Author: vincenzo

When believing is never enough

The only book of the Bible that has the specific and stated purpose of preaching the message of eternal life is the Gospel of John. He himself tells us: 

Now Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these were written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, that, by believing, you may have life in his name.

JOHN 20: 30-31

John repeatedly reiterates the only condition to obtain eternal life: to believe in the One whom God has sent (cf. Jn 6:29). In fact, the Greek verb pisteou (to believe) appears 98 times in the Gospel according to John , almost a third of all biblical occurrences.

In the first letter of John the verb appears 7 more times, and the noun also appears once, in one of the most beautiful verses of the epistle:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 JOHN 5: 4

The emphasis on doing

The following sentences, many of which you have surely heard, give us an example of how the church today is focused on doing:

You will have eternal life if …

  • … Give your life to Christ
  • … You have a relationship with Jesus
  • … (Take up your cross and) follow Jesus
  • … Commit your life to Jesus
  • … Make a choice for Jesus
  • … Become disciples of Jesus
  • … Accept Jesus
  • … Receive Jesus in your heart
  • … You have been invested in power by the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues

What do they have in common?

  • None resemble John’s message.
  • None talks about believing , but about doing or feeling
  • All imply that belief is not enough , implying — intentionally or unintentionally — a salvation by works

For example, just a few days ago I heard the phrase: “you will not go to heaven by following the Law, but by following a person: Jesus”. Though uttered with the best of intentions, the emphasis is once again on doing and not believing .

False assurance and false “tests”

Many say that if you do not persevere and progressively sanctify yourself , you have not truly believed (typical is the out-of-context use of Matthew 24:13, where enduring to the end guarantees escape alive from the tribulation). Others believe that failure to persevere indicates a loss of eternal life. Still others believe that “a visible transformation” or “a concrete commitment” must necessarily follow, otherwise one has never really believed (similar to the first group). Some others teach that one must have a spiritual experience, such as the Pentecostal view of the gift of tongues, to be “true believers.”

One could continue with similar examples, but the concept is clear: belief is not enough for any of these groups.

Systematically, when saying these things, I am accused of offering people a licence to sin. I welcome this accusation, which comes to those who preach the same message of justification by faith alone that Paul preached (Ro 6: 1-2). As Michael Eaton says

When you preach the gospel properly you are likely to be misunderstood. Someone is likely to say, “You are preaching grace too much. You are preaching that we can just sin.” […] If you are preaching what Jesus and Paul preached, you will get misunderstood in the same way.

(MICHAEL EATON, LIVING UNDER GRACE, P. 17)

The fact that Paul receives this objection shows that the apostle preached a message that left open the possibility of carnal believers (1 Co 3: 1-2) who, never maturing, are virtually indistinguishable from unbelievers. But the fact that there is this possibility does not mean that Paul was teaching people to continue in sin! Far from it. But Paul (as well as others) never uses a believer’s perseverance in sin as proof of his alleged non-genuine faith.

Therefore, I do not mean at all that we should not try to imitate our Master, far from it. But you have to discern the context correctly and understand that “following Jesus” is not how you get the gift of eternal life. Following Jesus is what makes us disciples , not what makes us believers.

But the real question is: shouldn’t we also imitate Jesus in his preaching? And imitate Paul too, as he imitated Christ (1 Co 11: 1)? And what did they say?

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; On the other hand, those who refuse to believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

JESUS (IN JOHN 3:36)

The jailer, asked for a light, jumped inside and, trembling, threw himself at the feet of Paul and Silas; then he led them out and said, “Gentlemen, what must I do to be saved ?” And they said, ” Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your family will be saved.”

PAUL (IN ACTS 16: 29-31)

That said, two questions remain for us to discuss; one legitimate, the other not.

Legitimate question: what is one to believe?

Since believing is the only condition for obtaining eternal life, it is legitimate to ask what to believe. According to John, for “you to have life in his name” you must believe that ” Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God ” (Jn 20:31). This is not an isolated statement; for example, John reiterates this in his first epistle:

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

1 JOHN 5: 1

 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

1 JOHN 5:5

This would be sufficient as an answer, were it not for the fact that John wrote about 2,000 years ago, meaning very specific things that his audience had no difficulty in understanding, but which could leave us a little perplexed: is it too simple to say just “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”? No.

The things that John’s audience had no difficulty in understanding from that simple statement are the same things that John wrote in his Gospel, “that you may believe” (Jn 20:30). Therefore, believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, means believing the things that John presents to us in the first book of him. And thank God, such things can be summed up in two categories , which John himself provides us:

He is the true God and eternal life .

1 JOHN 5:20

Jesus is the Son of God: he is divine. Jesus is the Christ: he gives eternal life. To corroborate this, the conversation with Martha comes into play. Jesus said to her:

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, he will live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? “

JOHN 11: 25-26

What did Martha say to Jesus?

“Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ , the Son of God who was to come into the world”

JOHN 11:27

Note that Martha did not simply answer “Yes, I believe it”, but “Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,” clearly equating what Jesus had just said about himself with the fact that He was the Christ and the Son of God. Note that in this exchange Jesus emphasizes only the fact that he is the resurrection and the life, not his divinity. Yet Martha’s answer makes us understand how the two are inextricable for a believing Jew of the first century.

For Martha, as well as for John, the fact that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God was equivalent to the fact that He was the True God and that in Him — and in Him alone — is found Life and Resurrection.

But why was it so clear to them? Have we not been told that the Jews of the time had a distorted view of the Messiah? Of course, those who ended up rejecting the Messiahship of Jesus certainly had a distorted view of the Messiah, having in mind only a Mashiach ben David (Messiah son of David) without the corresponding Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph). But those who believed clearly had a correct idea of ​​the Messiah; the sheep that the Father had given to the Son (Jn 10:29) believed in Jesus because they had already believed in the Father, or the Scriptures, and not the religious leaders.*

That the Messiah was the one who would give them resurrection and life was clear from Isaiah 53 (cf. Is 53: 11-12). And that the Messiah was Divine was evident from innumerable passages (e.g., Zc 12:10).

This is why John opens his Gospel with the famous prologue which openly and clearly declares that Jesus is God in the flesh. The rest of his Gospel cannot be read except in the light of the prologue (which is why sectarians such as Jehovah’s Witnesses alter the first verses of this book), and therefore we see Jesus repeatedly described as the author of the resurrection and of life, roles reserved for the living God.

This is why John continually emphasizes that to have eternal life one simply has to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Paul does the same when he says “believe in the Lord Jesus” to be saved.

It is wrong, whatever the reason, to change this message into something that involves doing and not believing

Illegitimate question: what does it mean to believe?

This is the illegitimate question; let’s see why.

First of all, I want to clarify that asking “what it means to believe” is not the same as asking “what John meant when he said he believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”. Why? Because the texts must be analyzed in their Sitz im Leben , or in the light of the original historical-cultural context. And John used clear words in his time. Not only that, but his texts alone explain what he meant.

In light of this, let’s talk about the verb translated “to believe”. This is still clear today, which is why it is always translated that way. The Strong Concordance clearly tells us that pisteuó means ‘to believe, to trust, to affirm, to be persuaded, to entrust’. This is also confirmed by the BDAG dictionary .

Yet, too many times I have heard pastors ask themselves rhetorically from the pulpit “but what does it mean to believe?” and then go on to explain that it means something “more” than believing (and obviously, this “more” implies, in one way or another, doing ).

One of the problems with asking what “believe” really means is that the question takes us into Gnostic territory . When one wonders if there is something more behind the clear meaning of a word, then, like the Gnostics, one believes that the true meaning of something is hidden (and usually reserved for a select few).

In the case of the Bible in general, this attitude directly attacks the just and equitable character of God, who intends to “give mercy to all” (Ro 11:32). And in the specific case of the Gospel of Eternal Life, the Gnostic investigation directly undermines the sola fide : once again, the attack is on the sufficiency of faith to obtain the grace of eternal life. Once again, people who are rhetorically asking this question from the pulpit are declaring to their audience that “believing” is not enough.


*For reasons of time and space, I will not go into detail, but the Dead Sea Scrolls and the various commentaries found among them confirm that the expectation of the believers of the time was that of a Divine Messiah and Redeemer.

Two new studies about CO2 and face masks

  1. First study is an all-Italian study still in preprint: CO2 levels whilst wearing a face mask go beyond the safety threshold. 40% of subjects with surgical masks inhale CO2 over the threshold. 99% of subjects wearing an FFP2 inhale CO2 over the threshold. The safety threshold is 5000ppm. The CO2 concentration with the surgical masks was measured to be 4965 ± 1047ppm. With FFP2, it was 9396 ± 2254ppm. It gets worse the younger the subject is. Up to 3 times the threshold in children wearing an FFP2, with an average of more than 2 times (12,847 ± 2898 ppm).
  2. Peer-reviewed study: Carbon dioxide rises beyond acceptable safety levels in children under nose and mouth covering: Results of an experimental measurement study in healthy children.

Masks are bad for you, study confirms (yet again)

[T]he lack of negative correlations between mask usage and COVID-19 cases and deaths suggest that the widespread use of masks at a time when an effective intervention was most needed, i.e., during the strong 2020-2021 autumn-winter peak, was not able to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Moreover, the moderate positive correlation between mask usage and deaths in Western Europe also suggests that the universal use of masks may have had harmful unintended consequences.

Study: Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe

KEDS Essays — Introduction to Philosophy and Apologetics

The problem of evil is not a defeater for the Christian faith. Discuss. 

Introduction 

The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains unfavourable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable or outright inconsistent to believe in the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God (Tooley, 2019). It is customary to quote Hume’s formulation of the atheistic argument from evil: 

    “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Hume, 1779, p. 186)

Scholars such as Mackie (1955) and McCloskey (1960) concurred with this traditional understanding of the problem, arguing that all forms of theism holding to the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God succumb before the Epicurean trilemma cited above (Feinberg, 2004, p. 17). The problem of evil allegedly exposes an unsolvable internal inconsistency of the theistic beliefs; in other words—says the atheist—theists must believe not that which cannot be proven, but that which can be disproven by their own beliefs (Mackie, 1955, p. 200).

In contrast, we maintain that not only does evil not constitute a problem for the Christian faith, but it provides a positive case for it.

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KEDS Essays — Biblical Exegesis: Theory and Practice

Application of Exegesis Methods to Disputed Biblical Passages

Matthew 24:15

Text. Modern English translations (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV) as well as major modern Italian ones (CEI, LND, NR2006), reveal no significant variation in the rendering. NET provides extensive translations notes, and no particular dispute in translating this passage is reported. Davies & Allison (2004) agree. 

Paralles are found in Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20.

Historical BackgroundChrist’s discourse is set around forty years prior to AD 70, during His final week before the crucifixion (Kostenberger, Stewart, & Makara, 2018). In Roman-controlled Israel, the messianic expectation was that “Messiah would lead the nation to throw off Gentile domination” (Myers, 2006, p. 42). Thus, Jesus’ statement in 24:2 puzzles the disciples, who then ask for clarifications in 24:3 regarding three things: the events about to happen; His coming into His Kingdom; and the end of the age (Walvoord, 1971).

Literary AnalysisSimilar to ancient Greco-Roman biographies, Gospels uniquely combine teaching and action in a preaching-based document (Carson & Moo, 2005), whilst still comprising of various familiar genres: parable, discourse, dialogue, biography, etc. (Magnum, 2020). In Matthew’s chiastic structure, the Olivet Discourse is situated at the antipodes of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), the latter laying down the qualifications to enter the Kingdom, and the former explaining when it will actually come (Derickson, 2006).

The word for “standing” is neuter (ἑστὸς) in Matthew, whilst in the Marcan parallel it is masculine (ἑστηκότα), suggesting a personification of the abomination, lending support to the “future Antichrist” view (Davies & Allison, 2004). See also 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Dydache 16; Apoc. Elijah 2:41; 4:21. 

Theological Analysis. The crucial theological element is the explicit reference to Daniel and his ‘abomination of desolation’ (cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), thus it is interesting that no references to the ‘abomination’ or the prophet Daniel are found in the Lucan parallel, whilst the Marcan parallel does not mention the ‘holy place’ explicitly, and does not directly attribute the ‘abomination of desolation’ to Daniel.

Interpretation. The verse is part of the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25). Some scholars rightly observe that Daniel’s prophecy seems fulfilled in history by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC (1 Maccabees 1:54, 59; 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:1–5), yet Jesus clearly intends a future fulfilment for it. This first puzzle is solved by noting that not all of Daniel’s abomination passages refer to the same event. Daniel 11:31 (11:20-35) is about Antiochus (Walvoord, 1971), but 11:36-45 refer to an eschatological future (so Daniel 9:27), the one Jesus refers to (also Paul in 2Th 2:3). The debate regarding whether Matthew 24:15 refers to a historical future or an eschatological one (Theophlos, 2009) is resolved similarly, through the early Jewish hermeneutical idea of ‘patterns of fulfilment’ (Haug, 2003), though we favour the “law of double reference” rather than that of “double fulfilment” (Fruchtenbaum, 2003, p. 4-5). Preterists (Bigalke, 2008) use the Lucan parallel to support the idea that the siege of Jerusalem (AD 70) was the historical fulfilment of the passage, since Luke explicitly mentions Jerusalem surrounded by armies and its desolation being near. However, we must observe that Luke (21:7) only reports the first of the disciples’ three original questions that we find in Matthew (24:3); and that first question is what is answered in Luke 21:20-24. Christ’s prophecy, as a whole, contains multiple references, some to the events of AD 70, some to an eschatological future; the latter is what is addressed in the Matthean account, which links the ‘abomination’ to Daniel and to the ‘holy place’. This agrees with Matthew’s chiastic centre being the postponement of the Kingdom (Derickson, 2006, p. 429).

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KEDS Essays — Exegesis and Bible Polemics: Free Will

Do Christians exercise free will? 

Introduction 

The nature of free will is “the most contentious question of metaphysics” (Hume, 2007). Without free will—Kreeft (2012) argues—all moral language would become meaningless, and justice with it. Meaningless justice would frustrate mercy, grace and love, and ultimately render human life itself meaningless (p. 113-114).

The matter does indeed have repercussions on how adequately we are able to address issues such as God’s goodness (Flowers, 2019), moral responsibility (Moreland, 1988), the problem of evil (Scott, 2015), the origin of sin (Crisp, 2017), the tension between foreknowledge and free will (Swartz, 2020)and between God’s sovereignty and free will (Lemke, 2013), the function of evangelism (Packer, 1961), the roles of man and God in salvation, sanctification, and works (Hankins, 2012; Harwood, 2012; Horn, 2013; Reynolds, 2012; Rogers, 2012).

The topic is vast, thus we shall focus on the question “do Christians exercise free will?” by looking at the most controversial issue: are all men free to believe the gospel? and are believers free to forfeit eternal life? We shall select relevant texts for exegesis, with a more detailed focus on the first of the two questions.

Free will: a definition

Views on free will stem from the answer to the question: if determinism were true, could we still have free will (Timpe, 2020)? Incompatibilism[1] answers in the negative, compatibilism[2] in the affirmative. 

We shall define “free will” as an individual’s ability to make self-determined choices that select one option out of genuine alternatives. This is a form of libertarianism that stands in contrast to all forms of determinism.

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KEDS Essays — Exegesis and Bible Polemics: Apologetics

How central was apologetics to the teaching and preaching of the early apostles? Discuss, with reference to both Acts and any one of the Pauline epistles.

Introduction

Modern apologetics may be defined as the rational justification of Christian truth claims against relevant questions, objections and alternatives (Dahle, 2002, p. 313); it encompasses topics such as arguments for God’s existence and the reliability of Scriptures, as well as refutations of unbiblical worldviews. However, biblical apologetics seems primarily concerned with the defence of the Gospel (Bruce, 1981) in response to unbelievers slandering and persecuting Christians (Boa & Bowman, 2006). Is this apologetics at the heart of apostolic preaching and teaching? Prophets of old defended the faith (Bennetch, 1941), Jesus Himself employed apologetics (Bruce, 1981),[1] thus it is only natural that apostles such as Peter (Barnard, 2014), Paul (Comfort, 1984), and John (Geisler, 1979), for example, did too.

Though many today draw various distinctions between apologetics and evangelism (Hanegraaff, 2016; Howe, 1978; Montgomery, 2004), we agree with McGrath (1998) that apologetics is integral to evangelism, and shall argue from the book of Acts that this is indeed the case in the apostolic era. We shall then use the epistle to the Romans to show how apologetics was part of the teachings, too.

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KEDS Essays — History of Hermeneutics

Briefly describe and discuss the distinctive hermeneutical features of Paul the Apostle and The Reformers, and highlight and discuss any hermeneutical similarities and/or differences between the two.

Introduction

Biblical interpretation as we know it begins in the intertestamental period (Bray, 1996, p. 47) and history is witness to a conspicuous number of hermeneutical approaches that have characterised different schools of thought as well as different ages (Reventlow, 2009). In this work, we should like to describe the distinctive hermeneutical features of both the Apostle Paul and the Reformers, to then move on discussing the similarities and differences between the two. To achieve our objective and better highlight the contrast between the Pauline and Reformed approaches, we thought it reasonable to narrow down the Reformed camp to a specific reformer, namely John Calvin. Though there is a variety within the views of the reformers, we believe Calvin provides us both with a sample of features that are common to the Reformers in general and with specific beliefs that will aid our work.

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KEDS Essays — Biblical Exegesis: Theory and Methodology

Given the inevitable presuppositions and subjectivity of the exegete, is it really possible to establish the intended meaning of the original Bible authors?

Introduction

Exegesis: the science and art of interpreting a text, so to bring out its meaning. However, who or what is the depository of meaning: the author, the text or the reader? We shall seek to determine whether authorial intent is where meaning indeed resides, and whether it can in fact be established by the exegete; and we shall embark on this journey as we look at closely related matters, such as the nature of Scripture, hermeneutics, the role of the text according to Scripture, dual authorship in light of the divine inspiration, and the reader’s presuppositions. 

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CIMB | Free Full-Text | Intracellular Reverse Transcription of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 In Vitro in Human Liver Cell Line

Preclinical studies of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine BNT162b2, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, showed reversible hepatic effects in animals that received the BNT162b2 injection. Furthermore, a recent study showed that SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be reverse-transcribed and integrated into the genome of human cells. In this study, we investigated the effect of BNT162b2 on the human liver cell line Huh7 in vitro. Huh7 cells were exposed to BNT162b2, and quantitative PCR was performed on RNA extracted from the cells. We detected high levels of BNT162b2 in Huh7 cells and changes in gene expression of long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1), which is an endogenous reverse transcriptase. Immunohistochemistry using antibody binding to LINE-1 open reading frame-1 RNA-binding protein (ORFp1) on Huh7 cells treated with BNT162b2 indicated increased nucleus distribution of LINE-1. PCR on genomic DNA of Huh7 cells exposed to BNT162b2 amplified the DNA sequence unique to BNT162b2. Our results indicate a fast up-take of BNT162b2 into human liver cell line Huh7, leading to changes in LINE-1 expression and distribution. We also show that BNT162b2 mRNA is reverse transcribed intracellularly into DNA in as fast as 6 h upon BNT162b2 exposure.
— Read on www.mdpi.com/1467-3045/44/3/73

“We also show that BNT162b2 #mRNA is reverse transcribed intracellularly into #DNA in as fast as 6 h upon #BNT162b2 exposure.”

More #ConspiracyTheories revealed as true.