Quote: Norman Geisler and William Nix on Revelation, Inspiration, and Interpretation

Quote for 3/16/16. These terms are used in a variety of ways by Christians, but we ought to be precise and intentional in how we explain they way God communicates with us.

Whereas revelation is an objective disclosure of God, and inspiration includes the process and product God used in communicating, interpretation emphasizes the apprehension and understanding of God’s revelation to man. In revelation God unveils truth; by interpretation man understands that truth. Even though the three concepts are interrelated in the total process of God’s communication, they are quite distinguishable. They form three necessary links in the chain “from God to us”: (1) revelation is the fact of divine communication, (2) inspiration is the means of divine communication, and (3) interpretation is the process of understanding that divine communication.

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 40–41.

Quote: Robert McNiece on Blood Atonement in Mormonism

Quote for 3/15/16. McNiece, a Presbyterian minister wrote the following in an article about Mormonism. He lived in Utah and studied LDS theology first hand in the 1870s and 80s. Blood Atonement in Mormonism is a dangerous teaching, for it logically implies that the atonement of Christ is not sufficient to cleanse one of all their sin.

And now to cap the climax of all these blasphemous and horrid doctrines is one which is the most horrid of all, namely: the doctrine of Blood Atonement. According to this terrible doctrine there are some sins which cannot be forgiven or atoned for except by cutting the throat of the man who committed them, and pouring out his blood as an atonement. Three of these sins are apostasy, disclosing the secrets of the Endowment House, and marital unfaithfulness on the part of a wife. It has been taught by the head men of the Church that it is a meritorious act for any Saint to spill the blood of a person guilty of any of these sins. That there may be no doubt about the correctness of these statements concerning this most horrible doctrine, the following extracts are taken from Brigham Young’s published sermons:

“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world or the world to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to Heaven as an offering for their sins, and the smoking incense would atone for their sins, whereas if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain with them in the spirit world.”

On another occasion he said:

“I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil until our elder brother, Jesus Christ, raises them up and conquers death, hell, and the grave.”

Robert G. McNiece, “Mormonism,” The Presbyterian Review II, no. 5–8 (1881): 339.

No less an authority than Brigham Young is cited here. This is not a doctrine which can be ignored by any faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Quote: Louis Berkhof on God’s Existence

Quote for 3/14/16. Berkhof discusses the existence of God as related to the Biblical text. The Bible is incredibly presuppositional in this way. God’s existence is not “proved” by a syllogism, starting at a position of denial and arguing toward belief. Rather, the Bible begins presupposing the truth of the matter: God exists.

The Christian accepts the truth of the existence of God by faith. But this faith is not a blind faith, but a faith that is based on evidence, and the evidence is found primarily in Scripture as the inspired Word of God, and secondarily in God’s revelation in nature. Scripture proof on this point does not come to us in the form of an explicit declaration, and much less in the form of a logical argument. In that sense the Bible does not prove the existence of God. The closest it comes to a declaration is perhaps in Heb. 11:6 … “for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him.” It presupposes the existence of God in its very opening statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 21.

Quote: John Calvin on Genesis 22

Quote for 3/13/16.  It is popular among critics of Christianity to attack parts of the Bible as though it was inconsistent or contained an immoral directive for believers. Calvin touches on a passage which has suffered unjustly from both charges.

When Abraham said to his son, God will provide, (Gen. 22:8,) he meant not merely to assert that the future event was foreknown to God, but to resign the management of an unknown business to the will of Him whose province it is to bring perplexed and dubious matters to a happy result.

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 236.

Contrary to the charge of the critic, they are guilty of inconsistency because they base their criticism of this passage on their unstated denial of the biblical teaching of God’s providence. Had they taken into account the entirety of biblical teaching they would not misrepresent this passage.

Quote: Robert McNiece on Polytheism in Mormonism

Quote for 3/11/16. Today’s quote is from a Presbyterian academic journal published in 1881. The author, Robert McNiece, spent 3 years living in Utah to study Mormonism and wrote the following in regard to their polytheism (i.e. the existence of many gods).

In the first place, Mormon theology is based on rank polytheism. The Mormon people are not only taught to believe in a plurality of gods, but to entertain ideas of the Divine Being which are connected with the grossest corporealism. They ridicule the idea that God is a Spirit, as Christ taught in John 4:24. One of their standard works is called a “Key to the Science of Theology.” It was written by Parley P. Pratt, who, while he lived, was one of their leading men, being one of the Twelve Apostles. This work is used as a text-book among the people; and this is what it says in confirmation of the statement that the Mormons are polytheists and have grossly corporeal ideas concerning the Deity:

“It will be recollected that the last chapter recognizes a family of Gods, or, in other words, a species of beings who have physical tabernacles of flesh and bones in the form of man, but so constructed as to be capable of eternal life.…
“A General Assembly, Quorum, or Grand Council of the Gods, with their President at their head, constitute the designing and creating power.… Wisdom inspires the Gods to multiply their species, and to lay the foundation for all the forms of life, to increase in numbers, and for each to enjoy himself in the sphere to which he is adapted.” (Chap. vi., pp. 46–47, 4th Liverpool edition).

Robert G. McNiece, “Mormonism,” The Presbyterian Review II, no. 5–8 (1881): 336.

It is a cherished practice of Mormons to say that Christians misrepresent their beliefs. You will note how McNiece quotes their own authorities in support of his research and conclusions.

Quote: Louis Berkhof on the Deity of Jesus

Quote for 3/10/16. Today’s quote is theologically potent. Berkhof summarizes the biblical case for the deity of Jesus. This flies in the face of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and religions like Islam. These groups claim to respect and believe the Bible… until you open it up.

We find that Scripture (1) explicitly asserts the deity of the Son in such passages as John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6; Tit. 2:13; 1 John 5:20; (2) applies divine names to Him, Isa. 9:6; 40:3; Jer. 23:5, 6; Joel 2:32 (comp. Acts 2:21); 1 Tim. 3:16; (3) ascribes to Him divine attributes, such as eternal existence, Isa. 9:6; John 1:1, 2; Rev. 1:8; 22:13, omnipresence, Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13, omniscience, John 2:24, 25; 21:17; Rev. 2:23, omnipotence. Isa. 9:6; Phil. 3:21; Rev. 1:8, immutability, Heb. 1:10–12; 13:8, and in general every attribute belonging to the Father, Col. 2:9; (4) speaks of Him as doing divine works, as creation, John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10, providence, Luke 10:22; John 3:35; 17:2; Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3, the forgiveness of sins, Matt. 9:2–7; Mark 2:7–10; Col. 3:13, resurrection and judgment, Matt. 25:31, 32; John 5:19–29; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 4:1, the final dissolution and renewal of all things, Heb. 1:10–12; Phil. 3:21; Rev. 21:5, and (5) accords Him divine honour, John 5:22, 23; 14:1; 1 Cor. 15:19; 2 Cor. 13:13; Heb. 1:6; Matt. 28:19.

L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 94–95.

Of course the context of these passages will inform and justify their inclusion in this quote. Happy reading!

Quote: John Calvin on Astrology/Horoscopes

Quote for 3/9/16. John Calvin cautions all Christians against putting stock in the idea that heavenly bodies have control over our circumstances. This quote is taken from his discussion of God’s providence:

In this way, and in no other, can the immoderate and superstitious fears, excited by the dangers to which we are exposed, be calmed or subdued. I say superstitious fears. For such they are, as often as the dangers threatened by any created objects inspire us with such terror, that we tremble as if they had in themselves a power to hurt us, or could hurt at random or by chance; or as if we had not in God a sufficient protection against them. For example, Jeremiah forbids the children of God “to be dismayed at the signs of heaven, as the heathen are dismayed at them,” (Jer. 10:2.) He does not, indeed, condemn every kind of fear. But as unbelievers transfer the government of the world from God to the stars, imagining that happiness or misery depends on their decrees or presages, and not on the Divine will, the consequence is, that their fear, which ought to have reference to him only, is diverted to stars and comets. Let him, therefore, who would beware of such unbelief, always bear in mind, that there is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 235.

This is certainly applicable to the modern notion of horoscopes. We have no warrant to worry (or “fear”) what the newspaper tells us in our horoscope. It goes against the teaching of God’s providence to draw hope or fear harm from those who so blatantly deny he is the providential ruler of the universe.