Apologetics

Uncovering the Lie: Atheism as a Religious System

Recently, as I viewed an episode on the YouTube channel Rationality Rules, I observed an episode critiquing some of the work done by eminent Christian apologist William Lane Craig. This video was another attack on the Kalaam cosmological argument which, in recent days, seems to have become a whipping post for atheists of all kinds. While the channel tries to pretend that atheism is extremely rational and that science wins because it uses logic and observation, the individual who runs it is not particularly rational at all, nor are his assertions about science. What he is actually doing is smuggling a religious view in while denying that it is a religious view. 

Speaking rationally, the laws of logic cannot be proved with science yet science uses these laws to prove everything else. Since the atheistic materialistic view does not provide a mechanism for logic, it must steal the very basis of logic from the theistic worldview. This is also true with morality. If atheism posits that it is wrong to believe in God, then it must have a moral reason for stating that it is wrong. Why should a difference of opinion, whether educated or not, indicate that one side is wrong, and the other side is right? Again, since atheistic materialism cannot provide a basis for morality it must steal a basis of morality from theism. In other words, it is not rational to believe in rationality apart from God.

How does atheism try to justify this metaphysical theft from theism? It does so by using a philosophical or religious ideology called scientism. Scientism can be defined as: “an ideology that promotes science as the only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values. The term scientism is generally used critically, pointing to the cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations not amenable to application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism).” Please note that while this definition was taken from Wikipedia, there are other philosophical sites that would provide a similar definition for scientism. It is not scientifically provable nor rational to believe that science is the only way to know something. In fact, it is not even logical to believe that science is the only way to know something. This is clearly a philosophical and religious prejudice on the part of atheists.

The next time you listen to a cleverly worded argument from an atheist or an atheistic website remember that he/she is borrowing metaphysical goods from theism, without which their system cannot explain or have a basis for its attacks on theism. This is intellectually dishonest and not terribly rational. It is always important to remember that it is not rational or morally good to believe in rationality or moral goodness apart from God. The atheist is on shaky ground as a beggar having to borrow from a worldview that it denies.


Theological Malpractice

first friday7-5.jpg

While Bible study, reading books and listening to videos of other great apologists is a good place to learn about apologetics, sometimes hitting the streets is a better way to learn about it through encounters with real people and their ideas. One of the great advantages of being out on the street is that you get to hear the more outlandish arguments and ideas held to by people. My recent trip out for First Fridays allowed me the encounter with a strange combination of theological assertions proposed by an individual. It was a blessing to be able to use the Greek text in my cell phone as well as the Hebrew text to confront him with the Scriptures in their original language and expose some of the fallacies he was expounding.

He made the assertion that since the phrase “tree of life” was used in Genesis and Revelation, Genesis was purely apocalyptic and not a literal historical account of the creation. This rather strange and foolish argument is predicated on certain false understandings related to the Scripture. Because the phrase is used in two different books under two different circumstances does not necessarily mean that the phrase means exactly the same thing both times. This is an important rule of thumb because the passages immediate context has a great deal of bearing on what a phrase means. The second foolish assertion that the gentleman had was that the genre of apocalyptic writing precludes anything within that writing from being actual fact and that all references within the writing must be symbolic. It is not necessarily true that everything in a piece of apocalyptic literature is not actual. Third, just because someone has done a little theological research or has a knowledge of the original languages that consists only of being able to read a few articles on a few words and try to make whole cases out of them makes an argument correct. It is always good to use commentaries and lexicons but oversimplification was at the heart of the fallacy of this gentleman’s reasoning.

Let’s discuss some counters to this gentleman’s rather outlandish way of looking at Genesis. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are Hebrew narrative this is indicated by the formal grammar of the passage. An analysis of the genre based on grammar is terribly important. There is a feature often translated “and” based on a Hebrew prefix which is indicative of Hebrew historical narrative and this specific feature appears throughout Genesis chapters one through eleven. The testimony of the Pentateuch itself we see Moses talking in chapters one through eleven. Since the testimony of the rest of the Pentateuch considers the creation story literal it cannot be regarded as apocalyptic because immediately surrounding this specific section of the Scriptures testimony is given that it is not to be treated as apocalyptic.

The gentleman’s counter accusation is while I understood Hebrew and Greek; I was guilty of putting a North American church gloss on my understanding of the Scriptures. As a Jewish person who came to faith through the Hebrew Scriptures, this charge was utterly ridiculous and was not even a good example of an ad hominem argument. Finally, in a fit of temper, he started stating that if God rested on the 7th day my God was a weak God. However, Jesus believed that God rested on the 7th day and took the creation story literally. Furthermore, the fact that God rested does not indicate that his ceasing from creating new things was related to any sort of physical tiredness at all but rather a voluntary choice. The voluntary choice of ceasing to create does not indicate any sort of weakness on God’s part at all but a choice the sovereign God made.

In short, this gentleman is an example of so much of what I see on the streets and in our society. I call it soundbite theology or individuals piece together parts of Scripture to create their own theology without regard to the proper method of interpretation and sound scholarship. Part of this ridiculousness is due to postmodern thinking that language and grammar are not grounded in objective truth. Our age also demonstrates a certain disdain for logic and scholarship which certainly will result in people being led to ridiculous positions and absurd theology. The Internet can teach us much, but we cannot piece together various Internet videos alone without a framework and decide that we are an expert in that field. The background is important, so is disciplined study and it behooves us to take the time to study the Scriptures and make ourselves accountable to sound individuals who may point out our missteps.

The Necessity of Listening in Evangelism

I have a unique privilege to spend time out and about witnessing to people in public venues. While I want to be careful with my words, I think it is important for us who would be apprentices of Jesus to deal with certain topics in balance. I recently had a blessed time doing outreach at a home game for the Arizona baseball team known as the Diamondbacks. I want to be perfectly clear that I enjoy very much working with some of the dear brothers and sisters who go out to share the good news of Messiah and believe them to be good and faithful warriors for God’s kingdom on the whole. I am not certain whether reformed theology and Calvinism are responsible for some of the things I see when we are out there. I see a tendency to feel that simply stridently and rudely ignoring the objections and opinions of those to whom they are witnessing is a complete, effective, and loving proclamation of the gospel. In other words, that winning the argument and bringing someone to faith involves riding roughshod over their concerns and objections related to the truth of the gospel being shared. I contend that this is neither biblical nor wise.

One of my favorite apologists, Ravi Zacharias, has often observed that the Christian apologist is to conduct oneself as a lady or gentleman. Often the very people who will ignore the opinions of others and not address them in a kind way are the very ones who proclaim on a street corner how much they love the individuals they’re trying to reach. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is kind, so unkindness by its very nature is not love. Ignoring and not allowing people to tell their story and give their objections (to a limited level) diminishes their dignity and dishonors their creator.

Let’s demonstrate this from the word of God:

“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:22–24, NKJV).’”

First, Paul the Jew, who has an absolute natural hatred for idolatry, complements these men by stating that they are very religious. He does not state that the reason for their objects of worship is their total depravity. Second, while he makes use of the truth of the Word, he does not proof text them with a whole bunch of verses. In fact, he does not directly use Scripture at all. Third, he relates the altar to “the unknown god” to the one true God and states that their problem is ignorance, not a willful, knowledgeable rejection of God.

The apostle Paul is careful to distinguish between a deliberate, conscious, knowledgeable rejection of Jesus and an ignorant or unconscious rejection of God. He bears witness that his own kinsmen have a zeal for the one true God but are darkened in their understanding of him, having rejected the method of righteousness which God has prescribed. Concerning the Jews, he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:1–2, NKJVK).” He does not believe for one moment that they are consciously and deliberately attempting not to worship the God of the universe. Nor does he assume that they cannot respond to some knowledge of God on some level.

We do not know people’s reason for rejecting Jesus if we do not give them the opportunity to explain their story and tell us their reasons, then we are not giving God a chance to get around their roadblocks. It is the height of unloving behavior to assume things about a person without seeking to lovingly communicate with that person. Yes, human beings do resist God. However, this in no way means that all human beings resist everything about God to the same extent in the same way, or that they cannot respond to what they know about God on some limited and non-saving level. Furthermore, God uses the responses of unsaved people, though in themselves non-saving, as part of His Providence to lead them to His Son.

We must be careful to balance the truth of man’s sinfulness with the equal truth of them being made in the image of God and thus having an ability to respond, however ineffectually, to the overtures of God. We must also acknowledge that God uses these imperfect responses as part of His plan in saving an individual. We must conduct ourselves in a way that is respectful and loving, not simply by stating we love people but by listening to their hearts and looking for the way God wants to reach them as we preach the gospel in outreach.

“My little children let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18, NKJV).”

 

Avoiding a Hypocritical Trap

I fully admit there are atheists who, for emotional or personal reasons, do not believe in God and that is their personal conviction. I have no problem with those individuals who merely have a personal distaste for faith in God. But I do have a problem with individuals who try to wear the façade of intellectualism and sound reasoning while engaging in intellectually dishonest practices.

There is an intellectually dishonest and hypocritical trick that neo-atheists are playing on theists and young Christians. It creates an uneven playing field and a disingenuous argument against the existence of God. It is important that those who engage in the area of apologetics, whether particularly Christian or theistic in general, learn to avoid this trap and help others to avoid it. The argument goes like this:

A: There is no God

B: Logical and empirical evidence must be provided to prove there is a God

C: There is not enough logical and empirical evidence to prove there is a God

D: Therefore, there is no God

Now, this is not always the exact structure this argument takes, but it usually takes a similar structure. The first problem with this argument which very few people are able to logically understand (because most people in our society are not trained to think) is that the lack of evidence doesn’t disprove anything. A mere lack of evidence does not prove something which could or could not be true. Let me give you an example. If I were unable to prove that a certain day was a certain day of the week it would not mean that it was not that day of the week. Let’s say it is Wednesday. If I could not prove it was Wednesday on any given Wednesday it would not cease to be Wednesday. What most people don’t understand is that evidence doesn’t make something true, it only verifies something which is already true. So my ability or inability to prove something doesn’t change the truth value of the statement which I am proposing.

Second, in using logic and morality in any argument against God the individual is making a truth claim of their own. They are claiming that logic and morality can exist apart from God. Therefore, there is a burden of proof on them to demonstrate that a mechanism exists under a naturalistic, materialistic worldview which accounts for both morality and the laws of logic - and this argument must be made without using the laws of logic or morality to demonstrate the existence of logic or morality. There is a burden of proof on the atheist to demonstrate that his system can account for the features which they are borrowing from theism in order to disapprove theism. Now the atheist’s own rules of engagement need to be used on him/her in order to point out the burden of evidence they bear in any conversation related to the existence of God. The atheist must be held to the same rules which they are forcing the theist to play. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy for an atheist to demand that the theist must play by rules that he or she is unwilling to subject themselves to.

If the atheist will not demonstrate a mechanism which accounts for the features of logic and morality in the universe, then any argument they raise must be considered self-defeating and be immediately tossed out. Specifically, and more importantly, Christian apologists must learn to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. This means unmasking the dishonest practices used simply to manipulate minds and to put forth an agenda without the intent for honest intellectual discussion.

The Apologetics cycle

I had the opportunity this week to present the idea of an apologetics training and outreach group to my adult Sunday school class. In preparing to do so and while presenting the idea to them, some interesting cognitive dissonances were brought to the forefront of my consciousness. Many in the class agreed that the training would be good but far less were willing to commit themselves to go out and interact with people about spiritual things. I heard that they already do that regularly in their lives, and while I was happy to hear that and am grateful for every opportunity they get to share the gospel, I also heard some things that disturbed me slightly. I heard that we shouldn’t dispute with people. Well, I agree with that statement, but do believe we should strongly reason with people.

Now, how is strongly reasoning different than disputing? I’m not sure that everybody in the room understood the difference between the two. I think Christians often have a desire to avoid uncomfortable situations and manage to do so by simply saying they “got training that said we shouldn’t really argue.” However, one can honestly disagree and present one’s case strongly without necessarily engaging in disputing. This exchange of ideas is called conversation. You had better be sure that Muslims have no trouble getting in people’s faces and encouraging them to embrace Islam, particularly in countries with a high Islamic population. Yet, the average North American Christian does not want to face opposition to his or her presentation of the gospel and will back away from confrontation thinking that they are following Jesus’s directions to wipe the dust off their feet when they leave the conversation. I contend that Jesus did not intend for us to be so milquetoast.

What struck me like a Mack Truck was the total disconnect between the need for training and the need to go out and use that training. In other words, folks say, “I think the training would be great, but don’t ask me to go out and use it.” I was struck by the disconnect in what I would call the apologetic circle, which I will present with a little diagram:

apologetics cycle.JPG

Training is the beginning of the cycle but is not the end of our activity. The next step is often neglected. Many of the comments I heard indicated that because people engaged in life evangelism and friendship evangelism, they had met their quota. Now, it’s true that not everyone is called to go out and do street outreach and that people who are living their lives and raising their families do have limited time. But it doesn’t mean that regular, intentional opportunities shouldn’t be offered, and that individuals from all walks of life should not participate in those activities in engagement with the local church. Intentional opportunities lead to actual encounters with human beings who may not necessarily interact with Christians under any other circumstances.

When it comes to spiritual interactions, many North American Christians will opt out at the first sign of objections without considering the reason the Lord allows them to experience those objections. Often, the Lord allows objections as an opportunity for the believer to sharpen his or her knowledge of what they believe and why. After learning those answers, they are then able to use them in further encounters for the kingdom’s sake. Of course, the objections will come. Every unbeliever alive has an objection to Christ. Every believer needs be able to give some preliminary answers to the best of his or her ability which allows the believer to articulate what they understand and to uncover what they don’t yet understand and therefore must learn. The cycle repeats itself as the believer gets further training to better handle future encounters. This ongoing cycle with training and opportunity also gives more experienced apologists a chance to sharpen their skills as they help train less experienced believers and allows them to be used in the body of Christ in an ongoing way, either in the resources they create or in the direct training of believers. Please consider where you fit in the cycle of evangelism and apologetics.

Unhitching the Horse From the Cart Does Not Get You Where You Want to Go

Does the Old Testament really hinder the Gospel? Discussion has swirled about a recent sermon delivered by Andy Stanley and its relationship to the value of the New Testament. Admittedly, I have not had the chance to listen to the sermon, but what concerns me is that a mindset may be growing which influenced some of the remarks in the sermon. In the minds of many, the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures, are problematic in view of modern thinking. I would like to briefly examine two things: are the Hebrew Scriptures a hindrance to proclaiming the Gospel, and does it matter if the Hebrew Scriptures may be unsuited to modern thinking?

Andy Stanley may have had noble intentions by pointing out that the central message of Scripture is Messiah Jesus. His desire to see Jesus proclaimed is a right and good desire, and those of us who value the Hebrew Scriptures would concur with this noble aim. However, in the mind of Stanley, the Hebrew Scriptures are a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel - or at least, that is the impression that may be given. This sort of argumentation would fall into a category of fallacy called ‘a false dilemma.’ First, let us look at just one passage of Scripture. John 1:29 states, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What does this phrase, “Lamb of God,” even mean if we remove it from the context of the Jewish Scriptures? Clearly, this title refers to both the Passover and the binding of Isaac, or the Akediah. Without the background of the Hebrew Scriptures (which John’s audience clearly would have had), this reference would have made no sense, and would have told them little to nothing. John clearly did not believe the Hebrew Scriptures were a detriment to the Gospel, but rather that they were the correct way of presenting the Gospel.

If Jesus is the center for the believer, and the One he or she is to proclaim, perhaps we should look at Jesus’ own attitude towards the Hebrew Scriptures and their relationship to the Gospel. The very context of the famous John 3: 16, which someone like Andy Stanley would use to proclaim the Gospel, contains clear reference to the Hebrew Scriptures. We read in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In the mind of Jesus there was no John 3:16 without the Hebrew Scriptures contained in Numbers 21. Jesus makes clear use of the Old Testament to share the Gospel, even in this verse which is used in evangelism more than any other. Clearly, Jesus does not agree with Andy Stanley’s analysis of the problematic nature of the Old Testament. Jesus does not believe that the Hebrew Scriptures hinder the proclamation of the Gospel at all!

But what about the problem that the Hebrew Scriptures are inconsistent with modern thinking? Given the nature of modern thinking, which tends towards materialistic or postmodern explanations of the world, the Gospel itself and the New Testament are both inconsistent with modern thinking. To argue that the Old Testament should be untethered from the church to accommodate modern thinking is tantamount to arguing that the Gospel should be changed in its essential truths to make it more palatable to the mainstream worldview of our culture. Many of the doctrines which are central to our faith, such as blood atonement, are archaic to modern society. I doubt the folks from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (P.E.T.A.) find the sacrificial system of the Hebrew Scriptures acceptable - yet they are key to the doctrine of blood atonement in understanding the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

The fact that the modern mindset does not understand the thinking of the Scripture’s original audience does not mean that the Scriptures need to be changed, but rather that they need to be explained.  It is always a bad idea to mistake pragmatism for wisdom. When we deal with the essentials of the faith, I am not saying that other doctrines are not important, but on those things which are clear and repeatedly displayed under the Perspicuity of Scripture¹, we must stand firm.

One of the driving forces and part of my passion that the mission of Zionsbanner is to uphold the idea that the Scriptures, which include the Hebrew Scriptures as a vital part, are one story testifying to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Ministries like Zionsbanner, which I am so excited to be creating, serve the vital purpose of connecting the big story - which is integral to the Hebrew Scriptures - with the presenting of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.

 

 

1 The Perspicuity of the Scriptures refers to the doctrine that the Scriptures in their central message are clear and that, while there are sections of Scripture which may be hard to understand, the central things of the word of God can be understood clearly and are made plain.

Thanos and The Problem of Evil (comments on the movie Infinity Wars)

I had the recent opportunity of going to see the movie Infinity War, the newest release by Marvel Studios. I must admit that, as a young Jewish kid on the bookish side, and not that athletic, I collected Marvel comics. Stan Lee and his career has not been unknown to me. Seeing some of the comic book heroes that I read as young boy coming to the film screen, and having my children come to know them, has been quite the experience. The purpose of this blog is not to comment on the entire movie, but rather to deal with a curious question that is brought out in the film.

 Infinity War raises the problem of pain and suffering, or as theologians, apologists, and philosophers would name it - “the problem of evil.” The main antagonist carries as his name the Greek word for death: Thanos. He seeks to implement a certain solution to pain and suffering in the universe - to kill half the population throughout the universe so that more resources may be available to the survivors. This, in his mind, will provide a better level of living, and diminish pain and suffering. He states very clearly that it is a simple issue of mathematics. Thanos originally proposed this idea for his home planet, but was rejected. Let’s briefly examine the nature of Thanos’ solution, the distinction between God’s character and that of Thanos in consideration of his solution, and the inherent wrong in the solution proposed by this antagonist.

This particular villain’s solution is based on Darwinistic and naturalistic premises - not in the sense of “survival of the fittest,” but in the assumption of a closed material universe being all that is available. Thanos assumes that there are a limited number of resource. Thus, decreasing the surplus population (one way of phrasing it) is the only viable solution for a higher standard of living. He does not consider a benevolent creator who can intervene or provide other solutions. In fact, the movie gives the back-story of the Infinity Stones (which Thanos needs in order to implement his solution) in terms of a naturalistic, Big Bang model of how the universe began. If it were true that the universe was finite, with limited resources and no means by which the present, or even a growing population could enjoy a life without pain and suffering, it does follow that the villain’s assumption almost makes sense. However, Hollywood has not reckoned on the fact that we have a Creator God who intervenes in His universe and, either through showing us better ways to handle resources or through direct intervention, can change the situation. In other words, if one buys into the false assumptions of a materialistic, Darwinistic universe, one could very well get to the solution at which Thanos arrives.

Is his solution at all representative of the fact that God allows pain and suffering in the universe for a higher end? Someone might argue that, if I say that God allows pain and suffering for the greater good, it is the exact same things that Thanos does. Such a comparison is a faulty comparison and must be debunked. First, Thanos is not permitting destruction and death - he is directly creating it. Additionally, he is visiting it upon individuals who do not demonstrate an immediate warrant for judgment. In other words, he is visiting death upon innocent individuals, not simply permitting death to occur. God is never the author of evil. When He does indeed permit evil to happen, the deed is carried out by agents other than Himself. Second, when God permits evil, He is permitting that which is contrary to His desire and will. He is not Himself instigating the evil for a higher good - He is simply permitting evil, which would already occur in a fallen universe, to work towards a positive end.

More importantly, there is something deeply neglected in any analogy between the behavior of Thanos and the behavior of God, which is two-fold. Let me introduce the first part with the following idea: do not break that which you cannot make. Thanos is taking lives that he did not create. Therefore it is not a matter of him sovereignly controlling that which is rightly his, but of him taking the life from beings whom he has no right to at all. The second part to the reason that no analogy can be drawn between the behavior of Thanos and that of God is that,  as rightly pointed out and wrongly disputed in the film, Thanos loves nobody. He does not personally suffer in any way to bring about the solution for the pain and suffering that he sees. God, on the other hand, came and died to deal with the pain and suffering of our world. He is deeply touched by our pain and infirmities, to the point that He took personal action to deal with them,a costly action which required great sacrifice. Thus we have a contrast between Thanos and God: Thanos takes a life and sacrifices nothing; God allows pain and suffering in the universe and sacrificed everything.

Thanos’ solution is wrong on many levels. It assumes a closed universe, which is not the case, and if it were, his solution would offer no hope ultimately in avoiding the problem of pain. It ignores the fact that pain is the result of rebellion on the part of creatures who been given the beautiful gift of freedom and have misused it, which hypothetically would include Thanos himself. Thanos is part of the reason that there is pain and suffering in the universe, even as he is enacting his solution to remove it. This is a clear contradiction. Finally, it offers no redemption, only extermination. What we find in a Biblical worldview is a God who deeply feels our pain, suffers along with us, and made us. The naturalistic worldview which Hollywood offers provides no lasting solutions because in a universe that is closed, in which no rescue is possible, no solution is possible.

 

Does God’s self-sufficiency eliminate the possibility of Jesus’ deity?

An argument often used against the deity of Jesus is that God does not have any lack within Himself. Therefore, it follows that if Jesus had needs which He addressed to God, He could not be God. This line of reasoning is found in both Muslim and rabbinical Jewish arguments against Jesus.

On the side of Jewish argumentation, the following objection has been put forth in relation to Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If Jesus was really willing to meet such a fate, what cause was there for complaint and affliction? And why did he pray in the manner related in [Matthew 26:39]? On the other hand, if it is assumed that the crucifixion was against his will, how then can he be regarded as God…?”1

This argument also appears in Islamic polemics against Christianity. Some years back in a famous debate with William Lane Craig, a Muslim apologist used this sort of tactic. Although phrased in a separate way, a Muslim apologist would likewise point out that if Jesus indeed prayed to the Father for help, and God is totally sufficient within Himself (having everything that He needs and being self-sufficient), then clearly Jesus could not be God.

The first problem with this argument is that it does not address the effects of the incarnation. If God took on the form of a man, to have the attributes of a man He, logically, would then allow Himself the limitations of a man while He maintained that form. It is an essential attribute of human beings that they are finite and limited; therefore, Jesus could not truly be “God in the flesh, as a man” while maintaining full use of His unlimited nature. This is what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2:6-7a when he says, “...who being in the very nature of God did not consider that something to be grasped but took on the form of a servant.”

Second, the argument fails to consider that God’s self-sufficiency and aseity (existing in, of, and from itself) do not mean that He cannot limit himself - it means that in His being He is not limited nor dependent on any other thing. God voluntarily limits Himself to dwell between the cherubim in the tabernacle, but this in no way affects His aseity. God’s self-sufficiency and non-concurrence (non-reliance on anything else to maintain His nature and existence) are part of His nature - that nature is not changed if He voluntarily chooses to limit Himself.

Such arguments used in Jewish and Islamic polemics  against Jesus’ deity, and against the messianic faith, which are based on God’s self-sufficiency or nonconcurrence, fail -  both in view of God limiting Himself in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and in view of the incarnation. For arguments related to the incarnation, one can go to our website at www.Zionsbanner.org.


1Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 265–266.

Putting First Things First

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

Zion’s Banner exists to make much of Messiah through God’s big story, but how this works in individual situations may indeed vary. A recent encounter at a First Friday Event showed just how important the ability to be versatile in presenting is. During our “Isaiah 53” outreach near the end of the evening, a Muslim man approached me to ask my opinion of the situation related to Palestine. Clearly, I have a strong belief in a future for the Jewish people given that Israel is certainly integral to God’s big story. However, if I were to focus on that part of my mission statement and ignore the first part, the vital conversation which followed never would have happened. I explained to him that, yes, I indeed do have a personal position on Palestine, but I believe that when Jesus the Messiah returns he will settle all these issues. I was then able to turn the discussion to the issues of atonement and Jesus’ virgin birth. Beyond changing the conversation, we made a connection - the gentleman took my personal information and promised to get back to me to further our discussion.

 Making much of being Messianic without making much of Jesus is neither honoring Jesus nor being very Messianic. Our primary commitments, whether as Jewish or Gentile believers, must be to our Lord and King Jesus. I think there is a danger sometimes in letting secondary loyalties cloud our primary loyalty to Him. No, I would never separate the gospel from the kingdom. However, sometimes it is the gospel and the greatness of the person of Jesus which must precede other details related to the teaching of the kingdom of God as a future physical kingdom upon this earth. Often in the Messianic movement, there is a terrible temptation to place our Jewish identities above our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua. We become so anxious to prove our Jewishness that we can place our messianic faith on a much lower priority that is not God-honoring. Our primary commitment must always be making much of Yeshua/Jesus; in doing so we further His kingdom and honor His name. After all, what could be more Jewish than honoring the true King and Messiah of Israel?