Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Did Jesus Become "Lord?"

(This is a question I decided to take up posted on Answering Muslims.)

Hi this is Brianman...I am on my gap year before I study medicine, here on a spiritual journey to find my true religion.

I have some questions:
When people say Jesus is the Lord, in what way do they mean that? Do they mean he is one of the trinity when they say he is the Lord?


So, where did this belief come from that Jesus is the Lord (as God)? Where was this philosophy derived from? i.e one of the disciples? Paul? Jesus' authentic words?

My response:
Wow, there is a lot of ground to cover as far as your questions go! I am glad, though, that you feel comfortable enough to ask.

To give context to my answer, you must understand a little about early Christianity. The first Christians were Jews. That is, Jesus was an observant Jew, and all of His followers were observant Jews. Jesus lived and taught everything according to the Jewish understanding of God, the Law, and the Prophets. Now, given that every observant Jew is a monotheist, to call someone “Lord” is a very significant thing indeed, because “Lord” is a title that people reserve for exceptional people, like nobility, heads of state, and perhaps high religious authority. Given that Jesus was not nobility, a head of state, or even an ordained Jewish rabbi, and that no rabbi was ordinarily called “Lord,” that the Gospels would refer to Jesus as “Lord” signifies that they gave Him some exceptional amount of authority. Why did they do this?

From the outset, the Jewish public ascribed authority to Him. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matt. 7:29) He was set apart from teachers and religious leaders of the Law.

Next, He went further by teaching as one who could change the Law of Moses. Read my points here (start where you see the numeral 1). At this juncture, Jesus begins to offend Jewish monotheism. Not only did Jesus lead and teach, He claimed authority to add to and change the Law, something no one can do except God alone. Jesus treads on Jewish sensibilities and blasphemes according to the Law, and it ultimately leads Him to His crucifixion.

Now, what are the options? The only thing observant Jews can do is write Jesus off as a blasphemer cursed by God. So His disciples abandoned Him, ran, and hid for their lives; however, just 50 days later, they came out boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the long-prophecied Messiah and preached worship of Him, the Lord! They claimed they and 500 others had seen Jesus alive and resurrected and began spreading this news all over Israel, Judea, and beyond. Now, there are details in the runup to these events that I have not mentioned, but the practice of worshiping Jesus began with Jesus’ own disciples, who later became the Apostles to the Christian church. The disciple Thomas is famous for his confession (after doubting the resurrection) to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28)

What details I have not mentioned are all the ways in which the New Testament speaks of Jesus as God’s Son and the Divine Judge that determines the eternal destiny of all of humanity. In keeping to the vein of Jewish monotheism, no one can do that except God alone. A good study of the self-understanding of Jesus from the Bible should help you fill in those details.

You mentioned the Trinity. The theology of the Trinity was not formulated in the language we have today at the time of Christ or in the early church. However, the Bible makes certain these three propositions: God the Father is God. God the Son (Jesus) is God. The Holy Spirit is God. From these ideas in the New Testament, Christians had to articulate a doctrine that is both faithful to monotheism and the fact that God has revealed Himself as three persons. So that is what we have: one God who manifests as three persons. Do not be troubled if you find this hard to understand!

My best advice to you to start off, Brianman, is simply to read the New Testament. Ask a Christian to explain parts that you find you need clarification. You seem relatively unfamiliar with the content of Christianity, so I recommend that you read the book More Than a Carpenter (Josh McDowell) too, as a good introduction.

I hope I have answered some of your questions here. It’s been a pleasure!

What I Don't Understand About Muslims

Again and again, I hear Muslim apologists claim that the Qu'ran forbids any compulsion in one's choice of religion. Apparently, though, this is a one-way door, for someone who is seen to be a Muslim cannot convert to another faith without much threat of compulsion. The following two responses are irreconcilable to me, prompted by a question from a young girl wanting to convert from Islam to Christianity.

Respondent 1:
"(Say to the unbelievers) To you be your Way, and to me mine." (The Noble Quran, 109:6)

"Say, 'The truth is from your Lord': Let him who will believe, and let him who will reject it:.." (Noble Quran, 18:29)

"Let there be no compulsion in religion..." (Noble Quran 2:256)

"But if the enemy incline towards peace, thou shall also incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all there is)." (Noble Quran, 8:61)

"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors. (The Noble Quran, 2:190)"

"God does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. God loves just dealers. (The Noble Quran, 60:8)

Respondent 2:
i cannot believe, thant you want to do this!

can you not see that very many people these days convert to islam?
people realise it is the only right religion, you should be happy about what you are.

and to be honest i would blame your parents because they have not brought you up as a proper muslim.

and if you think that everything you are doing is a sin, then you should try to see what you should do about the qur'an! go to the mosque. and stop doing all the foolish things like showing bits of your body, not praying, "thinking you are christian"....

i am ashamed for you.

you should ask for forgiveness because Allah will never forgive you if you convert! you will go to hell!

i do not know what to do with people like you, i just dont understand how i can help you, because you are mentallly disabled.

and yes allah will not be happy with you but no-one know hwta he will do to you, but you will pay for it if you convert

Anyone care to shed some light on this?

Monday, October 26, 2009


Mm, you’d think this might be related to some kind of sex act, but you’d be wrong. Well, almost. Just dropped into my facebook feed is Dana Loesch’s shout-out of Westboro Baptist Church’s latest interstate foray. Next stop: St. Louis.

That’s right, the “church” that has become famous for its “God Hates Fags” posters and picketing of funerals of slain U.S. soldiers is coming here to speak from their unclean lips outside a few public and private high schools in the Metro area. As a Christian and a defender of the faith, not only does this make me go through the roof, it brings me unspeakable dismay.

Righteous Anger
The Bible says I don’t have purely righteous anger. It’s true; I do not. But this is as humanly righteous an anger that I can possibly muster, so I’m going with that. The folks from Westboro are perverts, plain and simple. They want to criticize what they see are moral wrongs in America--fine, only they’re not maligning moral wrongs—they’re maligning people who, for the most part, have nothing to do with the seat of their issue, for instance fallen soldiers and high school students.

“God hates fags?” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God hates anyone. It does say that God hates the sin we commit and the sin-filled attitudes we carry with us through life. Well, since that covers the sum of humanity from the dawn of man, I guess if God hates fags, then God hates protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church, isn’t that right?

To be sure, I have little objection to comparing aspects of American society to Sodom and Gomorrah. However, this is what I do see: the theological assumptions underlying Westboro’s detestable protests are just as bad as their behavior. In fact, they are downright Islamic in their understanding of God. According to widely available online summaries of the Islamic conception of God, Westboro’s viewpoint, visually displayed in their “God Hates ___” posters, clearly shows striking similarity to the attitudes of Allah, as espoused by the Qu’ran. In the words of Dr. William Lane Craig, Islam has a “morally inadequate concept of God…God loves not the unbelievers; God loves not evildoers….the proud.…transgressors….the prodigal….the treacherous; God is the enemy to unbelievers,”(1) and has mercy only on those who believe and do righteous deeds. It seems that the person himself in a state of wrong behavior garners the actual hate of God.

Now, I don’t judge this theological view too harshly. It is a perfectly natural position to take as a natural outworking of a natural religion made by natural man, who is, naturally, sinful. It usually takes little effort to get most people to agree that the unconditional love of God shown upon people who do bad things seems itself foolishness and a moral travesty, yet this is a core aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a follower of Jesus, I am thoroughly convinced that this first misstep in theology firmly places the demonstrators of Westboro outside the camp of orthodox Christianity. To accuse them of defaming the name of Christ is too obvious. To denounce their attitudes and activities is too tame. Therefore, I do not hesitate to call this “church” a cult to which all Christian churches should distance themselves.

Righteous Angle
There will probably be some provocative media attention given to Westboro’s road trip to St. Louis. I wonder if the local media will ask orthodox Christians how they view Westboro Baptist Church? They would if they cared to balance the situation, but why am I concerned at this point?

I see a possible window of opportunity. In Westboro Baptist Church, we have a fair opportunity to study the effects of worldliness and perversion dressed in Christian language and Bible verses, something that Christians have paid far too little attention. We can examine what happens to people who hold to morality without God. We can point out the dangers that such groups have in hindering the message of Jesus and should humbly reflect on ways orthodox Christians have acted similarly in different ways.

Finally, I accept that true Christians are often put in the awkward and unenviable position of being seemingly ‘caught in the middle.’ Too many decent people will view the acts of the Westboro group with derision and make an implication of sorts toward true Christian churches. Others may pressure Christians to say that such groups have no valid point whatsoever, which isn’t true. The window of opportunity just gets bigger as I survey the options. Now is the right time for all followers of Jesus to make the gospel known in the clarity that we’ve all wished we had time for, ironically (and maybe pop another ugly pimple on the face of American Christianity). Let's get crackin'.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Problem of Evil/Suffering

The following is a quasi-dialogue I cut and pasted from Yahoo! Answers.

Original question posted on Yahoo! Answers:
I'm coming up with a huge final project for my speech class on why God doesn't exist, and there has to be 3 main points. I'm really SERIOUS about this, and I REALLY want to get everybody thinking.So far my first point is the PROBLEM OF EVIL, my second point is the PROBLEM OF CONTRADICTION, and I need one more. What's another REALLY good point that can get these fable believing kids to re-think their patterns?

My reply:
D, I’d like to know why you think the problem of evil and suffering is such a problem for theism. In the absence of God and knowledge of good, how would you know what is evil in the first place? Right now, you assume that evil takes place and object to it (i.e. slavery is evil). You wouldn’t know that unless you have an objective standard of moral conduct by which you think all human beings should live, and that can only be the case if God exists. If God does not exist, there is no way to judge anything to be really evil. If God does not exist, evil is a point of view, and suffering is just happenstance. If the problem of evil is a problem for theism, then it is more of a problem for atheism.

Second, I’d like to know more about this “contradiction” you talk about.

Rebuttal from another person answering the question (abbreviated for length):
Evil - Research shows that the reason humans struggle with emotion to find equitable solutions is pinpointed the region of the brain called the insular cortex, or insula, which is also the seat of emotional reactions.The fact that the brain has such a robust response to unfairness shows that sensing unfairness is a basic evolved capacity. The emotional response to unfairness pushes people from extreme inequity and drives them to be fair. This observation shows our basic impulse to be fair isn't a complicated thing that we learn.It therefore fully illustrates that all humans have morals controlled by the brain and that Christians are entirely wrong to try and claim morals as their own!!!!

But Christians found a way round it!! Government statistics show that christians are vastly over represented in prisons for sexual, violent and fraudulent crime!!The Catholic church is paying millions in compensation for the sex/pedophile crimes of their priests alone!! Christians are vastly over represented in the divorce courts!!

Atheists have the intellect to see through the conditioning and escape into the real world!!Agnostics have the intellect to see through the conditioning but lack the courage to throw of the conditioning entirely.

Unfortunately, Yahoo! Answers only allows one-time replies, so here is my reply to the above commenter's statements:
The conclusions drawn here don’t follow from anything stated as premises at all. Your arguments don’t SHOW anything except that you have made an ad hoc conclusion to the fact that human beings do believe in objective morality. The atheist still cannot explain how he knows some things are objectively evil (i.e. slavery), only that he feels that it is somehow.

Reducing the problem of evil/suffering to a problem of unfairness doesn’t help the atheist argument, because basing a sense of morality on emotions and feelings in no way makes anything objectively evil. In fact, thinking like that only argues for the opposite, that morals are relative, and then the atheist has the problem of explaining why he thinks that slavery is really wrong and therefore God doesn’t exist.

Fraud, sex crimes, pedophilia –the only way you could say that these things are evil is if you know that they are evil (even divorce?), not say that you have some evolved capacity to feel that such actions are “inequitable.” Be that as it may, some people feel differently and think it is perfectly fine to commit pedophilia (NAMBLA, anyone?). I see that you think there is some kind of evil perpetuated on the gay community by Christians. If you really think that this is unjust (not simply “inequitable”), then you are appealing to some objective standard that exists apart from anyone’s feelings in the brain. On what basis would you judge those who oppose your particular sense of morality?

Atheists have the intellect to see through the conditioning and escape into the real world!!

How can this be if everything about an atheist is evolved only to survive and perpetuate genes? As it is, there is no advantage in survivability to believing that God does not exist, so how could anyone evolve out of religious belief? How could anyone evolve into it? Ultimately, if naturalistic evolution is the game of life, there is no “real world” that anyone needs to concern himself with, only survivability.

The problem still remains for the atheist who wishes to appeal to the problem of evil/suffering as an argument against the existence of God. In identifying moral injustices in the world to which he accuses God of not being there to rectify, he places himself in the position of actually making an objective moral judgment, something he cannot do without the the objective standard that only God can give. Therefore, God must exist in order for an atheist to make this kind of judgment! As C.S. Lewis says,

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? - Mere Christianity

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's not "rape" unless you say it twice in a row.

The obvious denial of the circumstances by outspoken celebrities in support of movie director Roman Polanski cannot be starker than Whoopi Goldberg’s televised “rape-rape” statement on The View a few weeks back. Apparently, many Hollywood celebs say that the judicial system should overlook his physical, emotional, and psychological assault on a little girl (a crime) just because he happened to successfully run away from his trial sentencing (another crime) for 30 years.

But what can anyone say in defense of the obviously indefensible? Redefine harm? Make lame excuses? Indeed, like marrying a rich ailing widow for her fortune, there is no cliché that gets more repeat performances than the classic movie star wave-off after being caught in sexual immorality.

Just in case anyone is wondering, "pleading guilty to having sex with a minor" equals statutory rape EQUALS rape-rape-rape-rape.