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.

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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.

The Slavery Objection to Christianity

The Slavery Objection to Christianity

One of the more popular objections to Christianity is that the Bible is immoral because it gives approval to the practice of slavery. Many Christians living in the nineteenth century used the Bible’s statements that slaves should obey their masters to justify the practice of Southern slavery where black people were kidnapped and forced into slavery against their will.

The first truth that must be established when talking about slavery in the Bible is that the Scriptures never give approval to kidnapping and selling people into slavery. Exodus 21:16 condemns both the person who kidnaps another human being and sells him into slavery and the person who buys the kidnapped slave:

“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

This condemnation is repeated in Deuteronomy 24:7:

“If a man is found stealing one of his brothers, the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

The Old Testament laws on slavery were designed by God to regulate and bring compassion to a pre-existing practice that is the result of the fall of man into sin. Unlike marriage, slavery was created by man, not God. Exodus 21:2 placed a time limit on how long a person could own a slave, Exodus 21:26-27 forbids cruelty to slaves, Deuteronomy 15:12-15 says that slaves are to be treated well, Deuteronomy 23:15-16 says that slaves who run away from their masters must not be handed back to them, and Leviticus 25:39-40 reminds us that slavery was often a means out of poverty and starvation as many slaves sold themselves into slavery to avoid starving to death.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1:8-10 lists enslaving humans among the horrible sins of this vice list:

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”

The term translated as enslavers literally means “man-stealers” to describe people who kidnap other human beings.

But why didn’t Paul advise Christian slaves to run away from their masters but instead to submit to them in Colossians 3:22? The reason is rather simple: the gospel. Paul wanted Christian slaves to win their masters and fellow slaves or servants to Christ. But why doesn’t Paul advocate abolishing slavery altogether in the Roman Empire? The reason for this should also be obvious: the New Testament Church had no ability to change the law because Christians were a small minority in the Roman Empire. But they did have the power to create a new community where they did not treat each other as slaves, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul says in Philemon 1:15-16 that Christian slaves are not to be treated as slaves:

“For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother – especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

The church is a society where there are no slaves because they have all been adopted into God’s family: no longer as slaves, but as sons and daughters:

Galatians 4:7: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Because Christ has set us free from our sins, we should not sell ourselves into slavery (1 Cor 7:21), but glory in the truth that we have been liberated from the just sentence of death and hell we deserved.

Will Future Generations of Americans Look on Abortion as They Do Slavery?

It is often said that future generations of Americans will sit in judgment of ours when it comes to the issue of abortion. Our culture will eventually change its tune and embrace the sanctity of all of life just as we have now come to see the evil of Southern slavery. As a Christian, I could never vote for or endorse a politician who supports abortion. Abortion violently takes the life of unborn children and is our nation’s greatest shame. While I wish that one day future generations of Americans will look back on abortion as the greatest evil our nation has ever participated it, I do not believe this will happen until Christ returns. I hate to be a pessimist, but I am afraid that this hope is unfounded because it misunderstands why abortion has become an untouchable sacred rite to those who are in bondage to their sins.

The demand for abortion will never go away until Jesus returns because fallen mankind is in bondage to sexual sin. There will always be a demand for abortion because it is viewed as a necessary form of contraception to avoid the consequences of sinful behavior. As long as there are sinners who are in rebellion against God in their sexual sin, there will always be a demand for abortion because sexual sin will endure until the return of Christ. I’d have to become a postmillennialist in order to believe that the demand for abortion will pass away before the new heavens and new earth arrive. But the Scriptures teach that the period of time before the second coming of Christ will be marked by great persecution and much unbelief (Dan 7:21-22, 25-27; 1 Thess 5:2-4; 2 Thess 2:8-12).

It is true that institutionalized slavery has been abolished in our nation, but abolishing slavery is a much easier task than abolishing abortion. One is a change in the economy of a nation which can be accomplished through coercive force, the other is a change in the heart of a person. While slavery is now illegal in America, it is still alive and well in the form of human trafficking. Even if by God’s grace abortion was made illegal in America, that would not diminish the demand for it one bit. No law has the power to change the human heart. Only God through the gospel can do that. If abortion was made illegal like slavery is, then surgical abortion would just be replaced by private chemical abortion. We cannot expect the government to do for us what only God can. Man’s sexual autonomy must be dethroned before Christ can rule over a person’s heart. It takes the regenerating power of God to change the nature of those who are in bondage to sexual sin.

The Constitution sowed the seeds of the end of slavery by asserting that all men are created equal and the same could be said for those who are unborn. But the abolition of slavery took place when our nation was not ashamed of its Christian heritage. In contrast, our culture has become radically anti-Christian and the power of the government has been restructured around the Supreme Court which is viewed as the ultimate authority. The mechanism for changing the laws of our nation on abortion is broken given the present form of our government. But even if the laws were changed, that would not change the demand for it. That is why we must work for a different kingdom and seek to transform this world through sharing the gospel with the lost even if our beliefs are only vindicated on the other side of history.

Should Women Who Have Abortions Be Punished?

There has been a great deal of discussion on the internet recently about whether women who have abortions should be punished by law if abortion were to become illegal. It is often argued that abortionists should be punished, but not the women who visit them. This is the dominant position in the pro-life movement today. But this belief is dead wrong and I’m going to explain why in this article even though the reason should be obvious.

Let’s say a woman is raising a one-month-old child and decides she no longer wants to be a mother because of the stress and cost of taking care of that child. She regrets not having an abortion because then she would not have to deal with the consequences of giving birth to a child. So she hires a hitman to abduct her baby and kill him so that she no longer has to be a mother. Should she be held legally responsible for the crime of hiring a hitman to kill her child? If you answer, “Yes,” then on what basis should a woman who hires an abortionist to kill her unborn child not be held legally responsible? The only difference between a one-month-old and an unborn child is the level of development. The only way you can make an argument that mothers who kill their unborn children should not be held criminally responsible is by agreeing with the pro-choice logic that killing an unborn child is fundamentally different than killing a child who is already born. Every objection against holding women who have abortions responsible for what they have done could be used against prosecuting the woman in this scenario who hires a hitman to kill her child.

By saying that women who have abortions should not be punished, the modern pro-life movement is saying that it is not actually interested in abolishing all acts of abortion. If the pro-life movement had its way, almost as many abortions would take place as they do now. Surgical abortion would simply be replaced by chemical abortion. And there would be no accountability for women who take abortion-inducing drugs under this policy. That would mean a woman who smokes marijuana is more legally liable under the law than a woman who takes a drug to end the life of her unborn child.

Those who argue that women who have abortions should not be criminally charged fail to cite any Scripture to support their position. That’s because this viewpoint does not come from the Bible, but from the Roman Catholic Church which was involved in the pro-life movement before most Protestants were. This argument is built around the myth that women who intentionally kill their unborn children are victims rather than accomplices in a murder. There may have been a time when a woman could claim that she did not know what she was doing when she had an abortion. But the time for ignorance is past. The amount of knowledge we have today concerning the development of the child in the womb is incredible in comparison to the days of Roe v. Wade. Anyone with access to the internet can see pictures of every stage of development in the womb.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 8:11 that, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” Laws against evil serve as a deterrent to restrain those who are evil. This is the true purpose of the government (Rom 13:4). Without any legal accountability for abortion, there is no incentive for a woman not to have one. This is the reason why we punish both prostitutes and those who visit them. The same is true for those who purchase illegal drugs and those who sell them. Both parties must be punished or else only the seller would have an incentive to not engage in criminal behavior. Decriminalizing an action is the same as legalizing it because either way there is no punishment for the one who commits it.

One of the objections to the position advocated here is that this would result in punishing women who are in crisis rather than helping them. A woman with an unplanned pregnancy is a woman in crisis. But a woman who has had an abortion is no longer a woman with the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy because she has dealt with that problem through abortion. She is now no longer a woman in crisis, but a woman with the guilty conscience of having murdered her child. When ministering to a person who has committed murder, the church has a role to play in proclaiming the gospel to him or her and the government has an obligation to punish those who take life.

Another objection is that this would make it more difficult to prosecute abortionists because women would fear coming forward to testify against the abortionist for fear of being criminally charged. But why do prosecutors need the testimony of women who have participated in abortion to prove that the abortionist has committed a crime? When a woman hires a hitman to kill her husband, is her testimony against the hitman essential to proving the case? Holding women accountable for abortion would actually increase the likelihood of having them testify in court against abortionists because prosecutors can offer them the plea deal of a reduced sentence for their crime in having the abortion. If these women have not committed a crime, then no plea deal could be offered to them and they would have less of an incentive to testify.

Some might argue, “But women who had abortions before Roe v. Wade were not held legally responsible.” That is true. And that is one of the reasons why Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Not punishing women involved in abortion helped to create a pro-choice culture because there was no deterrent against it. It was inconsistent to punish abortionists while not punishing the women who hired them so the courts stopped punishing abortionists.

But what about situations where a woman is forced into having an abortion by the father? In that case, the father or those who pressured her into having an abortion should be held responsible. A woman who feels as if an abortion is the only option should contact her nearest crisis pregnancy center or visit a church who can help her. There are many Christians waiting to help women in crisis if they only knew where to look.

As others have indicated, inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument. It’s time for those who are in academia and leaders in the pro-life movement to listen to the voice of the church instead of Roman Catholicism. I would be in agreement with Tony Miano’s position on abortion.

How Could God Command People to Kill Others?

God is the one who gives and takes life. As 1 Samuel 2:6 says, “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.” He can choose to take us out of the world any time he wants (Deut 32:39; Job 1:21; 12:10; 14:5; 34:14-15; Isa 45:7; Lam 3:38; Dan 5:23). He is sovereign over life and over death. Murder is wrong because only God has the authority to take life. Because only God gives life, only God has the right to take life. To kill an innocent person is to usurp the authority only God has and put ourselves in the place of God. Because only God has the right to take life, how could it ever be just for one person to kill another? On what basis could God order someone to kill another person?

One principle we must take into consideration when answering this question is that it is essential to distinguish between those who are innocent and those who are deserving of death. Murder is the taking of innocent life, not all life. Lying is not telling the truth to those to whom the truth is owed, not all acts of deception. God commanded that those who murder be put to death: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9:6). All men have dignity and value because they are made in the image of God unlike animals who can be killed for food. It is exactly because man has value that murderers must be punished with death so that the punishment fits the crime. Destroying the image of God is a crime worthy of the greatest punishment.

God commanded Israel to kill the Canaanites because of the greatness of their sins (Deut 18:9-14). It is just for Israel to kill pagan idolaters in warfare because they are great sinners deserving of death. God allowed for the Israelites to use lethal force to defend themselves against thieves (Exod 22:2). The failure to distinguish between those who are innocent and those who are guilty leads to much of the confusion surrounding this question. Everyone whom God has ever ordered to be put to death was either someone deserving of death or in corporate solidarity with those who deserved to die. As in the case of Achan, everyone who was associated with him had to die for the guilt to be purged from Israel (Josh 7:24-26). But this extreme example is an exception to the general rule that children are not to be put to death with their parents (Deut 24:16).

God is just to order human government to kill those who are deserving of death because the government is an extension of God’s sovereignty when it is acting on his behalf (Rom 13:1-6; 1 Pet 2:13-14). When God tells the government to shed the blood of men who are guilty of murder, the government is acting as God’s instrument. It is not human government who is ultimately taking life, but God who is doing so through them. The government is not sinning when it takes the lives of those who are evil because it is fulfilling the Word of God. Only God can take life, but he has delegated this authority to the government. God has also revealed in his Word that it is appropriate to take life when necessary to protect the innocent from those who try to kill them (Neh 4:13-14; Esth 8:11; Ps 82:4; Prov 24:11; Acts 7:24). In these situations, the one who takes life is exercising an authority delegated to him by God. It is only just for man to take the life of another man in specific situations where God has revealed that doing so is appropriate. In such cases, it is God who is taking life through the means he has ordained.

The Biblical Basis for Self-Defense

In light of John Piper’s recent comments on whether Christians should ever use force to defend themselves or others, I would like to add my own thoughts regarding the Scriptures on this matter. When Jesus said, “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matt 5:39), he was speaking with respect to our actions as individual Christians when mistreated for our faith. We are not to take revenge on those who persecute us because God will avenge us (Rom 12:19). He is not speaking with regard to the role of the government in punishing those who do evil or the obligation of a man to protect his family or the duty of God’s people to protect those who are helpless (Exod 2:17-19; 22:2; Deut 22:27; Neh 4:13-14; Esth 8:11; Job 29:17; Ps 82:4; 94:16; Prov 24:11; Eze 33:6; Matt 24:43; Luke 11:21; Acts 7:24; Rom 13:4; 1 Tim 5:8; 1 Pet 2:14).

Peter’s use of the sword against the Romans was sinful because he was using force against a legitimate authority (Rom 13:1-2). The church, of which Peter would be a cornerstone, advances the kingdom with spiritual weapons, not physical ones (2 Cor 10:4). In contrast, a person who is trying to murder your family is not a legitimate authority and should be repelled by force. Dying by the sword in Matthew 26:52 is a reference to the death penalty which those Peter had just attacked were capable of using and one day would use against him (Rom 13:4). Jesus himself used force to drive out the money changers from the temple because they were breaking God’s law (Matt 21:12; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45; John 2:15). Therefore, it is not always sinful to use force or else Jesus would have been a sinner.

Jesus commanded his disciples to be armed with a sword in Luke 22:36 to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 that he would be numbered with the transgressors. But the act of being armed to defend oneself is not sinful or else Jesus would be commanding his disciples to sin. It was the use of the sword against a legitimate authority by Peter that was sinful, not owning a sword for self-defense. Some interpreters argue that the sword of Luke 22:36 is figurative rather than literal. But in that case, how would a figurative sword fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 and number Jesus among transgressors? Why would a person need to sell their cloak to buy a metaphorical sword?

We must be neighbors to those closest to us before those who are evil. Refusing to protect helpless people in distress is not being a neighbor to them, it is being a coward. Loving our neighbor requires us to protect them from those who would harm them. Men are called to provide for their families (1 Tim 5:8). That includes providing for their protection against those who would try to harm them. A husband who will not protect his family is even worse than one who will not provide for their financial needs.

It is the false shepherd who runs away and flees when confronted with danger. Jesus says in John 10:10-13: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” If a shepherd would use force to repel a wolf from attacking his sheep, how much more should husbands use force to protect their families. The reality is pacifism is often cowardice in disguise under a cloak of righteousness.

All human fighting, violence, and crime flow from man’s sinful craving to satisfy his appetite for power, money, pleasure, food, and significance. Christians turn from sinful lust by finding their identity in Christ instead of trying to build their own kingdom on earth. Because it is God who is our lasting satisfaction, we do not need to wage war to create heaven on earth. Crime will not cease until the second coming because violence is a problem of the heart. That requires constant vigilance by society to protect the innocent against those who are evil.

Pacifism in a fallen world invites violent men to take advantage of those they know will not fight back. In this sense, pacifism is a form of over-realized eschatology that does not take into account the reality of fallen man’s propensity to engage in violence even when there are strong deterrents. There will be no need for guns in the new heavens and new earth, but that day has not yet come. Other examples of over-realized eschatology include persecution of religious minorities, taking vengeance on others, the prosperity gospel, antinomianism, perfectionism, hyper-dispensationalism, hyper-Calvinism, hyper-preterism, never allowing any exceptions for divorce even in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality, and never allowing deception for the purpose of protecting the innocent (Exod 1:16-21).