In this video, I discuss why all of us are biased and why we, as believers in Messiah Yeshua, should not be ashamed of our bias.
In this video, I discuss why all of us are biased and why we, as believers in Messiah Yeshua, should not be ashamed of our bias.
Last updated 6/25/2018
Recently, I have announced that I have moved from Presbyterianism to being a Messanic believer. I have been accused of being a heretic, legalist, and being above correction (despite my admitting that I was wrong about my Presbyterianism and changing my position in accordance). Thankfully, many of the responses have been level headed, even if they did not agree with what I had to say. Before I begin my defense of my change in theology, I’d like to make a few things clear:
1. I still hold that we are are justified by faith alone.
2. I still hold that there is one God that exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
3. I am still Clarkian in my apologetic methodology.
4. I still view Christians that attend churches as my brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are a couple of things that I will point out in this article as well:
1. Those who stand in opposition against me cannot apply their hermeneutical method consistently throughout scripture.
2. Those who have harshly come out against me do not understand my position.
I also want to say that I bear no animosity toward those who have risen up against me. Given what we are taught about views that state that we should continue to follow the Torah to the best of our ability, their reaction to my announcement is understandable. Most of them have been gracious (I will say that Dr. Talbot of Whitefield was gracious despite me being kicked out of seminary). I never held such a negative view of the Messanic Judaist movement, but I also knew that I had a lot of reformed brothers and sisters in Christ that did not look upon those views favorably. It is often worth mentioning that I was not allowed to continue my studies at Whitefield Theological Seminary due to my new Messanic beliefs.
In this article, I will lay out my hermeneutical method (which is demonstrably valid through scripture), I will give a positive case for my new position, and I will address some of the criticisms that I’ve received. I have been convicted that this is the right view of the Covenants and God’s law, and I have put my money where my mouth is because this change in my theology resulted in me being kicked out of seminary.
There is a pretty good debate on this issue, and a lot of the issues covered in this debate are also covered in this article. I’d recommend watching it if you want to hear interaction between someone who thinks we should be observing Old Testament Laws and someone who thinks we shouldn’t be. There is also a good debate on the Sabbath. I’d recommend watching it as well.
My Method of Interpretation
The most critical issue that caused me to change my views was my learning of a method of interpretation that Yeshua, the Prophets, and the Apostles all used throughout scripture. I will be applying the method of interpretation that is known as ‘PaRDeS.’ There are four levels of interpretation for scripture, and it can be applied throughout scripture without the addition of situational (and arbitrary) hermeneutical principles. Here are the four levels of interpretation, their meaning, and verses in the Bible where these levels have been applied. What I will give concerning these interpretations are from the notes I took while I was studying Messianic Judaism:
P (P’shat) means ‘plain or ‘simple.’
-P’shat is plain in its meaning. It’s a literal or plan reading of the text. In Hebrew, it means to ‘strip off.’
-Daniel 9:2 (which I think references Jeremiah 29:10) is an example of this principle
-Psalm 17:8 is another example of this principle. “shadow of thy wing” refers to shelter. This shows that ‘P’shat’ does not always denote a literal meaning of the text. It also takes literary devices into account.
R (Remez) means ‘hints’ or ‘inference.’
-In Hebrew, the literal meaning of ‘Remez’ is ‘wink.’
-Remez is used when there is a hint of a meaning beyond P’shat.
-An example where using Remez is appropriate is Genesis 3:21. “ADONAI Elohim made Adam and his wife tunics of skin and He clothed them. “ Although it is not directly stated in the passage, it is implied that an animal was killed. This would be the first instance of death that is recorded in the scriptures (although it was revealed implicitly). This fact is drawn out via inference. In this case, this would be drawn out via a simple modus ponens inference. I think it is likely that many instances of Remez would look something like this:
(P) If God made a tunic of skin, (Q) an animal was slain.
(P) God made a tunic of skin.
(Therefore, Q) Therefore, an animal was slain.
This type of inference is justifiable to use because the inference is found in the Bible. For instance, modus ponens is used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:8-10. Verse 8 and 9a contain the antecedent (P). Verse 9b contains the consequent (Q). Verse 10 argues for the soundness of the premises.
-Exodus 21:23-25, “If any harm follows, you are to penalize life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, blow for blow.” Though it is not explicitly stated in this passage, it is clear that God is indicating that the punishment must fit the crime. This is also made clear by preceding verses that denotes a less severe punishment if no harm follows from the assault.
-Typological interpretation also falls under this level of interpretation.
D (Derash) means ‘inquire’or ‘search’ (this is the same thing as ‘Midrash’). It can also mean ‘devotional.’
-The literal meaning of DeRash is to ‘search out.’
-‘Derash’ is used to find a meaning in the text that is applicable to our own lives.
-It is a form of eisegesis. It is permissible to use as long as it does not disort the simple meaning of the text.
-Galatians 4:21-26, “ Tell me, you who want to be under Torah, don’t you understand the Torah? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. But one—the son by the slave woman—was born naturally; while the other—the son by the free woman—was through the promise.Now these things are being treated allegorically, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, giving birth to slavery—this is Hagar. But this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery along with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free—she is our mother.” The Apostle Paul was speaking of Genesis 17. In Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul is telling the reader how Genesis 17 relates to them.
-It is my opinion that this principle can be easily abused; however, given that this method is used in the Bible, it is indeed Biblical. Some say that this principle is eisegesis, but if Paul used it to explain a passage while being lead by the Holy Spirit, asserting that this principle is eiegesis is equivalent to calling the Holy Spirit a liar.
S (Sod) means ‘secret’ or ‘mystery’. The literal meaning of the word is ‘secret.’
-Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out.” This is understood to mean that God has hidden secrets in scripture.
-Revelation “Here is wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number of a man, and his number is 666.” This passage is considered to have a secret meaning.
-Romans 11:25 “For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;” This passage confirms that God has hidden some things from us.
These secrets will either be answered at an appointed time or they may never be answered. This is not a principle that always allows you to ‘find’ the answer to secrets. It’s an acknowledgement that God keeps secrets that we either do not yet understand or will never understand. Those secrets that we find the answers to are no longer secrets. While we can use this principle to decipher some truth that may otherwise be a secret, we are not always able to do so.
It is important to note that any deeper meaning cannot contradict the simple (P’shat) meaning of the text, and one cannot spiritualize a verse in order to move up to the next level of interpretation.
If anyone wishes to challenge my views, I expect them to lay out their method of interpretation and justify that method with scripture as I have. Otherwise, their theology will be distorted and will not be able to withstand criticism. Once I learned this method and adopted it, my views on the Bible rapidly started to change. As someone who is a systematic thinker, I was quickly able to identify the deficiencies in my own theology and understand the proper view that should replace it.
My Case for Why Christians Should Follow the Torah
There is no dispute among Christians that the Jews and believing Gentiles had to keep the Torah in the Old Testament, therefore, most of my arguments will be from the New Testament.
In Matthew 5:17-20, Yeshua said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Some terminology must be clarified in order for us to understand what Messiah Yeshua was saying here. The Greek term for ‘kataluó’ means to overthrow. The Greek word for ‘fulfill’ means to complete. Many people say, “Well, this means that Jesus came to complete the law so we don’t have to follow it anymore.” I understand why someone might think this as I have thought this since I was raised in church. There is, however, a distinction that the Bible makes between ‘abolish’ and ‘fulfillment.’ Therefore, it is clear that they are not equivalent in meaning. What would it look like if the laws were overridden in comparison to them being fulfilled? If we took the typical interpretation that Protestants and Catholics use, the distinction would be quite murky.
There is another pertinent phrase in this passage to clarify. What does it mean when Yeshua says, ‘until all is fulfilled?’ This is another point of disagreement. The Greek that is used for ‘will pass away’ means to void. So, the law will only become void at a certain point in time. Now, we must ask, what is this point in time? When Yeshua says, “until the heavens pass away,” in the Greek, this phrase also means to make void. The heavens were not made void when Yeshua died on the cross and rose again. Therefore, the Bible is not teaching that the Old Testament laws should not be followed once Yeshua died and rose again; rather, it is speaking of the passing of the old creation and the coming into being of the new creation. It is also worth noting that Yeshua says that we should not relax the laws of the Torah, and that those who relax the law and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Such statements would not make sense if the law was about to be done away with. Most Christians will argue that all will pass away when all has been fulfilled. I agree, but there are things that have yet to be fulfilled such as Yeshua’s second coming.
Revelation 21:4 reads, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away.” In Revelation 21, the passing away of heaven and earth is equated with the end of pain and suffering. As long as these things exist, we are still under the Torah.
Furthermore, Messiah Yeshua, and the Apostles (even after Yeshua’s atonement for our sins) observed the Torah. In Acts 24, the Apostle Paul defended himself against the notion that he was not keeping the laws of the Torah. In Acts 21, the Apostle Paul made a sacrifice in the temple. In Matthew 28, before he ascended to heaven, Yeshua told his disciples to go and teach everything that he had commanded of them. This would include his affirmation for observing the Torah. In Acts 2, the Apostles were still celebrating Pentecost. In Acts 10, Peter declares that he has never eaten unclean meat. This shows that the Apostle Peter was keeping the Torah’s dietary laws even after Messiah Yeshua atoned for our sins. In Acts 13, 17, and 18 we see repeated instances of the Apostles keeping the Sabbath. In Acts 20:16, the Apostle Paul was afraid he wouldn’t get back to Jerusalem in time to observe Pentecost. In 1 Peter 1:16, the Apostle Peter appeals to the Torah as his authority to tell us to be Holy (Leviticus 11:44-45). In Leviticus 11, the Hebrew word for ‘holy’ includes keeping the Torah. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, the Apostle Paul explains how to keep Passover (this showcases the continued importance of the feasts even in the New Testament).
I can give many more examples, but this should suffice as a summary. If anyone attempts to argue against my interpretations, I will go into more depth. Nevertheless, Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5 and Revelation 21’s equivalence of heaven and earth passing away to the ending of pain and suffering is already enough to prove my point. The other examples are icing on the cake.
Responding to Objections to Following the Laws of the Torah
There are several objections that the Church will normally give against the observance of the Torah. In this section, I will respond to these objections.
Acts 10 and Dietary Laws
The Church (though most academics will not) will typically argue that the vision that Peter had in Acts 10 shows that we can now eat meat that was previously considered unclean. Let’s look at the passage in question and examine the claim:
“The next day, as the soldiers were traveling and approaching the city, Peter went up to the rooftop to pray, at about the sixth hour. Now he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw the heavens opened, and something like a great sheet coming down, lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all sorts of four-footed animals and reptiles and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! For never have I eaten anything unholy or unclean.” Again a voice came to him, a second time: “What God has made clean, you must not consider unholy.” This happened three times, and the sheet was immediately taken up to heaven. Now while Peter was puzzling about what the vision he had seen might mean, behold, the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house and appeared before the gate.”
Now, there are a few things that I would like to point out. First, Peter, an Apostle who walked with Yeshua himself, affirmed that he has kept the dietary laws of the Torah even after Yeshua’s death. Clearly, Yeshua did not teach him that he would no longer have to follow the Torah’s dietary laws. Someone may argue that such an inference is a stretch; however, let’s suppose for argument’s sake that Yeshua told Peter that he could eat what was formerly considered unclean once Yeshua died on the cross. Why would Peter be puzzled about the vision and adamantly refuse to eat unclean meat? There is only one possibility. Yeshua left Peter with the impression that he was to continue observing the Torah’s dietary laws.
Furthermore, the Apostle Peter tells us the meaning of his dream in Acts 10:28, “He said to them, “You yourselves know that it is not permitted for a Jewish man to associate with a non-Jew or to visit him. Yet God has shown me that I should call no one unholy or unclean.” The meaning of Peter’s dream was to not call gentiles unholy or unclean. The unclean animals were symbolic of Gentiles, and the phrase, “kill and eat,” referred to the proclamation that Gentiles are clean. It is also worth noting that the law that Peter referred to about Jewish men not being able to associate with Gentiles is found nowhere in the Torah; rather, it was an oral man-made tradition. Now, someone might wonder why the vision happened three times. The reason why it happened three times is because there were three Gentiles that were coming to visit him. This is yet another indication that the vision in Acts 10 had nothing to do with dietary laws.
Anticipating Objections for Acts 10
If the objector insists on arguing that Peter’s vision in Acts 10 means that we are now permitted to eat what was “previously considered unclean,” the objector will typically go to other passages to support that conclusion. This amounts to an error in hermeneutics. What Biblical hermeneutical principle would allow you to read into a vision such as Peter’s by appealing to passages that are external to that vision? The only interpretation we have of the symbolism that God used in Peter’s dream is found in Acts 10:28, and what other man would be aware of the meaning of Peter’s vision besides Peter himself? One could say that Yeshua would know, but there were not any words spoken from Yeshua that foreshadows Peter’s dream.
While Christians may concede that the dream was about Gentiles not being unclean, some will argue that there is an additional meaning to the dream and that meaning is that we are now permitted to eat whatever meat we want. And what context in Acts 10 would allow such an inference? You cannot infer (remez) a proposition from scripture that causes a verse to lose it’s simple (p’shat) meaning. We must take care to not interpret visions outside of the vision itself and what is directly said about the vision. Doing so will cause us to interpret the vision out of context because the simple meaning would be lost. When a Christian tries to make Acts 10 about dietary laws, the passage in question loses its ‘simple’ meaning.
Galatians 5:18, Romans 6:14, and Not Being Under the Law
Galatians 5:18 reads, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” and Romans 6:14 reads, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” This is often used by those in the Church to teach that we no longer have to follow the laws given to us in the Torah. The phrase, ‘under the law,’ does not refer to obedience to the law. It refers to the penalty of the law. 1 The errant interpretation of these passages by the Church is simply a matter of linguistics. 2
Anticipating Objections for Galatians 5:18 and Romans 6:14
This issue is a matter of linguistics so any objection to these interpretations would also be a matter of linguistics. While I do have some familiarity with Greek, I will not pretend to be an expert. I will only say that if the reader has any doubts about my claims to look at the reference that I cited for more information.
Colossians 2:16-17 reads, “Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink, or in respect to a festival or new moon or Shabbat. These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah.” The Church often points to this passage to show us that we now do not have to observe the festivals, dietary laws, or in some cases the Sabbath. There is nothing in Colossians that suggests that the Apostle Paul was speaking to believers that were no longer observing the law of the Torah. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. Colossians 2:8 reads, “See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men and the basic principles of the world rather than Messiah.” Are the festivals, dietary laws, and the Sabbath traditions of men? No. These things were instituted by God. Furthermore, Colossians 2:20 reads, “If you died with Messiah to the basic principles of the world, why—as though living in the world—do you subject yourselves to their rules?” The distinction being made is between following Christ and following the world.
Anticipating Objections for Colossians 2:16-17
It is hard to anticipate any objection to this passage because the egregious error of the common interpretation of this passage is obvious. I will add that the only thing that the Apostle Paul said was cancelled by Yeshua in Colossians 2 is our record of debt (verse 14). In fact, the Greek word used for ‘record’ is ‘cheirographon,’ and this term means erasing a legal document.
Romans 10:4 reads, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Unfortunately, the translation by many English Bibles is probably one of the reasons why this verse is so commonly misunderstood. Some versions, such as the TLV says ‘goal’ instead of ‘end.’ ‘Goal’ is the least ambiguous word for this verse. The verse should state that Christ is the goal, and not the end. The Greek word, ‘telos’ denotes a purpose or a means, it does not refer to ‘end’ in the sense that the law will cease.
Anticipating Objections to Romans 10:4
Some may insist on arguing (it is hard to anticipate how because the hermeneutic that is used to draw the Church’s conclusions from this scriptures is arbitrary) that Yeshua caused the law to cease. In multiple passages such as Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul talks about how Yeshua fulfilled the penalty of God’s law. If Yeshua fulfilled the penalty, that can only mean that the law was not done away with. Indeed, arguing that the law has ceased due to Yeshua’s atonement would necessarily lead to universalism (although most Christians would not be inclined to accept this heretical view).
Galatians 2:14 reads, “But when I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter in front of everyone, “If you—being a Jew—live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” In this passage, it is assumed that Peter was living like a Gentile in the sense that he wasn’t observing the laws of the Torah. Given Peter’s remarks about him never eating unclean meat in Acts 10, an interpretation such as the one that the Church typically attributes to Galatians 2 would result in a contradiction in scripture. Furthermore, the issue the Apostle Paul is addressing is revealed in Galatians 2:11-13, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong— for before certain people came from Jacob, he regularly ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those from the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
In essence, Galatians 1:6-9 tells us why the Apostle Paul wrote Galatians. It reads, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” The controversy is not about keeping the laws of the Torah. It is about the true Gospel. Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to discuss this matter. What was the false Gospel being preached? Acts 15:1 chronicles this particular trip to Jerusalem, ” Now some men coming down from Judea were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
The events in Galatians 2 occur after it is decided that we are justified by faith alone. Galatians 2 has nothing at all to do with the laws of the Torah. As it was pointed out in Galatians 1 and Acts 15, the issue was over the true Gospel. While many interpret Galatians 2:14 to mean that we are no longer obligated to follow the Torah, verse 15 shows this interpretation to be faulty, “We are Jews by birth and not sinners from among the Gentiles.” Paul is telling Peter that he cannot expect the Gentiles to live like him if he is in sin. More confirmation of this context is given as the passage goes on, verse 16 reads, “So even we have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua, in order that we might be set right based on trust in Messiah and not by deeds based on Torah—because no human will be justified by deeds based on Torah.” This verse further shows that the big controversy in Galatians was about justification, not about whether or not we should follow the Torah. After all, even the Old Testament never presented the laws of the Torah as a means to salvation. Indeed, Job wrote in Job 19:25, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” Given that the Torah was never a means to salvation even in the Old Testament, the typical interpretation that is given by those who say we are no longer obligated to follow the laws of the Torah doesn’t make any sense.
Arguments Against a Saturday Sabbath
This section will cover the objections to God’s clear mandate to observe the Sabbath on Saturdays.
This objection does not use a verse that mentions the Sabbath directly, rather, it infers that something about the observance of the Sabbath (whether they are arguing that it has been done away with because Jesus is our rest or whether they are arguing that the Sabbath is now on Sunday and is known as the ‘Lord’s Day’) has changed. So, the conclusion that we no longer have to observe the Sabbath on Saturday is inferred by the objector rather than being claimed to be stated explicitly in scripture.
Hebrews 8:8-13 reads, “For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds,and write them on their hearts,and I will be their God,and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Unfortunately, the argument employed by the Church is nothing more than a blanket assertion that involves a lot of question begging. Having been a seminary student for quite a long time, I understand why even some of the most astute pastors, theologians, and philosophers that are in the church do not see what they are doing. Sometimes, we are conditioned to make assumptions without even realizing it. I am not saying the Church does this on purpose, of course. I am only pointing out that this is what I think is happening.
This objection is of little substance because the argument hinges on merely assuming what is involved with the coming of the New Covenant. As was previously stated, the Sabbath is not specifically mentioned in Hebrews 8:8-13. Although this does not mean that the Church is necessarily wrong with their interpretation of this passage, it should at least give us reason to pause so that we can carefully think through the logic of the objection.
Hebrews 8:8-12 is a reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jeremiah 31:31-34 reads, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Since Hebrews 8:8-13 is discussing what the prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 31:31-34 it would be prudent for us to understand the author of Hebrews in light of this passage. Notice that Jeremiah only gives two implications of the New Covenant that he prophesied. First, God’s law would be written on our hearts. Second, God will offer us permanent forgiveness of sins through Yeshua, who is our high priest that sits at the right hand of God. There is nothing that the Prophet Jeremiah said that even suggests that the Laws of the Torah will be abolished. One would think that this would raise a red flag for anyone who comes across the Church’s erroneous interpretation of Hebrews 8:8-13.
There is more to this issue than I have discussed, however. Discussion of the issue involves being fluent in Greek and Hebrew. While I do have some familiarity with Greek, I will not pretend that I am an expert in it. In fact, the issues involved with the Greek in this passage are currently beyond my own expertise. Some of the discussion about the Greek also involves interacting with the Hebrew language (I do not know Hebrew, although recently started learning how to write Hebrew letters) so I am not able to discuss it in sufficient detail. For further information on these issues, I recommend looking at this article.
Answering Other Objections to Following the Torah in the New Covenant
Some may argue that there are consequences of my beliefs that may be uncomfortable in an emotional sense. There are also objections that are miscellaneous. There are three that I have heard thus far, but I am sure that there will be more.
1 John 3:4 and 3:9-10
In this objection, the objector argues that those who violate the Sabbath are in unrepentant sin, and therefore, are false converts if the Saturday Sabbath condition is true. This objection overlooks the grace that we have due to Messiah Yeshua’s sacrifice for our sins. All of us sin or transgress God’s law daily, yet we all believe we have grace through faith in Yeshua (Romans 5:8-11). Why would it be any different for the Sabbath? Besides, the majority of Christians are not observing the Sabbath because they are taught the false ideas of either the Sabbath being on Sunday or the observance of the Sabbath being nullified through Yeshua. Those who believe in Yeshua, but violate the Sabbath will be in the kingdom of heaven as long as they believe that Yeshua died on the cross for our sins and rose again (Romans 10:9). It should be also worth noting that there are other passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Does this mean that people who lie, steal, or have improper sexual relations will go to hell even if they believe in Yeshua? No! If we were to interpret 1 John 3 as the objector had, we would have no hope for salvation! Clearly, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 John 3: 4, 9-10 are all assuming that those who are in sin do not have salvation through faith in Yeshua.
The Holy Spirit
In objection to my position, someone once told me, “You just have to follow the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit will never tell you anything that is contrary to the revelation given to us through the Bible. This person also argued that I need to stop changing my mind. This is contrary to God’s command for us to be accepting of correction (Proverbs 19:20).
It’s Just Weird
When someone tells me that the observance of the Old Testament Laws that God himself has given to us is weird, you have to wonder if they are evaluating scripture according to their own standards instead of God’s standard. If someone says that what I am doing is weird, I simply don’t care. Anyone who would even dare to call the commandments of God ‘weird’ should make sure that they are truly submitting themselves to God. The Laws we observe should be based on the Bible, not personal preference.
You Are Putting Yourself Under the Law
No, I’m not. We are justified through faith alone. The law has never been a means unto salvation. Usually, the person will quote Galatians 5:4, “You who are trying to be justified by Torah have been cut off from Messiah; you have fallen away from grace.” Since I am not seeking justification through the law, I am not cut off from Messiah.
This is why I have come to my current theological position and how I would respond to the objections to my position that I heard so far. I have been struggling with the Covenants on and off since 2014. There was actually one time where I almost changed my theology in a way that would align me with Messianic Judaism (I think that was in 2015). After looking at dispensationalism, covenant theology, and new covenant theology, I settled on Presbyterian covenant theology. I started to doubt that position when a friend of mine mentioned Romans 6:14. When I started thinking about the relationship between the law and the Gospel, it caused me to doubt my position.
I took another look at the Bible. I also had a friend recommend books to me. One of which was ‘Abraham’s Four Seeds (It’s a good read if you want to get an understanding of New Covenant Theology)’. In the end, I found the New Covenant Theology view more satisfying than either dispensationalism or covenant theology, but the largest issue I had was the lack of Bible verses that tell us that the Laws of the Torah were abolished, and the view involves spiritualizing passages that should not be spiritualized, and this causes the simple meaning of the text they are dealing with to be lost. For this reason, and the other reasons I shared in this article, I have adopted Messianic Judaism.
This change of theology was very costly for me. I lost a lot of friends (I’m not talking about acquaintances; I am talking about friends), and I was kicked out of Whitefield Theological Seminary even though my beliefs still aligned with their statement of faith. I would still recommend Whitefield as a seminary due to its academic rigor, but I was very disappointed in the way they handled this issue. Their students’ behavior toward me was also way out of line. I was not given the opportunity to defend my position before the President of the seminary or the Board of Directors. I was offered the chance to talk to one of their professors after they had already kicked me out, but by then, in my mind, it was too late (I was willing to correspond in writing, this offer was declined). Obviously, this was a big decision and I knew it would be costly. I would not have made this change in theology if I did not think that the position was faithful to the scriptures.
In case you are wondering about the Old Testament laws, most of them cannot currently be followed because there is no temple in Jerusalem that meets the specifications given in the Old Testament, there is not a theocracy (including a sanhedrin) in Israel, and the laws in question would only be in effect in Israel. It was actually the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, not Yeshua’s death and resurrection that caused many of the Old Testament Laws to not be followed. If the temple were properly rebuilt, the observance of these laws would start up again. It is also worth noting that even many theologians in the church would agree that animal sacrifice would happen during the millennium.
I hope that this article will help you understand where I am coming from regardless of whether or not you agree with me.
1. For a more in depth explanation, you can read this article.
2. This is also applicable to other passages that speak of not being ‘under the law’ such as 1 Cor. 9:20.
This article is a portion of Chapter II of my upcoming book, When God Turns Things Around. The Problem of Evil is one of the most cited reasons for rejecting God’s existence. This chapter of my book gives concise but definitive answers to the different forms of the Problem of Evil.
The Emotional Problem of Evil
If the Christian God is real, why is there evil and suffering in the world? This is a question that has been asked many times, and there have been various answers that have been given by philosophers and theologians. There are a few ways to answer this question, and the appropriate answer depends on the meaning of the question. After all, not everyone has the same view of evil. Perhaps a more easy way to phrase the question is, “If God is real, why is there pain and suffering?”
We will deal with the question logically. The question at hand assumes that evil, pain, and suffering are somehow at odds with Christianity. This is an assumption that I emphatically reject. If the objector is trying to critique Christianity, the belief system of Christianity must be granted in order for the criticism at hand to be applicable to Christianity. The same goes for someone who is just asking a question such as, “If God exists, why must I suffer?”
Clearly, the Bible teaches that there is a God, and there is such thing as evil, pain, and suffering. This is the result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:14-19). Once this answer is given, the following question is commonly asked, “If God knew about the fall and allowed it to happen, is God the author of evil?” The interesting thing about this question is that there is an assumption that the cause of an effect determines who is responsible for the effect, but this is not how the Bible treats responsibility. In the Bible, responsibility is based on accountability to a higher authority (1 Samuel 2:3). If the question at hand conditionally assumes that Christianity is true, are we not obliged to grant what the Bible says concerning the concepts contained in the questions that are asked about Christianity? After all, any objection or question that takes aim at Christianity only will misrepresent Christianity if we discount what scripture says about the issues at hand.
Another might ask, “If God is all powerful and all knowing, how could anyone resist his will? How could God hold me responsible if I cannot frustrate his will?” The Apostle Paul answers this question in Romans 9, “ But who in the world are you, O man, who talks back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does the potter have no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honor and another for common use? Now what if God, willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath designed for destruction? And what if He did so to make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory?” The Apostle Paul is pointing out that as the creation, we have no standing that allows us to question the one who made us. God made us, and he is in charge of his creation. Indeed, even Hebrews 6:13 reads, “Now when God made His promise to Abraham—since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”
God’s Purpose for Evil
As for evil, God endures it with much patience. But why does he endure it? The Bible makes this clear in numerous places. For instance, in Genesis 37, Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, is thrown into a well. Joseph is then sold into servitude and is falsely accused of adultery and is sent to prison in Genesis 39. In Genesis 40, God helps Joseph help other people by interpreting their dreams. A couple of years later, the Pharaoh begins having dreams and none of his servants can interpret it. Hearing about Joseph’s success in interpreting dreams, he sends for Joseph (Genesis 41). The Pharaoh knew that Joseph’s interpretation was from God and therefore correct so he placed Joseph above all the land. Joseph was now the Pharaoh’s second in command over Egypt.
At some point, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt, and they unknowingly crossed paths with Joseph. Joseph kept his identity hidden for a time, but he revealed who he was to his brothers in Genesis 45. Joseph even told his brothers that despite their actions, God was the one who actually sent him to Egypt (Genesis 45:5-8). Why did Joseph have to suffer for so long? It wasn’t because of an indifferent or powerless God; God had a purpose for Joseph’s trials and suffering. Even the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers could not frustrate God’s will. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph said to his brothers, “Yes, you yourselves planned evil against me. God planned it for good, in order to bring about what it is this day—to preserve the lives of many people.”
There is no such thing as gratuitous suffering. God has a purpose even for evil and suffering. Indeed, Romans 8:28 reads, “Now we know that ALL things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Even all pain and suffering has a purpose, and that purpose is determined by God. If you are going through a difficult time, rest assured that your suffering is not pointless, and God has his reasons for leading you to your trial.
The Logical Problem of Evil
There is another version of the Problem of Evil that has not yet been covered. We have largely dealt with the Emotional Problem of Evil. The Logical Problem of Evil attempts to show that God does not exist because of evil and suffering. There are multiple variations of the argument, but all of them have the same implications. Here is an example:
1. There shouldn’t be gratuitous evil in the world if an all powerful and all good God exists.
2. There is gratuitous evil in the world.
3. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.
It is worth noting that even most atheist philosophers have given up on this argument because there are too many issues with it. The first issue is that they take too much liberty with the property of goodness. God’s goodness in the Bible does not preclude the notion of evil, for God has made us agents who have a will that is distinct from his own. 1 Therefore, it was God’s will that the decisions we make, whether they are good or bad, would impact the world. While our own intentions are not always good, God’s intentions always are. This is what demonstrates God’s goodness.
Given what has been discussed earlier in this article, there is no such thing as gratuitous pain and suffering. Therefore, given what the Bible says, the syllogism that is used for this argument is not applicable to Christianity. While Christian philosophers have offered solutions to this problem (most atheist philosophers have conceded the issue, but most of the solutions that Christian philosophers give are more rhetorical than Biblical), I will submit my own solution; my solution is based on what the Bible says about evil, pain, and suffering. If we were to take what the Bible says concerning evil into account, we can refute this argument with the following syllogism:
1. If the Bible is true, there is evil in the world.
2. The Bible is true.
3. Therefore, there is evil in the world.
4. If there is evil in the world, God has a purpose for evil.
5. There is evil in the world.
6. Therefore, God has a purpose for evil.
7. If God has a purpose for evil, there is no such thing as gratuitous pain, suffering, or evil.
8. God has a purpose for evil.
9. Therefore, there is no such thing as gratuitous pain, suffering, or evil.
Any good philosopher would be inclined to accept this solution, but a lot of people who are taking part in the discussion of evil and God will state something along the lines of, “You have to prove the Bible is true before you can make this argument.” In such a scenario, the atheist would have to concede the issue of the Problem of Evil. The Problem of Evil is an internal critique of various forms of theism. You cannot do an internal critique without granting the other worldview for the sake of argument. Clearly, this argument is offered only to show that if Christianity is granted, there is no explicit or implicit contradictions between the truth of Christianity and evil. In essence, if the objector rejects the argument on the basis of a lack of proof for the Bible’s truth, they concede the Logical Problem of Evil. If they grant Christianity for argument’s sake, logic demands that they accept the conclusion of the argument. 2 Either way, the objector concedes the issue and Christianity still stands. This response is equally applicable to what is called ‘The Evidential Problem of Evil.’
Throughout the history of philosophy, unbelievers have made quite a bit of noise about the Problem of Evil. To be fair, Christianity is not the only worldview that this argument is used against, but, when an objector uses it to address Christianity, the argument is really much ado about nothing. Any attempt to construct a moral framework that is compatible with naturalism leads to logical contradiction due to a problem of infinite regress, and any attempt to do an internal critique of Christianity by arguing that evil and the existence of God are incompatible is doomed to failure. 3
1. In this article, man’s will and God’s will are defined by their respective intent.
2. In this article, ‘logic’ is defined as the science of necessary inference.
3. I am fully convinced that the objections to the Problem of Evil that are given in this article are insurmountable.
Unbelievers often ask, “Can God create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it?” Unbelievers allege that this question highlights that the notion of an omnipotent God, or in this case, Adonai, is self contradictory, and therefore, impossible.
The Omnipotence Paradox: Inapplicable to Christianity?
The idea behind the question is to show that if God can create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it, he is not omnipotent. On the other hand, if God cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he can’t lift it, God is not omnipotent. According to the atheist, either answer means that God cannot be omnipotent. The Christian loses either way.
There is a glaring problem with the question that is being asked. The question implies that if Adonai is omnipotent, he should be able to create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it. Yet, if Adonai can actually do it, he is not omnipotent. What is the definition of ‘omnipotent’ that the questioner is attacking? Should Adonai be able to do anything? I have not seen any atheist who has asked this question, whether it be on social media or in an academic journal, bother to define ‘omnipotent.’ Fortunately, since our position is the one being attacked, we are the ones who get to define the terms that are related to our own position. Without a definition of ‘omnipotent,’ the question is meaningless.
Adonai Elohim’s Nature and Defining ‘Omnipotence’
It is important to note that Adonai exercises his power within the confines of his will. 1 Adonai has made it clear that he does not lie (Numbers, 23:19, Titus 1:2), and Yeshua said he is the truth (John 14:6). Adonai is self sustaining, and whatsoever comes to pass only comes by his will and power (Ephesian 3:1, Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28). Therefore, we know that Adonai will only do what he wills. This has lead many theologians to correctly point out that when omnipotence is defined by Christians, it should be consistent with Adonai’s attributes. Our God is logical and because of this, his actions will be too. Therefore, any question that asks Adonai to violate his own will is a question that is inapplicable to Adonai. Still, the definitions that Christian theologians have given for ‘omnipotence’ are largely incomplete. What does it mean to say, “Omnipotence only refers to being able to do what is logically possible?” Clearly, this is a start, but it is not a Biblical definition, nor is it a definition at all. The Bible does not tie omnipotence to what is logically possible, rather, omnipotence is tied to Adonai’s will (Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:19-21). While theologians are correct to say that Adonai doesn’t do anything that is illogical, the connection that the Bible attributes to Adonai’s power goes beyond a simple matter of logical possibility. Therefore, a more Biblical and precise definition is needed. In this article, omnipotence is defined as the ability to perfectly carry out one’s will.
Other similar questions have been raised too such as, “Can God destroy himself?” The answer to this question is no; an eternal being cannot be destroyed by definition. In particular, a being that does not lie, is all knowing, and who has told us he is eternal, cannot be destroyed, for if he were, it would make him a liar, and Adonai does not lie. This does not denote a limitation of his own power, rather, it is a testament to his power and glory, for no one can frustrate Adonai’s will.
Another similar question is, “Can God create a being more powerful than himself?” It is written, “Yours, Adonai, is the greatness, the power and the splendor, and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything in heaven and earth. Yours is the kingdom, Adonai and You are exalted above all. Both riches and honor come from You. You rule over everything. In Your hand is power and might, in Your hand, to magnify and give strength to all (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).” It is clear that Adonai Elohim will never create a being greater than himself because he will always be the greatest.
This brings us to the question, “Can God create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it?” Adonai has told us that he is the greatest, and by consequence, he is greater than his creation. It is clear that Adonai did not will for his creation to be greater than he is. Therefore, the answer to the question is no. Adonai does not lie, and he has told us that he the greatest, therefore, there will never be a rock that is so great that Adonai cannot lift it. Given the definition of ‘omnipotence’ that was given in this article, the answer that I gave to this question is not problematic. Rather, it answers this supposed ‘paradox.’
It is obvious. The unbeliever is using some sort of unconstrained definition of ‘omnipotence.’ While we do use the word ‘omnipotence,’ to describe Adonai’s power, the Bible only tells us about what Adonai will and will not do. Clearly, Adonai’s power is exercised only within the confines of his will, not due to lack of power or ability, but simply because of who he is. Such questions that ignore the parameters assigned to Adonai’s omnipotence by the scriptures are attacking another god instead of the God of Christianity.
1. Adonai’s will is synonymous with his nature. Adonai’s nature has been decreed in eternity’s past (James 1:17-18). Simply put, Adonai is who he has always willed to be. One could use the term, ‘nature,’ but the word ‘will,’ which is defined as ‘intention,’ is a term that is easier to understand.
In 2013, I made an epistemological argument against atheism from modal logic. In this article, I will present this argument again, but it will be a more clear and concise presentation.
A Framework is Needed
In order to discern a true proposition from a false one, you must have some sort of methodology for making a distinction between a true belief and a false belief.
The Problem of Induction
Since there is no omniscient being given the truth of atheism, all knowledge (the possession of the truth) must be acquired inductively. 1 Unfortunately for our dear atheists, induction cannot be an account for knowledge. There are several reasons for this:
1. In induction, the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.
2. Since the truth of the conclusion is not guaranteed, all conclusions that are reached through induction are probabilistic.
3. You cannot validly reason to a universal truth from a particular truth by using induction.
4. There is no rule in logic that allows for the validity of inductive inferences.
The Consequences of Being Stuck with Induction
Since induction only draws conclusions on the basis of probability, there is always a possibility of the conclusion being false. Because there is no way to demonstrate the truth of the conclusion by using induction, atheists are stuck in skepticism. They say they try to evaluate the claims on the basis of evidence, but evidence is acquired inductively. Just because they think they see evidence for a claim doesn’t make the claim in question true. Thus, there is no interpretative framework for atheists that allow them to discern true propositions from false ones. Thus, atheists are stuck in epistemological skepticism.
The Epistemological Argument from Atheism
Given what has been discussed, I will construct a hypothetical syllogism.
1. If atheism is true (A), atheists can only begin with induction (B). 2
2. If atheists can only begin with induction (B), it is not possible for them to know anything to be true (C).
3. Therefore, if atheism is true (A), atheists cannot know anything to be true (C).
1. In this article, ‘induction’ is defined as an argument or process of probabilistic inference.
What should you do if someone rejects your axiom? 1 When someone rejects our axiom without trying giving a substantive reason to reject it, we should reject theirs. What would a rejection of their axiom look like? Let’s put it this way: If someone has a belief, they arrived at that belief somehow. Either their belief is axiomatic in their worldview or there is a proposition precedes the belief. We would simply reject every assertion they make on the basis that they can’t demonstrate it. 2 This means that if they reject your axiom, your job in the discussion becomes very easy. It would look something like this:
Atheist: The fact that you have an axiom doesn’t make it true. You can try to smuggle your Bible in all you want, but you can’t use your Bible as an axiom because it’s just an assertion.
Christian: Axioms are not demonstrable because they are the first proposition that a person starts with in their worldview. Since you won’t grant my axiom for the sake of argument, I won’t grant yours either.
Atheist: Fine. My axiom is “I can know things to be true.”
Christian: Demonstrate your claim.
Atheist: You said you don’t have to demonstrate an axiom.
Christian: Yes, but since you are wanting me to demonstrate my axiom, it is only fair that we acknowledge that you have to demonstrate your axiom before I’m obliged to grant it. If you argue otherwise, you are committing the fallacy of special pleading.
At this point, the atheist must either grant the Christian’s axiom so they can have a discussion or listen to the Christian ask him to demonstrate every one of his claims. At that point, no matter what assertion they make, no matter how obvious they think it is, the Christian is at liberty to reject any claim the atheist makes.
1. An axiom is a proposition that is not demonstrable. It is not demonstrable because it is the very beginning of a philosophical system. Any proposition that precedes it is not an axiom. My axiom is, “The Bible is the Word of God.”
2, In this article, ‘demonstrate’ is defined as showing that a proposition must be true given the truth of an axiom.