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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    December 2014
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  • #6 Post of 2014 – Are Believers Judged After They Die?

    Posted By on December 19, 2014

    throne of judgment #6 Post of 2014   Are Believers Judged After They Die?Many Christians believe the answer to this question is “no.” Of course, they would be wrong. The New Testament clearly claims that all people, believers and unbelievers, are judged for their works after they die. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, lays out the biblical evidence for this view. Alcorn describes the first judgment, after we die, as the judgment of faith:

    When we die, we face judgment, what is called the judgment of faith. The outcome of this judgment determines whether we go to the present Heaven or the present Hell. This initial judgment depends not on our works but on our faith. It is not about what we’ve done during our lives but about what Christ has done for us. If we have accepted Christ’s atoning death for us, then when God judges us after we die, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin. Salvation is a free gift, to which we can contribute absolutely nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

    Most Christians are aware of this first judgment, but forget about the second, or final, judgment.

    This first judgment is not to be confused with the final judgment, or what is called the judgment of works . Both believers and unbelievers face a final judgment. The Bible indicates that all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of their lives (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). It’s critical to understand that this judgment is a judgment of works, not of faith (1 Corinthians 3:13-14).

    Alarm bells are going off in many Christian heads at this point. How can he say that Christians are judged for their works? After all, our faith in Christ is all that counts, not our works. Are we under the Law again? Why did Jesus die if our works matter? Read on….

    Our works do not affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward. Rewards are about our work for God, empowered by his Spirit. Rewards are conditional, dependent on our faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2: 26-28; 3:21). Unbelievers face a final judgment of works as well. The Bible tells us it will come at the great white throne, at the end of the old Earth and just before the beginning of the New Earth (Revelation 20:11-13).

    Believers, then, are judged on the works they performed for God after becoming believers. The greater the faithfulness, the greater the rewards in Heaven. The Bible doesn’t offer easy-believism, the idea that you trust Jesus one day, and then continue living as you did before. That concept is totally and completely contrary to everything the Bible teaches.

    #7 Post of 2014 – Did Christians Steal from Egyptian Mythology?

    Posted By on December 17, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt

    Generally I don’t post videos as I’m more of a fan of the written word, but sometimes I run across something that is just too good to not post. Check out this video from Lutheran Satire that does an accurate and funny debunking of the folks out there who claim that Christianity was just copied from older Egyptian myths.

    #8 Post of 2014 – What Does “Inherit the Kingdom” Mean in 1 Cor 6:9-10?

    Posted By on December 15, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt

    Marriagesupper #8 Post of 2014   What Does Inherit the Kingdom Mean in 1 Cor 6:9 10?Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson recently cited 1 Cor 6:9-10 when asked about sin in a GQ article. Here is the passage:

    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

    What everyone has been focused on is the fact that “homosexual offenders” is included in this passage. The apostle Paul is clearly giving a list of vices that should be avoided, with homosexual behavior included in the list.

    But what hasn’t been discussed, at least not that I’ve seen, is what “inherit the kingdom of God” means. This phrase appears twice in these two verses, and clearly Paul is claiming that not inheriting the kingdom of God is a bad thing.

    Some Christians will argue that this phrase refers to entrance into heaven, and that it is targeted at non-Christians who are not saved, but I think this is wrong. We know that a thief did go to heaven – the thief on the cross. In addition, common sense tells us that many people who have truly professed faith in Christ have subsequently been drunk, or slandered, or stolen. Right? So it follows that true Christians have also committed the rest of the sins in Paul’s list.

    If “inherit the kingdom” doesn’t mean enter into heaven, then what does it mean? Theologian Joseph Dillow provides the answer in his book The Reign of the Servant Kings. Listen to what he says.

    [Paul] is not warning non-Christians that they will not inherit the kingdom; he is warning Christians, those who do wrong and do it to their brothers. It is pointless to argue that true Christians could never be characterized by the things in this list when Paul connects the true Christians of v. 8 with the individuals in v. 9.

    It is even more futile to argue this way when the entire context of 1 Corinthians describes activities of true Christians which parallel nearly every item in vv. 9-10. They were involved in sexual immorality (6:15); covetousness (probable motive in lawsuits, 6:1); drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:21); dishonoring the Lord’s table (1 Cor. 11:30–for this reason some of them experienced the sin unto death); adultery (5:1); and they were arrogant (4:18; 5:6).

    Yet this group of people that acts unrighteously, . . . and that is guilty of all these things has been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11)! They were washed and saved from all those things, and yet they are still doing them. That is the terrible inconsistency which grieves the apostle through all sixteen chapters of this book.

    His burden in 6:9-10 is not to call into question their salvation (he specifically says they are saved in v. 11) but to warn them that, if they do not change their behavior, they will, like Esau, forfeit their inheritance. As Kendall put it, “It was not salvation, then, but their inheritance in the kingdom of God these Christians were in danger of forfeiting.”

    This, of course, does not mean that a person who commits one of these sins will not enter heaven. It does mean that, if he commits such a sin and persists in it without confessing and receiving cleansing (1 Jn. 1:9), he will lose his right to rule with Christ. Those walking in such a state, without their sin confessed, face eternal consequences if their Lord should suddenly appear and find them unprepared. They will truly be ashamed “before Him at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

    According to Dillow, then, “inherit the kingdom” in the context of 1 Cor 6 is referring to rewards in heaven, not entrance into heaven. The Christian who persists in committing the sins enumerated by Paul will lose her rewards in heaven.

    This is no small threat. Christians face losing a seat at the wedding feast, forfeiting their reign with Christ, and not hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the judgment seat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give up any of those things.

    #9 Post of 2014 – Why Did God Create Adam and Eve if He Knew They Would Sin?

    Posted By on December 12, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    Some people wonder why God created human beings if he knew we would reject him and bring sin into the world.

    The answer seems to be that God desired to have a relationship with creatures that would freely love him.  Only creatures with a moral conscience and an ability to freely make moral choices could have authentic relationships with God.  Rocks can’t love God, and neither can squirrels.

    Unfortunately, it may be actually impossible for God to create free creatures like ourselves and not have some of them choose to reject Him.  Even though God knew that some people would freely reject him, He felt it was the worth the cost to give others the chance to freely love him.  This world is better than a world full of inanimate objects or robots who can’t freely choose.

    #10 Post of 2014 – Is Christian Salvation Unjust or Unfair?

    Posted By on December 10, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    Scales of justice2 #10 Post of 2014   Is Christian Salvation Unjust or Unfair?Many non-Christians have accused the Christian God of being unjust or unfair because he asks that they recognize their sinfulness before the Creator-God, recognize their need for forgiveness, and then place their trust in Jesus Christ and his atoning death. They argue that this is just too narrow, too exclusive. God, the argument goes, is simply unjust and unfair.

    But if we look at the biblical data, we see that regardless of how exactly God determines who will spend eternity with him, his selection is eminently just and fair.

    First, we know God is loving and merciful. See this blog post on God’s love in the Old Testament and this post on God’s mercy in the Old Testament. There are several more passages that can be highlighted:

    “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Ps. 145:8-9).

    “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:44-48).

    “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4).

    “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

    Second, we know that God is just and morally perfect. See this post on God’s moral perfection in the Old Testament. But also consider these passages:

    “Shall not the God of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25)

    “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Ps 98:9).

    “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail” (Zeph. 3:5).

     “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Acts 17:31).

    “God will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom. 2:6).

    Time and again the Bible reassures us that God will deal lovingly, mercifully, and justly with all of humanity. As Glenn Miller notes in his excellent article, “Notice, that there will be NO excuse of ‘not fair’ with God’s judgment…no one will argue that their situation is Unfair!” When we all stand before God, not one of us will dare to accuse God of unfairness or injustice.

    What Is Evil?

    Posted By on December 8, 2014

     What Is Evil?We know that evil cannot exist without good. We know that evil is not the opposite of good, like yin and yang. But what exactly is evil?

    Philosopher David Oderberg answers this question in an article entitled “The Metaphysics of Privation.” Oderberg first explains that evil is the absence of good.

    But what is good? Oderberg writes that good is “a kind of fulfillment, the completion of some tendency of a thing.” If good is the fulfillment of a thing, then evil is the lack, or privation, of that fulfillment. Oderberg expands on the meaning of privation:

    It is the absence of something on which some aspect of the world has what we might call a prior claim or title but where the claim or title need not be construed evaluatively. So, for example, if you have cooked me dinner, and I ask for a third helping of ice cream but you cannot give me any because you’ve run out, then in the technical sense of privation used here, my inability to have more ice cream is a privation, not a mere absence, because I had a prior desire for it.

    The privation becomes an evaluative matter when we ask, say, whether I really need a third helping; since I don’t, I haven’t been deprived of it, in the evaluative sense, though I am still subject technically to a privation as opposed to a mere absence. The latter would be the case if you served me cheese for dessert and, without even a thought on either of our parts about ice cream, in fact I did not eat ice cream but cheese.

    So your inability to have more ice cream when you want more ice cream is a privation, but it is not necessarily evil. What makes a privation evil?

    [W]ithin privations there are those that are essentially evaluative and those that are not. Deafness and disease are privations we correctly regard as bad or evil. The essentially evaluative privations are, precisely, the evils. What they have in common is that they are all privations of good. Since – I am assuming – good is a kind of fulfillment evil is the privation of a kind of fulfillment. The relevant kind of fulfillment belongs to the nature of a thing – how it is supposed to function given the kind of thing it is.

    Given that evil is privation of the good, Oderberg, after further analysis, concludes with three propositions about evil (actually there are five, but space does not permit me to deal with the last two).

    1. Evil is real. By real, Oderberg is denying that evil is illusory or unreal, a position pantheists take.

    2. Evil is a privation. As we discussed above, evil is a lack of good.

    3. Privations are not real. What Oderberg means by this proposition is that evil is not a real thing like the computer I am typing on is a real thing, or the cup of tea I am sipping is a real thing. But privations are real in the sense that they have cognitive being. They really exist in the minds of intellectual beings. Privations are beings of reason.

    Does This New Argument for Scientism Work?

    Posted By on December 5, 2014

    scientism Does This New Argument for Scientism Work?It’s been a while since we’ve beat up scientism on the blog, so I figured we were due again. It’s an “ism” that just keeps rearing its head over and over and thus needs to be slapped around over and over. Philosopher Edward Feser, in one of his blog posts, reviews yet  another version of the argument for scientism that he then critiques. Here is the argument:

    1. The predictive power and technological applications of science are unparalleled by those of any other purported source of knowledge.
    2. So science is a reliable source of knowledge.
    3. Science has undermined beliefs derived from other purported sources of knowledge, such as common sense.
    4. So science has shown that these other purported sources of knowledge are unreliable.
    5. The range of subjects science investigates is vast.
    6. So the number of purported sources of knowledge that science has shown to be unreliable is vast.
    7. So what science reveals to us is probably all that is real.

    Feser grants premise 1 and 2, but thinks that premise 3 is not sustainable (in the post he explains why). However, in order to move the critique along, he grants, for the sake of argument, premise 3, and then proceeds to look at premises 4-7.

    [P]remise (3) simply doesn’t give us good reason to believe step (4).  To see why not, suppose we replace “science” with “visual experience” in these two steps of the argument.  Visual experience has of course very often undermined beliefs derived from other sources of knowledge.  For example, it often tells us that the person we thought we heard come in the room was really someone else, or that when we thought we were feeling a pillow next to us it was really a cat.

    Does that mean that visual experience has shown that auditory experience and tactile experience are unreliable sources of knowledge?  Of course not.  To do that, it would have to have shown that auditory experience and tactical experience are not just often wrong but wrong on a massive scale and with respect to a very wide variety of subjects.  And it has done no such thing.  But neither has science shown any such thing with respect to common sense.  Hence (3) is not a good reason to conclude to (4).

    But do premises 4 and 5 support premise 6? Not really.

    (4) and (5) also don’t give us good reason to believe (6).  Suppose we label the range of subjects science covers with letters, from A, B, C, D, and so on all the way to Z.  Even if science really did show that other purported sources of knowledge were unreliable with respect to domains A and B (say), it obviously wouldn’t follow that there were no reliable sources of knowledge other than science with respect to domains C through Z.

    Feser, referring to his book Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Editiones Scholasticae) Does This New Argument for Scientism Work?, summarizes the case against scientism:

    In any event, a theme that is developed at length throughout my book is that there are absolute limits in principle to the range of beliefs that science could undermine, and these are precisely the sorts of beliefs with which metaphysics is concerned.  The book aims in part to set out (some of) the notions that any possible empirical science must presuppose, and thus cannot coherently call into question.

    Or put another way, science is built on a foundation of mathematics, logic, reliability of the senses, truth-telling, language, uniformity of nature, and so on. Without that foundation, science crumbles to the ground in a heap of debris.

    Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?

    Posted By on December 1, 2014

    Stairs to Heaven Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?We’re told in Scripture that in Heaven there will be no sin and no evil of any kind. This leads to the question of human free will, because Adam and Eve were free to choose between good and evil, and as humans alive on earth now, we also have the ability to choose between good and evil. So, it seems that if we have no ability to choose evil in Heaven, then we will have an inferior freedom to what we have now. Is that the case?

    Only if you can argue that a freedom to do evil is ultimately superior to a freedom to only do good. Adam and Eve were given the ability to choose evil as a test. The testing continues today, as each human being is allowed to choose good and evil every day of their lives. Why does God test us? Because giving mankind the ability to choose evil is the greatest way to teach us how awful sin really is. The testing grows us. Consider what James says in his letter to the church:

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.… Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2–4, 12)

    Eventually, though, the testing must end. In Heaven the results of our earthly testing will be confirmed. Those who chose God will be given the ability to only choose good, which is a far superior form of freedom then the ability to choose good or evil. Theologian Norm Geisler, in his Systematic Theology, Vol. 3: Sin/Salvation Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?, explains the difference between these two kinds of freedom:

    It is important to note that heaven is not the destruction of true freedom but the fulfillment of it. On earth, we choose whether we want to do God’s will or our own; once the choice is made, our destiny is sealed at death (Heb. 9:27). Then, if we have chosen God’s will instead of our own, the freedom to do evil vanishes and we are free to do only the good. Since the freedom to do evil is also the freedom to destroy oneself, it is not perfect (complete) freedom.

    The essence of true freedom is self-determination; true freedom is the kind that God has (and, in eternity, believers will have), namely, the self-determined ability to choose only the good. Likewise, in hell, evil persons no longer under the influence of God’s grace will be solidified in their will to do evil.

    Heaven, then, is the completion of our freedom, not a negation of it. All true believers yearn to have the Lord’s Prayer fulfilled: “Your will be done, [O God,] on earth as it is in heaven” and “lead us not into temptation” (see Matt. 6; Luke 11). Therefore, when God brings us to heaven, where this will be true, He will not have eliminated our freedom but instead fulfilled it. In summary, the loss of the ability to do evil is not an evil of any kind; it is, rather, a profound good.

    God has perfect freedom, and God is not able to choose evil. When we are in Heaven, we will finally have this same kind of freedom. The ability to choose evil, then, is a lesser form of freedom that will be discarded once we’ve joined God for eternity.

    In Heaven, Will We Be Aware of Bad Things on Earth?

    Posted By on November 19, 2014

    paul road to damascus In Heaven, Will We Be Aware of Bad Things on Earth? How can we enjoy Heaven if we are aware of all the evil that persists on earth? This is a good question, and Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, offers a biblical answer. Alcorn believes that believers who are in Heaven right now are aware of what’s going on down here on earth. He reasons that

    God knows exactly what’s happening on Earth, yet it doesn’t diminish Heaven for him. Likewise, it’s Heaven for the angels, even though they also know what’s happening on Earth. In fact, angels in Heaven see the torment of Hell, but it doesn’t negate their joy in God’s presence (Revelation 14: 10).

    Abraham and Lazarus saw the rich man’s agonies in Hell, but it didn’t cause Paradise to cease to be Paradise (Luke 16: 23-26). Surely then, nothing they could see on Earth could ruin Heaven for them. (Again, the parable does not suggest that people in Heaven normally gaze into Hell.) It’s also possible that even though joy would predominate in the present Heaven, there could be periodic sadness because there’s still so much evil and pain on Earth.

    What can we learn from passages about Jesus in Heaven?

    Christ grieved for people when he was on Earth (Matthew 23: 37-39; John 11: 33-36). Does he no longer grieve just because he’s in Heaven? Or does he still hurt for his people when they suffer? Acts 9: 4-5 gives a clear answer. Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Saul asked who he was, he replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

    Doesn’t Christ’s identification with those being persecuted on Earth suggest he’s currently hurting for his people, even as he’s in Heaven? If Jesus, who is in Heaven, feels sorrow for his followers, might not others in Heaven grieve as well?

    An objection that might be raised at this point is Rev 21:4, which says, ““He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” How do we deal with this verse?

    Alcorn reminds us that there are two Heavens described in Scripture, the present Heaven where all who have departed reside right now, and the eternal Heaven, or the New Heaven and New Earth, which will not arrive until after Christ’s second coming. Rev 21:4 is clearly referring to the eternal Heaven, or the New Heaven and New Earth.

    It’s one thing to no longer cry because there’s nothing left to cry about, which will be true on the New Earth. But it’s something else to no longer cry when there’s still suffering on Earth. Going into the presence of Christ surely does not make us less compassionate. . . .

    Christ’s promise of no more tears or pain comes after the end of the old Earth, after the Great White Throne Judgment, after “the old order of things has passed away” and there’s no more suffering on Earth. The present Heaven and the eternal Heaven are not the same. We can be assured there will be no sorrow on the New Earth, our eternal home . But though the present Heaven is a far happier place than Earth under the Curse, Scripture doesn’t state there can be no sorrow there.

    So how is it that those in the present Heaven can bear the burden of witnessing all of the evil and suffering still taking place on earth?

    [P]eople in Heaven are not frail beings whose joy can only be preserved by shielding them from what’s really going on in the universe. Happiness in Heaven is not based on ignorance but on perspective . Those who live in the presence of Christ find great joy in worshiping God and living as righteous beings in rich fellowship in a sinless environment. And because God is continuously at work on Earth , the saints watching from Heaven have a great deal to praise him for, including God’s drawing people on Earth to himself (Luke 15: 7, 10).

    But those in the present Heaven are also looking forward to Christ’s return, their bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the fashioning of the New Earth from the ruins of the old. Only then and there, in our eternal home, will all evil and suffering and sorrow be washed away by the hand of God. Only then and there will we experience the fullness of joy intended by God and purchased for us by Christ at an unfathomable cost.

    Will We Remember Our Earthly Lives When We’re in Heaven?

    Posted By on November 17, 2014

    memory ln Will We Remember Our Earthly Lives When Were in Heaven?According to author Randy Alcorn, in his book Heavenwe surely will. Alcorn starts building his case from the contents of Rev 6.

    As we’ve seen, the martyrs depicted in Revelation 6 clearly remember at least some of what happened on Earth, including that they underwent great suffering. If they remember their martyrdom, there’s no reason to assume they would forget other aspects of their earthly lives. In fact, we’ll all likely remember much more in Heaven than we do on Earth, and we will probably be able to see how God and angels intervened on our behalf when we didn’t realize it.

    Alcorn points out the fact that we are promised, in Luke 16:25, to be comforted in Heaven about the bad things that happened to us on earth. That comfort implies that we will remember what it is we are being being comforted for.

    Additionally, there is the fact that we will give an account of our earthly lives after we die (see 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 12:36). Alcorn argues that

    [g]iven our improved minds and clear thinking, our memory should be more— not less—acute concerning our life on Earth . Certainly, we must remember the things we’ll give an account for. Because we’ll be held accountable for more than we presently remember, presumably our memory will be far better.

    But perhaps his strongest argument for memory of our earthly lives is the doctrine of eternal rewards. Alcorn explains:

    The doctrine of eternal rewards hinges on specific acts of faithfulness done on Earth that survive the believer’s judgment and are brought into Heaven with us (1 Corinthians 3:14). In Heaven, the Bride’s wedding dress stands for “the righteous acts of the saints” done on Earth (Revelation 19:7-8). Our righteous deeds on Earth will not be forgotten but “will follow” us to Heaven (Revelation 14:13).

    The positions of authority and the treasures we’re granted in Heaven will perpetually remind us of our life on Earth, because what we do on Earth will earn us those rewards (Matthew 6: 19-21; 19:21; Luke 12: 33; 19: 17, 19; 1 Timothy 6:19; Revelation 2:26-28). God keeps a record in Heaven of what people do on Earth, both unbelievers and believers. We know that record will outlast our life on Earth— for believers, at least until the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5: 10); for unbelievers, right up until the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-13), just preceding the coming of the new heavens and New Earth. For those now in Heaven, these records of life on Earth still exist.

    Alcorn concludes by reminding us of the importance of our memories to our personalities:

    Memory is a basic element of personality. If we are truly ourselves in Heaven, there must be continuity of memory from Earth to Heaven . We will not be different people, but the same people marvelously relocated and transformed. Heaven cleanses us but does not revise or extinguish our origins or history. Undoubtedly we will remember God’s works of grace in our lives that comforted, assured, sustained, and empowered us to live for him.

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