Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why did Jesus give Peter the Keys to the Kingdom?

We are told in the Gospel of Matthew (16:19) that Jesus told his disciple Peter that he will give him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.  I was wondering, why Peter?  Then it hit me.  If you were standing at the gates of Heaven, wanting to get in, who would you want holding the keys?  I would want someone who had learned how little he himself deserved to be in Heaven, and therefore would look for whatever excuse he could find to get as many people as he could into Heaven, also.  Peter fits that bill very nicely.  After all, he denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.  Jesus forgave him.  That's the kind of guy who would know how little he deserves to be in Heaven, and who would do whatever he could to get everybody else in.  I wonder if Jesus knew that's the kind of guy Peter would be before He gave him the keys.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The PSA and why we might be afraid to ask God questions.

I just read Randal Rauser's blog post, "Is there still a place to tremble before God?"  It got me thinking about the Penal Substitution Atonement (PSA) theory, how I think it goes off course, and how it results in a bad view of God, which inhibits us from asking theological questions.   The PSA says that Jesus was punished for our sins in our place, and that this somehow fulfills justice.  This is a difficult doctrine to defend, because it violates our basic idea of justice - a person is punished for their own crimes or sins, not somebody else's.  We make exceptions when it comes to paying somebody else's fine for them.  But we wouldn't tolerate the idea of imprisoning or executing an innocent person instead of a guilty one and consider that some kind of justice. So why do we tolerate the idea when considering the Atonement?  We might try to justify it in all sorts of ways, but I think the bottom line is that we end up with an unjust and angry God.  And who would want to ask that kind of God any questions?  He might get really ticked off and zap us off the face of the earth.

I think the PSA is a misunderstanding of what was trying to be achieved in the sacrificial system of Israel.  The sin offering was not a substitute for punishment.  It was a way to remove sin, either from the Tabernacle and the holy things in it, or from the priests, or from the people.  It absorbed their sins, or the contamination of their sins, onto itself.  Then it was sacrificed, and its carcass burned outside of the camp.  Or on the Day of Atonement, the one goat was driven out into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people on itself.  So the sacrifice wasn't being offered as a substitute for punishment, but as a way of removing and destroying sin.  

At this point someone might object, but isn't God still being unjust?  Afterall, the sacrificial animal didn't do anything to deserve being slain for somebody else's sins.  And that is true.  It is innocent and doesn't deserve to be killed.  But the point is that God isn't trying to achieve justice.  God is trying to get rid of sin from our lives.  From His point of view, sin is like snake venom coursing through our veins, slowly killing us.  And the idea is to figure out a way to get rid of it without killing us.  The animal sacrifice was a foreshadowing of the Messiah, who's death was a way to absorb our sins into Himself and destroy them.  It might not have been fair to Him to endure this, but it was something He did willingly.  And God raised Him from the dead and promises to raise us all, also, if we have faith in His Messiah.  

Anyway, once our atonement theory is corrected, we no longer have an unjust and angry God who won't tolerate questions.  He just won't tolerate sin. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Update on Using Existing Anti-Virals against Ebola in Africa

I first read about Dr. Logan successfully treating 13 out of 15 Ebola patients with the anti-viral medicine Lamivudine in late September and have wondered why the story wasn't covered more extensively.  Someone else has been wondering the same thing:

Ebola Update: Anti-Viral Med Passed NIH Aerosol Test in April; Another Reduces Lethality in Liberia.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Some Perspective on Current Global Warming?

To be honest, I don't know what to make of the global warming debate, or even if there should be a debate, or whether it is settled science, and there are just a bunch of oil-funded denialists disputing it.  However, I found this graph intriguing.  If it is accurate (is it?), then whatever global warming taking place right now seems rather minor, and not necessarily related to CO2 in the atmosphere.  But perhaps the experts have an explanation for it all.

Temperature Since 10,700 years ago.

HT:  Watts Up With That Paleoclimate Page.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How Could I Be Happy in Heaven With a Loved One in Hell?

Revealing Randal Rauser's identity in the previous post led me to read one of his articles, How Could I Be Happy in Heaven with a Loved One in Hell?.  A difficult question to be sure.  It has led many of us to be "hopeful Univeralists," people who don't assert that Univeralism - the doctrine that all people will be saved - is true, but hope that it is true.

But what if it turns out that Universalism is false, and that some people, including some of our loved ones, spend eternity in Hell?  How could I, assuming I was one of the lucky ones, be happy in Heaven?

In the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, author C.S. Lewis offered what might be a possible solution.  A group of dwarves, who were thrown into a small hut and presumably died, are now alive in Aslan's country (Heaven), but believe that they are still in the small, dark, dirty hut.  All efforts to convince them that they are not in the hut but actually in Aslan's beautiful country prove fruitless.  Eventually giving up and leaving the dwarves squatting in a small, grumbling group, people move further up and further into Aslan's country to enjoy all it has to offer.  They are happy, even though the dwarves are miserable.

Now what if, instead of dwarves, it had been someone's close relative, such as the children's sister, Susan?  Could they happily have moved on, leaving her in misery?  I suspect yes, since her misery would be self-inflicted.  All the dwarves and Susan would have to do is admit they were wrong, and Aslan's country awaited them.  Their stubborn refusal to admit they were wrong is no reason to deny happiness to others, even if they are close relatives who still continue to love the ones in misery.

So if Hell is such a place as described in The Last Battle, where the door is locked from the inside and could always be opened if the person were willing to admit they were wrong, then I think we could understand how people could still be happy in Heaven, even if those in Hell were loved ones.  And if it is true that in Heaven we will be made perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, then all will be loved by all of us, wherever they are.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Is C. Baxter Kruger a Heretic?

A fellowship that I used to attend has had a recent division over the teachings of  C. Baxter Kruger.  I read one of his books, most of which I enjoyed, but some of which gave me problems.  So I wrote to a professor of theology,  Randal Rauser, and asked him about the man.  His reply:

I've never heard of Baxter Kruger. However a 1 minute search shows that he has a book published with Regent College Publishing (my old alma mater) and the book has an introduction by Alan Torrance (Alan is a pillar of Scottish Presbyterian orthodoxy; I know him and he was one of the examiners for my PhD defense). In addition, Kruger studied under James Torrance (father or uncle of Alan; I forget which). James is another pillar of Presbyterian orthodoxy. 

In short, based on a 1 minute review I believe Kruger appears to be a solid theologian as I trust Regent College, Alan Torrance and James Torrance. If your acquaintances have specific charges that are documented, I'd take a look at them. 

I would say the burden of proof is on those who claim that Kruger holds heretical views.

UPDATE:  In a further email exchange, I mentioned that the main concern seemed to center around Kruger's views of the Atonement.  He replied:

As for penal substitution, the church corporate has never settled on a universally binding account of atonement to parallel the Trinity (Constantinople, 381) and incarnation (Chalcedon, 451). So I think your friends have a narrow (and incorrect) view of what constitutes orthodoxy and heresy.