Is the Doctrine of Inerrancy an Essential Doctrine of Christianity?

I recently posted on the essential doctrines of Christianity, and I left out a doctrine that probably surprised many traditional Christians: inerrancy

The reason I left this doctrine out is because I was defining an essential doctrine as one that must be true for salvation.  A person does not have to believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and therefore inerrant, in order to be saved.  Many people have been saved in the history of the world without ever reading a Bible and even knowing what the word inerrant means.

However, the doctrine of inerrancy is an essential doctrine in another way.  If the Bible is not inerrant, then we lose our confidence in the doctrines that must be true for our salvation.  The Bible teaches that Christ is God, that He died on a cross for our sins, and that He was resurrected.  If the Bible has errors in it, then how can we know that these things are true?

Whenever I meet people who deny inerrancy, but they firmly believe Christ died for their sins, I ask them how they know that those verses in the Bible talking about Christ dying for their sins are true.  Maybe those are the very verses that are in error!  I have never heard a reasonable answer to this question.

Inerrancy provides the foundation for our knowing the revelation of God.  If you don’t affirm inerrancy, you can’t be sure of  the very gospel you claim to believe.  Inerrancy is the firm ground we stand on to affirm everything we believe about God.  Take it away, and you have two feet planted firmly in thin air.

From Islam to Christianity

I just saw a fascinating documentary on Fox, called Escape from Hamas,  about an up-and-coming leader of Hamas becoming disillusioned with the teachings of Hamas and radical Islam.  The documentary tells how he, Mosab Hassan, converted to Christianity and is now living in America and hoping to spread the word about the extremism within Hamas and radical Islam, and the hope that he found in Christ.  It is a riveting documentary that you don’t want to miss.

Fox plans on showing it several more times today and tomorrow, so set your DVR to record it.

What Do Evangelicals Think About Creation?

Som people believe that if you are an evangelical, then you must believe that God created the earth and the entire universe in a six day period of time, about 6,000 – 10,000 years ago.  In addition, you must believe that the entire universe was also created 6,000 – 10,000 years ago.  This view is known as young-earth creation, and it is certainly popular with many evangelicals.

However, it is not true that this is the only position that evangelicals take.  There are several other positions, such as the literary-framework view, revelatory-day view, alternate-day-age view, and gap theory.

Perhaps the leading contender to the young-earth view, among evangelicals,  is the old-earth or progressive creation view.  Proponents of old-earth creation view the events in Genesis 1 and 2 as real, historical occurrences, but they interpret the “days” in Genesis as long periods of time.  They endorse the findings of geology, astronomy, and physics, which date the earth at about 4.5 billion years old and the entire universe at about 13.8 billion years old.

Some evangelicals dismiss old-earth creation (truth be told, many aren’t even aware of it) because they believe it does not interpret Genesis literally, but that is not the case.  A literal interpretation simply means that a person interprets the meaning of a writing as the original author intended, taking into account the literary style and structure of the writing.

For example, almost all evangelical scholars believe that the events depicted in Genesis were written in the form of historical narrative, and not in the form of mythology or allegory.  Writers of mythology and allegory often provide clear textual queues that indicate those genres.   The text of Genesis, however, reads like a historical narrative.

Many well-known evangelical scholars, who believe that the creation events of Genesis are part of a historical narrative, have interpreted the “days” in Genesis as long periods of time, and not 24-hour days.   It is simply not true to claim that young-earth creationists are the only ones interpreting Genesis literally.  There are several possible literal interpretations of Genesis 1-2, and young-earth creation represents one of those possible interpretations.

There is a further point that needs making.  The age of the earth is not an issue that divides Christian from non-Christian.  It does not determine anyone’s salvation.  All of the views mentioned above assert that God created the universe in a supernatural way and that He created the first human beings in a supernatural way.  So let’s keep these disagreements in perspective.

Do Intelligent Design Theorists Really Use the Scientific Method?

A common criticism of ID is that its proponents are not interested in the scientific method and, in fact, are setting out to hinder science and the scientific method by answering “God” whenever a tough scientific problem surfaces.

This criticism, however, is false. Read this  brief article written by an ID proponent to see that they do indeed use the scientific method, just like any other scientist would.

What Are the Essential Beliefs of Christians?

As an apologist, I am often asked about all sorts of religious groups.  Some of these groups are clearly not Christian and have never claimed to be Christian.  Some of them, such as Christian Science, don’t claim to be Christian, but their name causes confusion.  And some of them claim to be Christian, but they are not.

In addition, since there are so many denominations in the Christian world, I am often asked what these various denominations believe and whether they are true Christians.  Determining whether a group is Christian is made simpler if we can agree on what the essential doctrines of Christianity are.  If we agree on that list, then we can compare the doctrines of religion X and see whether it lines up.

My answer to this question of the essential doctrines of Christianity is based heavily on an article written by theologian Norman Geisler in the Christian Research Journal, volume 28, number 6.

First, what I mean by an essential doctrine is a doctrine that directly affects the subject of salvation.  There are at least a couple of other essential doctrines that do not directly affect salvation that I will consider another time.

There are three stages of salvation for the believer: justification (freedom from the penalty of sin), sanctification (freedom from the power of sin), and glorification (freedom from the presence of sin).  Each of the essential doctrines deals with one of these.

In the area of justification, here are the essential doctrines:

  1. human depravity
  2. Christ’s virgin birth
  3. Christ’s sinlessness
  4. Christ’s deity
  5. Christ’s humanity
  6. God’s unity
  7. God’s triunity
  8. the necessity of God’s grace
  9. the necessity of faith
  10. Christ’s atoning death
  11. Christ’s bodily resurrection

These 11 doctrines are essential for justification.  Now please understand, I am not saying one must explicitly believe all 11 of these doctrines to be justified.  These 11 doctrines must all be true in order for anyone to be justified.  The New Testament seems to teach that 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 all must be explicitly believed for justification.

What about sanctification?  There are two essential doctrines for sanctification:

  1. Christ’s bodily ascension
  2. Christ’s present high priestly service

Both of these must be true for the believer to be sanctified during this life.

Finally, glorification involves one essential doctrine.  This doctrine must be true if we hope to spend eternity with God.

  1. Christ’s second coming, final judgment, and reign.

So what makes a religious group non-Christian?  In my opinion, any religious group who denies one of these 14 doctrines has placed themselves outside of orthodox Christianity and cannot properly call themselves Christian.

Does that mean that a person inside that group cannot be saved and spend eternity with God?  No, because not all of these doctrines must be explicitly believed for a person to be saved.  However, a person who belongs to a religious group who is denying one or more of these doctrines should want to remove themselves from that group and find a group of Christians who uphold these essentials.

Truth Is What?

All truth is relative!

You can’t know the truth!

That’s true for you but not for me!

These are some of the most popular statements that float around our modern society.  Talk to any college or university student and you are likely to hear something  similar.  They seem to make truth out to be like your favorite sweater… that sweater is good for you but not for me.  Truth is talked about as if it is something that is different from person to person… completely relative.  Can this possibly be accurate?  Fortunately, the answer is no.

What is truth?  Quite simply truth is what “is”.  Truth is not like your favorite ice cream.  Truth is absolute.  Here are some facts about truth that I recently read in Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.

  1. Truth is discovered, not invented.  It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it.  For example, gravity existed prior to Newton.
  2. Truth is transcultural.  If something is true, it is true for all people, in all places and at all times.  2+2=4 in China, America, Australia, etc.
  3. Truth is unchanging.  Our BELIEFS about what is true will change from time to time but truth itself does not change.  When we discovered the earth was round our BELIEFS about the earth changed.  However, the earth itself has always been round.
  4. Beliefs cannot change a fact, no matter how sincerely we believe them.  One can SINCERELY believe the world is flat, but they will just be sincerely WRONG.
  5. Truth is not affected by a person’s attitude.  An arrogant person does not make a truthful message they share with you wrong.  A humble person does not make a wrong message they share with you right.
  6. All truths are absolute truths.  Even truths that appear to be relative are in fact absolute.  For example, I, Darrell, was cold yesterday at 2 PM.  Even for a person in China, it is still true that I, Darrell, was cold yesterday at 2 PM.

What all these add up to is one thing… contrary BELIEFS are possible but contrary TRUTHS are not.

So, what about the statements at the beginning of this post.   They are the latest thinking in society.  Are they TRUE?  No!!  They are self defeating.  We can turn them on themselves and easily see how illogical they are.

All truth is relative.  Is that a relative truth?

You can’t know the truth.  Do you know that to be true?

That’s true for you but not for me.  Is that statement true for you or is it true for everyone?

Think about it!!

Also, if you have a chance, I highly recommend I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.  It is a great book!!

Darrell

What Is Repentance?

This is a very important question to consider.  How repentance works in the life of an individual is determined by what they believe repentance to be.  Depending on it’s definition and application, it can either free one from bondage or be a legalistic tool which enslaves.

The LDS Church defines “True Repentance” as a step by step process which ends with the complete abandonment of the sin.  It is taught that if you “repent” of a particular sin and commit that sin again, the repentance was not “true” and was therefore, ineffective.  According to D&C 82:7  “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return”.  For example, let’s say I think an unkind thought about a neighbor and afterwards repent.  Then in 2 months when I think an unkind thought again ALL THE TIMES I HAVE THOUGHT UNKIND THOUGHTS RETURN!!  If that scares you, it should!  For, how many of us can say that we will never again…

  1. Lie
  2. Get angry
  3. Covet
  4. Mislead
  5. Skip a church meeting
  6. Think an impure thought
  7. Think poorly of our neighbor
  8. Gossip

Look back on the last month of your life… did you sin at all?  If so, how many times did you commit the same sin?  Did you go back and repent of all of them?  How about the ones you committed 2 months ago?  Did you Re-Repent of those?  How about the ones from two years ago? 10 years ago?

When you really think about this you can see how impossible it really is.  There is NO WAY we are going to be able to “truly repent” of all our sins.   According to LDS Doctrine then, we are all doomed because the “former sins will return” (D&C 82:7).   This lines up perfectly with Moroni 10:32 which I talked about in my previous post.   It says “…if ye shall deny yourselves of ALL UNGODLINESSTHEN is his grace sufficient for you.”   It is not until I deny myself of all ungodliness (“truly” repent of all my sins) that I can receive Christ’s grace.  IMPOSSIBLE!!

So, is this what repentance REALLY means?  Thank God because the answer is NO!  The word repent is translated from the Greek word “metanoeo”.  It is a combination of 2 Greek words which mean “change” and “mind”.  To repent is literally to change your mind.  It is what you do ONE TIME when you accept Christ as your Savior.  When you truly accept Christ as your Lord and Savior you “change your mind” and decide to follow Him and not the ways of the world.  There is no step by step process involved and it does not require the complete abandonment of sin.  We can’t do that… so where would the good news be if it were required?  

Once you have come to Christ good works will manifest themselves in your life… good works are the evidence of a saving faith.  A person who has received the gift of salvation will TRY to live a righteous life out of love for their Savior but they will not be perfect.  The glorious news of the gospel is that despite our imperfections, He has paid the price and we will go to be with Him at our death. 

Praise be to Christ!!

Darrell

What If There Is No God?

I think many people toy with some form of atheism at some point in their lives.  They wonder if all they were taught growing up is really true.  They don’t see God, they don’t hear from him, and they don’t touch him or smell him, so maybe he doesn’t really exist.

Wondering whether God exists, it seems to me, is perfectly rational and reasonable.  Most of us struggle with doubts, but we learn how to deal with those doubts, maybe by finding good answers to our questions, or even having an experience with God that reassures us.

Some of us, though, willingly turn those doubts into a strong and hardened form of atheism.  Granted, hardened atheists are a tiny percentage of the population (most surveys I’ve seen say it’s less than 5%), but there is still a larger percentage who are toying with the idea of no God.  It is to those people who are toying with atheism that I would like to speak. 

What if there really is no God?  What does that really mean?  I’m betting that many of us haven’t thought this through.  If there is no God, then there are real consequences for that viewpoint, and many hardened atheists who have rigorously examined their convictions would agree with me.  Here goes.

First, free will does not exist.  You are the consequence of random, natural processes, and therefore everything you say and do is determined at the atomic level.  You are not free to do anything.  Once science gets there, we will be able to predict everything you will say and do just by understanding the chemicals that make up your body and the surrounding environment.

Second, there is no absolute right and wrong.  Morality is a human invention which changes with time, place, and people.  What’s wrong today may be right tomorrow.  Transcendent moral laws are illusory because right and wrong are constantly changing.  We, as individuals, and as groups of individuals, decide what we call right and wrong.  When we die, our children will decide, and so on.  Slavery used to be right, but now it’s wrong.  Who knows, maybe it’ll go back to being right again some day, if there is no God.  

Third, there is no ultimate justice.  Those who commit heinous crimes in this life are never punished for those crimes in the next life, because there is no next life!  This is it.  Not to mention the fact that without a foundation for moral law, as seen above, how can anything be declared unjust? You have to know what is just before you can know what is unjust, but what is just is constantly changing.  If there is no God, then there is no ultimate justice for Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.  Maybe they were just doing the best they could given the time and place they lived.  Who is to say?

Fourth, as already mentioned, there is no life after death.  You will never see your deceased loved ones again.  Once you die, you will decompose into a pile of inanimate chemicals and never be conscious again.  As they say in the world of sports, it’s one and done.

Fifth, there is no ultimate meaning to life.  Your life has no cosmic purpose.  You aren’t here to fulfill any kind of mission.  The only meaning you can have in your life is the meaning you subjectively give yourself.  That meaning, however, is just a psychological comfort, a pleasant illusion to keep you going.  It really doesn’t matter if you live or die.  Everything you accomplish in this life will eventually be destroyed and forgotten. 

Sixth, there is no purpose to human history.  All of the things that we as humans have achieved will eventually be lost when our species dies out.  History is not headed in any particular direction.  There is no plan for the human race.  Eventually, we will wipe ourselves out or some comet will smash into the earth.  Either way, human history is a dead end.

Still toying with atheism?

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