May 27th, 2013
Here's the link to the audio for yesterday's sermon, on Genesis 2:10-14. Interestingly, this is the first passage I've preached on twice - the first time was in our first year here, when we were still meeting for worship in our living room! Only one of our original members who were around at that time are still in the local congregation, and with five years between sermons and a wholesale reworking of the message, it "sounded familiar," but wasn't just a repeat!
It's an unusual and beautiful passage, and was the subject of one of my exegesis papers at seminary (and a great article in Clarion magazine by Dr. Gootjes from a number of years ago). Here's the link:
And here's the "missing link" from the series - sermon #6 in the series, on Genesis 2:1-3, dealing with the Creator's Sabbath rest:
May 20th, 2013
I've neglected to post the links to the audio of my current series of sermons on Genesis, so it's time to rectify that situation.
I'm finally getting over something that started as a cold, and then morphed into a sinus infection, ear infection, and bronchitis. It seemed to take forever for this one to leave, but two kinds of antibiotics seem to have made the difference at last.
But other than that, it's been a great month! We started our newest outreach program, "Man Up," with a great kick-off evening in April, with more than twenty participants, and the weekly course has been going very well.
And I also officiated my first wedding last week, which was a real blessing and a privilege. Congratulations to Wally and Kaitlyn VanGrootheest, and may the Lord grant you many years of joy together in his service!
Here are the links to the sermons:
Sermon #1 - http://archive.org/details/SermonGenesis11
- Genesis 1:1
Sermon #2 - http://archive.org/details/SermonGenesis123
- Genesis 1:2,3
Sermon #3 - http://archive.org/details/SermonGenesis145
- Genesis 1:4,5
Sermon #4 - http://archive.org/details/SemonGenesis1625
- Genesis 1:6-25
Sermon #5 - https://archive.org/details/SermonGenesis12631
- Genesis 1:26-31
Sermon #7 - http://archive.org/details/SermonGenesis249
- Genesis 2:4-9
Obviously #6 is missing from the series - I'm going to have to hunt it down, and will post the link if I do find it.
April 15th, 2013
It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last response to Reformed Academic, and I haven't addressed the other four texts that were cited along with Psalm 103. I'll take them in order, and examine whether they support RA's contention that these verses support the idea that 'even today we are created from dust,' in the same way that Adam was created from dust.
First, 1 Kings 16:1,2:
And the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 'Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins...'
This passage says nothing about Baasha being 'created' from dust; it speaks of the LORD's lifting Baasha up from a humble state, and placed in a position of authority. This is a figurative way of speaking, which is also found in Psalm 113:7,8:
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
The creation of the individual is not spoken of in these passages; rather, they have to do with exaltation, being raised from lowliness to a place of honour.
Secondly, Job 10:9:
Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?
This verse speaks of the way in which God relates to His human creation; once again, we return to the picture of God as the potter, and human beings as the product of His work. When Job says, 'Will you return me to the dust?' we can see a connection with Ecclesiastes 3:20:
All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
Again, we have a figurative way of speaking, that goes back to the historical actions of God creating man from the dust of the ground. We are formed by God, like clay, and when we die, our bodies our buried in the ground, where they return to dust.
Once again, this verse doesn't support a figurative understanding of God's work of creation of the first man from the dust of the ground.
In Job 34:14,15, we read the following:
If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.
The same applies for this passage, as well as the following one, Psalm 90:2,3:
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, 'Return, O children of man!'
We have a poetic account, speaking of God's sovereignty. He is in control of life. He gives it, and He takes it away. He is God, we are dust. Once again, if we use the correct principles of interpretation, there is no confusion here. Genesis 2:7, a narrative passage, recounts the work of God in history, and therefore cannot be taken in a strictly figurative manner. These other passages are meaningful in the light of the first; they have their meaning because of God's real working in space and time, to form man from the dust of the ground.
It is often said concerning the issue of the relationship between scientific findings and Scripture that 'God does not deceive us.' If there were previously-existing human-like creatures, ancestors of Adam and Eve, it seems that God would be deceiving us by giving us the straightforward account of the creation of man as He has in Genesis 2:7 (and even more, in the account of the creation of woman in Genesis 2:21 and 22).
Of particular importance in this discussion is the time sequence of God's formation of man and woman. Genesis 2 tells us that man was created first, of the dust of the ground, and that the woman was created by God using a rib taken from the man while he was in a deep sleep. This sequence of activities is referred to twice in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:8 and 9, and in 1 Timothy 2:13 and 14. 'Adam was first formed, then Eve,' 'For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.'
The Apostle Paul apparently viewed Genesis 2 as a historical, chronological account of the creation of the first man and woman. If we are to take the account as being figurative, a story that makes a theological point, to be sure, but a story that is not firmly rooted in time, space, and matter, then what are we to do with the Apostle Paul's statements in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians? Are we to assume that Paul had a limited understanding of Genesis, or even that he may have been incorrect? Paul's writing is included in Scripture; it was written under the inspiration of the Spirit. The Church confesses that 'this Word of God did not come by the impulse of man, but that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says (2 Peter 1:21)' (Belgic Confession, Article 3).
This is an issue of the utmost seriousness, because our conclusions will inevitably impact our view of all of Scripture. If we begin to read Genesis 1 and 2 using a hermeneutic (principle of Scripture interpretation) that we wouldn't think of using elsewhere in Scripture, we aren't just doing damage to the opening chapters of the Bible, and our understanding of them; we are tearing apart the fabric of Scripture, and opening the entire Bible up to deconstruction.
And to do this based on scientific understandings that are constantly changing and developing, scientific understandings that have their roots in a world view that does not take into account the absolute truth of God's Word in Scripture, is a huge step in the wrong direction. History shows where this leads; if we think we can follow the same path that previous generations have followed, and not experience the same results, we are sorely mistaken.
April 1st, 2013
Here are the links to the audio for the last three sermons in our series on Mark's gospel. The first sermon in this series was preached last September, and now, six months and twenty-seven sermons later, it's fitting that the series concluded on Easter weekend.
Sermons cover Mark 15:1-32, Mark 15:33-39, and Mark 15:40 to 16:8.
Coming up next: Genesis!
March 26th, 2013
I'll begin by addressing the first text cited by RA, Psalm 103:14. RA wrote the following:
Considering Psalm 103:14, we know that even we today are created from dust.
Once again, here's the verse in question:
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
RA's citation of this text in support of a "non-literalistic" reading of Genesis 2:7 is misleading at best. It is true that we must compare Scripture with Scripture - the "analogy of faith" was a principle that was central to the Reformers' interpretation of Scripture.
However, comparing Scripture with Scripture does not mean taking Scriptural texts that figuratively refer to human beings as being "dust" and using them to prove a "non-literalistic" understanding of the creation of man from the dust of the ground. In Genesis 2:7 we have what I would consider to be a straightforward accounting of the method that the LORD used to create Adam, the first human being.
We're not told exactly how God accomplished this, and we're certainly not told that He "pushed some mud around to form a humanoid shape." But we are told, in a narrative account, an account that purports to be a record of events that actually happened in space and time, that God formed the first man from the dust of the ground.
The verb used in the original Hebrew text of Genesis 2:7, yatsar, means to form or create something like a potter. Man was not the product of a previously existing life form. He was not the son of a "pre-Adamite," a non-human being that didn't have a soul, a creature that was somewhat human-like in form, but non-human in that it was not created in the image of God. He was formed, in whatever way, from the dust of the ground, as a potter uses clay to form a vessel for his use. The image of the potter and the clay is a familiar one in Scripture:
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, 'He did not make me'; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'?
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honoured use and another for dishonourable use?
These three verses give us a graphic image of who our God is, and who we are in relation to Him. He is the potter, we are the clay. He is the great and awesome Creator, we are his humble and lowly creation. Is He literally a potter, hunched over His potter's wheel, with a lump of clay, forming it into each and every individual human being? No, that's not what's meant in these passages. He is like a potter. We are like clay. It's a word picture, and a powerful and important word picture, because it reminds us of who we are in relation to our Creator God.
Now, back to Psalm 103. Psalm 103 speaks about God's compassion on His children in a beautiful way. He cares for the oppressed. He's merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. He doesn't give us what we deserve, but He has mercy on us. He remembers who we are - that we are dust.
So... He still creates us from the dust? Is that what the psalmist is saying here? Is each and every individual human the product of God's formative work in the same way that Adam was? No, not at all, and to use the text in this way can only be described as a serious misinterpretation!
John Calvin, in his commentary on Psalm 103:14, wrote the following:
David here annihilates all the worth which men would arrogate to themselves, and asserts that it is the consideration of our misery, and that alone, which moves God to exercise patience towards us... the more wretched and despicable our condition is, the more inclined is God to show mercy, for the remembrance that we are clay and dust is enough to incite Him to do us good.
To the same purpose is the comparison immediately following, that all the excellency of man withers away like a fading flower at the first blast of the wind... If it is asked why David, making no mention of the soul, which yet is the principal part of man, declares us to be dust and clay? I answer, that it is enough to induce God mercifully to sustain us, when He sees that nothing surpasses our life in frailty. And although the soul, after it has departed from the prison of the body, remains alive, yet its doing so does not arise from any inherent power of its own. Were God to withdraw His grace, the soul would be nothing more than a puff or blast, even as the body is dust; and thus there would doubtless be found in the whole man nothing but mere vanity.
I'll leave Calvin's erroneous description of the human body as a 'prison' for another discussion at another time. But leaving that issue aside for the moment, Calvin clearly understands the text in the figurative way in which it was intended to be understood. Clearly the psalmist points us back to Genesis 2:7, and the creation of man from the dust of the ground. But in doing so, he is not saying that we are each still individually formed from the dust, as Adam was. Humanity, embodied in the person of Adam, the representative man, was created from the dust, and in relation to the Almighty Creator God, this is how we still stand.
To make the point even more clear, compare Psalm 103:14 with Isaiah 40:6:
A voice says, 'Cry!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
RA says that we can learn that "even we today are created from dust," from Psalm 103:14. If I were to say, "In Isaiah 40:6 we learn that even today our flesh is made up of grass," how would you respond? How should you respond? Surely you should tell me that this interpretation of Isaiah's prophesy is ludicrous. And if you were to do that, you would be correct. I'm afraid that RA makes the same error in their use of Psalm 103:14.
Certainly there is an important theological point to the creation of the first man from the dust of the ground, a theological point that was re-emphasized by the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul. But that theological point, as I've written here before in connection with the subject of the creation account, is grounded in actual historical events, which have been recorded for us in God's Word.
Genesis 2:7 doesn't speak metaphorically, or allegorically, or in any way that could legitimately allow for an idea that the first man, Adam, descended from any other kind of life form. And that's not even considering Eve, the first woman, who was formed from the rib of the man (Genesis 2:22)! Given the fact that there are no Scripture texts that can be cited that proclaim that even today women are formed of men's ribs, I have no idea how one could come up with the idea of the existence of pre-Adamites without abandoning completely the idea of the factuality of the creation account as recorded for us in God's Word.
I could understand this kind of thinking among theological liberals, who don't really believe that the Bible is God's inspired, infallible Word, and feel free to jettison any portion of Scripture that they so desire. But how someone can attempt to reconcile a belief that Adam and Eve had ancestors with what God reveals to us in Scripture, while still affirming the infallibility of Scripture is beyond me.
In a later post I will briefly examine the other texts cited by RA in support of their assertion. But in conclusion, neither those texts nor Psalm 103:14 support in any way the idea that Genesis 2:7 can be understood in a 'non-literalistic' sense.
March 25th, 2013
This is the first part of my third response to Reformed Academic's comments on Rev. Wes Bredenhof's position statements on creation and evolution. Rev. Bredenhof has also dealt with this issue, as has Dr. Byl on his blog (to which I have a link, on the right of this page). At issue is RA's calling into question the 'plain reading' of 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.
RA wrote the following:
"Thought must be given as to what 'dust' means. Considering Psalm 103:14, we know that even we today are created from dust. (See also Genesis 18:27; 1 Kings 16:2; Job 10:9; Job 34:15; Psalm 90:3). Thus, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that Adam's creation from 'dust' does not necessarily mean that God pushed around some mud and formed a humanoid shape. Instead, 'dust' has a range of acceptable interpretations including 'the material Adam is made of,' 'the humble status of Adam,' and 'the clay used by the divine potter to fashion Adam.' Contrary to this, many other religions assume humanity was formed out of divine substance."
RA goes on to make the following statement:
"We believe that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. As such Adam and Eve were the first human beings. No creature existing before this special action of God was created in his image, and no such creature is therefore to be regarded as human. This includes those beings which used primitive tools and whose skeletal remains we have as fossils. And we affirm a robust Christian anthropology, rejecting the notion that being human is simply biological; instead, humans alone among all creatures on earth relate to God as persons. Humans alone are created in God's image, and have the calling and responsibility to obey his command of love and to articulate his praises."
In this carefully formulated statement, RA is allowing for the existence of human-like (although not human) ancestors of Adam and Eve, and for the idea that Adam and Eve were born to other creatures (which were apparently non-human, not having been created in God's image).
Let's take a look at the texts cited by RA in defence of the hypothesis that the creation of man from the dust of the ground was not (in their careful and pejorative explanation, which makes subtle mockery of those who hold to a 'literalistic' interpretation of Genesis 2:7) accomplished by God "push[ing] around some mud and form[ing] a humanoid shape."
As a father shows compassion to His children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
1 Kings 16:1,2:
And the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 'Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins...'
Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?
If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.
In a subsequent post, I will address these issues, focusing on the texts RA uses to support their view.
March 21st, 2013
Here's my second response to Reformed Academic's comments on Rev. Bredenhof's position statements on creation and evolution. In this response I will deal with 'procedural' issues, not with the issue of creation and evolution as such.
We conclude that the procedure the author followed is not in conformity with biblical guidelines as they are summarized in Lord's Days 40 and 43 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
So let's take a look at Lord's Days 40 and 43. First, Lord's Day 40:
What does God require in the sixth commandment?
I am not to dishonour, hate, injure, or kill my neighbour by thoughts, words, or gestures, and much less by deeds, whether personally or through another; rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge. Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself. Therefore, also, the government bears the sword to prevent murder.
But does this commandment speak only of killing?
By forbidding murder God teaches us that He hates the root of murder, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge, and that He regards all these as murder.
Is it enough, then, that we do not kill our neighbour in any such way?
No. When God condemns envy, hatred, and anger, He commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him, to protect Him from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
And now, Lord's Day 43:
What is required in the ninth commandment?
I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one's words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil's own works, under penalty of God's heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbour's honour and reputation.
Here's the accusation levelled against Rev. Bredenhof: "...the procedure the author followed is not in conformity with biblical guidelines as they are summarized in Lord's Days 40 and 43 of the Heidelberg Catechism." Let's break that lengthy sentence down, and get down to brass tacks: in effect, RA is accusing Rev. Bredenhof of sinning against the sixth and ninth commandments in his position statements (and in the manner of his presentation).
This is a serious accusation, and must be dealt with. I would assume that Rev. Bredenhof has never dishonoured RA using gestures. I don't see any evidence that Rev. Bredenhof is seeking "revenge" of any sort against RA. Obviously, he is not, in his arguments, harming or recklessly endangering himself. Therefore, I must assume that the accusation is that Rev. Bredenhof has dishonoured the members of RA with thoughts and words. Additionally, I must assume that the members of RA have the final question of Lord's Day 40 in mind, and that they are accusing Rev. Bredenhof of not loving his neighbour as himself, not showing patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him, not protecting him from harm, and not doing good even to his enemies.
Now, as to the ninth commandment, I must assume that Rev. Bredenhof is being accused of giving false testimony, twisting words, or gossiping and slandering, or perhaps condemning someone rashly and unheard, and not promoting his neighbour's honour and reputation.
Rev. Bredenhof doesn't need me to defend him, but since I have written about my opposition to Reformed Academic's teachings before in ways similar to him, this accusation could just as well apply to me and others who have spoken out on these issues. Are we who speak out against Reformed Academic guilty of sinning against the sixth and the ninth commandment?
Rev. Bredenhof accompanied his position statements on creation and evolution with a picture of a wolf in sheep's clothing, and the inclusion of this picture appears to have been offensive to RA. This is an image that reflects the Apostle Paul's teaching in Acts 20:28-31:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
The Apostle speaks of wolves who arise "from among your own selves." The danger he speaks about is danger that comes from within the flock. These "wolves" will speak "twisted" things. The Greek word for "twisted" here has as its root the verb "diastrepho," which is defined in Louw and Nida as "to cause someone to believe something that is quite different - to cause someone to turn away from a belief, to mislead." Friberg's lexicon states that this verb is most literally used of an object on a potter's wheel becoming misshapen, and that the figurative use of this word refers to perversion, corruption, or distortion of the truth.
So those who "speak twisted things," those who mislead, those who cause someone to turn away from the truth, those who distort the truth, are referred to as "fierce wolves." There is no doubt, this is a serious accusation, and one that must not be made lightly, or for the sake of stirring up controversy, or out of personal animosity. This is serious business, to be sure. But is it a sin against the sixth or the ninth commandment to make this accusation when you believe that issues of eternal significance are at stake?
One of the tasks of the shepherd of God's flock is to warn those who are in his care. Admonition, while hardly popular in our 21st Century Western context (if it has ever been a popular activity) is an important part of the shepherd's task. He must protect the sheep, and he will be held accountable if he does not. If someone is promoting dangerous distortions of the truth, then it is the task of the shepherd to point that out, for the sake of both the flock, and for the sake of the one who is leading others astray (the "wolves" of which the Apostle speaks). If a shepherd refuses to stand up to those who are "misleading" the sheep, he is simply not doing his job.
Is this unloving? Unfortunately, our current cultural context says that it is unloving to point out to others where they have gone wrong. If I say that homosexuality is a sin, for example, I am accused by the world of hating homosexuals. This is so even though I say that homosexuality is a sin and warn those with homosexual desires about their sin out of love for them; I don't want them to fall into condemnation because they refuse to repent. Is it a sin against the sixth or ninth commandment to tell a practising homosexual that he must repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and turn away from his sin? No, it emphatically is not, and I would presume that RA would agree with me.
If someone in the Church were to teach others that homosexuality is quite an acceptable lifestyle for a Christian, and then jump through a barrel-full of intellectual hoops to prove his case from Scripture, would it be wrong, and a sin against the sixth or ninth commandment, to speak out against him? To warn him that what he is doing is "perverting" and "distorting" the truth? To encourage him to turn from the path that he has chosen, because he's leading other people astray?
Absolutely not! In fact, it would be a sin for a shepherd not to do just that! Because it wasn't me who said it, it was the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit; someone who perverts and distorts the truth, however unwittingly, is equated with a fierce wolf, who will devour the flock if given the opportunity.
Does this mean that I believe that the members of RA are deliberately leading people astray? No, I make no such accusation, and that's not the point. Whether it's deliberate, or whether it's out of some misguided concern for apologetics, or defence of the faith in the face of academic opposition, or whatever the motivation may be, RA is "distorting" the truth and leading people astray, and must be encouraged not to continue on that path. The sheep under the care of shepherds must also be warned against following those who distort the truth; this is an action that fulfils the sixth and ninth commandments; we cannot allow people to harm or recklessly endanger themselves, whether physically or spiritually, and history has shown that those who follow the path that RA is taking have done just that.
Now, specifically concerning the ninth commandment, is Rev. Bredenhof (and, by extension, am I) "condemning or joining in condemning" RA "rashly and unheard"?
Absolutely not. RA's position has been clearly stated, publicly, before a broad audience. This is not a private issue, it is not an issue of one person believing that another individual has sinned against him; therefore, Matthew 18 and its guidelines don't even come into the picture. If a shepherd believes that his flock has been put in danger by false teaching that has been publicly proclaimed, he has a duty to publicly speak out about it. Do I need to contact each member of RA, or does Rev. Bredenhof have a duty to engage in "discussion" about the issues before saying anything? No. The issues are clear. The words have been spoken (or, in this case, written), and broadcast to the world. They must be dealt with transparently and publicly, for the sake of the broader flock. This is not a sin against the ninth commandment. I "condemn" (to use the word of Lord's Day 43) the teachings of RA, not rashly, not unheard, but understanding entirely what I am "condemning," because it has all been written, at length, in detail, with footnotes, using carefully chosen words and phrases, on RA's website.
On August 24th, 2009, I replied to an email sent to me by a member of Reformed Academic. Since this was an email that I wrote, and I am not including any privileged conversation, I will post that statement here:
I believe this issue is extremely important, and I hope that you and your colleagues at Reformed Academic realize that my opposition to much of what you are saying is not a matter of personal attack, but rather a serious disagreement about method, and what I believe are the far-reaching implications of that method.
Although I received no response to that message, its content still stands. In short, the accusations made by RA against Rev. Bredenhof are false, hardly helpful in the context of this discussion, and must be refuted.
March 21st, 2013
As mentioned previously, Reformed Acadamic (www.reformedacademic.blogspot.ca) has published on its website a lengthy response to Rev. Wes Bredenhof's position statements on creation and evolution (available on his blog).
I'm not Rev. Bredenhof, so I won't presume to respond to RA for him. However, since I stand in complete agreement with Rev. Bredenhof, I'm going to spend some time examining RA's response, and responding to it.
My first problem with Reformed Academic's response to Rev. Bredenhof concerns the following paragraph:
The Bible makes it very clear that there is no salvation for those who deny the incarnation, virgin conception, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Nowhere, however, does the Bible make similar statements with respect to such theories as heliocentrism or to non-literalistic interpretations of the creation account. For that reason orthodox Christianity has always allowed interpretations inspired by such theories.
I admire the subtlety of RA in its juxtaposition of "heliocentrism" and "non-literalistic interpretations of the creation account." Since heliocentrism has now been almost universally accepted as true, and not in conflict with the teachings of Scripture, placing this concept side-by-side with "non-literalistic interpretations of the creation account" is an ingenious way of equating the two types of teaching. After all, if part of the church in the past was strongly opposed to the idea of heliocentrism, it must be that the same should be true for the hermeneutical game of Twister that people need to play with the text of Scripture today in order to discover anything but six ordinary days in the Bible's creation account.
This is one of the serious frustrations I have with Reformed Academic and others who hold to their views. In their book, Old Earth Creationism on Trial, Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle have a detailed explanation of the "Galileo affair," which is so often cited by those who want "tolerance" for their "non-literalistic" interpretations of Genesis 1. I have never seen Chaffey and Lisle's explanation addressed, let alone refuted, by RA or anyone else who agrees with them.
Lisle and Chaffey write the following:
First, the whole Galileo controversy has been distorted. It is true that most religious leaders of the day held to a geocentric view of the universe. Nevertheless, Galileo found himself in trouble with Rome because of his arrogance and harsh criticism of the pope, not because of his scientific views [here a footnote points to Thomas Schirrmacher's, "The Galileo Affair: History or Heroic Hagiography?", TJ 14:1, April 2000]. In fact, many Jesuit astronomers were open to Galileo's teachings. The Jesuit missionaries to China were teaching heliocentricity within 30 years of Galileo's discovery. It was actually the academicians of the day who rejected Galileo because of their acceptance of Aristotelian beliefs. They persuaded the Church to reject Galileo's claims. It is simply disingenuous to link young-earth creationism with the Church of Galileo's day.
Lisle and Chaffey continue:
Ironically, this popular attack on young-earth creationism actually backfires. The Roman Catholic Church is being accused of accepting the scientific views of the day [which followed the view of Aristotle]. When new scientific evidence came along [from Galileo], they clung to their old views of science because they claimed scriptural support for their view. This is exactly what old-earthers do today. They cling to modern scientific theories and try to marry the Scriptures to them. These scientific opinions frequently change, and the old-earthers' belief just change right along with them.
Old-earthers try to make the connection between young-earth creationism and these two views [geocentrism and belief in a non-spherical earth] because they wish to demonstrate that young-earth creationism is based on an over-literal interpretation of the text. In fact, young-earthers are often called "literalists." Once again, this argument fails...
And they go on to explain in more detail.
Here's the problem: we have a group that claims to want discussion. They claim to want the issues to be dealt with honestly. But nowhere are arguments such as those put forward by Lisle, Chaffey, and men like Jonathan Sarfati, dealt with, other than with a dismissal, and the repetitive citation of the same old saws in a dismissive fashion.
This is not discussion. This is an attempt to seek legitimization of a viewpoint without seriously engaging with opposing viewpoints. RA accuse Rev. Bredenhof of using political arguments in his position statements. I cry foul at this accusation, and cast it directly back at RA and their argument. RA is using rhetoric (and using it well, which is hardly surprising given the intellectual accomplishments of its members) in the way they accuse others of using it. All the while, they claim to be the aggrieved party, and accuse opponents of being unloving and engaged in "unholy bickering."
I'm not a politician. I'm not going to couch my arguments with a fake smarmimess that parodies Christian charity. Disagreeing with someone, believing that their views and the acceptance thereof create an imminent danger for the church and arguing strongly against them, without using silly disclaimers that I don't really believe (such as, "I might be wrong, but...") is not unholy bickering. It is standing up for the truth, without hesitation, without being cowed into accepting these views simply because I don't have the right letters behind my name.
Unfortunately, the tenor of the discussion by RA and its proponents often seems to be deliberately aimed at making people who don't have those right letters behind their names feel as though they're fools who don't have a place in the discussion. I may have a B.A., an M.Div., a P.S.R.P., and an A.I.T. behind my name, but I don't have the holy grail of abbreviations, which apparently must include the letters S and C; therefore I must not be qualified to participate in this argument.
I've seen this kind of thinking in action elsewhere, and I've seen its danger. Average, "uneducated" people are cowed into thinking that they must capitulate to those with university degrees, because after all, what could someone studying to be a locksmith have to offer to a discussion that involves such heavy intellectual lifting? Thankfully, men like Ryan Smith (on his blog, One Christian Dad), have overcome that thinking, and have spoken out, cogently and wisely, despite their lack of the correct credentials.
I've gone on too long, and I haven't even gotten to my main point. Well, here it is.
No one is presuming to say that those who deny the "literalistic" understanding of Genesis 1 to 3 aren't saved because they hold to a mistaken understanding of Scripture in that area. That's not the point, and men like Jonathan Sarfati make the same point in their writings. It makes you absolutely wrong, yes, but people can be absolutely wrong about many things and still, by God's grace, be saved. Thank the Lord for that, because otherwise we would all be damned.
However, what I am saying is this: this generation may be able to hold on to a "non-literalistic" reading of Genesis 1, while still inconsistently holding to a "literalistic" reading of Genesis 3, and the gospels, and the epistles, and the prophets. But history shows that this kind of tension can never sustain itself. Sooner or later (and often very, very soon), those who follow on the heels of people who can forcefully hold together inconsistent views of Scripture inevitably work to make their views consistent.
Yes, inevitably. Look to history. Look at what happens when people deny the clear teaching of Scripture on creation, and see the deformation and falling away from the faith that has occurred. This is not some fallacious "slippery-slope" argument; as I've said in the past, this is a "jumping off the cliff" argument. Abandon the "literalistic" understanding of Genesis 1, and you are jumping off that cliff. This is a dangerous, frightening path, and it is a path that we cannot in good conscience allow our people to travel down. If God didn't create the world in six days, as Scripture says, if God didn't form the first man of the dust of the ground, and the woman from his rib, as Scripture says, then why on earth should we believe in a serpent talking? Why should we believe in a "literalistic" understanding of the fall into sin? Or the virgin birth? Or the teachings of the Lord Jesus? Or the account of His resurrection and ascension?
We must hold on to the teaching of Scripture; they are trustworthy, true, reliable, clear, understandable, and perfect.
Does this constitute "unholy bickering"? No, it doesn't. Does this mean I hate the people I'm arguing with, or that I believe them to be damned and on their way to hell? No, it doesn't. It does mean that I believe their teaching is dangerous, seriously dangerous, and that it must be opposed by the Church, in no uncertain terms.
You can drag out your famous theologians from the past (granting even that their views are being accurately represented by those who prefer "non-literalist" interpretations of Genesis 1, which is far from a settled matter), and use them to support your argument. You can pull the "reformed" trump card, and accuse the opposition of being non-reformed and fundamentalist and following in the footsteps of Seventh-Day adventists, or whatever. Quite simply, I couldn't care less. That's no argument - it's posturing and rhetoric, and it is not at all helpful.
As the Church confesses in Article 7 of the Belgic Confession,
We may not consider any writings of men [whether it's John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, B.B. Warfield, or even Klaas Schilder], however holy these men may have been, of equal value with the divine Scriptures; nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees, or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and only a breath (Psalm 62:9). We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us: Test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Likewise: If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him (2 John 1:10).
March 19th, 2013
On December 13th, 2012, Rev. Wes Bredenhof posted a number of position statements on creation and evolution on his blog. Here's the link:
Recently, reformedacademic.blogspot.com posted their responses to Rev. Bredenhof's statements.
It's been some time since I've written anything here or elsewhere about the issues that are at stake, mainly because I had expressed my concerns already, and quite frankly I was sick and tired of the whole issue and hearing the same old tired (and discredited) arguments being used against the clear teaching of Scripture concerning creation, evolution, and the origin of man.
But Reformed Academic is continuing in its chosen path, with no evidence that opposing arguments are having an impact on their thinking. Meanwhile, those who are undecided, and those who believe they don't have the "scientific" expertise to stand up against such an intellectual group, may be swayed to a dangerous, unbiblical position.
So I am going to be writing here again about the issues of creation and evolution (or evolutionism, or whatever), the importance of the issues, why we should even care, and the danger that I believe is confronting our churches if we do not deal with this issue head-on and without flinching.
Suffice it to say for the moment that Rev. Bredenhof isn't the only one to have serious concerns about the teachings that are being promulgated by the members of Reformed Academic. I agree wholeheartedly with his position statements, and I believe they are entirely in accord with Scripture and the Reformed confessions.
RA's responses to Rev. Bredenhof's concerns have done nothing to mitigate my own concerns about the nature of their teaching. In fact, they have strengthened my concerns, and have driven me once again to speak out, for the sake of those who may be swayed by what they're teaching. So there will be more responses to come.
March 18th, 2013
Yesterday's sermon didn't get recorded, but here is the written text of the message.
Sermon text: Mark 14:66-72
Scripture reading: John 21:1-19; Mark 14:53-72
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of all the words that the Apostle Peter ever heard, there are probably two in particular that he would never forget. And those are the first two words that the Lord Jesus spoke to him as he was in the middle of casting a net into the Sea of Galilee with his brother Andrew: "Follow me."
Those two words changed Peter's life forever. For the three years of our Lord's ministry, Peter did follow Jesus; we know he had his low points during this time - and those low points were about as low as you can get. In the space of five verses in Mark 8, for example, we see Peter going from one extreme to another. First we have Jesus asking His disciples, "But who do you say that I am," and Peter answering, with amazing insight, "You are the Christ," the anointed one of God. But then, when Jesus began to explain what being the Christ actually would mean for Him, "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him."
From the heights to the depths; from the beautiful confession to this rebuke from the Lord Jesus: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." The Lord Jesus had renamed Simon "Peter" - because it was on the rock of Peter's confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," that the Lord Jesus would build His church. But within moments, Peter becomes Satan, the accuser, the tempter, the liar, personified.
But this led to another statement by the Lord Jesus, a statement that would have brought to mind the first words that Jesus had spoken to him: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Following the Messiah means following Him in every aspect of His mission, with total dedication, with complete commitment, in ways that, as we've seen, the disciples at first never expected. That was something Peter had to learn.
The point became clearer when the rich young ruler came to the Lord Jesus to learn what He had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus had told the young man to sell all that he had, give everything to the poor, leave everything behind, and follow Him. We know how the young man went away with sorrow in his heart, because he had many possessions and he couldn't bear to leave them behind. But in response, once the young man has gone, Peter says this: "See, we have left everything and followed you."
And it was true; Peter and the other disciples had left their businesses and their families and their possessions behind, even though they often showed a very mistaken idea of why they were following, even though especially Peter often seemed to do the wrong thing, to say the wrong thing, like he did on the Mount of Transfiguration, when he offered to build three tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah - speaking without knowing what he was saying, which seemed to have been par for the course for Peter.
And finally, as the end drew ever nearer, the Lord Jesus had prophesied that all of his disciples would fall away; they would leave Him, alone, to face His fate in complete solitude. Peter couldn't and wouldn't accept this prophecy; maybe the others would fall away, but he would never. "Even though they all fall away," Peter said, "I will not." Those are confident words. There was no self-doubt in Peter, or if there was, he did all he could to drown it out by loudly proclaiming the right things. "I will not," he says. "Yes, you will," Jesus tells him - "Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." Of course, as we might expect, Peter denies that this is even possible, and he does his denying with great vigour.
But while Jesus is praying in the garden, he comes back to his disciples to find Peter sound asleep when he was supposed to be keeping watch. Less than an hour had gone by, and the reality of what was happening certainly wasn't living up to the level of Peter's bravado. But Jesus gives him one final exhortation: "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Jesus knew Peter inside and out, like He knew all men. And he knew that when Peter said something, he fully intended to do just what he said. When Peter said, "I'll never fall away," he meant what he said. His spirit was certainly willing. But his weakness was becoming all the more apparent, the weakness of the flesh.
So Jesus is betrayed with a kiss by Judas. There's a brief struggle; one man draws his sword and fights back; he cuts off the ear of the High Priest's servant Malchus. And that one man with a sword, one man who still apparently didn't get the fact that the kingdom of heaven wouldn't come by the sword, was Peter. But then, as the mob takes Jesus away to be tried, His prophecy comes to pass; Mark tells us in one simple sentence, and that sentence is telling just as much in what it doesn't say as it is in what it does say: "And they all left Him and fled." "They all" - those fleeing men aren't named. They're not called "His disciples;" by this point their cowardice has made them unworthy of that title. The sheep had been scattered; they've all fled. Except one.
And that one was Peter. "And Peter had followed Him," we read in Mark 14:54. Jesus had said, "Follow me." Peter had said, "We have given up everything to follow you." Jesus had said again, "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." And Peter followed, even after Jesus was arrested.
But that's not the whole story of verse 54: "Peter had followed Him," yes. That much is true. But there's an important caveat added to that statement: "at a distance." He had tried to take up arms against Jesus' enemies, and Jesus had stopped him. He had probably escaped from the mob, and was most likely watching from a distance. And as Jesus was led away, Peter followed - but not close enough to be identified with Jesus. Not as a compatriot, heading to a common goal. Not as a servant following his master to the bitter end. He follows from a distance; close enough to see what's happening, close enough to satisfy his curiosity about what's happening, but not close enough. And even though Peter was following Jesus, that distance made all the difference in the world.
So Jesus is put on trial. We know what the trial was - it was a joke, a mistrial, a miscarriage of justice. The council didn't have the authority under Roman rule to execute the death penalty anyway, but they could make a recommendation to the Roman authorities that their prisoner be executed. And they did their best. False witnesses came forward, but their stories couldn't be corroborated, and they contradicted each other. There was no evidence that would rightly lead to the death penalty being meted out.
Until Jesus shows that even when the situation seems most out of His control, amazingly enough it's still He who is in control of His fate, not His accusers. After the circus of false witnesses and lies and false accusations is over, after no testimony was found that could lead to the death penalty, the High Priest stands up to ask Jesus one last question. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus answers, clearly, without leaving any mystery. The time had come where He could be absolutely open and clear about who He was; there would be no mistaking His claims, there would be no misunderstanding of what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. He was bound. He seemed to be at His most powerless. There was no way He could now be mistaken for an earthly Messiah who would lead an armed revolt against the occupying Roman forces. Now Jesus could state, clearly and plainly, who He was and what He had come to do.
Remember: the events that had just happened in the Garden of Gethsemane had made it clear that the cup that He had to drink from was not going to be taken from Him. Here was an opportunity for just that to happen; here was an opportunity for Jesus to avoid the terrifying experience of having to face the wrath of God that He so dreaded. But just as He did when He stood up to the temptation of Satan in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, just as He did throughout His ministry, just as He did in the Garden of Gethsemane, He remains faithful. He remains obedient. He remains true to His calling.
And so He answers, "I am." He uses the same words that had led to a crowd attempting to throw Him off a cliff for blasphemy, because that one claim, "I Am," was the phrase that God himself had used to identify himself to Moses. And then He identifies himself with the Son of Man, once again, and tells the High Priest that he would see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, at the very right hand of God himself, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
All of the false witnesses in the world didn't matter now. In the eyes of the council, this was enough. This was blasphemy, a capital offence for the Jews. He was using the LORD's self-description to describe himself; He was saying that He had a special relationship with God the Father; He was even saying that He was going to be God's right-hand man, so to speak. And this is just what the council was looking for, the very evidence that the High Priest needed, direct from the mouth of the accused. The case was closed. All that remained was to have the sentence passed, to have everything made legal by the people who really had the control, the Roman authorities.
Then the abuse starts - the blindfold, the spitting, the blows, the mockery. These men, who accused Jesus of being a false prophet, strike him and then ask Him to tell them who it was that had hit Him; they want Him to "prophesy" on their own wicked terms; and He refuses. Because even in this, He's still the one who's in control. And the story that envelopes the account of the trial shows that He is the truest of prophets. Because as the trial comes to its conclusion, the prophesy he had made to Peter is coming to pass, just as He had said.
Mark makes the contrast between Jesus and Peter very clear. As Jesus stands up, ready to take what was coming to Him, Peter is on the outside, below in the courtyard. He had followed at a distance, and even though only a wall separated him from his Master, that distance had become even greater. A servant girl recognizes him as having been with Jesus; but Peter claims to Neither know nor understand what she means. And the rooster crows. Then the servant tells some of the others who were gathered that Peter was one of the disciples. And he denies it again. Then one of the bystanders comes and confronts Peter. And here's where things get truly awful. Peter doesn't just claim not to understand, he doesn't just issue a weak denial; in the strongest possible terms He disassociates himself from Jesus. With his words, he increases the distance that already existed between the One he said he would never deny and himself. He invokes a curse upon himself. He swears. "I don't know the man that you're talking about."
He doesn't even mention Jesus' name. Peter has gone from confessing, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," to making this claim: "I do not know this man of whom you speak." Even on the face of it, it's a ludicrous statement; here he is, in the courtyard of the High Priest's home, while the trial for "this man" of whom the woman was speaking was going on. He's a Galilean; He's in Jerusalem following Jesus' triumphal entry, when throngs of people welcomed Jesus into the city, following the cleansing of the temple, which must have been on everyone's mind during the festival. Certainly Peter is overstating the case more than just a little bit in order to protect himself.
But in that overstatement, Peter is making a very telling point about his relationship with the Christ at that moment. "Knowing" someone in Scripture has a deeper meaning than just being familiar with someone, or knowing who someone is. It involves intimacy, closeness, a connection, to the person who is known. Peter followed Christ, but at a distance. That distance became greater with every denial. Peter knew who Jesus was, but it seems that he doesn't truly know Him intimately, with that close, personal connection and attachment that "knowing" implies. His terrible sin has separated him from the Saviour. He's in the dark, literally, and figuratively. He's on the outside, looking in, literally and figuratively. Our Canons of Dort call this the "lamentable fall" of Peter, and use this story as an example of the fact that "when [God's people] do not watch and pray, they not only can be drawn away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into serious and atrocious sins, but with the righteous permission of God are sometimes actually drawn away."
I've said before in this series of sermons that we can often relate better to Peter than to the other disciples, because we recognize ourselves in his weakness, in his failings, in his rashness, in his speaking without thinking first, all of these things. We see these things in ourselves, and we see them in Peter, so we sympathize with him, and maybe we even excuse him a little bit, because he's so much like us.
But I pray that in this "lamentable fall," as our confession says, none of us would ever be able to relate to Peter, or excuse what he did. This was an act of high treason against the King. These denials constituted a "serious and atrocious" sin. There's no excuse for it; the Lord Jesus had warned Peter, and he had given Peter the prescription to guard against just this kind of thing happening: "Watch and pray, so that you won't be led into temptation." Peter was watching alright, from a distance, but he couldn't keep guard in the garden without falling asleep, and he couldn't keep guard over himself here in the High Priest's courtyard. And so he fell, and he fell hard. And there's no excusing it; what Peter did that night was pretty much the most horrible thing a person can do; denying Christ, running away from Him; not standing with Him, leaving Him absolutely and completely alone in the face of a pack of wolves intent on destroying Him. This was truly shameful.
Now you may be thinking that I'm being a little hard on Peter in saying all these things. After all, we've all sinned, who are we to cast stones at someone else? Yes, we have all sinned. The Apostle Paul spoke about "the defiled and unbelieving," in Titus 1:15. For them, nothing is pure; both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. So even if we don't outright deny Jesus like Peter did, swearing an oath to deny that we even know who the Christ is, we can just as much deny Him by our works.
Jude speaks about the same thing in Jude 4, speaking of false teacher who had crept into the church - they were "ungodly people, who perverted the grace of our God into sensuality and denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Perverting the truth, falling prey to the lusts of the flesh - in doing those things we too can deny our Saviour. And finally, Peter himself wrote much the same thing, in 2 Peter 2:1 - he speaks about false prophets and false teachers who would secretly bring in destructive false teachings, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
So, to one extent or another, each one of us has, in practice, if not in word, denied the Master who bought us. When we deliberately choose to live in sin, we are denying His sufficiency. We're denying that He is enough, that the pleasure He has to offer is good enough. We're denying that His Word is true. We're denying that His love is good enough for us. We're denying that He is worthy of our 100% devotion. But that doesn't mean we should tiptoe around Peter's sin. We should call it what it is - a horrible blasphemy against our God and Saviour. And then we should look at ourselves in exactly the same way - for as Jesus himself said, "for with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2). We should grieve over our denials of the Saviour. And we should follow the prescription that Jesus gave to Peter before his fall - watch and pray.
Be watchful. Remain vigilant. Don't fall asleep. And seek the Lord in prayer, because you won't be able to do any of this without Him and His power. And at the same time, remember what happens next in this story. Verse 72: "And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.' And he broke down and wept." We know what happened. We know how Peter went on to become one of the greatest leaders of the early church, the writer of two beautiful letters that are included in the Bible, a great preacher and apostle who spoke about Jesus fearlessly and without shame. He was called back by the same Jesus he had denied. Those prophetic words that Jesus had spoken to him called him out of his sleep, out of his lack of watchfulness, and brought him to repentance - to real repentance. Not just feeling bad for his sin, but turning away from it.
Peter was restored. And he was restored by Jesus himself, after his resurrection. Peter had denied Jesus three times while standing outside in the dark, warming himself by a charcoal fire in the High Priest's courtyard. But in a perfect parallel with Peter's denials, three times Jesus restored him and commissioned him, in the story recorded for us in John 21, on the seashore, with a new day dawning, as fish and bread were being prepared on a charcoal fire. Three times Peter had sworn that he had nothing to do with the Messiah; but later, the Messiah would ask him three times, "Peter, do you love me?" And by God's grace, through God's gracious work of restoration, Peter could answer three times, "Yes, Lord, I do love you." And Jesus could give Him that great commission, that great calling: "Feed my sheep."
And throughout his life from then on, that's exactly what Peter would do. And his words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, included in Scripture, still feed God's sheep to this very day.
And then, after that restoration, the Lord Jesus made another prophecy - "Truly, truly, I say to you," he told Peter, "when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. And after saying this He said to him, 'Follow me."
His first words to Peter: "Follow me." His last words to Peter, after everything that had happened: "Follow me." Even after all that Peter had done, even with the depths to which Peter had fallen, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ shone through, all the more brightly, with that final call. Restoration is possible, and the story of Peter proves that. Forgiveness, reconciliation, the repairing of the relationship between God and human beings. The story of Peter's threefold denial of the Saviour is a warning to all of us, a serious warning, a serious exhortation, to watch and pray, so that the same thing doesn't happen to us.
But at the same time, the story of his restoration, the story of repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation and commissioning, gives us hope. May God in His grace keep us from falling like Peter did. May He, in His grace, help us to mourn and grieve over the times when we have fallen like Peter did. And at the same time, we need to trust and believe, that no matter how far we may have fallen, that there is forgiveness for those who grieve over their sins, and turn back to Christ. It's not enough just to feel sorry; Judas felt sorry for what he had done, and look what that got him - a horrible death and burial in the pauper's grave, and no restoration. But where the gospel call to repent and believe is preached and heard, and not just heard, but responded to, there is hope - real hope, a living hope, a hope that's based in the suffering and death and resurrection of Christ, which lies at the centre of our sermon text this morning.
So don't excuse what Peter did, and don't excuse what you yourself have done. Don't make excuses, for him, or for yourself. But turn to Christ. Look to Him. Give yourself to Him. He will receive you, and you can be assured that when you do, every sin, no matter how terrible, no matter how serious and atrocious, has been forgiven. Amen.