Sunday, April 8, 2018

Debating the Sabbath - Doug and Steve Go At It Politely!

On March 30, Amazing Facts hosted a debate about the Sabbath between Pastor Doug Batchelor and Pastor Steve Gregg, a radio pastor there in California.
Adventists used to do this kind of thing a lot back in the late 19th century. It usually didn't result in a lot of conversion since the sides were pretty well drawn among the audiences who showed up for those things. Eventually, SDA ministers gave up doing it, because, though they buried their opponents in scripture, not a lot of hearts seemed to respond to seeing their preacher suffer a theological beat-down. I was curious as to how Pastor Doug was going to handle the debate format.

We watched the debate twice yesterday. My wife had no trouble understanding what Pastor Doug presented, but she got really lost listening to Pastor Gregg. Was he really saying there is no law for "New Testament" Christians, only what they feel the law is in their hearts? She had to listen to it twice and still couldn't follow the intricacies of his argument. I generally find that subtlety of argument is not a common feature of Scripture. Stuff tends to be pretty plain and straightforward. The prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 2:2) was told by God to "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he who runs may read it." In other words, simple enough for a billboard. While I do enjoy deep theology, at the same time I find it difficult to accept the kind of theological gymnastics that results in it being okay for us to not be "these are they who keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus," but to just decide whether or not I can skip over commandments I don't care for.

Pastor Gregg pointed out that the ten commandments weren't exactly original and that some version of the law had been enacted by Hammurabi and other ancient rulers.  Pastor Steve seemed that this somehow made the ten commandments less an eternal law and more of a temporary thing God laid on the Jews for a while. The fact that Hammurabi or other ancients were aware of some of the other commandments doesn't mean the ten on stone were derivative.

Of course people were aware of the laws of God prior to Mt. Sinai. We are built as human beings to know that we should not steal, lie, kill or be greedy. It's that God-shaped hole in us that keeps man trying to fill it with gods of His own making. Even the first four commandments can be found in religions pre-dating Sinai, though some of them are arguably much more severe in the penalty phase than the Exodus version. Lately in our culture, we've been trying to shove gods who look like us into that empty space. Many even try to fill that God-shaped hole with themselves. "I am god!" is even used in some of the more ineffective forms of psychotherapy.

Pastor Gregg's concept of the new covenant seems like part and parcel of the original deception in Eden - that our souls are immortal and if we know about good and evil, that's all we need to become little gods ourselves. It follows then that we can make up our own laws if there is no law except some nebulous personal extrapolation of "treat others the way you want to be treated." Reminds me of the 60s when the theme was "If it feels good, do it!"

The law, someone has said, is a teacher. Do we kill the teacher and put the children in charge of the classroom? Pastor Gregg also conflates the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments with the covenants old and new. The covenants were a separate thing from the law. The old covenant was the agreement between the Israelites and God where they agreed to obey the law in their own strength. That covenant was proposed by Israel, not by God. Even then, God meant for them to be bound by the new covenant which was basically, trust me and I will help you obey the law through My strength. The new covenant is restated repeatedly in the Old Testament, but it took Jesus' sacrifice to seal it with his people. It took the death of the Son of God for us to believe what God was offering to us.

I don't believe in magic - that God waves a wand and suddenly we know right from wrong and can think to change times and laws based on our own feelings. People aren't made like that. I do believe in the supernatural - God above nature, outside of time and space and encompassing our physical universe and existence. I believe a relationship with the creator of the universe will change our hearts. It works because we are connected to Him who is beyond nature who draws us upward to Himself. We're just now in the past few decades learning how the human mind works. New therapy techniques look more and more like the kind of things Christians have been doing for two millenia in order to have peace within and to become better people. Jesus, because He is the Creator, understood how our minds work and how to build his church so that what we do helps us become one with the Father and suited to live forever without messing up the universe again.

The law is a critical part of that sanctification process. The ten commandments obviously were in effect prior to Mt. Sinai and remind us of what should have been had we not rebelled in Eden. The Mosaic Law pointed forward to Christ in every detail of its services. When Christ came, he brought us back to the original natural law of God as spelled out in the commandments.

When John said "These are they who keep the commandments," he could have meant no other commandments than the Decalogue, that was written on stone. What is different now is that God has written those commandments upon our hearts this time. We must agree to the terms of the New Covenant in order for that to happen. God says he changes not. I seriously doubt He is going to revise his commandments or revoke them.

Doing away with the Law would seem to me a surrender to Satan's original proposal - that there be no law and everyone gets to be a god and decide for himself what laws to obey. I do not hold to that. And as this philosophy takes hold and the Christian world comes together around the idea that we can change the law and our behavior to suit our own feelings, I aim to misbehave. Already in Europe you can be fined and/or jailed for mowing your grass on Sunday or washing your car. The Protestant churches are beginning to run home to Rome. Meanwhile an "I'm okay/you're okay" theology is gaining ground, while the spiritualists and earth worshippers are infiltrating every corner of our culture and religion.

Do you see it coming?

© 2018 by Tom King

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