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Archive for the ‘doctrinal apologetics’ Category

A recent troll said to me:

Jesus himself said he wasn’t God! Mark 10:18 & Luke 18:19

Both Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 parallel each other.

This is what Mark 10:18 states:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

This is what Luke 18:19 states:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

This is how she would argue it:

Jesus denies he’s good: “no one is”

Only God is good

Ergo Jesus isn’t God

Does this show Jesus is not God?  I don’t think so.  Let me explain.

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There’s a lot of bad arguments against the Trinity, more than I have time to fully respond to.  In one of the comments in my previous post “” there was a comment from “Alfeo piedad” that tried to argue against the Trinity:

If the trinity is true , it should have been complete from the beginning.”

I want to reply concerning the methodology behind the objection.  This objection sets up an artificial standard of proof against the Trinity in that the Trinity can only be true if the Bible has taught it completely from “the beginning.”  Here’s my reply:

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trinity

While teaching Christology overseas a student asked me how does one handle the following objection: “I don’t believe in the Trinity because the Word Trinity is not in the Bible.”

Here’s my take on the objection.

First, more important than the term is whether or not the concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible.  We must be more concern about the concept more than a specific theological terminology that Christians later use as a handle for the various truth claims about God.  If the concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible, it is enough to establish the doctrine of the Trinity.

I know my first point often don’t satisfy cultists and heretics. Hence the following points:

Secondly, just because you use biblical terminology doesn’t mean the concept behind the term you are using is faithful to the Bible.  I bring this point to illustrate that it is a naively flawed methodology to assume that merely finding a word in the Bible establish the truth content that one might put into the terminology.  People twists the meaning of biblical terms all the time.  In the end, what’s important is the concept behind the terms which reinforce my first point.

Thirdly, depending on the specific cultists or heretic I would also point out how the kind of argumentation presented in this objection to the Trinity also undercut their specific belief systems.   That is, the argumentation is a self-defeater to their own religious beliefs.  For instance, with Jehovah’s Witnesses I apply back this same kind of bad reasoning back to them:  I don’t believe in the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society because Scripture itself doesn’t mention these words.  We shouldn’t attend any of their Kingdom Hall because the word “Kingdom Hall” doesn’t appear in the Bible.  If one uses this flawed logic that is the basis for objecting to the Trinity, the cultist or heretic must also admit that it undermine their very own beliefs and belief system as well.  But if they sidestep this rebuttal by saying the concept is taught in the Scripture, note here that they also admit that content is what matters and not merely the appearance of a terminology in Scripture.  Either way you go, the problem is with the interlocutor.

 

Fourthly there are also other theological terms that Christians use that is not found in Scripture but the concept is taught in Scripture.  Think of the word “Bible.”  Yet the concept is there within the Bible.  Again, content is what is more important than merely doing a superficial word search.

Fifthly, to be very technical even a lot of terms in our Bible translations are also not found in the original language of the Bible.  The English Bible talks a lot about “God.”  But the Hebrew and Greek words in the manuscripts are “El,” “Elohim,” “Yahweh,” and “Theos.” Nowhere do we find in the original language manuscripts the English term “God,” the German word “Gott” or the Japanese term for deity called “Kami,” etc.  We can multiple the same thing with the term “Jesus,” “faith,” and “Salvation.”  That doesn’t mean we reject “God” because it’s not a term that’s found in the Original language of the Bible.  We might have many terms that “translates” the content of what the Bible is saying.  Note the priority: It is the content of Scripture that shapes a term that signify its meaning.  In some sense the Trinity is a theological translation of the concept of the Oneness and Threeness of the True God as attested in the Scriptures.

 

This objection might sound like it has a lot of force when one first hears it, but there’s no wind behind its sail upon closer analysis.

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Sav I dont think you know what it means

We’re still getting Tweets against us for praying for Nepal and also discussion of Christian evangelistic relief workers.  Over the last few days one of the better Hindu that we’re able to have more meaningful dialogue with tweeted this to us:

and if hearing Gospel saves life. Are you sure none of 9/11 or Katrina victims had heard the Gospel?

And this:

and if hearing the gospel saves lives?? Close down hospitals across Europe n Americas..#Sicko

There’s been so many others like him who tweet out using the hashtag “#Soulvultures” against praying Christians on Twitter saying similar things.

At the heart of the Hindu’s argument is this:  If the Gospel save lives then people would not physically die.  People do physically die including those who believe in the Gospel.  Example given include those in 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and those in American and European Hospitals.  Very likely among those who died in the tragedies listed include individuals who believed in the Gospel.  Therefore, according to our Hindu friend the Gospel does not save lives, when the Gospel is suppose to save lives.

The problem of course is with the Hindu’s misunderstanding of what Christ’s saving works means.  In other words, there is a fallacy of equivocation being committed here concerning the term “saved.”

To illustrate, let the definition of saved, in terms of being rescued from eternal punishments, be labeled as saved1A. The other definition of saved, in which we define as rescue from physical life-threatening situations, such as being rescued from the tragedies mentioned above, will be labeled as saved2B.  To be saved1A requires belief or believing in His Son as Savior, as John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  However, Biblically speaking being Saved1A, or being saved from God’s wrath over our sins, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be saved in the sense of saved2B from a particular event that can take one’s life.   We think of Steven the first Martyr in the Church in Acts 7 who was a Christian (saved1A) yet was murdered for his faith.  His physical life was taken from him.  We think of the Apostle Peter who knew Jesus as His Savior and had eternal life (saved1A) and yet Jesus prophecied in the Gospel of John that he will die for his faith.  We could multiply examples upon examples.  Being a Christian is not a promise of having one’s present life a bed of rose garden.  That’s another Gospel, and not the Christian Gospel.

The tragic thing about this particular Hindu was that he first tweeted us in response to our tweet linking my piece “Twitter attack on #SoulVultures and the Nepalese Earthquake” and he claimed to have read half that article.  The first half of the article did explain the Christian Gospel and nowhere was the Gospel presented as being saved in the sense of Saved2B mentioned above.  So I don’t know where he gets the sense that we believe in a Gospel that gives promises of being saved from natural disasters, etc.  I submit a strawman fallacy is being committed here.

Readers might also check out my fellow blogger EvangelZ’s post on what is the Gospel: Gospel is Desperately Needed for the Lost in Nepal.

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john frame

How should we understand the concept of God’s presence? Isn’t there a dilemma of God bring non-physical and yet is described as all present?
John Frame has a good paragraph:

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10390298_10152540561496226_1062779028180479286_n

One Christian apologist and theologian that I really got to read more this year has been John Frame.  His writing has been tremendously helpful and has the rare combination of being intellectually stimulating, biblically faithful and I would even say quite devotional.  Beyond the apologetics’ value of John Frame presenting a coherent Christian worldview in which he shows the inter-relationship and inter-dependence of Christian doctrines, I find that Frame’s writing engages my mind, will and emotions to love God and God’s truth more.

If you didn’t know already, every morning on Mondays through Saturdays we post quotes from John Frame on our Facebook page and our Twitter.  We plan to do this for the remainder of 2014 and going into 2015.

An example of Frame’s spirituality that seeps into his discussion about apologetics and theology is a passage in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that talks about doctrinal controversy and the relationship to spiritual immaturity in which he discusses the importance of Christians to grow in holiness and make progress in sanctification.  I appreciated that Frame did talk about this in the context of a book that talks about Christian theory of knowledge!  The Christian must not separate academic theological endeavors from one’s progress in being more like Christ!

Here is the quote:

Many doctrinal misunderstandings in the church are doubtless due to this spiritual-ethical immaturity.  We need to pay more attention to this fact when we get into theological disputes.  Sometimes, we through arguments back and forth, over and over again, desperately trying to convince one another.  But often there is in one of the disputers–or both!–the kind of spiritual immaturity that prevents clear perception.  We all know how it works in practice.  Lacking sufficient love for one another, we seek to interpret the other person’s views in the worst possible sense.  (we forget the tremendous importance of love–even as an epistemological concept; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:5ff; 1 John 2:4f.; 3:18f.; 4:7ff.).  Lacking sufficient humility, too, we overestimate the extent of our own knowledge.  In such a csae, with one or more immature debaters, it may be best not to seek immediate agreement in our controversy”

(John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 155)

Of course this does not mean that all doctrinal debate is the result of all parties being theologically immature but if we really believe what the Bible says about our sinfulness, we ought to be ready to search our motives, and re-check if any of the above is true.

Knowing this truth has made me more slower in responding to online debate and also see the importance of not just only reading up on theological and apologetics’ controversy but also the importance of resources on sanctification and godliness.

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southern seminary

A doctrine of Scripture that has been under-utilized in apologetics has been the historic belief in the self-attestation of Scripture.  There is a Doctoral Dissertation on the topic: “The Self-Attestation of Scripture as the Proper Ground for Systematic Theology” by Matthew Scott Wireman.  Dr. Wiseman completed this thesis in 2012 through Southern Seminary, best known with its president Al Mohler.

Southern Seminary and Dr. Wireman has made the dissertation available as a PDF.  You can download it by clicking HERE.

Here is the description of the dissertation broken down by chapters:

This dissertation examines the Protestant doctrine of Scripture’s self-witness of divine authority. Chapter 1 examines the current evangelical milieu. The doctrine has become nearly obsolete in the discussion of systematic theology. Consequentially, wherein lies authority has been greatly misunderstood in Protestant circles.

Chapter 2 surveys the doctrine through the history of the church. Particular note is made of Augustine, John Calvin, John Owen, and Herman Bavinck. This chapter evinces the near consensus of the church that the authority for the Church is found preeminently in the Scriptures.

Chapter 3 summarizes post-conservative, Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke, attempts to ground theology in Scripture plus culture and tradition. This chapter does not offer a critique as much as it aims to represent post-conservatives in their own words.

Chapter 4 looks at how the Old Testament viewed itself–particularly through the ministries of Moses and the prophets. YHWH chose representatives who would speak to the covenant community and write down the stipulations and history of YHWH’s relationship with Israel for posterity.

Chapter 5 looks at the New Testament, which follows the paradigm instituted by the Old Testament. In the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s promises find their fulfillment, which foments his commissioning of the Twelve Apostles to be his spokesmen.

Chapter 6 ties together the threads that cohere in the two testaments of Scripture. It makes explicit the claims of Scripture that God is a se, he communicates with his creation, he uses spokesmen, and his written Word is its own witness for its authority.

Chapter 7 defines the doctrine of Scripture’s self-witness and applies it to tradition, culture, and the task of apologetics. The chapter explicates the thesis of the dissertation that Scripture’s self-witness must be the ground of systematic theology.

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James White

Here is a Youtube video of a debate between a Reformed Baptist apologist James White and a Roman Catholic priest name Mitchell Pacwa.  The topic of the debate: Is The Roman Catholic Priesthood Biblical & Ancient?

This debate took place May 29th, 2003.

Here’s the description of the debate from Youtube:

James White and Fr. Mitchell Pacwa debate the validity of the Roman Priesthood. Does the New Testament describe an office of priest in the Church today? Does the New Testament teach that there is a Christian Prieshood? Are priests to be unmarried as Rome teaches? Is it true as the Council of Trent declared that a New Testament Priesthood was transformed from the Old? Is it correct to call someone “Father?” What is the priesthood of all believers as mentioned in the New Testament? What are the Biblical offices in the Church today? These questions and many more are answered in this debate. A wide variety of issues are discussed. This subject also ties in with the subjects of the Mass, purgatory, confession, and the celibacy of priests in Roman Catholic theology. This debate is probably the best debate these two gentlemen have ever had. Highly recommended. (2 hours 44 minutes)

Enjoy!

 

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1040window_religions

It is a sobering question that many Christians dread to hear someone ask: How could a loving God condemn those who have had no opportunity to respond to Christ?  Any Christian who has seriously pondered about his or her faith will sooner or later ask this very question.  How does one reconcile the proclamation made in the Bible that God is love and square that with the reality that there are people who will not go to heaven that might not have had an opportunity to respond?  I think a helpful way to navigate through this difficult issue is to think clearly of the relationship of various doctrines in the Bible pertaining to this issue.

If we are going to reconcile God’s love with people condemned by God we have to begin with why people are condemned in the first place: Sin.  Sin is any violation of God’s laws.  Since God is the Creator, He has the prerogative to require of his creation and specifically Creatures what He wants from them just like a potter can shape a pot the way the potter sees fit.  However as moral creatures humanity as a whole has chosen the path of sin.  Everyone has sinned; the Apostle Paul makes that clear in his epistle to the Roman church said “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Unfortunately the consequences of sin are grave, we read of the condemnation in the first half of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death,”

It might sound strange but I think it is important to realize that God is a loving God even when he shows judgment against sinners.  He never punishes people beyond what they deserve.  Part of God being a loving God means that He will never falsely accuse people and punish them for things they did not do.  We would not say a court judge is good if he was arbitrarily punishing those before him for things they didn’t do.  Likewise, as paradoxical as it might sound, God’s love even for those who are condemned ensure no injustice would ever occur in His own judgment against sinners.  This of course means that God will judge us according to what we do know and rejected instead of what we are truly ignorant of.  Robert McQuilkin’s comment is helpful for us here:

Judgment is against a person in proportion to his rejection of moral light.  All have sinned; no one is innocent.  Therefore, all stand condemned.  But not all have the same measure of condemnation, for not all have sinned against equal amounts of light” (McQuilkin, 173).

I think it is also helpful to think of the relationship of God’s general revelation of Himself outside of Scripture that is accessible to all.  Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17:27 what the purpose of God’s general revelation in nature and history is: “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  It is so that we can respond to it by reaching out to God.  There is in some sense in which General revelation is a “bridge” to special revelation which content is the Bible, Jesus and salvation.  But Romans 1 reveal that as fallen human beings, our sinful inclination is to suppress the truth of God that is revealed all around us, rather than travel the road to further truth: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).  Note Romans 1:20 mentioned that we ought to know God even to the extent of His divine nature and power.  It suggests that humanity’s ignorance of God is a culpable ignorance in the same way that we ought to know the speed limit of the road we are driving.  Unfortunately because man suppresses the truth of General revelation this doesn’t help man come to know Jesus as Savior (apart from the Grace of God).

In closing I think it’s important to think more clearly concerning the relation of Jesus as Savior (which is a clear and concrete example of God’s love) versus mankind getting into sin and thus standing condemned.  We must not think that the problem lies with God providing salvation.  Salvation is due to His mercy and grace in the first place.  The problem is with man’s sin.  If I could use the traffic violation analogy from above, we cannot be focused on why some did not have the opportunity for traffic school when it is our traffic violations that makes us stand condemned before the traffic court in the first place.

 

Mentioned: McQuilkin, Robertson. 2009. Lost. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 170-17

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Hebrew Israelite

Yesterday I posted on here a dialogue a Christian (host of Back Pack Radio Show) had with the racist Black Hebrew Israelites, who thinks Jews are the true Hebrews.  

There has not been a lot of Christian resources and apologetics dealing with this movement, which has various subgroups with different beliefs.

The following is my notes: First, I have practical apologetics pointers and secondly are some of my thoughts on what the Black Hebrew Israelites were saying.

APOLOGETICS TO THE STREETS PRACTICAL POINTERS:

-Remember to be gentle and respectable even when they are not.

– Talk to the less dogmatic member of the group when they are dominating loudly in the conversation.

– Use advantage of having other believers and the crowd to control the conversation

– Press them on the goal post for their exegesis:  It is not enough to show verses that the faith/salvation is for Israel; they have to show it’s only for Israel with no inclusion of Gentiles to prove their view

-Ask them a lot of questions if you are not sure what they believe ask them so you can accurately understand them

– Have the burden of proof on them by asking them questions; some helpful questions:

  • Does the Bible show that no one outside of Israel will ever be saved, not even one?
  • Show me where in the Bible that “Ethnos” ever refer to land and not people?

-Verses to keep in mind: Galatians 3:28 (“no Jews or Greeks”) and Revelation 21:24-27 (nations and their kings being cleaned, in heaven)

METHODOLOGICAL CONCERNS:

“ Line by Line” they say, but they haven’t done a good job of dealing with the verse within context.

 

EXAMINING VOCAB MALONE’S INTERACTION

CLIP 1

1.)    Objection: They use Acts 17:24 to go against Malone going to a building to worship God on the basis of this verse

RESPONSE:

  • But in of itself worshipping in a building is not wrong, because at one time God instituted the Temple in the OT
  • John 4:24 is true, but don’t forget that Paul still went to the Temple in Acts 21:26-28

2.)    Objection: Response to Acts 17:26 by quoting from 2 Ezdras 6:54-56

54 And after these, Adam also, whom thou madest lord of all thy creatures: of him come we all, and the people also whom thou hast chosen.

55 All this have I spoken before thee, O Lord, because thou madest the world for our sakes

56 As for the other people, which also come of Adam, thou hast said that they are nothing, but be like unto spittle: and hast likened the abundance of them unto a drop that falleth from a vessel.

57 And now, O Lord, behold, these heathen, which have ever been reputed as nothing, have begun to be lords over us, and to devour us.

58 But we thy people, whom thou hast called thy firstborn, thy only begotten, and thy fervent lover, are given into their hands.

59 If the world now be made for our sakes, why do we not possess an inheritance with the world? how long shall this endure?

RESPONSE:

  • Apocrypha, not Bible

CLIP 2

3.)    Objection: Gentiles are the Jews

RESPONSE:

  • Makes Romans 1:16 unintelligible

4.)    Objection: Deuteronomy 7:6, that the BHI are a special people

RESPONSE:

  • Being a special people does not mean that others are not beneficiaries of God’s blessing
  1.                                                                i.      The reason the Hebrews were free from Egpytian slavery is because of the Abrahamic Covenants (Exodus 3:6, 16)  and don’t forget the content of the Abrahamic covenant is to bless others (Genesis 12:3)
  2.                                                              ii.      Even more so in light of the NT and the New Covenant
  • But is it BHI? How do they respond to other enthno-centric cults who claim this applies to them such as the British Israelites movement?

CLIP 3

5.)    Objection: The New Testament was written in Latin based upon John 19:20

RESPONSE:

  • Here this passage mentioned that the writing, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews” was written on the inscription of the cross that Jesus was being crucified in.
  • These BHI makes the mistake of assuming that just because there were people in Jerusalem during the death of Jesus that knew how to read Latin does not mean the New Testament itself was in Latin

6.)    Objection: The Dead Sea Scroll does not have the Old Testament, it has the New Testament, it has the Gospel of Thomas

RESPONSE:

  • DSS does have OT passages (think of the Isaiah Scroll!)
  • Gospel of Thomas is not part of the New Testament!

 

CLIP 4

7.)    Objection: Salvation is only for Israel according to Acts 7:31

RESPONSE:

  • Acts 7:31 does not say only for Israel
  • Later the Gospel went to others as well as the book of Acts unfold especially with Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, which he described in his own word in Romans 11:13.
  • Turning to Romans 11, we read about Israel being darkened (v.7-10) and then how salvation has come to the Gentiles (v.11-12);
  • Looking closely at Romans 11:15 means reconciliation of the world!
  • John 12:32
  • Goes contrary to the example of Cornelius in Acts 10 and the conclusion Peter reached in Acts 10:34-35, and the Spirit’s miraculous confirmation of tongues in Acts 10:44-45.

8.)    Objection: Matthew 28:19-20 reference to nations means Jews in those physical location of other nations

RESPONSE:

  • The passage makes no reference to Jews only in those physical location of nations.
  • Term “nations” never refer to physical locations in the New Testament, but only to people.  Burden of proof is on them to prove otherwise.

CLIP 6

9.)    Objection: Beat up other nations is premittable.

RESPONSE:

  • Contrary to the Bible’s teaching such as 1 Peter 2:12, 2:17, 2:20.

10.)                        Objection: Revelation 1:13-15 shows Jesus is black

RESPONSE:

  • Text never said that the skin of Jesus was black.
  • Symbolic language, do we expect Him to be Asian since it’s burning bright in verse 15 and therefore represent the “Yellow man”?
  • With this kind of hermeneutics, do we expect Psalm 45:2-3 and Matthew 17:2 to prove that Jesus is white?

CLIP 8

11.)                        Objection: You can’t be saved you don’t know your nationality.

RESPONSE:

  • Where does the Bible teaches that?

12.)                        Objection: The world cannot sin, only Israelite can sin.

RESPONSE:

  • “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–” (Romans 5:12)

CLIP 9

13.)                        Objection: Galatians 3:28, the “Greeks” refer to Hellenized Jews not Gentiles

RESPONSE:

  • The burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that ελλην refers to Jews that were Hellenized.
  • The Greek word used to describe a Hellenized, that is, a Grecian Jew is ελληνιστης such as found in Acts 6:1.
  • The context, it is unlikely to refer to Hellenized Greek because of the opposing contrasts such as the opposites of “free” vs. “slave, Male and female.

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The Master's Seminary

 

Every year The Master’s Seminary has a Spring Semester Faculty Lecture Series that is meant to be an in-depth focus on a particular issue or doctrine.  This year’s focus is on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here is the lists of the lectures and below it are the videos:

Trinitarianism & Creationism by Dr. Bryan Murphy (Old Testament Associate Professor)

Trinitarianism & Inspiration by Dr. William Barrick (Old Testament Professor)

Trinitarianism & Salvation/Sanctification by Dr. Andrew Snider (Associate Professor of Theology)

Trinitarianism & Eschatology by Dr. Michael Vlach (Associate Professor of Theology)

Trinitarianism & Church History by Professor Nathan Busenitz (Historical Theology)

The videos:

Enjoy!

 

 

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ostrich Pillow

I typically avoid facebook debates.  This was an exception.  The topic was on Original sin and there was one individual who insisted on denying the doctrine of Original sin, camping out on the biblical passage of Romans 5:12.  He asserts:

Technically speaking, the man born evil thesis, does not have a good basis.

The Pelagian critic quoted from the Revised Standard Version, in which Romans 5:12 states:

 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned —

He insisted that Romans 5:12 is contrary to Original sin since death spread to all men because all have sin.  But those who embrace the doctrine of original sin would not deny this, that all men have sinned.  The question should have been focused on the relationship if any, there is between Adam, sinners, sin and God.
The “debate” that went on avoided actually looking at Romans 5:12 more clearly according to it’s context.  Pressing the Pelagian to look at the context was like getting a cat to a bath.  Finally, to make things easier I fielded some yes and no questions concerning the relationship of Adam and all sinners in light of Romans 5:12 and it’s context.  These questions were never answered but nevertheless I thought they might be helpful if you have to deal with someone who denies original sin and wanted to look at Romans 5:12 (though I might add, my position on Original Sin does not rest on Romans 5:12 as a stand alone, but verses following it in Romans 5).
These questions are not intended to be “silver bullet” but I hope they clarify differences and challenge one to think about the relationship of Adam and sinners more carefully.
Here are the yes or no questions:
1.) Is there any relationship between Adam and all sinners?
2.) Are all human sinners descendants of Adam?
3.) Was Adam a sinner?
4.) Was Adam’s death an eventual consequence for Adam’s sin? 
5.) Assuming all things being equal will all sinners die?
6) Do babies die?
7.) Do you believe it is Biblical that one man’s disobedience many were made sinners?

Here would be my answer to these questions:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes.
  5. Yes (Cf. James 1:15).
  6. Yes.
  7. Yes.

The last question was rather intentional.  If the Pelagian were to say “no,” that question 7 is unbiblical, it would be quite ironic:  Question 7 is a quotation word for word from Romans 5:12 (in this case, the RSV, but substitute the translation the Pelagian happen to be using).

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Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is my first time reading anything by Francis Chan, a popular preacher and much sought after speaker. I admit, I was not sure how the book was going to turn out when I first started reading it, since I am cautious with many books defending controversial issues written for the general Christian popular audience. But it turns out to be a pretty good book. I thought it was a good example of a work engaging in doctrinal apologetics for the general readers. The author made it a good point that what’s at hand is not just another study on doctrines for the academic satisfaction of the mind, but much more is at stake since people’s eternal fate is on the line. It’s important to press people to live out and apply to our lives the implications of biblical doctrines, which in this case compels believers to view the world evangelically. According to the preface, Francis Chan teamed with another co-writer Preston Sprinkle, who has a doctorate in New Testament studies from Aberdeen University. I thought Chan’s decision to have another co-writer with an academic orientation was a great plus to the book. One of the best chapter in the book that I’ve enjoyed was the exploration of the primary sources of Second Temple Judaism and their understanding of the afterlife. This is an important background for understanding the religious and doctrinal climate that Jesus was surrounded with. This survey shows the readers that Jesus picked up the same terms and idioms to describe the afterlife of the loss, rather than break away from it. The following chapter dealt with Jesus’ own teaching on Hell as it is recorded in the Gospels. Having recently read a classmate’s thesis that explored Jesus’ teaching on hell as echoing things taught in the Old Testament, I was much encouraged to see that this book also noted that! The work also interacted with those who disagree with the Orthodox understanding of Hell, including Rob Bell (you can read my attempt at a critique of Rob Bell’s theological method here). Overall, great work, would highly recommend it. I would love to see Chan and Preston team up again to address other doctrinal controversy in our age.

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