Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Bible and Abortion


On the one hand, one does not need the Bible to understand that abortion is immoral. It is against the law revealed in the natural order and conscience that a mother should seek the destruction of her unborn offspring. She is made to nourish and care for this little living human being. 

On the other hand, I want explain the biblical case against abortion for three reasons. First, the Bible is the true and faithful and authoritative word of our Creator, and I am a minister of this word. Second, many people profess to accept the authority of the Bible. Certainly Christians do. Even some non-Christians have respect for it. Politicians on all sides will quote it to support their policies. Third, over the years, I have seen people claim that the Bible support abortion, a dangerously misleading interpretation not only out of accord with Christian teaching from the 1st-3rd centuries to the present, but out of accord with the Bible itself.

Let me recognize at the outset that many women resort to abortion in the midst of difficult circumstances. Childbearing itself is difficult, and this is even more the case in some situations. Yet difficult circumstances are not necessarily exemptions. They can also be temptations to do the wrong thing. And that is generally the case in these difficult situations that motivate women to seek abortion. They do not justify the killing of the unborn, but should be addressed in other ways. I say “generally” only because I recognize, as do our state laws that prohibit abortion, that there are rare cases (e.g. ectopic pregnancy) where it is justified to remove the baby before it is safe to do so to save the life of the mother, although this is quite different from what is normally called abortion. 

While the Bible does not explicitly deal with abortion, it does so implicitly by condemning the murder of human beings and recognizing unborn children as human beings. To support this, let me review some passages of Scripture.

Genesis 5:1-3 and 9:6
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6)
In Genesis 9, God explains that murder is wrong because it unjustly takes the life of one who bears God’s image. Biblical ethics provides a reason to value all humans, grounding their right to life not on their level of intelligence, physical abilities, racial identity, or usefulness to society, but as beings made in the image of God.

Genesis 5:1-3 explains how this identity is conveyed to the next generation. It is not imputed to them at some point in their life. Rather, humans have the image of God by being produced from other images of God. “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God…When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen. 5:1, 3). Mankind, like the rest of creation, produces according to its kind. From conception, the child is made in the image of God.

Genesis 2:7
“…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)
Some justify abortion with this verse, saying that life begins with breath. But life is given to Adam with a breath since Adam was created as an adult, and living adults generally breathe. But if an adult stops breathing, are they dead? Not necessarily. We do CPR. Why? Because there is hope they will breathe again. The unborn do not yet breathe, but at birth they will. Their lack of breath is not proof they are dead. It is proof they need the care of others. But they are biologically alive, not dead. Additionally, the Bible also speaks of the life of flesh being its blood (Lev. 17:11, 14), and does so in the context of prohibiting murder (Gen. 9:4-5, 4:10). Living humans and animals generally have blood circulating through them sustaining their life, and this includes unborn children (15-21 days post-fertilization). Again, I do not think this is meant to define life with scientific precision, but it is more to the point in this discussion, and it shows the Bible can use more than one marker to identify life.

Exodus 21:22-25
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:22–25)
This case law describes a situation where men are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and her children come out with two results, no harm or harm.

The first case (no harm) involves a premature birth and a penalty for striking the woman in such a way; the second case (harm) involves harm to the woman and/or her children, with a further penalty that fits the harm done. This is the traditional interpretation. I think this is still the best interpretation, since (1) in the first case the word for miscarriage is not used, nor do the words used indicate such a meaning, and (2) the harm is not specified, leaving it applicable to the woman and her children mentioned in the passage. Both the father and the judges had responsibility to protect and seek justice for the pregnant woman and her children. 

Some, though, interpret it differently. They say the first case involves a penalty for the accidental causing of a miscarriage, and the second case includes a further penalty if the woman is harmed. But even if this interpretation is correct - and I do not think it is - it does not greatly change its implications for abortion. Note that the child dies in both of these cases. The penalty in the second case is for compound crime toward both the mother and child. It is not comparing the death of the child to the death of the woman. Also, that the accidental causing of a miscarriage is penalized with a fine does not mean the child is not a person or alive. There is also a monetary fine in Exodus 21:32 for the death of a slave (and others, Ex. 21:29-31) by an ox accustomed to gore, but the Bible affirms their personhood and life (e.g. Ex. 21:2, 12, 16, 20, 26-27, Job 31:13-14). 

Numbers 5:11-31
“May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’” (Numbers 5:22)
Some claim that this passage provides a God-approved instance of abortion. This passages describes a highly unique test for when a husband was overcome with jealousy, believing his wife to be guilty of adultery without witnesses to verify the claim.

First, this “trial by ordeal” was different from those found in other nations because it used a symbolic but naturally harmless substance (water with some dust and ink) which could supernaturally produce a harmful result in the guilty, rather than using a naturally harmful substance in the hope that the innocent would be supernaturally delivered.

Second, if this passage refers to the death of an unborn child, it would be God alone who caused this, and so this would not give anyone the right to take this matter into their own hands. God gave life and he can take it away. He has laid a curse upon all mankind in response to our fall into sin that all will die, and he chooses the day of our death.

Third, this passage does not refer to the death of an unborn child. In the case of a guilty woman, it says it would make “your womb swell and your thigh fall away,” or as the CSB puts it, “causing your belly to swell and your womb to shrivel.” These terms are best understood in light of 2:28, which says that the innocent woman “shall be free and shall conceive children.” So rather than referring to miscarriage, the punishment is best understood as a visible disease indicating guilt and causing infertility. In this case, the outcome for the guilty woman would be curse and infertility, while the vindication of the innocent woman would include the blessing of conception and children.

Psalm 51:5
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)
In this confession of sin written by King David, he confesses not only his sinful acts, but his sinful nature. This verse does not refer to the sins of his mother, since it is a confession of his sins and since it refers in the same way to both his birth and conception. He is stating a fundamental truth in Christian theology that following Adam’s sin, all his descendants by ordinary generation are sinners by nature and under condemnation (Rom. 5:12, 18-19, Eph. 2:3), who may be saved only by Christ (who can save born and unborn infants as well as adults, see next point). As Psalm 51:5 teaches, this sinfulness is true of us from the beginning of our existence. And this begins with conception. If an unborn child can be considered a sinner, then unborn children are to be regarded as distinct living human beings.

Psalms 22:9-10 and 71:5-6
“Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:9–10)
“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 71:5–6)
Not only are unborn children participants in man’s fall, but they may also be participants in man’s renewed covenant with God. God can show this mercy to all unborn children, and he has particularly given us hope regarding the children of believers, to be their God (Gen. 17:6). As the writers of the Psalms looked back to their relationship with God over the years, they could look back even to their life in the womb. If an unborn child can be considered as a believer in God in relationship with him, then unborn children are to be regarded as distinct living human beings made in the image of God.

Judges 13:4-5
“Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:4–5)
These words were spoken by the Lord to the wife of Manoah, telling of how she would conceive and bear Samson. Samson would be a Nazirite from the womb, and so his mother would need to abide by the dietary laws of the Nazirite, since the child receives his nourishment from his mother. A Nazirite was one who was specially consecrated to the Lord (Num. 6:2-3). If an unborn child can be a Nazirite, already bound by Nazirite laws, then unborn children are to be regarded as distinct living human beings made in the image of God.

Luke 1:15, 44
“…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb for his work of making known the Son of God in the flesh. John began this work while he was yet unborn. When pregnant Mary visited John’s mother Elizabeth, Elizabeth said to her, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:43-44) Again, this implies that the unborn are distinct living human beings.

Matthew 1:18
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18)
The Son of God took on human nature when he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. He was a distinct living human from his conception onward. Jesus is also eternal God, but with respect to his humanity, he was made like us in every respect, except without sin (Heb. 2:17, 4:15).

Conclusion

The law which commands us, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13, KJV), applies to unborn children. The Bible teaches that we are to regard them as distinct and living human beings made in the image of God, and that therefore we ought not to murder such beings. The Bible makes no distinction within the life in the womb such as viability. It assumes a continuity of personhood and existence from conception to after birth. 

It is a mother’s duty to care for the helpless infant entrusted to her womb, just as it is likewise a father’s duty to care for the infant he has begotten. This parental responsibility of care and protection begins at conception. Often these duties are made easy by the parental affection and fulfillment which often accompanies this work. But things can get quite difficult, especially as we labor under the curse (Gen. 3:16-19), and so these duties ought to be reinforced by encouragement, support, and praise, as well as by custom, education, and law. When things break down to such an extent that a mother begins to contemplate the destruction of her child at the hands of the abortionist, the government has a duty to defend the life of the innocent and protect the unborn child from abortion (Psalm 82:3-4, Prov. 30:8-9, Rom. 13:3-4).

This position should be part of a larger program that supports marriage and the family (Ex. 20:12-14, 1 Cor. 7:2, 1 Tim. 5:4, 8-16). This includes passing laws such as those that limit divorce (Matt. 19:3-9), deliver the afflicted from violence (Ps. 82:3-4), hold men accountable for premarital sex (Ex. 22:16-17), and punish rapists (Deut. 22:25-27). It also involves extended family and other people and institutions stepping in when the nuclear family breaks down (1 Tim. 5:3-10, Deut. 14:29, Ruth 1-4). But while this full program ought to be promoted, the unborn should not be neglected until everything else is in place. Let them be protected by the law of the land, and let the church call people to turn from this sin and to turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who gives forgiveness and hope to all who repent and believe.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Covetousness and Contentment

Q. 79: Which is the tenth commandment?
Answer: The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.

Q. 80: What is required in the tenth commandment?
Answer: The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.

Q. 81: What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
Answer: The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his. (WCF)

On this commandment (Ex. 20:17), I would note several things:

1. Coveting is an unqualified (or improperly qualified) desire for that which belongs to another. This commandment does not forbid you from seeking to buy your neighbor’s donkey or asking for charity if you are in need. Good desires are desires that are qualified by things such as lawfulness, permission, and love for others: “I would like that if…” For example, one might properly think, “I would like that sandwich if it is for sale and if I have enough money.” It does not desire a sandwich which has an owner who is not willing to share. It does not desire something that is inherently unlawful for you to have, like your neighbor's spouse. Proper desire for good things evidences its goodness by being content if the qualifications are not met. But covetousness is not limited by such qualifications and is not content to hear “no.”

2. Coveting is an unlawful desire. Not only can actions and choices be sin, but your desires can be sinful as well. You ought to repent not only of your sinful choices, but also for your inclinations for what is forbidden, since even the desire to sin is sin.

3. Coveting is both a sin and a temptation to sin more. Coveting draws us toward committing other sins like stealing and adultery. This is one way that Jesus was not tempted. He was not tempted by indwelling corruption. For example, he was not tempted by his own greed, lust, or pride - for he had none. He had natural cravings like hunger, but not sinful cravings like coveting. He “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He did not give in one bit. But when we give in, it entices us to go further. Coveting will not be content to be alone - it loves the company of other sins.

4. Coveting will influence your attitude toward your neighbor. Covetousness blossoms into envy, resentment, and malice toward the owner of what you covet. It leads you to think things like, “I don’t want him to have that,” “I can’t stand him since he won’t give that to me,” “no one should have more than me,” and “this is unjust - the government should do something about it!” Resentment then encourages more covetousness, causing you to have thoughts like, “I want that because they have that.” But when coveting is replaced with contentment, contentment blossoms into respect and love towards your neighbors. It helps you to seek their welfare as well as your own. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness


Q. 76: Which is the ninth commandment? 
Answer: The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Q. 77: What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name, especially in witness bearing.

Q. 78: What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbour's, good name. (WCF)

As the catechism points out, there are at least two aspects to the ninth commandment: truth and a person’s good name. Bearing false witness against your neighbor involves lying and unjust injury to his good name. Bearing false witness also undermines the whole administration of justice, which is why false assertions in court were taken so seriously in the law of God (Deut. 19:15-21).

We ought to be honest and faithful, being true to others by speaking truthfully, keeping far from deceit and falsehood. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). “Speak the truth to one another…” (Zech. 8:16). Both 1 Timothy 1:10 and Revelation 21:8 place “liars” among the ungodly with murderers, the sexually immoral, etc. This duty does not justify speaking the truth unseasonably or to evil ends (Prov. 29:11, 1 Sam. 22:9-10). There are also times when deception may be justified to save life against a hostile enemy (Josh. 2:4-6, 8:3-9). Yet we must be very careful to not abuse this exception, which is like the exception regarding taking life in self-defense, knowing how we are prone to justify deceit when things get difficult. Our general duty is to speak the truth, and only the truth, in all things, without deception.

We also ought to respect and value our own good name and the good name of our neighbor. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). A person’s reputation is one of his most precious possessions. To steal it from him is a grave injustice. If people do not trust you, you will find many things very difficult. And a good reputation is more easy to destroy than to build. We ought to be very careful with the reputations of others, lest we carelessly damage them. We should freely acknowledge the gifts and graces of others, defend their innocency, being ready to receive a good report and disinclined to admit an evil report concerning them, discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers (WLC 144). Claims of wrongdoing should not be ignored, but they should be investigated and validated before they are accepted (Prov. 18:17, 25:7b-10, Deut. 19:18). The righteous man is described as one who “backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour” (Ps. 15:3).

We are told, “You shall not spread a false report” (Ex. 23:1), a very relevant command in our day when it is so easy to share news. By proactively guarding against false reports, you will contribute to the well-being of society and “your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you” (Prov. 3:29). Preserving truth and honesty is a shared project. It both requires you to be discerning with the reports you read and hear, as well as discerning with the reports you share. It not only forbids slander rooted in malicious intent, but it also forbids negligence in the effort to guard against falsehood and preserve the good name of others.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Giver of Life

The Holy Spirit is the giver of life. “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).

1. The Spirit gives life to living things in the order of creation (Gen. 2:7, Ps. 104:29-30).

2. The Spirit gives new and eternal life to sinners, uniting us to the Life, causing us to be born again (John 3:5-6, 6:54-56, 63).

3. The Spirit works this new life in us, writing God’s law on our hearts, producing the fruit of the Spirit in us (Ezek. 36:27, Gal. 5:16-24).

4. The Spirit gives life to the church, making the body work together in mutual service and binding it to Christ the head (1 Cor. 12:3-13, Eph. 2:18-22).

5. And finally, our bodies will be raised up on the last day by the Spirit: “he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Honest Work and Theft


Q. 73: Which is the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Q. 74: What is required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Q. 75: What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour's, wealth or outward estate. (WCF)

Near the beginning of the book of Proverbs, the reader is warned to hold back his foot from the way of robbery. Robbery promises quick rewards and an easy life, but in fact robbers “set an ambush for their own lives” (1:18). Mankind was created to work in order to help each other and to exercise dominion over the earth and make it fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15, 3:16-19). But we are tempted to be slothful and take a short cut, being pseudo-productive by stealing, robbing, cheating, and defrauding others. But “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit” (Prov. 10:2) and “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Prov. 21:6). Another way a person might defraud others is by failing to fulfill his obligations to them through idleness. But this way also leads downward, since “a slack hand causes poverty” (Prov. 10:4) and “he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Prov. 10:5) and “the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov. 12:24).

Stealing is foolish, as the true way to prosperity is through diligent and wise work, not through violence or greedy schemes. Furthermore, stealing and fraudulent dealing is “an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 11:1). Stealing violates the stewardship God has given each man over his own property. Those who have stolen ought to give appropriate restitution (Lev. 6:1-5, Luke 19:8). If you find lost property, you ought to return it to its owner (Deut. 22:1-4). You are called to seek the good of others and to promote the common good. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Rather than seeking unjust gain, you ought to be engaged in honest labor, for your own good and also for the good of others (1 Thess. 4:11-12, 2 Thess. 3:6-12, 1 Tim. 5:4-8, Col. 3:22-25). Scripture exhorts us to work with diligence, wisdom, skillfulness (Prov. 10:4-5, 22:29), as well as with faith in God for his provision (Matt. 6).

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Sex, Marriage, and God's Design


Q. 70: Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71: What is required in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbour's chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Q. 72: What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. (WSC)

As we work our way through the Shorter Catechism, we come to the seventh commandment. The seventh commandment forbids violating the marriage covenant in which husband and wife are bound to be sexually intimate only with each other, being loving and faithful to each other until death parts them (Lev. 20:10, 1 Cor. 7:4). Nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, can give grounds for a legitimate divorce (Matt. 19:3-9, 1 Cor. 7:15, WCF 24.6). God created marriage as a one-flesh union of a man and a woman and he designed sexual union for marriage alone (Gen. 2, 1 Cor. 6-7). Thus, by extension, this commandment forbids all sexual immorality, all sexual activity outside God’s ordinance of marriage. In case there is any doubt, Scripture is pretty clear on the specifics (Lev. 18, 20:10-21, Deut. 22:13-30, 1 Cor. 6:9, 15).

God has made us and our bodies and tells us how to use them. Sexual immorality is a rebellion against his design. Consequently, it also causes great damage to others and to society. And as Christians we have even more reasons to keep this commandment. We are not our own, for Christ has bought us and made our bodies members of his body, therefore we ought to glorify him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15-20). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we ought to flee from sexual immorality, for the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18-19).

As the catechism says, our goal ought to be to preserve our own and our neighbor’s chastity and to avoid all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. Questions 138-139 of the Larger Catechism provide an excellent summary of how the Bible teaches us to do this. As Jesus taught, we must keep watch over our thoughts and desires, lest we commit adultery in our hearts (Matt. 5:27-30). In the language of the Larger Catechism, we should also avoid “all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel, … lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays [e.g. movies]” (Eph. 5:3-4, Prov. 7, Is. 3:16-17, 1 Peter 3:2-4, 1 Tim. 2:9, 5:2).

Positively, we should all hold marriage in honor (Heb. 13:4), as a good and wise ordinance of God for his glory and our good (Gen. 2, Mal. 2:13-16). The one who is married should love and delight in his or her spouse (Prov. 5:15-19, 1 Cor. 7:2-5, Song of Solomon 1-8). The one who is unmarried ought to prepare for and (when ready, with wisdom) seek marriage, unless given the gift of continency (1 Cor. 7:2, 9, 1 Tim. 5:14, Matt. 19:10-12). Marriage is not fool-proof, nor does it elevate one in the kingdom of God, but it is a blessing and provision of God to be treasured and carefully preserved.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

On the Destiny of the Earth


Here are several quotes spanning the centuries concerning the destiny of the earth at the end of the age. Bede is a bit of an outlier thinking that water and fire will be consumed entirely, but all of them assert that the earth will be renovated and changed, not annihilated and/or replaced. The Bible does not teach the annihilation, abandonment, and discarding of the earth, but rather the restoration, purification, and glorification of the earth. As the mortal body of believers will be raised incorruptible, so this earth shall be freed from corruption and made new, the inheritance of those who have been saved through faith in Christ.  

Bede, Commentary on 2 Peter (c. 710):
“That very great fire ... will consume two [elements, i.e. water and fire] entirely, but two [air and earth] in fact it will restore to a better appearance… For he did not say other heavens and another earth, but the old and ancient one to be changed for the better, according to what David said, 'In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but you will remain, and they will all grow old as a garment, and you will change them as a piece of clothing, and they shall be changed' [Ps. 102:25-26]. As for the things, therefore that will perish, grow old and be changed, it is definitely clear that once they have been consumed by the fire they resume a more pleasing appearance as soon as the fire goes out. For ‘the shape of this world passes away’ [1 Cor. 7:31] not its substance, just as with our bodies too, the shape will be changed, the substance does not perish when what ‘is sowed as a physical body rises as a spiritual body’ [1 Cor. 15:44].”

John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Peter (1551):
“For he thus reasons, that as heaven and earth are to be purged by fire, that they may correspond with the kingdom of Christ, hence the renovation of men is much more necessary.”
“Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as may be easily gathered from Rom. 8:21, and from other passages.”

A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (1860):
“The phrases ‘new heaven,’ and ‘new earth,’ in contrast with ‘first heavens’ and ‘first earth,’ (2 Peter 3:7, 13, Rev. 21:1) refer to some unexplained change which will take place in the final catastrophe, by which God will revolutionize our portion of the physical universe, cleansing it from the stain of sin, and qualifying it to be the abode of blessedness.”

R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (1871):
“This planet was fashioned to be man’s heritage; and a part of it, at least, adorned with the beauties of a paradise, for his home. Satan sought to mar the divine plan, by the seduction of our first parents. For long ages he has seemed to triumph, and has filled His usurped dominion with crime and misery. But his insolent invasion is not to be destined to obstruct the Almighty’s beneficent design. The intrusion will be in vain. God’s purpose shall be executed. Messiah will come and reestablish His throne in the midst of His scarred and ravaged realm; He will cleanse away every stain of sin and death, and make this earth bloom forever with more than its pristine splendour; so that the very plan which was initiated when ‘the morning stars sang to gather and the sons of God shouted for joy,’ will stand to everlasting ages.”


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

A Mother's Love and Duty

“They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…”
(Titus 2:3–4)

Do young women really need to be taught to love their children? Isn’t a mother’s love proverbial for its constancy, protectiveness, and warmth? Nevertheless, it is clear that this love does need to be taught and encouraged in this fallen world.

It is a mother’s duty to care for the helpless infant entrusted to her womb, just as it is likewise a father’s duty to care for the infant he has begotten. This parental responsibility of care and protection begins at conception. Often these duties are made easy by the parental affection and fulfillment which often accompanies this work. But since things can get difficult, these duties ought to be reinforced by encouragement, support, and praise, as well as by custom, education, and law.

When things break down to such an extent that a mother begins to plan the destruction of her child, the government has a duty to defend the life of the innocent and protect the unborn child from abortion. I pray that the Supreme Court follows through in overruling Roe and Casey, and also that our society turns unto the mercy of God in Christ and his ways of faithfulness and love.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Q. 67: Which is the sixth commandment?
Answer: The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68: What is required in the sixth commandment?
Answer: The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Q. 69: What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Answer: The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto. (WSC)

The primary reason undergirding the sixth commandment can be found in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” God has made man in his own image. To kill a human is to offer violence to God, desecrating his image. Instead, humans are owed a basic respect due to being made in the image of God, a respect which includes all lawful endeavors to preserve human life.

This commandment has great relevance to many contemporary issues. For example, it forbids abortion, because a person’s right to life depends not on independence or mental capacity, but on his or her identity as a human, made in the image of God, which begins at conception. It also forbids racism, that is, animosity, contempt, or injustice on the basis of race, for all people groups are descended from Adam, made in the image of God.

This law against killing is not without exception, as Genesis 9:6 makes clear. The duty to preserve and vindicate human life sometimes requires the taking of human life under God’s authority. It is just to take human life in cases of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense, although even in these cases the Bible gives us directions, qualifications, and limits.

On the other hand, the law does more than prohibit murder. It prohibits causing death by carelessness. It prohibits the attitudes, words, and practices that dishonor the image of God and shows violence to human life. It requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others. In general, we might summarize the command with these points:

1. Avoid murderous thoughts (1 John 3:15-18, Titus 3:3), but respond to injury with love (Matt. 5:43-45).

2. Avoid murderous and reviling words (Matt. 5:21-22, James 3:6-10), but use kind and courteous speech (Titus 3:2) and promote peace (Matt. 5:9, Rom. 12:18).

3. Avoid murderous acts (Genesis 9:3-6), but defend and support human life by responsible and charitable provision (James 2:15-16, 1 Tim. 5:8), care for health (1 Tim. 5:23, Prov. 17:22, 23:19-21, Eccl. 10:17, 2 Kings 20:7), self-defense (Ex. 22:2), and supporting the state’s role in public justice (Rom. 13:4, Prov. 31:8-9).

4. Avoid or prevent situations that needlessly endanger yourself or others (Deut. 22:8, Prov. 1:10-11, 15-16).

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother


Q. 63: Which is the fifth commandment?
Answer: The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 64: What is required in the fifth commandment?
Answer: The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. (WSC)

The fifth commandment commands us to honor our fathers and mothers. This honor is expressed through obedience, deference, reverence, and care in old age, as I have explained in more detail here. Parents give us life. We begin as helpless infants in their hands, to be nourished and brought up unto maturity by them. We do not come into this world independent and sovereign. We are cast upon our parents and receive a wealth of unearned benefits from them and from past generations. Our basic attitude toward them then ought to be one of reverence and gratitude, of filial piety.

The catechism recognizes that this command has many implications that are brought out in the rest of Scripture. Scripture uses the terms of “mother” and “father” to describe, not only natural parents, but other superiors as well (e.g. 1 Tim. 5:1-2, 1 Cor. 10:1, Gen. 45:8, 2 Kings 5:13, Is. 49:23, Acts 7:2, Phil. 1:10). Similar honor is to be given, as the Larger Catechism says, to “all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” And being given this honor and/or authority, these superiors are therefore responsible to God for its use. Superiors have obligations to those under them. The brief answers of the Shorter Catechism on this commandment are greatly expanded in questions and answers 123-133 of the Larger Catechism.

All of this is quite contrary to the egalitarianism is that is common in our society. It should be noted that the catechism uses the terms “superiors, inferiors, or equals” to refer to rank and status, not value. As Paul says, while the members of the body are different, yet every member of the body is essential, and none should be despised (1 Cor. 12). Scripture speaks of a spiritual equality which coexists with the structured order of society (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:21-24, Job 31:13-15, 1 Peter 3:7). These truths are complementary, because the order that God has appointed in society does not pit us against each other (although human depravity does), but obligates us to each other for our mutual good. In his design, we are interdependent, born into a web of human relations, in which each contributes and receives over the course of his or her life, with obligations binding together the weak and strong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A.A. Hodge on the Kingdom of God

"[The kingdom of God] was symbolized in the throne of David in Jerusalem and the Jewish theocracy, and it was visibly set up in its higher spiritual form when the long-promised Son of David, having redeemed his people on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to the heavens and sat down at the right hand of God. This kingdom is not one among the many competing kingdoms of the earth. It is antagonistic to the kingdom of Satan only: all the natural kingdoms of men, except in so far as they are compromised with the kingdom of Satan, are penetrated and assimilated and rendered subservient to its own ends by the kingdom of God. All other kingdoms have their rise, progress, maturity and decadence, while this kingdom alone is eternal, growing broader and waxing stronger through all ages until its consummation in the city of God."
-A.A. Hodge, "The Kingdom Of Christ," Popular Lectures on Theological Themes (1887)