8] Psalm 76:11; Genesis 28:20-22  [9] 1 Corinthians 7:2, 9  [10] Ephesians 4:28  [11] Matthew 19:11
The English terms “oath” and “vow” are sometimes used interchangeably. But the Old and New Testaments employ distinct vocabulary for each concept.13 Though oaths and vows are clearly related (cf. Numbers 30:2), an oath refers to a promise made in God’s presence to another human party; whereas a vow refers to a promise made directly to God.

The vows in Scripture often included both a negative and also a positive pledge. Negatively, the individual promised to abstain from some liberty, comfort, or necessity for a period of time. For example, the Nazarite promised to abstain from grape products, cutting his hair, and touching anything dead (Numbers 6:2-8; Judges 13:5-7; cf. Numbers 30:3ff.). David vowed to give himself no rest until he had found a resting place for the Ark (Psalm 132:2-5).

Positively, the individual pledged his (or another’s) time, energies, and/or resources to God’s service. Jephthah vowed to sacrifice the first living thing from his home that greeted him should God grant him victory in battle (Judges 11:30, 31). Hannah vowed to dedicate Samuel to God’s service (1 Samuel 1:11, 27, 28). As these examples demonstrate, vows were often conditioned upon God’s answering prayer (cf. Genesis 28:20-22). In other cases, vows were offered as a thankful response to prayers already answered (Psalm 22:25; 50:14; 116:14-19).

Since vows are closely related to oaths (cf. Numbers 30:2), much of the Confession’s teaching concerning the latter would also apply to the former. This may be the reason why the Baptist’s abbreviated three of the WCF’s paragraphs into one paragraph. Monastic vows were one issue the Baptists did judge worthy of reiteration. These included vows of celibacy, poverty, and unquestioned submission to the Church. Since all these practices are unbiblical,14 the Puritans rightly viewed such vows as “superstitious and sinful snares,” and as a result, non-binding.15

Closing applications

Below are a few practical "take aways" from our study.

Glorifying God and Doing Good to Men

In light of the potential dangers of oaths, we might be tempted to avoid them altogether. However, there are times when oaths are prudent and necessary. According to Scripture, a properly taken oath glorifies God (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).

By taking an oath in God’s name we publicly confess our faith in the one true God who is omniscient, omnipresent, and just. Furthermore, oaths have the potential to promote good among men. Jochem Douma explains,
A society that respects the oath is not easily disrupted. In this kind of society, people still recoil from lying and expend energy in taking their office or calling seriously. An oath-bound monarch is bound by the rights of his subjects that have been established in the constitution, so that his administration does not exercise tyranny. Oath-bound physicians are committed to healing their patients. An oath-bound officer serves the preservation of the state. An oath-bound property assessor can be expected to estimate property value honestly. By means of an oath in court, witnesses are restrained from declaring the innocent to be guilty, or the guilty to be innocent. By means of the oath, we are placed before the very face of God. Reverence for God has salutary consequences for society.16
It might be added that reverent oath taking can have salutary consequences for the church in settling unresolved interpersonal strife or conflict.

The Importance of Honesty and Commitment

The Bible and Confession require absolute honesty and unflinching commitment from those employ oaths and vows, especially those in positions of leadership. Those of us who have taken wedding vows or pledged commitment to a local church need to reflect upon the high demands under which we have placed ourselves. Too often, professing Christians quietly qualify their promises with all sorts of secret conditions and provisos. As a result, the marriage vow or church covenant loses much of its binding force.17

Christian leaders also need to take seriously their ministerial oaths and vows. Too often in our day, pastors and theologians publicly vow allegiance to a Confession of Faith while secretly at variance with substantial doctrines in that confession. This kind of behavior is unethical and irreprehensible among those who should be models of integrity. “It is little wonder,” writes G. I. Williamson, “that the spiritual condition of the churches is low, when it has become accepted practice to swear deceitfully, and that on the part of the shepherds of Israel.”18

Of course, such a commitment does not preclude a Christian taking “exceptions” to wording, propositions, or even doctrines in a Confession so long as he makes those exceptions known. No confession is infallible. And even those who can substantially affirm comprehensive confessions like the WCF or 2LCF may find some statements that need to be refined. But what the person must not do is be dishonest or deceptive. If he takes exceptions to any teachings in the confession, he should make those exceptions known.

Don't Be Too Hasty!

It’s common practice among evangelical churches today to pressure small children into making pledges of commitment to Christian service. Sometimes young children are encouraged to sign a pledge card or publicly to dedicate their lives to “fulltime” Christian service.

As the child grows, his family and friends, as well as his own conscience remind him of this pledge. As a result, he may struggle with feelings of guilt at the thought of pursuing a secular vocation. This practice not only betrays a false view of “fulltime” Christian service, but it also reflects a lack of wisdom among those who pressure children into these formal pledges.

Since oaths and vows should not be made lightly or rashly, we must be sure that those upon whom we call to make them are mentally and spiritually able to understand and fulfill the commitment they are making. The high ethical demands of oaths and vows should caution us against the practice of pressuring small children to make unwarranted or untimely pledges to God.


1 The Westminster Confession contains seven paragraphs; the 1689 five. The Baptist Confession omits part of the third and fourth paragraphs, and it combines the substance of the fifth, sixth, and seventh paragraphs of the WCF into one paragraph.
2 The WCF includes “religious oaths [and] vows” as elements of worship (WCF 21.5), but both the Savoy Declaration and Baptist Confession omit them.

3 Or “the gods” in the case of paganism (Joshua 23:7; 1 Kings 19:2; 20:10; Jeremiah 5:7; Zephaniah 1:5).

4 There is biblical evidence that the “thigh” (ירך) in this context was a metonym or euphemism for the genitals (cf. Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5). The significance of this gesture is uncertain though there is probably some connection with circumcision and God’s covenantal promise of a “seed.” Interestingly, the terms “testimony” and “attestation” originate from the Latin word testis (Eng. ‘testicle’) which suggests the possibility that Roman society may have associated certain oaths with the source of procreative powers.  See Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 327.

5 According to the third paragraph in the WCF, “It is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by a lawful authority.” Though the 2LCF omitted this statement, they did retain the wording of paragraph two, which clearly affirms that when “imposed by a lawful authority” an oath “ought to be taken.”

6 The behavior of the Pharisees reminds one of the teenage son who, in spite of his father’s clear prohibition not to drink alcohol at the party, defends his disobedience by asserting, “Dad, you said not to drink at the party. You didn’t say I couldn’t drink when I left the party.”

7 For some helpful treatments of the passage in Matthew 5:33-37, see John Broadus, Commentary on Matthew (1886; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990), 113-17; Donald Carson, Matthew, vol. 8 of Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 153-55; William Hendricksen, Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew in The New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1973), 306-09.

8 The Confession alluded to such circumstances in the previous paragraph when it spoke of an oath “ending all strife.” Occasionally, situations may arise when someone’s reputation is attacked by accusations that seem to be credible but that cannot be either proved or disproved. Under such circumstances, requiring the defendant to swear an oath may serve to bring the dispute to a close. See Jochem Douma, The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1996), 88-89.

9 The following section of the WCF has been omitted: “… neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority....”

10 The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964), 175.

11 Commentary on the Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1901), 392; G. I. Williamson’s remarks are also helpful: “It was wrong to make such an oath in the first place. It would be doubly wrong to keep it after discovering that it was sinful.” For Study Classes, 176.

12 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 6:371-88.

13 The Hebrew vocabulary for “oaths” includes שבע (‘to swear’), שבועה (‘oath’), אלה (‘curse’), and for “vows” נדר (‘to vow,’ ‘vow’), אסר (‘to vow to abstain,’ ‘a vow of abstention’). The Greek vocabulary for “oaths” includes ὁρκίζω, ὀμνύω, ἐνορκίζω (‘to swear’), ὅρκος, ὁρκωμοσία (‘oath’), and εὐχή (‘vow’).

14 Against imposed celibacy, see Matthew 19:11; 1 Corinthians 7:2, 9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 4:1, 3; against imposed poverty, see Exodus 20:15; Acts 5:4; against unquestioned submission to ecclesiastical authority, see Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29.

15 It was this realization that freed Martin Luther to renounce his former monastic vow of celibacy and to marry Catherine von Bora. See Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7:454-60.

16 The Ten Commandments, 90.

17 For Study Classes, 176.

18 Ibid.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Biblical Thoughts on Christian Patriotism

Photo by Scott McGuire
Introduction: Perhaps some of our blogs regular readers will remember that I have offered some reflections on the topic of Christian patriotism in the past. However, since we are celebrating Independence Day today, I though it would be good to offer some additional thoughts about the concept of patriotism and what that means for us as Christians. But before we get into the issue from the standpoint of Scripture, I will begin by briefly explaining my understanding of the word patriotism and then deal with my understanding of what it means to be a Christian patriot.

I understand the word patriotism basically to mean “love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it” (as defined by WordWeb). Wayne Grudem appears to agree with this basic definition when he addresses the matter in his book Politics According to the Bible:
What should the attitude of citizens be toward the nation in which they live? Because any nation can have rulers who are evil, or basically good rulers who still do wrong things from time to time, a Christian view of government would never endorse a kind of “blind patriotism” according to which a citizen would never criticize a country or its leaders. In fact, a genuine patriotism, which always seeks to promote the good of the nation, would honestly criticize the government and its leaders when they do things contrary to biblical moral standards.

But is patriotism a virtue at all? My conclusion is that the Bible gives support to a genuine kind of patriotism in which citizens love, support, and defend their own country.

Biblical support for the idea of patriotism begins with a recognition that God has established nations on the earth. Speaking in Athens, Paul says that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). (p. 109)
I agree with Grudem and his conclusion that “The existence of many independent nations on earth should be considered a blessing from God” (p. 110), and I would argue that we are especially blessed by God to live in the United States of America, where we enjoy so many freedoms that others around the world can only dream about.

But what are the limits or parameters within which we should exercise our patriotism toward our country? This is the issue I want to address in this post. In order to help us to think in a Biblical way about the matter, I would like to briefly set forth three basic propositions concerning Christian patriotism: 1) that Christians must be patriotic citizens of their heavenly country, 2) that Christians must be patriotic citizens of their earthly country, and 3) that Christians must always give priority to their heavenly citizenship.

I. Christians Must Be Patriotic Citizens of Their Heavenly Country

This is without a doubt the first principle we must remember when we consider the issue of Christian patriotism. Remember, for example, what the Apostle Paul said to the Philippian believers:
NKJ Philippians 3:17-21 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
In other words, since we are ultimately citizens of Heaven, then our lives should reflect this higher loyalty. We should actually live as obedient citizens of Heaven no matter how mere citizens of the earth may live their lives all around us.

The author of Hebrews concurs with Paul's assessment and offers the Old Testament saints as an example of how we must persevere in faith as strangers and pilgrims on this earth, who look for a city and a homeland that is not found on this earth:
NKJ Hebrews 11:8-16 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers [ξένος, xénos] and pilgrims [παρεπίδημος, parepídēmos] on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
This city is later revealed to be the Heavenly Jerusalem, to which we have come in Christ, and of which we are citizens even now:
NKJ  Hebrews 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
We are thus ultimately citizens of a heavenly country and a heavenly city, and we must live our lives here on earth as strangers and pilgrims who are just passing through. This means living lives that demonstrate our allegiance to our heavenly King. It means loving our heavenly country and being willing to sacrifice for it, even when doing so puts us at odds with those who are merely citizens of this earth. If we keep our focus where it should be and realize that we look forward to a far better place, then we will also be enabled to persevere in faith just as our forefathers did. But this doesn't mean that we cannot or should not be patriotic citizens of our earthly country, which leads us to the next point.

II. Christians Must Be Patriotic Citizens of Their Earthly Country

Jesus acknowledged such a responsibility when he taught us to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21b). And the Apostles expanded on this principle when they dealt with how we should relate to the earthly governments under which we live. Let's consider two passages, one from Paul and the other from Peter, in our attempt to understand their teaching:
NKJ Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
As I understand this passage, there can be no doubt that Paul sees Christians as having a duty to support their country and its rulers insofar as it is possible for them to do so under God. In fact, I agree with Rick Phillips when he writes in an article entitled Thoughts on Christian Patriotism that:
July 4 reminds us that God has sovereignly placed us in this land and under this government. I praise God to be an American, precisely because of what Independence Day represents. As I have traveled on other continents and had personal interactions with government tyranny and injustice, I have learned once more to bless the sight of an American flag. Yes, Christians should frankly admit and oppose the evils of our nation, but we should not fail to be grateful for the many good things our country does and represents. Moreover, when Romans 13:1-7 commands us to honor and obey civil authorities, Christians should do so from the heart, with love and fervor for the blessings of the land in which God has placed us and with sincere loyalty to all public servants who are seeking to do good.
The Apostle Peter, I am sure, would also approve of such sentiments, such as when he writes:
NKJ 1 Peter 2:11-17 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners [πάροικος, pároikos] and pilgrims [παρεπίδημος, parepídēmos], abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
So, we see again that we must not forget that we are ultimately strangers and pilgrims on the earth, but that this does not mean that we are not actually also citizens of an earthly country to which we also owe allegiance and obedience. As a matter of fact, as sojourners and pilgrims on this earth we are to be good citizens who pray for and submit to those in authority for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God. And this makes us even better citizens of our earthly country, not worse ones. Indeed, it means that we should be willing to show the love of Christ to and for our country, even to the point of sacrifice for the good of our country.

And so we have seen that we must be patriotic citizens of both our heavenly and our earthly countries, but this does not mean that they should have an equal claim on our devotion and allegiance, which leads to our final principle.

III. Christians Must Always Give Priority to Their Heavenly Citizenship

We have already recalled that Jesus taught us to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21b). But now we must also remember that He taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33a).

This means that, when there is a conflict between allegiance to our heavenly country and allegiance to our earthly country, our heavenly country must always take priority. And this means that civil disobedience is permissible and even necessary at times. Consider the example of the Apostles in this regard. The Book of Acts reports their response to the governing authorities when they were commanded to stop preaching the Gospel, and their response is instructive:
NKJ Acts 4:18-20 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
Thus the apostles refused to obey a command of the governing authorities when it was in conflict with the command of God, just as they also did again later under similar circumstances:
NKJ Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Of course we could add other Scriptural examples of civil disobedience, such as the Hebrew midwives in ancient Egypt (Exod. 1:15-21) or Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in ancient Babylon (otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Dan. 3:8-18), or Daniel in Persia (Dan. 6:1-23). In each case these believers disobeyed the earthly governing authorities, but they disobeyed only at those points where these authorities expressly required them to disobey God.

Kerby Anderson, President of Probe Ministries, cites such examples in an online article entitled Civil Disobedience, and he makes the following helpful observations:
Notice that in each of these examples there are at least two common elements. First, there was a direct, specific conflict between God's law and man's law. Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill male Hebrew babies. Nebuchadnezzar commanded his subjects to bow before the golden image. King Darius ruled that no one could pray. And, in the New Testament, the High Priest and the Council forbade the apostles from proclaiming the gospel.

Second, in choosing to obey God's higher law, believers paid the normal consequence for disobedience. Although most of those previously cited escaped the consequence through supernatural intervention, we know from biblical and secular history that others paid for their disobedience with their lives.
Actually, we may be called upon to carry out such civil disobedience in the near future. As the 2009 Manhattan Declaration asserts in its final paragraph:
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s. (This document was drafted October 20, 2009 and released November 20, 2009.)
Although I personally could not sign the “Manhattan Declaration” because of the way it leads to confusion concerning the nature of the Gospel, I certainly agree with these concluding sentiments. And I would even argue further that, if we truly love the country in which God has providentially placed us, then civil disobedience in such cases is actually the patriotic thing to do, since it is the most loving thing we could do for our country as we seek to help lead its citizens to Christ as the supreme authority over all the universe.

Conclusion: And so we have come to the conclusion of our brief survey of Scripture on the matter of Christian patriotism, and I hope we have all seen that Christians must be patriotic citizens of their heavenly country, that Christians must be patriotic citizens of their earthly country, and that Christians must always give priority to their heavenly citizenship. For it is to Christ that we owe our first and highest allegiance.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Apparently Scott Brown Will Never Respond to the Case He Said Could Not Be Made

The blog's regular readers may recall that some time ago I wrote a post entitled Answering Scott Brown's Challenge Concerning Age Segregated Education (back in august of 2014). This post sought to publicly notify Scott about a series of articles I had written in response to his own assertions that he had never heard a Biblical defense of age segregated education and that this was because there was no case that could be made. Then, after repeated attempts to contact Scott to let him now about the articles and to challenge him either to respond or to retract his assertions, I followed up with a post entitled Will Scott Brown Answer My Challenge?

Well, almost three years have gone by now, and I have yet to see any response from him. Should I then conclude, as he has done, that not hearing a public, Biblical defense of someone's position is due to the fact that that there simply is no credible defense that may be offered?