I have come to realise the need for a statement of faith and I will be starting work on one sometime soon.
I would like some feedback and some input as to what people look for when they check out other statements of faith.
a) What are the reasons for doing so?
b) What is often lacking?
Each point in a statement has to be clearly and fairly briefly stated with Bible references and confessions if desired.
I think a clear cut statement would have all the aspects of the Gospel. Should the main aspect be to declare what you believe so that every person would understand or could it be more aimed at Christians?
Is it ok to be evangelistic in the layout etc. Is it ok to reference creeds or confession?
Saturday, May 28, 2011
A Critical Evaluation of Selected Articles in Relation to Old Testament Principles
This essay demonstrates the relevance of the principles of “גֵּר are able to join in worship of Yahweh” and “Even Israel are sojourners in their own land” to the present day, and includes applications and difficulties in dealing with strangers in the church.
The two principles to be discussed are that “גֵּר are able to join in worship of Yahweh”  and “Even Israel are sojourners in their own land”. גֵּר were seen as the resident aliens who were committed to Israel and Yahweh. Yahweh also commands that Israel should not forget they too were once sojourners in Egypt and in fact were even sojourners when they possessed the land of Canaan; Yahweh owned the land and He owned their hearts.
The evidence in the Old Testament of Yahweh not only allowing and encouraging but commanding the גֵּר to participate in worship of Him comes in various formats. Yahweh places conditions, or boundaries, upon their participation whilst maintaining the precept that He is the Almighty, the King of Creation, and most worthy of creation’s adoration. It is crucial to note in Isaiah 45:22-23 this latter concept, often neglected, but also echoed in Romans 14:11:
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ ”
The גֵּר were welcome to present sacrifices for the Levites to perform on their behalf, with the same restrictions and conditions as the Israelites. Worship of Yahweh also included festivals; גֵּר were allowed to participate in Passover as well as other important holy celebrations with the provision they were circumcised, just as all Israelites were commanded. There is a recurring pattern: for the majority of the time, the גֵּר were included and accepted so long as they were obedient in the same way as God’s people; minor exceptions did take place but for the purpose of this study the main principles shall be extracted and discussed.
The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word גֵּר as προσηλυτος. When it appears in the New Testament, this word is generally translated into English as the word “convert” or “proselyte”. The implication is that these are non-Jews coming into the Judaism, or possibly the church. It would seem that those described as proselytes in Acts were proselytes to Judaism who also came into the church, since so few of the converts are described as proselytes, and generally in a situation where proselytism to Judaism was the most reasonable assumption.
Throughout the Old Testament narrative, Yahweh reminds Israel they have been set apart and even the Promised Land is His possession; they are to enjoy its prosperity and be the guardian of the area. Yahweh implies that life here is short and eternity is long; their hearts should be set on things to come. In the New Testament we can see Peter reiterating the point: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
How these principles apply within a Church situation today can be seen in Colossians 3:1-4:6. Whilst the whole passage is relevant the key verses are:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth . . . .
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all . . . .
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
The whole of creation is to praise God and as previously demonstrated from Isaiah and Romans every human should and shall worship God. In regard to non-believers who enter the lives and churches of Christians, it is the duty of God’s people to direct them to Yahweh – the Lord of all.
Though Christians may come from varied cultures they are all born sinners but those who are “in Christ” are all one family. While in their depravation, they will continue to experience the pervasiveness of sin, and the devastation it causes. “Salvation in Christ more than overcomes the effects of the fall, rendering salvation certain for all believers.”
In expansion: whilst Christians are steeped in the effects of the fall, Christ, in rendering salvation and guaranteeing eternity for them, also paved the way for all Christians to become family.
As a family, believers should be reaching out to those who are in some way an outsider; which effectively includes every person in society depending on which aspect of their life is examined. What Christians must also realise is whomsoever should enter a church property instantly becomes an alien. This is especially true of a non-believer visiting a religious precinct. Will Humes puts it well when he says:
It would seem to follow naturally then that the church should reach out to all people, period. There are no ifs, ands, or buts here. This means the church must seek to minister to people of all races, to people of all creeds, to people whose lifestyles are at odds with our own, to outcasts as well as to those in positions of power.
This concept, once firmly understood, leads to the Pauline teaching of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Difficulties may include cultural differences, limited communicative ability, inappropriate resources, lack of relevant skills, sinful hearts, and poor attitudes. With a more specific problem other issues could be added to this list. The solution, sadly, is never easy; though it is certain that the spiritual blessings reaped from longsuffering, whilst undertaking such a battle, would greatly aid in the sanctification process.
In conclusion it has been demonstrated the principles of “גֵּר are able to join in worship of Yahweh” and “Even Israel are sojourners in their own land”, are clear throughout scripture and have ongoing relevance today in the area of dealing with strangers in the church.
Alastair R. McEwen, The Adam – Christ Concept. 1974. Section III, Chapter VIII, page 99.
From the unpublished work: Will Humes. Journeying Home: An Understanding of the Church and its Mission for Sojourners of the Way. This article can be found at http://willhumes.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/welcoming-the-strange1.pdf
 As shown by Exodus 12:48
 As shown by Leviticus 25:23
 As shown by Leviticus 17:8-9, 22:18-24; Numbers 15:14-15
 As shown by Numbers 9:14
 As shown by Numbers 15:26 and 19:10
 As shown by Matthew 23:15 and Acts 13:43
 As shown by Acts 6:5 and 2:10
 As shown by 1 Chronicles 29:15-16
 1 Peter 2:11
 Alastair R. McEwen, The Adam – Christ Concept. 1974. Section III, Chapter VIII, page 99.
 From the unpublished work: Will Humes. Journeying Home: An Understanding of the Church and its Mission for Sojourners of the Way. This article can be found at http://willhumes.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/welcoming-the-strange1.pdf
Friday, May 20, 2011
In light of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions, critically examine the new annihilationist understanding of the fate of the wicked.
The new annihilationist position is that there is a cessation of existence for the reprobate after the final judgement and the appropriate punishment has been completed. This position does not align with scripture or the Reformed Confessions.
Annihilationism is most commonly defined as the belief that once a sinner, condemned to hell, has paid the punishment for their sins, they will then cease to exist. This initially sounds munificent and almost merciful when compared with eternal cognitive punishment. The theory of damned souls’ total annihilation, and what the Bible and the confessions say on the subject, awaits the reader of this document.
The respected theologian, John Stott, shared his views in this way: “Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment in hell] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it . . . my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?”
J.I Packer brings more insight to the situation in this paragraph:
The question is essentially exegetical, though with theological and pastoral implications. It boils down to whether, when Jesus said that those banished at the final judgment will “go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46), He envisaged a state of penal pain that is endless, or an ending of conscious existence that is irrevocable: that is (for this is how the question is put), a punishment that is eternal in its length or in its effect. Mainstream Christianity has always affirmed the former, and still does; evangelical annihilationists unite with many Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and liberals — just about all, indeed, who are not universalists — to affirm the latter. Beyond this point, however, evangelical annihilationists have fanned out, and there is no unanimity.
Dr. W. Berends covers other aspects of the topic when he states that “Annihilationism teaches man was created immortal, but that those who continue in sin will be deprived of their immortality. Conditional immortality holds that man was created mortal, but that the believer is awarded immortality”. 
Over the years similar ideas and feelings have trickled down through the background humdrum of Christianity. From the time of the early church there were traces of annihilation in various forms. Conditional immortality is one such thread; whilst having a different face, it appears to have similar roots to annihilationism in Greek philosophy in regards to the soul’s separation from the body and its immortality. In modern times, several religious groups have teachings which are similar, and consequently these teachings are now starting to be taken up by mainstream Christianity. These mainstream advocates of the new annihilationism, or annihilationism proper, have come from a wide range of backgrounds within Christendom:
Annihilationist ideas have been canvassed among evangelicals for more than a century, but they never became part of the mainstream of evangelical faith, nor have they been widely discussed in the evangelical camp until recently. In 1987 Clark Pinnock authored a punchy two-page article titled “Fire, Then Nothing,” but this, though widely read, did not spark debate, any more than the 500-page exposition of the same view, The Fire That Consumes (1982) by the gifted Churches of Christ layman Edward William Fudge, had done. In 1988, however, two brief pieces of advocacy came from Anglican evangelical veterans: eight pages by John Stott in Essentials, and ten by the late Philip Edgecumbe Hughes in The True Image. 
Consultation of the Ultimate Authority is of utmost importance for any theological issue as John Stott rightly states. God’s word is available for us to know what God has decreed on any particular issue, whether directly or indirectly stated therein.
There are many passages in the Bible that contain references to Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, and places of discomfort. Sheol, in Judaism, is known as the grave or the abyss. Used by David in the Psalms, Sheol depicts a place where things aren’t particularly nice and God’s presence is still felt. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
The book of Proverbs also mentions Sheol, in terms similar to the teachings of hell by Jesus: ‘Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough” ’.
Hades, the abode of the dead, is seen as the Greek equivalent of Sheol. Used by the Septuagint, Hades is also mentioned in the New Testament: “The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment . . . .”
The standard Biblical view of hell is that of eternal conscious torment:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ ”
Annihilationists make the following observations:
“Annihilationists have noted that instead of speaking in terms of everlasting suffering, the Bible predominantly describes the fate of the lost in terms of destruction”.
“Our Lord spoke plainly of God’s judgment as the annihilation of the wicked when he warned about God’s ability to destroy body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). He was echoing the terms that John the Baptist had used when he pictured the wicked as dry wood about to be thrown into the fire and chaff about to be burned (Matt. 3:10, 12).
The Apostle Paul creates the same impression when he wrote of the everlasting destruction that would come upon unrepentant sinners (2 Thess. 1:9).
He warned that the wicked would reap corruption (Gal. 6:8) and stated that God would destroy the wicked (1 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28). . . . Concerning the wicked, the apostle stated plainly and concisely: “their destiny is destruction” (Phil. 3:19).
It is no different in any other New Testament book. Peter spoke of the “destruction
of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7) and of false teachers who denied the Lord, thus bringing upon themselves “swift destruction” (2:1, 3).
Peterson presents it thus:
The Argument Based on “The Vocabulary of Destruction”
Stott contends that we should understand the Bible literally when it speaks of the damned as “perishing” or suffering “destruction”. He assumes that these words speak of annihilation, as is evident from his assertion: “It would seem strange, therefore, if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed.” Addressing Edwards, his partner in dialogue, he adds: “And, as you put it, it is ‘difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing.’ ”
. . . .
In fact many passages that contain “the vocabulary of destruction” could, if considered by themselves, be construed to teach the extermination of the wicked (John 10:28; 17:12; Rom 2:12; 9:22; Phil 1:28; 3:19; 1 Thess 5:3; Heb 10:39; 2 Pet 3:7, 9; Jas 4:12). If Scripture gave us no other teaching on the final destiny of the wicked than that provided by these and similar passages, annihilationism would be a viable option.
. . . .
Some of the passages Stott cites, however, are difficult to reconcile with
annihilationism. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 is one example. Paul says of the disobedient, "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." Annihilation is an unlikely meaning for the words "everlasting destruction."
Furthermore, does it make sense for the apostle to describe unbelievers'
extinction as their being " shut out from the presence of the Lord"? Does not
their being shut out from his presence imply their existence? Not according
to Atkinson, whose explanation, however, is far from convincing: "All will
agree that the presence of the Lord is everywhere. To be destroyed from the
presence of the Lord can therefore only mean to be nowhere. "On the contrary,
as Scot McKnight argues, "Paul has in mind an irreversible verdict
of eternal nonfellowship with God. A person exists but remains excluded
from God's good presence." 
Dr W. Berends succinctly states the case for eternal, conscious, torment:
Annihilationists point to those scripture passages that threaten the wicked with death and destruction, and interpret this to mean that they with cease to exist (e.g. Mt. 7:13; 10:28; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 6:23; 8:13; 2 Thess.1:9). Those who uphold the doctrine of conditional immortality point out that immortality belongs only to God (1 Tim. 6:16), and is conferred upon believers as a gift (e.g. Jn 10:27, 28; 17:3; Rom. 2:7; 6:22,23; Gal. 6:8). Clearly the message of these texts can also be interpreted differently, and in light of those passages that indicate that believers as well as unbelievers will continue to exist it is clear that other interpretation is called for (cf. Eccl 12:7; Mt. 25:46; Lk. 12:47,48; Rom. 2:8-12; Rev. 14:11; 20:10).
It should be noted that the whole issue has stemmed from looking at the punishment of humans with unbiblical presuppositions; that of what man considers in his sinful state to be ‘fair’. It needs to be stated that God – the Almighty King of the universe - is completely holy, pure, just and glorious. Man is totally depraved; every human being is sinful and guilty before God. The Lord, justly in His role as creator of the universe, commands us to be holy just like Him. What then are the implications of this? God is just so He must punish sinners; if He did not He would be a liar. It must be remembered that God is glorified even when a sinner is paying for his own sins for eternity in Hell, because it declares His Lordship and displays the justice for which we so frequently give Him praise. Man, because of his inborn sinfulness is entirely deserving of this punishment.
The Westminster Confession makes note of this:
I. God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.
II. The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord; but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. 
In conclusion it is apparent that annihilationism’s main proofs are based more on emotion-driven exegesis than biblical hermeneutical principles. It is my opinion that annihilationism is a heresy and thus should not be entertained in evangelical circles.
Berends, Willem. The Doctrines of Grace, Soteriology & Eschatology. Lecture notes for the Reformed Theological College: Geelong, 2011.
Bloesch, Donald G. . Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Bolt, Peter. Living with the Underworld. Kingsford, NSW: Matthias Media, 2007.
Clark H. Pinnock. “The Conditional View,” Four Views on Hell (ed. William Crockett; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992)
Dixon, Larry. . Wheaton, Ill: Bridgepoint/Victor, 1992
Edwards, David L. . Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Pr, 1989
Gomes, Alan W. "Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell, Part One," Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991, 14ff.
Keddie, Gordon. Heaven. Faverdale North, Darlington: Evangelical Times, 2006
Morgan, Christopher W. "Two views of hell: a biblical and theological dialogue." 45, no. 4 (December 1, 2002): 727-730
Morgan, Christopher W. and Peterson, Robert A. What is Hell? Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2010
Packer, James I. Evangelical Annihilationism in review, Reformation & Revival magazine, Volume 6, Number 2 - Spring 1997.
Peoples, Glenn. "Fallacies in the annihilationism debate: a critique of Robert Peterson and other traditionalist scholarship." 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2007) 329-347
Peterson, Robert A. "The Hermeneutics of Annihilationism : The Theological Method of Edward Fudge." 21, no. 1 (March 1, 1995)
Storms, Samuel. Hell and Annihilationism. http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/hell-and-annihilationism/ Accessed on 16/05/2011
 David L. Edwards, . Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Pr, 1989), 315-16
 James I. Packer, Evangelical Annihilationism in review, Reformation & Revival magazine, Volume 6, Number 2 - Spring 1997.
 Dr. Willem Berends, The Doctrines of Grace, Soteriology & Eschatology. (Lecture notes for the Reformed Theological College: Geelong, 2011.), 18.4
 For example, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphians,
 James I. Packer, Evangelical Annihilationism in review, Reformation & Revival magazine, Volume 6, Number 2 - Spring 1997.
 Psalm 18:4-5
 Psalm 139:7-8
 Proverbs 30:16
 Luke 16:22b -23a
 Mark 9: 42-48
 Glenn Peoples, "Fallacies in the annihilationism debate: a critique of Robert Peterson and other traditionalist scholarship." 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2007): 329-347
 Clark H. Pinnock, “The Conditional View,” Four Views on Hell (ed. William Crockett; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992) 146
 Robert A. Peterson, "The Hermeneutics of Annihilationism : The Theological Method of Edward Fudge." 21, no. 1 (March 1, 1995): 13-28
 Dr. Willem Berends, The Doctrines of Grace, Soteriology & Eschatology. (Lecture notes for the Reformed Theological College: Geelong, 2011), 18.4
 Isaiah 6:3, 66:1-2a; see also John 17:11, in which Jesus attributes holiness to God.
 Romans 3:23
 Acts 17:24
 I Peter 1:16
 It is not sinful for God to be wrathful – c.f John 2:13-17 Jesus cleanses the temple.
 Numbers 23:19
 Isaiah Ps. 14:1; Revelation 14:11
 Acts 17:31
 John 5:22,27
 1 Cor. 6:3; Jude ver. 6; 2 Pet. 2:4
 2 Cor. 5:10; Eccl. 12:14 ; Rom. 2:16 ; Rom. 14:10 ,12; Matt. 12:36,37
 Matt. 25:31 to the end; Rom. 2:5,6; Rom. 9:22,23; Matt. 25:21; Acts 3:19; 2 Thess. 1:7-10
 WCF XXXIII:1-2