Those who have no hope

There are many people living hopeless lives, and some go to the extreme of committing suicide.

Dante’s poem imagines the supposed inscription at the entrance to hell: “Abandon every hope, you who enter in.”  It is amazing that those on earth with no hope would hasten their way towards that place with no hope.  However, strangely, they were not without hope, because something must have given them the false hope that things can only be better by escaping from their apparently hopeless condition.  There are false hopes that deceive, and there are good hopes based on truth.

So what is hope, and who do not have it?  First, hope needs a reference point and ‘to hope’ needs an object.  I may have no hope of becoming king, but I do have a good hope of seeing the King of kings in heaven.   Absence of one hope does not obliterate the presence of another hope.

Thus, to be hopeless is quite an extreme position.  What does the Bible say?  The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians about their past life: “at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”  Eph 2:12.  They had some hopes as far as worldly prospects were concerned, but no hope as far as the spiritual things that mattered – the knowledge of God and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Once the Gospel came to them, things changed.

Sometimes Christians quote this verse about their current state as ‘having no hope, and without God in the world’.  This is wrong.  Christians are not without hope and without God.  The apostle Paul addressed them collectively as having hope, and not because he believed them all to be converted and going to heaven, which he could not know.  Rather, by their coming under the sound of the Gospel, they could no longer be described as having no hope.

The correct application of the teaching from this verse is that those without the Gospel of Christ have no hope of reaching heaven, because they are without God while in this world.   However, as soon as the Gospel of hope reaches them, now they have hope.  They still don’t have any more hope than I have of becoming king, but there is a prospect that they might become the children of the King of kings.  This good hope is set before them in the free offer of the Gospel.

So why should one despair of life and commit suicide as if there is no hope?  Such hopeless souls need the Gospel of hope preached to them in a welcoming and hopeful manner.  Jesus says: “anyone that comes to Me, I will certainly not reject” Jn 6:37.

‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you do not sorrow, even as others which have no hope’ 1Th 4:13.

‘Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, Who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts’ 2Th 2:16-17.

‘O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake Thee shall be ashamed because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters’ Jer 17:13.

Interesting links:

A sermon explaining and applying the Free Offer of the Gospel

The Gospel is the good news of the free offer of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Its theological and practical importance is that a sinner finds Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour in the Free Offer of the Gospel.

 

 

Another Lib Dem broken promise

The new Lib Dem leader’s first pledge is to break another promise.

Sir Vince Cable was confirmed as the new Lib Dem leader when the time for nominations passed and he was elected unopposed.

He immediately announced that under his leadership, the Lib Dems will offer voters the chance to avoid Brexit – “to exit Brexit” as he put it – by promising a second EU referendum – despite the fact that he had previously dismissed such a move.

This goes beyond his earlier plea to give voters an opportunity to vote on the final deal negotiated.  It is a recommendation to reverse (exit) the first Referendum (Brexit), showing that Cable is no democrat.   It is EU thinking, which is not democratic but ‘we know what is best for you’.  This is exactly the complaint that secularists use against Christianity.

The first UK referendum was to find out what the country wanted.  This second proposed referendum is to tell them what to do – to change their minds – as happened with the second referendums in Denmark about the Maastricht Treaty in 1992-3, in Ireland about the Nice Treaty in 2001-2, and in Ireland again about the Lisbon Treaty in 2008-9.  The political methodology of beguiling voters to change their minds is explained here.  As usual, fear campaigns were used, exactly the complaint that secularists use against Christianity.

Vince Cable joins the long list of party leaders who promise one thing and do another once they have attained the leadership they crave.  Of all people he should remember the collapse in the Lib Dem vote after their U-turn about student tuition fees when they went into alliance with the Tories in 2010.

Cable has taken over the leadership after Tim Farron MP stepped down as leader following the recent General Election, stating that “I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.”  Such was his hounding by aggressive secular journalists, that he gave the impression that a faithful Christian and a political leader are incompatible in modern society.  He added: “We are kidding ourselves if we think that we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”

However the Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship” has a national leader and a Scottish leader who are able ‘to live as a faithul Christian’ and serve ‘as a political leader’.  We need many more such leaders.

In Scotland, the leaders of the main political parties in Holyrood are all supporters of LGBT rights and three of them (Tories, Labour and Green) are openly homosexual, as is the Scottish leader of UKIP.  If this is not over-representation then I don’t know what is, and it is time for Christians to step up to the plate.

Academic exegesis

Academic exegesis is that form of interpretation which copies academics or authority figures.  The Lord Jesus Christ cut through this in His teaching.

Academic exegesis is seen in the translation of several biblical passages.  Bible versions are the product of teams of academic translators pooling their collective knowledge to produce a final decision on the translation of particular texts.

It is easy to demonstrate that when a significant translation, such as the New International Version, makes a break from a traditional translation, then subsequent versions will follow, on the principle that new research has identified an improvement.

However, these are not always improvements but such is the bias of academia that academic exegesis kicks in to cement the new translation as the new standard, inhibiting independent thought and establishing a new paradigm.

Those who are unfamiliar with translation may think that this criticism is too strong. So it might help to give an example of academic imitation.  For a long time it has been recognized that Jn 5:39 is not a command ‘Search the Scriptures’, as the King James Version suggests, but a comment ‘You search the Scriptures’, meaning that in spite of their searching of Scripture they did not realise that the Scriptures spoke about Jesus.  The variations in translation can be viewed by clicking here.  So far, so good.

However, what about Jn 5:31?  A quick review of twenty versions, old and new, shows that there is little variation among them.  Yet most commentators know that there is a difficulty with this text and there are various attempts at explaining the verse.  The point is not which interpretation is correct, but that in spite of all the academics pouring over this verse none of them have translated any version as a rhetorical question.  The proper translation is: ‘If I bear witness of Myself, is My witness not true?’ which makes much more sense than the statement ‘My witness is not true’ – the uniform translation in all versions I have consulted – especially when the standard translation contradicts what the Saviour says in Jn 8:14.

Why is this?  Bible translations are produced by teams of academics, so how have they not analysed the Greek text for themselves and discovered this?  Have they been so busy studying the commentaries and weighed up the opinion of other scholars that they have not done their own exegesis?  If so, this is not exegesis of the text, but relying upon academia, the very thing that Jesus exposed.

This appeal to authority is what the scribes did in Jesus’ day – so when He cut through their academic exegesis and explained the proper meaning of Scripture, ‘the people were astonished at His doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ Mat 7:28-29 and Mk 1:22.  This mistaken emphasis is similar to modern theology, which is not ‘the study of God’ theos-logos but ‘the study of theologians’.

Proper exegesis of this passage would have yielded the result that the negative statement of all extant English translations cannot be correct, even before analysising the Greek text, which like Jn 5:39 has legitimate alternative translations.  So why have so many teams of translators followed each other along only one of these alternatives?  The answer is either that they have not considered the alternative or that they are too frightened to break out of the consistent consensus of academic opinion.  Neither option is commendatory.

Why call it academic exegesis?  1. because it is not exegesis, which does not need any qualifying adjective.  2. when something goes wrong with exegesis, there must be a reason for it.  The commonest error is eisegesis, which is the very opposite of exegesis.  3. in this case, the error arises because of an overweaning fear of breaking out of the academic consensus, so that ‘academic’ exegesis is an appropriate adjective.

This is only one of many examples of academic exegesis in Bible translation, in which academics are controlled by their peer group and too frightened to do their own exegesis, resulting in academic imitation, which Jesus broke through in His time, and which we must continue to assess in our time.  God willing, I hope to return to this subject with more examples as time permits.

Update:

10 Jul 2017: Ps 125:3: the NIV translates this with ‘the land’, which: 1. is not the Hebrew word, 2. does not make sense; 3. is not true; but 4. it is followed by many modern versions.  So why is this so?  They are copying each other – not exegeting the text.  Only some versions notice that another of the Hebrew words is ‘wickedness’ and not ‘wicked’.

American Independence Day

Today, American Independence Day, reminds us of ‘no taxation without representation’.  This was the principle on which the American War of Independence was fought.

It was not simply a desire for independence, but a revolt against undemocratic control.

Another blow for freedom was struck exactly 200 years later on 4/7/1976, when the Israel Defence Forces stunned the world by the iconic rescue of Israeli hostages at Entebbe Airport, Uganda.  The new state of Israel showed the world what it could do. Shortly afterwards, in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the Americans bungled a similar rescue of Americans held hostage in Iran when two of its helicopters crashed into each other in the desert.

Between 4/7/1776  and 4/7/1976 the world had changed dramatically.  The USA has become the world’s dominant power and, of biblical significance, the state of Israel has come into being.  The greatest advances have been in science and technology, and the worse changes have been the ungodly abandoning of Christianity, leading to the two world wars and horrors of the 20th century with massive slaughters promoted by atheistic regimes, notably in Russia and China.

However, in the realm of governmental democracy, celebrated by American Independence Day, it is pleasing to note that while there were only 11 democracies in the world in 1941, in 2017 there are about 123 democracies out of 192 countries in the world.

This governmental shift is consistent with the biblical teaching on the change in governmental principles that will be evident in the Millennial period of human history.  Christ’s mandate for the world is on target – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Mat 6:10.

 

 

Equality and children

Highland Green MSP John Finnie wants to criminalise parents who smack their children.   However, social services are already over-stretched and already have too much power to intrude into family life.

He has launched a consultation, which closes on 4/8/2017, as a prelude to his planned Private Members’ Bill to ban smacking by parents.  It is being promoted under ‘equality’ between children and adults – another example of the inability of some adults to discern the difference between things.  The equality agenda and control freakery have run wild and this is a manifestation of the poor education that some politicians have received.  Undefined and nebulous equality is a new commandment in their secular religion, and it is doing a lot of damage, because many things are not equal and we cannot simply assert that they are.  Equality is also a feature of the Language Battle (whereby words are redefined and opinions changed), and his Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill assumes and asserts that parental smacking is assault.

There are already laws on physical assault and the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibits certain forms of physical punishment already, but permits parental smacking.

Finnie also wants to remove religious representatives from the Education Committee of The Highland Council, showing a lack of historical appreciation for the role of Christianity in Scotland’s development and its educational system.  However, in the past decade of SNP government in Scotland, Scotland’s children have suffered educational decline, reckoned to be about two years behind children educated in England.

Who will stand up for Christian principles in The Highland Council?

The Green Party, to which Finnie turned when the SNP changed its policy on NATO, was instrumental in provoking the SNP administration to redefine marriage in Scotland, and the Lib Dem Party played the same role in England through Nick Clegg in coalition with David Cameron’s Tory Party.

Further, when discussing Israel with John Finnie MSP, I asked him why he was opposed to the only democratic state in the Middle East.  He responded: “Is it?”

Is this the same man who supports Palestinian causes against Israel?  What does he think about Palestinian children being taught in schools named after suicide bombers?  This goes far beyond parental corporal punishment.  What name does he give it?  Where does it fit in his spectrum of equality and assault?

Update:

4 Jul 2017: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a physical, psychological and sexual abuse well worth highlighting and combating.   NHS England has recorded 5391 new cases in the past year.  Will Finnie show the same zeal against this?  There have been no convictions in the 30 years it has been illegal in Britain.  Further, what about abortion, the ultimate physical assault on helpless children?  Has Finnie spoken out against this?

Signs of the Times

We are living in interesting and significant times.

31st October 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Martin Luther unwittingly commenced the Protestant Reformation when he posted his 95 Theses for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Europe and the world benefitted from the liberation of Christian conscience through the recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Balfour Declaration is a paragraph in a letter by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on 2/11/1917 informing the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland of the decision of the British War Cabinet in London, which on 31/10/1917 took a final vote in favour of establishing a Jewish National Home for the Jewish people.  By the evening of the same day, the charge of the Australian Light Horse was completing the victory in the Battle of Beersheba, the first victory in the campaign of the Egypt Expeditionary Force to re-capture Jerusalem and Israel during World War I.  On 11/12/1917 British General Sir Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem, without a shot being fired, becoming the first Christian to control the city in centuries, and being the first time since the Jewish Diaspora that a friendly power occupied the land.  It was of immense global significance and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said: “The moral effect of the victory was tremendously important. It was an earnest of the fulfilment of the Balfour Declaration.”

Allenby entered the Jaffa Gate after dismounting his white horse and walked into the city for the official ceremony on the first day of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.  He refused to enter “booted and spurred into Jerusalem where my Lord walked.”

14th May 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the nation of Israel – “Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?” Isaiah 66:8.

6th June 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem and flying the Israeli flag on the Temple mount.

 

Do you honour Jesus Christ as Lord?

What sort of honour do you give to Jesus Christ, and to what extent?

Many people know that He claims to be the Son of God, but this washes over many of them as if it is just another item of news.

Rather, it is so significant that it cannot be ignored and deserves to be investigated.  Jesus said: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the day of judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” Mat 12:42.

Some people minimise the concept of the Son of God and make out that He is an inferior creation of God, failing to give credit to the full meaning of this term.  Let us listen instead to what Jesus says about Himself:

“The Father judges no man, but He has committed all judgment to the Son, in order that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.  He that honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him” Jn 5:22-23.

The Father has a definite purpose in committing the work of judgment to His Son.  Not only is it an honour to Him Whom men despised as Saviour Isa 53:3, that He should also be appointed Judge, but Jesus tells us that it goes further than this.  It is in order that all men should honour the Son in the same manner as they honour the Father.

Do you do so?  Do you honour the Son in the same manner as you honour God? If not, then Jesus says that you are not even honouring the Father, far less the Son.  “He that honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him” Jn 5:23.

What if people will not do so?  Truly there are many such, who will not do so during their time in this earthly life, but they will be forced to do so at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Php 2:9-11.

Now compare this with the Lord’s speech in Isa 45:23 “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear”, quoted by Paul in Rom 14:11 “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God”, which Paul puts in the context of “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” Rom 14:10.

Every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ as Lord – either in mercy in this world or at the Day of Judgment.  Which will you choose?