“Love Your Enemy” in Exodus and Leviticus

We’ve all heard someone espouse the idea that somehow “the God of the Old Testament” is different than “the God of the New Testament.” This is claimed because they say that in the New Testament God is so loving and caring while in the Old Testament God is wrathful and mean. This is extremely frustrating because it’s obviously not true to anyone who has any passing familiarity with the Gospels. Jesus talks about coming judgement and how terrible it will be (Matthew 25:31-46, for example). However, while I think it’s easy to demonstrate from the New Testament that God’s wrath is indeed still present, I’d like to do the converse today. I’d like to show that God, in the Old Testament, was commanding the exact same things that Jesus was in the New. There is no disharmony in the teachings at all.

One of the supposedly more radical teachings of Jesus is that we should love and do good to our enemies. Surely, this idea was never taught before! I think this short passage from Exodus will put that to rest:

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.  5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Ex 23:4–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Here God is commanding the Israelites to do good to their enemy, even the “one who hates you.” Is this not the exact same sentiment that Jesus taught in the Gospels? God commands good to our enemies, regardless of what they’ve done to us. It is only out of ignorance that people can claim Jesus diverges from Old Testament moral teaching.

Another thing Jesus said was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:39). Surely, that teaching can’t be found in the Old Testament? Except, when Jesus says this, He is literally quoting from Leviticus 19:18

17 ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Le 19:17–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is an Old Testament teaching. There should have been nothing radical in Jesus teaching to His Jewish hearers. They should have already been exposed to the idea. Even in this passage the Israelites are commanded to not take vengeance, once again showing they were to love their enemies and not persecute them. In God’s law, wrongs were to be overlooked and people were not to be treated in accordance with their wicked deeds against you. It’s time to lay the slander against God to rest.

Application

Before closing out this article, I want to make some application for the Christian. We’ve heard the teachings of Jesus so many times we’re liable to not remember just how radical (from a worldly perspective) His statements are. Hopefully, looking at the same idea presented in the Old Testament has encouraged you to remember how we should live in this world. We should love our enemies and do good to them. It doesn’t matter if they’ve cheated, stolen from, oppressed, slandered, microaggressed, or even done actual violence to us. We are still to love them and do good to them. If you don’t want to do this, can you say you truly believe in Christ? If you don’t believe in Him, then you will see His wrathful side on the Day of Judgement. Repent and believe in Him, and you will find Him to be just as merciful as the New Testament portrays Him.

Abolishing Abortion: Fighting for a Cause?

Pro-life, pro-choice, or other? There was a time when I thought the first two were the only major camps. Sure, there were always variations of people within each camp but, by and large, most people fell into one of the two. However, there is another camp that falls somewhere else entirely. This particular camp shares similarities with the religious zealots of biblical times. For those who may be unaware, the zealots were those who were religious fanatics to the point where they would murder the opposing government officials. One could consider them religious assassins. While this third category isn’t necessarily out bombing abortion clinics (nor would they advocate such tactics), their extremism is performed in a very different, yet equally as dangerous, manner. So who is this mystery category? It contains those deemed as abolitionists. The most prominent group in this category is known as Abolish Human Abortion (AHA).

AHA members come in a variety of shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common: abolishing abortion.

Abolitionism-button4-small

On this particular point, I have no disagreement. As Christians, the complete eradication of evil should always be strived for. However, we must also understand we live in a fallen world with unregenerate sinners. Thus, it should also be understood that, this side of heaven, we’ll never achieve that end goal. AHA is an interesting group as it neither falls under pro-life nor pro-choice. In fact, they will openly proclaim that both movements entertain evil and are wicked. Not so long ago, I would’ve been scratching my head asking myself what else is left. Now, it’s not quite as confusing. My end conclusion? AHA is both misguided as well as dangerous.

When I first heard of AHA, I decided to follow them on Facebook and even shared some of their posts. Imagine my surprise when I heard they were picketing churches and protesting bills that directly attacked abortion. While it’s easy to mischaracterize groups with whom you disagree, I want to ensure I accurately portray their stance in this blog post. Essentially, AHA members are abolitionists. Anything short of the complete eradication of abortion is considered unsatisfactory. To this end, I agree. Where we part ways is in the methods used to achieve such a goal. While the pro-life camp is typically accepting of incremental laws that whittle away at abortion little by little, AHA is diametrically opposed to such bills. The main reason for this is because they feel it’s showing partiality toward some babies while showing acceptance and compromise toward others. A perfect example would be the “heartbeat bill” that multiple states either recently passed or are currently looking at. The pro-life movement is generally in favor of bills such as these because we’re willing to accept baby steps. At no point are they deemed satisfactory but they are accepted as first steps toward a more comprehensive goal. However, as stated, AHA believes them to be wicked bills that dehumanize and promote the murder of babies without detectable heartbeats. While being a noble cause, it’s misguided at best and deadly at worst.

Before we go any further, I find it important to remind us all that God is sovereign in all He does. In His infinite wisdom, He has allowed abortion is be legal in our country. Regardless what happens from here, He’s over all. That fact doesn’t negate our responsibility to care for the little ones and to be a voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-10). After all, that’s the entire position of the pro-life movement. Yet, AHA will openly declare this to be a foolish approach. If one were to say the end goal is to save lives, they’ll openly deny such a charge. In fact, they openly criticize pro-lifers as being willing to save lives at all costs. By “all costs,” they mean being willing to accept incremental bills. While we declare incremental bills to be more palatable and more likely to be passed (which, in turn, saves some lives in the process), they believe, by promoting these bills, we’re accepting evil and promoting the deaths of other babies so long as we save some. With this outlook, it’s not hard to see why they believe us to be wrong. It sounds monstrous! Sadly, it’s a strawman. Allow me to explain.

Abortion is currently legal in our country. We don’t have to pass any laws to legalize the murder of prenatal babies as it already exists. If a law is passed that prohibits the murder of prenatal babies of whom a heartbeat is detected, while allowing the murder of those of whom there is no heartbeat detected, it isn’t synonymous with newly creating a law that legalizes their murder. Again, this is because that law is already on the books (whether one wants to acknowledge it as a valid law is irrelevant as the legal precedent has already been set). It simply means we’ve now saved countless babies in the first pass and are coming back to save the rest in the next pass (or however many passes it may take to achieve the end goal of abolition). It’s whittling away at existing law and removing its power little by little when taking it head on would prove to be too much. A lumberjack doesn’t go into the woods and demand an oak tree be felled. No, he swings his axe and, with each connection, removes a part of the tree. He continues to do this until the tree is too weak to stand and, finally, falls under its own weight. Just as an oak is brought down by incremental swings, so the path to abolition will be through incrementally removing the authority of existing abortion laws. By opposing such measures and tactics, while AHA may be able to feel upright, just, self-righteous, and treating everyone equally, all they really accomplish is equally leading all babies to the slaughter. This isn’t noble. It’s illogical and wicked. It has more to do with the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-11 who, in his self-righteousness, was thankful that he wasn’t “unjust” as the tax collector next to him. While maintaining a feeling of righteousness and pure justice, real human lives are being lost because they refuse to allow any law to pass that doesn’t include all babies from being rescued in a single pass. Again, in their stubbornness, it only results in no babies being saved while they’re afforded the opportunity to snub their nose in the air and mock those who are making every attempt to at least save one. Yes, if only even one is saved, it’s all worth it as we continue making progress toward abolition.

Sadly, it appears the abolitionist movement is expanding into other groups and is no longer limited to the likes of AHA. While many of these new groups oppose the fanatical approach and tactics used by AHA, they’ve begun to adopt the view that incremental bills are wretched. In many of these groups, it’s less of a sense of self-righteousness and more of a belief that incremental bills won’t work and that we’ll lose precious time that could’ve been spent working on abolition bills. While we disagree on the likelihood of such “totality” bills passing, I can at least appreciate where they’re coming from. Unfortunately, it still tends to be illogical and dangerous. For instance, one common objection to the heartbeat bill is that, since it’s the abortionist performing the heartbeat ultrasound, he/she will be more likely to either skip the ultrasound altogether or purposely miss the heartbeat by performing the ultrasound in the wrong place. Essentially, the view is that the abortionist can’t be trusted. Therefore, the heartbeat bill is pointless and babies with a heartbeat will be aborted anyway. Is there any credibility to this argument? I dare so there’s not. Let me explain why.

I can understand the skepticism which would lead one to assume the abortionist will purposely miss the heartbeat or perform the abortion anyway. It’s a healthy sort of skepticism. However, it’s also pure speculation rooted in their presuppositions. Think of it another way. People are always trying to find mechanic shops who are willing to fudge numbers to help a modified car pass a smog test. As much as mechanics are generally automotive enthusiasts and don’t particularly like smog laws, finding a shop that will do it is extremely difficult. This is because most mechanics aren’t willing to risk losing their livelihood and being unable to put food on their table over a random customer. Another example is gun shows. We’ve all heard the “gun show loophole” but it’s also a myth. I’ve bought a gun from a gun show and, even as active duty military, I had to provide certain paperwork in order to get one. They were adamant that they couldn’t sell me one without the paperwork being provided first to prove my residency in the city. Most licensed gun vendors aren’t willing to risk losing their license and affect putting food on their table all for a stranger. Will there be those who will do it anyway? Of course! However, they’ll be criminals and, if they get caught (be it by audit or by investigation after probable cause comes to light), they’ll face the consequences. I’m very convinced most abortionists will play by the rules out of fear of losing their livelihood should they get caught. To add to this thought, if we’re going to enter the realm of speculation, imagine how many pro-life pregnant women will receive a positive heartbeat ultrasound by a credible healthcare provider only to go to a mill and feign wanting an abortion in order to “catch” an abortionist telling her there’s no heartbeat. They’d be too easy to catch and prosecute. Again, most aren’t willing to lose their careers and negatively impact their family’s way of life over a stranger. As it stands, most of the remaining abolitionist objections are rooted in the same flawed sense of logic.

As I draw to a close, I want to reaffirm the fact that total abolition should absolutely be the end goal. If an abolition bill were to go up today, I’d be in full support of it. However, I wouldn’t stop there, rest on my laurels, and consider my job complete. What if it fails? What if it fails repeatedly? Do we continue to play the same song on repeat or do we strategize and make a more effective plan? To be honest, I wish the pro-choice camp had the same mentality as AHA and other abolitionists back in 1973. If that were the case, they would’ve demanded legalizing medical professionals to leave babies to die on a table simply because they’re unwanted. Unfortunately, the pro-choice movement was rooted in incrementalism. What began as a divide within the church over feminism then shifted into a right to privacy and doctor/patient confidentiality in cases of abortion. This then paved the way for late term and partial birth abortions. Today, babies are left to die if they survive a botched abortion. Don’t be fooled. It was incrementalism that led us to the horrific place we’re at today. They knew it would work and they stood united in the cause. I say it’s about time we steal their playbook and use incrementalism against them until they no longer have any power to stand. Instead of fighting the pro-life crowd at the expense of human lives, instead, stand united and take down the oak tree known as abortion, one swing at a time!

~Travis W. Rogers

A Morning Among Mormons

The following is an essay I once wrote as a part of a college class. The idea behind the assignment was to visit a service of a faith group other than my own. After some consideration, I decided to attend the morning service of a local Mormon church. As you read on, my hope is that you will feel as if you were right there with me.

It was a brisk Sunday morning. As I pulled into the parking lot, I dreaded stepping out into the cold. Yet, at the same time, I looked forward to the experience that was at hand. With the strong winds beating against my face, I gazed up toward the tall steeple and began walking toward the church building. Apart from the unusual cold, this particular Sunday morning was different than most. Instead of attending my own Baptist church, I found myself visiting a local Mormon church. I knew I was in for a surprise but I was prepared for whatever the morning had in store.

As I crossed the threshold through the front door, I immediately felt the warmth surround me. At first, it was in the form of heat on a cold body. Next, it was in the form of tender love and friendliness. Looking like a fish out of water, I was welcomed by some of the congregants. They introduced themselves, retrieved a church bulletin for me, and told me to feel free to sit wherever I liked. Before sitting down, I engaged in some casual discussions with various unfamiliar faces. Though I didn’t know anybody in the sanctuary, I felt as though the awkwardness quickly subsided. Before I knew it, it was time to take a seat and begin the service.

In an effort to blend in, I took a seat in the back corner of the room. I opened my bulletin and glanced at the order of worship they had scheduled for the morning. The first thing that took me by surprise was the fact that they had two speakers listed. I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant but I was intrigued. As an elderly man was making announcements, I flipped my bulletin over to the other side where I found a concise list of what they thought we should know. Of course, none of the references listed were from the Bible. Every last one was from another Mormon document. The teaching that stood out to me most was also the one that bothered me the most. Without any shame, they proudly declared that they do not believe special revelation has ended. They claimed their interpretation of the Bible is unique in that they believe it should be interpreted through continuing revelation. While I knew this to be the case with the Mormon religion, seeing it printed right before my eyes was appalling! My mind instantly went to where the Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New American Standard Bible). If Scripture is enough to equip man for every good work, where is the need for ongoing special revelation?

As the announcements came to a close, the congregation began singing. I realized I had missed something. That was when I noticed they were all singing out of the hymnal. As oblivious as I felt in that moment, I grabbed a hymnal and flipped to the song number as quickly as I could. Expecting to find heresy upon heresy, I was surprised to find the song they were singing actually contained no error that I could find. They sang of Christ (albeit, a counterfeit version) being a firm foundation as well as of his atoning sacrifice.

Quite fittingly, the service then transitioned into communion or, as they called it, Administration of the Sacrament. Whereas the concept of communion is a very familiar one, their administration of it was quite different from anything I had witnessed before. Instead of it being served by adults who were in good standing within the church, it was being served by teenagers. Never before had I seen children serving communion. Something else that grieved my soul was seeing children of every age partaking in the meal. Scripture states, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). So long as a child has no relationship or unity with Christ, he should not be participating in communion. Yet, if these children had teeth, they were chewing on the bread. As communion came to a close, an older gentleman asked if the young men of the priesthood could be seated with their parents. I could go on about Christ abolishing the priesthood when he became our High Priest but, for the purpose of not dwelling on the subject, I’ll move on.

As the first speaker stepped up to the lectern, he informed us he would be speaking on the subject of faith. I was expecting to hear a passage to turn to but it never came. Instead, he began comparing faith to flying an airplane and trusting in the instruments. He compared it to driving a car and trusting in your skills as a driver. In this sense, it was nothing more than belief. He was also very adamant that one must act on his faith for it to be effective. While this may have sounded normal to the untrained ear, I heard heresy. The Mormon religion teaches that one can lose his salvation if there are no accompanying works. Therefore, for him to teach what he did made perfect sense. However, that doesn’t make it accurate. In reality, faith will make for effective works, not the other way around. Our faith makes our works effective yet our works have no bearing on whether or not our faith is effective. It only has a bearing on whether said faith is real or counterfeit.

After a brief interlude, the second speaker stepped up to the lectern. He didn’t exactly specify what he was going to be speaking on but, just as before, he also didn’t base it on any particular passage or verse. It soon became clear he was speaking on thankfulness and a grateful heart. While this is a wonderful topic to speak on, I felt as though he was taking a completely unbiblical approach to it. For instance, he declared that the Heavenly Father gave His children the gift of happiness. He even went so far as to claim that God will never demand from His children anything that will diminish the happiness He desires from them. I felt as though I were listening to a prosperity teaching televangelist. Yet, this man seemed very sincere in what he was saying. Ultimately, he linked it all to various passages within the Mormon writings. Since I reject Mormon writings as being the unbiblical teaching of another gospel, I naturally couldn’t stand behind his teaching. As he came to a close, he stated that all scriptures are the words of the apostles and prophets, both ancient and modern. Immediately, I was reminded of the blurb on the front of the bulletin that I had read upon first taking a seat in the pew. I found it ironic that the last thing I heard from the pulpit was also the very first thing I read upon arriving to the church. Sadly, neither of the speakers ever went to their Bible nor did they go to any of their other sacred writings. Instead of hearing preaching from the pulpit, it was more of a testimony sharing time.

The service closed in prayer and we all stood up to leave. I was approached by a man who saw me in the beginning. He was curious as to what I thought of the service. Out of kindness and respect, I chose to keep most of my thoughts to myself. After all, I was a guest in his church and they had treated me with nothing but kindness. He then began sharing with me why he felt the Mormon religion was true and how he had converted nine years prior. After he was finished, he appeared to be inquiring as to what my thoughts were. In the most loving way possible, I told him my main concern was that I believed the Jesus of the Book of Mormon to be a completely different person from the Jesus of the Bible. I explained that the Mormon Jesus was a created being who didn’t always exist whereas the Bible’s Jesus is eternal and is actually God Himself as the second person of the Holy Trinity. This, in and of itself, is enough to show how the two religions aren’t merely describing one person in different ways but are actually describing two different people in similar ways while still maintaining their individuality. With this foundational principle being in place, the only thing left to say was, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8). I explained that our differences will be offensive in nature but that my intention was not to offend maliciously. By this time, there were several people standing around and they were all in agreement that, while we disagreed, we could maintain kindness and love toward one another. One of the missionaries asked for my phone number in hopes that we can continue our discussion at a later point. I gladly gave my information and truly do hope to receive the call someday in the near future. I always look forward to the opportunity to evangelize to the lost. May God’s glory be lifted above all else. Soli Deo Gloria!

~ Travis W. Rogers

The Dividing Line

THE LINE. It’s an interesting term that holds intrigue. As kids, who didn’t want to be the line leader? As adults, we see lines and wonder where they go. Perhaps some of us even fear lines such as when we enter the grocery store…and then immediately walk back out. Perhaps you like to pretend you’re Johnny Cash and walk the line. There are many different applications that you may have never thought of. In fact, ask yourself, “What do Mormons, dots, and lines have in common?” If you’re curious, read on!

I’m reminded of a time when I received a knock on my door. As I opened it, I saw two clean cut young men standing before me wearing black slacks and white button up shirts. I instantly knew God was showing me His good favor! I stepped outside and greeting each of them with enthusiasm and a smile. After a brief introduction, I invited them into my living room so we could sit down and get comfortable. As expected, they opened with passages out of the Book of Mormon. To be honest, it was interesting to see where they were coming from. I’d had discussions with many Mormons in the past but this one just felt different. I felt more of a desire to show them truth than a desire to show them their error.

I presented to them the problem of reconciling the Bible to the Book of Mormon. They admitted that the Book of Mormon was viewed as being without error whereas the Bible

single dot1

was not. However, they claimed that both were equally as important. That was when they brought up the subject of dots and lines. They told me to imagine a single dot. They asked me how many lines I would be able to draw through this one dot. They proceeded to tell me the dot was the Bible and the lines were the many different interpretations. They next asked me to imagine two separate dots with a line connecting them both. This represented the single interpretation when the Bible was interpreted through the Book of Mormon. Their claim was that this is the only way to accurately interpret

two dots

the Bible. Through prayer and study, they were certain that this was the irrefutable and infallible interpretation. They used something as simple as a line to show why they were right.

Our discussion continued for another half hour before we said our goodbyes. We scheduled another time to meet and I marked it in my calendar. As the days went on, I pondered their illustration. I was no more convinced than I was before we first met but I was intrigued by what they had presented. That was when it hit me. Just as they used lines to prove their point, that same line could easily be used to prove mine. What if the single line wasn’t horizontal at all but was actually vertical? This would change everything.

Eventually, we had our next meeting. Once again, I invited them into my living room. Once again, they presented to me a case from the Book of Mormon. However, my mind was still set upon the illustration of lines. I reminded them of what they had said and they instantly appeared curious as what I was about to say. First, I brought up the case of the Roman Catholic Church. They, too, hold Scripture to be on an equal level with something else. They interpret all Scripture against Sacred Tradition. Unfortunately, they tend to not only hold it against Sacred Tradition but actually interpret the Bible in light of it. Just as Mormons are positive their interpretation is correct, so are Roman Catholics. I asked them how they know theirs is the correct one. They said the Father confirmed it through prayer. Again, I asked how this was different from the Roman Catholics. To this, they didn’t have an answer.

divided

It was at this time that I began to present my case of the vertical line. I asked them to first confirm that they held both the Bible and the Book of Mormon on equal ground. They agreed. I then asked them to confirm that they believed the Book of Mormon to be infallible whereas they believed the Bible had some errors due to years of translational differences. Again, they agreed. Lastly, I asked them to confirm that, if a text in the Bible conflicted with a text in the Book of Mormon, they chalked that portion of the Bible up to error and chose the Book of Mormon’s “truth” instead. As with before, they once again agreed though they were a bit more reluctant to do so in this case. Since we had established our foundation, I felt free to proceed to my point.

If any part of the Bible is false, we need to throw out the entire thing. It’s either God’s infallible Word or it isn’t. I told them, out of necessity, their own admission splits the Bible up into three categories. First, there are those parts that agree with the Book of Mormon. Since there wasn’t really anything to add to this, I left it alone. Next, there are those areas that disagree with the Book of Mormon. Passages in this category are rejected as being erroneous. Once again, there wasn’t much left to say on this category so I left it alone. Finally, we’re left with the third category. This is the category that gives problems. It’s the rest of the Bible. It’s the passages that neither agree nor disagree with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon simply doesn’t speak on these passages so there’s nothing to compare them to or hold them against. The dilemma is in whether one should accept or reject them. I dare say the latter. After all, the Mormon has already shown the Bible to contain unreliable error. How are we to know with certainty whether or not the third category is truth or not? The Mormon may say prayer will provide the answer. To that I say that prayer has shown me that the totality of Scripture is true. As a result, it would appear as if we’re left with a very large third category of uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is only one way to safely handle it. Again, if the Bible has shown itself to be unreliable in any way at all, we must reject anything that might possibly contain error. To blindly accept it would be irresponsible. Thus, we’re left with only the first category. We’re only left with those parts of the Bible that agree with the Book of Mormon. With this being the case, what is the need for the Bible? By their own admission, the Bible is pointless and erroneous. Using basic logic and

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reasoning, their illustration instantly goes from horizontal to vertical line drawing. Simply put, the Bible and the Book of Mormon are forever separated by a solid line and cannot be reconciled.

I took this opportunity to explain the importance of knowing the Bible to be the untarnished and infallible Word of God. I stressed that it’s only through the Bible that one can know Christ and know the gospel. I urged them to find comfort in knowing that we can never earn our salvation and that it’s only by the blood of Christ that we find forgiveness of sins. I made every attempt to show them that Christ was not merely a created being but is actually the second Person of the Trinity, God the Son from eternity past. We discussed a great many things as I presented the gospel to them in my living room that evening. Once again, God’s favor was shining down on me as he gave me a spirit of boldness yet a heart of compassion. I can’t say anybody was converted in my living room but I trust that God’s Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). I pray that seeds of truth were planted and that God would send somebody else’s living room their way in the future.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Does God Change His Mind?

One day I was perusing https://soteriology101.com/ and came across an article that caught my attention. It is titled, If God Changes His Mind, So Can I” by Drew McLeod. This caught my attention because it has implications for the doctrine of divine simplicity. This doctrine has been addressed before by another contributor to this blog site, Andrew Warrick, in previous posts. But in short, divine simplicity teaches that God is not composed of parts or passions (which would also constitute as parts in God). There is nothing in God that isn’t fundamentally God Himself. God is completely a se meaning He is self sufficient and therefore pure act. What this implies is that God cannot change. He is not able to become anything more than He already is and there is no possibility of Him becoming less than He already is. In other words, there is not potentiality in God. He just is. Let us look at the article.

Mr. McLeod begins the article with a story about how he gave up on praying for healing because he did not receive the response he desired for himself or for others. He then goes on to discuss when he began praying for healing again. He makes an interesting note:

“I remember the night that I prayed for healing again for the first time. I begged God, “If you’ll sustain Baby and heal it, I promise to always say at least one prayer for every single healing prayer request I hear from here on.” I thought maybe God would change his mind about his “no’s” that he had been giving me.”

The last sentence is what stands out. The assumption here is that God has His mind set on the “no’s” necessarily, and therefore He would be required to change His mind to “yes’s” to provide the answer Mr. McLeod was looking for. This assumption is faulty. How does Mr. McLeod know that when God says “no” to one or more instances, that He intended to leave it that way? This statement only makes sense if he believes God was actually intending on continuing to say “no” to a particular request for all eternity or give a final “no” for any particular request. Otherwise, there would be no need for God to actually change His mind. Would Mr. McLeod be content to say that He is able to say “no” temporarily or that God may be working in a way that helps us to understand Him since He is in a different category of being than we are? This doesn’t appear to be the case.

He then provides Scriptures which allegedly show that God really changed His mind on certain matters. These are Isaiah 38, Exodus 32:9-10, 33:19, and Jeremiah 18:1-11 to name some. I want to address his use of the first story he provides.

Hezekiah and his death predicted (Isaiah 38:1-6)

In this chapter we see king Hezekiah coming to the point of death. Isaiah brought the grim news to the king in verse one where he says,

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Isaiah 38:1 (NIV)

This news hit Hezekiah hard and it led him to cry out to God to deal kindly with him based on the righteous life he had lived (v. 3). God then appears to relent from bringing about the prophecy and adds fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah. Mr. McLeod attempts to use this as an example in Scripture to show that God actually changed His mind. While on the surface this may seem like a slam dunk for Mr. McLeod’s position, he misses what is really being communicated in this passage. Just six chapters later in the same book, God reminds the Israelites that He is the one who is sovereign over all.

“Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels.Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about;what I have planned, that I will do.

Isaiah 46:8-11 (NIV)

What is ironic is that this passage continues the line of thought from chapters 38 and 39 of the same book. Hezekiah recovers from his illness in chapter 38. Hezekiah then gives the Babylonians a tour of his kingdom and Isaiah tells the king that the Babylonians will come and take everything from him. Then, from chapter 40-55, we see the prophet talking to the Babylonian captives (The Reformation Study Bible note on this section is helpful). This means that chapter 38 is not to be disconnected from chapter 55. And chapter 46 falls in the middle of these passages about Babylon. Therefore, Isaiah could not have meant that God was actually changing His mind in chapter 38. God is the one who reveals His plans. He will accomplish His purposes and this power is grounded in His very nature. To say that God somehow did not have Hezekiah’s life planned before hand is to grossly neglect other passages of Scripture which say otherwise. Another example is in the book of Numbers, where we have explicit, unequivocal language about the nature of God’s decree:

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19 (NIV)

This is the importance of proper hermeneutical principles when looking at Scripture, as the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith notes in Chapter 1, paragraph 9, where it says,

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.

2nd LBCF 1.9

We have explicit teaching from Isaiah 46 and Numbers 23 about the nature of God’s plan and decree. That must be used to shed light on the passage in chapter 38 that is less clear. Otherwise we will come to the same conclusion Mr. McLeod has. Another interesting observation to note: Mr. McLeod bases the view that God changes His mind in this story on God’s ability not to lie. However, if God can actually change His mind on something that He said would come to pass, how is God being truthful at that point? Isn’t that a falsehood then? This simply means that Mr. McLeod has pushed the problem of God’s integrity back without actually solving the problem. If God is able to change His mind about something He said will definitively happen, how can God be trusted? Could God change His mind about the efficacy of the Gospel? Or of the promised inheritance to come for God’s people? Sounds very much like an Open Theist, although I don’t think Mr. McLeod would say he is one.

What does this passage indicate?

We have established that this passage cannot in any way imply that God is actually changing His mind when it comes to Hezekiah. If that is the case, what is God doing? There isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this question. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology notes,

The situations with Hezekiah and with the intercession of Moses are similar: God had said he would send judgement, and that was a true declaration, provided that the situation remained the same.

Systematic Theology, pg. 165

If Hezekiah had not actually prayed, God would have let him die of his sickness. This doesn’t mean that God is held at the whims of men’s actions, but that He responds to men as the actions are in that particular moment (Grudem talks about this on the same page referenced above). This is also a matter of perspective. From our perspective, without knowing everything that will happen, it appears that God has gone from one state of mind to another. But from the point of view of the one who is beyond time and is pure act from everlasting to everlasting, it is simply the outworking of His plan.

Conclusion

Mr. McLeod has left hermeneutical principles behind in the construction of his article. It is dangerous to formulate a theological worldview based solely on your perceived implications of biblical narratives, especially when you ignore clear passages directly addressing the topic at hand. The implications are frightening: if God can change His mind about this, then what else can He change His mind about? What else is not “set in stone”? Is God simply at the mercy of what humans do without the power bring about His purposes? These are questions that Mr. McLeod does not answer in this article, but need to be addressed. We serve a God that cannot lie, that cannot change in any way, and that will bring about His plans, human choices and actions notwithstanding. This is the God of the Bible.

How Shall We Worship? (Part 2)

I recently wrote a blog post titled “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: How Shall We Worship?” As it stands, it garnered a certain amount of attention. After having an in-depth discussion with a fellow brother, I felt the need to share my continued thoughts in blog format. To maintain respect and demonstrate love, I won’t name my brother, though this post will primarily cover some of his objections to the post linked above. If you haven’t read it, I recommend clicking the hyperlink and doing so now before reading on. Perhaps this will help you in a future discussion on the topic.

psalmshymns

One of the assertions made was that I merely looked up the etymology of words in the Strong’s Concordance while leaving it at that. If that were true, I would certainly agree with the objection at hand. In fact, D.A. Carson has a full chapter dedicated to such faulty methods of interpretation in his book Exegetical Fallacies. While I absolutely find the meanings of the words to be helpful, my research didn’t end with that. In coming to my position, I spent time cross referencing Scripture, consulted multiple commentaries to include historic biblical culture, read the writings of seventeenth-century scholars (which I’ll quote down below), in addition to utilizing a concordance and Greek lexicon. To imply the method of interpretation is an immature form of Strong’s research simply isn’t true in any sense. There was quite a bit of sound research, utilizing the same methods of certain Particular Baptists, that went into forming my position. That said, please don’t think I’m dismissing those with a differing view or saying they have performed less research because of it. I merely expect the same acknowledgement in return.

Ultimately, it comes down to asking what “psalmos kai hymnos kai ode pneumatikos” really means. Is it three distinct words used in a casual reading of the text or is there a spiritualized/theological meaning behind the phrase? I argue for the former while some argue for the latter. Since I’ve refuted the assertion of me employing the exegetical fallacy of concordance interpretation, it really comes down to seeing who has more evidence for their position and who can asset it in a consistent manner.

In my discussion, the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (2LBCF) was brought up. It was used to promote sound interpretation methods of those who have gone before us. It was also suggested that the Confession demands finding theological readings in the text, citing paragraphs 1.6 and 1.9 as an example. As a Particular Baptist, I’d like to begin with that as it’s the Confession I subscribe to. As I alluded to above, it was exactly those Particular Baptists who held to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as being three types of songs, and not merely varying titles of the psalms. This can be seen in the purposeful revision to the wording in 22.5 when compared to the Westminster Confession of Faith. At the very least, this demonstrates a historic opposition to the Exclusive Psalmody (EP) position. That said, I’d like to review a couple paragraphs from Chapter 1 that were brought up to refute my position.

Paragraph 1.6 is actually very interesting. While it does say all things necessary for God’s glory, salvation, faith, and life are found in Scripture, it also admits there are some circumstances concerning worship that are left to Christian prudence while still abiding by the rules of the Word. This would very much be in line with the singing of hymns and spiritual songs that aren’t found in Scripture but are deeply rooted in the theology of it.

Paragraph 1.9 is by far the more pertinent of the paragraphs mentioned (though I did enjoy paragraph 6 backing my position). In this paragraph, it gives the basic truth of Scriptura Scripturae interpres. I would agree that we should let Scripture interpret Scripture, and I believe that is exactly what I have done. However, I also admit there are useful tools in interpretation that can further solidify one’s position. This marks the difference between Sola Scriptura and the lame joke of Solo Scriptura. Otherwise, we’d forsake all commentaries, concordances, lexicons, or other writings by uninspired Christian men.

In all of those, I would agree with the statements, feel I have stayed in line with the relevant ones, and have also adhered to a very pertinent line about worship in paragraph 6 that was seemingly missed. While in and of themselves they neither back my position nor the position of my brother in Christ, they also do not condemn either position. They merely set the stage to show that we both have an argument to be made at this point.

Another objection raised was that Scripture has a theological meaning that I must ignore to come to my conclusion. I can’t argue the former, but I do reject the latter. The Old Testament is littered with types and shadows that were revealed in Christ, all the way down to the smallest of details. No student of the Word should ever try to deny that there are many texts with a deeper theological meaning. However, does that mean all things in Scripture are to be spiritualized or read through a theological lens of interpretation, or are some things just as the normal reading of the text would indicate? I argue the latter. Relying solely on a concordance is just as much an exegetical fallacy as it is to spiritualize everything.

Again, while theological intention is indeed a thing in Scripture, we shouldn’t begin there. We should always begin with a plain reading of the text and then look to see if there are any plain and clear theological undertones or parallels. To begin with the theological undertones is in and of itself an exegetical fallacy. Just because something exists doesn’t necessitate that it always be the case. This is where I would disagree with the method employed in the refutation of my initial post. He seemed to imply that all Scripture has an undertone that we must extract instead of simply beginning with the Scripture itself. In fact, I’d argue that there are many facets of interpretation that must precede the assumption that there is an underlying theological parallel, such as literary style, cultural context, plain reading of the text, etc. His method employed is simply putting the cart before the horse if I’m to be blunt.

One area that struck me as interesting was when he used a critical word: possibility. In showing specific passages of Scripture that have clear theological meaning, he said it shows, “the possibility that the phrase contains an intended theological meaning…” I’ll admit it does show the possibility, but I’d also argue there’s enough evidence that also more than justifies the likelihood that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are three distinct forms of acceptable worship. The opposing evidence is through assumed theological meaning, coupled with the fact that some of the psalms contain hymnos and ode in their titles. One must then find nonassociated examples of theological meaning to demonstrate that the possibility of such interpretation does exist. To me, it seems like a backwards method of interpretation that isn’t rooted in the historical method claimed earlier. On the contrary, my evidence consists of a casual reading, etymology, uses of the words in pagan culture of that era, historic arguments in favor of the position, and even the backing of the very Confession that both my refuter and I clearly hold dear. Add to that the fact that EP necessitates the incorporation of uninspired music, or even the use of metrical psalms which change the entire wording and structure of the inspired psalms, and we’re left with a very inconsistent position.

As I stated above, some of the very people who wrote our Confession held very strongly to the position that EP was not biblical. Benjamin Keach was one such opponent of the position. Part of his argument for hymns and spiritual songs (of which he wrote many for use in corporate worship) is summed up in a great quote:

“Our Sermons are no more made for us in God’s Word than our Hymns are, and we have equal direction in both these weighty cases; and I must tell you, this way of arguing you use is enough, if people did observe it, to overthrow all visible Worship and Ordinances, unless we could make it appear, that we had the immediate extraordinary help of the Spirit in the discharge of them. Away, saith one, with your carnal and human preaching, tis a Form invented and done by Art, will you call this Gospel-preaching? The Apostles spake as they were moved by a mighty Spirit within them; you must preach by immediate Inspiration and not precomposed Sermons, or else your sermons are formal. Thus you open a Door for Quakerism, and throw Stumbling blocks before the weak: I intreat you to consider of it.” — Benjamin Keach

Coming full circle, this puts us back at the very beginning where we see the caveat made within the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Paragraph 6. To recite a portion of it again, “Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

To add a bit more to the historic aspect, I’d like to close with a quote that goes well beyond our Confession by dating back to the 1500’s. This is an excerpt from John Calvin’s commentary on Colossians 3:16. If this has been a topic of struggle in your life, may this post, coupled with the previous part, be helpful to you as you worship the Lord with reverence and adoration.

“Psalms, hymns. He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; 453 and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument. The clause, in grace, Chrysostom explains in different ways. I, however, take it simply, as also afterwards, in Colossians 4:6, where he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt, in grace,” that is, by way of a dexterity that may be agreeable, and may please the hearers by its profitableness, so that it may be opposed to buffoonery and similar trifles.” – John Calvin

~ Travis W. Rogers

Leighton’s Ministry of Selfishness

In a twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan’s head spin, Leighton Flowers recently released an hour-plus long video on … Calvinism! In his latest installment of Quantity over Quality, Leighton joins his friend, Eric Kemp, in trying to smoke out the Hyper-Calvinist of John Piper’s doctrine by setting a stadium’s worth of strawmen on fire. They review a video where Piper warns against the dangers of Hyper-Calvinism, and they allege that no one’s sure who these Hyper-Calvinists are anyways, but, at the same time, Hyper-Calvinism is a great, looming danger, and Piper’s views would lead to Hyper-Calvinism if consistently applied!

If you were looking for compelling reasons why Hyper-Calvinism is the inevitable conclusion of biblical orthodoxy (also known as Calvinism), you’ll be disappointed. The same miserable, sunken-eyed arguments are again mustered to the front lines as the Chobham-armored Holy Bible steadily rolls through. Such arguments have been answered time and time again, including quite excellently by Sean and Dan, hosts of the Particular Baptist Podcast. Essentially, all Leighton’s points boil down to his inability to grasp compatibilism, and that the certainty of ends doesn’t diminish the significance (or culpability) of the means which accomplish those ends.

There’s no need for me to replicate the work of my brothers. Rather, the concern of this article will be the selfish, man-centeredness of Leighton Flowers’s position, borne out especially by several statements made by him and Eric in this video. Cast under the light of Scripture, the many miles of distance between their human philosophy and the inspired, God-honoring teachings of the Holy Spirit will be made patently clear. And, as a bonus, I will conclude by addressing that supposedly “unanswerable” objection that Leighton brings up towards the end of the video.

No doubt stemming from a bad conscience, Eric complains that Calvinists, like Piper, are “so polemical and pejorative” (1:10:00) whenever they rebuke their autonomous free-will, mini-gods theory. He asks, “Can popular Calvinist pastors and pundits make arguments without calling [people like me] a self-idolater?” Well, it’s hard to blame Piper when synergists like Eric tell us (in the same video) that one of his problems with Calvinism is that it results in God doing something that doesn’t depend on him or his skill as a preacher (32:15, 36:04). Oh, what a ghastly thought! The horror of thinking that the power of salvation might not rest on me and my abilities as a preacher, but on the message preached (1 Corinthians 1:17-21)! To think, as the Bible says, that the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), and not me and my ability to “meet people where they are … to come off as genuine,” as Eric affirms (36:10).

In contrast to Eric and Leighton, the only skill the Bible demands a preacher to have – when it comes to salvation – is the skill to get out of the way. This was the boast of the Apostle Paul:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

While a pastor’s erudition, ability to convey information, compassion, and other gifts may serve him well in other areas of the ministry, the Gospel itself can only be hindered when one trusts in his own abilities to save souls. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul, and the greatest preachers since his time, such as Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, took great pains to take themselves out of the preaching of the Gospel, trusting that the Holy Spirit works best when the means of salvation is laid bare in its pure form without admixture. Spurgeon says of his ministry:

“I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!”

Charles Spurgeon. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563

The Holy Spirit has thus testified, both in Scripture and in His planting of His Church since then, that the Gospel – not the eloquence of man – is what saves. And so the ministry of selfishness which cries, “Me! My! Myself!” will never save a tenth of the souls saved by the ministries of a Paul, an Edwards, and a Spurgeon, who proclaimed, “God! God! God!

Comparing the difference of attitude, we see that Piper’s charge of self-idolatry was not unwarranted. These are men who hear Paul ask, “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (Romans 11:35), and don’t think that the question is rhetorical.

The general man-centeredness of Eric and Leighton was exposed further when they criticized Piper for daring to ground our motivation for evangelism in the Bible. Piper rightly says in his video, “The Bible tells us: preach the Gospel to everyone! And the sheep will hear the Shepherd’s voice in the preaching and follow Him” (5:26). What’s the problem with this? Dr. Flowers explains: “The reason we preach [in Piper’s view], is not because we love everyone and desire everyone’s salvation, because God loves … and wants everyone’s salvation … that’s not the reason you preach, the reason you preach is because we’re told to. In other words, law, not love” (33:12).

No punches can be pulled here. This is one of the most perverted, man-centered, and unbiblical contrasts I’ve ever seen drawn up by a confessing conservative Christian. Leighton sets the commandments given by God, who is Love (1 John 4:8), as OPPOSED to love. How can he justify this odious distortion? True, the condemnation the Law of the Old Testament brings is contrasted to the salvation of the Gospel, but this is not a contrast between law and love. Rather, the Law is an indictment against our love, because we did not love God and neighbor enough to fulfill it. But to have fulfilled it would have been the perfection of love, as Jesus Christ did. To say that obeying the commands of God – even those given in the New Testament – is at odds with love is utterly indefensible. No squirming will get Leighton around the plain teaching of Scripture, which says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS” (1 John 5:2). Far from being at odds with love, keeping God’s commandments is the highest way of showing our love for Him, and it’s impossible to love Him or even genuinely love others if we don’t strive to keep them. But in Leighton’s twisted worldview, whatever chemical fizz, effervescing sentiments, or passing indigestion we associate with feelings of love is a higher motivation than the command of Love Himself – the Perfect, Holy, and inexhaustibly Good God! I cast the “feelings of love” in such terms not because I’m a stoic, but because that’s all such feelings amount to if they’re divorced from true love, which is always manifested by obedience to the One who is Love. By making his own passing feelings towards others a higher motivation than “Thus saith the LORD,” Leighton erects his own feelings up as a god to be preferred over the true One. This is idolatry, pure and simple. And until he repents of pitting “love” against obedience, it’s appropriate to say as much of him.

The Unanswerable Challenge!

I would’ve wanted to end here, as I believe this is already more than enough material for one blog post. However, towards the end of the video, Leighton issued a challenge that I can’t resist. He issues a great, unanswerable challenge, concerning which he says, “I have not yet heard [Calvinists] actually engage on that point” (55:00). What is this challenge?

“But in a sense they’ve created a good and evil within God by saying there’s … two wills within God, the prescriptive one and the secret one .. within a view of One God you have competing desires” (53:40).

Yeah, that’s right. Never been answered. It’s so unanswerable, in fact, that the first Google suggestion that comes up when you search “God two wills” is an article by the very man they’re critiquing, who provides answers to this question. That article was written 25 years ago, and quotes other men who answered it hundreds of years before that. For a man who’s dedicated his online ministry to attacking Calvinism, you’d think by now he’d have done enough research on the view he consumes himself with that he’d have noticed that some of the most prominent Calvinists in history have addressed his “insurmountable problem,” especially when they can be found via a simple Google search.

So, what’s the answer? Different men have different ways of articulating it, but the “problem” basically stems from a category error on the part of the question. The synergistic challenger imagines that the prescriptive will and the secret will are two of the same kinds of things, and thus make for some kind of contradictory dual nature in God, when, in fact, they bear little resemblance to one another. The secret will is the unified, eternal decree of God which He accomplishes, but the prescriptive will is that which is given to His creatures to accomplish. Unlike His secret will, He does not decree to accomplish His prescriptive will except insofar as it overlaps with His secret will. Instead, the prescriptive will consists of the demands that His creatures must fulfill to live in His presence. God demands perfection – a perfection that was only satisfied in His Son, Jesus Christ – and He cannot allow sinners to abide unpunished who don’t attain it. Sin is loathsome in His sight, hence the Lord says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). There’s nothing inconsistent in God’s secret will not including our fulfillment of His prescriptive will, because there’s nothing inconsistent in God not willing a sinful creature to live in His presence. What’s more miraculous is that He has willed some sinful creatures to live in His presence by decreeing that they fulfill His prescriptive will to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, justice is satisfied, and His fulfillment of the entirety of God’s prescriptive will is imputed to us without charge. And not ending there, His Holy Spirit gives us new hearts to desire what He desires, so that His will may be our highest delight – our greatest motivation – rather than our own subjective feelings. Truly, He enables us to make Him our God, that we may abandon the idols of selfishness for good, glorying in the One who has done all of the work, deserving all of our praise.

Soli Deo Gloria

A Mormon Refutation

Have you ever had one of those days where life gave you lemons and you decided to make lemonade?  I recall a time in particular where that was exactly the case. I’d like to share it with you in hope you find value in it. It was indeed a rough time but the day was good. It’s true that I didn’t get much sleep the night before. It’s also true that, in my sleep deprived state, I still had to function at work somehow. Now, add into the mix college, family, and an ever-growing “To Do” list, it’s easy to understand why you might be wondering how I can say my day was good. Truth is, I fibbed a bit. It wasn’t just good. It was amazing!

That day, I was blessed with the wonderful opportunity to meet with some Mormons. They had come to my house the previous week and talked for an hour. Some of that time was spent breaking the ice and getting to know one another while also trying to touch on the inevitable topic at hand. By the end of that meeting, we parted ways with an understanding that we simply didn’t see eye to eye. I was a bit surprised when they said they wanted to meet again but I gladly obliged. However, this time, I had a homework assignment that I needed to present. At their last visit, they left a pamphlet with me titled “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and my task was the read it and pray about it. The result of that was an 8 page document typed up in 12-point Times New Roman font. That document is the very basis and inspiration for this blog post. While it’s true that I felt it was necessary to discuss with my guests the points within, I feel there are many more people who simply don’t understand what Mormonism teaches. I’m also convinced there are a great many who are aware of certain error but don’t know how to adequately verbalize it. You, the reader, may be one of these. Sadly, this only leads to missed opportunities to share the good news of Christ when they land on your very own doorstep.

Below are a few of the points that I drafted up in the aforementioned document. I encourage you to open the original LDS document at the link above, and take some time to read the following in it in its entirety. If it gives even one person the confidence to speak when opportunity arrives at your doorstep, it’ll be well worth the time I spent writing it.

The format is fairly simple. The page numbers listed correspond to the pages within their booklet. Aside from the hyperlink above, you can find the text link for this below as well. The bold lettering is where I quote the text from that page. I then pose a question which I intended on asking them in order to hear their explanation. Lastly, I close it out with my own thoughts and points of refutation.

PAGE 3 
Prophets…interpret the word of God.
What do you mean by “interpret the word of God”?

  • 2 Peter 1:20-21 – But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
  • While the prophets of old did speak forth new revelation from God, they weren’t authorized to interpret it. This is why it was a “Thus saith the Lord” type of thing. It was never interpreted by them. It was only declared and spoken forth. For a prophet to enter into the realm of interpretation would be grievous error. However, we see history showing that Mormon prophets, while never revoking a prophecy, do sometimes reinterpret them. Again, this is dangerous territory.

PAGE 4
Prophets receive the priesthood.
How do you reconcile this with the biblical account that the prophets weren’t priests and that priest/prophet were two very separate duties?

  •  Priests were from the tribe of Levi only. One doesn’t have to look far to see this. In fact, Elisha was from the tribe of Issachar. Isaiah, Amos, Habakkuk, Joel, Obadiah, Zechariah, and Zephaniah were all from the tribe of Judah. Clearly, in accordance with Numbers 3:10-12, these men wouldn’t qualify to be a part of the priesthood.

Revealed truths are lost as people reject the prophets.
What do you use to test the words of your prophets?

  • Deuteronomy 13:1-5 – “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.
  •  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 – But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
  •  Joseph Smith made multiple false prophecies (such as always occupying the house in Nauvoo (Illinois) that is now destroyed, the Civil War being a war of all nations, etc). Instead of admitting these were false prophecies from a false prophet that isn’t to be feared (and thus crumbling the entire religion), these prophecies are merely reinterpreted by the new prophets. We spoke on the danger of this practice earlier. If the prophecy is truly of God, the wording will never change and the interpretation will remain.

PAGE 8
The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority – including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church – was taken from the earth.
Why do you say the priesthood was taken from the earth upon the death of the apostles?

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
  • Hebrews 8:1-3 – Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.
  • Scripture declares that we, as believers are now the priesthood. This isn’t because we have the qualifications of priest but because we are now in the body of Christ, our great High Priest. Our own bodies are the temple of God and God Himself dwells within us. The priesthood, as it stood, was abolished at this point. The veil was torn from top to bottom and the separation between God and man with an intermediary of priest no longer existed. We, as the priesthood of believers, now have direct access to God and have the illumination (not revelation) of the Spirit to guide us in all truth and righteousness (Ephesians 6:14) which is to be found in the Bible. Acts 17:11 praises the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if what was being proclaimed was true. The Bible simply doesn’t support the claims of Mormonism. Therefore, it is to be rejected as being contrary to the Word of God.

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conferred on him the Aaronic Priesthood……later appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Can you please go into more detail on this?

  • If Smith was anointed as a prophet in 1820 (at the age of 15) by both the Father and Son, was he idle for the next 3 years until Moroni appeared to him by his bedside in 1823 (at the age of 18)? Furthermore, why did it take until 1827 before being shown the golden plates? Lastly, why did it take until 1829 to be given the priesthoods?
  • Why did John the Baptist (who was indeed of the Aaronic line) give Smith the Aaronic priesthood at all if it was just going to be superseded by the greater Melchizedek priesthood shortly thereafter? More so, this would mean that Smith was of the bloodlines of both lines and would mean he was more in line for the priesthood than even Christ was as Christ wasn’t of the tribe of Levi which is why Hebrews 8:4 says even He didn’t qualify to be a priest. It’s only because He’s of the line of Melchizedek that He alone is our High Priest. If Joseph Smith were qualified to hold both priesthoods, he outweighs even the qualifications of Christ. Conversely, if he wasn’t of either line (which is in fact the case), it means he held neither priesthood because he was precluded from doing so. As we covered earlier, merely being a prophet doesn’t mean one is a priest and even the title of prophet doesn’t apply because Scripture says so.
  • If Christ appointed Smith as a prophet in 1820 and all prophets carry the priesthood, why did he not receive the priesthood until 1829, 9 years later? This means he either wasn’t a genuine prophet until 1829, he was a faulty prophet until 1829, or he was never a prophet at all and didn’t truly understand what it meant to be either one. Hence, the oversight and inconsistency between his dates and the biblical teaching of the offices of prophets and priests.

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The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus?

  •  The Mormon Jesus is:
  1.  A created being
  2.  Son of God but not God
  3.  Not to be worshiped as God but merely revered as the Son
  4.  Spiritual brother of Satan (though at opposite ends of the spectrum)
  •  The Christian Jesus is:
  1.  An eternal being never created
  2.  Son of God yet also God Himself
  3.  To be worshiped as God Himself
  4.  The creator of all things including Satan the angel
  •  Thus, the teachings of Mormonism don’t align with the Bible when it comes to the very foundation of who Jesus is. This means the Book of Mormon isn’t another testament of Jesus Christ but is rather (along with the other works of Smith) a testament of another Jesus Christ.
  •  Galatians 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

…a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas…”
Who were these ancient inhabitants?

  •  Mormon doctrine calls them the Nephites. If they were of Nephi, this means they would be Jewish in bloodline as well as Jewish in characteristics. Even if, for the sake of argument, we want to say Native Americans (Lamanites) were cursed by God and given dark skin (thereby changing the physical characteristics), Native Americans don’t have matching DNA with the Jewish bloodline. Since the Lamanites and the Nephites were both of the same bloodline, this would mean Lamanite blood would be of Jewish ancestry as well. Beyond this, the curse was supposedly only that of dark skin. Native Americans have more differences than just this. They have Mongloid characteristics instead of that of Mediterranean Caucasoids. This is more reason to believe Joseph Smith didn’t understand biology well enough and that his claims are false. The Lamanites simply never existed and the existence of the Nephites would be equally as doubtful since the idea was hatched from the same thought bubble.

I pray, if there were any confusion before, you’ll now clearly see how dangerous Mormon teaching really is. While they claim to uphold the Bible, their own teaching is highly inconsistent with such a claim. Hey, if they can give me homework, it’s only fair I be able to do the same.

If you’d like to follow along with their booklet as well, it can be found at the below link:

Click to access 36920_the-restoration-eng.pdf

~ Travis W. Rogers

Has God Changed?

A friend asked a simple question as part of a research paper. He asked if God of the New Testament was the same as God of the Old Testament. Below was my attempt to answer his question.

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Many have made the claim that the God of the Old Testament is angry and judicial whereas the God of the New Testament is kind, loving, and tolerant. This can be heard in everything from biblical debates to comedy bits. There’s zero doubt that the claim is made. So far as this is concerned, it’s a non-issue. What we have to determine is whether there is any validity to the claim. It’s my position that there is not.

Malachi 3:6
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Revelation 1:8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Bible is clear that God is not one who changes. Even if one wanted to argue that the God of the Old Testament was a different God, the argument would fail since Revelation tells us that the God of the New Testament is the very one who existed at the beginning. Yet, when we compare the Old Testament to the New Testament, there appears to be a clear distinction. Of course, due to the law of noncontradiction, they can’t be different gods and the same God at the same time. It must be one or the other. When faced with a crossroads such as this, it’s always a safe bet to assume our finite human understanding is flawed whereas the Word of God is not. The plain teaching of Scripture should always force us to change our views on something we can’t seem to reconcile.

To begin, I believe many hold to an erroneous view of God when it comes to the Old Testament. Is He really an angry and mean God or are we simply failing to see His love, mercy, and grace? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). After each day, He saw that it was good. He was satisfied. On the sixth day, after creating man, we see something special. Not only was it good, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Man was the pinnacle of God’s creation. He made man perfectly upright to rule over creation. Sadly, this was not to last. By Genesis 3, we see mankind being tempted and falling into the first instance of sin. We see a curse being placed upon humanity. We see the fulfillment of what God promised would occur in Genesis 2:17. God promised that Adam would die if he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam knew this and he failed to shield his wife, the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), from the enemy. What Adam didn’t know is that he would represent all of humanity thenceforth (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, this wasn’t referring to just a physical death but to a spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). All of humanity is dead in sin and only Christ can make us alive again. We all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve nothing but death, both physical and spiritual, as a result (Romans 6:23). Therefore, God would have been perfectly just to destroy the earth and all it contained upon the moment of sin entering into His perfect world. Man tarnished God’s creation and, as of that very moment, deserved nothing more than eternal torment as punishment for his actions.

Yet, over and over again, we see of God’s mercy. Many view the Old Testament Law as being harsh but, truth be told, even that was an act of mercy. God could have left humanity alone to perish but He chose to reveal to them His righteous standard. He chose to raise godly men to lead them. He chose to bless those who rejected Him and to bless them abundantly. He gave His people land and a promise of a Savior to come. Yes, He generally held them accountable for their actions but this was because the Law had not yet been fulfilled (Matthew 5:17) though it had been broken in full.

What we see in the New Testament isn’t a new God but a God who had decreed that the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:4). Those who were born under the Law would now be redeemed from that very same Law. Whereas before they fell under the law of sin and death, now they fell under the law of the Spirit of life. The former Law was weak and could never save. It could only instruct man of a standard they were incapable of keeping in their current fallen form. That Law was in need of God, the same loving God of the Old Testament, to fulfill His Law by sending His own Son to die (Romans 8:2-3) as an atoning and substitutionary sacrifice (Isaiah 53:5).

Only when we have a proper understanding of fallen man’s condition can we truly understand the love and restraint God displayed throughout all of the Old Testament. In many ways, aside from knowing Christ is the epitome of God’s compassion, the compassion of God in the Old Testament may appear to exceed that which we see in the New Testament. Of course, we know this is only our human understanding because, as stated in the beginning, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” when it comes to God.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: How Shall We Worship?

WORSHIP. What a beautiful term! It’s literally proclaiming the worthiness of God alone. This is done in a variety of ways such as prayer, meditating on the Word, and in the Lord’s Supper. Yet, one of the most common forms of worship is undeniably through the singing of praises. Growing up in a Baptist church, it was common to see the morning’s

https://purelypresbyterian.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/psalms-hymns-spiritual-songs.png

songs pre-selected with the matching hymn number being displayed on the wall for all to follow along. When I was in Japan, instead of hymnals, we had an overhead projector and sang more contemporary worship songs. I never questioned it, nor did I feel the need to. It wasn’t until much later in life that I was confronted with the concept of psalter-only worship (i.e. psalm-only worship). It was being presented as the only biblical form of singing in worship. I was told it was the only way to be in line with the Regulative Principle of Worship, meaning worship in accordance with revealed methods found in Scripture, and all other methods are unacceptable. Was there anything to this position? Had I been worshiping incorrectly my whole life? Was psalm-only worship the only acceptable means of singing before God in a state of worship?

After much study, I have to admit I’m not convinced at all. In fact, I’m actually convinced of the contrary: that it’s highly biblical to sing other songs so long as they’re sound in doctrine. For those who may be either skeptical, or simply intrigued, please follow along with my reasoning:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19, NASB)

The words used are psalmos (G5568), hymnos (G5215), and ode pneumatikos (G5603/G4652), in the phrase psalmos kai hymnos kai ode pneumatikos.

Psalmos, while being a composed musical piece, is used exclusively in the New Testament to refer to the Old Testament psalms.

Hymnos is a song of praise to gods, heroes, and conquerors. Though, we can rest assured Scripture is speaking of songs about God. He alone is the true conqueror and hero over death and life. The only other use of this word is in Colossians 3:16, where they use the exact same phrasing as Ephesians 5:19.

Ode pneumatikos simply refers to a song of praise in general. Not only do we hear of these being sung by believers in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, we also see John speaking of a new song being sung in Revelation 5:9 (w/ lyrics included).

I think that gives more than enough evidence to show that a corporate body of believers sang Old Testament psalms, hymns of a conquering God, and spiritual songs of praise to God. Yet, some may still be unconvinced. The common challenge is that each of those meanings are found in the totality of the 150 psalms of Scripture. This claim is typically accompanied by the assertion that Paul is simply using three different descriptors and uses for the psalms. Aside from the very definitions of the words used, we can’t ignore the fact that there is a new song that has yet to be learned (as per Revelation 5:9). Those lyrics aren’t in the psalms, though the idea of there being a new song is alluded to in Isaiah. I just don’t see how the meanings of the Greek words, combined with the fact that there is still another new song yet to be learned (as per Revelation 5:9), possibly leaves room for the interpretation of it as being psalms, psalms, and psalms, all of the Old Testament variety. For those who feel this “new song” is merely referring to the change of one’s nature, we also see Isaiah 42:10 speaking of singing a new song here on earth. It’s clearly a direction to sing of His praises. Yet, it’s a new song of praise coming from our regenerated nature, and not an existing psalm. As stated earlier, Revelation 5:9 even gives the reader the lyrics. If one were to take those lyrics and create a song, it would be fully in accordance with Scriptures, though it’s found in not one Old Testament psalm.

Expounding upon what has already been stated above, ode pneumitakos is spiritual songs of praise while “ode” (by itself) is just a song in general. Hymnos is also used in pagan Greek music when referring to their gods, heroes, and conquerors. Realistically, much of what we refer to as modern hymns would likely fall under ode pneumatikos more than hymnos. While some (not all) psalms may have characteristics of hymnos and ode pneumatikos, they’re also clearly differentiated as being their own category. It’s not merely a matter of three descriptors of one word, but three different categories of song-based worship.

The only way to go psalm-only is to have an idea ahead of time, spiritualize the meaning of words by ignoring their actual meaning, and throw out the normal reading of the text. Simply put, psalm-only is a man-made idea that can’t even be executed properly (in accordance with the Regulative Principle of Worship) because it’ll always be merged with uninspired music and be outside of the original composition and intention.

To say psalm-only singing is the only thing in accordance with the Regulative Principle of Worship is actually inconsistent with the very nature of it. The psalms are structured and composed pieces of music. They had a specific tune and music written for them. Considering that music is lost, we’re left with only the lyrics. Thus, the only way to sing them is to either apply the lyrics over an existing well-known tune (ironically, usually a hymn) or create our own. Considering this wouldn’t have been the way they would’ve done it when they were written, it’s a manipulation of music and a justification of inspired/uninspired hodgepodge in the name of abiding by the Regulative Principle of Worship. The only way to avoid this inconsistency would be to strictly read them or, perhaps, do it in the manner of a Gregorian chant. But that then violates Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 where we’re told to sing them.

The alternative is that we don’t try to shoehorn uber-spirituality into it and, instead, understand that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs were three different things, with three different meanings, though some psalms incorporated elements of the other two in its structured musical composition.

Aside from a proper understanding of psalmos kai hymnos kai ode pneumatikos, I feel the argument I’ve presented (which is also a historic argument in line with the Chapter 22.5 of the 2LBCF) is far more sound than the counter-arguments. Ultimately, if you still feel your convictions are telling you to stick with the psalms, I’d urge you to follow your conscience in faith (Romans 14:22-23). For all others, take comfort in the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as you sing praises to the Lord!

The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord…are all parts of religious worship to God, to be performed in obedience to Him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; (Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. 22, para. 5)

~Travis W. Rogers

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