CHALCEDON–A DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST by Sinclair Ferguson

Chalcedon

A DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST

“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). It is, once again, the time of year when the majestic words of the prologue to John’s Gospel will be read in churches throughout the world.

The verses constitute the shortest, but perhaps profoundest, description of the incarnation in the New Testament. And the more you think about them, the profounder they seem to be. John underscores (1) Christ’s eternity (“In the beginning was the Word”) and (2) his deity (“and the Word was God”) in John 1:1. But he also places him “in the bosom/at the side of” God (John 1:18), indeed “towards” or perhaps more vividly “face-to-face with God” (Greek pros ton theon).

“Christology was a life-and-death matter. Missteps could be dangerous. That was true then; it remains true today.”

Here is the mystery of deity incarnate. The wonder of it expands our minds and stretches our spirits: the Word who was face-to-face with God in the glory of eternity (John 17:5, 24) came to be face-to-face with us in this world, marked by temporality, changeability, and the shame of sin. Infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, Word made flesh.

For the first four hundred years of the church’s history, her finest minds probed the significance of these words. How can we understand them? In what terms should we communicate them? Can we press on to the outer circumference of God’s revelation of his Son without falling over the edge into error and even heresy?

Life-and-Death Matter

It was against that background that the early Christian confessions were written, ranging from the New Testament’s “Jesus is Lord” through the Apostles’ Creed, to the Athanasian, Nicene, and Constantinopolitan Creeds of the first four centuries.

Sometimes the early Christian thinkers made mistakes; sometimes they realized their statements were inadequate to safeguard the church. And when you believe, as they did, that martyrdom can never destroy the church but false teaching always will, it is understandable that sometimes discussion and debate reached a fever pitch of emotion, and occasionally harsh actions and reactions followed. It was said that it was impossible to go to the public baths without overhearing debates about the divinity of Christ!

Christology was a life-and-death matter. Missteps could be dangerous. That was true then; it remains true today. After all, isn’t it all-important to you to carefully describe the One you love best?

Four Great Errors

Despite several major efforts to help believers rightly understand and describe what really happened in the incarnation, disagreements, missteps, and divisions continued into the fifth century. To resolve them, in 451 the Emperor Marcian convened a council of some five hundred bishops at Chalcedon (now a district of Istanbul in Turkey). The confession they produced is usually known as the Definition of Chalcedon.

The Chalcedonian theologians were conscious of deviations from biblical orthodoxy that had plagued the church for over a hundred years, and especially of two that had exacerbated recent controversy. Their statement especially took into account errors that were and are associated with the names of four individuals:

  • Arius, who died in 336. Arianism is the view that the Lord Jesus Christ is not fully God.
  • Apollinaris, who died in 390. Apollinarianism is the view that Christ did not really have a human mind, but instead the eternal Logos took its place.
  • Nestorius, who died in 451. Nestorianism is the view that after the incarnation there were two persons, the divine and the human, united together by a common will (although today it is questioned whether Nestorius himself really held this view).
  • Eutyches, who died in 456. Eutychianism is the view that after the incarnation Christ had only one nature.

Is there really any value in knowing about these people and their theology? You will see that there is if you can spot what they all have in common — something that, if true, would disqualify Christ from being our Savior.

Chalcedonian Definition

So, the Chalcedonian Definition sought to exclude:

  • Arianism, because if Christ is less than God, he cannot reconcile us to God.
  • Apollinarianism, because if Christ is not truly human, he is not really one with us and therefore cannot act for us as our Mediator.
  • Nestorianism, because if there are two persons in Christ and not one, then it is only the human person Jesus who offers himself as a sacrifice to God on the cross. For a divine person cannot die in his divine nature. And even if a human person could act as a redeeming substitute, his single death could never atone for the sins of many. One eye atones only for one eye, one tooth for one tooth, one person for one person. It requires an infinite person to make adequate substitution for the salvation of a multitude that no one can number.
  • Eutychianism, because if the two natures of Christ are mixed together into one, then our Lord is no longer truly one of us and cannot therefore function as our substitute.

In each and all of these views, Christ would be disqualified from being our Savior! This background explains why the bishops meeting at Chalcedon wrote the following exalted sentences as their creed:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

“Within the womb of a teenage girl was the One who upholds the entire universe.”

Notice four major emphases: First, Christ is perfectly and truly God and perfectly and truly man, with a rational soul and a real body. Therefore, the Logos does not take the place of the soul. Second, he is of the same substance as God. Therefore, he is not less than God, but truly God. Third, he is the Son of God eternally begotten by his Father but also made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Therefore, he is one person, not two. Fourth, he is now one Person with two natures, divine and human. Therefore, these two natures are never confused with each other, changed into each other, or divisible or separable from each other.

Distinct Natures, Perfectly United

When these two natures are united in Christ, each nature retains its own properties and is distinguished from the other. All the properties of both natures are preserved intact. But since these two natures are united in one person, he can act in each nature in a way appropriate to it. There is not, strictly speaking, a “communication of properties” between the natures, but a union of them in the person of the Son.

Nor is there a moment when these natures are parted from each other (Jesus does not cease to have a divine nature when he dies on the cross; he will never cease to have a human nature). Nor are these natures to be thought of as divided between two persons, but are both possessed by “one and the same” person.

So, there was never a point in our Lord’s life when, in order to accomplish something, he injected some deity into his humanity. Had he done so his humanity would have ceased to be like ours (sin apart), and he would have disqualified himself from being our Savior. No — as John Owen would later state so clearly and well — our Lord lived in and through his human nature in constant dependence on the power of the Spirit to fulfill his calling and ministry, not by mixing together some deity with his humanity.

Testing the Creed

When we were young schoolboys our science master sometimes began a new lesson by dictating to us a “definition” which we would then test by doing laboratory experiments, in order to see how it worked. In a sense we can do the same thing with the Definition of Chalcedon, testing it in the Scriptures. Here are two examples:

Example 1: Jesus tells us that no one knows the time of his coming except the Father. Not even the Son knows the time of his own coming (Mark 13:32)!

“The Son of God has come to our side without leaving the side of his Father.”

Here our Lord speaks in accordance with his human nature. It is not omniscient because it is human, not divine. It does not have direct access to divine knowledge. Christ here acts through his human nature in a way that is consistent with that human nature. But he is “one and the same person” when he speaks. In his divine nature that person is omniscient, but that property is never mixed with the limitations of his humanity to render it omniscient. Indeed, as to his humanity, our Lord remains ignorant: there is something he does not know.

Example 2: In Luke 2:52 we are told that Jesus grew in stature. Normal human nature does that. But he also grew in wisdom. He was wiser when he was twelve than he was when he was nine, and wiser still when he was thirty. Why? Because, unlike divine nature, human nature develops wisdom through learning and experience.

But Luke adds a comment that sometimes startles Christians. Read it slowly: “Jesus increased . . . in favor with God . . .” Do you think of the Son of God in whom you trust as someone who grew in favor with his heavenly Father? If not, you may well have been guilty of one of the missteps (or, embarrassingly, one of the heresies!) listed above.

It is a stunning truth that Luke states here, isn’t it? But it is also wonderful. For some thirty-three years, in our human nature, God’s only begotten Son grew in favor with his Father. As he faced more severe opposition and increasingly harder tests, his obedience expanded into them and he remained faithful. Gethsemane was far harder than the wilderness of Judea.

Genius of the Incarnation

That growth in favor with God continued right up to the day when, in obedience to him, he was willing to enter a no-man’s-land where he no longer experienced the assurance of Psalm 23:4 or the Aaronic benediction’s promise that the face of God would be felt smiling upon him (Numbers 6:24–26). “My God, why have you forsaken me?” was wrung out of a mind overcome by a sense of the wrath of God (Psalm 22:1).

Yet, John 10:17 suggests that since this was the apex of his obedience (Philippians 2:8), the implication of Luke 2:52 is that just at this point his loving Father could have been quietly singing over him,

My Jesus, I love thee.
I know thou art mine. . . .
If ever I loved thee,
My Jesus, ‘tis now.

And for this reason we can sing,

‘Tis mystery all, the Immortal dies.
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
Amazing love, how can it be,
that thou, my God, should’st die for me?

“The wonder of deity incarnate expands our minds and stretches our spirits.”

This is the wonder of the incarnation, the genius of the divine design. It will take a human death to undertake the death of humans — the death of an infinite person for a multitude of sinners. And so the Son of God has taken our nature without losing his own identity; the Word has become flesh without ceasing to be eternal Word; he has come to our side without leaving the side of his Father. And in the glorious mystery of his incarnation, and though his life, death, resurrection, ascension, reign, and return in our flesh, the God-man has become and will forever remain our Savior!

In this way the Chalcedonian Definition both illumines and protects our thinking.

Within the Teenage Womb

Were you struck by these words in the Definition: “born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God” (theotokos — the God-bearer)?

In a sense, this daring description was the litmus test for the Chalcedonian theologians. It is not that Mary gave birth to a divine nature, but that the One who emerged from her womb was the One who was at the Father’s side, himself God. The Christ is not two persons but “one and the same.” Within the womb of a teenage girl was the One who upholds the entire universe.

C.S. Lewis famously has Lucy respond to Lord Diggory’s comment that the stable in Narnia is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, “Yes, in our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” The Chalcedonian fathers spoke of something even more wonderful: In our world too, in a teenage womb, was conceived of her flesh the person who was in the beginning with God and was God, and through whom all things were created.

Whatever the failures and flaws of the Christians of the fourth and fifth centuries, it is worth reflecting on the truths articulated in the Chalcedonian Definition, especially at Christmas. For it helps us to see why we can be grateful for — and satisfied, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and humanly, with — the Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious Redeemer: Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!

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is a Ligonier teaching fellow and Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.

PREACHING A CONSPIRACY THEORY

The 1619 Project offers bitterness, fragility, and intellectual corruption—not history.

December 8, 2019

There is one sense in which the 1619 Project’s attempt to rewrite U.S. history in the image of slavery is right: America’s founding was like nothing else seen in the history of human societies. But not because of slavery. Instead, it was because the American republic modeled itself on the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century by trying to find a natural order in human politics, rather than fall back upon the artificial and irrational hierarchies that governed how the ancients had understood both the physical and political universes. Our Declaration of Independence stated as a self-evident truth of nature that “all men are created equal”; our Constitution prohibited all titles of nobility and required virtually all offices to be matters of public election rather than inheritance or class. The American republic would be a theater of those who, like Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, could be “self-made men,” and the solutions to the problems of their day would be generated by a host of voluntary associations, working from the bottom up, rather than through government, from the top down.

Yet, nature is not always kind or predictable, and neither is the path of the republic. The temptation has always existed to slide back into the comfortable abyss of hierarchy, whether it be the racial hierarchy of slaveholders in the Civil War or the newer hierarchies of bureaucracy and socialism. It is that temptation to backsliding which the 1619 Project wants to insist is the real story; but this is like taking the stage crew out from behind the curtain and insisting that they’re the real musical.

So, let us speak of slavery. The American republic inherited slavery from the British empire, in much the same way that it inherited its fiscal poverty, its lack of manufacturing capability, and its primitive infrastructure. We expected to overcome all of these in time. And we would have dealt the same way with slavery, too. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Gouverneur Morris attacked slavery wholesale as “a nefarious institution” which had “the curse of heaven . . . where it prevailed.” But the expectation of the Founders was that slavery was a dying institution. So, the Convention turned a blind eye to slavery, even as it insisted that turning that blind eye was not meant, as James Madison said, “to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”

They were, of course, wrong. The explosion of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, built on the production of cotton textiles and the invention of the cotton gin, turned slave-based cotton agriculture into a roaring inferno of profitability. Profitability first erased shame and then stimulated angry self-justifications; and instead of painlessly winking out, slavery had to be exterminated by the force of civil war before it could strangle the life of the republic itself. Even then, we botched the eradication of slavery’s racial legacy through a badly designed Reconstruction. We have paid the price for that ever since.

This is not, however, the story told by the so-called 1619 Project. Designed largely by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and members of the New York Times editorial staff, the 1619 Project aspires—through essays, poems, and short fiction—to rewrite entirely the narrative of American slavery, not as an unwilling inheritance of British colonialism but as the love-object of American capitalism from its very origins. It reviews slavery not as a blemish that the Founders grudgingly tolerated with the understanding that it must soon evaporate, but as the prize that the Constitution went out of its way to secure and protect. The Times presents slavery not as a regrettable chapter in the distant past, but as the living, breathing pattern upon which all American social life is based, world without end.

The 1619 Project is not history: it is polemic, born in the imaginations of those whose primary target is capitalism itself and who hope to tarnish capitalism by associating it with slavery. Slavery made cotton profitable; but profitability is not capitalism. Profit-seeking has been around since Abraham bought the cave at Machpelah in the book of Genesis. If profitability were capitalism, then the Soviet Union’s highly profitable sales of natural gas and other commodities would surely make it one of the great success stories of capitalism – which, of course, it was not. Ask any worthwhile Marxist: capitalism is about the creation of class, and especially the bourgeoisie. And one thing the South never developed was a bourgeoisie. Which is why no single American, North or South, before 1861 ever imagined that slavery and capitalism were anything but mortal enemies. The proslavery apologist, George Fitzhugh, frankly declared that slavery was a form, not of capitalism, but feudal socialism; the antislavery president, Abraham Lincoln, explained the war on slavery as a war on behalf of free labor.

The 1619 Project commits, moreover, the Supply Chain Fallacy—that slavery was necessary for capitalism and as a result inhabits every level of capitalism’s subsequent development. This is the same reasoning that suggests that if a scientist receives a grant from the National Science Foundation for research, the result of the research is a production of the government. As economic historian Deirdre McCloskey comments, “It’s a legal way of thinking, not economic.” And not much in the way of historical thinking, either.

Again: the 1619 Project is not history; it is conspiracy theory. And like all conspiracy theories, the 1619 Project announces with a eureka! that it has acquired the explanation to everything, and thus gives an aggrieved audience a sense that finally it is in control, through its understanding of the real cause of its unhappiness. But historians—and most journalists—know that human experience is multivalent, contingent, and contradictory. And it bodes ill for the 1619 Project that while conspiracy theories arouse tidal waves of attention in their first unveiling, they also—like the Grassy Knoll or the Blood Libel—wear out quickly, because their ability to explain everything usually ends up explaining nothing.

And again: the 1619 Project is not history; it is ignorance. It claims that the American Revolution was staged to protect slavery, though it never once occurs to the Project to ask, in that case, why the British West Indies (which had a far larger and infinitely more malignant slave system than the 13 American colonies) never joined us in that revolution. It claims that the Constitution’s three-fifths clause was designed by the Founders as the keystone that would keep the slave states in power, though the 1619 Project seems not to have noticed that at the time of the Constitutional Convention, all of the states were slave states (save only Massachusetts), so that the three-fifths clause could not have been intended to confer such a mysterious power on slavery unless the Founders had come to the Convention equipped with crystal balls. It behaves as though the Civil War never happened, that the slaves somehow freed themselves, and that a white president never put weapons into the hands of black men and bid them kill rebels who had taken up arms in defense of bondage. The 1619 Project forgets, in other words, that there was an 1863 Project, and that its name was emancipation.

Finally: the 1619 Project is not history; it is evangelism, but evangelism for a gospel of disenchantment whose ultimate purpose is the hollowing out of the meaning of freedom, so that every defense of freedom drops nervously from the hands of people who have been made too ashamed to defend it. No nation can live without a history, and no free nation can flourish without a history that affirms—in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words in 1856—“that the evil eye can wither, that the heart’s blessing can heal; that love can exalt talent” and “overcome all odds.” What the 1619 Project offers instead is bitterness, fragility, and intellectual corruption—not history.

It is the bitterest of ironies that the 1619 Project dispenses this malediction from the chair of ultimate cultural privilege in America, because in no human society has an enslaved people suddenly found itself vaulted into positions of such privilege, and with the consent—even the approbation—of those who were once the enslavers. The 156 years since emancipation are less than a second on human history’s long clock, so that such a transformation is more in the nature of a miracle to be celebrated than a failure to be deplored for any seeming slowness. It is a miracle Frederick Douglass celebrated; it is a miracle Sergeant William Carney celebrated on the ramparts of Fort Wagner; it is a miracle Dorie Miller and the Tuskegee Airmen celebrated; and it is a miracle Colin Powell and Ben Carson have celebrated. Why not the 1619 Project?

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GOSPEL GRACE IN A COURTROOM AND THE FALSE-GOSPEL RESENTMENT IT PROVOKED

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

– Galatians 1:6-7

Paul wrote these words to Christians he evangelized living in churches he planted. They had been converted by the gospel that he preached—a gospel that teaches that salvation comes by grace alone through Christ alone who can only be received through faith alone. It is a gospel that turns rebels against God into His loyal subjects. It turns His enemies into His children.

This gospel not only transforms our relationship with God it also transforms our relationships with people by fundamentally giving believers a new identity. Paul explains some of the practical implications of this in 2 Corinthians 5. “If anyone is Christ, he is a new creation” (17). What that means is that one who turns from sin and trusts Jesus is now controlled by the love of Christ (14). Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (15). Living for Christ means living according to His way and His commandments. It means submitting to His lordship and learning to think His thoughts after Him as they are given to us in Scripture. It means adopting attitudes, values, and aspirations that are shaped by His life and work.

Paul draws out a further implication our new life in Christ when he writes, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (16). Being joined to Christ, who shed His blood to reconcile us to God, transforms the way that we regard people—how we think about and relate to them. We no longer look at people through lenses supplied by this fallen world. Rather, we view them with new, spiritual eyes that are supplied by our crucified and risen Lord.

This is what enables Paul to write in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What Christians share in Christ trumps everything and anything that they may not have in common. What this means is that a middle-aged black Christian who is a husband and father has more in common with a teen-aged white Christian single mother than he does with other middle-aged black husbands and fathers. Oneness in Christ forbids Christians from participating in the tribalism that intersectional ideologies promote so strongly today.

The power of the gospel to work in these ways was put on display this week at the sentencing of Amber Guyger, the Dallas Police officer who mistakenly entered the apartment of Botham Jean and shot him, thinking he was an intruder in her apartment. She was found guilty of murder by a Dallas County jury earlier this week. At the sentencing hearing, a turn of events occurred that can only be attributed to the power of a risen Savior.

Brandt Jean took the stand to speak about the impact of his brother’s murder. In course of his comments, he gave one of the clearest displays of the power of the gospel that I have ever witnessed. Through unimaginable grief and sorrow, he looked at his brother’s murderer and said,

I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. The best would be to give your life to Christ….I think giving your life for Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.

After this, he asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could embrace her. “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please? Please?” Such a request is exceedingly rare, if not altogether unprecedented, in such cases. The judged hesitated, then granted permission. What unfolded in the middle of that courtroom over the next few minutes as Brandt and Amber embraced, with sobs and tears, was a sacred moment created by the gospel of Jesus Christ working powerfully in a brokenhearted young man.

Powerful grace displayed. But God was not finished. After that, Judge Kemp, with tears in her eyes, went to her chambers, retrieved her Bible, returned and presented it to Guyger and told her to read and live John 3:16. “You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven,” the judge said.

Grace upon grace. What kind of God makes people act this way? Only the God who gave up His own Son to be slaughtered on a cross for sinners can create such grace and love in those whom He saves. Judge Kemp stated exactly this when she responded to a statement made by Guyger. “It’s not because I’m good, it’s because I believe in Christ.”

Christians everywhere are rejoicing at the glory of our God being displayed in that Dallas courtroom. We are humbled, rebuked, challenged and encouraged to draw more deeply from the wells of grace that are found in our Savior. The testimonies of Brandt Jean and Judge Kemp make us thank the Lord for such grace and motivate us to follow their example and to pray that such a public commendation of Jesus will be used to bring thousands—millions—into a life-transforming encounter with the gospel.

But not all who name the Name of Christ see it that way. Some, including notable and would-be Christian leaders, indicated that what happened in that courtroom frustrated, angered, and even traumatized them. It’s as if their racism-everywhere narratives were being hijacked by those events. So they took to social media to express their dismay and try to reframe that courtroom scene to help us see what was “really” going on in there.

You think that was grace? That wasn’t grace, according to Bishop Talbert Swan, it was “Post Traumatic SLAVERY Syndrome.” Kyle J. Howard, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and prominent Baptist advocate of all things social justice related, stated that the day of the sentencing was “filled with racial trauma triggers that left me and many others is [sic] a dark place. Thankfully we had each other.” That day, he continued, “was dark, I was reminded of how Evangelicals weaponized faith against BIPOC [Black/Indigenous/People of color] saints.” Howard elaborated, “Weaponizing aspects of faith like forgiveness as a means of silencing/shaming other aspects of faith like righteous indignation, sorrow, grief, & mourning is a form of spiritual abuse & historically has been an aspect of slave master theology. It’s also common in sexual abuse.”

Jemar Tisby, President of The Witness, a Black Christian Collective, wrote an article for the Washington Post warning us not to get too excited about what happened in that courtroom, making a special point to racialize the reactions.

Some viewed Brandt’s actions as a stunning example of forgiveness, a moment of grace and tenderness that briefly bridged the chasm between races and provided an example for all to emulate. Although Christians of different backgrounds shared a variety of responses, this moment was especially celebrated by white Christians. It seems to indicate a desire to hastily move on from the wrong done and offer a perfect picture of reconciliation.

How can professing Christians look at the events in that Dallas courtroom and see such different—even contradictory—things? A conclusion to which I have slowly, reluctantly, and sorrowfully come, is that some choose to look at events like this with suspicion that is borne of worldly thinking rather than with the lens of gospel grace.

How would Paul respond to that courtroom scene? Or the martyr Stephen? Or Corrie Ten Boom? Or Louis Zamperini? Or those Amish parents whose children were murdered in school? Or Felicia Sanders, whose son was murdered by Dylan Roof during a Bible study? I cannot imagine their responses passing muster with those who are upset by celebration of grace so many Christians have displayed.

Perhaps to gain more clarity, how would Tisby, Howard and Swan (and those like them) tell us we should think about Stephen’s dying words as he was stoned, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)? Is this post traumatic slavery syndrome? After all, Stephen was a Jew living under Roman domination. Did such subjugation and oppression leave him with delusions that kept him from properly calling for the death of his murderers? Should we be triggered, traumatized, or offended at the thought of another Jewish man being mistreated at the hands of fellow Jews? Or perhaps we should acknowledge the grace of forgiveness at work, but before we get carried away by the power of that grace on display make sure that we underscore how grace doesn’t mean that we don’t care about and seek justice? After all, couldn’t we see Luke’s inclusion of Stephen’s story as an attempt to “weaponize forgiveness?”

At best, it’s wearisome. At worst…well, at worst, I fear that we may be seeing a different gospel at work. One which, as Paul puts it, is no gospel at all. J. Gresham Machen faced a similar challenge in his day when liberalism came into evangelical circles like a flood. Once he got clarity and addressed the issues confronting the church, he rightly diagnosed and refuted the error in his 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism. In that classic work he shows how liberalism is not only a different religion from Christianity, but a completely different kind of religion. His prophetic words are instructive for us today. He writes,

The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core p. (p. 160).

I fear that the display of God’s grace in the sentencing of Amber Gugyger has further revealed the fault lines within evangelical and even “reformed” Christianity in America. On one side are those who recognize that what they have in Christ trumps all of those things that would otherwise divide us. They are committed to living out their union with Christ by viewing each other and all of life through gospel lenses. On the other side are those whose misguided zeal to pursue what they think is justice prevents them from recognizing and celebrating the grace of God in the gospel.

These are not two different kinds of Christianity. One is simply not Christian at all.

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Dr. Tom Ascol is President of FOUNDERS MINISTRIES and this article appeared on their website.

MOMENTARY OBEDIENCE, FOREVER HONOR

We have looked at the sweet blessings God promises to those who heed the fifth commandment and we have looked at the terrible judgments he promises to those who do not. We have seen that children have a lifelong duty of honor toward their parents. But while we have learned whywe ought to honor our parents, we have not yet considered how. Our question for today is this: How do we show honor to our parents, especially when we are adults? Today we will arrive at an early answer sufficient to begin to direct us. In a future article we will look for help from others to find specific, concrete ways we can extend honor.

Honor and Obey

In both descriptions of the Ten Commandments—those found in Exodus and Deuteronomy—, God commands children to “honor your father and your mother.” There is not a word about obedience. Yet when we read the applications of the commandment scattered throughout the Bible, we see obedience as a key component of the honor children owe their parents. This raises a question: Is obedience to parents permanent or is it temporary? Does honor always require obedience? If I want to honor my parents do I need to continue obeying them throughout my life? To answer these questions we need to examine honor and obedience, looking for what makes them similar and what distinguishes them.

Obey

What the fifth commandment does not require is as important as what it does require. The fifth commandment is not “Obey your father and your mother.” Rather, it is “Honor your father and your mother.” Still, it is clear the Bible places a great deal of emphasis on children obeying parents. We encounter the language of obedience in many of the interpretations and applications of the fifth commandment. Yet as we dig deeper, we find something interesting: the language of obedience tends to come in passages speaking to young children who are still dependent upon their parents. When we come to passages speaking to adult children, we find a subtle switch to language of respect and provision. Thus obedience is a particular form of honor—a form of honor for young children.

All children are to honor their parents at all times. But when children are young, honor most often takes the form of obedience. This is why when Paul interprets the fifth commandment to young children (Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20) he says, “Children, obey your parents.” To obey is to submit to the will of a person who rightfully holds a position of authority, to comply with their demands or their requests. It is, as we teach our children, to “do it now, do it right, and do it with a happy heart.” Obedience is a child’s display of honor.

Parents are right to expect and demand obedience of their children and children are right to show honor to their parents through that obedience. It is obedience to parents that trains children to be submissive to every other authority, including God himself. It is under the training and discipline of parents that children are prepared to live orderly lives in this world. John MacArthur says it well: “Children who respect and obey their parents will build a society that is ordered, harmonious, and productive. A generation of undisciplined, disobedient children will produce a society that is chaotic and destructive.”

As it pertains to parents and their young children, obedience is meant to be a temporary measure that lasts as long as children are under the authority of their parents. Childhood is a period of training under the tutelage of parents. Parents force their children to obey so children will learn honor and then spend the rest of their lives honoring parents, teachers, bosses, and governments. A parent’s training in obedience is returned in lifelong honor.

Honor

But what is honor? Biblically, the word honor refers to weight or significance. To honor our parents we are to attach great worth to them and great value to our relationship with them. John Currid explains, “The point is that a child must not take his or her parents lightly, or think lightly of them. They must be regarded with great seriousness and value.” We can learn what honor looks like by examining the passages that describe the judgments befalling those who dishonor their parents. These are the passages from the civil law and wisdom literature we looked at last time: Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 30:17, and so on.

What do we find? Children who dishonor their parents are rebellious and stubbornly resistant to the discipline that would lead them out of that rebellion. They may be verbally abusive, mocking and cursing their parents. They may even be physically violent toward them. If we turn to the New Testament we find that their dishonor may take the form of refusing to care for their parents or provide for their physical and monetary needs (Mark 7:8-13, 1 Timothy 5:8).

Thus to honor our parents we are to respect and revere them, to speak well of them and to treat them with kindness, gentleness, dignity, and esteem. We are to ensure they are cared for and even to make provision for them when necessary. Dennis Rainey says, “Honor is an attitude accompanied by actions that say to your parents, ‘You are worthy. You have value. You are the person God sovereignly placed in my life.” All of that and much more is bound up in this little word.

Obey Today, Honor Forever

We need to consider why the basic requirement of the fifth commandment is not obedience but honor. I am convinced there are at least two reasons: Eventually we are no longer obligated to obey our parents and, even before then, there are times we cannot or must not obey them. To say it another way, there are times we can disobey our parents while still honoring them.

The end of obedience. There comes a time when obeying parents is no longer appropriate. The task of parents is to raise their children to become independent, to function outside of parental authority. In most cases, the parent-child relationship will be permanently altered at the moment of marriage when “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). As a child becomes independent of his parents he leaves their oversight and authority. He no longer owes obedience in the same way or to the same degree.

The sin of obedience. There may also be occasions when obedience is sinful, such as when parents command their children to sin or when they command their children to disobey God or government. When this happens a child must disobey mom and dad in order to obey a higher authority. Another occasion for acceptable disobedience is when parents demand obedience of their adult children or when their demands for obedience become overbearing or abusive. In such cases the child is under no God-given obligation to obey.

God’s basic command to humanity is not “obey your father and mother” because obedience ends and at times can even be sinful. Instead, God’s command is “honor your father and mother” because honor never ends and is never wrong.

Perfect Honor, Perfect Obedience

We are not without a biblical model of honor and obedience. We see them both perfectly displayed in Jesus. Though he was God, he was born to earthly parents and he willingly, joyfully, perfectly honored and obeyed them both. We see his childhood obedience in Luke 2:51 “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” We see his honor when, in the moments before his death, he ensured provision for his mother: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27).

And just as Jesus honored and obeyed his earthly mother and father, he honored and obeyed his heavenly Father. In all he did he spoke well of his Father, he directed glory to him, he carried out his will. And, of course, he obeyed his Father: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Without losing a trace of autonomy or dignity, Jesus honored and obeyed. If we want to honor and obey our parents we must learn about Jesus. If we want our children to honor and obey us, we must teach them about Jesus. He, as always, is the example of how to perfectly obey God’s perfect law.

Conclusion

In our next article we will look at matters related to culture to see how culture changes our understanding of honor. Later we will look at some of the hard cases in which giving honor is especially difficult. We will also dig up some practical helps to show even more clearly how we can honor our parents. And, of course, we will need to consider how we, as parents, can ensure we are worthy of honor.

Let’s end on a happy note. We know there are two great blessings wrapped up in honoring our parents: A long life and a good life. If we dig a little deeper into the New Testament we find there is one more great blessing. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Our honor makes God happy. Why? Because in honoring our parents we are honoring the God who gave us our parents. So why not take some time today to consider how you can honor your parents. After all, your honor toward your parents pleases and glorifies God.

JESUS STOPPED

When I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Everett, stopped and pulled me aside to speak to me. She got down on my level, looked me straight in the eyes and told me, “You are a great student and one of the smartest kids in my class. I expect great things from you.” I certainly didn’t realize it at the time, but those words have meant so much to me. That Mrs. Everett would purposefully stop and encourage me in my schoolwork was transformative. For whatever reason, I believed her. I believed that I was smart, that I would do good things. When I graduated high school, I was the first recipient of the Judy Everett Scholarship. This was a scholarship set up by her family after she died far too early from ALS. She had seen something in me that was unnoticed by others, and it made all the difference.

This encounter with Mrs. Everett was brought to mind while I was reading through the end of Mark 10. Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem. He had just left Jericho with a large crowd of people. On the margins of this crowd by the side of the road, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was crying out. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He cried out, and the people in the crowd tell him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus persisted. Maybe he had heard about Jesus from other beggars or travelers. Maybe he had overheard people in the crowd talking about this man who had healed others. Whatever the case, he had heard that Jesus was there, and this was his chance. With a tenacious and unbreakable faith, Bartimaeus continued to cry out all the more.

And then something remarkable happened. Jesus stopped. Somehow, over the commotion of the crowd, Jesus hears this man’s cries for mercy. Amidst the jostling and push of the crowd making their way to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped. No one would have expected him to stop for this blind beggar. His class and status would have put him at the lowest of the low. He was probably clothed in rags. He was likely unkempt. He sat there day in and day out, begging for money, hoping that someone might drop a coin in his cup, so that he might have money to eat or buy necessities. We see people like this all the time, and we just walk on by with barely a notice. No one would have expected Jesus to stop for Bartimaeus. The rich man from a few passages before or the disciples, that’s the type of person the people would have expected to interact with Jesus, but not this blind beggar.

Jesus noticed something that others would have just passed by. And he stopped. Whatever it was that he was doing, Jesus was willing to stop to consider this man. He takes time for this man’s cries. He takes time for one who might normally go unnoticed. He hears and sees the voiceless and the invisible of society. They might be insignificant or ignored by the crowd, but they are not overlooked by him. Jesus stopped and said to the crowd, “Call him.” RC Sproul commented, “It is one thing for us to call on the Lord. It is something else when he calls on us. That is where true redemption lies.”

Perhaps you’ve always been full of self-confidence. Perhaps you’ve never doubted yourself. Perhaps you have always felt that your voice was heard, your contribution was valued, and your presence was appreciated. Maybe that’s your story, but it’s not my story. I constantly struggle with doubts and fears. I wonder if I’m really known or appreciated. I grew up in working class family that constantly struggled with having enough. While I never went without the essentials, I rarely had the “right” clothes or things. So, I was constantly self-conscious about not fitting in. I can identify with Bartimaeus. I can identify with the guy on the margins, the guy who is on the side of the road. But Bartimaeus had a tenacity and a boldness in his faith that I wish I had. He cried out for mercy. He knew he needed help. He knew he had nothing to offer. He knew he needed Jesus. And no one was going to keep him from calling out for him.

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” When Jesus noticed Bartimaeus, it’s like the people immediately see him in a different light. They switched from rebuking him to encouraging him. “Take heart, he’s calling you!” Then Bartimaeus did something really interesting. He cast off his cloak and sprang up to go to Jesus. If you’ve ever been blindfolded for a game or stumbled around in the dark, you know how gingerly you walk when you can’t see. Slow and deliberate movements, so that you don’t run into or step on anything. Hands out to feel the way. Every step is careful and cautious. Not so with Bartimaeus. He sprang up and rushed to Jesus. He hadn’t been healed yet. He’s still blind. But he showed a faith that is both unbreakable and unbridled. He’s blind, and yet he sees his need more clearly than anyone else. He’s blind, and yet he sees Jesus more clearly than anyone else.

Jesus stopped and called Bartimaeus. So Bartimaeus cast off his cloak and sprang up, and Jesus healed him. Now as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem, Bartimaeus is not on side of the road but he is on the road. Jesus noticed the ignored and forgotten man on the margins of the road and realized there is a treasure there. So Jesus called him. And Bartimaeus responded with an unbreakable and unbridled faith by following Jesus on the way.

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This article first appeared on the GOSPEL REFORMATION NETWORK.

HAS SCIENCE GOT RID OF GOD by John Blanchard

Richard Dawkins, based at Oxford University, officially operates under the title of Charles Simonyi Reader and Professor of the Public Understanding of Science. Unofficially, he may be the best-known atheist in the world, partly as the result of his best-selling book The God Delusion, published in 2006. With these credentials, we should expect Dawkins to answer the title of this article with a resounding yes, and he does not disappoint us. In a 1999 BBC Television programme Soul of Britain, he stepped up to the plate and let fly with his trademark panache: “I think science really has fulfilled the need that religion did in the past, of explaining things; why we are here, what is the origin of life, where did the world come from, what life is all about…science has the answers.”

If Dawkins is right, religion is an outdated indulgence and God an irrelevant myth. But is he right?

The simplest way to answer that question is to test each of his four claims to see whether they can be substantiated.

Science explains why we are here.

In context, the word why can have one of two meanings: either “How did we get here?” or “What is our purpose in being here?” As the final claim touches on the second of these, let us look at the first — and Dawkins has no doubt as to the answer: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is stupid, ignorant, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Having dispatched all opposition with a single sentence, he then endorses the idea that Homo sapiens is the state-of-the-art product of a vast sequence of tightly related species and kinds, beginning with the first living cell and moving on through invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, furry quadrupeds, and ape-like mammals.

All atheists are evolutionists, and this is the default setting for the model they promote. If they are right, we should expect to find our planet teeming with fossils of intermediate life forms — but they are simply not there. Writing about such evolutionary links, Colin Patterson, senior palaeontologist at the British Museum of Natural History says, “I will lay it on the line. There is not one such fossil for which one might make a watertight argument.” On the other hand, if God created fully formed and separate kinds, we should expect to find the remains of countless fully formed specimens, all without any apparent ancestors — and that is exactly what we do find.

In the early chapters of Genesis the creation narrative comes to a climax with the words: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27), a statement that resonates with all we know about our unique and astonishing properties. If the full text of Encyclopædia Britannica had arrived on earth from outer space it would be regarded as unchallenged proof of extra-terrestrial intelligence. As human DNA houses vastly more organized information than the Encyclopædia Britannica, it points powerfully to the truth of Nobel laureate Arthur Compton’s conviction that “a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man.”

Science explains the origin of life.

In what he calls the central argument of The God Delusion, Dawkins claims that while so many things give an appearance of having been designed, the impression is a false one, because it raises an unanswerable question: Who designed the designer? Two things need to be said in response. First, where is the scientific proof that the appearance of design is deceiving us? There is none — and to deny design before discussing the issue is on a par with declaring that miracles are impossible before finding out whether any have taken place. This illogical approach might be expected from someone at grade school, but hardly from an Oxford don. Second, can science prove that the designer must have been designed, in other words, that the ultimate Creator must have been created? Is there any branch of science that can definitively  rule out any possibility of there being a supernatural, uncreated person?

As Ludwig Wittgenstein, the leading analytical philosopher of the twentieth century, said in his monumental Tractatus: “The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.” This synchronizes precisely with the Bible’s teaching about God being “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 106:48) and its unanimous testimony that this transcendent and eternal Creator “gives life to all things” (1 Tim. 6:13).

Science explains where the world came from.

The origin of the universe has fascinated people ever since they first begin thinking about the subject, and scientists have come up with an endless raft of theories. Yet science can never go any further back than the moment at which the laws on which it leans began to operate. As Edgar Andrews, emeritus professor of materials at the University of London, notes, “Science, even at its most speculative, must stop short of offering any explanation or even description of the actual event of origin.”

This seems pretty obvious, yet there are atheists who try to evade the issue with a flurry of phrases. Peter Atkins, an atheist professor of chemistry at Oxford, claims that the entire universe is “an elaborate and engaging rearrangement of nothing” in which “space-time generates its own dust in the process of its own self-assembly.” Those who hold to this idea, more formally known as the quantum fluctuation hypothesis, were neatly upended in New Scientist: “First there was nothing, then there is something…and before you know it they have pulled a hundred billion galaxies out of their quantum hats.” In A Brief History of Time, the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, with no religious axe to grind, has a much more reasonable approach. Commenting on the odds against the universe’s incredibly complex and perfectly balanced array of fundamental factors coming into existence by chance, he wrote: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”

Richard Dawkins not only dismisses the biblical account out of hand, but ranks it with the Hindu myth about the world being created in a cosmic butter-churn and the West African notion that the world was created from the excrement of ants, but this hardly qualifies as serious thinking. C.S. Lewis came to a very different conclusion: “No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’” Claiming that science rules this out is ignorance masquerading as intelligence.

Science explains what life is all about.

It is curious that Dawkins should make such a claim, as he denies that human life has any purpose, describing such an idea as “a nearly universal delusion.” In a 1995 issue of London’s Observer newspaper, he dismissed a question about the purpose of life by saying, “Well there is no purpose, and to ask what it is is a silly question. It has the same status as, ‘What is the color of jealousy?’”

Elsewhere he claims that life is “just bytes and bytes of digital information” and that human beings are “survival machines — robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes, but this is hopelessly inadequate. It offers no explanation of the fact that as humans we are self-conscious, thinking beings, with an insatiable desire to evaluate data, develop ideas, exercise imagination, and make decisions. Nor does it explain our unique sense of dignity, our aesthetic tastes, our ability to compose and enjoy art, music, and literature, our moral dimension, and our spiritual longings. As the distinguished modern thinker Francis Schaeffer pointed out: “No one has presented an idea, let alone demonstrated it to be feasible, to explain how the impersonal beginning, plus time, plus chance, can give personality.”

Sir John Eccles, a Nobel Prize-winning pioneer in brain research, presses the point home: “Science cannot explain the existence of each of us as a unique self.” Even Steve Jones, a passionate atheist and professor of genetics at University College, London, frankly admits, “Science cannot answer the question: ‘Why are we here?’” The Bible can — and does so in the words of those who cry to God, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God…for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Science is the ongoing search for truth in the natural world, and we rightly rejoice at the countless benefits that science and technology have brought into our lives. To go beyond that and claim that science has got rid of God is to promote nineteenth-century fantasy to the status of twenty-first century fact.

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APOLOGETICS–ANSWERING ALAN ALDA–THE EVIDENCE FOR GOD IS OVERWHELMING BUT SINNERS SUPPRESS IT

I have always enjoyed the work of Alan Alda. Over the years he has often played humane and attractive characters. I was one of the 106m people who watched the last ever episode of M*A*S*H. If Arnold Vinick, the presidential candidate he played in The West Wing, were standing in the election, he’d get my vote!

Last week he spoke to the Guardian about his new film Marriage Story. In the course of the interview he made these comments about religion:

Alda relinquished the religion in which he was raised long ago. “I’m not any kind of Catholic,” he says. “I haven’t come across any evidence for God.” Instead, he says he finds the beauty and wonder of the universe sublime enough. Asked whether he thinks death is the end, he riffs on the ubiquity of microbes and how they made the world inhabitable for all living things, before adding that it is extraordinary “that we’re gonna die and it’s so amazing that most of us live as if that’s not gonna happen”.

The two claims he makes are both worthy of response:

“I haven’t come across any evidence for God”

I wonder what Alda would consider to be admissible and adequate evidence for God? Perhaps first-hand sight of a miracle or a personal experience of hearing God’s audible voice? The reality, however, is that Alda has come across multiple evidence for God in the course of his life. The problem is not a lack of evidence but that he is supressing the overwhelming evidence that is right before his eyes.

In the first place there is the creation itself. The very fact of the existence of our universe is evidence for the existence of a creator. The idea that the universe spontaneously emerged out of nothing is far less plausible and believable than that there was a creator, but it is convenient for those who want to resist the claims of God on their lives. The existence of an eternal all-powerful non-material being is a far more likely explanation for the existence of matter. Psalm 19v1 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God” and that there is no place one earth where their voice is not heard. Romans 1v19-23 remind us that “since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have bene clearly seen, being understood form what has been made so that people are without excuse.”

It is somewhat ironic that Alda appears to recognise the sublime beauty of the universe, and the amazing way that even the microbes make life possible, and yet fails to see any evidence for a creator. Why is a purposeless universe that is nothing more than the result of chance beautiful? How improbable that it is so fine-tuned as to support life and enable it to flourish. The evidence is staring him in the face.

Secondly there is the evidence of our human nature. As human beings we have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1v27). He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3v11), and we have an innate moral sense that recognises the realities of good and evil (Romans 2v14-15). We are by nature worshipping creatures. These “religious” faculties have been distorted by our fall from grace, but they have not been completely erased and a vestige remains. To be human is to live with constant evidence for the existence of God – evidence that we deny to evade our moral accountability to him.

Finally, and most importantly, there is the evidence of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we remember that God became flesh and stepped into our world (John 1v14-18). He was seen and touched. His glory was revealed in his resurrection. He has made the Father known. We cannot see Jesus for ourselves because he is reigning at God’s right hand in heaven, but we have the trustworthy testimony of those who did see him. Living in a Western context Alda cannot have escaped something of the Biblical testimony about Jesus, but he has clearly rejected or supressed it.

A couple of years ago I did jury service. It was a fascinating experience. Many of my fellow jurors had their expectations shaped by television crime dramas, with their emphasis on incontrovertible forensic evidence. In our case we had only verbal testimony. In practice you have to reach your verdict on the basis of the evidence that is actually available, not the evidence you wish was available. The evidence we had was more than enough to secure a conviction “beyond reasonable doubt,” even though it did was not scientific in character.

God has given ample compelling evidence for his existence, but most people refuse to accept or believe it. The problem is not with the lack of evidence but with their own spiritual blindness. We need to have confidence in evangelism that we have all the evidence that we need to enable people to come to faith in God and to trust that, as we ask them to consider it, he can open their blind eyes to the truth they have supressed.

“We’re gonna die and it’s so amazing that most of us live as if that’s not gonna happen”

Alda is surely correct that most people fail to face up to the inevitability of death. Just as they supress the truth about the evidence for God, they also suppress the truth about their mortality. However, I wonder what Alda considers a life should look like that is lived in the light of the inevitability of death?

If there is no God, and death is the end, then logically the only rational way to live is selfishly for your own pleasure. Make the most of your limited opportunity and have the best time that you can, even if that means harming other people along the way. It is only rational to be altruistic if that is a way that you bring pleasure to yourself.

Humanism would like to say that we should live a good life serving and caring for others, or at least not causing them any harm, but cannot provide a rational basis for denying yourself to benefit others. It requires a leap of faith against the evidence, which is more than can be said for evidence-based Christian faith.  As Tom Holland has congently argued in his recent book Dominion, the liberal humanistic ideology is an attempt to maintain Christian morality without Christian belief. The Marquis de Sade and Frederick Nietzsche showed this is utterly inconsistent.

The apostle Paul got it right 200 years ago. If death is the end, with nothing to come:

Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15v32)

It is ironic that the very fact that most people do not live as if they are going to die is itself evidence of the existence for God. They cannot bring themselves to live in accordance with their unbelief. They are essentially hypocrites, or apostates from the implications of their atheism.

What should it mean to live in the light of the inevitability of death? It ought to mean trusting Christ and serving Christ. Since we were created by God and for God death is not the end. We are intrinsically eternal, but the question is where we will spend eternity. We suppress the truth that death will be followed by eternal judgement, and that we deserve to be condemned to Hell because we have not lived the perfect lives that would qualify us to live forever in the presence of a Holy God. Our only hope is to trust in Christ, who died in our place to bear the punishment we deserve and receive his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

If we have trusted Christ, we enjoy a secure and certain eternal hope and can be liberated from the fear of death. We can live sacrificial lives of service of others and refused to be cowed by threats of persecution and suffering. We ought to be passionate about evangelism, and sharing the gospel with others, so that they too can escape eternal death and enjoy eternal life.

I pray that God will open Alan Alda’s eyes to the truth and that he will come to faith in Christ. We should not fear the objections he raises to our faith. Instead we can have every confidence in Jesus Christ and the gospel about him we proclaim.