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The two-year-old speech “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” by Al Mohler has been thoroughly praised and criticized point by point since it was first given at the 2010 Ligonier Conference, and I have no intention of arguing against the particulars here. But having read and listened to it for the first time today, I was struck by how much of a misnomer it is and nauseated by what this mismatch between speech title and speech content reveals about the viewpoint Mohler is espousing.

In a conference about difficult questions that Christians face, Mohler was assigned to answer the query “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” (You can read it abridged here or listen to it here.) Astonishingly, his sixty-six minute speech spent only the final four minutes truly addressing his topic, offering the standard two woefully inadequate answers of appearance of age and catastrophism. The first sixty-two minutes addressed an entirely different issue, namely why belief in an ancient universe and evolution wrecks the doctrine of biblical authority and demolishes essential theological issues like Adam’s role in the fall of mankind. This topic has its place, and many people have disagreed strenuously with every point Mohler made, but to me, the very approach of answering the question in this way is startling. Imagine a Q & A at your church and someone asking the preacher the question given to Mohler. Now picture your pastor beginning his response with, “Well, first off, we cannot believe in an old earth because too much is at stake to essential Christian beliefs.” This is essentially Mohler’s approach.

It Messes Up Our System and Therefore Can’t Be True

At one point, he states, “[…] the exegetical cost…is just too high. […] The theological cost is actually far higher.” In other words, it cannot be true because if it were, it would wreck everything we believe to be true about God. It cannot be true because the Bible says it is not true. This answer shows a surprising disregard for objective truth. Mohler is effectively (albeit, unconsciously) saying, we cannot consider the idea of an ancient earth to be true because it would mean that what I believe is not true. It would complicate things too much. “Galileo, your theory cannot be true because it would mess up our whole system that we have labored so hard to build.” No one will be convinced by a faith that says this; no Christian struggling to reconcile faith and science will remain in a faith that says this. In order for there to be rational dialogue on the veracity of any position, there must be an understanding that it is possible for that position to be untrue. I am sure that Mohler would concede this, but the answer he gave does not.

There Are Two Books of Revelation, But One of Them Is Illegible

Mohler acknowledges that truth comes from nature as well as from scripture. However, he lowers the volume on nature’s voice so much that not much can be heard from her. “There is a book of nature. We do learn much from it. […] God has revealed nature to be intelligible.” But, as he ponts out, Paul teaches that “given the cloudiness of our vision and the corruption of our sight, we can no longer see what is clearly there.” I would need a lot more convincing before I accepted the notion that Paul really taught such a skeptical view of the comprehensibility of nature. About our knowledge of God from nature, yes, but not about our knowledge of nature from nature. Make as many qualifications as you like about the instrusion of Ptolemaic thinking into Christian dogma, the fact still remains that it was nature’s witness, not the Bible’s, that showed us clearly that the earth revolves around the sun. The fact also remains that if the descriptions of the Bible receive nary a one “Amen” from Mother Earth, that if she responds with nothing but dissent to Mohler’s understanding of Genesis 1, then the future congregations of this earth will not believe the claims of Christianity. “Disaster ensues when the book of […] general revelation is used […] to trump scripture.” Disaster also ensues when we are told to believe only the book of books and to stop up our ears to resounding calls of general revelation, as if nature were a brood of Sirens enticing us to the rocks of shipwreck.

“We would not be having this discussion today,” said Mohler, “[…] if these questions were not being posed to us by those who assume that general revelation […] is presenting to us something in terms of compelling evidence […] so forceful and credible that we are going to have to reconstruct and reenvision our understanding of the biblical text.” This is a statement of the obvious, and I am not sure what Mohler is driving at, since the fact is that people are posing these questions as well as assuming that the evidence is compelling. The operational word in this statement, I suppose, is “assume,” and I imagine that the implication is that there IS no “compelling evidence.” But to say this is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Don’t Look Too Closely, or It Might Be Compelling After All

The mountains of compelling evidence are out there, if one will only be humble enough to survey their heights. I do not think Mohler has given much more than a cursory glance in their direction, judging from the final minutes of his speech, in which he finally turns his attention to why the earth appears so old:  “In the limitations of time, it is impossible that we walk through every alternative and answer every sub-question,” but the two basic principles for understanding the illusion, he says, are that God makes things whole (i.e., they have an appearance of old age) and that creation has suffered from the consequences of sin (the flood, e.g.). These two answers can only be satisfying from a great distance, but the moment that you begin to look more closely, the moment that you do consider a sub-question or two, the more you see just how unsatsifying and inept these responses are. It’s one thing, for instance, to say that God created light to appear as if it had traveled millions of light years to get here, but quite another when you consider that those rays that were supposedly created en route tell stories of stars that exploded a billion years ago. This is just one of many “sub-questions” that have to be considered instead of being brushed aside in the concluding minutes of a speech. Most infuriating of all, Mohler says that really, the ultimate answer we have to why the universe is so old is that it is telling the story of the glory of God. “Any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days, and that is where we are left. And it is safe.” No, it is not safe. Mr. Mohler is effectively saying that if data pointing to an ancient earth cannot be explained by the appearance of age or the catastrophism arguments, then we should just trust that the earth is young regardless and that the answer lies with God. We should just not worry about it.

With all due respect to Mr. Mohler whom I consider a sincere Christian brother, I urge him to consider that we cannot reject the veracity of the belief in an ancient earth based on what is at stake. It does complicate our theological systems. It does cause us to reconsider how we read scripture. But what ultimately matters is whether or not it is true. It does no good to ignore the mounds of reasons why scientists believe that age to be 4.5 billion years (or why all life shares a common descent). Nor do we get off the hook by saying that our judgment is clouded by sin. We have to acknowledge the evidence and engage it. Please, Mr. Mohler, take some time to hear a scientist out on what that evidence is before you answer this question again.

I have often heard the claim that a plain reading of Genesis clearly points to a young earth and special creation. What I have found, though, is that such readings are not internally consistent. I have already pointed to the firmament in Genesis 1 as an example of something that is not taken literally by literalists (with the “waters above” it and the placement of the luminaries beneath it.” In this post, I hope to look at Genesis 2-3 and show that literalists are not reading it literally enough either.

1.  Skipping the potentially problematic “in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,” the first point I want to make centers around the four rivers that spring from the river flowing out of Eden.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tirgris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (2:10-14, New Revised Standard Version)

Notice the present tense. At the risk of insulting your intelligence, the present tense indicates a reality that is still true at the time of the telling of the story. These four rivers were flowing at the beginning of the world, and they are still flowing in the post-deluvian world of Moses or whoever is penning these words. How is this possible after a world-wide flood? A catastrophe powerful enough to create the grand canyon would surely completely rearrange the river beds, right? And notice verse 10, which seems to indicate that Eden still exists. How could it not have been destroyed by the deluge? The only explanation I can come up with is that this story stood on its own in its original form and did not presuppose a flood. That, or it was written by someone living before the flood.

The NIV and many other versions translates verse 10 as “A river…flowed from Eden.” So I asked myself why the discrepancy between the NRSV and NIV and others. Net.bible.org offers this footnote:

The Hebrew active participle may be translated here as indicating past durative action, “was flowing,” or as a present durative, “flows.” Since this river was the source of the rivers mentioned in vv. 11-14, which appear to describe a situation contemporary with the narrator, it is preferable to translate the participle in v. 10 with the present tense. This suggests that Eden and its orchard still existed in the narrator’s time. According to ancient Jewish tradition, Enoch was taken to the Garden of Eden, where his presence insulated the garden from the destructive waters of Noah’s flood. See Jub. 4:23-24.

Even if one argues for a past tense in verse 10, the NIV, KJV, NKJV, and ASV (which use the past tense in verse 10) translate the tenses of verses 11-14 as present . (The ESV still uses a past tense.) I do not know how to read Hebrew, so I cannot speak definitively on the subject, but my impression is that the rivers are contemporary to the speaker, which is problematic.

2.  My second point concerns the naming of the animals in verse 18. Saying that it is not good for the man to be alone, God resolves, “I will make him a helper as his partner.” The next verse is controversial or not so controversial, depending on which translation you use. Mine, the NRSV, reads, “So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them” (2:19). This translation creates a definite conflict with the creation order of Genesis 1, in which animals precede humans. Now, I do understand that many translations render the verb as “had formed,” but I find it difficult to believe that this choice was influenced by anything other than to maintain proper order of creation. Again, I have no knowledge of Hebrew, but the preceding verse seems to support the NRSV. God says that he will make the man a helper, and so he makes animals and birds to bring before him. None of them are suitable, and therefore God makes woman. Again, from net.bible.org:

To harmonize the order of events with the chronology of chapter one, some translate the prefixed verb form with vav (ו) consecutive as a past perfect (“had formed,” cf. NIV) here. (In chapter one the creation of the animals preceded the creation of man; here the animals are created after the man.) However, it is unlikely that the Hebrew construction can be translated in this way in the middle of this pericope, for the criteria for unmarked temporal overlay are not present here.

3.  The third problem I see with the so-called plain reading of Genesis 2-3 involves the serpent. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made” (3:1) The serpent will be identified with Satan later in the Bible, but nowhere in these chapters is any sort of connection like that made, and indeed, it seems like this chapter is identifying him solely as a creature. Chapter 3:1 makes it explicit that he is an animal, albeit a clever one, and the curse placed on the serpent to crawl on its belly and eat dust all its life seems to indicate that the animal bears culpability. This does not seem fair if the serpent was just a poor animal who happened to be possessed by Satan. Instead, this story emphasizes the craftiness of the animal (3:1) by way of explanation of its ability to deceive. Ironically, a literal reading of Genesis 3 seems to bring about a contradiction with later scripture identifying him with Satan; seeing the chapter figuratively or allegorically allows for an interpretation of the snake as the devil.

4.  A final problem to point out has more to do with the traditional literalist idea that man would have lived forever had he not fallen. After the man and the woman eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God says, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever–” (3:22). God then expels Adam and Eve from the garden and places a guard of cherubim before the tree of life. Note that they are not expelled as a punishment of disobedience but to keep them from living forever. I can only conclude that eternal life was not inherent in the original pair; rather, it was dependent on eating from the tree of life. In other words, death seems to have been the default destination of the human composition and had to be reversed by a special intervention.

Genesis 2-3 is one of the most important sections of the Bible, full of truth and meaning. But a stiff, literal reading creates problems of consistency and distracts from the primary message. What do you think? Can one maintain a consistent literal reading of Genesis 2-3? Can one maintain a figurative reading and still have an orthodox faith?

Our pastor preached his first of a series of sermons on 1 Peter today, and thankfully, he just launched into the material without going through a long explanation about who wrote it, what the scholars say, and what his response was. Such a conversation probably would have distracted from the text, but it brought up questions for me. What if it’s not Peter? I haven’t looked too extensively into this particular issue, but my impression is that the majority of Biblical critics think that 2 Peter, at least, is pseudepigraphic (if there is such an adjective), i.e., it’s author purports to be someone famous but is not. In my denomination, heated protests would immediately flare up at this point. At issue, ultimately, is the authority of this letter, which the label pseudepigraph ipso facto causes to crumble. But does it have to? I would love it if someone who knows would explain to me the following:

1.  If the author was not Peter, what were his intentions in using the apostle’s name? Was he an impostor, pretending to be someone he was not in order to deceitfully lend lend authority to his writing? Could he have been given authorityto speak on Peter’s behalf? Was he writing in the office of Peter?

2.  What did the author’s audience know? Did they think they were getting a letter from the apostle himself? Or did they know the identity of the author and had some sort of understanding about why he was writing under Peter’s name? 1 Peter seems to have a very specific audience–various congregations in Asia Minor. If the letter were written sometime after the death of Peter, then surely they were under no misapprehensions about who was writing to them. 2 Peter, on the other hand, is addressed more generally “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (NIV). If this letter was meant to be circulated generally, were the recipients intended to think it was from the apostle himself?

Central to all the questions above is the issue of deception, which I think is what makes everyone in my denomination so uncomfortable. But if, however, the author is writing in some sort of accepted tradition, then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big deal. So, is there any enlightenment out there?

The Descent of the Dove

A lot of online hubbub about hell is going on of late, thanks to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. I have not read the book, which has sparked accusations of universalism, but I have recently started reading and enjoying Charles Williams Descent of the Dove. Below are his comments on the universalism posited by Origen:

The imaginations of the Alexandrian Fathers were courteous; their visions were humane. Origen extended that vision so far as to teach the final restitution of all things, including the devils themselves. It is impossible that some such dream should not linger in any courteous mind, but to teach it as a doctrine almost always ends in the denial of free-will. If God has character, if man has choice, an everlasting rejection of God by man must be admitted as a possibility; that is, hell must remain. The situation of the devils (if any) is not man’s business. The charity of Origen schematized then too far; he declared as a doctrine what can only remain as a desire. It was one of the reasons why he was denounced…  (p. 40)

Charles Williams makes some interesting points about universalism and hell.

1. Universalism stems from a charitable disposition. Who does not want everyone to be saved? Scripture indicates that God himself prefers to show mercy to everyone, when it says “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekial 33:11). Since God does in fact judge the wicked with an irreversible condemnation, the charity of universalism reveals itself to be misguided and dangerous. Misguided because our charity cannot surpass God’s; there must be something universalists are not taking into account. Dangerous because it preaches peace when there is judgment.

Questions emerge, though. Why wouldn’t God grant universal pardon, if this is indeed what he would rather do? Williams says that it is because

2. Universalism destroys free will. If man is free to choose God, then he is also free to reject him. According to Williams, God will not save a person against his will, and universalism “almost always” demands that this be so in the end. The Calvinist disputes the idea of God’s unwillingness to act against man’s will. He replies that if God waited for anyone to willingly choose him, no one would be saved. God’s Spirit must first give life and sight to the believer, and then the believer will always freely choose God. The Universalist could say the same thing in reply to Williams regarding God’s action toward the souls of unbelievers. He could illumine them and save them, too. But, I ask, if that’s what God is going to do, why wait until after death?

The third point I want to draw attention to is Williams’s view of what hell is.

3. Hell is the rejection of God. Williams and C. S. Lewis are of the same mind here. Hell is passive, they say, not active. Man chooses hell, and man is his own inflicter there. If God is life, joy, goodness,etc., then to reject him is to embrace death, misery, evil, and the rest. Rejection of God is hell. Furthermore, man willingly remains in hell, clinging to his sin and so rejecting heaven. (1)

I must confess, if this view were correct, then I would have a lot more peace about hell. I much prefer this view. I want this view to be correct. Unfortunately, I am not persuaded. I have the impression that scripture speaks more actively about hell. I have always thought of it in terms of God actively pouring out his wratch against sin. Perhaps I am wrong. What do you think?

(1) I am pretty sure this is true of Lewis, and I would bet that Williams would concur, though I am not certain.

“Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  Psalm 51:5

My wife overheard a friend of ours say that she was so thankful to have her children on a schedule. She starts training them at two weeks old. Children need to be taught, she said, that the world does not revolve around them. I assume this means that at two weeks old, this mother does not pick up her child when she cries at night in order to train her to be on a schedule. Which for me brings up the question:  if an infant’s cries are to be ignored in order to teach her that she isn’t the center of the universe, then

Just how sinful are babies at birth?  More than once, my wife and I have encountered a belief from fellow Presbyterian parents that our babies’ cries from the crib are a form of selfishness, or at least can lead to selfishness if heeded too much, and it is our job, then, as Christians to oppose these seeds of sinfulness. In doing so, we are communicating that they are not the center of the universe. (I even heard from someone at work, who was recommending Baby Wise* to me, that one baby was caught on tape clearly manipulating his parents from the baby bed.) This misguided belief, I believe, stems from an overly zealous adherence to the doctrine of original sin.

So what does original sin look like in an infant? And do I even believe in it? Yes, I think that there is something in our nature that rebels against God, and I think that it is in our nature as soon as we are born and that it affects everything we do. But I do not think that original sin means that the sin inherent in our babies is full-grown. If anything, babies are less sinful than adults because they haven’t had time to develop their vices.

When an infant is crying in her crib at night, she is not thinking to herself, “I want my way now! I am the center of the universe! Come hither, Mother, and cater to my every whim!” She is thinking, “I feel afraid of being alone. I need my Mommy’s touch.” An infant has very real emotional and physical needs, and much of that involves the touch of a parent. She communicates the only way she knows how–through crying–and when she is ignored, her needs are not being met. Responding to an infant’s crying, on the other hand, is showing her that she is in a safe environment where she is loved and her needs will be met. She is not being told that she is the center of the universe, only that she is being loved.

Just who is the center of the universe anyway? I wonder if some parents are actually being hypocritical in their concern that their babies will think “everything’s about them.” If Mom or Dad strongly feels the need to make the baby’s schedule conform to his or her own, then perhaps Mom or Dad thinks the universe should revolve around them. “No, I can’t be inconvenienced by my two-week-old’s need for comfort or milk at one and three and five o’clock in the morning; she must learn to meet my schedule. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around her.” Then who does it revolve around? It revolves around Jesus, who teaches us to deny ourselves and serve others. In loving our newborns, perhaps we are really teaching them that their God in heaven loves them and will meet their needs.

Before you protest, know that I am speaking about infants here, not one and two year olds.

* Some parents believe that the Baby Wise method is “God’s way” for dealing with out babies. As Charlie Brown says, “Good grief!”

I love my church. She has a real heart for building God’s kingdom across racial and social lines. There is good teaching, encouragement, fellowship, and ministry opportunities. The gospel is going out through her.

Often, though, I find myself complaining. I know that the Church is not perfect and will alway fail in many ways, but I want to give voice to three recurring thoughts I have when I go to worship on Sundays. Maybe you can offer some insight. I wish that we:

1.  observed communion every Sunday. I find myself needing and longing for the simple physical symbols of Christ’s blood and body. He is preached from our pulpit for forty minutes every Lord’s Day, but he is presented in the elements only once a month. Is there a reason why we shouldn’t be feasting every time we meet together?

2.  we drank wine instead of grape juice during communion. I understand the objections, but I find them wanting. At least offer the wine. I want to feel the burn of the alcohol down my throat as I reflect on the cleansing power of Jesus’s blood.

3.  our tithe was enough to cover missions. Every year our congregation is asked to commit to giving beyond the ten percent offering so that we can support missionaries at home and abroad. Every year I have a violent internal reaction. I’m a teacher, I think. Tithe is already a sacrifice. Why isn’t the tithe covering missions at my church? Shouldn’t we be trying to operate on the congregation’s ten percent? Let me see that budget! What if I want to make an offering to something else of my choosing? This is hard for me. On the one hand, I understand that the building has to be paid for, the employees paid, the bills handled. My church is not irresponsible. We are not a super spending mega-church. God is doing a lot of good through us. On the other hand, I hate that my money is not going into something that feels like it has more of a direct impact on the church. I want my money to go to the poor and to sending out missionaries. My church is not the only Presbyterian church that handles missions in this way. How does yours handle the budget?

Newsweek has an article on the resurrection written by Lisa Miller, author of Heaven:  Our Enduring Fascination With the Afterlife. She cites some interesting statistics:

80% of Americans believe in heaven.

70% believe that Jesus rose from the dead. (Down 10% from 2003)

26% believe that they will have bodies in heaven.

30% of respondents to a 2003 poll believed in reincarnation; 21% of them were Christian.

As N. T. Wright says in Suprised By Hope, there seems to be a lot of present confusion about what Christianity teaches on life after death. He sums up:  the New Testament and early Christians pretty unanimously attested that after death our souls are with the Lord in peace, awaiting his final return when they will be reunited with their (now glorified) bodies, which will live in the new universe.

For some reason, bodily resurrection (and according to Wright, there is no other type of resurrection) is a hard pill to swallow, as Miller’s article attests. She draws attention to how people try to get around it, by embracing a Platonic view of the soul and the body or by making the resurrection symbolic of new life. As Miller (who doesn’t believe in the resurrection herself) points out, without bodily resurrection you do not have the physical delights of heaven.

Bodily resurrection is laughed at by many, who see it for what it is–a natural impossibility. But as Jesus said to the Sadducees, “You do not know…the power of God.”

 

Two Sundays ago, I was at Kroger shopping for a few last minute items in preparation for the Saints game. Some friends were coming over, and I decided to grab a few beers. But alas! I had forgotten. No beer sales on Sunday.

Does anyone understand the logic behind blue laws? Why is alcohol singled out and restricted? Is it more sinful to drink on Sunday than on any other day of the week? If these laws are religiously motivated (and I know they originally were), is it not a violation of church and state to keep them? Why is the government interfering with my personal choices? And what about the rationale behind the prohibition of hard liquor and wine in some counties? Why does the grocery store in other counties have to have a separate store for selling wine and liquor?

So there you go. A lot of questions about some silly laws that I wish my neck of Mississippi would get rid of. Come on, Mississippi. Let’s repeal.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about the Sabbath:

[God] has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath. (WCF 21.17)

What I want to examine in this post is the scriptural basis for stating that the Sabbath was moved from Saturday to Sunday. The WCF cites the following verses:

1Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

7On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. (Acts 20:7)

10On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet… (Revelation 1:10)

These passages do indeed indicate that the churches in Galatia, Corinth, and Ephesus were worshipping on the first day of the week, but that is all. They say nothing about the Sabbath itself being moved. It seems strange to me that the WCF can make so bold a claim based on such scanty, non-conclusive evidence. To be sure, they have ample evidence in the Old Testament that the Sabbath is a perpetual ordinance:

16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’ (Exodus 31:16-17)

Does the above reference apply to Christians, however? Or just to Israelites? And is “forever” to be taken literally, or simply to mean that this is an ordinance that all Israelite generations are to observe?

The references to the Old Testament are the strongest points of the WCF, in my opinion. The Sabbath is indeed a creation ordinance, and it is found in the ten commandments. However, I find it utterly unconvincing that the New Testament teaches that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday. The New Testament has a great deal to say about whether circumcision and the other ceremonial ordinances of the Law still apply, and the answer is an emphatic no. Is the Sabbath included in these Old Testament observances that no longer apply? The following passage from Colossians 2 seems to be saying that very thing:

13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Emphases are mine.)

When the conflict over the observation of the Law came to a head, the church in Jerusalem rendered the following judgment:

28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” (Acts 15:28-29)

Notice they did not require them to observe the Sabbath. It is true that they do not mention a lot of things from the Law (like murder, theft, etc.), which are obviously still applicable, so perhaps this is not a valid point. I would think, however, that the observance of the Sabbath would have been one of those things that were foreign to Gentile converts and that the proponents of the Law were requiring them to observe.

In conclusion, it seems far from certain that the Lord’s Day is synonomous to the Sabbath. In fact, the Colossians passage seems to indicate that its observance is optional, but I am not a theologian. Care to add your two cents?

I suddenly became aware of the condition of my soul at twelve years old. I vividly recall lying on my back during many long nights, working my way through the sinner’s prayer that I had learned from my dad, and trying to understand its various elements. What does faith mean? What does it mean for Jesus to be a savior and lord? Thankfully, God guided me through my inner turmoils to an understanding of what salvation means.

However, there were a few unhelpful folks along the way. All you preachers who compared faith to sitting on a chair and trusting that it would hold you up–you should know that you didn’t really help me at all. I was only confused about how to put that same sort of trust in Jesus. How do I get from trusting a chair to trusting Jesus? Maybe if I concentrated really hard and somehow exercised faith in Jesus.

Oh, and all you guys who describe the sinner’s prayer in terms of accepting Jesus into your heart, please stop. Stop it right now. What the heck does that even mean? How does inviting Jesus to come live in your heart equal looking to Jesus for your forgiveness? Where in the Bible do any of the apostles invite their hearers to just ask Jesus into their hearts? You are only confusing little boys and girls by using such meaningless imagery.

I shake my head now as I remember how confused I was over something so simple. Thankfully, the Bible (of all things) cleared it up. What did the tax collector say when he was weighed down by all his sin? “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Seven little words, all of them easy to understand. What does Paul say? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  Gone are the mysteries of just how we exercise this vague thing called “sitting-on-a-chair faith” when one understands that all that it means is that you are asking for mercy.

I love the movie Luther. There is a scene at the beginning where Martin Luther is struggling with his sin before the unrelenting wrath of God. His priest and mentor hands him a cross and commands him to pray, “I’m yours. Save me.” I like that. I’m yours; save me.

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