Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog
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    If you want to find out whether Christianity fares well in the arenas of science, philosophy, ethics, and history, then you should subscribe to this blog. Our purpose is to show that Christianity is the most intellectually rich worldview that exists. Why is that? Because it is true. Every week, we will post 2-3 articles which should take you no more than 5 minutes to read. We believe that your Christian walk will be greatly enriched or, if you are not a Christian, you will come to see that Christianity is a most reasonable faith.
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  • Does the Bible Say that God Blesses Everyone Equally?

    Posted By on April 23, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    Some Christians seem to think so, but nowhere in the Bible does God promise that every believer will receive the same material rewards on earth.  In fact, the Bible tells us that each believer will even receive different rewards in heaven.

    God loves every person, but God’s love does not guarantee that he will bless each of us in the same manner. God blesses in ways specific to each person. We are given unique parents, siblings, experiences, material wealth, heath, intelligence, and talents.

    For example, in Genesis 25, when God blesses Jacob and makes him the father of the Israelites (instead of Esau), that is His prerogative. It is silly to compare one person’s blessings to another. In fact, covetousness is a sin! The Bible tells us to be content with what we are given, not be jealous of other people’s blessings.

    Commentary on Genesis 25 (Jacob and Esau)

    Posted By on April 21, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    jacob esau birthright Commentary on Genesis 25 (Jacob and Esau)God has promised Abraham that his descendants would be blessed with great numbers and with the promised land of Canaan. In turn, they would also be a blessing to all mankind. In previous chapters, we learned that Abraham’s son, Isaac, was the child of the promise. But now that Isaac has married Rebekah, we want to know who will receive the blessing from God after Isaac has died. Which child of Isaac will the covenant pass to?

    In verses 19-21, we see that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, is barren (just like Sarah was). She cannot conceive a child. Isaac prays for Rebekah and 20 years later she becomes pregnant. Barren wives becoming pregnant, is a repeating theme in the Bible. The biblical writers want us to understand that these births require the supernatural intervention of God. Without God, the plan of redemption could not occur. Remember that the Israelites are reading these words before they enter the promised land. They are being reminded that God intervenes and He is in control of the outcome.

    In verse 22, we learn that Rebekah is having a rough pregnancy. It seems as if, first of all, there are multiple children in her womb, and second of all, that they are battling each other! The situation is so serious that Rebekah asks God to tell her what is happening.

    In verse 23 God tells Rebekah that there are two children in her womb. Each child will be the father of a nation, but these nations will be separated from each other. They will be at war, in other words. One nation will be stronger than the other.

    In the ancient near east, the oldest child always received a double portion of the inheritance, and thus the younger children were always expected to serve the oldest. But when God tells Rebekah about the twins inside of her, he flips this relationship completely around. In her case, the older child would serve the younger. God’s choice is not always man’s choice.

    In verses 24-26, we learn that the first baby to come out is named Esau and the second to come out is named Jacob. The Israelites, who were reading these words 600 years after these events occurred, would have immediately known which two nations would come from Esau and Jacob. Esau’s descendants would become the nation of Edom, and Jacob’s descendants would become the nation of Israel. The father of the Israelites was Jacob, and the father of their enemies in Edom was Esau, Jacob’s brother.

    Verses 27-28 tell us that Jacob and Esau were quite dissimilar. Because Esau was an outdoorsman, Isaac preferred him. Jacob, on the other hand, was more of a home-body, and his mother Rebekah preferred him.

    In verses 29-34, a famous biblical incident occurs. Esau returns from an outdoor foray, and he is famished. Jacob has prepared a lentil soup and Esau desperately wants some. Taking advantage of the situation, Jacob demands that Esau give up his birthright in order to get some of the soup. Surprisingly, Esau agrees. The chapter ends with the following words: “So Esau despised his birthright.”

    This incident is significant for a few reasons.  First, we learn how it is that Jacob, the second-born, is granted the status of being first-born, and how he thus inherits the double portion from Isaac. Second, since the firstborn would be the child of promise – the child that receives the covenant promises passed down from Abraham to Isaac – we see how Jacob becomes the father of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Third, and tragically, we see that Esau did not seem to care about the covenant promises, and thus thought it nothing to give away his birthright.

    Commentary on Genesis 22 (The Command to Sacrifice Isaac)

    Posted By on April 18, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    abraham and isaac 579770 Commentary on Genesis 22 (The Command to Sacrifice Isaac)In Genesis 22 we read one of the most shocking passages in the entire Bible. In the preceding chapters, we learned that God had promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, and through this son and his descendants, all people of the earth would be blessed. The descendants of this son would also receive the Promised Land as an inheritance from God. In Genesis 21, the son was born, and his name was Isaac.

    As chapter 22 opens, the reader discovers that God is going to test Abraham. The fact that we are told that God is testing Abraham is a major clue that this passage is all about Abraham’s faith and obedience. We are stunned when we see what the test is: God tells Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

    Abraham certainly remembers the covenant that God made with him. He knows that Isaac is the child through whom the promises will be fulfilled, so what does he do? The text says simply, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.”

    In verses 3-5, Abraham travels to Moriah with Isaac and some of his servants. Once he arrives in the vicinity, he instructs his servants to stay behind. Notice what he tells his servants, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham assures the servants that both he and Isaac will return. This is a clue that Abraham is confident that God will somehow spare Isaac.

    As Abraham and Isaac travel to the mountain, Isaac speaks up and asks where the lamb for the burnt offering is. Abraham answers that God will provide. Again, the reader sees a clue that Abraham knows that God will not break the covenant He made with Him.

    The climax of the passage occurs when Abraham has bound up Isaac. Just as Abraham reaches for the knife, the angel of the Lord calls out to him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

    Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket. He sacrifices the ram instead of Isaac, and then names the place “The Lord will provide,” because He indeed did provide.

    In verses 15-19, God reiterates the covenant He has made with Abraham. He reassures him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore, that his descendants will take possession of the land promised to them, and that through his offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.

    We would be remiss if we did not point out the foreshadowing in this story of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many scholars believe that the mountain where Isaac was to be sacrificed is located where the temple would be built in the city of Jerusalem. This is where Jesus would be sentenced to die some 2000 years later. Just as Abraham did not withhold his one and only son, neither did God withhold his one and only son, Jesus.

    What Are the Implications of the Halo Effect?

    Posted By on April 16, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    In the previous post, we looked at the halo effect, as explained by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow What Are the Implications of the Halo Effect?. We saw that the halo effect causes us to overweight our first impressions of a person so that subsequent impressions are largely influenced by those first impressions.

    If we like a person when we first meet them, then we will consistently look for reasons to like everything about them as time goes on. If we don’t like a person when we first meet them, then we will consistently look for reasons to not like anything about them as time goes on.

    The halo effect has many implications for apologetics and evangelism. Say you want to discuss the gospel with someone. If that person already sees you as likable, based on their positive initial impressions of you, then when you present the gospel message, they will most likely be receptive.

    If, however, the person with whom you want to discuss the gospel dislikes you, based on their initial negative reactions to you, then they will most likely reject anything you say to them about Christianity. They will simply assume that you are wrong about everything because of the halo effect.

    I have had many skeptical visitors to the blog over the years who, after interacting with me initially, decide that they just don’t like me. In their minds, I lie, I don’t understand evidence and rational thinking, and I’m just not someone who can be trusted. How do I know? Because they tell me. Once these people have formed their initial opinions, I know that no matter what I say to them, no matter how I say it, they will never accept anything coming from me. This is the halo effect.

    On the other hand, there are people who interact with me and immediately like me; they find me to be trustworthy and reasonable. With those people, the halo effect works in my favor. They are quite willing to hear what I have to say, even when we don’t agree on everything.

    If a person doesn’t like me, for whatever reason, they are not going to listen to what I have to say about the gospel. I can rest assured, however, that God will bring along someone else who that person does like. There is usually no point in me banging my head against the halo effect to change that person’s impression of me. They have formed their opinion and it is probably not going to change, at least not without substantial effort on my part and theirs.

    I think the halo effect is one reason that Billy Graham was such an amazing evangelist. Most people, after first seeing or listening to him for just a few minutes, immediately like him. There is just something about him that people like. The halo effect, undoubtedly, helped him bring thousands and thousands of people to Christ.

    Alas, we all can’t be Billy Graham. This is a hard pill to swallow for an apologist or evangelist, but swallow it we must. Most of us know at least some people, even in our families,  who just don’t like us a great deal. The fact is, we probably cannot reach those people, but, we do need to reach those who do like and trust us. They are ready to hear what we have to say.

    What Is the Halo Effect?

    Posted By on April 14, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    200px Thinking, Fast and Slow What Is the Halo Effect?It has nothing to do with the popular video game, but like confirmation bias, it is a concept you need to understand because it impacts all of us, and we are mostly unaware.

    Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow What Is the Halo Effect?, describes the halo effect.

    If you like the president’s politics, you probably like his voice and his appearance as well. The tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person— including things you have not observed— is known as the halo effect. The term has been in use in psychology for a century, but it has not come into wide use in everyday language. This is a pity, because the halo effect is a good name for a common bias that plays a large role in shaping our view of people and situations. It is one of the ways the representation of the world that System 1 generates is simpler and more coherent than the real thing.

    Kahneman provides a concrete example:

    You meet a woman named Joan at a party and find her personable and easy to talk to. Now her name comes up as someone who could be asked to contribute to a charity. What do you know about Joan’s generosity? The correct answer is that you know virtually nothing, because there is little reason to believe that people who are agreeable in social situations are also generous contributors to charities.

    But you like Joan and you will retrieve the feeling of liking her when you think of her. You also like generosity and generous people. By association, you are now predisposed to believe that Joan is generous. And now that you believe she is generous, you probably like Joan even better than you did earlier, because you have added generosity to her pleasant attributes.

    Real evidence of generosity is missing in the story of Joan, and the gap is filled by a guess that fits one’s emotional response to her. In other situations, evidence accumulates gradually and the interpretation is shaped by the emotion attached to the first impression.

    Impressions of a person are gained over a period of time, but the halo effect causes us to overweight first impressions over later impressions. Here is the problem stated:

    The sequence in which we observe characteristics of a person is often determined by chance. Sequence matters, however, because the halo effect increases the weight of first impressions, sometimes to the point that subsequent information is mostly wasted.

    Early in my career as a professor, I graded students’ essay exams in the conventional way. I would pick up one test booklet at a time and read all that student’s essays in immediate succession, grading them as I went. I would then compute the total and go on to the next student. I eventually noticed that my evaluations of the essays in each booklet were strikingly homogeneous. I began to suspect that my grading exhibited a halo effect , and that the first question I scored had a disproportionate effect on the overall grade.

    The mechanism was simple: if I had given a high score to the first essay , I gave the student the benefit of the doubt whenever I encountered a vague or ambiguous statement later on. This seemed reasonable. Surely a student who had done so well on the first essay would not make a foolish mistake in the second one! But there was a serious problem with my way of doing things. If a student had written two essays, one strong and one weak, I would end up with different final grades depending on which essay I read first. I had told the students that the two essays had equal weight, but that was not true: the first one had a much greater impact on the final grade than the second.

    In the next post, we will look at some implications of the halo effect.

    Why Are the Poorest Countries Poor?

    Posted By on April 11, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    poor rule Why Are the Poorest Countries Poor?Not enough education, not enough access to credit, not enough foreign aid, not enough access to contraception. Nope. According to a paper written by political scientists Gary Cox, Douglass North, and Barry Weingast, the root cause of poverty is violence.

    Cox, North, and Weingast write:

    Indeed, we show that violence is surprisingly common throughout the developing world, including the richest developing countries. The median number of years between violent regime changes in the poorest half of the world’s countries is seven years; at twelve and a half years, it is not much higher in the richest developing countries. In contrast, the median number of years between violent regime change in the richest decile of countries is sixty years.

    If you take the poorest half of countries in the world, their governments are violently overthrown every 7 years! The richest 10% of countries in the world only experience violent government overthrow every 60 years.

    The authors continue:

    Many scholars and practitioners of development associate the problem of violence mainly with failed states, such as Somalia or the Congo. Unfortunately, the problem is far more widespread; violence and violence potential are endemic to all developing countries.

    The authors argue that stable governments are able to coordinate and mobilize large amounts of capital and coordinate large numbers of people to establish economic conditions that can enable a nation to prosper, but if government leaders are always under threat of violence, then they will never work to create these conditions. Basically, the threat of violent regime change paralyzes them.

    In thinking about this conclusion, that violent regime change is what holds back economic prosperity in developing countries,  I can’t help but recall the words of Paul in Romans 13:1-5:

    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

    God has decreed that human governments are a tool to keep peace and to bring justice. Stable governments, as a component of God’s common grace, help ensure that violence is minimized, that people aren’t constantly fearing for their lives.

    For those of us who are blessed to live in the upper 10% of countries who have experienced only peaceful regime changes over several decades, we must thank God. Even though we may not particularly support the policies of those in leadership, they are there to keep the peace. Remember that God is using them.

    What Is Confirmation Bias?

    Posted By on April 9, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    200px Thinking, Fast and Slow What Is Confirmation Bias?Confirmation bias is a concept you need to understand because it impacts all of us, and we are mostly unaware.

    Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow What Is Confirmation Bias?, describes confirmation bias in the context of a person being presented with a statement that they can choose to believe or not believe. Kahneman begins, “The initial attempt to believe is an automatic operation of System 1 , which involves the construction of the best possible interpretation of the situation. Even a nonsensical statement . . . will evoke initial belief.” (emphasis added)

    Kahneman explains that unbelieving is an operation of System 2, but we already know that System 2 requires additional cognitive energy to get engaged. So what does this mean?

    The moral is significant: when System 2 is otherwise engaged, we will believe almost anything . System 1 is gullible and biased to believe, System 2 is in charge of doubting and unbelieving, but System 2 is sometimes busy, and often lazy. Indeed, there is evidence that people are more likely to be influenced by empty persuasive messages, such as commercials, when they are tired and depleted.

    And now comes the concept of confirmation bias:

    The operations of [System 1] associative memory contribute to a general confirmation bias. When asked, “Is Sam friendly?” different instances of Sam’s behavior will come to mind than would if you had been asked “Is Sam unfriendly?” A deliberate search for confirming evidence, known as positive test strategy, is also how System 2 tests a hypothesis.

    Contrary to the rules of philosophers of science, who advise testing hypotheses by trying to refute them, people (and scientists, quite often) seek data that are likely to be compatible with the beliefs they currently hold. The confirmatory bias of System 1 favors uncritical acceptance of suggestions and exaggeration of the likelihood of extreme and improbable events.

    Unless we are paying close attention and engaging System 2, our bias is to believe what we are told. System 1 will pull memories and ideas out of our mind to confirm whatever is being presented to us. It is only when we pause, think, and consider what is being said, that System 2 can start to methodically test what is being presented to us.

    As someone who reads a tremendous amount of anti-Christian material, I am aware of this process happening to me all the time. I will read statements that say, in effect, “This aspect of the Christian worldview is totally wrong,” and my initial reaction, if I don’t have my mind really engaged, is almost always to agree! In fact, if I just uncritically read any author, I will find myself wanting to agree with most of what the author is saying.

    I don’t think this reaction is all bad, though. The best way to understand another person’s viewpoint is to immerse yourself in their ideas as best you can, and try to see the world as they see it. If you stop to critically analyze every sentence, you will quickly exhaust yourself and never see as the other person sees.

    So my recommendation is to let System 1 have its way when you are reading new material, at least for a while. Once you’ve uncritically read enough to understand the main point of the author, then go back and bring System 2 into the game. Analyze, critique, question what you’ve read.

    The situation where System 1 can really be dangerous for a person is when that person only reads material that already confirms their previous beliefs, and reads without ever engaging System 2 to analyze, critique, and question what they’ve read. If this happens over and over again for years, you have the making of a dogmatic and stubborn individual, someone who is rarely thinking about what they believe.

    Why Do We See Causality All Around Us?

    Posted By on April 7, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    200px Thinking, Fast and Slow Why Do We See Causality All Around Us?Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow Why Do We See Causality All Around Us?, describes the concept of intentional causality. According to Kahneman,

    Your mind is ready and even eager to identify agents, assign them personality traits and specific intentions, and view their actions as expressing individual propensities. Here again, the evidence is that we are born prepared to make intentional attributions: infants under one year old identify bullies and victims, and expect a pursuer to follow the most direct path in attempting to catch whatever it is chasing.

    Intentional causality is contrasted with physical causality. Physical causality is perceived when we see physical objects interacting with each other, such as one billiard ball hitting another and causing it to move.

    Kahneman assigns the ability of human beings to see both kinds of causality to System 1 and believes there might be an evolutionary reason for why System 1 is so ready and adept at seeing both intentional and physical causality in the world around us.

    The experience of freely willed action is quite separate from physical causality. Although it is your hand that picks up the salt , you do not think of the event in terms of a chain of physical causation. You experience it as caused by a decision that a disembodied you made, because you wanted to add salt to your food. Many people find it natural to describe their soul as the source and the cause of their actions.

    The psychologist Paul Bloom, writing in The Atlantic in 2005, presented the provocative claim that our inborn readiness to separate physical and intentional causality explains the near universality of religious beliefs. He observes that “we perceive the world of objects as essentially separate from the world of minds, making it possible for us to envision soulless bodies and bodiless souls.”

    The two modes of causation that we are set to perceive make it natural for us to accept the two central beliefs of many religions: an immaterial divinity is the ultimate cause of the physical world, and immortal souls temporarily control our bodies while we live and leave them behind as we die. In Bloom’s view, the two concepts of causality were shaped separately by evolutionary forces, building the origins of religion into the structure of System 1.

    These two kinds of causality are important to understand, for they stand in the center of the battle between two major worldviews: atheism and theism. Atheists affirm physical causality, but deny intentional causality (they claim it is just an illusion and that only physical causality is really operating). Theists affirm both physical and intentional causality.

    Almost every debate about the origin of the universe, or the fine-tuning of the physical constants in the universe, or the design of biological organisms, comes down to whether you believe that intentional causality is real or illusory. There is no doubt that most human beings believe that both are real, and that this belief is hard-wired into us, but that doesn’t settle the debate.

    For those who want to claim that the concept of intentional causality is not real because it is produced by evolution, that argument doesn’t fly. Where the ability to see intentional causality came from is not directly relevant to whether there really are intentional causes.  Pressing this claim would be a case of the genetic fallacy. The source of an idea cannot tell you whether an idea is true or false.

    And besides, if you believe evolution caused human beings to see intentional causality, then you must also believe that evolution caused human beings to see physical causality, and almost nobody wants to say that physical causality is unreal.

    Why Are Old Testament Sacrifices Incapable of Completely Dealing with Sin? Part 2

    Posted By on April 2, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    altar Why Are Old Testament Sacrifices Incapable of Completely Dealing with Sin? Part 2In part 1, we started to look at why animal sacrifices of the kind specified in the Old Testament Law are incapable of completely dealing with human sin once and for all. First, the sacrifices were limited in their moral efficacy, and second, the sacrifices were limited in scope to certain kinds of personal sins.

    Biblical scholar Duane Lindsey, in The Bible Knowledge Commentaryprovides three more reasons why they weren’t completely effective.

    Third, the sacrifices were limited in purpose to the covenant preservation and renewal of a redeemed people. The Levitical sacrifices were a part of the worship of a redeemed people in covenant relationship with their God. Corporately, and perhaps for the most part individually, the occasion of the slaying of the Passover lamb and the application of its blood to the doorposts in Egypt were outward expressions of inward faith that signaled the regeneration and justification of individual Israelites.

    The subsequent sacrificial system dealt ideally with worship and covenant renewal, not initial salvation. It was comparable to the New Testament believer’s experience of 1 John 1:9, not to the sinner’s experience of John 3:16. . . .

    Fourth, except for the Day of Atonement ritual, the sacrifices were limited in scope and duration to one sin per sacrifice. The forgiveness granted was real though temporary (in the sense that each sin required another sacrifice). Thus while God accepted the sacrifices for the removal of guilt in the case of the sin being dealt with, such temporary stays of divine wrath did not result in the permanent purging of a person’s conscience (Heb. 10:2).

    Fifth, the efficacy of sacrifice was not inherent in the animals sacrificed or in any or all parts of the sacrificial ritual. God provided atonement and forgiveness in view of the all-sufficient sacrifice that Jesus Christ would offer on the cross. Christ’s death was “a sacrifice of atonement” by which God paid in full for the forgiveness which He had extended before the Cross (Rom. 3:25).

    In other words, the Levitical sacrifices were validated in the mind of God on the basis of Christ’s death as the one truly efficacious Sacrifice for all sin, the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; cf. 1 Peter 1:19–20). The efficacious value of the sacrifices was therefore derivative rather than original. It is in this sense that the author of Hebrews asserts, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Nevertheless the benefits experienced by the Old Testament believers were just as real as the clothing which is worn by a 20th-century credit-card purchaser whose account has not yet been paid in full.

    Lindsey summarizes, “The Levitical sacrifices were efficacious both for restoring the covenant relationship and (when offered in faith) for the actual forgiveness of particular sins, but this efficacy was derivative, needing to be validated by the one all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ on the cross.” Once Christ’s sacrifice occurred, the animal sacrifices were no longer needed.

    Why Are Old Testament Sacrifices Incapable of Completely Dealing with Sin? Part 1

    Posted By on March 31, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    altar Why Are Old Testament Sacrifices Incapable of Completely Dealing with Sin? Part 1Although virtually no Christians advocate a return to the sacrifices enumerated in the Law, especially in the Book of Leviticus, we should still ask ourselves why this system was not sufficient to completely deal with the sins of mankind.

    Duane Lindsey provides a very helpful explanation of the issues in The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Lindsey first notes that the sacrifices did accomplish something. Atonement for sins is mentioned several times in Leviticus. According to Lindsey,

    [S]acrificial atonement involved the actual removal of the guilt and punishment for the particular sin(s) involved. The broad scope of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement . . . extended this principle to include “all the people” (Lev 16:33) and “all their sins” (v. 22), that is, “all the sins of the Israelites” (v. 34). The complete forgiveness of the Israelites’ sins for the past year is further described in terms of cleansing from sin in verse 30.

    But Lindsey notes that there were several limitations of these sacrifices that made them unable to finally and completely deal with mankind’s sin problem.

    First, the sacrifices were limited in their moral efficacy. Since empty ritualism was never an acceptable option to God, a truly acceptable sacrifice must have been prompted by genuine faith and moral obedience to the revealed will of God (26:14–45, esp. v. 31; Pss. 40:6–8; 51:16–17; Prov. 21:27; Amos 5:21–24; Heb. 10:5–10; 11:4, 6).

    Sacrifices that were not brought in faith were perhaps sufficient at times for restoring ceremonial cleanness and meeting civil requirements (e.g., the restitution connected with the guilt offering), but did not really please God because they were empty formality. . . .

    Second, with the possible exception of the Day of Atonement ritual, the sacrifices were limited in scope to certain kinds of personal sins. Theologically they did not atone for the sin nature, or for the imputed sin of Adam. Nor did they even include willful acts of sin which were committed in defiance of God (cf. Num. 15:30–31, and comments on Lev. 4:1–2). Therefore Levitical sacrifice was not a complete and final scheme whereby all forms of sin could be removed.

    It was mainly concerned with sins of ignorance, accident, carelessness, and omission, including sins of ritual defilement and misdemeanors that violated property rights. Sins for which there was no individual sacrifice were those done in defiance of the Lord and His commands—willful violations of the Ten Commandments (except minor violations of the eighth and ninth commands), willful disregard for ceremonial regulations, and any other violations of covenant relationship between Israel and the Lord. Such sins could be immediately forgiven only on the basis of unqualified grace in response to faith and repentance (cf. Pss. 32; 51). Otherwise they awaited the cleansing of the Day of Atonement ritual.

    We’ll look at three more limitations of the Levitical sacrifices in part 2.

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