Israel’s Kings as Messiahs or Christs

In a previous post, I pointed out that in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures Israel’s kings are spoken of as God’s anointed ones. In the Hebrew texts the word for “anointed one” is mashiach (משיח), which is anglicized as “messiah.” And in the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures used by early Christians, mashiach was rendered christos (χριστος), which is anglicized as “christ.” Here are some examples of this usage of the term mashiach in the Hebrew texts and christos in the Greek translations. This usage, of course, is critical for rightly understanding Jesus as mashiach or christos. Against the background of Israel’s kings as mashiach or christos, it is evident that the claim Jesus is the Messiah or Christ is the claim that Jesus is the king appointed by God. Continue reading

Jesus the Son of God

According to the Scriptures, Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. What does this mean? Because most Christians take for granted the teaching of the later creeds that Jesus, a man, is actually God as well, they interpret Jesus’ title Son of God as denoting the eternal deity ascribed to him in the creeds. To put it another way, since most Christians presuppose the doctrine of the trinity, when they hear Jesus called the “Son of God” in Scripture, they hear this as “God the Son” of the later creeds. But this is a misinterpretation of the title. According to the Scriptures, Jesus is Son of God for two reasons, or in two different ways; and neither of these reasons or ways involves the idea that Jesus of Nazareth, a man, is somehow actually God as well. Continue reading

John 6:64 and Judas’ Treachery

In John 6:64, it is reported that Jesus told his disciples,

“‘But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.”

The reference to the “one that would betray” Jesus is clearly Judas. And because the Gospel writer says Jesus knew “from the beginning” (Gk. ex arches) that Judas would betray him, this verse is all-too typically interpreted as evidence that God foreknows all things from eternity including free human decisions. In fact, it is even often interpreted as evidence that God has planned and ordained from eternity all things including human decisions, even sinful ones. But is this verse really evidence of any of this? Continue reading

Prayer and a Good God

Why does God usually not answer prayers for deliverance in direct, miraculous ways? Indeed why does he almost never do so? Does it mean he does not love us, that he is not concerned with us? These are difficult questions, but here are ten points I would say in response to these questions. They are born from reflecting upon my own experience with suffering and prayer, and I wrote them out recently in an email to a dear friend. Continue reading

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob; Not of the Philosophers and Intellectuals

According to so-called “classical theism,” God is wholly immutable, or unchanging. Not only can he never change in character, or nature; he cannot change in any respect whatsoever. He does not have changing thoughts; he does not have changing emotions (he is “impassible”). Indeed, he does not even experience sequence in his thoughts, emotions, or life generally. He is wholly “timeless,” with no before or after, with no sequence at all. His existence is somehow a timeless nunc (“now”). Continue reading

The God of the Flood

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved to his heart. Yahweh said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6.5-7)

All Bible readers are familiar with the story of the flood recorded in the Book of Genesis (or Bereshit as it is called in the Jewish tradition). The story is a sober one. After all, God destroyed the entire world, except for one family and representative pairs of animals. But from the story, particularly the introduction of the story in Genesis 6.5-7, we can learn a lot about God that might surprise us when we compare how this ancient Hebrew narrative depicts God with the “classical” conception of God rooted in Greek philosophy. Continue reading

How Calvinist are Calvinist Churches?

I have often wondered how many people who attend Calvinist churches really realize that the official position of their church and of their elders and pastors is that God has ordained and so determines all things that occur in the universe. They know their pastors and elders make much of God being “sovereign,” but do they really realize this is what their church means by God being “sovereign”? Continue reading