Brief Answers to Pro-Abortion Claims

In light of the media explosion over the released Planned Parent videos by the Center for Medical Progress, I thought it would be helpful to provide a brief list of responses to some of the most common claims of in favor of elective abortion (abortion on demand), especially of those defending PP in light of this shocking footage.

People that are pro-life are merely irrational religious people.

It unfair to dismiss those who support the unborn’s right to life as irrational and or even influenced by fundamentalist Christian ideas. It also does not help to categorized arguments as religious or non-religious. Arguments in favor of any position are either true or false, valid or invalid. Those who appeal to supposed “secular” values are neither neutral nor do they stand on rational higher ground. Both sides are trying to present scientific and moral cases for their position.

When life begins is a decision each person (mother) must make for themselves.

This is sheer biological relativism. The science of embryology is clear on this matter, and has been for a long, long time. And it’s precisely this clarity that is the reason why so many abortion advocates will not engage the debate on the scientific issues. Here is a very helpful list of quotes from a multitude of embryology textbooks that clearly define human life as starting at conception.

It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus.

As noted above, the science is straightforward: a fetus is not a thing.  Calling a human being a “fetus” is like calling another human being a “teenager.” A teenager isn’t a thing, it’s a stage of development. The word ‘fetus’ applies to a stage of development in the life of a thing, and that “thing” is a human person.

A fetus is not a human being, just a clump of cells.

Again, this way of speaking of the unborn is unfair and biases the discussion. We simply cannot dismiss the unborn as a “bundle of cells.” We are all– whether at 7 weeks of development or 70 years of life — a “bundles of cells.” The number of cells we are made up of is irrelevant to the issue of human dignity. Adults may be a larger “bundle of cells” than their smaller siblings or relatives, but they do not thereby have a greater right to protection under the law than those who are smaller and therefore made up of fewer cells.

A woman has the right to do whatever she wants to her own body.

Abortion takes place within a woman’s body, not to a woman’s body, per se. The abortion happens to the body of the unborn as it is either burned with a saline solution, or ripped apart piece by piece out of the mother’s body. Unless we accept the absurd conclusion that each mother possesses 2 unique sets of DNA and generic make-up, we must agree with the link posted above that the unborn is a unique, living, and distinct human person from the mother.

Abortion on demand should be available to all, because it’s the only option for woman that are the victims of rape.

Statistically speaking, less than 1% of abortions take place because of rape/incest, and therefore it is a red-herring thrown it in the mix to justify unfettered abortion for all. In the few cases where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape, we must be supportive, compassion, and willing to help her get through both the initial pregnancy, but also help into the child’s early development. We care about unborn babies, mothers, and developing children. Nevertheless, there is no reason why an innocent child conceived by a violent act should be killed because of the sins of his or her father.

The real challenge is ultimately between the conflicting “rights” of two distinct people. On the one hand, there are the rights of the unborn human being who cannot protect, defend, or speak for themselves, and on the other hand pro-abortion advocates posit the rights of the mother to kill their undesired child.

Remember, if the unborn is not a human being, there is not moral justification needed for abortion (any more than we need a moral justification for a tooth removal). But, if the unborn is a human being, there is no moral justification for killing it.

Reaction To The Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

Is Same-Sex Marriage a Good Policy Decision?

Much thanks for Stand To Reason Ministries for creating such helpful videos.

Labor, Identity, and the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone

The gospel of justification by faith alone teaches us that we don’t have to prove our worth, value, or dignity to God and man based upon our productivity and accomplishments. Jesus lived a perfect life, one free from meaningless distractions and sloth, in order to pay the price for our petty laziness. Jesus’ work was singularly devoted to God and his kingdom, and yet he was crucified so our workaholism and other idolatries could be destroyed at their root. But he was raised to new life and lives today so his work record would be our work record.

When we believe in Jesus, his merit is our merit; therefore our identity isn’t determined by our work.

What does this mean for the way we should think about work? What practical effect does it have for the 9 to 5 grind? In the words of the apostle Paul, it means that whatever we do, we should work at it with all our heart, as if we were working for the Lord, not for human bosses or to gain accolades (cf. Colossians 3:23). If the gospel of grace really gets down into our bones it can’t fail to affect our work. That means that our work—whether we have our names on our office doors or on nametags—will be for the glory of God, for the betterment of the organizations we work for, and in service to those made in his image (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31).

Unlike so many voices we hear in our culture, we are free to strive for excellence without the pressure to prove ourselves. We will no longer regard our work like a master that must be served. And when we fail, and we will fail, we won’t be crushed—since we understand that by faith in Jesus we have passed the cosmic performance review.

New Book Announcement: Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief

I proudly submit for your consideration the 20 anniversary edition of John Frame’s Apologetics to the Glory of God, now renamed Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief. It was a pleasure to work with Dr. Frame on this dream project, and I put in a year’s worth of work into the editing. It is a substantial update and expansion of Apologetics to the Glory of God with two new introductions (one by myself, and the other by Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia), explanatory footnotes found throughout, and multiple additional appendices, two I which I wrote. That all equals approximately 100 new pages.

And now you all know why there’s been so little activity on the blog this year. :)

Endorsements

“If I were asked to list the top three books that have had the greatest impact on me as a Christian thinker, John Frame’s Apologetics to the Glory of God would undoubtedly be one of them. It brought about a paradigm shift—one might even say a ‘Copernican revolution’—in my understanding not only of apologetics but of all other intellectual endeavors as a Christian. Ever since then, it has been the first book I recommend to those looking for an introduction to Christian apologetics, and it is required reading in my apologetics classes. I’m therefore delighted to recommend this updated and expanded twentieth- anniversary edition, which incorporates additional material by Dr. Frame, as well as many helpful annotations by Joseph Torres.
Soli Deo Gloria!”
James N. Anderson, Associate Professor of
Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte
“Over the last several decades, few books have been as helpful to so many for so long as Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame. I eagerly welcome the twentieth-anniversary edition of this important book. As apologetics takes on an even greater significance for every believer, I can only hope that the influence and impact of this book will spread far beyond even its original publication. This is a book that, twenty years after its initial publication, is even more timely—and that is a rare achievement.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The book is listed on Amazon, Westminster Online Bookstore, CBD, and directly through P&R Publishing’s website.

Will We See God?

Have you ever wondered whether, in the final state of all things, we will see the 3 persons of the godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)? I’ve been asked this several times and thought to write-up a few thoughts on this question.  In order to best respond to that question, an important biblical clarification is needed to be put in place.

The Bible teaches that when all is said and done—when Christ returns, the dead are raised, the unrighteous are judged, and those who trusted in Jesus alone are given glorified bodies—we will reign over the “new heavens and earth” In Rev. 21:1-3, the Apostle John recorded his vision of the future as follows:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

So we will inhabited a renewed earth, a place in which all sin has been removed, and the curse has been lifted. We will have glorified physical bodies, patterned after the glorified physical body of the risen Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15).

This means that we will see in a very similar way to the way we see now. So, the question to ask is this: What can we see now? The answer is simple and straightforward, we can see physical objects, objects extended in space. So, how does this apply to our question? My conviction is that we will indeed see God, but we will see God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6). Only the second person of the Trinity (the Son) took on a human nature, and therefore is physically extended in space. Jesus Christ is now forever the God-man, fully God in his divine nature, and fully and perfectly human in respect to his human nature. This will not change in the new heavens and earth.

God the Father and the Holy Spirit are spirit and therefore do not have flesh and bones (see Luke 24:39, the word translated “ghost” in the KJV is the same Greek word translated “spirit” elsewhere, pneuma). As Scripture says, in his divine nature, no one can see God (John 1:18). We will not “see” the Father or the Spirit because, in the most literal sense, there is nothing to “see.” The being of God, though very real, active, and powerful, is not something to be seen. To apply the category of sight to a spirit is a confusion similar to asking how much a thought weighs. Weight does not apply to thoughts. I take it you understand my point.

But, lest we get the wrong impression from what I’ve said above, let me reassure you of this. The presence of Jesus will overwhelm us. The presence of the Father and Spirit will be so great that there will be no feeling of lack. We will forever rejoice in his presence all around us forever, and forever, and forever.

  • For another response to this question, see here.

31 Reasons For the Incarnation

Using biblical language, Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein present 31 biblical reasons for the incarnation. Here is their list.

  1. To do the will of the father
  2. To save sinners
  3. To bring light to a dark world
  4. To be made like his people
  5. To bear witness to the truth
  6. To destroy the devil and his works
  7. To give eternal life
  8. To receive worship
  9. To bring you great joy
  10. To demonstrate true humility
  11. To preach the gospel
  12. To bring judgment
  13. To give his life a ransom for many
  14. To fulfill the law and prophets
  15. To reveal God’s love for sinners
  16. To call sinners to repentance
  17. To die
  18. To seek and save the lost
  19. To serve
  20. To bring peace
  21. To bring a sword
  22. To bind up the broken hearts
  23. To give us a spirit of adoption
  24. To make us partakers of the divine nature
  25. To reign as king
  26. To restore human nature to holiness
  27. To be a merciful and faithful high priest
  28. To be the second and greater Adam
  29. To satisfy our deepest thirst
  30. To be loved by God’s children
  31. To reveal God’s glory

Each chapter of their small works takes up a biblical explanation of each point. It is a wonderful read, whether or not it’s the Christmas season.

See Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein, Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013).

The Five Points of Christology

At Christmastime we celebrate the great gift from God: His word become flesh. When we speak this way we are talking about the incarnation (the in-flesh-ment of God). In order to better facilitate understanding,  I have summarized the doctrines of the incarnation and the hypostatic union (the teaching that Jesus is both full divine and fully and perfectly human) in terms of the acronym JESUS .

  1. John’s Prologue: Before his birth in Bethlehem, the man, Jesus of Nazareth, eternally existed as the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity – equal with God the Father in both power and glory. John 1:1-14
  2. Emptied: In the incarnation, the divine Word took on/assumed/added a human nature to his own divine nature without ceasing to be God. Phil. 2:5-7
  3. Somatic: The human nature taken on by the Son is fully human (subject to all natural human frailties such as fatigue, hunger, thirst, and ignorance), yet without the inward temptation, inclination, or desire to sin.
  4. Unified: Jesus Christ—the eternal Word incarnate—is a single, unified person mysteriously possessing two natures (both fully human and fully divine) in such a fashion that neither is compromised (whether through confusion, mixture, or separation).
  5. Savior: This union of natures is absolutely essential for the reconciliation between God and man, and for the consummation of God’s purposes for creation. The human nature of Jesus is essential for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom purposes through humanity, while the divine nature is essential because the radical and pervasive effects of sin upon creation made it impossible that any mere human could successfully overturn them.

The Significance of Christ’s Lordship

What are some implications of the Lord of Jesus Christ? Here Thomas R.Schreiner summarizes the work of another NT scholar, David Capes. I’ve itemized the list for easier viewing.

David Capes rightly summarizes the significance of Jesus’ lordship in six statements.

  • First, Jesus Christ was the object of devotion in creedal statements (Rom 1:3-4; 10:9-10).
  • Second, believers prayed for Christ’s return (1 Cor 16:22) and identified themselves “as those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:2).
  • Third, hymns focusing on the person and work of Christ were composed (Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20).
  • Fourth, during worship early Christians gathered in Jesus’ name (1 Cor 5:4).
  • Fifth, new believers were baptized in Jesus’ name (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
  • Sixth, early Christians celebrated a meal honoring Jesus, called the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20).

Capes is correct, then, in concluding that Jesus’ lordship involved worship and that this necessarily implies that Paul and early Christians thought of Jesus “in the way that one thinks of God.” And yet God the Father is still distinct from Jesus, and Paul retains his belief in monotheism (1 Cor 8:6). Apparently, Paul did not believe honoring and worshiping Jesus as God compromised his monotheistic belief, but neither did he collapse God and Jesus together into a kind of modalism.”

—Thomas R. Schreiner. Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 168

Jesus: The Wisdom and Power of God for Salvation

Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). In fact, according to the Apostle Paul, in Jesus are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). But how does this fact benefit us?

Jesus’ Life. Jesus is the fullest and final embodiment of one who “fears the Lord.” Christ’s thoughts, words, and actions were God-saturated. In his life is an example for his people. But unlike God’s sons Adam (Lk.3: 38), Israel (Ex. 4:22-23), David (Ps. 89:27), Solomon, (2 Sam. 7:14), and other Israelite kings (Ps. 2:12), Jesus is the perfectly obedient Son of God . He never sinned, and therefore is a substitute for the disobedience of the people of God.

Jesus-Matthew2 Jesus’ Death. There are two ways to live: According to the wisdom of God, or according to man’s wisdom. Each side views the other path as foolishness (cf. 1 Cor. 1). The path of wisdom leads to ultimate security and blessedness. The path of foolishness only ultimately leads to destruction (Prov. 14:12). As our substitute and champion, Jesus perfectly followed the path of righteousness, but suffered the fate of the foolish, so we fools could enjoy the rewards of righteousness (1 Cor. 5:21).

 Jesus’ sending of the Spirit. Wisdom is the internalization of God’s Law and Word to the degree that we know what to do in the circumstances that Scripture does not address directly. Wisdom is the empowerment of the spirit of the Law. This is only possible through the Spirit of the Law. What we need is the power of the Holy Spirit to have the mind of Christ (Rom. 8:3).

2014: The Year of Beale

Gregory K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has been quite busy. His recent publications include:

But he’s not done. In 2014 he has another 5 books (that’s right, FIVE) to be released.

Anyone interested in the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, New Testament studies , and Biblical Theology should seriously consider anything by Beale. Thankfully two of these forthcoming works are summarizations of his larger more technical works.

For those interested in diving into Beale’s approach, Westminster Theological Seminary has posted Beale’s 22 lecture seminary course on Biblical Theology.

Preaching Jesus is a Bad Strategy?

A few years ago Christian Hip-Hop artist Shai Linne release a track titled “False Teachers.” There he called out a number of prominent TV preachers and evangelists as wolves in sheep’s clothing. It was a bold move, and to many in the Word Faith (WF) camp, it was an attack on highly regarded leaders. The WF movement —along with it’s prosperity gospel— has long been exposed as reintroducing some of the worst heresies in Christian history. There are the infamous quotes of Kenneth Copeland claims that the greatest failure in Scripture is none other than God himself, Creflo Dollar’s remark that all Christians are “little gods,” (the Dollar clip starts at :40) not to mention Benny Hinn’s nine-persons-of-the-Trinity doctrine and his desire to blown away his critics with a “Holy Ghost machine gun.” All manners of problematic teaching has come from this group of teachers, so what I present here is but a sampling.

Here is Myles Munroe, president and founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International and Myles Munroe International, claiming —in his own words—that preaching Jesus and the redemptive power of his death is a bad evangelistic strategy.

There’s so much to say here. In a mere 3 minutes I was frustrated, confused, angered, and then brokenhearted. Munroe says, “The good news isn’t Jesus…it’s the kingdom.” But the blazing biblical center of the kingdom message is the king himself. Paul taught, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). In the first century and in our own day, many want a kingdom that means victory, power, and triumph. And this is what the kingdom of Jesus will ultimately bring in his return. But the means of kingdom victory is suffering, persecution, and just generally be seen as being one of those “weird Christians who believe crazy stuff.” This is because the power and wisdom of God revealed in the cross is foolishness to those whose existence is marked by rebellion against the great God and king of the universe. The following words are grievous:

  • “There’s a higher level of life you can be living…”
  • “How do I get there?”
  • Then you tell them about ‘born again.'”

Think about this for a minute. This is the very definition of what it means to use Jesus as a means to an end. The goal is “kingdom living” as Munroe (and other prosperity teachers) defines it, and the means to achieve that goal is Jesus. This is tragic. It’s tragic because it effectively pushes Jesus—the Messiah and rightful king of the world— to the side in order magnify the glory of self. My wants, my needs, my health, my finances. But…

The creator of the universe is not a means to an end.

The true Israel and second Adam is not a means to an end.

The serpent-crushing Seed of the Woman is not a means to an end.

The only hope for sinners is not a means to an end.

The head of the church and the first fruits of the resurrection is not a means to an end.

Jesus is savior. Jesus is king. Jesus is ALL.

God and Human Language: Can He Speak to Us?

Recently, I was asked about the relationship of human language to God. Now, we should recognize that this is an issue the handling of which can (and has) literally filled whole books. So, naturally, what I write here is only a sketch.

So, where does language come from? Is human language suitable for God to use in order to communicate with human beings? Some have argued that human language is not a suitable vehicle, that the limited nature of human concepts (as expressed in human language) provides a hurdle for divine communication altogether. Others have said, in essence, that human language is not a complete dealing breaker in divine-human communication, but it corrupts communication because God has to accommodate to the limitations of our language. This means that some things God communicates are not true in the fullest sense of the word—our language makes that nearly impossible.

Nearly all Christians recognize some need for God to accommodate his speech to “fit” human communication. If God is going to speak to humans he must do so in something less than the perfect “language” of inter-Trinitarian communication. But I don’t see this ultimately as a problem for God’s revelation.

Does God have to “accommodate” his speech for human understanding? Yes, but understanding this within its proper context is vital. I root the need for linguistic accommodation in the Creator/creature distinction. God created humans to reflect him as creatures. We are like him in many ways, but there are major differences. God speaks. Humans speak.  It appears that God created us with some sort of beginner language and original vocabulary (since Adam was able to perfectly communicate with God in the garden). But the development of language is a human construct and therefore not identical to divine communication…and this isn’t a bad thing. By “human construct” I mean a development of human ingenuity in fulfillment of the cultural mandate—linguistic constructs help to order, organize, and therefore have dominion over creation.

None of what I wrote should be taken to imply that the inherent finitude of human language somehow limits God’s ability to successfully communicate to his creatures. This finitude cannot ultimately gag God because it is a construct of human beings, and humans are image-bearers of the infinite-personal speaking God. Finally, all this means that God’s verbal accommodation is not anthropomorphic (the attribution of human characteristics to God), as if God has to strain to find just the right human words to communicate to us. Instead we should think of human language as theomorphic. As Ps. 94:9 asks, “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?” God formed human beings with bodily abilities and characteristics to reflect the abilities that he possesses without a body. God designed humans in such a fashion that our language would naturally be analogous to divine speech and therefore a fit vehicle for verbal revelation.

 

Theological Memeology: Don’t Push ‘Religion’ on Me!

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Ok, so this can barely be counted as a meme. But it’s “meme enough” to warrant a response. Here we have a world-famous comedian defining the very essence of religion. Think about that for a moment. George Carlin is about to reveal something of the heart of what a religion is a does. Here is his evaluation:

Religion is like a pair of shoes… find one that works for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.

Taking a Closer Look. Like a meme, this has lots of meaning packed into a short quip. So, as we’ve done with the last two memes we’ve evaluated, let’s dissect this claim into its constituent parts

  • Leading analogy: “Religion is like a pair of shoes…”
  • Command based on pragmatic definition of religion: “…find one that works for you…”
  • Command based on ethical evaluation: “…don’t make me wear your shoes.”

Each phrase helps to construct the implicit argument of this meme. First, there’s the analogy, religion is like a pair of shoes. That is to say, Carlin seems to believe that religion is like an interchangeable accessory. It’s not essential to our existence—the way a foot, or some essential part of the body itself is. But this analogy is made clearer in the second phrase. Carlin tells his listener to do something, so it’s a command: Find one that works for you. Here’s the logic. Since religion is like an interchangeable accessory, find one that fits your style. This approach to religion is built on a pragmatic definition of religion. On this view, religion isn’t about understanding the true nature of reality and properly aligning oneself with it. The pragmatic approach to religion says that the right religion for you is the one that works for you. Notice what I wrote twice there. The operative phrase in the pragmatic approach is “for you.” Of course, this naturally entails religious relativism.

The last part of these meme is the most problematic. We’ll look at it closer below, but for now we’ll examine it closer.  Here Carlin closes (or, at least the meme does) with an ethical command: Don’t push your religion! Again, here’s the logic restated in the language I’ve been using throughout this discussion.

  • Statement of the essence of religion: Religion is a non-essential accessory to adorn individual preference
  • Religious relativism stated: Individual preferences are not rooted in objective reality and differ from person to person
  • Ethical assertion based on religious relativism. Therefore, it is wrong to force a person to abandon their personal preferences regarding a matter that is essentially an accessory to adorn individuality (religion)

Response. Rarely does a relativist explicitly condemn another position, not if they want to be consistent. You see once you start telling people what to do and what to believe you’ve smuggled ethical and religious absolutes back into the discussion. Whenever you say “you ought to…” or “You ought not to …” you are assuming a standard. If it’s a relative standard the person isn’t obligated to change their behavior in conformity to it. If it is an absolute ethic standard for religious belief it’s self-refuting.

But there’s something else that needs to be pointed out. Normally when someone says something like this the goal is to shame the person who 1) believes passionately, and 2) commends their faith to others. It should go without saying that these guns are normally pointed at religiously conservative Christians. How dare the small-minded Christian push their religion on someone else? So the reasoning of this meme is employed to take the moral high ground and promote (postmodern) tolerance. But there’s a crippling problem here: Commenting faith in Jesus to others (evangelism) is part of the Christian faith (see. Matt. 28). Evangelism is not a tangential aspect of Christian practice. For those that believe that Jesus is God himself and the master of their lives, evangelism is a command that shapes their actions. What Carlin is really saying is Christians ought not to practice their religion. You can be a Christian so long as you don’t believe (that what Jesus says directs your life) and behave (go and tell others about him) as a Christian.

And what does this boil down to? Carlin does the very thing he tells others not to do. He is “imposing” his own secular worldview on others. He’s cramming our feet into his shoes. 

 

Theological Memeology: Infinite Punishment for Finite Crimes

crime-punishment-burn-hell-for-eternity-religion-1345329141.pngThis meme raises an interesting point: Is a punishment of eternal duration for a crime of finite length just? Of course, as noted before, memes make their points but sarcasm and cheek. But it’s a great question. In fact, I chose this meme because it’s so helpful as a springboard to other related and deeper issues.

The challenge. First, let’s think about the challenge embedded in this meme. Eternal punishment for crimes of a finite length: Doesn’t that just strike you as wrong? It’s fairly transparent that the meme’s creator is claiming radically irresponsible sentencing on the part of the biblical God. If an infinite punishment for a finite crime strikes us—fractured and fallible mortals that we are— as overwhelming disproportionate, why can’t God see that? Or, better stated (and this is likely the true sentiment behind the charge of disproportionality), should we really take seriously the threats of a God created by an ancient war-mongering people? After all, so it is believed, their misshapen logic of punishment is so transparent to us enlightened modern people.

The implicit logic of our meme builds from the true insight that any claim that implies an absurdity is itself an absurdity. To put things a little more formally:

  • X implies Y
  • Y is false
  • Therefore X is false

Now let’s plug in the premises.

  • The Christian doctrine of eternal punishment implies an infinite punishment for finite crimes
  • Infinite punishment for finite crimes is absurd
  • Therefore, the Christian doctrine of eternal punishment is absurd

Probing a bit deeper. The meme itself (due to its brevity) does not specify whether eternal judgment is immoral or immoral-and-therefore-impossible. It’s likely that for most people who raise this kind of objection it’s the latter; this “absurd” logic renders the biblical warning of eternal judgment immoral and therefore can legitimately be ignored. Of course, that doesn’t follow logically. Even if Christians were to concede that the logic of “eternal punishment for finite crimes” were twisted and immoral (which we do not), that in itself doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to apply that standard come Judgment Day. Immoral things happen all the time and wishing they wouldn’t cannot change that sad fact. The meme’s creator (and those that share it’s objection) likely wouldn’t quite put things that way, but we need to help them see that this is where their assumptions take them.

The scales of judgment. In truth, we cannot address the fairness of the biblical logic of judgment from the position of a hostile worldview. And that’s because the biblical logic really makes sense only from within the larger structure and story it’s telling. To paraphrase John Piper, God is the only being for whom self-centeredness is not idolatry. To quote the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” God is worthy of our devotion, allegiance, and love. Why? Because he is the fullness of what we were created for. Our ultimate joy is found in union with him and not in lesser (though good) things like family, friendships, careers, etc.

So what this mean for our meme? The punishment must fit the crime. The crime’s duration is irrelevant. It is the severity of the crime that establishes the severity of the punishment. We commit our sin during a finite time, but it is of infinite severity. John Piper put this so well:

What is sin? It is the glory of God not honored. The holiness of God not reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. The person of God not loved. That is sin.

As stated above, this duration of the crime committed makes no difference in evaluating the crime’s severity. As a counterexample: It could easily take less than a few minutes for an evil despot with nuclear capabilities to walk down the hall to his office and order a nuclear strike against innocent citizens of another nation. Here the time to accomplish his goal would be quite short, but the fallout (both literal and moral) would be enormous.

God’s judgment is just. The punishment does fit the crime. But we must trust his assessment of the crime and not our own. Naturally this perspective is strange and offensive to non-Christians. This change in perspective requires more than a little rearranging; it requires conversion—a new heart.

 

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