I Don’t Understand the Fascination with Karl Barth

I Don’t Understand the Fascination with Karl Barth

Karl Barth (pronounced “Bart”) was one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. His fourteen-volume Church Dogmatics have been required reading for many seminarians and his writings have been the source for numerous books and articles. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, even did his doctoral dissertation on Karl Barth and evangelical theology. While knowing all about Barth’s theology is seen as a prerequisite to being a theologian these days, I am not impressed. In fact, I believe that Barth’s theology should be left to the dustbin of history and I don’t understand why so many Christians are fascinated by him. Here are my reasons why:

1. Barth was a universalist who believed that it was possible that in the end all would be saved. He said in his Church Dogmatics:

“If for a moment we accept the unfalsified truth of the reality which even now so forcefully limits the perverted human situation, does it not point plainly in the direction of the work of a truly eternal or universal reconciliation? If we are certainly forbidden to count on this as though we had a claim to it, as though it were not supremely the work of God to which man can have no possible claim, we are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for it as we may do already on this side of this final possibility” (CD IV/3.1, 477).

But the Bible leaves no possibility open for universalism (Matt 25:41-46; Rev 20:10-15).

2. Barth rejected the inerrancy of Scripture in favor of a neo-orthodox view of the Bible. He did not believe that the Bible is God’s Word but only the instrument by which God’s Word is communicated to us.

3. While Barth is often considered a reformed theologian, he is not reformed at all since he rejected the Calvinistic doctrine of election believing that it is not individuals who are chosen by God for salvation but only Christ who has been chosen by God.

4. Barth could not even give a straight answer as to whether he believed the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event when questioned by Carl F. H. Henry.

5. Barth was an unrepentant sexually immoral man who lived in sexual sin with his secretary Charlotte von Kirschbaum. Barth lived as if the rules did not apply to him. Given that he didn’t believe in hell, it shouldn’t surprise us that he lived his life without fear of eternal consequences for his actions.

Because of his unorthodox theology and immoral life, his writings should be avoided by those who care about sound theology and integrity. If we do read them, we should read them the same way we would read any writing from a non-Christian cult. In this case, it is the cult of liberalism.

Advertisements

Sunday Meditation – The King Immortal

Sunday Meditation – The King Immortal

“But Jesus comes, the King Immortal, Invisible, with his strong hands he rends the veil from top to bottom, and now men draw nigh with confidence, for when Jesus died a living way was opened. Sing, O heavens, and rejoice O earth! There is now no wall of partition, for Christ has dashed it down! Christ has taken away the gates of death, posts and bars, and all, and like another Samson carried them upon his shoulders far away. This, then, is one of the great notes of the Gospel, the fact that Jesus died. Oh! ye who would be saved, believe that Jesus died; believe that the Son of God expired; trust that death to save you, and you are saved. ‘Tis no great mystery; it needs no learned words, no polished phrases; Jesus died; the sacrifice smokes; the substitute bleeds; the Mediator fills up the gap; Jesus dies; believe and live.”

Charles Spurgeon

The Historicity of Esther

The Historicity of Esther

Many liberal scholars argue that the Book of Esther is a work of fiction like the apocryphal books of Judith and Tobit. Their main argument against the historicity of Esther is that the events recorded in it are not explicitly recorded in any other ancient source. If it is historical, then why don’t ancient historians like Herodotus or Plutarch ever describe them? As a Protestant, I am in agreement that the apocryphal books of Judith and Tobit are fictional and non-canonical, but there is good evidence to believe that the events described in Esther are historical.

1. The deliverance of the Jews as described in Esther is celebrated by the Jewish people every year in the festival of Purim. If Esther is a work of fiction, then where did the celebration of Purim come from? This festival is a historical relic pointing back to a real event that the Jewish people have always believed really happened. Just as the Jews celebrate Hanukah because it is the celebration of their deliverance from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC, they celebrate their deliverance from those who wanted to destroy them when they lived among the Persians. In contrast, the Jews have never celebrated the fictional events described in the apocryphal books of Judith or Tobit.

2. The events of the Book of Esther fit in well with the life of King Ahasuerus or Xerxes as described by Herodotus. After Ahasuerus was defeated by the Greeks, Herodotus writes that he “sought consolation in his harem.” This piece of corroborating evidence gives us another reason why he took Esther into his palace. In addition, the book’s description of the government and customs of Persia fit in with what we know from other sources.

3. The argument that the events described in Esther cannot be historical because they are never explicitly repeated in any other ancient writing is an example of the multiple attestation fallacy. This historical fallacy commits the error of thinking that historical events cannot be proven to be true unless they are recorded by multiple ancient sources. But if this method of doing history were to be consistently applied, then a large portion of ancient history would be unknown to us because there are many historical events which are only recorded once. Our knowledge of the ancient world is fragmentary and we are fortunate to have as much information as we do. This argument also reflects an anti-supernatural bias against the Bible since these critics do not want to believe in the God who rescued the Jewish people through Esther. This is ironic given that Esther is the only book in the Bible which does not use God’s name.

Sunday Meditation – Divisions

Sunday Meditation – Divisions

“I have seen many divisions in journeying through the country, and I believe almost every division may be traced to a deficiency of piety on the part of some of the members. We should be more one, if it were not for cants that creep into our midst. We should be more loving to each other, more tender-hearted, more kind, but that these men, so deceptive, coming into our midst, render us suspicious. Moreover, they themselves find fault with those who walk worthily, in order to hide their own faults against God, and against justice. The greatest sorrows of the church have been brought upon her, not by the arrows shot by her foes, not by the discharge of the artillery of hell, but by fires lit in her own midst, by those who have crept into her in the guise of good men and true, but who were spies in the camp, and traitors to the cause.”

Charles Spurgeon

Problems with Postmillennialism

Problems with Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism is the belief that before the second coming of Christ almost the entire world will embrace the gospel. When Christ returns, the church will be reigning triumphant over all the false religions of the world experiencing a golden age of revival as all of society is Christianized. While I wish that postmillennialism was true, it is impossible to reconcile with the Bible’s description of the second coming of Christ. Here are a few biblical problems with postmillennialism:

1. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 describes the period before the second coming of Christ as a time when the man of sin or Antichrist is leading many people away from the truth. Paul calls it a time of “apostasy” in verse three. But how can a time of great apostasy and deception by false signs and wonders be considered a golden age of Christianity? The man of sin will reign until the second coming of Christ when he is killed and cast into hell “by the appearance of his coming.”

Postmillennialists recognize that this passage is a problem for their position so they deny that “his coming” is a reference to the second coming of Christ and instead believe that the man of sin was a Roman emperor who has long since been dead. But this is an incredible twisting of the meaning of the Greek term parousia or “coming” which always describes the second coming of Christ when it is connected with Jesus. On what basis should this coming be different than the coming of 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; or 5:23? 2 Thessalonians 2:1 even associates this coming with “our being gathered together to him” which is the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4. This means that the “coming” of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, where the man of sin is killed, takes place at the same time as the “coming” of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 which is the rapture.

2. Daniel 7:21-22 states that the man of sin will persecute and prevail over the saints until the second coming of Christ. A period of great persecution by the Antichrist does not sound like a golden age to me. It is only after the man of sin is defeated that “the saints possessed the kingdom” and enter into the true golden age of the new heavens and new earth.

3. Revelation 19 describes the second coming of Christ as him returning to a world that is at war with him. But this is the exact opposite of what postmillennialism teaches. Postmillennialism presents us with a world that is eagerly awaiting the return of Christ at his coming, not one that is still in rebellion against him.

4. Jesus parallels his coming to the coming of the flood in Noah’s day. He says in Luke 17:26-30: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot- they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

Comparing the world at the time of his coming to the world at the time of the flood and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is not the best way to describe a golden age of Christianity in which the great majority of people are Christians. Before the second coming, there will be a great multitude of unbelievers on earth who will mock the idea of a second coming of Jesus just as there were people mocking the coming of a global flood in Noah’s day before it swept them all away (2 Pet 3:3-13).

5. Jesus describes the world at the time of his second coming as one where many people will be lost. He says in Matthew 24:12 that, “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” A world where love has grown cold is the opposite of a world marked by Christ’s love.

6. Jesus says that his coming will be like the coming of a thief in the night (Rev 16:15). It will be unexpected and will take the world by surprise. But how could this be the case if the world is already Christianized at the time of his coming and looking forward to it?

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 that Christians will not be taken by surprise by it but that the world will be: “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”

7. The consistent message of Scripture is that true Christians will always be in the minority. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:14 that many are called but few are chosen. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” But how could this be the case if the world becomes fully Christianized and freed from persecution?

In light of these passages, I must conclude that postmillennialism is a form of over-realized eschatology which puts the golden age of the church on the wrong side of the coming of Christ.

Sunday Meditation – The Lord Reigns

Sunday Meditation – The Lord Reigns

“I believe there is no doctrine to the advanced Christian which contains such a deep sea of delight as this. The Lord reigns! The Lord is King forever and ever! Why, then all is well. When you get away from God, you get away from peace. When the soul dives into him, and feels that all is in him, then she feels a calm delight, a peace like a river, a joy unspeakable. Strive after that delight this morning my beloved, and then go and express it in your songs of praise. If you are alone this afternoon, any of you, and not engaged in service, be sure to bless and magnify your God. Lift up your hearts in his praise, for ‘whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.’”

Charles Spurgeon

Should Christians Do Santa Claus?

Should Christians Do Santa Claus?

Every Christmas, children around the world anticipate the coming of Santa Claus to give them presents. But should Christian parents participate in this tradition? I have decided that if God gives me and my wife children, we will still give them gifts on Christmas morning, but will leave out Santa Claus. Here are my reasons why:

1. Telling children about Santa Claus is lying. By telling this story, parents are deceiving their children into believing a fairy tale about a fat man in a red suit who flies around on a sled pulled by magical reindeer with the ability to visit every home in the world in a single night. The ninth commandment forbids lying and there is no biblical justification for lying to those who are innocent.

2. Telling children about Santa Claus steals the credit from the parents who buy and wrap the gifts to give it to a fictional character and his elves. This results in a missed opportunity for the children to show gratitude to their parents and for parents to show love to their children.

3. Telling children about Santa Claus guilts parents into spending more money than they should during Christmas. Shopping malls love Santa for this reason because he creates an unrealistic expectation in the minds of children for what presents they will get since Santa does not suffer from the financial limitations of their parents.

4. Telling children about Santa Claus can prepare them to reject the existence of the supernatural. The tradition of Santa Claus is useful for atheists who love to make comparisons between him and God or Jesus. How can you expect your children to willingly believe your retelling of the supernatural events of the Bible after they learn you have been lying to them about the supernatural powers of Santa Claus?

5. Telling children about Santa Claus is training them to believe in things which are completely absurd. This is even truer when it comes to the Easter Bunny who is a giant anthropomorphic rabbit and the Tooth Fairy. Such traditions teach children to believe in pagan mythological creatures like fairies and elves which have their origin in Germanic religions. Our children need training in critical thinking skills and logic to combat the unbiblical world they are entering, not being indoctrinated into easily disproven myths.

6. Telling children about Santa Claus results in them feeling stupid and betrayed when they find out the truth. They will inevitably ask themselves, “What else are my parents deceiving me about?” weakening the trust between children and parents.

7. Telling children about Santa Claus results in them being mocked by other children who know the truth and subject to bullying.

8. Telling children about Santa Claus unintentionally results in the creation of another deity besides God whom your children believe in. Santa is a false Pelagian god who “knows when you are sleeping” and “knows if you’ve been bad or good” creating another all-knowing man parallel to Jesus Christ. In addition, Santa must be above time in order to visit every home in the world in one night. But only God is all-knowing and transcends time. Hence, Santa Claus takes upon himself attributes which only belong to God.

9. Telling children about Santa Claus teaches them that their bad actions do not have any real consequences because Santa always gives presents and never coal. The result of this is that children recognize that Santa (God) either doesn’t really know that they have been naughty or doesn’t care. Santa is either ignorant or unjust.

10. Telling children about Santa Claus has the potential to create a false narrative which eclipses the centrality of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The world loves Santa because he allows non-Christians to focus on him during Christmas season instead of Jesus in the same way the Easter Bunny takes the focus off of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday.