Apologetics

Why Were Old Testament Kings Never Condemned for Adultery and Polygamy?

MultipleWives_NoThe difference we have in the Bible is a difference between what is descriptive and what is prescriptive. What the Bible does is demonstrates the consequences that follow inextricably like night follows day, when someone does something that is outside the will of the Lord. You certainly see that in the most graphic of terms with David’s son Solomon. You see that in the end Solomon’s many wives and concubines turned his eyes away from the Lord, and so he died really in a miserable condition when you think about it, he was building pagan shrines and altars to pagan gods for his pagan wives.

So the edict is clear, Deuteronomy 17:17, memorable because of its address, the king “shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.”1 If this was true for the kings, how much more was it true for the people! But polygamy was practiced in spite of God’s warnings; in spite of the prescriptions that you find in Scripture. Genesis 2:24 is a classic case in point: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In the New Testament, Matthew 19:4-6: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” But it doesn’t end there. There are so many other passages that make clear the very point: A wife must not separate from her husband. It’s never plural—not husbands. 1 Timothy 3:2 points out that “an overseer must be…the husband of one wife”—not multiple wives.

I think the principle is very clear in Scripture, but the Bible doesn’t airbrush anything. It presents people with all their proclivities, with all their warts, moles, and wrinkles. But thank God! God accepts us not because we’re righteous but because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see Does the Bible Promote Polygamy? by Hank Hanegraaff.

Another article to consider is “Condemnation and Grace: Polygamy and Concubinage in the Old Testament” by Richard M. Davidson, from Christian Research Journal, Volume 38, Number 05 (2015). Copies of this issue are available through the CRI bookstore. To order online, click here or call 1-888-700-0274.

This blog adapted from “Why weren’t the kings in the Old Testament considered adulterers because of their many wives?


Notes:

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001) used throughout.
Apologetics

Ash Wednesday 2016

Bible-Rm. 5.8-AshWednesday2Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time for Christians to remember their own sinfulness, and need for divine forgiveness.

Sometime ago Gretchen Passantino Coburn wrote a piece on the Lenten season. In it she offered these helpful insights on Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday begins a forty day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and recognize that God’s forgiveness comes at an infinite price — the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.

On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, calling the people to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian.

Ashes (and “sackcloth,” or rough, plain clothing, usually of camel’s hair) traditionally represent mourning (2 Sam. 13:19; Gen. 37:34), repentance (Job 42:6; Matt. 11:21; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8, 13), and the judgment of God (Rev. 6:12). When King Ahasuerus ordered all Jews to be killed, Mordecai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and . . . cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” The Jews throughout the land prayed “with great mourning. . . with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3). This was for the dual purpose of mourning for their coming death and of demonstrating their repentance to God, pleading with Him to spare them from His judgment. When Jonah preached God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the pagan king of Nineveh and his subjects understood that if a nation repents from its evil ways, God may withhold His judgment (Jer. 18:7-10), so they repented and prayed that God would spare them.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).

Ash Wednesday should remind Christians that they are sinners in need of a savior, and that their salvation comes at the sacrifice of God’s Son.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).

Hope this has been helpful!

—Warren Nozaki

 

Apologetics

Who do we address in prayer Yahweh, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

It’s important to recognize the model prayer—the prayer of Jesus, the prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray—does start: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt. 6:9). And I think that the recognition here is that, first and foremost, our desire, what we really care about, is that God’s Name be made holy. Our daily lives should radiate a Prayer3Sfar greater commitment to God’s nature and His holiness than to our own needs.

So to pray, “hallowed be Your Name,” is to pray that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands, that God’s Word be preached without corruption, that our churches be led by faithful pastors and preserved from false prophets, that we’d be kept from language that profanes the name of God, and that our thought lives remain holy, that we cease from seeking honor for ourselves but ask instead that God’s Name be magnified.

In saying this there’s nothing wrong with using the names of God as opposed to the titles for God. There’s nothing wrong with addressing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thanking Him for His sacrificial death on our behalf. There’s nothing wrong with thanking the Holy Spirit for empowering us as we pray, as we witness, as we provide for our families. So the standard is we pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son (or through the Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus Himself invites us to pray to Him in John 14:14.

So there is no set formula. We pray to one God revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

What Are Some Secrets to Effective Prayer? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Prayer of Jabez or the Prayer of Jesus (Hank Hanegraaff

Prayer of Jesus: A Discussion Between Hank Hanegraaff and Lee Strobel

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

[Answer taken from: “How Should Christians Start Their Prayers? Can We Pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?”]

Apologetics

What about the Book of Enoch?

I think that the Bible will often time draw from other sources, either explicitly by referencing those other sources, or by using similar quotations, as you would find in other books. For example, there are judgement metaphors in the Book of Revelation, which you find in1st century literature. Those judgment metaphors, therefore, have an understanding in the 1st century that you can derive from 1st century literature. But, of course, that does not mean that the 1st century literature is inspired literature.

I think that same principle applies, if you look at the Book of Jude. Jude mentions Enoch as the seventh from Adam, and mentions that Enoch had prophesied about men that are being described in the Book of Jude (Jude 14ff). Now, Jude was well respected as was Enoch in New Testament times. So Jude is now, as a well-respected church father or disciple of Jesus Christ, is quoting from the book of Enoch, but his quote does not mean that Enoch is inspired in the sense of supernaturally revealing new truth. Jude simply finds a quotation to be a helpful confirmation of truth that is already well established, and that’s the point.

The Book of Enoch is not inspired literature, but that does not mean it does not have truth. For example, it is true to say, whether this is in the Canon or outside the Canon that “the Lord is coming” or that “false prophets will appear,” or that “the wicked will be judged.” So, these are true statements, regardless of where you find them. But the fact that Enoch is being quoted does not of necessity mean that the quote is from inspired literature. It is a confirmation of truth that is well established.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, see the following:

Is the New Testament Canon Authoritative or Authoritarian? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus (Douglas Groothuis)

The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic? (Douglas Groothuis)

[Answer taken from “What’s Your Opinion on the Book of Enoch since Jude Quotes from it in His Epistle?” http://www.equip.org/audio/whats-your-opinion-on-the-book-of-enoch-since-jude-quotes-from-it-in-his-epistle/]

 

 

 

Apologetics

What is dispensationalism?

Dispensationalism2Dispensationalism: an eschatological viewpoint according to which God has two distinct peoples (the Church and national, ethnic Israel) with two distinct plans and two distinct destinies. Dispensationalism is distinctive for its teaching that the Church will be “raptured” from the earth in the first phase of Christ’s second coming so that God can return to his work with national Israel, which was put on hold after Israel’s rejection of Messiah. God’s renewed working with Israel is thought by many dispensationalists to include a seven-year period of tribulation under the Antichrist in which two-thirds of the Jewish people will be killed, followed by the second phase of Christ’s second coming in which Christ and the martyred “tribulation saints” will rule for a thousand years from a rebuilt Temple with a reinstituted sacrificial system. Dispensationalism was first conceived by John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century and popularized by prophecy pundits such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye in the twentieth century. 1

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see the following:

Does the Bible Make a Distinction Between Israel and the Church? (Hank Hanegraaff)
Apocalypse When? Why Most End-time Teaching Is Dead Wrong. (Hank Hanegraaff)
The Perils of Newspaper Eschatology (Elliot Miller)
Is Dispensationalism Indispensable?  (Steve Gregg)
One Shot, One Book, One God: Apologetics and the Unity of the Bible (Dean Davis)
Who’s Been Left Behind? (Steve Gregg)
Response to National Liberty Journal Article on The Apocalypse Code (Hank Hanegraaff)
When the Truth Gets Left Behind (Gene Edward Veith)

Notes:

1. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find out What the Bible Really Says about the End Times and Why it Matters Today (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 272

Apologetics

From Hank to You

Dear Friend,

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Serious poetry readers will recognize these lines from W. B. Yeats’s most celebrated apocalyptic poem, “The Second Coming.” And my hunch is that in a moment of candor, most of us would confess to similar sentiments as we listen to today’s avalanche of largely bad news.

Falcon2From spiritual, moral, cultural, and political points of view, my guess is that increasingly rare among us are those who haven’t felt, at least at some point, that things are falling apart.

In the rubble and ruin that mark the wake of philosophers who have labored diligently to “deconstruct” truth, one could not reasonably be blamed for believing that in much of our intellectual landscape today, their work has been lamentably successful. Time spent debating “truth” seems a colossal if not utterly mindless waste of time to those who have swallowed “hook, line, and sinker” the notion that objective truth is sheer fantasy, embraced only by obscurantic religionists and others with room-temperature IQs.

Yet those who intimately know the One who is “before all things” and by Whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17) will never fear that the true center cannot hold. They will not only embrace but also daily live out the equally famous words of Alfred Lord Tennyson whom Yeats venerated as a young man:

“Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds.”

—Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics

The Euthyphro Dilemma

Osteenification


This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 36, number 01 (2013). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/


In an article published in USA Today titled, “As Atheists Know, You Can Be Good without God,”1 Jerry Coyne, a biologist and outspoken atheist, is disturbed that many Americans, including some prominent scientists, believe that our instinctive sense of right and wrong is “strong evidence for [God’s] existence.” Though Coyne appears to have no formal training in moral philosophy and theology, he ventures into moral philosophy to explain why this is clearly mistaken. His article is useful in that it highlights some common mistakes contemporary atheist writers make in their attempts to ground a secular ethic.

DIVINE COMMAND THEORIES OF ETHICS

It is necessary to understand accurately the position Coyne is criticizing before we consider the merits of his critique. The argument that our instinctive sense of right and wrong “is strong evidence for [God’s] existence” found its most important formulation in a 1979 article by Robert Adams. In it, Adams noted that we instinctively grasp that certain actions, like torturing children for fun, are wrong; hence, he reasoned, we are intuitively aware of the existence of moral obligations. According to Adams, the best account of the nature of such obligations is that they are commands issued by a loving and just God. Identifying obligations with God’s commands can explain all the features of moral obligation better than any secular alternative. Consequently, the existence of moral obligations provides evidence for God’s existence.2

It is important to note what Adams did not claim. Central to Adams’s argument is the distinction between the idea that moral obligations are, in fact, divine commands and the claim that one cannot recognize what our moral obligations are unless one believes in divine commands or some form of divine revelation. Adams illustrates this distinction with the now standard example of H20 and water.

Contemporary chemistry tells us that the best account of the nature of water is that water is, in fact, H20 molecules. This means that water cannot exist unless H20 does. However, it does not mean that people who do not know about or believe in the existence of H20 cannot recognize water when they see it. For centuries people recognized, swam in, sailed on, and drank water before they knew anything about modern chemistry.

This distinction has important implications. The claim that moral obligations are, in fact, commands issued by God does not entail that people must believe that God exists in order to be able to recognize right and wrong. These are separate and logically distinct claims. Affirming one does not commit one logically to affirming the other.

Second, Adams offers an account of the nature of moral obligations, not an account of what it is generally good to do. Actions such as giving a kidney to save a needy stranger can be good without being obligatory. For an action to be obligatory, it must be more than praiseworthy or commendable. Obligatory actions are things we are required to do, or things another person can legitimately demand us to do. Not doing so without an adequate excuse renders us blameworthy, and others can justifiably censure us, rebuke us, and even punish us. Failure to comply makes us guilty and in need of forgiveness.

Failure to grasp these distinctions leads many critics of divine command theories astray, and although I will not argue it here, many lines of argument Coyne makes are unsound due to a failure to make these distinctions. Here, however, I will focus on one argument Coyne gives that does not depend on this confusion: the Euthyphro dilemma.

To read the rest of this article, please visit: http://www.equip.org/articles/euthyphro-dilemma/

Apologetics

Is Christianity Still in Crisis?

Osteenification


Hank Hanegraaff wrote in his book Christianity in Crisis that because of the influence of the Word of Faith movement, the true Christ and true faith of the Bible were being replaced by diseased substitutes. This movement has continued to grow rapidly in the years following the book’s release and several new teachers since have risen to prominence. Among them are Creflo Dollar, T. D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Rod Parsley. Along with these new teachers, distortions of biblical truth have emerged. Word of Faith teachers have replaced the all-powerful God of the Bible with a god who has limited power, and have elevated humanity to the status of godhood, placing at its disposal seemingly unlimited power. These modern-day prophets of health and wealth believe that people can speak things into existence, thwart God’s plans, and purchase salvation; that money is the root of all happiness; that Christians are not sinners; and that Jesus did not come into the world as God. Rather than saying to Christ, “Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory,” today’s self-absorbed brand of Christianity insists that ours is the kingdom and that we have all the power and the glory. Another gospel clearly is being preached in many of today’s most prominent churches, and the prevention of its propagation demands our utmost attention.


To read this article in its entirety, please visit: http://www.equip.org/articles/christianity-still-in-crisis/

Journal Topics

On the Obligation of Blessing “Abraham’s Seed”

Abraham and Isaac


This article first appeared in the Practical Hermeneutics column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 05 (2011). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/


“Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Gen. 12:1–3, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.).

The entire remainder of the Bible after these verses can be viewed as an exposition of God’s fulfillment of the promises contained in this remarkable passage. On this point most Bible scholars agree. What is less unanimous among believers is precisely what those verses actually are predicting.

Promises, Promises. These verses enumerate certain promises made to Abram (a.k.a. Abraham), and comprise what is usually referred to as the “Abrahamic Covenant.” The promises pertain, primarily, to some unspecified “blessing” that would be received by Abram and distributed to all other families of the earth through him. Furthermore, there would be “blessings” on those who “bless” Abraham, and all the families of earth would be blessed “in” him. In many subsequent passages, we find a virtual repetition of these themes, often with the addition of new details—especially the important fact that these promises do not pertain so much to Abraham alone as to his “seed” (Gen. 12:7; 13:15f; 15:5, 18; 17:7ff; 21:12). Many newer translations, unhelpfully, paraphrase the word “seed” with the more interpretive “descendants.”

One popular viewpoint, of relatively modern origins, holds that the Abrahamic promises pertain to the Jewish race as the “seed” of Abraham, and that their ultimate fulfillment awaits the millennial kingdom, after the future return of Christ. Many who hold this view identify the “blessings” due to Abraham and his seed with temporal prosperity, political independence, and, eventually, exaltation to prominence above all the nations. Thus, they have interpreted Genesis 12:3, with its stated obligation to “bless” Abraham, so as to teach that Christians should recognize a special status of national/ethnic Israel, and “bless” them by giving them their unconditional political, economic, and moral support. Some even appear to believe that such an obligation to bless Israel defines one of the leading duties incumbent on Christians living in the last days (which would include the present time).

Who Gets Blessed? In seeking to understand the nature and fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, we face a two-pronged challenge: we must (1) identify the “seed” of Abraham to whom the promises pertain and (2) identify the nature of the “blessing” promised.

To read this article in its entirety, please visit: http://www.equip.org/articles/obligation-blessing-abrahams-seed/

Journal Topics

A Thief in the Night

Hobbit


This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 06 (2012). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org


SYNOPSIS

The director Peter Jackson is making J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic fairy tale, The Hobbit, into a film. Three films, to be precise. Tolkien’s son, Christopher, guardian of his father’s flame, objects to what he sees as the filmmaker’s “commercialization” of the story. If he is correct and Jackson is cashing in, allowing mercenary motives to override esthetic considerations, the situation could not be more ironic because The Hobbit is above all a story about greed and the overcoming of greed. The dragon Smaug, the avaricious dwarves, the addicted Gollum—they are all in thrall to gold. On the other hand, Gandalf and the eagles and Beorn the bear-man are free from its power, as is Bilbo Baggins, the appointed “burglar” of the story, a hobbit with a disarmingly innocent attitude to wealth. It is Bilbo who breaks the logjam caused by dwarvish cupidity and he does so in a surprisingly Christlike fashion. Tolkien’s tale shows us that the love of money, the root of all evil, can only be overcome by a “thief in the night.”


When the director Peter Jackson announced that his movie adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit would come in two parts, I suspect most people were surprised but basically approving. The Hobbit is sufficiently rich in invention to be able to survive a two-movie treatment, and the tale falls rather naturally into two sections in any case. The first part consists of Chapters 1 through 9 and tells of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins’s enrollment as official “burglar” to a party of thirteen dwarves who intend to recapture the gold stolen from them by the dragon Smaug, and of their early adventures escaping trolls, goblins, wolves, spiders, and elves; also of their meeting with the eagles and with the bear-man, Beorn, and of Bilbo’s discovery of a ring of invisibility. When the ninth chapter ends with the protagonists floating downriver in barrels, “but whether alive or dead still remains to be seen” (161),1 Tolkien is deliberately signaling the end of Act One and the beginning of Act Two. Of course, they are still alive, and the latter half of the story is entirely concerned with the adventures surrounding Smaug and the getting of the gold.

Moreover, as Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis noted, there is a distinct change in “tone and style”2 as the story progresses. Its flavor at the start is that of a fairy tale “dressed up as ‘for children’” with plenty of knowing asides about two-headed trolls, the origin of golf (a feature that Tolkien later regretted), and so on. By the end, the tone is almost that of a tribal bard chanting an ancient epic: “Ere long the vanguard swirled round the spur’s end…and already their cries and howls rent the air afar” (238).

Given that The Hobbit falls neatly into two parts, both in its action and in its tone, Peter Jackson’s initial decision to make a two-part film adaptation seemed not only excusable, but sensible.

To read this article in its entirety, please visit: http://www.equip.org/articles/thief-night-christian-ethic-heart-hobbit/