God's Law and apologetics

Proven methods for offering a defense of our beliefs.

God's Law and apologetics

nikolai_42
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nikolai_42
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Joined: October 4th, 2013, 5:12 pm

May 3rd, 2018, 9:17 pm #1

I work in a relatively small office - the majority of whom would call themselves Christians (and most of them seem to be at least genuine). There are a few who wouldn't call themselves Christians - and one of them is (I think) a former Roman Catholic - probably nominal (just a guess). He has asked some of what he calls "existential questions" which are really challenges to basic biblical issues. I suspect he  does it partly because he enjoys debate but I think there is more to it than that. He has recently asked if God has ever broken His own law and I tried to answer, but didn't do a great job (I don't think). In truth, I don't think well on my feet and I am not practiced in apologetics - I do much better writing about certain topics. But in this situation, what is the best way to approach the question with someone who isn't a believer but who might be open to honest investigation?

 My response was basically to say you can't make that comparison because - for example - the Law prohibits murder. And God can't be guilty of that simply because life is His to give and take. So the comparison (in my mind) is a problem to begin with. But how to properly address that and directly related questions? Any help is greatly appreciated.

EDIT : And so are your prayers...
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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nikolai_42
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nikolai_42
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Joined: October 4th, 2013, 5:12 pm

May 10th, 2018, 8:22 pm #2

In the absence of any responses (and since this is a specific situation, I know it's not necessarily easy to know how to respond), I wanted to give a small update. The discussion is on hold while my co-worker is out of town, but my sense has always been that I need to establish the distinction between Lawgiver and Subject (God and man). Once that is done, murder becomes the only point of real contention - and it begs the question as to whether God can even murder. If life is His to give and take, then the whole question about Him breaking it Himself is gone. But upon reflection, it all comes down to what the Law is - a revelation of the character of God. The first commandment is what establishes the whole tone for it.

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:2-3

I remember doing an overview (several years ago) in preparation for a study I was going to undertake of the book of Zechariah. In doing so, I looked at the history of Israel before God. And one thing that really hit home more than anything else was that when it came down to it, Israel suffered most directly at the hand of God when they were punished for idolatry. The commandments that deal with man's relationship to man are not any less important, but in the end it seemed that God brought His judgments down in direct proportion to the failure of Israel to worship Him properly. Of course, that always results in gross moral failure at some point, but if I remember accurately, it was overwhelmingly Israel's departure from God and the proper worship of God that really was the source of all their ills. The tragedy of God's withdrawal from the temple in Ezekiel 7-9 (primarily the visions Ezekiel had of the temple in chapter 8) serves to summarize the many ways in which Israel was guilty of idolatry. So in citing the first commandment and framing the whole Law in the light of that commandment, it makes everything (basically) a question of which God one serves. The repetition of the phrase in Judges - everyone did what was right in his own eyes, the rich young ruler, Romans 1, the abomination of desolation, the mark of the beast - and even the "playtime" Israel had at the foot of Sinai while Moses was up getting the 10 Commandments from God. All of that stems from what one worships. 
 
And if Dr. Beale is correct - that we become (or at least directly reflect) what we worship, then it stands to reason that someone who worships the God of Scripture will reflect that character. The objection is often presented that the OT reflects a God of anger and justice while the NT a God of love and forgiveness. That overlooks all the years of Israel's often horrendous sinfulness that God put up with - forgiving over and over again - and rather reflects (I think) the picture of man learning what the justice of God is against a wicked people. As men are made into the image of Christ to reflect that goodness, we see more of Him and less of us. So the NT is a picture of what it looks like when God reaches down and changes the hearts of wicked men and causes them to walk in His ways. The darkness of idolatry is vanquished.

 So in fleshing that out, Israel was acting (at times) as God's rod of correction (His battleaxe - Isaiah 51:20), but there was no unjustified killing since the wages of sin is death and God commanded a whole people wiped out when their idolatry would infect His people.
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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Ask Mr. Religion
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Joined: July 28th, 2008, 9:13 am

May 12th, 2018, 6:35 am #3

I do not take the usual anti-Reformed bait of the Arminians, Romanists, etc. It usually starts out with something like "God's will is an extension of his unchanging and perfect character." Then it moves to nonsense like "The will of God is an extension of God's nature." From these odd, unbiblical, notions man is now allowed to respond to God, "Why have you made me thus?" The anti-Reformed then begin to formulate doctrines based upon what God must do because, after all, He is loving and just. Sigh.

God is free. How God acts towards His creation is determined by the counsel of His own will. God's nature is not distinct from His will. God's nature is His will made known to us by a variety of actions and relations. It is only when this is understood that we can make sense of a positive command from God taking precedence over some moral command from God, as in the case of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son.

From Thomas Manton (Works, vol. 14, page 353):

There is no injustice in these extraordinary commands; the lawgiver may make what exception to his own laws he pleaseth. We are bound to the law, but the lawgiver himself is not bound.

See: https://archive.org/stream/completework ... 2/mode/2up
AMR (a.k.a. Patrick)
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Reformed Baptist
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Reformed Baptist
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Joined: November 20th, 2015, 5:59 pm

July 5th, 2018, 4:35 pm #4

Questions like this are always based on a false assumptions - in every day life we accept certain principles that many then go to reject in theology. For example, I can punish my child, but my children cannot punish each other - why? Because I am the authority and the dispenser of justice. God is the giver and taker of life - we are not! He gets to choose, and he does choose according to his eternal decree.  
"George Whitefield said, "We are all born Arminians." It is grace that turns us into Calvinists." Spurgeon
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Markus Leoninus
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Markus Leoninus
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Joined: April 2nd, 2009, 3:11 pm

July 6th, 2018, 12:27 am #5

I confess there have been times in my strange and tumultuous mind, and with a fretting heart, that I've been angry with the Lord. That's not a good thing at all, I know, and even admitting it kind of makes me wince in my quieter, more contemplative moments. There were things I thought God might have done, or should have done, in terms of intervening in some way. And when it didn't go my way, I'd fret.
Then all the inevitable questions, centering on, "Okay, so what is God's will, His intention, here?"

Oh, I always settle down eventually... and have a sharp check in my spirit as to how silly and downright wrong it is to fret against the Lord.

So much might be said.
But here is the bottom line.
God is absolutely, perfectly just. He simply cannot do any man wrong.
His ways are not ours oftentimes, and his thoughts are not always our thoughts.
God is sovereign, with the right as sole Creator and eternal Judge and Lawgiver, to do what He wills, when He wills, and how He wills.

The main thing is that God is righteous, infinitely so.
Thus, whatever He may do or not do, my duty is to accept things from His hand, and wait until He wills to explain stuff. Perhaps if He explained things to me right away, or in this life, I wouldn't get it anyway.
In any event, God knows what He is doing, has a right to do or not do as He pleases, and I know that when I fully see and understand later, all of my current trials, tribulations, struggles, and troubles will seem like so many small potatoes.
No doubt, too, God will show me that had He done differently... had He done everything according to my will... things would have been a big mess indeed. 
Beware of phony Calvinists, Pharisees that thumb the nose, willfully blind to their own profound wretchedness.
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Markus Leoninus
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Markus Leoninus
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Joined: April 2nd, 2009, 3:11 pm

July 6th, 2018, 1:37 am #6

Incidentally...
I always appreciate Nikolai's posts. They are invariably interesting, and one gathers from them that he is a brother who thinks, and thinks deeply.
Nikolai, if you struggle to deal with a naysayer, or someone who wants to pretend that your Reformed view of God's will, or sovereignty, or righteousness or justice is flawed... indeed, if you come across those who say outright that the God of the Bible, especially the OT God, is a cruel and merciless ogre... brother, you can mark it down, such folk are quite ignorant (often willfully, however, which increases their guilt)... and then try to pray that the Holy Ghost will humble them and teach them in His mercy in Christ.
But some folk refuse to get it, until the God they buck reveals that He's in charge, and isn't fooling around.
Beware of phony Calvinists, Pharisees that thumb the nose, willfully blind to their own profound wretchedness.
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