Friday, October 12, 2018

Unitarians and Hebrews 1:10-12

by Michael R. Burgos Jr., PhD

The argument presented by the writer of the Epistle of Hebrews within the prologue has been long understood to present an uncompromising assertion of the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is especially true of the utilization of Psalm 102:25-27(101:26-28 LXX) at Hebrews 1:10-12.[1] There, the author of Hebrews has taken a text which refers to Yahweh’s work of creation and applied to the Son of God. Moreover, the author of Hebrews presents this as something that is said by the Father to the Son. Unitarians who affirm an exclusively human Christology, beginning with Buzzard,[2] have decried this reading of Hebrews 1:10-12, insisting that a Yahweh text isn’t being applied to the Son of God and that the creation which is in view is not that of the Genesis creation. The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the unitarian contentions regarding Hebrews 1:10-12.
And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12, ESV) 
καί· σὺ κατ’ ἀρχάς, κύριε, τὴν γῆν ἐθεμελίωσας, καὶ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σού εἰσιν οἱ οὐρανοί· αὐτοὶ ἀπολοῦνται, σὺ δὲ διαμένεις, καὶ πάντες ὡς ἱμάτιον παλαιωθήσονται, καὶ ὡσεὶ περιβόλαιον ἑλίξεις αὐτούς, ὡς ἱμάτιον καὶ ἀλλαγήσονται· σὺ δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς εἶ καὶ τὰ ἔτη σου οὐκ ἐκλείψουσιν. (Προς Εβραιους 1:10-12, NA28)
The argument of unitarians essentially goes like this: The author of Hebrews is deriving his citation of the Psalm from the Septuagint. Whereas the Masoretic text states in Psalm 102:23, “He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days,” the Septuagint renders the text, “He answered him in the way of his strength, ‘of the fewness of my days’ he proclaimed to me.”[3] The Septuagint understands the Masoretic עִנָּ֖ה (‘innāh, “he has broken”) as עָנָה (‘ānāh, “he answered”) and subsequently translates the verb ἀπεκρίθη (apekrithē, “he answered”).[4] As Bruce has noted, the distinction “is formally one of vocalization.”[5] Buzzard, following Bruce, has argued that the balance of the Psalm consists of Yahweh’s response to the supplicant, including vv. 25-29 (24-28 MT).

The claim that Psalm 101:23 (LXX) marks the transition from the words of the supplicant to those of Yahweh is one of two main arguments utilized by unitarians to deny that the Son is being identified as Yahweh, the Creator God, in Hebrews 1:10-12.[6] The second argument is the assertion that heavens and earth mentioned in Hebrew 1:10-12 are not that of the Genesis creation, but that of the future restored state. Support for this claim is marshalled by an appeal to Isaiah 51:15-16 which states,
I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, “You are my people.” (Isaiah 51:15-16, ESV)
Of this text it is claimed that Yahweh has placed his words in the mouth of Zion, who is typologically portraying the Messiah, and it is the Messiah who establishes the heavens and earth. It is claimed that this text “Speaks of an agent of God in whom God puts His words and whom He uses ‘to plant the heavens and earth.’”[7]

The difficulty with these arguments is a terribly poor reading of the relevant passages. It is completely erroneous to suppose that the entirety of Psalm 101:23b-29 (LXX) constitutes Yahweh speaking to the supplicant. While it is clear that v. 24b (LXX) contains Yahweh’s response, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to suppose that vv. 25-29 (LXX) are the words of Yahweh to the supplicant. Asserting as much places a very unusual set of theological claims in the mouth of the Almighty God. If v. 24 is Yahweh speaking, then Yahweh is finite and the supplicant is eternal:
μὴ ἀναγάγῃς με ἐν ἡμίσει ἡμερῶν μου ἐν γενεᾷ γενεῶν τὰ ἔτη σου. (Psalm 101:25 LXX)
Do not lead me away at the middle of my days, your years are in generations of generations. (Psalm 101:25 LXX, author’s translation)
Evidently, unitarians believe that the supplicant, who in the application of Hebrews 1:10-12 is the Messiah, is eternal, while Yahweh is concerned that his days might end in the middle of his life. Clearly, such an interpretation places the actual meaning of the text on its head. A better reading recognizes that while Psalm 101:24 LXX identifies Yahweh’s answer to the supplicant, v. 25 marks a return to the supplicant pleading to Yahweh. Thus, like v. 24, vv. 26-29 also refer to Yahweh. This reading accords best since it contrasts the finitude of the life of the supplicant with the immutable and eternal life of Yahweh.

A similar observation is necessary regarding Isaiah 51:16. Unitarians erroneously argue that this text indicates that Zion/the Messiah is the one in whom God will use to establish the heavens and earth. However, this assumption is baseless. Isaiah 51:15-16 indicates things done by Yahweh which includes his placement of his words in the mouth of Zion and his “establishing the heavens…” That is, Isaiah 51:16 in no way attributes the creation of heaven and earth to Zion/the Messiah. Rather, that act, like the placement of words in the mouth of Zion, is an action of God alone. Like Psalm 102:25-27 in the Hebrew Bible, it is Yahweh alone who creates the heavens and the earth. There is no biblical category for a creature who is also a Creator.[8]

The question remains, does Hebrews 1:10-12/Psalm 101:25-26 LXX and Isaiah 51:16 refer to the future creation of the new heavens and earth or to the Genesis creation? There are two lines of reasoning which heartily disprove the notion that the creation mentioned in the relevant passages is a new creation. First, the utilization of Hebrews 1:10-12/Psalm 101:25-26 results in a comparison of heavens and earth and the Son of God. While the creation will wear out like a garment and be changed, the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t change and his life doesn’t end. Christ will roll up the creation like a robe, thereby ending the created order as it was. Clearly, if this were a reference of the new heavens and earth as unitarians assert, this would necessarily mean that the “future kingdom”[9] will wear out and come to an end. That is, if Hebrews 1:10-12 is referring to “the coming age of the Kingdom,”[10] then the kingdom of God will come to an end. Unitarians believe that the new heavens and earth will wear out, and its creatures will die, and there will be yet a third new heavens and earth. Schoenheit, Graeser, and Lynn state this clearly:
Both the Old Testament and New Testament tell us that there will be a new heavens and earth after this one we are currently inhabiting. In fact, there will be two more. First, the heaven and earth of the Millennium, the 1000 years Christ rules the earth, which will perish (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 20:1-10), and then the heaven and earth of Revelation 21:1ff, which will exist forever. The context reveals clearly that Hebrews 1:10 is speaking of these future heavens and earth. If we simply continue to read in Hebrews, remembering that the original texts had no chapter breaks, Scripture tells us, “It is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking” (Heb. 2:5). This verse is very clear. The subject of this section of Scripture is not the current heavens and earth, but the future heavens and earth.[11]
The eschatology outlined above is unbiblical on its face since the very passage cited, Revelation 21:1, states that there are only two earths—one old and one new: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” The unitarian appeal to Hebrews 2:5, “For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking,” only serves to demonstrate the consistency of the orthodox reading. The wearing out and rolling up of this current creation is the event which inaugurates the arrival of the next world.

Second, the grammar and syntax of Hebrews 1:10 makes it clear that the Genesis creation is in view. Ellingworth has noted that phrase κατ’ ἀρχάς (kat archas, “in the beginning”) “is a classical synonym, rare in the Greek Bible…for ἐν ἀρχῇ” (en archē, “in the beginning”).[12] κατ’ ἀρχάς is therefore an obvious reference to the Septuagint’s account of the Genesis creation. The verb which refers to the creative act in Hebrews 1:10/Psalm 101:25, ἐθεμελίωσας (ethemeliōsas, “laid the foundation”) is indicative of a past completed action. Buzzard has asserted a proleptical reading, saying “Hebrews 1:10 is a prophecy, written in the past tense (as customarily prophecies are), but referring to the ‘inhabited earth of the future about which we are speaking’ (Heb. 2:5).”[13] Buzzard’s claim is spurious since Hebrews 1:11-12 is not in the past tense. That is, if Hebrews 1:10-12 is a prophecy, and Hebrews 1:10 is given in the present tense as prolepsis, then it would necessarily follow that the balance of the prophecy would also be given in the same tense. But alas, the verb of Hebrews 1:10 is given in the aorist, and those of Hebrews 1:11-12 are in the future. Subsequently, Buzzard’s reading of Hebrews 1:10-12 divulges a grand display of begging the question.

According to the author of Hebrews, the Son of God created all things and it will be he who consummates the end of the world as we know; for “all things were created through him and for him.”[14] The Son is Yahweh, the one changes not, as the application of Psalm 101:25-26 by the writer of Hebrews shows. The unitarian claims regarding this pericope rely upon dubious assertions which result in incorrect theological and grammatical conclusions. The unitarian reading asserts a God who is finite, while his agent is eternal and immutable. The unitarian claim that Hebrews 1:10 refers to a future creation results in an eschatology which posits three heavens and earths, two of which are the “new” heavens and earth. The unitarian interpretation also requires an ad hock bifurcation of grammatical tense in the middle of a prophecy wherein Hebrews 1:10 is proleptic, while the balance of the prophecy is future. Despite unitarian claims, Hebrews 1:10-12 remains a powerful witness to the deity, immutability, and Creatorship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] For an exegesis and consideration of the Christological teaching of the prologue of Hebrews see Michael R. Burgos Jr., Against Oneness Pentecostalism: An Exegetical-Theological Critique, (Torrington: Church Militant Pub., 2017), 45-48; and Michael R. Burgos Jr. Ed., Our God is Triune: Essays in Biblical Theology, (Torrington: Church Militant Pub., 2018), 128-129.
[2] As far as I can tell, this response to the trinitarian appeal to Heb 1:10-12 began in a footnote in Anthony Buzzard & Charles Hunting’s The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound, (Lanham: International Scholars Pub., 1998), 337, n. 38 and was later more fully articulated in Anthony Buzzard, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus, (Morrow: Restoration Fellowship, 2007), 418-424.
[3] Author’s translation. See also Albert Pietersma, Bejamin G. Wright Eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint, (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007), 597.
[4] Philip Church, “Hebrews 1:10-12 and the Renewal of the Cosmos,” in Tyndale Bulletin 67.2 (2016), 277-278.
[5] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 62.
[6] Buzzard wrote, “Thus the LXX introduces a second lord who is addressed by God…” Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian, 420.
[7] ibid., 423.
[8] Isa 44:24.
[9] Buzzard, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian, 422.
[10] ibid., 423.
[11] John W. Schoenheit, Mark H. Graeser, and John A Lynn, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Chrsitian Faith, (Indianapolis: The Living Truth Fellowship, 2011), Kindle, loc. 14902-14908.
[12] Ellingworth, Paul, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on Hebrews, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 127.
[13] Buzzard, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian, 423.
[14] Col 1:16.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt. 3

by Hiram R. Diaz III 

§ I. The Impossibility 
of Epistemological Neutrality1

The particular apologetical methodology which we have been discussing has been called presuppositionalism by some thinkers because it does not argue to the Christian faith, it argues from the presupposition that the Christian faith is true. We presuppose the truth of the Christian religion, we do not argue to it from the basis of some neutral starting point. This is because epistemological neutrality does not exist. According to Scripture, we are either for Christ or against him;2 therefore, either one’s mind is in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, or it is not. And if one’s mind is not in submission to the Lordship of Christ, then it is in opposition to Christ. 

Paul the apostle repeats this truth when he declares that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.”3 In context, Paul is speaking to fallen man’s inability to love and serve God, and this includes his ability to love and serve God with his mind. How this plays out in epistemological contexts is clear – if the law of God written on a man’s heart4 binds him to accept the truth about who God is, for this indeed pleasing to God, then the fallen man cannot do this. Instead, he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.5 Fallen man is always at the center of all of his reasoning. Be it empirical research or mathematical calculation, there is no difference. Consequently, fallen man’s construction of criteria for what does or does not constitute evidence for the truth of any proposition is geared toward this end, namely his own self-satisfaction in opposition to his Creator. 

What is more, we must recognize that if there is a proper means of evaluating evidence, and there is, then that proper means of evaluating evidence has its origins in God himself. This means that whenever we reason correctly, we are reasoning according to that standard which God has determined we ought to follow. It, therefore, likewise means that when we do not reason correctly, we are not reasoning according to that standard which God has determined we ought to follow. And so the unbeliever’s reasoning, if it is sound, is built upon the truth (e.g. the laws of logic, mathematics, and so on), whereas his unsound reasoning is built upon his sinful desire to glorify himself, not God. 

If there are universal standards for the evaluation of proposed evidences in favor of some spiritual matter, in other words, those standards are necessarily there because God has placed them there. The laws of logic, for example, do not exist apart from the Logic of God, Christ Jesus who sustains the universe in existence by the Word of his power. Knowledge is always revealed by God, even the knowledge that A is A, or that If A is B, and B is C, therefore, A is C. This is why the unbeliever’s opposition to the Christian faith is riddled with logical fallacies and contradictions – for he is trying to use God’s own revealed knowledge against God’s revealed knowledge. 

Thus, we reason from the truth of the Scriptures, because all human reasoning argues from a foundation, a starting point. What is more, all human reasoning argue from the revealed knowledge of God present in all men’s minds (e.g the laws of logic). When the unbeliever claims to have reasoned from that very foundation given by God for our acquisition of knowledge, and upon that basis have come to the conclusion that Christianity is false, therefore, we challenge his claim by asking him about his own epistemological foundation, demonstrating its inherent instability due to the fact that it is attempting to use God’s revealed knowledge in one area of life (i.e. non-spiritual matters) against God’s revealed knowledge in another area of life (viz. spiritual matters). 

There is no neutral starting point. One is either reasoning under the dominion of sin and death, or one is reasoning under the Lordship of Christ.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Irenaeus vs. The Annihilationists

by Hiram R. Diaz III 

§ I. Introduction 

Among the many church fathers the annihilationists mistakenly claim for themselves, we find not only Athanasius1 but his biggest influence, Irenaeus of Lyons. This is largely due to the presence of words central to the annihilationist doctrine which are also present throughout Irenaeus’ writings. For instance, given that Irenaeus states that “those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever,”2 annihilationists believe he is denying that the wicked will exist eternally. This coupled with the fact that Irenaeus repeatedly stresses that immortality is conferred upon the righteous provides the annihilationists with a case that is superficially impressive. Yet a comprehensive reading of Irenaeus demonstrates that his understanding of immortality is much different than that of the annihilationists. What is more, a proper understanding of Irenaeus in his historical context reveals that his theological opponents, the Gnostics, were the ones who actually embraced a form of annihilationism that is very similar to that of present day annihilationists. 

The present article, therefore, will mainly deal with secondary scholarly literature as regards several key Irenaen themes pertinent to the question of immortality, and demonstrate that in Irenaeus’ theology the true immortality conferred upon the righteous encompasses the ontological immortality of the body, soul, and spirit, as well as the qualitative immortality acquired only by grace through faith in Christ, via participation in the life of God. 

These key themes are – 

1. Irenaen Anthropology vs. Gnostic Anthropology 
a. The Whole Man as Divine Image [Irenaeus]  
b. The Spirit as Wholly Divine [Gnosticism] 

2. Ontological & Qualitative Psychical Immortality 
a. Universal Ontological Psychical Immortality  
b. Particular Qualitative Psychical Immortality 

3. Universal Ontological Somatic Immortality 
a. Particular Qualitative Somatic Immortality
Once given due explanation, we will then demonstrate that because it is the case that Irenaeus did not hold to the same notion of immortality as held by the annihilationists, arguments that appeal to his numerous statements about immortality being a gift which the righteous only receive from God, are fallacious by virtue of equivocation. It will further be demonstrated that the annihilationists in Irenaeus’ day were actually the Gnostic heretics who affirmed that the lost would be annihilated in the fires of Gehenna, whereas only the righteous would receive any form of ontological immortality.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Our God is Triune: Essays in Biblical Theology

by Michael R. Burgos Jr.

While we began working on this book late in 2017, it is the product of years of biblical and theological inquiry and study. I am proud to introduce Our God is Triune; a refreshing consideration and defense of the biblical nature of God. I had the privilege of both editing and contributing to this volume. I spilled my ink equally between the Old and New Testament, considering the consistent and progressive nature of God taught therein.

This volume is unique in several respects. First, it deals heavily in the Old Testament. Typically, books on either the Trinity or Christology that deal with the Old Testament, do so quite poorly. In fact, I have never seen any other book which deals so thoroughly with the proto-trinitarian nature of God in the Old Testament. That I believe, is worth the price of the book alone. While academic in style, and lengthy (380 pp.), Our God is Triune is a substantial contribution that we are blessed to present.

You can find it at amazon and all major bookstores.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt. 2c

[Continued from Pt. 2b]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Internal Critique

Having addressed the nature of apologetics,1 the supremacy of Scripture over all of human reasoning,2 and apologetics as a means of communicating Law and Gospel to the unbeliever,3 we now turn to the ways we can apply what we have learned. When dealing with any objection to the Christian faith, it is necessary for us to remember that any objection is an implicit knowledge claim. For instance, a person may state the following –
I doubt that the Bible is true because x.
x can stand in for anything – an idea, a physical reality, a philosophical conundrum, a personal pet-peeve, etc. Whatever x is, it is presupposed to be known to be the case, whereas the Bible is not known to be the case. So we must challenge x, showing it to be incoherent.

x will be either an indirect reference to an presupposed belief, or it will be an explicitly stated presupposed belief. For example –
[Indirect] A. I doubt that the Bible is true because it teaches that snakes talked, and simple observation teaches us snakes don’t and can’t talk. 
[Explicit] A.1 I doubt the Bible is true because it contradicts empirical observation, which is always true.
The belief in each of these assertions is the same: Empirical observation is always true. Let us pull the assertion apart to show its absurdity.

§ Ia. Reductio Ad Absurdum

Firstly, therefore, we must point out that the assertion “Empirical observation is always true” is false because empirical observations do not have logical values (e.g. true or false). Propositions are capable of being true or false, but empirical observation is neither. Secondly, however, we can ignore the categorically erroneous nature of the unbeliever’s assertion that “Empirical observation is always true” for the sake of argument. Once granted, for the sake of argument, we may point out that since empirical observation is spatio-temporally limited, and all human observers are likewise spatio-temporally finite, it follows that no human observation can non-fallaciously infer that “Empirical observation is always true.” Thus, the belief is demonstrably false on these two accounts.

This is a simple refutation that does not require extensive knowledge of the more involved philosophical debates concerning not only the relationship of sensation to knowledge. It also does require the Christian to refute the implied belief of the unbeliever regarding empirical observation, namely that it is infallible.

Nevertheless, we may go another step further in our internal critique of the unbeliever’s stated belief that “Empirical observation is always true,” for it does imply that empirical observation is infallible, i.e. without fault. We may, therefore, further infer from this unstated presupposition the absurdities that follow thereupon, for granting that E represents the proposition “Empirical observation is always true,” it follows inexorably that
If E, then all empirically based knowledge claims are necessarily true.
And if this is the case, then it follows that the scientific method is based upon a false presupposition, namely that ¬E. More to the point, if E is true, then ¬E is false. And if ¬E is false, then the scientific method is based upon a false assumption. And if the scientific method is based upon a false assumption, then it follows that conclusions drawn empirical observation, as delimited by the scientific method, are false as well. The assumption that E, in other words, leads to the conclusion that the conclusions drawn from empirical observation in science do not constitute truths but falsehoods.4

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament [Review]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

The body of Christ has always recognized typology as Scripturally sanctioned, even mandated, means of interpreting the Scripture. However, there have been times in her history when the church has not understood the proper use and limits of typological exegesis. In part, this has led some to argue that typological exegesis should be limited only to those types mentioned in Scripture explicitly (e.g. Adam as a type of Christ in Rom 5 and 1st Cor 15). Others have attempted to argue that typological exegesis adds meaning to the text that was not intended by the original authors. These arguments have been dealt with in other articles to some extent,1 but have not laid out specific rules of typological interpretation for readers to follow.

Thankfully, however, we can point readers to a great resource in this area of study that will serve as a great help to those understanding how it is they can see Christ in the Old Testament, without resorting to arbitrarily concocted rules. Michael P. V. Barrett’s Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament does just this, providing the reader with the necessary tools for reading Scripture’s types according to Scripture’s own given rules, in a way that does not compromise the Christian understanding that the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one.”2 Barrett helpfully limits his study to the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith, thereby drawing the reader’s attention to the meaning of Scripture, specifically as articulated by the Reformed.

The book is divisible into two major parts: (1) Whom to Look For, and (2) Where to Look. In the first chapter of part 1, Barrett explains the Scriptural teaching regarding the nature of a messiah or anointed one. He then moves on to detail the person of Christ in chapter 2, as well as his work in chapter 3. This sets the foundation for part 2, in which Barrett shows how Christ is found in the covenants (ch. 4), persons (ch. 5), names (ch. 6), word prophecies (ch. 8), picture prophecies (ch. 9), and songs (ch. 10) of the Old Testament. Typology is not limited to the explicit statements that “x is a type of y,” but it is limited in two ways. Firstly, typology is limited to the Old Testament. Typology foreshadows the one who is to come; therefore, it is thereby limited to the content of the Old Testament. Secondly, typology pictures or images nothing distinct from the propositional meaning of Scripture. One’s reading of the Old Testament types cannot, therefore, result in doctrinal meanings that add to the propositional teaching of the Scriptures. Typology does not add to the teaching of Scripture.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt. 2b

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Law and Gospel in Apologetics

A. The Law

As we saw in our last article, we are required to use Scripture alone in our warfare against unbelief. The use of the Word of God is twofold. In the first place, we destroy the false beliefs and belief-systems standing in opposition to the Christian faith. In the second place, we assert what is the case from the Scriptures, i.e. we raise the truth up by means of argumentation, building the edifice of the Christian faith by sound reasoning. This two-fold movement corresponds to the two-fold distinction of God’s Word as comprised of Law and Gospel. The Law of God, in its broadest sense, is whatever God commands. As John Colquohoun explains, in

...its restricted or limited sense, it [i.e. the phrase “the Law of God”] is employed to express the rule which God has prescribed to His rational creatures in order to direct and oblige them to the right performance of all their duties to Him. In other words, it is used to signify the declared will of God, directing and obliging mankind to do that which pleases Him, and to abstain from that which displeases Him.1

The Law of God is comprised of imperatives that reveal God’s holy will to man, and simultaneously reveal man’s complete inability to meet God’s perfect standard of absolute moral perfection.

Thus, when the Law is preached properly, it removes man’s confidence in his own capacity to, as it were, fix himself and make himself presentable to God. As C. F. W. Walther aptly puts the matter –

The Law says: “You must do this; if you fail to do it, you have no recourse to the patience, lovingkindness, and longsuffering of God; you will have to go to perdition for your wrong-doing.” To make this point quite plain to us, the Lord says: “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” That does not mean, he shall have the lowest place assigned him in heaven, but he does not belong in the kingdom of heaven at all.


A sermon on the Law which you deliver from your pulpit, to be a proper preaching of the Law, must measure up to these requirements: There is to be no ranting about abominable vices that may be rampant in the congregation. Continual ranting will prove useless. People may quit the practises that have been reproved, but in two weeks they will have relapsed into their old ways. You must, indeed, testify with great earnestness against transgressions of God’s commandments, but you must also tell the people: “Even if you were to quit your habitual cursing, swearing, and the like, that would not make you Christians. You might go to perdition for all that. God is concerned about the attitude of your heart.” You may explain this matter with the utmost composure, but you must state it quite plainly.2

Concerning apologetics, then, the Law destroys the self-righteousness of man afforded to him, albeit falsely, by his individual false beliefs and/or belief-system. When we destroy the false beliefs/belief-systems of opponents of the faith, we are reminding men once again that all people are to be subject to the Law of God which requires them to “Love the Lord” with all of one’s “heart” and “soul” and  “mind.”3 We are also reminding them that by their failure to love the Lord God with all their minds, i.e. by submitting to the truth and not attempting to establish the truth by rebellion against the truth, they are failing to love their neighbor. Since it is upon these two commandments, as Christ declares, that the whole of the Law and the Prophets depend,4 a refutation of the false beliefs and false belief-systems proposed by the unbeliever is an indictment of the wickedness of fallen man’s heart. We are not playing an intellectual game, or trying to show our superiority of intellect. Rather, we are removing any confidence men have in the idols of their imaginations. We are holding up the perfect Law of God to men’s minds by showing them that the irrationality and falsity of their beliefs and belief-systems are the fruit of their sin against God and neighbor. The falsity and contradictory nature of false beliefs and belief-systems is evidence of the guiltiness of the person who espouses and promulgates them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt.2

by Hiram R. Diaz III
§ I. Methodology
Having defined apologetics,[1] we will now turn our attention to considering how we are to intellectually defend the faith. This article, in other words, will be dealing with methodology. We understand that the faith is to be defended defensively and offensively, but how are we to do this? Before answering this question, we must look at the nature of attacks on the Christian faith. After doing this, we will proceed to answer what methodology we must employ when defending the Christian faith against the enemies of God.
§ Ia. Epistemology & Authority
Apologetics is, as we have noted, the intellectual defense of the faith against spiritual opposition to the it. We are engaged in war, and this implies that we are under some commanding authority. Christians are under the authority of God, who teaches us knowledge[2] through his Word. We do not derive our knowledge firstly from any other source than the Word of God. All authorities are subordinate to the Word of God by necessity, as we learn from the writer to the Hebrews. Discussing the assurance believers can have of their inheritance as children of God struggling against outer and inner corruption that seeks to destroy us, the writer states —
…when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.[3]
Here we are assured of our everlasting inheritance by the author’s referencing the fact that while men swear some authority higher than themselves in order to give a “final confirmation,” God “since he had no one greater by whom to swear...swore by himself.” This teaches us that God’s Word is the highest source of authority, for God cannot swear by some other authority which would grant his words a final confirmation.
The above situation regarding Abraham, we must note, is not limited to that one event, for there is no situation in which God’s Word is dependent upon some created and mutable thing for its confirmation. We do not argue to the truth of the Scriptures, therefore, but from the truth of the Scriptures. As believers in him who is the Truth, the unchanging and highest authority who could swear by no one higher, we test all things by his Word, and we subordinate all epistemological pursuits to this one — knowing the Word of God.
While the enemies of God are numerous, their ultimate authority is “self.” As the Scriptures state —
…every intention of the thoughts [fallen man’s] heart was only
evil continually[4]
        “…the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”[5]
The evil in fallen man’s heart is always self-serving. This has been the case since the fall. In seeking to sin, therefore, the unbeliever places himself above all authorities, serving as the judge of what is right and wrong, what is useful or useless, what is worthy of worship or not. Even when he is superficially under the authority of some false god, he has put himself there for self-serving ends, thereby demonstrating that his god is his belly.[6] 
And from this we must conclude that fallen man’s thoughts are constrained by the desire to be free from the authority of God. Man’s thinking is inherently self-serving apart from the grace of God. The apostle Paul explains this in detail in his epistle to the Romans, writing —
…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.[7]

Fallen man does not seek the truth; he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Fallen man’s desire in all things is to pursue his own fallen interests, namely sin. Consequently, his thinking is always geared toward that end, even in the most mundane of activities. His authority is his self, and he subordinates all epistemological pursuits to his own sin-formed notions of what is good or bad, or wise or foolish, et al.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Brief Consideration of the Bibliology & Theology of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society

by Michael R. Burgos Jr., PhD

§ I. Introduction
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WB&TS) is one of the more prominent theological cults in the United States. It's Kingdom Halls and literature are seemingly ubiquitous in most cities. For this reason, I have provided a brief consideration of two important doctrinal issues to assist you in your evangelism to Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs).

§ II. Bibliology

To begin with, the WB&TS’s New World Translation (NWT) is an erroneous and biased “translation,” which divulges the doctrinal pre-commitments of the Society. The text of the NWT’s New Testament is primarily based upon Westcott & Hort’s New Testament in the Original Greek (1881). However, the NWT contains significant alterations to the text, and this undeniably for theological reasons. The WB&TS claims that their New Testament is the combination of a hodge-podge of sources, many of which are completely irrelevant to the determining to the actual Greek New Testament. In conventional translations such as the KJV, NASB, or ESV, scholars evaluate and weigh ancient Greek manuscripts, engaging in the art and science of textual criticism. While there are stated rules for textual criticism (called “canons”), it appears as though the “New World Translation Committee” made up their own rules. For example, while there exists no New Testament manuscript which contains the Hebrew tetragrammaton (i.e., the divine name Yahweh in the Old Testament), the WB&TS has included what they identify as twenty-three 14-20th century “Hebrew Versions.”[1] Any textual critical methodology which supposes the veracity of 14-20th century Hebrew manuscripts over and against every single ancient Greek manuscript New Testament manuscript is preposterous! The WB&TS has taken to defending this view by claiming nothing short of a monumental conspiracy theory:
Those copying the [i.e., ancient NT] manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyʹri·os, the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.[2]
The WB&TS further claims that the removal of Jehovah from the New Testament “evidently took place in the centuries following the death of Jesus and his apostles”[3] by “so-called Christians…who replaced the Tetragrammaton by kyrios in the Septuagint.”[4] This however, is non-sensical and grossly inaccurate. Because there are manuscripts of the Septuagint which translate the tetragrammaton YHWH as Kurios (i.e., Lord), and these before the New era Testament, the WB&TS has anachronistically argued that “so-called Christians” corrupted the text. The grand difficulty here, aside from the amazing anachronism, is that postexilic Jews had developed a well-documented tradition[5] of substituting the Hebrew term Adonai (“Lord”) for the tetragrammaton, and the Septuagint simply follows that tradition by translating Jehovah (i.e., Yahweh) and Adonai as Kurios (“Lord”). While there are a handful of Septuagint manuscripts which buck this norm by either including the four consonants YHWH, or using some other Greek substitute, the vast majority of Septuagint manuscripts translate the tetragrammaton Kurios, just as the New Testament does every time.

To put the WB&TS theory into perspective, this would mean that the original reading of the New Testament in at least 237 places was lost and that we now must rely upon rely upon versional translations from the “14th-20th centuries” to restore the original text. Such a view thoroughly erodes any reason for believing in the authenticity and veracity of the New Testament. Moreover, it is incredible to assert that every genuine New Testament manuscript that had disappeared without some much as even one copy or church father quotation surviving. Currently, there are about 5,800 extant ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts in existence. Not one of these manuscripts attest to the WB&TS’s claims. Moreover, the WB&TS plainly contradicts itself when it argues for the veracity of Scriptures:

No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines.[6]
Not only are there thousands of manuscripts to compare but discoveries of older Bible manuscripts during the past few decades take the Greek text back as far as about the year 125 C.E., just a couple of decades short of the death of the apostle John about 100 C.E. These manuscript evidences provide strong assurance that we now have a dependable Greek text in refined form.[7]
There are other places within the NWT which unambiguously reject the reading of any New Testament manuscript whatsoever. For instance, Colossians 1:16-20 states,

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt.1

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Apologia: Defensive & Offensive

In 1st Peter 3:15, the apostle Peter commands all Christians to always be ready to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. The word translated as defense is the Greek word ἀπολογία (apologia), which Frederick W. Danker defines as —
‘response to charges of misconduct’, defense freq. In legal context —a. with focus on speaking in defense Ac 22:1 (legal); 1 Cor 9:3 (general sense). —b. the act of defensive response: in a legal venue Ac 25:16; 2 Ti 4:16; general sense 2 Cor 7:11; Phil 1:7, 16; 1 Pt 3:15.[1]
Peter is, then, commanding Christians to give a defense for the faith. But what precisely does this mean in 1st Peter’s context? If we want to understand what Peter is teaching us, we need to look at the passage in connection with its previous and succeeding verses.

Beginning in 1st Pet 3:8, Peter admonishes Christians to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Christians are not to “repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless.” We have been “called [to blessing others],” and we will “obtain a blessing,” for God blesses his people when they bless others. Peter goes on to cite Ps 32:12-16 in support of his statements, showing that this is the Christian’s duty according to the Word of God. He then goes on to ask —
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
Doing good is not grounds for fear, so obedience to God’s law should not be hindered by fear of being harmed/punished by those to whom we show kindness. In fact, the implication of any such harm/punishment coming to us for blessing our enemies is that they are acting unjustly and will, therefore, receive their due punishment in God’s time. Thus, Peter continues by arguing that “even if [we] should suffer for righteousness’ sake, [we] will be blessed.” Whether we are blessed in the present for blessing others, or we receive unjust punishment from those enemies of Christ whom we bless, we are and will be blessed by God for obeying his commandment to love our enemies. There is no justification for fearing or being troubled in our hearts, even in such circumstances, therefore, since we are and will be blessed. Rather, Peter says we are to “honor Christ the Lord as holy,” and “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us].”

In this passage, then, the goal of defending the faith is directly connected to (i.)our lives as Christians being distinct from the world, and (ii.)our enduring in hope in this world, even when we are unjustly persecuted, punished, ridiculed, and mocked by the enemies of God. Why do we continue to trust in Christ and show mercy and love toward our enemies in the world? Why do we not, as Job’s wife once commanded him to do, “curse God and die”?[2] Why not forsake the Lord Jesus Christ’s commandment of love and turn on those who unjustly harm us? Peter commands us to be ready to give a defense of the faith, of the hope we have. And this is what makes the word apologia so significant. We are not called to give a defense of a belief that we understand but do not ourselves embrace; we are commanded to give a defense of the beliefs that we fully embrace, to the extent that our lives are marked by adherence to its precepts and faithfulness to the giver of those precepts, despite what losses we will experience. An apologia, in other words, can only be given by a Christian, one whose hope is fully in the Word of God, and whose life, therefore, demonstrates this in no uncertain terms.

Given that Peter states that we are to be ready to give an apologia in the event that we are asked about the hope we have in Christ, some have taken this to mean that apologetics is only defensive and not offensive. But is this the case?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Rhetorical Tricks of the Enemy's Trade [Pt.4b]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

II. Slippery Analogies

In addition to the misinterpretations listed in our last article on this subject, we will now look at how enemies of the Christian faith will often misinterpret analogies in order to not deal with the weight of the arguments using those literary devices. Analogies come in different forms, depending on the communicative context. Broadly speaking, we can differentiate between didactic analogies and literary analogies. Didactic analogies seek to narrow in on a shared similarity between the analogy’s source and target, for the sake of helping the reader understand the target.[1] Here is an example of a didactic analogy —
Isolating variables is like peeling an onion one layer at a time.[2]
The source of the analogy is the action of peeling an onion one layer at a time; the target is the action of isolating variables. What is similar in both cases is the action of dealing with one aspect of a problem at a time in order to reach one’s desired end, as well as the determination one must exercise in both instances.

Here is an example of a literary analogy —
My love is like the sun.
Here the similarities between the love and the sun are not clearly identifiable. The relationship is intentionally broad in order to saturate the comparison with qualitative meaning. If one’s love is like the sun, this could mean that one’s love is the object of central importance in one’s emotional well-being, or one’s source of emotional “warmth,” or central to one’s continued existence. The author is ultimately the one who can tell the reader the rules necessary for grasping his intended meaning.

Both instances of analogy are intended to help the reader understand something better. In the case of poetry/literature, the intention is to help the reader understand the qualitative nature of the target. In the case of, say, mathematics, the intention is to help the reader understand that the process of isolating variables moves by steps. Both kinds of analogies can take the form of either a simile or a metaphor. Similes use the terms “like,” “Such as,” etc. Metaphors, however, take a more emphatic approach. Metaphors are syntactically identitive (e.g. “My son is a beast!”) for the sake of drawing out the qualitative nature of the target, but are not actually identitive. Let’s look at how enemies of the faith err with respect to their interpretation of analogies.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation [Review]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

Fesko, J.V. Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation (Mentor, 2016), 320 pp.

Among the more frequently revisited heresies of our time, one finds the manipulation, modification, or outright rejection of the doctrine of imputation taught in Scripture. The Scriptures teach three imputations:
1. The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt to his posterity.
2. The imputation of the sins of God’s elect to Christ.
3. The imputation of the righteousness of Christ to God’s elect.
Without these doctrines, there is no Christian Gospel. For the bad news is simply this: We are born dead in trespasses and sins, having died in Adam our progenitor, and are by nature children of God’s wrath. And the good news is simply this: The Lord has laid upon Christ the sins of his elect people, Christ has suffered the wrath of God in their place, and God credits his people with not merely a clean slate (i.e. that moral state that results from having had our sins completely forgiven) but with the very righteousness of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ (i.e. all of Christ’s perfect obedience to the law of God is now our possession - we possess the perfect righteousness necessary to enter into heaven right now, and are not in need of doing any good works whatsoever in order to be saved).

Yet there are many in our time who deny either one or two or all three forms of imputation, some of which, erroneously, even view themselves as faithful heirs of the Reformation. Given the popularity of some of these heretics (e.g. N.T. Wright) due to their ability to reach a wider audience than the academicians and academically-oriented scholar-pastors, it is refreshing and encouraging to hear that an accessible scholarly text has been published on such a vital issue. J.V. Fesko’s Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation is a recent work that does this by presenting excellent scholarship not only in a style of writing that is accessible to most readers, but also by following its chapters with concise summaries of the content presented therein.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Rhetorical Tricks of the Enemy's Trade [Pt. 4a]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

An Apologetical Reflection on Dialogical Rules of Engagement

Language use varies not only from one group to another, but also from context to context. Academicians, for instance, generally seek to constrain subjective, emotive language as much as possible in order to focus their readers’ attention on the content being argued either for or against. Outside of academic circles, generally most of us employ subjective, emotive language, interestingly, to the same end. Persuasive interpersonal communication, in fact, seems to rest largely on a speaker’s apparent subjectivity and empathy, whereas non-persuasive communication of this kind is deficient in apparent subjectivity and empathy. Within their respective contexts, granting that interlocutors are aware of the context’s rules of engagement (e.g. whether they are engaging in a specialized academic disputation or an informal conversational debate), these modes of communication are not problematic. However, if one is unaware of the rules of engagement, then he is bound to misunderstand the meaning of his interlocutor’s assertions.

For example, the word “all” can function in several different ways in any given informal context. Informal contexts often use the word all hyperbolically, as a means of emphasis. Contextually, assertions of the variety “All x are y!” typically are not quantitatively precise, but serve to emphasize a large quantity of some particular “y.” “All” would mean “most,” not each and every individual x. More precise informal contexts may involve the use of “all” in conjunction with a place, signifying not the entirety of that place’s population, but the entirety of the people representative of that place. The sentence “All New Yorkers are Yankees fans,” for instance, does not mean each and every New Yorker is a fan of the Yankees. Rather, it means that all native New York baseball fans are Yankees fans. The quanitative all here is precise, but it is limited to a subset of the absolute All in the tautologous assertion “All permanent New York residents are New Yorkers.” The precise use of the word all, in other words, is shown to be relative to a particular subset of the complete set of permanent New York residents.

Oftentimes, as has been mentioned already, a failure to properly interpret the informal use of, for instance, the universal quantifier all can lead to much confusion between interlocutors. Informal discourse must be interpreted according to the rules of engagement employed by interlocutors. As regards formal discourse, similarly, the rules of engagement must be understood if proper interpretation is to be achieved. What is key to achieving understanding between interlocutors, then, is both parties understanding the rules of engagement. Are they engaged in informal discourse? Then set-A rules apply. Are they engaged in formal discourse? Then set-B rules apply. The broader categories of formal and informal, moreover, can be further refined so as to ensure that formal scientific discourse, for instance, is not interpreted according to the rules of engagement in formal philosophical, or literary contexts.

To put the matter simply: The words we use typically have several meanings, and these meanings are native to particular contexts. The contexts here refer to (i.)a general dialogical context one is engaging in (e.g. Formal vs. Informal), (ii.)the sub-context of that general context (e.g. Formal-Philosophical vs. Informal-Philosophical), and (iii.)the narrow context between specific interlocutors (e.g. Formal-Philosophical-Ontological vs. Informal-Philosophical-Ontological). With this in mind, we may be able to better articulate our own arguments, as well as better understand which criticisms against our argumentation are legitimate and which are not.

The explicit purpose of this article is to better elucidate and, therefore, understand illegitimate criticisms of theologically sound argumentation, i.e. criticisms that ignore dialogical contexts.

I. Misrepresenting Misrepresentation

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Athanasius, Ontology, and the Work of Christ

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Introduction: Rethinking Church History?

There is value to examining our predecessors in the faith, be they the unnamed scribes who diligently produced copies of the Old and New Testaments, or the earliest proto-systematic theologians of the church who put their best and most prayerful effort into defending the faith against heretics, as well as teaching the sheep of Christ. Regarding the latter, i.e. the church fathers, we get a glimpse of how men living in a completely different time period interacted with their cultures — art, philosophy, law, science, and religion. This grants us the opportunity to examine our own beliefs, testing them for consistency with the Scriptures and with what the body of Christ has consistently taught throughout the ages.

The church fathers were not without errors, nor were they always entirely in error. Unfortunately, however, given their historically situatedness, they often employ language and ideas in an historically specific manner that lends prima facie legitimacy to proof-texts offered by Protestants, Romanists, and the Eastern Orthodox in defense of their respectively unique doctrines. Their writings can often be the source of confusion for Christians honestly seeking to understand historical developments in doctrine, and, what is more, can likewise serve as proof-texts for various heresies.

Oneness Pentecostal David K. Bernard, for instance, claims that Irenaeus — the author of the church’s greatest apologetical texts, Against Heresies — was
a prominent Christian leader who died around A.D. 200, had an intensely Christocentric theology and a firm belief that Jesus was God manifested in flesh. He held that the Logos which became incarnate in Jesus Christ was the mind of God, and was the Father Himself.[1] 
And in a similar vein, as Luke Wayne notes,
in their widely distributed pamphlet, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?" the Watchtower Society (the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses) claims that none of the writers of the early church believed in the deity of Christ or the triune nature of God.[2]
These groups appeal to proof-texts using language that appears to support non-trinitarianism, but which upon close examination does not.

The same proof-texting methodology used by Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witness is also observable in the writings of advocates of the doctrine of annihilationism. Perhaps most famously, Seventh Day Adventist Le Roy Edwin Froom, in his work The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers Vol. I, boldly asserts that the apostolic fathers “were all Conditionalists,”[3] a claim that finds repetition in the writings of many of Froom’s modern admirers among the annihilationists. Following in his steps, they attempt to grant their position historical grounding within the ranks of orthodox theologians of the early church by identifying “giants” of apologetics and theology as their own.