Matt Postiff's Blog
The thought occurred to me that someone could profitably spend some time looking into the problem of evil from the perspective of those close encounters that Jesus had with evil. A careful study may highlight some helpful truths as we think about how God and evil co-exist in the universe.
Passages I was thinking about included the temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4), Jesus' encounters with people possessed by demons, and His interaction with Judas at the last supper (John 13:26-27 and verse 30-31). There are probably others. The latter passage came up in my reading this morning and I noted how the Lord told Judas, "What you do, do quickly." Without condoning Judas' actions, Jesus told him to get it done, even though it was evil. Ponder that...
Let me know if you write a research paper or thesis on this. I'd be interested to see what you come up with!
Back on March 18, 2016, Dr. Kyle Dunham presented on the matter of holy war in the Rice Lecture series at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is not a review but rather a summary of of things that I learned or noted while I listened to Dr. Dunham. Consider it a after-the-fact live blog of the event! These are listed in the order I wrote them down, not in any other order.
- Motivating factors for God were compassion and deliverance of His people. The deliverance through holy war was a blessing to them.
- Holy war starts in Exodus.
- God is active or passive/permissive in holy war, not always the former.
- God sometimes had holy war against Israel!
- Justice is another key motivation behind holy war. See Deut. 16.
- Holy war was used to establish Israel (against Egypt) and to preserve it from bondage or peril.
- Dr. Dunham takes a dispensational approach to holy war.
- We can see echoes of holy war in the book of Revelation, including trumpets in both.
- We have to maintain a connection between holy war and hte land and its consecration.
- Holy war is a fulfillment of Abrahamic curses on the enemies and blessings on the nation of Israel. Unless, of course, the people of Israel departed from God, and then he turned the instrument of holy war against them!
- Holiness is another motivating factor behind holy war, and teh resultant moral protection of God's people.
- The gift of the land to Israel is another motivation behind holy war.
- The idea of gradual displacement.
- Key resources include Von Rad 1951, Copan and Flannagan, Qureshi's Answering Jihad.
- Not about Haman the Agagite. Perhaps he was an Amalekite and maybe he hated Israel for the reason that the Israelites had victory over the Amalekites years earlier.
- Holy war consisted in judgment against groups that threatened Israel's existence or that were sinful, committing sins such as infanticide. These require a proportional response.
- Kev difficult texts include Deut 7 and 20:16-17.
- Genocide charges must be limited to the issue of herem, the so-called ban or devotion to total destruction.
- Dunham gave a careful definition of herem. He linked idolatry (which is demonic worship) into the idea, with Lev. 27:21. God has a claim on the land.
- Herem is a purging followed by a reconstruction or re-populating of the land.
- Herem is 1. capital punishment of many people; 2. conflagration; 3. repopulation; 4. connection to the temple. It is about the land and the nation, it is not racially motivated. We could say that it is religiously motivated in a sense./li>
- Herem prevented "exchange" from happening between cultures and was a way to implement separation from idolatry.
- Herem echoes the genesis flood in terms of purification and the mass killing of many sinful people. I noted this seems to echo more the holiness of God than Herem per se.
- The Canannite people are connected to the curse on Canaan due to sexual perversion (Genesis 9:20-27).
- Gave a definition of Jihad, and showed a progression of violence, and the distinction with Yahweh War in the Old Testament.
- Sacred geography in Yahweh wars are for one nation; focused on false gods, not on unbelievers. I believe this would be a slim distinction lost on the world.
- Yahweh War includes proportional violence, versus no limit in Jihad. God's war is an act of justice proportionate to the crime committed.
- Islam propagates through Jihad; Holy War protects the people of Israel.
- Christian Bible preserves life; Islam dose not, and extols the martyr.
- Just war principles (Grotius and others). Mentioned 7 facts about war. Mentioned O'donovan and Just war theory with parallels to God's War.
- Israel is preserved for Messiah, and (this is a key addition) God loves Israel so he preserves them until the eschaton too.
- Dunham diagrams Yahweh Wars with first the infinite transcendence of God, second His holiness, justice, and righteousness, third His truth, faithfulness and veracity, and fourth with His love and compassion. The entries under "second" are motivations, as well as compassion in "fourth." God says that the Canaanites were sinners. As sinners today look more like Canannites, they see those "victims of Yahweh war" as more and more innocent.
- Yahweh war is tied to Israel, so we don't have to find out how to fit it into the New Testament or the church.
- I had a question: So is "NT" Yahweh War against the believer's sin our "greater jihad" as in Galatians 5 whereas in the OT is the "lesser jihad"?
- We take a defensive posture in NT spiritual war (standing our ground against the wiles of the devil, etc.)
- Resource from David Cook on Jihad.
- Holy War comes back as Israel comes back into focus in Gods' program in the eschaton. As they receive focus, holy war themes come into more focus, as in during the Tribulation.
First, be reading your Bible very regularly. Second, consider some resources that remind you what to look for. I have written a fairly detailed and, frankly, blunt, guide to finding what I would consider a good church. I call it the A Regular Person's Guide on How to Find a Good Church.
I read this morning:
And now I ask you...that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments...For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. (2 John 5-7, ESV)
The juxtaposition of three ideas caught my attention: loving one another, keeping His commandments, and "because" many deceivers are out there not acknowledging the coming of Christ. Not only is the presence of deceivers a motivation to emphasize love in the Christian community, but also such deception is far from the kind of obedient love that John says characterizes the true believer.
Love and deception don't go together; love and deception on the doctrine of Christ really don't go together.
A few days ago, I received the following question:
Where does the Bible condemn someone surgically becoming another gender?
The question arises because there is no Biblical text that clearly says "thou shalt not" to gender reassignment. But it would be a woefully inadequate argument to use that fact in favor of reassignment, for there are many particular behaviors that are not specifically called out by the Bible as sin which are in fact sin. It is obvious to genuine Christians that certain behaviors are outside of the realm of righteousness. The works of the sinful nature of man are obvious (Galatians 5:19-21).
For instance, ingesting cocaine is not forbidden specifically by the Bible. But the fact that it is illegal in our country, coupled with the witness of Scripture to not be under the control of some substance, makes it unacceptable (Romans 13:1, 1 Cor. 6:12, Ephesians 5:18).
So why no gender reassignment according to the Bible?
1. Gender reassignment rejects the created order. God created basically all species of animals with male and female counterparts, according to their kind, with ability to reproduce in pairs. Don't hold me to scientific specificity here; I know about inter-sex and morphs and asexual reproduction in microscopic living things and hermaphrodites and the like. My point is that God created humans as male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2). There are therefore only two sexes.
2. Gender reassignment violates the principle of not mutilating the human body. Leviticus 19:28 prohibits cuttings and tattoos (see also Leviticus 21:5, Deut. 14:1). Such activities were associated with pagan idolatrous religious practices, including mourning rituals (1 Kings 18:28). Admittedly, these are all Old Testament references. Elsewhere I have written on the issue of the applicability of the Mosaic Law to modern issues. The reason for this is that the body is a gift from God and is to be respected as such. The body is made in the image of God and that conveys dignity to it.
3. Gender reassignment rejects God's choice for the individual's sex and gender. To change gender is to effectively thumb your nose at God, rejecting His authority over your life. Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10); that means He is the boss. It is not your will, but God's will that carries the day. Related to this is the Bible's teaching on how we should be content and not dissatisfied. Gender reassignment indicates a deep-seated discontentment with God's choice of one's sex/gender (Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:8, Philippians 4:11, Luke 3:14).
4. Gender reassignment "did not come into God's mind" in the sense of Jeremiah 32:35. It is a thing so outside of the realm of right and proper that it is an abomination to God. It was not considered by human societies until the twentieth century when medical technology had advanced to a point where such things could be done.
5. Finally, an argument from lesser to greater. The Scriptures prohibit cross-dressing. See Deuteronomy 22:5:
"A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God. (NKJV)
Since Scripture prohibits the lesser—putting on of the clothing of the opposite gender—it is very reasonable to assume that God prohibits permanently changing from a man to a woman or the reverse (if that were actually possible).
6. Gender follows sex. There are, as with everything in this world, things that can break from this simple and normative pattern. Christians are not surprised at the confusion about gender and sex that exists in our society. That confusion is just another evidence of how deeply the fall of mankind into sin has affected our minds and bodies (Ephesians 4:18, Romans 1:21-28).
And now, why does gender reassignment go awry according to science and reason?
7. Gender reassignment is not the same as fixing a birth defect. If a person is born as a boy, that is a gift from God, not a birth defect or a deviation from the proper gender of the child. Any feelings of deviation in gender are that--feelings--and can be helped by acknowledging the Biblical truth of God's creation, sin, the fall, and redemption. A birth defect such as club feet or fused fingers or hypoplastic left heart syndrome are deviations from the normal and correct anatomy. To fix them is to alleviate pain and suffering. To reassign gender is to fix a problem that is not a problem. It takes the normal and makes it abnormal.
8. Gender reassignment is not the same as cosmetic surgery. A facelift or tummy tuck or fixing varicose veins is like fixing a birth defect: it is fixing something that has deviated from its normal or proper design. Changing a person's external and internal sexual organs from their normal anatomy to something abnormal is a totally different kind of thing.
9. You cannot change your X and Y chromosomes. They are replicated in every one of the 37.2 trillion cells in your body, if you are average size. Well, except for your red blood cells which have no nucleus, or your sperm or eggs which only have the 23 chromosomes instead of the full complement of 46. The point is that the same genetic material is replicated trillions of times throughout your body, although only parts of it are active in certain cells depending on their type. A few cosmetic changes and hormonal treatments will not change the fact that trillions of cells contain either XX or XY, and those remain the same throughout the person's lifetime. While the external appearance may be made to look like the opposite sex, every cell in the body cries out the birth sex of the person.
Please don't bother with the worn out argument that I hate you if you have had a reassignment surgery, or are pondering one, or are of an opposite view than I am. I am telling you what the BIBLE says about gender reassignment. And I believe the Bible is right because it comes from God. But I am not a hater. For more on that, read here.
I've been reflecting on raising my sons and some practical wisdom a middle age man who came to faith in Christ later in life might be able to share with next generation of young Christian men. Some of these are from mistakes I've made and learned the hard way. Some are from watching others do the same. But all of them can be gleaned directly or indirectly from Scripture. I pray you find them helpful. Feel free to share.
1. Truly commit and surrender your life to God. Put every decision and direction in His hands. You won't go wrong.
2. Get knowledge. Get wisdom. Get direction. First and foremost in God and then in your relationship with God to seek your calling – a calling that you are passionate about and to which God is leading. It may be secular or it may be sacred or it may be both. It may take 5, 10, 20 years and it may change in 5, 10, 20 years. But make sure God is leading it.
3. Pride kills. You aren't all that. You don’t know what you don't know. Walk wisely. Ask questions. Think before you speak. If you are angry, think longer and pray. If you are still angry, keep thinking and pray harder. True humility will honor God and benefit you much more than any level of pride.
4. Be content. In Christ your hope and future is secure. Trust in and learn from what God is doing in and through you now. You may not have everything you want, but I'll bet you have everything you need. Is it enough? The truthful answer is yes.
5. Don't go into debt. Period. It’s hard to be flexible to where and when God calls you when you have debt looming over you. "The borrower is servant to the lender" is true. Don't do it. Don't.
6. Give First to God. Spend wisely. Don’t accumulate. There is very little you really need. I understand the pull of "stuff." But you will end up throwing away or Craigslisting the majority of the "stuff" and the money spent will not have aided anyone. And if you have it, you have to maintain it. And that costs as well. It's hard to be flexible to God's call when you have all this "stuff" to deal with and maintain.
7. Travel light. This goes with don't accumulate. This is especially true as you remain single. What you truly need can probably fit in a good backpack. God may call you in an instant to be out the door and moving for His purposes. Be ready.
8. Don't waste your time. You lose valuable time and opportunity when you spend hours playing video games, watching movies, TV, etc. A little diversion from time to time is good. Obsessing is bad. PS – once you invest in the big TV and/or the gaming system, you're sunk. Don't do it. Don't.
9. Let God lead your love life. Honor God. Honor your prospective wife. Honor her parents. Honor your parents. Don't enter into a relationship without the view to marriage. Don’t enter into a relationship without the prospective spouse sharing your faith, values and direction in life.
10. Live close to your church. Live close to where you work. It's hard to be involved in your church and your community and to invite those from work and the community to church when you are a long distance from either. An ideal distance? You can ride a bicycle to church and to work if you needed (or wanted) too.
11. Stay fit physically. Stay fit mentally. Eat good things in moderation. Exercise. Take down time. Yes you can get in shape pretty quickly now, but in 20 years, it's a battle. And...you may need to ride a bike to church. Watch what you put into your mind or let society put into your mind. In addition to your Bible, read good books. Choose your entertainment wisely; once it gets in your mind, it's impossible to get out.
12. Build relationships. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter. Sit down with people. Get to know, care for and love them. Invest in people – especially those in your church – you are part of that body. Get to know those in your community. Get to know those in your place of work. Jesus had compassion on the masses when He saw them; get out from behind the screens and go see them.
I read 1 Timothy 2:12 yesterday and today and a slightly different thought struck me in relation to a church problem that I encountered in an overseas missions context.
Some women have taken it upon themselves to become pastors and teachers in churches. This verse forbids that because the basic idea of it and the following is that God has not designed for women to have such authority.
Some men have said that if they permit a woman to teach or lead a service "under the men's authority" then it is OK.
But if Paul were in their shoes, he would say, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man."
Men who do that would do well to consider that they are violating the apostolic example. Paul is showing how we ought to behave in the church (1 Tim. 3:15). If Paul would not permit a woman to teach or have authority over men, how can we?
Dispensationalists among themselves, along with covenant theologians, have debated the correct way to express the Christian Gentile's relationship to the New Covenant, and to the related Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. The answers range from two new covenants to full involvement of the Gentile in the new covenant at the expense of Israel, to participation in the spiritual blessings in the covenant. See Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant: 3 Views: Regular Baptist Books, 2012 (available here).
Another way of explaining it is to use the language of Paul in Ephesians 2:13. He says that those who were formerly without God, without hope, and strangers to the covenants of promise were "brought near" by the blood of Christ. This seems to be close to the spiritual participation view which I have held. It is as if being 'near' lets some of the blessings of the covenants "rub off onto the Gentile Christian" or "diffuse over to the Christian" because of a new-found proximity to those promises.
It does not say "brought into" or "merged," thus maintaining a distinction between Israel and the Church. Nor does it indicate a duplication of the covenants as if there are two new covenants or two sets of covenant promises.
So our relationship to the covenants is that we are brought near. It is sort of simple, but the advantage of this explanation is that it uses straightforward Biblical terminology.
Under the heading of how Christian values interact with technology, I thought I would illustrate how Microsoft is pushing its Windows 10 operating system with some underhanded techniques.
I have come to the conclusion that I do not want Windows 10. I like Windows 7 just fine, and I don't have time to introduce more bugs into my desktop or laptop because I am too busy using them for other productive purposes. I don't need to mess up my work tools with more interface experimentation by Microsoft. So, I have edited the appropriate registry keys to turn off the Windows 10 upgrade; I have removed the KB3035583 update that hawks the update; and I hid that update when it reappeared. Yet Microsoft is still pushing the update.
Here's how they do it. After I did everything above, in Windows update, it shows this update:
Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3035583)
Despite the fact that earlier I hid that update, it has put a check mark beside it and wants to automatically install it. It classes the update is an "Important" update. Strike one.
Then, it describes the update this way: "Install this update to resolve issues in Windows. For a complete listing of the issues that are included in this update, see the associated Microsoft Knowledge Base article for more information." But if you visit the Knowledge Base article, it says, "This update installs the Get Windows 10 app that helps users understand their Windows 10 upgrade options and device readiness." That doesn't sound like something that "resolves issues in Windows." Maybe it would be correct if it advertised the update as "Install this update to create issues in Windows." This is deceitful "bait and switch" advertising. Strike two.
Then, it adds in the optional update section another update that has to do with Windows 10:
Basically, I want Microsoft to keep its hands off my computer! It doesn't belong to them. More than that, don't deceive when you publish updates. Just tell what they are up front, and don't try to sneak your way into my system. Deceit is not a good way to operate.
Microsoft's entire experiment starting with Windows 8 trying to integrate desktop with touch and make small and large devices operate just the same has been a failure. Take a cue from Apple and have two operating systems: one for small devices and one for large ones. Distinguish them. And don't ruin a good thing with Windows 7. Or perhaps if you are truly interested in upgrading the "under the hood" stuff, give me the option to have a user experience that I like, say with a Windows 7 desktop on top of a Windows 10 base OS. That should be easy enough to provide.
I can hear some of my zealous friends out there saying, "Hey, just dump Microsoft and get a Mac!" That is a temptation... However, I'm more likely to go all Linux.
When you read Acts 7, you might feel a little lost in it because of the length of the chapter. Perhaps what I gleaned this morning in my reading will be a help to you.
Stephen points out that the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt (verse 9).
He goes on to say that Moses was misunderstood by his Jewish brothers (verse 25).
Stephen continues by saying that they rejected Moses (verses 27, 35, and 39).
The Jews turned into idolaters (verse 40 and following).
The climax of Stephen's defense and sermon comes in verse 51. He has said that the Jews were jealous, did not understand, rejected God's appointed leader, and turned into idolaters. Stephen now drops the main point of his message: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you." Stephen's audience of the high priest and his council are just like their fathers! Their forefathers persecuted the prophets and killed God's messengers. Similarly, they persecuted and killed Jesus.
The account ends with their continued hard-heartedness as they kill Stephen before he can even tell them of God's grace in extending an offer of salvation.
If you are interested in learning some Hebrew vocabulary, listen in to these audio recordings. The first lesson contains words that occur 1000 or more times in the Hebrew Bible; each successive lesson covers words by groups in decreasing order of frequency of occurrence.
- Lesson 1: 1000+
- Lesson 2: 500-999
- Lesson 3: 400-500
- Lesson 4: 310-399
- Lesson 5: 270-309
- Lesson 6: 220-269
- Lesson 7: 200-219
- Lesson 8: 175-199
- Lesson 9: 160-174
- Lesson 10: 144-159
- Lesson 11: 134-143
- Lesson 12: 121-133
- Lesson 13: 112-120
- Lesson 14: 112-120
Credit for this list is due to Dr. R. Bruce Compton of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, but its origin before his time I do not know.