Hebrews 11:1-3 on Six-Day Creation

This article, by Rev. Williamson, is reblogged with permission from The Aquila Report.

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Hebrews 11:1 gives us an inspired definition of true (saving) faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” According to this definition true faith (faith as God has defined it) is concerned with two categories of things:Hebrews 11 on 6 day

  1. “things hoped for” and
  2. “things not seen.”

Furthermore, according to this definition, faith is the source of assurance and conviction concerning both of these categories of things.

THINGS HOPED FOR

What, then, are some of the “things hoped for” in our Christian faith? To name a few:

  1. The visible bodily return (parousia) of Jesus Christ.
  2. The bodily resurrection of the dead.
  3. The judgment of the whole human race.

Since God alone knows the future it is obvious that three these things (and any other future things) can be known by us in only one way. That way is by God telling us in words what is going to happen in the future. The most brilliant scientist cannot know anything at all about any of these three things in any other way than the way you and I can know them. Therefore he cannot speak with any more authority on these things than you or I can as Bible believing people

THINGS NOT SEEN

Parallel to “the things hoped for” which can only be known by faith, are “things not seen.” One such thing of great importance is the creation of the universe. Creation was not “seen” by human eyes. Adam was created last, on the sixth day, so even he wasn’t an eye-witness of these acts of creating. Therefore Adam himself — and all the rest of the human race — could only have reliable knowledge about God’s work of creation if he revealed such information to them in words.

He has revealed them to us in Genesis 1-2.

The most brilliant scientist has no access to information about creation beyond what God has said in the Bible. That is why Hebrews 11:3 says “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

In other words, in both instances — with respect to future things and past things unseen by human observers — there is only one source of knowledge or understanding. That source is what God says in words in the Bible.

The most brilliant scientist is therefore brought down to the same humble level as any other person when it comes to assured knowledge of creation.

TWO THINGS TO REJECT

Since the truth about creation is found in the Bible alone, two things that are often said to stand in the way of believing in six-day creation must be firmly rejected. One is the claim that scientific evidence in the world itself proves that it is old (meaning that it took a long time to make it). The other claim is that one can hold on to biblical faith and yet allow for evolution.

1) We must reject claims that the world is old

When something is created instantly it has the appearance of age. This clearly seen in two of the miracles of Jesus: creating wine at the wedding feast at Cana, and creating food to feed the 5,000.

If it were possible to go in one of our imaginary ‘time machines’ to visit that wedding feast in Cana, and if a sample of that newly made wine could be taken and whisked back to the famous FBI forensic lab in Washington D.C., those world-renowned scientists would surely say that ‘it took at least 100 years to make wine of this quality.’

And they would be right if they were thinking it was wine made by the usual process! But that is just the point: this wine was not made by ‘the usual process’—it was made by the supernatural power of Jesus, with the appearance of age.

2) We must reject that evolution and the Bible are compatible

Evolution teaches us to believe that the things we see in the world today have evolved out of other things. It teaches that one thing can evolve out of another thing. But God says “that which is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

When Paul stood on Mars Hill in Athens he knew he was facing a people who had once known the true God, but he also knew they did not like the God they originally knew. So they became foolish: turning away from God to worship and serve the creature instead of the creator (Rom. 1:25).

The Greeks had once honored a supreme God whom they called Zeus. But, as Aristophanes put it, “vortex drove out Zeus and came to reign in his place.” Vortex was a Greek name for ever-swirling change. I also read somewhere of a later Greek Philosopher who already said—2,000 years ago—that “the worm, striving to become man, mounts up through all the spires of form” (the equivalent of the modern idea of evolution). How true the wise words of Solomon who said “there is nothing new under the sun!” (Eccles. 1:9) What we face today, in our American culture, is the very same God-denying apostasy, in principle, that Paul faced on Mars Hill.

What we need today in Presbyterian and Reformed Churches is a new surge of faith as God himself has defined it—faith created in us by the word of the wonder-working God of creation as well as redemption.

Is this not the message of Psalm 33?

Let all the earth Jehovah fear
Let all that dwell both far and near
In awe before him stand.

For, lo, he spoke and it was done
And all, with sovereign power begun,
Stood fast at his command.

Conclusion: there is no good reason to abandon—or to qualify by ingenious means so as to water down or weaken—the straight-forward confession of the Westminster divines who said in the Westminster Confession of Faith 4:1, Larger Catechism Q/A 15, and Shorter Catechism Q/A 9, that God “created all things of nothing, in the space of six days, and all very good.”

G. I. Williamson is a retired minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, living in the Orange City, Iowa area. He is the author of study guides on the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Matthew 18:15-20 Does Not Always Apply

Today we’re adding to our collection a pertinent blog entry from One Christian Dad (Ryan Smith). In it he corrects a misconception about the use of Matthew 18. He’s Given us permission to re-host it.

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

disciplineWhen one is struggling with depression, negative comments and emails really suck. They tend to stick in your head and the other ‘positive’ emails get forgotten as the negative ones take over. But that it is one of the things about being a publicly outspoken Christian… I have to take the knocks as well as the praise. 🙂

accusation-2-660x350Recently I was accused of sin by posting publicly my article, “I Just Broke up With Matt Walsh.” It was met with some praise, but there was also some criticism. The main accusation was that I had not followed Matthew 18 in dealing with Matt Walsh. The accusation was made privately, by a couple different people across the Canadian Reformed Denomination – the church I am a member of. As with any accusation of sin, it is good to examine oneself in light of scripture and not simply brush it off. Especially when it comes from more than one person.

So I spent some time reading what I had written. I asked some people in the Church to examine it and I spent some time in the Word. One of the blessings I have is that there are a number of pastors and others who are more spiritually mature than I who read the blog, and believe me, they don’t let me get away with much. If I stray off the path a bit too far, I get a sharp tug on the leash.

And I really appreciate that.

A Personal Lesson on Using Matthew 18

images-1A few years ago, I got mad at some online churchy stuff. I pointed an accusing finger at one side of the battle and declared that they were not following Matthew 18 because they called out the other side and made a public rebuttal on a website rather than going to the other person privately. This person was a minister, (yeah, I need to learn who I am pointing fingers at…) who swiftly put me in my place by showing me how Matthew 18 does not apply in all situations, even when it involves fellow church folk… and he had a duty to protect his flock from the public sin of the other person.

So as I ran away with my tail tucked between my legs, I did some research. I thought that Matthew 18 applied whenever we had a beef with a fellow believer. So when do we follow Matthew 18? Does it apply to unbelievers? Do we use it “all the time” when someone sins? What about public sins? Etc.

Matthew 18 is for private sin.

OK, the easiest way to put this is that the principle of discipline that Jesus gave us, as set out in Matthew 18, is specific to situations of private, personal sin. Let’s say that we go to the same church, and I spread gossip about you to some people in the congregation. You are not to go to my elder or my pastor and say, “Hey deal with this guy! He is sinning!” Or post it on social media and say, “Whatta jerk! This guy is lying about me.” That would not be acting according to scripture. The rule for sin against you is always to first go to your brother or sister alone, leave others out of it. But if I don’t repent when you come to me, then take someone who witnessed me gossipping – someone who I told the gossip to – along with you. If I still do not repent, then you are free to either drop it, or bring your complaint to the elders of the church. In this situation, you keep my sin quiet between just you and the other witnesses. Then escalate to the Church leaders, who will begin a similar process of private admonition, and escalate up to excommunication.

What about very public problems, sins, and errors?

article-2306193-19300112000005DC-370_306x423Now, what if I were to gossip about you, but this time I used my blog? Perhaps I blogged about how I caught you looking at porn or something? That would be atrocious, grievous, and a public sin on my part. It would probably significantly hurt your reputation. Since I know that lots of church people are going to read about your sin, this is a very public abuse of my blog, and it is definitely sin against you. Should you come to me privately? You could, but you are now quite within your rights to bypass me and go to our elders. I would expect that the elders would also immediately demand a public apology and I would probably be removed from attending the Lord’s Supper for a while until genuine fruit of repentance was shown.

Another example is when someone purporting to be an evangelical minister, like Joel Osteen, preaches heresy, like the prosperity message. We do not simply send him an email and hope that he reads the email and changes. No we publicly denounce what he has publicly stated. We state his error clearly, to protect others from him. We call him to repentance publicly. What we don’t do is try to discredit him by prying into his personal life and publicly ruining him if we find private sins. We don’t make ad hominem attacks about his character. We simply name the sin and call to repentance.

Similarly, if the pastor of the neighbouring Canref Church starts preaching heresy, we don’t go to him privately – you could I suppose – but we should go to the elders of his church. Matthew 18 does not apply here because the sin is very public.

Does it apply to those outside the Church?

According to Pastor Keith Davis (URC),

It is practiced among people who share the same faith, who confess the same Lord, who share in all Christ’s benefits and blessings, who by Christ’s Spirit have been united together in the bond of peace, and who strive after a common goal and purpose.

Well, what about Matt Walsh? Did I sin by not following Matthew 18 and posting this article publicly?

Well…no.

OigI1k0R-1024x1024I did not write anything that is not public knowledge, that he himself has not written and is not proud of. That said, I have sent him emails of admonition on a few occasions, but with no response – and his writing has only become more negative and more inflammatory. Second, he is not a member of my church, nor a member of my denomination, nor is he a member of the protestant Church. He is Roman Catholic, and as such we are not technically brothers, since our confession of faith is incompatible. (This was something a pastor tugged on my leash about.) We have similar political views, we are both religious, but when it comes to our faith, we are not the same. Let me ask, how would I go about applying Matthew 18 in this situation? Sure, I emailed him. I know others have emailed him. Should we then escalate to our elders? To his Priest or Bishop? To his editor? Where does it go from there? As you can see, Matthew 18 will not work in this situation.

Is Matthew 18:15-20 most abused/misused Text in the Bible?
William B. Evans, a minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, believes that Matthew 18:15-20 may be the most abused text in the Bible, stating,

“In recent years I have noticed an upsurge of appeals to Matthew 18. This likely has something to do with the way the Internet has changed the dynamic of public conflict in the church. With controversies unfolding in real time over the course of hours and days as opposed to months and years, it is much more difficult for those in power to manage such episodes, and Matthew 18 is attractive in that it seems to provide such people with leverage by which to stifle dissent.”

Evans goes on to say,

“Why do these wrong headed appeals to Matthew 18:15-20 gain so much traction in Evangelical circles? It probably has something to do with a naïve Biblicism that values simplistic proof-texting over the careful exegesis and application of Scripture. It probably has something to do, as Carson suggests, with an exaltation of tolerance as the “greatest virtue.” But most of all, it likely has to do with a simple failure to take biblical truth seriously.”

Is it because tolerance is espoused by the world, and it is leaking into the church?  Is it the ease of proof-texting out of context in an age of google-theologians? Is this what is happening?  It seems that every time I write an article that takes a stand on something, I get at least one message accusing me of not following Matthew 18.  I don’t know.

matthew

Conclusion.

Matthew 18:15-20 is specifically for sin between brothers and sisters in Christ. Our Lord designed the practice of discipline to be exercised and applied by every member of His Church. It’s because as Christ’s church, we are the family of God, the ones God loves.  Christ shed His blood and gave His body to die upon the cross for us. We are the Ones whom our Triune God has made to be holy. So, all sin must be taken seriously. I appreciate my brethren looking out for me, and taking me to task, and holding me accountable.

We ought to look out for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should admonish in love, and seek the others good. Discipline should be done with wisdom and in love.  Avoid accusing in anger. Avoid speculating on hypocrisy, or hidden sins. Wisdom should be sought through prayer and meditation on the Word. Don’t let ego, or pride, get in the way of Love.  Because that is the whole point of discipline – to love on each other.

Keep it up.

Keep loving each other.

Adam in the New Testament (review) — Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer

Versteeg_Adam.indd

Today we are pleased to present a review of an important little book first published in Dutch several decades ago.  According to Dr. Vern Poythress, “This vigorous defense of historical Adam is as relevant now as it was when first published in Dutch.”  We couldn’t agree more.  This review by CanRC pastor Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer (Spring Creek CanRC, ON) was first published in Clarion and is republished here with permission.

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Adam in the New Testament: Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man? by J.P. Versteeg. Translated by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2012). First edition 1978. Apprx. $12 from your local Christian book seller.

This is a great book for evangelical and especially Reformed scientists, scholars, teachers and ministers – let me tell you why.

Pressure from Science

Under the pressure of scientific discovery and evolutionary theory, more Reformed scholars and scientists are feeling the academic heat to drop the long-held Christian conviction that the human race began with one man, Adam, as Genesis 1-3 relates. Websites like Biologos (whose authors describe themselves as “evangelical Christians”) openly accept evolution of humans from earlier life forms and consequently think that, at best, Adam and Eve were one pair of humans along the way.

PCA ruling elder and Old Testament scholar Dr. Peter Enns is a leading figure calling for also Reformed Christians to reject the Genesis account of Adam as historical, insisting that God did not intend it to literally describe human origins. For those of us working in a secular scientific or academic environment, such a call is tempting. Why stand against much of what our colleagues believe to be true if we really don’t need to?

But that call is shown by this book to be the Siren calling from the rocks, leading ultimately to the sinking of our faith. This little gem of a book (it’s only 67 pages) speaks as freshly and incisively to the subject as it first did in 1978. Translator Richard B. Gaffin, OPC minister and retired professor of Westminster Theological Seminary, has helped the Reformed and evangelical communities by making this essay of Rev. J.P. Versteeg widely available once again. Rev. Versteeg served as New Testament Professor at the Theological University of the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (in Apeldoorn) (sister churches to the Free Reformed Churches of North America). In it he demonstrates that at stake in Adam’s historicity is nothing less than the gospel itself.

Adam a Historical Person?

The beauty of this book is that Versteeg moves the controversy concerning the historicity of Adam away from the immediate context of Genesis 1-3 and looks at it from the perspective of the New Testament. This has the advantage of getting away from the scientific controversies surrounding the origins of the world and of mankind and concentrating instead on what Christ and the Apostles believed and taught about Adam. Since the Bible is its own best interpreter, this approach is surely worthwhile and can be a corrective should current scientific theory press a person to take a wrong turn in Genesis 1-3.

Versteeg’s essay was, naturally, written in his context – the Netherlands in the mid-1970s. But he addresses a teaching then prevalent which is resurfacing in our time on this side of the ocean, namely that Adam was used by the New Testament writers as a sort of “teaching model.” This view teaches that for Paul and the other NT authors, Adam is no more than a pedagogical example to explain some truth about Christ and Christianity. The authors did not assume or need to believe that Adam was a real man, the first man, created in the literal manner described in Genesis 1 and 2. In a careful, judicious and highly readable manner, Versteeg challenges and refutes that claim as he exegetes each passage in the NT where Adam is mentioned by name.

Gaffin on Peter Enns

Another valuable contribution this book makes is Gaffin’s introductory essay in which he outlines the present-day controversy. This helps a reader to get a feel for the various arguments being made today. Gaffin uses the writings of Peter Enns as an example, providing quotations and footnotes and evaluating his writings fairly but firmly. He draws out the dangerous consequences of Enns’ views. It takes courage to publicly address a former colleague (both were professors at Westminster Theological Seminary) on his erroneous teaching (which is also done publicly) but how necessary it is to preserve the church from error! We may thank the Lord for the courage and clarity which Dr. Gaffin has been given and now presents to us in his essay. This essay alone is easily worth the price of the book.

Though others will benefit from this book, I would especially urge every minister, teacher, academic, scholar and scientist in Reformed or evangelical circles to read this book. It may confirm you in the ancient teaching of the church and the historic Reformed conviction concerning Adam or it may gently correct your thinking on the topic. It will certainly educate you on the finer points of exegeting what the Bible itself says about Adam. I hope it will help you withstand pressures to set aside the clear teaching of Scripture in favour of man’s scientific theory. Whatever the case, it definitely won’t leave you unaffected. Edifying and recommended!