Is the Old Covenant Obsolete?

Around 600 BC, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that a day would come when a new and better covenant would render the Mosaic Covenant obsolete. It would be better because God’s laws would no longer need to be taught to the people; instead Yahweh would “put [his] laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts … And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know [Yahweh], from the least of them to the greatest.”

We know that Jeremiah was speaking of the messianic kingdom because it says, “They shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (This was written about four centuries after the death of King David.)

Around AD 65, the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 and reaffirms that the Mosaic Covenant will pass away, and he expresses his belief that this will happen soon.

But did it happen?

Jeremiah said that at that time, “[Jerusalem] shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever” (Jer 31:40). Similarly, Daniel wrote, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44). And Isaiah said, “[The Messiah] will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever …. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste” (Isa 9:7; 60:11-12).

Sadly, just a few years after the book of Hebrews was written, Jerusalem was demolished by the Romans in AD 70!

It is common to hear Christians say that the Mosaic Covenant was made obsolete, as though the prophecy in Jeremiah (and repeated in Hebrews) had already come to fruition. But it should be obvious to all that the messianic kingdom did not subjugate all of the other nations and annihilate those who refused to serve her, because the messianic kingdom has not yet been established.

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Notes:
1. Some say Hebrews 8:13 clearly declares the Old Covenant obsolete and they point to translations that seem to support this view. But the last sentence in Hebrews 8:13 makes it clear the author expected it to happen soon.
2. Some say in Ephesians 2:15, Paul declares that the Law is abolished. But a careful reading shows that he was referring to the ordinances of the law, or traditions of men, that created a “dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile.
3. Romans 10:4 speaks of the “end of the law,” but the Greek telos means “end” as in “purpose” or “goal.”
4. Some equate the Church with the kingdom and argue that the kingdom was established in the first century, but this does not match any of the Old Testament prophecies that we see alluded to repeatedly in the New Testament (see Mark 14:62; Matthew 16:27; 19:28; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Revelation 1:7).

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The Big Bang and the Origin of Life

We have two singularities1: The big bang and the origin of life.

I believe these singularities were caused by an uncaused/eternal being (otherwise we have infinite regression).

1. The big bang
-all matter, energy, space, and time came into being at an initial cosmological singularity.
-the universe was planned and fine-tuned for the existence of life.

2. The origin of life
-a self-replicating cell came into being at an initial biological singularity.
-cells, designed to increase in complexity as they replicate, eventually formed DNA to store information.
-the various forms of life came about through mutations (reprogramming of DNA) via the process of engineered evolution.

Obviously, this view is theistic since it involves a creator; however, it is not a religious view and can in fact be embraced by followers of any religion. Furthermore, neither the existence of the universe nor the existence of life proves the existence of a god, but given what we currently know, I believe two singularities caused by an eternal being makes the most sense.
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1Singularity: An event that due to its nature has no natural explanation and is assumed to only have happened once.

Related Post:
God and Evolution

Purpose in Life

I was thinking about how people find meaning and purpose in life. And this got me wondering about the extent to which “purpose” is tied to belief in God and what we expect or hope to happen after death.

I think belief in God and the possibility of some sort of afterlife causes people to more diligently seek a life of purpose since there is a chance each person will be held accountable.


Atheism
Is there a God? No
Purpose in Life: There is no ultimate purpose since there is no God; instead, each person can create their own meaning and purpose.
Belief in an afterlife: There is no afterlife, so we should enjoy life and live it to the fullest.

Agnosticism
Is there a God? Maybe
Purpose in Life: You cannot know if there is an ultimate purpose (since you cannot know if there is a God), so each person should create their own meaning and purpose.
Belief in an afterlife: We cannot know if there is an afterlife, so we should live life as if there isn’t.

Non-Christian Deism & Theism
Is there a God? Yes
Purpose in Life: You should aim for happiness while using your life and gifts to show appreciation to your Creator.
Belief in an afterlife: There may or may not be an afterlife. General revelation tells us there is a Creator; however, it tells us nothing about the possibility of an afterlife. Nevertheless, because we were created, we can hope for an afterlife.

Judaism
Is there a God? Yes
Purpose in Life: Doing the will of Yahweh by living out the Torah and thus being holy. By doing this, one fulfills their God-given mission.
Belief in an afterlife: Historically, there have been differing views within Judaism regarding the afterlife. In the New Testament, we see Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead but instead held to the traditional view that, upon death, spirits go to Sheol to rest. Pharisees, on the other hand, believed in a future resurrection of the dead based on a few passages in Daniel and in various intertestamental writings. Although many Jews today hope for an afterlife, we view it as a possibility rather than a sure thing.

Christianity
Is there a God? Yes
Purpose in Life: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism). One glorifies God by following Jesus’ teachings and example, primarily with regard to loving others.
Belief in an afterlife: We believe that, upon death, souls go to heaven or hell, depending on whether or not a person is “saved.” (A saved person is one marked by the Holy Spirit as having faith that Jesus is God. This faith results in the forgiveness of their sins and reconciliation with God.)
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Related Post:
Which Religion is True?

How to Be Saved

Stop telling people to ask (or invite) Jesus into their hearts. This language is unbiblical, confusing, and misguided.

When did this idea come about?

It turns out that Anglo-American Puritans and evangelicals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used the phrase “receive Christ into your heart,” or something like it, with some regularity. The great Puritan devotional writer John Flavel, for example, spoke of those who had heard the gospel but who would “receive not Christ into their hearts.” ~Thomas Kidd

Paul Chitwood notes that the concept “does not occur readily before the turn of the twentieth century,” but had “become the common way of expressing conversion by the mid-part of the twentieth century.”

Where did this idea come from?

R. Larry Moyer suggests that Revelation 3:20 (“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”, KJV) is the only verse that could be considered to support the concept, but notes that the verse is addressed to Christians rather than non-Christians.”

What did Jesus actually teach?

Jesus said those who did the will of God, as expressed in the Law and the Prophets (the Torah), would be saved and would enter into the kingdom of God:

“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 5:17-19

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.” Mat 7:21

“Should it concern us that the bible never calls us to ask Jesus into our hearts. Should it concern us that the bible never mentions such a superstitious sinners prayer and yet that is exactly what we have sold to so many as salvation.” ~David Platt, pastor, author, and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board

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Christians, don’t vote for Trump because…

Christians, don’t vote for Trump because someone told you he’s a Christian. (In fact, don’t vote for any politician just because they’re a Christian.) When considering which candidate for President you should vote for, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this person project an image of strength to the world, and will they use wisdom and prudence enforcing laws and treaties?
  • Will this person use wisdom and prudence regarding whether or not our troops should be sent into combat?
  • Will this person appoint qualified officials to federal posts?
  • Will this person set a political agenda that benefits America by protecting the rights of Americans and improving the quality of life of her citizens?
  • Will this person have the backbone to advocate, support, and sign into law legislation that aligns with and moves forward their expressed political agenda, and will they have the fortitude to veto acts of Congress that do the opposite?

If you believe a person will do the above, then vote for them regardless of whether or not they profess to be a Christian. When we elect a President, we should not subject them to a religious litmus test since our Constitution expressly forbids this (Article VI, Clause 3). Remember, we are not electing the leader of a religious institution.

Given the choice, it is better to vote for an atheist who will implement policies we believe will benefit America over a Christian who supports policies we believe will hurt our country.

From History to Mythology

I’m interested in the way religions function in societies and in the way that religions develop and die. I was thinking today about Greek/Roman mythology. What we now call mythology was believed to be true for more than a thousand years–from the time of Homer (probably 9th or 8th century bce) to the reign of the emperor Julian (4th century ce).

While you can point to Greek philosophy as a factor that influenced the death of this religion, it was really another religion that supplanted it and led to its eventual death. It was primarily the effort of the Apostle Paul and the later embrace of Christian Judaism by Constantine that caused the stories of Titans and Olympians to change genre . . . to move from history to mythology.

I sometimes wonder if Christianity will one day change genre as well, but I suspect it will live on, albeit in a slightly different form. Polls suggest that Christianity is evolving in America just as it did in Europe. Christ has been reshaped as an anti-religious, nonjudgmental moral teacher who taught that everyone should be nice (loving and forgiving others) so that they can go to heaven when they die.

As we move into the Christmas season, I can see how this non-offensive Jesus can lie in a manger and be celebrated with Santa for years to come.
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Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion

Why I Am Anti-Abortion

I’ve come to believe that a society that says it is okay to snuff the life from developing humans in the womb will come to see all human life as less valuable. Over time, this will contribute to portions of society tolerating and/or justifying violence against others.

A society that seeks safety and happiness for all must promote the value of life by ensuring and protecting the rights of all humans.

Although religious views will influence how people feel about abortion, I don’t think this should be viewed as a religious issue. My opposition to abortion is pragmatic and concerned with fostering greater empathy and creating an environment where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will flourish.
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Note:
While my argument can be seen as pro-life, I’m hesitant to make it all-inclusive. Questions such as “Should exceptions be allowed in cases of rape or incest?” and “Should the terminally ill be able to end their lives?” are complex and not something I have answers for.

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