The Great Exchange.

Life is filled with unanswered questions. The most troubling of which are questions surrounding the afterlife. For example: What happens to us after we die? Who will find themselves in Hell? How does someone get to Heaven?

We hear many opinions about these mysteries from family, friends, co-workers, churches, religious leaders, psychics, and even television talk show hosts. But the one issue that needs to be dealt with before we die is the one problem that people rarely—if ever—mention. It’s the dilemma they cannot account for, remedy or fix, yet it is the one thing that will determine where each and every one of us will spend eternity. This problem that I am speaking of is sin.

We all do it.

Every person who has ever lived or is living now has sinned (Romans 3:9, 3:23), and as long as we live we continue to indulge in sin (Genesis 6:5). None of us are free of sin (1 John 1:8), and God will judge us for every one of our sins, including the secret ones we thought were hidden (1 Samuel 16:7, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:16, Romans 8:27).

Sin results in two deaths.

The sin that we inherited from Adam and the sin we willingly commit every day will result in our physical death (Romans 5:12-17, 6:23), but of greater peril than our physical death is that our sin will result in what’s called the “second death” (Revelation 21:8). This “second death” is better known as Hell, a very real and horrifying place consisting of eternal punishment, darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and an unquenchable fire (Matthew 8:12, Luke 3:17, Jude 7).

Our common denial.

We are all guilty before God, condemned by a lifetime of accumulated sin, but some people aren’t convinced that they’re sinners until they face these four questions:

– 1) Have you ever told a lie, even a little white lie? (Proverbs 6:16-17, Revelation 21:8)

– 2) Have you ever taken something that did not belong to you? (Leviticus 19:11)

– 3) Have you ever lusted after someone? (Matthew 5:27-28)

– 4) Have you ever used God’s name in vain? (Exodus 20:7)

If you answered “Yes” to these four questions then you’ve admitted to being a lying, thieving, adulterous blasphemer. On the great and dreadful day of God’s final judgment, will you be found guilty or innocent? Based on God’s standards (not ours), the answer is obvious: you, like the rest of mankind, will stand condemned.

We’re already under God’s judgment.

Contrary to popular opinion, we do not have to wait until the day of God’s judgment to find out whether or not we’re in right standing with God. It’s not a question of if upon your death you’ll be condemned to God’s eternal, fierce, and terrifying judgment; it’s already your current condition. Because we’ve all sinned, we are already under His judgment and consigned to His wrath (John 3:18, 3:36).

Our obedience and good works are useless.

If you try to pay your sin-debt to God and earn His favor by being a good person and following the Law, then you must follow all of God’s Laws perfectly your entire life without ever failing in one area or you’ll be charged with breaking all of His Laws (Galatians 3:10, James 2:10). If you’ve already sinned in your life—even once—then perfect obedience to the Law for salvation is not even an option for you.

Not only are you under a curse if you sin in just one area of the Law, but you’re incapable of completely obeying the Law even if you wanted to (Romans 8:6-8). And—as if it couldn’t get any worse—the Bible tells us that those who try to earn their salvation by following the Law have fallen from grace and are cut off from Christ (Galatians 5:4).

God expects absolute moral perfection.

Not only does God require us to be holy (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16), but Jesus said that our righteousness must surpasses that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) and we must be perfect just as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

God cannot forgive you and still remain holy.

God cannot simply forgive us of our sin without becoming an abomination unto Himself (Proverbs 17:15, 18:5, 24:24). It would be unjust and corrupt of Him to merely overlook our sin-debt just as it would be for an earthly judge to overlook the transgressions of a criminal in his courtroom. We shouldn’t expect God to forgive our offense to Him any more than we should expect an earthly judge to simply forgive the man who was guilty of murder. If the court judge let the criminal go free because he’s a tolerant, forgiving, and loving judge, then that judge would be as wicked as the murderer who committed the crime. Such a pardon would be the epitome of corruption and injustice, yet this is exactly what most people expect God will do for them when they stand before Him on Judgment Day.

God cannot simply ignore your sin and still remain a righteous and just Judge because justice demands that punishment be carried out. Based on the moral standard required of our holy, perfect, and righteous final Judge, you and I must be eternally punished under God’s relentless, unmitigated wrath because we have sinned against an eternal and infinitely holy God.

What hope is there?

So, what hope is there? How can we be forgiven for our multitude of sins that require punishment? How can God justify the sinner and still remain just (Romans 3:26)?

But God . . .

But God, our Judge, being merciful and because of His great love toward us (even while we were still sinners and dead in our transgressions), provided the means of salvation by brutally sacrificing His own Son so that we may be forgiven and reconciled to Him (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4).

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). The only way for us to be forgiven of our transgressions is for someone to die in our place (a propitiatory substitute) in order to bear the wrath of God that our sins justly deserve. Only a sinless sacrifice could redeem us and bridge the gap between a holy and righteous God and a depraved and sinful people. The sacrifice had to be fully human and fully God in order to qualify to be an adequate mediator to reconcile us to God.

God crushed His own Son (Isaiah 53:10) as He placed our sins upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus bore our sins on the cross (Psalm 22:16, Isaiah 53:12, 1 Peter 2:24), and He redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).The Father placed the wretched, filthy, and vile sins of His people upon His beloved, sinless Son so that Jesus would become sin on our behalf (our substitute) while simultaneously giving (imputing) Christ’s righteousness to us (Romans 4:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Jesus Christ not only paid our insurmountable debt of sin with His own life (a debt we could never pay), but He also credited His own perfect righteousness to our account—the very righteousness that God requires of us but that we could never obtain on our own. This judicial transfer or great exchange meets the requirements of God’s Law and satisfies the demands of God’s justice.

Jesus Christ is the one and only means God provided to reconcile us to Himself. The Son is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and salvation is found in no one but Jesus (Acts 4:12). No matter how “good” we think we are or how hard we strive to follow God’s Laws, no one (not even you or me) is justified by the Law (Galatians 2:16, 3:11) but by faith in Christ alone because, if righteousness could be obtained by following the Law, then Jesus Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

Once upon a cross . . .

Either Jesus paid for your sins and absorbed God’s wrath for you by His substitutionary death on the cross, and conversely His righteousness has been merited to you, or you will pay for your own sins and endure God’s unrelenting wrath for eternity in Hell. God declares that we should repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world (Acts 17:30-31). It will be a terrifying­­­­ day for you (Proverbs 21:15, Hebrews 10:31) if you haven’t repented (Luke 13:3) and believed/trusted (Mark 1:15) in Christ alone as your perfect sacrificial substitute, Savior, and Lord.

Atheist hypocrisy (Part 1)

I often hear the lament from anti-theists about Christian hypocrisy as the impetus behind their rejection of God, but rarely is atheist hypocrisy ever mentioned. So let’s look at two glaring hypocrisies of atheism, part one today, and part two coming soon.

________________________________

I recall a time a few years ago when I posted a gospel tract on the community bulletin board of a local coffee shop.

Shortly thereafter, as I sat sipping my hot beverage, a woman in her thirties entered the shop and made her way over to the bulletin board. Upon seeing the tract, she quickly removed it and promptly found a table where she sat and thumbed through the little booklet. Her behavior led me to speculate that she was familiar with what she held in her hands, and I watched from a distance. 

Then this woman took out a pen and began to write on the tract (both the front and rear covers). This greatly piqued my interest of course, and I continued to observe.

A short while later another woman entered the establishment and approached the table where the first woman sat. The second woman greeted the first and the first woman gleefully showed the second woman the cover of the tract. The second woman gave a smirk while the first had a grin ear to ear. She then promptly returned the tract to the bulletin board.

My party and I left at the same time as the two women did but my curiosity got the best of me so I returned to the bulletin board inside the business and retrieved the tract. And there I read what the woman in all her giddy-like-a-school-girl excitement had written on the tract.

On the front:

“There is no God!”

On the back:

“Shame on God!”

There you have it . . . classic anti-theist hypocrisy: “Shame on the very thing I believe doesn’t exist.”

How can someone say on one hand, “There is no God!” then on the other hand say, “Shame on God!”? That is either blatant hypocrisy or a mild case of schizophrenia.

You can’t claim that someone or something doesn’t exist, then offer an opinion on that someone or something. Let me offer an example.

If I said that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist, but then warned you that you should be careful while swimming in Loch Ness because the Monster might get you, would you not be justified in questioning the truthfulness of my original claim that Nessie doesn’t exist?

So I came to the realization that most self-proclaimed atheists aren’t atheists because they disbelieve the existence of God, but it’s simply because they hate Him. They don’t want to be limited or prohibited in their lifestyle choices, nor be confronted with their sin, so they self-inflict a seared conscience upon themselves.

I would prefer if these professing atheists would be upfront and honest about their beliefs and come to terms with the fact that they simply hate God and His laws, instead of hiding behind a pretentious facade of pseudo-intellectualism in their declaration that the very thing they hate does not exist.

A little honesty and candor is all I’m seeking. Is that too much to ask for?


DefCon reaches 2 million visits.

On December 31, 2011, at approximately 10:00 pm (EST), DefCon received its two-millionth hit.

In the four years and four months that this blog has been active, we’ve published 3,768 posts (counting this one) and accumulated 22,220 comments.

I wanted to thank our writers as well as our many loyal readers, some of whom have been with us for years and some of which are newcomers. I am truly grateful for all that the writers and commenters have contributed to this work, and I am thankful that God has allowed us to do this for so long.

Thank you all, and Happy New year.

Pilgrim

Angry Arminians.

For the past several weeks I’ve been addressing my concerns about behavioral and interpersonal interaction among Christians and the inevitable negative affects this ungracious conduct breeds.

I’ve addressed issues such as the hypocrisy of Christians (found here), caustic Calvinists (found here), and the cannibalism of “elite” Christian bloggers devouring their perceived lower class counterparts (found here).

This week I am addressing one more issue: Angry Arminians. And what better way to tackle this issue than to reprint an e-mail (verbatim and in its entirety) that I recently received in the DefCon reader mailbag?

I have read your blog for 2 years. I don’t know why. Every time I read a post, I feel physically sick. My soul weeps at how you blaspheme the nature of God. Your arrogance thinly veiled in self-righteousness. Your hate for your fellow man.

WE GET IT…God doesn’t love everyone, but he loves you. God didn’t send Jesus to die for everyone, just a select (including you). Because he chose you. Congratulations. If God is as you view him, I would rather spend eternity in hell. There is something wrong with all of you. I take the way you ruin the name of God very seriously, and so do many others. The god you purport to serve is NOTHING. you serve a tyrannical psychopathic egotistical monster of your own creation. because he isn’t real. this makes you weak and pathetic and masochistic. you are disgusting.

This is obviously not the way that most Arminians engage in a debate on the subject of God’s sovereignty; many remain gracious and kind in their debates but we must be honest, too many Arminians tend to get very hot under the collar whenever the Doctrines of Grace are proclaimed.

The vast majority of those who oppose what is commonly referred to as “Calvinism” do not disembowel their opponents with vitriolic diatribes like seen above, but many of them do get extremely angry.

The idea that God is actually sovereign over all His creation (including His human creations), and that He retains the right to wield that sovereignty over His creation as He sees fit (humans included) is oftentimes enough to send some Arminians into a rabid tizzy.

What the angry Arminian fails to comprehend, however, is that their loathsome disgust of the Doctrine’s of Grace is not actually toward those who hold to these doctrines, but instead, their disdain is ultimately with the Scriptures themselves and the God who inspired them. Arminians are simply kicking against the goads, for the Doctrines of Grace are biblical and have been taught throughout all of Scripture and church history (long before John Calvin was ever born).

There’s absolutely no need to be demeaning or to get enraged with one another when debating these issues. Neither caustic Calvinists nor Angry Arminians advance the gospel or glorify God when we’re engaged in bloody battles and vitriolic tirades with one another. We tend to show more patience with those in cults and false religions than we do with our own brethren. Absolutely no one is drawn to the gospel when they see displays like this . . .

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Colossians 4:6


Pharisees, leprous Samaritans, and other bloggers.

This post may not win me friends, and it may only make the sport of loathing me (and this blog) all the more attractive, but I am compelled to address a problem within the Christian internet community; a problem that doesn’t appear to show signs of ending anytime soon.

The problem I am speaking of is the increasing (and unnecessary) condescension and personal attacks from upper class Christians of the blogging world directed toward their lower class brothers and sisters.

This unsightly pock mark on the face of the Christian blogging world has risen to an alarming level and ignoring it –or hoping that it will soon run its course—simply won’t alleviate the problem. In this post I will be brutally honest (risking possible verbal retaliation and smears) but I hope and pray my words will be received in the spirit in which they are intended and will not actually contribute to the already inflamed derision among the caste system of Christian bloggers.

If anyone is offended by what may appear as an overly harsh rebuke or admonition (or some tongue-in-cheek), I apologize in advance, as my intent is not to offend, but the situation has boiled to such a level that pulling punches will serve no good in my appeal to see an end to this disadvantageous behavior.

I am also not deluded into believing my words will persuade all parties involved, but I do pray that it will cause at least a few of the combatants to pause and reflect on just how poorly attitudes and behaviors have gotten lately. I also pray that those involved will repent for the damage already done and then join me in calling a truce in this war among brethren.

To be fair.

I must begin by conceding that there are in fact some very angry, argumentative, and combative Christian bloggers out there who really need to reconsider the reason they blog. These bloggers (which comprise a very small minority) would do the cause of Christ and the gospel a service if they would consider taking a sabbatical to reevaluate their current spiritual state. (I have already addressed this issue in my previous post Caustic Calvinists.)

The fact is, these acidic bloggers are not representative of every Christian blogger out there who happens to find themselves outside the gates of the upper echelons of the blogging food chain, and I reject the efforts by some to lump all lower class apologist bloggers together as part of the seething minority.

But this post is not about them. This post is about the elitists who paint all inferior bloggers in cyberspace with the same broad brush as the few caustic bloggers.

My observations.

In my estimation most Christian bloggers fall into two main categories:

1). The hierarchical internet popes who see themselves as the only class of bloggers that are worthy, able, and enlightened enough to defend the faith and address the problems within the church.

To be analogous, I liken this growing elitist mentality to the Pharisees–not in the malicious way that critics apply the term as a way to stifle their opponents in a debate–but in the sense that, like the Pharisees, these bloggers strongly present themselves as the only ones worthy to deal with religious matters. All other bloggers are just not at the spiritual, educational, and intellectual level necessary to blog as the elites are, and thus, all other Christian bloggers would do best to leave the temple grounds and take their laptops with them.

2). The rest of the Christian aplogetics blogging world falls into the other category. These low-level mavens of the blogging world are what I analogously (and affectionately) refer to as the dreaded leprous Samaritans, those unclean pariahs not even worthy to blog alongside their premier blogging counterparts.

These oftentimes sincere and faithful bloggers are commonly referred to by their elitist superiors by the pejorative terms “watchbloggers” and “ODMs” (online discernment ministries), names strategically employed to marginalize them and their worthless contributions. The professionals view these gentile bloggers with utter contempt and–given the opportunity–would likely have those unkempt, vile dogs of cyberspace censured (if not tarred, feathered, flogged, and burned at the stake).

Friendly fire.

It’s true that not every menial blogger has been to seminary; it’s true that not every blogging serf has a master’s degree; it’s true that not every lower class blogger has had a book published; it’s true that not every peasant blogger has the greatest of depth in theological understanding; it’s true that not every amateur blogger has the following year booked up with speaking engagements around the nation, but does this mean that these grunts in the trenches of the battlefield have no right to exercise their freedom of speech as they write about the gospel, the faith, and their convictions, simply because they don’t say it exactly in the manner that the upper crust in the blogging world would?

Do these amateur bloggers really deserve all the loathing, condescension, and rancid vitriol that they’ve been increasingly receiving from these elites?

If we’re all truly in Christ then we’re all in this truth war together, but when the generals begin turning their cannons on the ground troops, the cause of Christ is sullied.

When the world gazes upon the bloody and battered mass of wounded warriors (many of which eventually succumb to the injuries inflicted on them by their comrades), the unbelieving snicker at us as they slip deeper into their self-assurance that all this friendly fire is simply more “proof” of the utter failure and futility of Christianity. Because, after all, Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. Unfortunately the world sees anything but this type of evidence when they visit some Christian blogs.

Ironically, oftentimes the subpar bloggers that the elite loathe the most are the ones who are linking to their sites, recommending their books, and posting their sermons.

The common goals of those in the truth war.

Aren’t we all unified under the same Lord with the same shared purpose of  glorifying God, spreading the gospel, and defending the faith from those who have crept in unnoticed?

All Christians are undeniably in this truth war (even if most professing Christians prefer to avoid controversies). And in spite of the seemingly vast chasm affixed between the upper-crust bloggers and their inferiorly-viewed lower-crust bloggers, they share much in common. Here, for your consideration, are just some of the commonalities that these two tiers of bloggers share:

– Both camps believe in the essentials of the Christian faith.

– Both camps believe in defending these essentials from the wolves who seek to subvert them.

– Both camps have a righteous indignation for false teachers that lead the sheep astray.

– Both camps have a passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ (the only means of salvation) to a lost and dying world.

– Both camps adhere to the God-glorifying Doctrines of Grace.

– Both camps rejoice, take comfort in, and proclaim the sovereignty of God over His creation.

– Both camps believe in the perspicuity and divine origin of the Scriptures.

– Both camps believe the Bible doesn’t contain the Word of God but is the Word of God.

– Both camps proclaim the Solas of the Reformation.

– Both camps have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for their sins.

In other words, both camps are comprised of actual, literal brothers and sisters in the Lord, members of Christ’s body, fellow Christians. And each of these bottom dwelling Christian bloggers that are loathed, smeared, dragged through the mud, and demeaned by other Christian bloggers are dear souls that have been redeemed by the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget not that those you deride are the Lord’s beloved bride, and will be sharing a seat at the table of the Lord’s marriage feast with you.

Enough is enough.

To the ostentatious bloggers of grandiose superiority, I am calling for a stop to this madness of public ridicule of fellow Christians who are in the same war fighting the same battles. Quit viewing them as too unsophisticated and unworthy to blog because their polemic is not to the same degree of eloquence or level of loftiness that you possess. I urge the generals to bear this in mind before their next public evisceration of a foot soldier on their theological bayonets of contempt.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are quietly opening new Kingdom Halls, Rome is quietly baptizing new converts, Mormons are quietly gaining more approval and legitimacy in the arena of public opinion, Emergents and liberals are quietly subverting the gospel, the anti-theists are quietly publishing more books questioning the existence of God, and Muslims are quietly planning their next mass-casualty attack in the name of Allah. And all of this is happening while the ones who hold the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ—the very gospel these souls trapped in their growing false religions so desperately need to hear—are  preoccupied in a pretentious battle of who’s allowed to blog or not.

Oh, how this is all to our shame!

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

Proverbs 17:14

Caustic Calvinists.

In the recent past I’ve attempted to address some of the concerns I’ve had with those who use defending the faith as a conduit to unleash a torrent of scathing attacks in harsh-toned debates and disagreements with those whom they’re in disagreement with.  I posted two such admonitions this past year: One was a sermon on combative Calvinists and the other was a short video on pride and defensiveness.

One of the biggest challenges for those engaging in online discussions and debates while defending the Christian faith (and the Doctrines of Grace) is the temptation to be harsh and snarky, and how easy it is to fall into that mindset without even trying.

Thankfully, this detriment-to-the-gospel type of blogging is the exception and not the norm, but even so, it still needs to be addressed.  

I am publishing this post as a check for all of us who engage in online apologetics, and pray that this will help to refocus us on the purpose of our blogging.

It would also be of great benefit if we ask others to critically review what we’re writing in posts and in comment threads, and be willing to take their opinions and criticisms with an open and graceful heart.

I seriously want you to take a moment to reflect on whether or not you are one of these venomous bloggers. We must all examine ourselves, our spirit, and our motivations, and the following questions may be a good start:

– Is the vast majority of what you are producing coming from a negative attitude, inciting unnecessary argumentative debates when kinder words would have sufficed and been more effective?

– Is your writing known more for its condescending tone than its content?

– Are your words bitter and acidic, or are they kind and salted with grace?

– Is your response to people who disagree with you snarky and vitriolic, or graceful and from a heart of love?

– Do you write for the sole purpose of seeking out someone who doesn’t hold to your views so you can have an opportunity to publicly disembowel them with your superior intellect, or do you put material out there to educate, encourage, help, and edify others while simultaneously contending for the faith?

– Do you look at those deceived by false doctrine with contempt, or do you grieve for them and seek to lovingly correct them lest they should eternally perish?

If you are taking pleasure in your abrasive monologues and predictably harsh dialogues, I beg you to check your spirit and reevaluate why you do what you’re doing.

For those of you who are not sure of what I am talking about, I offer the following samples from the blogging world, including the unnecessary practice of name calling (e.g. referring to Arminians as “Armidiots”):

“Took this illiterate Armidiot flunky a full week to devise this moronic non sequitur of a ‘comeback.’ . . . ‘a 2-ton jumping, screaming elephant in a tool shed is all but invisible to an Armidiot like yourself . . .’. God help me, I really, truly DISLIKE Armidiots, and would hate to think they are bound for the same Heaven as are Bible-believers. Let them simmer evermore in their infernal ‘Freewill Paradise.'”

And

“Not sure what, if anything, he is ‘smoking,’ but Roger Olson is a loose, slutty whore (spiritually speaking).”

And

“. . . your obstinate BLINDNESS to the most BASIC and ESSENTIAL facts is nothing short of wicked perversion. And it’s exactly what one expects from today’s Armidiot. I’m curious to know, ol’ scholar, which ‘strong Calvinist Bible College’ you slept through, and how in HELL you managed to pilfer a diploma from the stack before your expulsion.”

There truly is no place for name calling in our defense of the faith. As far as I’m concerned this is completely unacceptable behavior and has gone far beyond the scope of how a Christian apologist should be corresponding with believers and unbelievers alike.

This type of exchange is in no way beneficial or instructive to the target of these angry words nor is it edifying to anyone else who happens to read it. This kind of discourse in the name of Christ and sound theology is grieving and should rightly be condemned.

I appeal to the coarse and caustic Calvinistic Christians to quit bringing reproach on the gospel with such inflammatory and pungent speech.

I recently wrote about how Christians’ behavior breeds atheism, but is your caustic Calvinism breeding Arminianism? Is it repelling people from ever considering the Doctrines of Grace?