Category Archives: Apologetics

Jumping through Hermeneutical hoops with Harold Camping

“The Bible guarantees it,” is the slogan you see plastered on billboards, signs, cars, tracts, and different kinds of literature. So what exactly does the Bible guarantee? Well, according to Harold Camping’s hermeneutic the Bible teaches that on May 21, 2011 Jesus Christ will return in Judgment ushering in the rapture of all believers and the end of the world.

Upon what basis does Harold Camping support his prophetic claims? Sound exegesis and hermeneutics? Nope, but rather using an allegorical and numerological interpretation of certain biblical texts coupled with his wild-eyed imagination, Mr. Camping is able to come up with his theories. It is a method of interpretation that tends to neglect the original intent of the authors and attempts to find hidden meanings or symbols behind certain words and numbers. This is grounded on the fact that Jesus himself spoke in parables, therefore everything we read in the Bible is to be understood in a parabolic sense. Is this a valid method of interpretation? Did Jesus and the apostles employ this method? Did anyone throughout church history ever use this method?

The problem with Mr. Camping’s hermeneutic is that it ignores the different types of literature that are found in the Bible. Yes, it is true Jesus spoke in parables, but it also true he spoke plainly and direct. Paul likewise spoke in a normal plain sense especially when we read the didactic passages found in his letters. One needs to realize that the Bible is a book filled with different forms of literature such as didactic teachings (teachings that are meant to teach or instruct), parables, poetry, history, apocalyptic, etc. But to single out one form of literature and make that the standard for interpreting every single passage in the Bible is to turn on its head the original meaning of the text that was intended by the original author.

Just to give you an example of Camping’s teachings, he believes that by using his method of interpretation the Bible clearly shows that from the date of the flood in Noah’s day (which nobody knows the exact time and date when it actually occurred) all the way up to May 21, 2011 marks approximately 7000 years. What does 7000 have to do with anything? According to Camping, in Genesis 7:4 we read “For yet seven days, … and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” Camping draws a connection between the seven days mentioned in Genesis 7:4 and Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:8, which states “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So in Genesis 7:4 seven days really means seven thousand years. But upon what exegetical basis can anyone make that parallel? Is that really what Peter meant? I suggest to you that it is not. Just reading the context of 2 Peter you can clearly see that Peter is making the point that Christ can return in any minute in light of the many scoffers who continually make a mockery of the Christian’s belief of the second coming of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in the text or context that allows anyone to make the parallel Camping is making. Moreover, verse 10 says that “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, but apparently this thief has already been caught by Harold Camping if we use his hermeneutic.

According to Camping, the church age ceased to exist on May 21, 1988 and the Spirit of God is no longer present in any church today. Therefore, Mr. Camping exhorts all believers to abandon their churches (since there are no more true churches post May 21, 1988) and proclaim the Gospel. Evidently, the Gospel according to Mr. Camping is to tell everyone that Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011. Was this the same Gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached?

How does Camping know all of this? Well, it is because Harold Camping is the final authority for anything he claims. His view on the church is clearly in opposition to what the Scriptures actually teach about the nature of the church. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to forsake the assembly; Ephesians 5 reveals that Jesus gave Himself up for the Church; Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy on how a local church should function. How do these passages square up with Mr. Camping’s ecclesiology?

Now obviously this is not the first time someone makes outlandish claims such as the ones proposed by Mr. Camping, but how many people actually buy into these claims? Moreover, how many Christian can give an adequate response to these claims? For a more in depth analysis of Mr. Harold Camping and his teaching I have a provided a link that contains an audio debate with Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping that addresses this particular issue. With all that being said, let us remember the words of Jesus, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36, 42-44)”

Here is the link to the debate between Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping:

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Christians are Atheists? Part 2

Justin Martyr was a 2nd century apologist, and is considered as one of the Apostolic fathers in church history. His writings, along with many of the Ante-Nicene fathers, which means prior to the council of Nicaea in 325 AD, were highly influential on the early church and continue to encourage Christians today. Justin Martyr wrote an important work which is titled First Apology, where he addresses Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate in which Justin gives an apology, or defense, of the Christian faith. Particularly, Justin responds to the accusations of Christians being atheists in chapters 4 through 6.

Here is chapter 4 of Justin Martyr’s First Apology:

Chapter IV.—Christians unjustly condemned for their mere name.

By the mere application of a name, nothing is decided, either good or evil, apart from the actions implied in the name; and indeed, so far at least as one may judge from the name we are accused of, we are most excellent people. But as we do not think it just to beg to be acquitted on account of the name, if we be convicted as evil-doers, so, on the other hand, if we be found to have committed no offence, either in the matter of thus naming ourselves, or of our conduct as citizens, it is your part very earnestly to guard against incurring just punishment, by unjustly punishing those who are not convicted. For from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring, unless something excellent or base in action be proved. And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justice requires that you inquire into the life both of him who confesses and of him who denies, that by his deeds it may be apparent what kind of man each is. For as some who have been taught by the Master, Christ, not to deny Him, give encouragement to others when they are put to the question, so in all probability do those who lead wicked lives give occasion to those who, without consideration, take upon them to accuse all the Christians of impiety and wickedness. And this also is not right. For of philosophy, too, some assume the name and the garb who do nothing worthy of their profession; and you are well aware, that those of the ancients whose opinions and teachings were quite diverse, are yet all called by the one name of philosophers. And of these some taught atheism; and the poets who have flourished among you raise a laugh out of the uncleanness of Jupiter with his own children. And those who now adopt such instruction are not restrained by you; but, on the contrary, you bestow prizes and honours upon those who euphoniously insult the gods.

Chapter V.—Christians charged with atheism.

Why, then, should this be? In our case, who pledge ourselves to do no wickedness, nor to hold these atheistic opinions, you do not examine the charges made against us; but, yielding to unreasoning passion, and to the instigation of evil demons, you punish us without consideration or judgment. For the truth shall be spoken; since of old these evil demons, effecting apparitions of themselves, both defiled women and corrupted boys, and showed such fearful sights to men, that those who did not use their reason in judging of the actions that were done, were struck with terror; and being carried away by fear, and not knowing that these were demons, they called them gods, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself. And when Socrates endeavoured, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons, then the demons themselves, by means of men who rejoiced in iniquity, compassed his death, as an atheist and a profane person, on the charge that “he was introducing new divinities;” and in our case they display a similar activity. For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ; and in obedience to Him, we not only deny that they who did such things as these are gods, but assert that they are wicked and impious demons, whose actions will not bear comparison with those even of men desirous of virtue.

Chapter VI.—Charge of atheism refuted.

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.

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Unbelievers Knowing and Not Knowing God

Here is a great citation from the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen on unbelievers knowing and not knowing God.

We will take Sam as our hypothetical unbeliever. When we say that Sam does not believe in (or know) God, we are describing him according to certain features of his behavior and thinking: for example, his moral conduct and attitudes, his refusal to glorify God, and especially his profession not to believe in God. After all, Sam acts and talks like a person who sincerely disbelieves; indeed, he argues vehemently against believing in God’s existence. However, the fact of the matter is that Sam actually does believe in God. When we say that he believes in God, we are (in accordance with the diagnosis of God’s word) describing him according to certain features of his behavior and thinking that manifest belief: for example, his living in terms of some kind of moral standards, his acceptance of the need for logical consistency, his expectation of uniformity in nature, his fear of death, and his assuming of freedom of thought. As in the case of believers, we say that Sam knows God in the sense that he has justified, true beliefs about Him. So then, it turns out that Sam’s belief in his own unbelief is mistaken. He rationalizes evidence, motivated by his desire to avoid facing up to God, whose condemnation he fears and whose authority over him he resents. Nevertheless, he sincerely and constantly pursues unbelief as his self-deluded life’s project.

It thus appears that the unbeliever works with two different sets of fundamental beliefs or presuppositions, one acknowledged and another unacknowledged (or denied) – one that makes his regulating ideal, and the other which makes it possible to know anything. He inescapably knows the truth (one set of beliefs) and yet suppresses it (endorsing a second set of beliefs). Van Til’s Apologetic, 451

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Christian Metaphysics

This is taken from Jamin Hubner’s blog:

This is an excellent summary of metaphysics from a biblical perspective. Hubner shows how theology should always interpret philosophy and not the other way around.

The study of metaphysics seeks the ultimate causes or explanations for the nature and existence of things in the world as they exist. “Metaphysics” is often interchangeable with “ontology,” the study of being. A few features of a Christian metaphysic (which is the only true metaphysic) includes:

1.       God is God, unique and one, and has created all things, and all things depend on Him.

a.       “There is one God, the Father, by whom are all things…and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.” (I Cor. 8:6)

b.      “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and For him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15)

c.       “For in him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28)

2.       God declares what is and what isn’t. He can speak things into existence (i.e. Gen. 1), and through his Word declares accurately and sufficiently how things are.

3.       God also makes things differ from each other (I. Cor. 4:7; Ex. 11:7; Rom 9:21; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 15:38-41).

4.       God exists on an entire different level than creation. He “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (I Tim 6:16). He is transcendent because He is above and beyond creation. God is not the highest being on a continuum or a spectrum, his being cannot be measured like ours at all. It’s not as if God is standing at the top of a staircase, human beings are in the middle, animals are below us a few steps, and dirt is at the bottom. He stands not at the top of the staircase, but outside of the entire house, above the earth looking down. God exists as self-sufficient and self-contained (“a se”), the Great “I AM,” while we exist as God’s images, created and dependent.

a.       “…when we say that God exists, on the one hand, and we exist, on the other, we should understand two very different modes of existence, each applied to the objects of existence in different ways, according to the nature of those objects. God’s existence is a se, it is Eimi; our existence is eikonic, it is an image, dependent, limited, finite, and (since the fall) marred by sin. There is not one existence exemplified in two different ways; there are, rather, two different existences – God’s and creation’s. Given God’s revelation to us, therefore, we should see that those things which pertain to God and to us – goodness, for example – presuppose a relationship to God and to us – goodness, for example – presuppose a relationship to God as ‘I AM,’ in the first place, and then a relationship to things created after that. In that sense, they should be seen as two essentially different properties, yet connected by God’s condescending revelation to us.” Oliphint,Reasons for Faith, 262.

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Cling to the Cross!

James White shares the Gospel with our Muslim friends.

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