Apologetics

Answering Tough Questions on Divorce and Remarriage

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When is divorce permissible?

There are legitimate circumstances in which a person can get a divorce and can move on because the other party has violated the marriage covenant, namely on account of unfaithfulness and desertion (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 5:31-32; 19:7-9; Mark 10:2-9; Luke 16:19; 1 Cor. 7:10-16). There are other sins against the marriage that can rise to the same level of covenant unfaithfulness as adultery and desertion, including physical abuse, refusal to work and support the family, and illegal activities that threaten the safety of the family.

Paul and Jesus always make clear one point: Divorce is always because of the hardness of our hearts. Men particularly in the culture in which Paul was writing would put a way a woman for any or every reason, and Paul and Jesus are putting a stop to that. They are putting a stop to men treating women as thought they were a possession, and saying, “You cannot try to look for loopholes by which you can do away with one woman and marry another.” That is the basic premise and we should follow that edict today. That is the spirit of the law.

In any situation, we cannot say, “Ok you made a mistake, you are unfaithful, you are out!” No, that is being hardhearted. Even in that circumstance the greater good is always reconciliation. Forgiveness. The point here is not to look for a loophole, the point is to try to preserve marriage, if at all possible. In 1 Corinthians 7, therefore, Paul also says that if the unbeliever is willing to stay do not get a divorce (v. 13). The reconciliation that comes through faith in Christ ultimately becomes benchmark for all of our relationships.

My husband wants a divorce even though there are no biblical grounds. How do I convince another Christian to reconcile? The “olive branch” has been extended many times. What should I do?

Keep praying. Ultimately it is God that changes the heart. But I think that all too often we as Christians fall for cultural ideas. That idea would be God has given me marriage to make me happy. Perhaps God has not given the marriage to make one happy, but rather to make one holy. This is a radical concept of marriage, but I think that is God’s call, it is to holiness in marriage and that trumps the pursuit of mere happiness.

What has happened is we think that love is a feeling. When we do not have the feeling the whole thing is just too much effort. The truth of the matter is this: love is not a feeling, love is a commitment. Feelings ebb and flow. The commitment should never change.

You cannot change anybody’s heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

Perhaps right now it seems the person has closed his own heart but God can do what seems to us impossible. God ultimately is the one that moves hearts. The proverb that says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1). If that is true of the king, it is true of every one of us.

You ultimately got to rest in this: If your spouse is genuinely a believer then he will come to his senses, recognizing that to be a believer, you first have to say, “I’m a sinner.” Secondly, you have to say, “I’m willing to repent of my sin,” which is to say, “I want to turn and follow God and do it His way.” When you do that, you’ve received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, you are no longer Lord of your life; Christ is the Lord of your life, and you want to follow Him in obedience. And even if we cannot find an ounce of satisfaction in a marriage, it is not about selfishness, it is about selflessness that we are called to as Christians.

I got divorced as an unbeliever. The divorce was without biblical grounds. Now I am a believer. What obligation do I have to my ex-wife with respect to reconciling the marriage?

I think that as long as the door to reconciliation remains open I would pursue reconciliation. I would do it in a way that is glorifying to God, because as a new believer, you are a new creation in Christ. In fact, as a new believer, when you are baptized, you are symbolizing that you were buried to your old life, raised to newness of life through His resurrection power. That needs to be manifest to your ex-wife, that there has been a change in you, a change that is not just articulated by the words you speak, but a change that is demonstrated by both your life and your love. I would pursue reconciliation. Obviously, you cannot force it. You cannot force anyone else to reconcile. Reconciliation at the end of the day is always going to be a two-way street. It takes someone that is willing to forgive and someone that is wanting to be forgiven, if those two aspects aren’t there, reconciliation doesn’t take place. But I think that as long as the door to reconciliation remains open I would pursue that. Once that door is closed, if it is closed through death or remarriage, then you cannot unscramble the egg. Right now, in this instance, there is still a possibility, and I think as a Christian you want to pursue that possibility.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see the following:

Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage by Michael F. Ross

The Divorced Pastor: Is He the Husband of One Wife? by Michael F. Ross

Blog adapted from “When is divorce permissible?” “My husband wants a divorce even though there’s no grounds; what should I do?” and “I got divorced as an unbeliever. Now I’m saved, what obligation do I have to my ex-wife?

Apologetics

Making Sense of the Binding and Releasing of Satan in Revelation 20

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You mentioned that the thousand-years referred to in Revelation 20 is synonymous with forever or eternity. If that is they case, why does it say Satan will be released after the thousand years? How is that so?

The question really gets into trying to make a metaphor walk on all fours, particularly a metaphor that is in the context of apocalyptic literature. The metanarrative that you have in John’s Apocalypse is about Satan, who has been defeated by Christ. If you look throughout the Scriptures, you see how Christ comes, and He makes a spectacle out of the principalities and powers of darkness (Col. 2:12). He triumphs over them by the cross and that triumph is not a temporary triumph. It is an eternal triumph. It is a triumph that will forever demonstrate that Christ is victor and that Satan is defeated.

Now, within the context of the metaphor, within the context of the overall metanarrative as well, you have Satan released for a short time. After his eternal vanquishing, he is released for a short time. This is tantamount to saying that after Christ has made a spectacle of principalities and powers of darkness, with the domain of Satan being defeated, Satan has yet a short time, in this metanarrative a short time. This is part of the narrative communicated in apocalyptic language and you cannot try to make the metaphor walk on all fours.

The whole idea of thousand is used in many different ways metaphorically. It can be used to say that God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills (Psa. 50:10). In other words, this is a way of saying God owns everything. It can also be used to say that God’s loving kindness is to a thousand generations (Exod. 20:6), i.e. an everlasting lovingkindness. You cannot try to make the metaphor walk on all fours. If you do, you end up with loose strings popping out all over the place.

I mentioned this before, but it is sort of like someone saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” and you start asking “What size are the dogs?” and “What color are the cats?”

The grand metanarrative of John’s expanded Olivet Discourse, which is the Book of Revelation—No Olivet Discourse appears in the Gospel of John but the Synoptic Gospels record them (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21)—John’s Apocalypse gives you an expanded Olivet Discourse. Within this expanded Olivet Discourse, he says

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-2).*

This is a way of saying that Christ eternally defeats the powers of darkness through His triumph. This is a way of talking about Christ defeating Satan. Yet, in the narrative of the Apocalypse, the people of God are going to suffer under Satan, the Beast, and the woman who rides the Beast. John is telling the readers, Satan is going to be set free for a short time. He is going to continue to wreak havoc upon the earth. That is what is going on in the story.

The thousand years is indicative of everlasting and complete defeat. As the metaphor continues, God keeps His covenant to a thousand generations, indicative that His mercy is forever, so too Satan is forever defeated, but John is saying the worst of the tribulation still looms on the horizon; therefore, Satan must be set free for a short time, he must surround the camp of God’s people, the city He loves, before Christ coming in judgment

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time and ultimate vindication.

Think about the language of Revelation 20—many years ago I took the time to memorize the passage and cogitate upon the passage for hours upon hours as I would walk and think about it—you have an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key to the abyss, and having in his hand a great chain, how does an angel, if you are pressing the language, hold in his hand a great chain? An angel is a non-corporeal being. Then he takes the Devil, and throws him into the abyss, then locks and seals it, how is that done? Did he really throw Satan into some kind of container and then put a lid on top of it? If you take apocalyptic language and you try to make it walk on all fours, you end up with unmitigated nonsense. You got to read the language in which it is intended.

The language itself is very, very interesting, because it is not just an apocalypse in the sense of an unfolding, but it is a linguistic matrix that has its roots in the rest of Scripture. What makes Revelation so easy to understand is the overall understanding of Scripture as a whole. In other words, if you understand the Scriptures as a whole, Revelation does not come out of left field. Think about it. Revelation is only four-hundred and four verses with two-hundred-seventy-eight being direct allusions to Old Testament passages. Those who are familiar with the Bible, right away see what is going on in the apocalyptic language because it has its roots in the linguistic matrix of the rest of Scripture.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Learn more about understanding end time passages in the Bible in Hank Hanegraaff’s books The Apocalypse Code and Has God Spoken.

This blog adapted from the May 11, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

*All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984).

Apologetics

Church, Tongues and Prophecy

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Is speaking in tongues Scriptural or Satanic?

I certainly do not think speaking in tongues is Satanic. I think that there are people who prostitute tongues. We have a great example with Rodney Howard-Browne and Kenneth Copeland, and when they prostitute the gift of speaking in tongues, I think it is a very serious thing because now you are attributing something to God, which has nothing whatsoever to do with God. That is the quintessential definition of blasphemy.

When Paul says, “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:39-40),* the apostle is pointing out that what we want to do is to edify, strengthen, and encourage the body of Christ. We do this by doing what we do in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, and not deflective to the body of Christ.

If someone is speaking in a tongue, in a language you do not understand, there has got to be an interpretation because you might be edified by what you say but those around you within the context of the church are not going to be edified. Tongues that are interpreted have the effect of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:26-33).

Unfortunately, there are so many examples in the church today of people who prostitute the gift and they make it something other than what it really is. As mentioned, Rodney Howard-Browne, a notorious Counterfeit Revivalist, and Kenneth Copeland, a leader of the Word of Faith movement, do that on a regular basis (i.e. prostitute the gift of speaking in tongues). When they were speaking together in dueling tongues in front of thousands and thousands of people, and the people thought they were very, funny doing this, what Howard-Browne and Copeland were actually doing was saying that this was the gift of the Holy Spirit being manifested through them but in reality it was nothing but sheer blasphemy (An audio clip of Howard-Browne and Copeland dueling in tongues can be heard on September 14, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast, which is introduced at the 25:28 mark.)

Is speaking in tongues at church ok?

One of the great texts to go to is 1 Corinthians 14. If you look at verse 22, Paul says there, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” So Paul is saying that if you are prophesying—and not in the sense of telling the future but forth telling, equipping, encouraging, exhorting, the saints—you should be prophesying because that’s for believers, but tongues then is “not for believers but for unbelievers.”

Paul then says, “If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind” (v. 23)? The apostle is giving a rational thereabout why believer should not speak loudly and many at the same time in tongues in the context of a church. And now if someone gives an interpretation within the context—what is tongues but a prophecy.

If there is a tongue, according to Paul, you cannot all be talking at the same time, and loudly, and be disruptive. If a tongue is given within this New Testament context there has to be an interpretation because then a tongue can serve to edify the body of Christ. But in general what is the principle? The principle is “tongues then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.” And then he gives a very strong warning about what happens when you speak in tongues in public and how that can be disruptive and discombobulating for an unbeliever and instead of reaching that unbeliever you end up repelling the unbeliever.

—Hank Hanegraaff

“For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (1 Cor. 14:13)

Learn more about speaking in tongues, spiritual gifts, and Holy Spirit in the following equip.org resources:

Is Speaking in Tongues the Evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Does It Mean to Say that The Holy Spirit is In You? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is There a Difference Between Indwelling and Infilling? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Are There Apostles and Prophets Today? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Counterfeit Revival (Part One): Rodney Howard-Browne and the “Toronto Blessing” (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Counterfeit Revival (Part Two): Visionary Hoaxes And Revisionary History (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Counterfeit Revival (Part Three): Separating Fact from Fabrication on the Pensacola Outpouring (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Counterfeit Revival (Part Four): Modern-Day Mesmerists (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Counterfeit Revival Revisited (Hank Hanegraaff)

Counterfeit Critique (Hank Hanegraaff)

Questions & Answers on Holy Laughter (Hank Hanegraaff)

Scripture vs. the Spiritual Gifts? (Elliot Miller)

Fivefold Ministry Makes A Comeback (Douglas LeBlanc)

This blog adapted from the September 14, 2016 Bible Answer Bam  and “Is speaking in tongues for today?

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Apologetics

Is Amillennialism Scripture Twisting and Heresy?

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Do you think amillennialism a heresy that comes as the result of Scripture twisting?

The timing of the tribulation or the meaning of the millennium is not something that we want to affix the word “heresy.” This is something that we can debate vigorously as Christians but we simply do not have to divide over. Therefore, I would not affix the word “heresy” to this.

There are Christians who believe that the millennium is a period of time between the first and second comings of Christ, so they still associate an indiscriminate amount of time, perhaps two thousand or more years, to this time frame (i.e. amillennialism). We do not at this point or an amillennial cannot tell you exactly how much time will lapse because the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has not yet taken place.

Some Christians take the millennium to be a kind of semi-golden age that comes about either before (postmillennialism) or after (premillennialism) the return of Jesus Christ.

The premillennial position is a position which says that after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ people will be saved, and there will be a one-thousand-year semi-golden age with a rebuilt temple and reinstituted temple sacrifices, and some even say that those temple sacrifices will atone for sin. Then there will be a great apostasy at the end of this millennial age and then the eternal state.

I personally do not agree with the millennium being a period of time. What Revelation is communicating is not quantity of time, but a quality of vindication for the martyrs. In other words, they will suffer for a short-time their vindication will be an eternal vindication.

The most well known use of the symbolic number “thousand” in Scripture is found in John’s encouraging promise to the persecuted first-century church that the saints who would be martyred for resisting the mark of the Beast would reign in glory with Christ for “a thousand years” (Revelation 20:1-7). Failing to read Revelation in its appropriate historical and literary context, many have misconstrued John’s words in Revelation 20 as a literal prophetic chronology according to which Satan will literally be bound for one thousand years while the resurrected martyrs reign with Christ until the end of the “millennium” at which time the rest of the dead will be raised and Satan will be released to wage war against Christ and the resurrected saints. Rather than allowing one metaphorically rich passage in the apocalyptic letter of Revelation to override the rest of the clear passages in Scripture that teach a single, general resurrection of the dead (e.g. John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), we must be willing to interpret this markedly symbolic passage in light of the rest of Scripture. When we do so, it becomes clear that in keeping with the traditional use of “a thousand” as a numeric symbol of ultimate completion, John is simply here promising his readers that though God would allow the Beast to execute his reign of terror for “ten days”—a relatively short time—God would vindicate the martyred believers by allowing them to reign with Christ for “a thousand years”—a comparatively limitless time. By suggesting that Satan would be bound during this period and that the rest of the dead would not be resurrected until after the thousand years had ended (vv. 2-3, 5, 7), John was simply using symbolic chronological bookends to highlight the qualitatively (as opposed to quantitatively) unique vindication that the martyrs of this great persecution will experience at the general resurrection of the dead. John’s vision of the vindication of “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God” (20:4) is thus the climactic answer to the prayer for vindication—“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”—that was called out in chapter six by “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (6:9-10). (Hank Hanegraaff, Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible REALLY Says About the End Times…and Why It Matters Today [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007], 256-257)

Now I think ultimately to settle this in your mind requires something that I think few people spend enough time with, and that is an understanding of the art and science of biblical interpretation. To understand the Book of Revelation —this includes Revelation 20 where this idea of thousand years is repeated six times—you have to have a good understanding or good grasp of the Old Testament Scriptures. If you do not, you might get caught going off on a fantastic fantasy journey as opposed to grounding yourself in the well-spring of the Old Testament.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Learn more about understanding end time passages in the Bible in Hank Hanegraaff’s books The Apocalypse Code and Has God Spoken.

This blog adapted from “What’s your view on Amillennialism, is it heretical?

 

Apologetics

Christianity in an Age of Pro-Life Criminalization and Bible Warning Labels

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-pro-life-crime_1A recent LifeSite article by Pete Baklinski entitled “French government votes to ban pro-life websites” indicates “the socialist government of France passed a bill after one day’s debate that criminalizes websites that might dissuade women from abortion.” If convicted website owners could face two-years imprisonment. Jean-Frederic Poisson, member of the Christian Democratic Party, “blasted the bill on Twitter for what he saw as the government’s double standard in banning sites that propose ‘alternatives’ to abortion but [ironically] not ‘jihadist websites.’”

Hugo Martin in an article for the Los Angeles Times indicated that “More hotels are checking out of the Bible business.” He states that “hotels also have been under pressure lately from atheist groups.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which is a non-profit group that promotes separation of church and state, “wrote to 15 major hotel companies last year, asking them to keep Bibles out of hotel rooms.” That foundation also “created a sticker that reads: ‘Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life,’” and “the group has encouraged its supporters to affix the stickers on any hotel room Bible they find.”

I think in a climate like this—the climate in which we have anti-abortion being legislated against, in other words if you are pro-life, the legislation is against you in countries in the West like France, and then you have groups that are opposing the Bible on the ground that the Bible might be dangerous to your health—this is an age in which we must always be ready give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).

We have to be able to demonstrate that the Bible is divine as opposed to merely human in origin, and that through the Bible we find the way in which we can live life and life to the full.

We also should be able to demonstrate that abortion is the painful killing of an innocent human being. It is painful because the child that is killed has been burned, smothered, dismembered or crushed. It is killing in that from the beginning that which is terminated fulfills the criteria necessary for the establishing the existence of biological life including metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli, cell reproduction, and the child is innocent in the sense that a pre-born infant deserves protection not capital punishment. The pre-born is a, of course, a human being in that the child who was killed is the offspring of human parents and has a totally distinct genetic code. Abortion again is nothing short of terminating the life of a person that is created in the image of God. We as Christians must be able to make that point with gentleness and respect.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

What is Abortion? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Should Abortion Be Permitted in the Case of Rape or Incest? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Do We Know the Bible is Divine Rather than Human in Origin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Folly of Denying God (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Christianity Bad for Your Health (A.A. Howsepian)

Village Atheists with Vengeance (C. Wayne Mayhall)

Enlightenment Humanism: Our Savior from Violence? (Angus J.L. Menuge)

Antitheist Faith and History (Jeffrey Burton Russell)

This Blog adapted from the December 5, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Life, Afterlife, and Resurrection

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-life-afterlife-and-resurrectionWhat exactly happens after we die?

Here is what happens. I start out my book Resurrection with an anecdote, and that anecdote is personal, it is the death of my dad in 1997. What happens is the body goes to the ground, but when my dad breathed his last his soul went to be with the Lord. That’s what Paul talks about—absent from body present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

Now my dad is incomplete. He’s in the presence of the Lord but he is incomplete. He’s awaiting something. The Christian faith is not platonic. It is physical. So we await the physical resurrection of the dead. One day my dad’s soul will return to his body. According to 1 Corinthians 15, the body will rise immortal, imperishable, incorruptible, and that body will be changed from mortality to immortality. My dad will be clothed in a resurrected body for all eternity. He is going to be a body-soul unity for all eternity. That happens when Christ’s returns. This is, of course, exactly what Jesus said. He said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice  and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29, NIV).

We have a picture of the afterlife in Luke 16. Remember the Lord told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? There is a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus lying at his gate. A time came when the rich man died and Lazarus died. Lazarus ends up in Abraham’s bosom or paradise, which is a way of talking about being in the presence of God. But the rich man dies and he ends up in torment. There is a gulf between the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is in torment and he is awaiting the resurrection just like Lazarus is awaiting the resurrection.

What happens when Jesus comes back is that will be a separation that takes place for all eternity.

Do the saints absent in the body yet present with the Lord waiting for the resurrection experience time in the same way as those living on earth?

I can’t really tell you what the answer is to this question in that I do not know what existence will be like in the state of being non-corporeal beings. That is what happens when we die. If you die right now prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, your body goes to the grave, and the non-corporeal aspect of your humanity—the soul or the spirit—is with the Lord. The way the Bible talks about that is the sense of relationship to God rather than any locational place. It is not locational language it relational language. The reason I say this is that souls by definition are non-physical; therefore, where-ness does not apply. We know that they are in relationship to God, and they are awaiting in some sense the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ or the time that their souls will return to their bodies.

Can we anticipate seeing pets in heaven?

We do not know that petted pets will be in heaven; though there is nothing in the Bible that precludes that notion. What we do know— I think—from the consistency of Scripture is that there is warrant to believe that there will be animals in heaven. Animals are among God’s most avant-garde and creative creations. There is no reason to suppose that if there’re animals in paradise lost there would not be animals in paradise restored. We just do not know that the same set that lived on this planet will also live in the world to come. There is no biblical evidence for that, but there is certainly no biblical evidence against it either. There are even a lot of people from C.S. Lewis to Joni Eareckson Tada that think that that might very well be consistent with the nature of God.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from “What happens to us when we die?” and “Will we see our pets in heaven, and what is it like for those awaiting resurrection?

Apologetics

Truth & Post-Truth

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-post-truthIt is quite stunning. The editors of the Oxford Dictionaries have selected their word of the year for 2016. It is hard to imagine what it might be. Even harder to imagine that this is the word for the year when you actually hear the word. Their choice could not be more apropos as a sign of the times. It is an authentic reflection of the state of our culture. The word of the year? Well, here it is—post-truth.

Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Think about that for a moment. Objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. The Oxford editors actually explain that:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom [Brexit] and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase ‘post-truth politics’.

The OUPblog indicates,

Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines.

The bottom line here is that post-truth in the year 2016 stands in stark opposition to plain truth in the past. One is based on subjectivism, the other on objective facts.

All of this of course begs a simple question: What is truth? Or maybe more importantly: Why is truth important? To answer that question, it might be significant to go back a time when Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate. “What is truth?” was the very question that Pontius Pilate posed to Jesus Christ (John 18:38). Here the Roman prefect of Judah was standing toe to toe with the personification of truth and yet he missed its reality.

I would say that postmodern people who hold that emotion trumps fact, that feelings trump biology, that there is no such thing as objective truth, very much like Pilate, miss truth’s very essence. They stare at truth but they fail to recognize its identity. What is that identity? Well, truth is an aspect of the very nature of God Himself; therefore, to put on truth is to put on Christ, for Christ is truth (John 14:6; Eph, 4:24; 6:14). Christians are to be the bearers of truth.

I love what Os Guinness said when he articulated that Christianity is not true because it works, that would be not truth but pragmatism. It is not true because it feels right that is subjectivism. It is not true because it is my truth that is relativism. Christianity is true because it is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. Truth, therefore, we must say, clearly and correctly is anything that corresponds to reality. As such, truth should never yield to the size and the strength of the latest lobby group. Nor is truth really a matter of preference or opinion; rather, truth is true even when everyone denies it and a lie is a lie even if everyone affirms it including the editors of the Oxford Dictionaries. Truth properly understood is essential for you and I to have a realistic worldview.

It is sad to say that sophistry, sensationalism, Scriptorture, superstition, and post-truth subjectivity has sabotaged truth in our epic of time. Our view of reality is seriously skewed when that happens. The death of truth spells—this is pretty serious—the death of truth spells the death of civilization. As such, the redefinition of truth in post-Christian America is no small thing. I think we ought to stand with Alexander Solzhenitsyn who initiated the Velvet Revolution and he did so because he understood that one word of truth properly defined outweighs the entire world.

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the November 21, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Astrology: A Proper Use or Flagrant Abuse of the Stars?

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-astrology-and-biblical-use-of-starsMy Christian friend and pastor occasionally posts his horoscope on Facebook. I was trying to remember biblical verses to support my concern that he was in error. Can you help me with that?

Scripture clearly condemns astrology as a practice that is detestable to the Lord in Deuteronomy 18:9-21. Isaiah goes so far as to say that the council of the astrologers and stargazers who make predictions month by month not only wore out the Babylonians but did not save them from their future ruin (Isa. 47:12-15).

Despite the clear condemnation of Scripture, there are still those who maintain that there is a biblical precedent to use stars to chart the future. What they do is they mistakenly cite passages, for example the Magi (Matt. 2), but if you look at the context, it reveals that the star that the magi followed was not used to foretell the future but to forthtell the future. In other words, the star of Bethlehem did not prophesy the birth of Christ, it pronounced the birth of Christ.

One other point is that astrology has been debunked as a pseudo-scientific paradigm that based on the odd predilection that galaxies rather than genes determine inherited human characteristics. Not only so, astrology cannot account for the problem posed by mass tragedies and twins. For example, people with a wide variety of horoscopes all perished on 9/11 and twins born under the same sign of the Zodiac frequently end up with widely diverse futures.

Remember Daniel 2. Even King Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers recognized the impotence of their craft. When Nebuchadnezzar asked them to remind him of his dream then interpret it? Well, they responded in terror saying no man on earth can do what the king asks. In other words, when Nebuchadnezzar—recognizing they were gaming him—put their lives on the carpet, they exclaimed the truth. They do not know the future nor could they tell the future. They could not as so much be able to tell the dream much less what it portended for the future.

I think what you have with astrology is the subverting of the natural use of the stars, which is of course ordained by God, for a superstitious use of the stars, which God clearly distains. Genesis 1:14-19 points to the natural use of the stars to separate the day from the night, to serve as signs, to mark seasons, days and years, to illuminate the earth. Of course, they can also rightly be used for all kinds of purposes ranging from navigation to natural revelation (Psa. 19:1-6). Therefore, sailors could use astronavigation to chart their course but we as Christians should not use astrology to chart our careers. This is something clearly spoken out against in the very first text that I cited from Deuteronomy 18.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you (Deut. 18:10-12, NIV).

For further reading, please access the following equip.org resources:

Matthew and the Magi: A Case for Astrology? (Gregory Rogers)

What is the Occult? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Witnessing to People in the Occult (Marcia Montenegro)

This blog adapted from the November 13, 2012 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Luck and Chance: Can they Account for the Origin of Life?

cri-blog-nelson-paul-origin-evidence-beliefHow does a guy like Richard Dawkins, who probably is the most famous scientific materialist on the planet today, how does he get away with saying such things as “the universe could so easily have remained lifeless, it’s an astonishing stroke of luck that we’re here”?

I think if you imagine the logic tree where at the top is a single cell, and Dawkins is well aware of the complexity of single cells. You work your way down that logic tree, and you end up at a bifurcation where one alternative is design and the other alternative is chance. For all kinds of reasons Dawkins does not want to turn off on that branch that goes to design. The only thing remaining to him is what he calls luck.

Years ago when I was working in England with Bill Dembski and Steve Meyer on intelligent design, we realized that ultimately anyone who wants to can leap into the arms of mother chance. She’s always there waiting with her irrational arms wide open. Frankly, I think in the mystery of faith and in the mystery of the human will, there are plenty of people, very bright people included, Richard Dawkins is no dummy, who will opt for chance when confronted with design. They will say, “Look, we just got lucky, and we’re here.” This is a case of not listening to reason, and in fact turning your back on her, turning your back on wisdom, and saying, “I’m going to choose luck, if the alternative is I have to acknowledge that there was a designer or creator of this universe.”

There is a great scene at the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, book number seven in The Chronicles of Narnia series. There is a circle of dwarves. They are sitting and arguing amongst themselves. Aslan is trying to persuade them to listen to him to keep going up into heaven. Finally, Aslan says to the children I cannot do it, their will, I cannot override their will and their will is so strong that they will not listen to me. It was a terrifying scene when I read it as a kid because I realized that even confronted with Aslan himself, the perversity of the human will can choose something like chance.

It is a puzzle to me because I want to say science ought to be open to all the possibilities no matter what the consequences. Luck is not an explanation. You cannot teach luck in a biology class. Write the word on the blackboard, the class is over.

In essence what you are saying Paul is this: It is not that you cannot believe, it is that many people simply will not believe. I’m reminded of Blaise Pascal who said that God dwells in enough obscurities that if you do not want to find Him you will not, and He dwells in enough light that if you want to find Him you will (Pensees, 7.430).

That’s right. For me one of the most sobering lessons in the New Testament is to look in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the Gospel of John at how the Pharisees responded to the miracles that they saw right in front of them. You could not ask for better sense data, better evidence that Jesus Himself healing people or casting out demons. But, between what they saw, their heart, and their mind, for the Pharisees, for many of whom there was a disconnect. They would say illogical things like he cast out demons by Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Right? Even the direct witness of one of God’s miracles in the person of Jesus healing someone was unable to persuade those Pharisees that this man was who He claimed to be.

I think there is a mystery to faith and there is a mystery on how we respond to evidence. I think scientific evidence is very powerful. It is very compelling. Ultimately, the nature of the human will enter in. I will tell you, after three decades of working in this field, my devotional life matters a lot more to me, because much of the relevant action persuading somebody occurs where we cannot see it. Out of sight in their heart. I love giving people evidence but ultimately I realize there is a lot more to it than just evidence.

—Paul Nelson

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV)

Learn more on the evidence supporting intelligent design in Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth by Illustra Media.

This blog adapted from the November 7, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Proverbs, Wisdom and Blessings turned to Curses

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-proverbs-reflectionsI had heard the personification of wisdom mentioned in the Book of Proverbs is a reference to the Holy Spirit. They are one and the same. Is this true?

The truth of the matter is that the Holy Spirit inspired the words of Proverbs; therefore, they are useful for faith and practice. This is what Paul tells Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).*

When you look at a book like Proverbs, you have the principles and maxims for living life in a way in which you can be successful. Not in a hedonistic worldly sense but in a sense in which your success is directly tied to your relationship to the Spirit that lives within.

There are so many wonderful proverbs. Every enterprise becomes wise through planning, common sense, and staying abreast of the facts. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:30-31). You look at Proverbs 3, which is one of my favorites. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (Prov. 3:13-15). Go down a few verses: “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew (Prov. 3:19-20). The Book of Proverbs is just rife with wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.

One thing I recommend people do is to read one chapter of Proverbs every day and you work yourself through the book once a month on average. Again, all the maxims and principles for successful daily living are encapsulated in the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 27:14 states, “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Why is blessing your neighbor early in the morning considered a curse?

Remember that proverbs are truisms. They are generally true. What is being communicated in Proverbs 27:14 at this point by Solomon is this: If a man loudly—the emphasis is on the word loudly—blesses neighbor early in the morning it will be taken as a curse. Why would that be? Well, think about it? Timing, we might say, is everything. The wrong time for a wonderful action is still a woeful thing. You do not want to curse someone loudly, nor do you want to bless someone loudly, particularly if it’s early in the morning. If you are doing something loudly in the morning it’s going to be taken as a curse.

I think this is related to what you read in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3:1-8).

There’s a time for everything. All of that of course has to be contextualized. For example, you can lie but only if it’s a greater good. In other words, Rahab purposed to lie to save the Israelites from certain destruction. So the greater good was the saving of life. There’s a time for everything, if you do something at the wrong time, it still would be considered a curse, that’s the point.

What is probably going on in Proverbs 27:14 as well has concerns suspicious motives. It’s probably a hypocrite, someone going to great lengths to create the impression of friendship when in reality there is no real friendship intended. There’s a lot we can read into the possible meaning of that proverb.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see the following:

Who is Wisdom in Proverbs 8? (Leland Ryken)

Blog adapted from “In Proverbs 27:14 why is blessing your neighbor early in the morning considered a curse?” and the April 5, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

*All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984 unless noted.