October 2007

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In Jesus’ debate with the Sadducees, He defended His resolve that the dead are raised by quoting from Exodus 3:6. Luke records Jesus as saying, “But even Moses revealed that the dead are raised in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.” (Luke 20:37-8, NET Bible).

Jesus’ argument seems to be as follows:

(1) God can only be “the God of…X”, if X exists

(2) God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries after their death

(3) Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still existed when God spoke to Moses

I don’t see how Jesus’ argument supports His resolve. At best, Jesus demonstrated that man is a dualistic being whose immaterial self lives on beyond death (something the Sadducees denied). But how does it follow that the dead will rise? It could be that they continue in their non-corporeal state for time everlasting. It seems to me that Jesus would have to supply another argument to demonstrate why it is necessary for these non-corporeal persons to return to a bodily existence. No such argument is given.

I confess some trepidation in even writing this, but I don’t find Jesus’ argument persuasive. And yet when you read the text, Jesus’ opponents found it extremely persuasive. They were not able to offer any rebuttal. Am I missing something here? I do not want to say Jesus’ argument missed the point, but I cannot deny the fact that his argument appears to fall short of its intended goal. Does anyone have any insight on this passage they would like to offer me?

A blogger asked a question in the comments section of the “The Oneness of God and Baptism in Jesus’ Name are not Joined at the Hip” thread that deserves its own post. The question had to do with the validity of hybrid baptismal formulas.

Do you think it is acceptable to baptize someone with either of these hybrid baptismal formulas?:

  1. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is the name of Jesus Christ.”
  2. “In the name of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Why or why not? Do you think someone who was baptized with such a formula is saved? Would you require them to be rebaptized?

I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

I remember hearing one of my college teachers say concerning humility, “Humility is one of those things that if you think you have it, you don’t.” I was uncomfortable with that statement. While there was a ring of truth to it, there was also something about it that didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t quit put my finger on it. That was years ago. Just today, however, as I was reflecting on the issue, I think I finally pinpointed why I was uncomfortable with that statement.

We are commanded to be humble, and to resist pride (humility is the absence of pride). The way we know we have obeyed Scripture is by introspection and reflection. For example, Scripture tells us to be patient. We assess our obedience to this command by reflecting on our disposition when confronted by events that put our patience to the test. If, upon reflection, we think we exhibited patience under those circumstances, we conclude that we have obeyed the command to be patient.

The same is true of humility. The only way we could know if we were obeying the command to be humble is if, upon introspection and/or reflection, we recognize the absence of pride in our life. If, however, the moment we think we have obeyed the command to be humble we instantiate or reveal pride, we could never be humble.

The only way out of this vicious cycle is to forego assessing ourselves in this area—to consign everyone to perpetual ignorance concerning their state of obedience. For the moment we assess ourselves, we risk losing the progress we have made. This is counter-intuitive. How can it be that the only way to obey Scripture is to not think one is obeying Scripture?

My teacher’s aphorism would mean that for a truly humble person to remain humble, they must think they are prideful. The moment they recognize the presence of humility in their life they lose their humility. In other words, on this view, one must think they are being disobedient in order to be obedient! The moment they think they have obeyed they have disobeyed. I find no sense in that. What other virtue is there that one must have, but cannot think they have it in order to have it? What other virtue are we commanded to have, but can never think we have obtained it? I know of none, and I highly doubt this is the one exception.

This is not to say there was no truth in what my teacher said. Indeed, I think one could become proud about their humility, but of course, in this case, they were never humble to begin with. They are deceiving themselves. This is vastly different from someone who desires to rid themselves of pride, and upon assessment, believes they have made great progress in this area.

The Council of Europe has now condemned Creationism and Intelligent Design as dangerous to democracy and a threat to human rights! Unbelievable. The statements they make about the role of evolution in society are very “religious” in nature. It seems the document is a witch-hunt against those who dare to question Darwinism, and a statement of faith in naturalistic evolution.

All of my Pentecostal life I have heard how the issues of baptism and the Oneness of God are joined at the hip. It’s been taught over and over again that one will not “see” baptism in Jesus’ name until they “see” the Oneness of God. That idea never sat quite right with me. I saw the connection, but did not see any logical connection. While an understanding of the Oneness of God is sufficient to see that we are to be baptized in Jesus’ name, I do not think it is necessary to see that we are to be baptized in Jesus’ name.

One not need not believe in the Oneness of God to see the validity of Jesus’ name baptism (I have heard there are Trinitarian churches that baptize in Jesus’ name, although I cannot point to any specific church). Indeed, even if God were a Trinity, it would not change the fact that the intended baptismal formula is the Jesus’ name formula. Think of prayer. The Bible is clear that prayer is to be “in Jesus’ name.” No Trinitarian argues that since God is a Trinity, one should pray “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” They accept the teaching of Scripture that prayer is to be said exclusively in Jesus’ name, and do not see that as detracting from the Trinity. Likewise, the Jesus’ name formula-if the intended formula-poses no challenge to Trinitarian theology.

The question of how many persons are in the Godhead and the question of the proper baptismal formula are two related, but separate issues. To determine the number of persons in the Godhead we examine those passages that teach us about God. To determine the proper baptismal formula we look to those passages that instruct us on that matter. When we do, it becomes apparent that the early church interpreted Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to baptize in the singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a command to baptize in Jesus’ own name, as evidenced by their exclusive use of the Jesus’ name formula in evangelism.

The Jesus’ name formula makes sense given the purpose of baptism: to identify us with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:1-4). In Trinitarian theology, the Father and Spirit did not die, were not buried, and were not resurrected. It was only Jesus. Therefore, even on a Trinitarian view it would be entirely reasonable to be baptized only in the name of Jesus.

I think all can agree that baptism in Jesus’ name makes more sense on a Oneness view of God, but the fact remains that both Trinitarians and Oneness believers alike can see (1) that the Jesus’ name formula is taught in Scripture, (2) that it is the authoritative apostolic interpretation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, (3) and that it makes theological sense to be baptized using the Jesus’ name formula given the purpose of baptism. We should continue to reach out to Trinitarians to help them understand the nature of God more perfectly, but we should not think their ability to see the validity of Jesus’ name baptism depends on their ability to see the Oneness of God.

In the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates, Lincoln argued against Stephen Douglas’ position that while he was personally opposed to slavery, he did not believe the federal government should outlaw it because the majority of each state should be able to choose their own position on the matter. Lincoln said, “When Judge Douglas says that whoever, or whatever community, wants salves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do a wrong.” Frank Beckwith, in Defending Life, says Lincoln’s point was that to claim something is morally wrong is to claim it is morally impermissible. To argue that one has a right to participate in a morally impermissible act is to say the impermissible is permissible.

I find this line of reasoning pertinent to the abortion debate today. Many people—particularly politicians—proclaim their personal opposition to abortion all the while advocating for the continued right to abortion in this country. But they can’t have their cake and eat it too. If they truly believe abortion is a moral evil, then they cannot advocate it as a right in this country. No one would buy the statement, “While I personally oppose annihilating Jews, I think one ought to have the right to do so.” So why does anyone buy it when it comes to abortion?