Thideology Research Team: Case File 012

NEAR THE ANCIENT CITY OF UR, Southern Iraq — A huge complex has been uncovered near what many believe to be the biblical birthplace of Abraham according to researchers who have recently been allowed into the region. According to Associated Press reports, the site was discovered by a team of British archeologists working at Tell Khaiber in Southern Iraq, near the ancient city of Ur.

A Thideology Research Team spokesman responded to the reports, “I don’t think we have any British people working for us at the moment,” he said. “Although the guy who delivers our mail is named Seamus. I think his mother is from Ireland.”

GearThe area surrounding Ur, which is now arid and desolate, is considered to be the birthplace of civilization approximately 5,000 years ago. The Bible refers to Ur of the Chaldeans as the home of Abraham, which is one of the reasons scholars consider this part of Southern Iraq to be the biblical site.

National Geographic confirms the timeline and notes that Ur probably originated sometime in the fifth millennium B.C.

“I’ve never even heard of ‘National Geographic’,” the Thideology Research Team spokesman said. “That just sounds made up.”

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Seeing with Kingdom Eyes

When Alexander the Great conquered portions of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, he was trying to make a name for himself. He was extremely selfishly motivated. He was convinced Greek culture was the superior culture in the world and everyone should adopt it — whether they wanted to or not. As you can well imagine, many of the people conquered by Alexander resented his rule, — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

Empire11Alexander died quite young, however, and his empire was left to four of his top generals. Their reigns resulted in an ongoing power struggle against one another, which, in turn, opened an opportunity for another group of conquerors known as the Romans.

When the Romans conquered portions of the British Isles, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, they were out to make a name for themselves. They were extremely selfishly motivated. They wanted to built a vast and mighty empire and they thought it entirely proper to confiscate the wealth and resources of any country they could conquer in order to accomplish their goals. Of course, the people they conquered resented Roman rule — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

This small, insignificant population in Judea was particularly ill at ease over the continued occupation of their land. You see, they were God’s people, chosen from among all the nations of the earth. They were the ones to whom God had sent His prophets. They were the ones to whom God had given His law. Through them God had promised to send a King — a Messiah — who would be their deliverance.

And now, under the heavy yoke of Roman oppression, they waited for Messiah to come. There was just one problem…

The viewed the world with political eyes.

Roman rule over them was unjust. It was oppressive. They just knew when Messiah came He would throw off the Roman oppressors and restore Judea and Jerusalem to it’s former glory — like in the days of King Solomon. When Messiah came, God would be at work again. They just failed to realize God had always been at work.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” — Galatians 4:4-5

When Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born it was at the perfect point in history — so orchestrated by God.

It’s true Alexander the Great had no notion of paving the way for Jesus to come. Yet in his conquests he had spread a common language to three continents and the crossroads between them. Whatever else people spoke, they also spoke Koine Greek, the “common” language of the people.

Empire9It’s also true the Romans did not care one whit about the God of the Jews. But in their conquests they had built an incredible road system in between cities so that their army could move with strategic speed in the defense of their empire. They ruled with an iron fist so as to quell any dissent among the conquered people. Therefore criminals were dealt with quickly and harshly. It brought about a relative peace throughout the empire known as the Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace.”

Interesting turn of events — Those safe Roman roads made it quite easy for the average Joe to travel the empire, including traders, merchants…

… and apostles.

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ was planted in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, new converts, with a zeal for sharing this wonderful news, had ease of travel to take this message to people who’d never heard. And guess what? When they got to where they were going they encountered people who spoke the same language.

Amazing.

Things that for centuries had been viewed as political and military defeats — even regarded as national disasters of indescribable proportions — were nothing more than the minuscule manipulations of a sovereign God in His construction of His Kingdom. Alexander the Great and all the Caesars of Rome were nothing more than tools in the hand of Almighty God, accomplishing His perfect will.

And, while the Jews in Judea saw the world through political eyes, God opened the eyes of His apostles so that they might see the world with Kingdom eyes. This message of Jesus Christ is for all nations. Borders and cultures are all to be breeched with the Gospel. It is by this means God intends to save His people.

Which brings us to our point in history.

The world is still in conflict. There are still people out there who are extremely selfishly motivated and work diligently for the accomplishment of their own goals. And, when we see them making headway, it is easy to become discouraged. Just a few examples should make the point…

  • Muslims are immigrating to Europe in unprecedented numbers. Islamic families are producing four to five times the number of children than European families. Statisticians speculate that Muslims could outnumber non-Muslims in many European countries by 2025. At which point Muslims, who have tried and failed numerous times in history to invade and conquer Europe, would become the majority demographic. Many Europeans are not happy about this.
  • Many people view Hispanic immigration in the United States as a serious problem — for a variety of reasons.
  • Many citizens of the United States realize the U.S. federal government is becoming more and more oppressive by the day, seeking to micromanage more and more aspects of Americans’ lives. Many people who occupy high offices in the federal government are becoming openly and increasingly hostile to a Christian worldview — and many Americans are unhappy about this.

These kinds of things lead some to ask the question, “When is God going to get to work again?” Please don’t fail to realize God has always been at work. Let’s play a little game of “What if…”

  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Muslims into Europe so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where the Gospel is forbidden. What if He is moving them into an environment where they will become more likely to hear about the Messiah.
  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Hispanics into the United States so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where they are so bound by cultural religious practices that it becomes very different for them to hear the truth of Scripture. What if God brought them to the United States so that they might be saved and then return to their home counties as missionaries.
  • What if — God is orchestrating more and more hostility toward Christianity in the United States in order to purge His church of pretenders and to bring about revival. What if He plans to use persecution to mobilize us in ways we can’t yet see?

Thid-IslamicHatYou might be thinking that the people in a couple of these examples are openly hostile toward God and His Word. The Muslims migrating to Europe have an agenda to spread Islam. Many of the political leaders in the United States are seeking to make as many people dependant upon them, thereby insuring for themselves a sustained grasp on power. To accomplish this they need to destroy any notion that people may have of depending upon anyone else — including God.

Granted. Some of these people are openly hostile toward God.

So was Paul.

Paul (or, at the time, Saul) was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and see them in jail or worse. He had an encounter with Christ. He was changed into one of the fiercest allies of the Gospel ever. God still does this sort of thing. The people who now are at odds with God may find themselves transformed after they’ve had an encounter with the very Gospel they seek to destroy. And all of these situations we view as terrible we can know are ultimately nothing more than the miniscule manipulations of a sovereign God who is busy building His kingdom.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” — Ephesians 1:11

We can be either greatly discouraged or greatly encouraged by what we see. The question we need to answer is this:

Do we see the world with political eyes or Kingdom eyes?

Thideology Research Team makes actual discovery: Case File 011

THIDEOLOGY RESEARCH TEAM HEADQUARTERS, Somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere — A spokesman for the Thideology Research Team has confirmed that the Thideology Research Team recently discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.

DeadSeaScrolls“It’s true,” the spokesman said. “I was there when the discovery was made. One of our interns was surfing along on the internet looking for a free upgrade to his Angry Birds app when all of a sudden — BLAM — we ran headlong into the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yep, we are proud to announce to the whole world that the whole thing has been uploaded to the internet and can be viewed at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/home.”

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is, in fact, available online. Using the world’s most advanced imaging technology, the Digital Library preserves thousands of scroll fragments, including the oldest known copies of biblical texts and makes then available to the public for the first time.

When reminded about the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls were actually discovered in a cave in Qumran in 1947 and that the Thideology Research Team could not really claim to have “discovered” the Dead Sea Scrolls, the spokesman had this to say:

“Well, sure, if you want to get picky about it.”

Thideology Research Team: Case File 010

SOMEWHERE IN, Israel — The Thideology Research Team has just announced that archaeologists have uncovered a small stone in Israel that could be the first archaeological evidence of the Old Testament judge Samson. Researchers of the Thideology Research Team were first made aware of the discovery from a Baptist Press news report. In the original BP report, co-directors of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Center for Archaeological Research (who were not involved with the excavation that led to the discovery) said evidence characterizing the find makes it plausible that the seal supports a story of a young boy killing a lion with his bare hands.

“My initial assessment based upon what has been published to date would be that once again we have an artifact that does not contradict the biblical text, but in fact affirms it,” said Daniel Warner, one of the co-directors.

Members of the Thideology Research Team had absolutely nothing to do with the co-directors of the NOBTS Center for Archaeological Research who had nothing to do with the discovery. Nevertheless, the Director of the Thideology Research Team did offer his comments.

“I lost a button like that once,” he said.

You may read the entire Baptist Press report here.

Thideology Research Team: Case File 009

FORT WORTH, TexasSouthwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in no partnership with the Thideology™ Research Team, is hosting an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The exhibition, which opens today, will run through January 13, 2013 at the main campus of the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“We are extremely excited about this exhibition,” said a researcher for the Thideology Research Team. “Of all the projects in which we are not partners, this one is the one we are most proud of.”

Dating back as far as 2,250 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls include thousands of fragments of approximately 300 biblical manuscripts representing every book in the Hebrew Bible (except Esther), and are more than 1,000 years older than any previously known complete copies.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered by Bedouin herders in 1947, in caves near Khirbet Qumran by the Dead Sea in Israel.

“I totally get that, now,” said the researcher from the Thideology Research Team. “The scrolls are called the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ because they were found near the Dead Sea. Cool.”

By 1956, a total of 11 caves had been found near Qumran and a number of other caves nearby. Pieced together, the fragments made up more than 1,350 separate scrolls, including biblical texts, hymns, prayers and other writings, providing a glimpse into the time of the Second Temple.

More information about the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and how to purchase tickets is available at seethescrolls.com.

“I am SO going to this,” said another member of the Thideology Research Team. “It will make me feel like I’m a part of this incredible event — which, of course, I’m not.”

Thideology Research Team: Case File 008

GEZER, Israel — The Thideology Research Team has announced that an archeological team from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has uncovered a natural cave at the end of a Canaanite water system in Israel, a discovery that could potentially provide valuable insight into Old Testament culture.

The story originally was reported in the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, and not by the Thideology Research Team.

“That’s only because we didn’t know anything about it,” said a spokesman for the Thideology Research Team. “If we had known about it I feel certain we would have said something earlier.”

The spokesman went on to explain that the Thideology Research Team was otherwise engaged in “important matters.”

“Our coffee maker was on the blink,” he said.

The Gezer Water System Expedition, which is about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, is a joint project of NOBTS and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

“The research at Gezer is important to Baptists because of our commitment to understand the Bible within its historical context,” said Dan Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology at NOBTS.

The Thideology Research Team was not invited to participate.

“Which is just as well,” said the Team spokesman. “Since we had that whole coffee maker situation to deal with.”

The Thideology Research Team can confirm that the coffee maker has since been replaced.

 

Lord of the Law: Part II

Natural Law

(Continued from Part I)

codetabletCritics of the Bible often point to ancient history as a method of discrediting the authenticity of the Bible. Specifically they claim ancient history refutes the notion that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. Whereas Christians and Jews might point to the Mosaic Law as the prime example of God’s standards, critics claim the Mosaic Law can’t possibly be the revealed Word of God because the very standards expressed in the Bible are expressed in other ancient writings that predate the Bible. So, unless God is a plagiarist, the Bible simply cannot be true in the fashion it claims.

They tend to use two examples to defend their position:

  1. The Code of Hammurabi
  2. Confucius

Number 1: The Code of Hammurabi is an ancient code of law that was enacted by the sixth king of Babylon, Hammurabi, in the year 1760 B.C. One example of the code is still in existence today. It is inscribed on a seven-feet-tall slab of stone called a stele. In ancient Babylon these steles were placed throughout the kingdom so that everyone could read and know the law.

One of the first three laws says, “If any one brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if a capital offense is charged, be put to death.”

Sounds a lot like a prohibition against bearing false witness, doesn’t it?

You know what? There are other laws in the Code of Hammurabi that sound an awful lot like the Mosaic Law — particularly the 10 Commandments (which is found in the book of Exodus). And the challenge issued to those who believe in the authenticity of Scripture is this: Whether you subscribe to an early date for the Exodus (1446 B.C.) or a late date (1260 B.C.), the Code of Hammurabi still predates the writing of the 10 Commandments by hundreds of years.

confuciusthid2Number 2: Confucius was a Chinese philosopher whose teachings greatly influenced the far eastern world. He is famous for a number of quotations. One of the most famous is, “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”

Okay, now that sounds a lot like the Golden Rule spoken by Jesus in Matthew chapter 7.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 7:12

Critics of Scripture are quick to point out that Confucius uttered his words almost 500 years before Jesus was even born.

So, naturally, these two examples are irrefutable proof that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God and is, instead, the product of a bunch of lazy writers who didn’t have the creative energy to come up with any original material, right?

Well, of course not. So, where is the resolution? It is found in a biblical concept that often doesn’t receive the attention it is due — “common grace.”

When Adam and Eve sinned they became immediately worthy of eternal punishment — death and damnation. In the same way, every single person who ever lived or will live was and is deserving of God’s wrath. God would be completely justified in the destruction of us all. But He doesn’t do that, does he?

Instead, God provided a means of salvation through the work of Christ. And, for the sake of those who will eventually come to a saving faith in Christ, God postpones His ultimate judgment. In the meantime, everyone — even the non-elect — get to experience a measure of God’s blessings and grace through “common grace.” Instead of being immediately cast into hell, many people who will reject Christ until their dying day enjoy long lives full of all sorts of blessings. One such blessing God grants to everyone is an innate sense of right and wrong, which prevents man from falling completely prey to his sinful nature and descending into abject depravity. He gives man a basic understanding of the law.

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” — Romans 2:12-16

What this means is, even though men may be ignorant of the written Law of God as expressed in the Bible, they still have the principles of that Law written on their hearts. They have a conscience that tells them when something is wrong. Just as Cain knew he had done something wrong when he murdered his brother, Abel, men have always had a sense of right and wrong because God has equipped them with it. This is why Hammurabi had the ability to establish many good laws apart from ever having read Scripture. This is why Confucius “knew” the Golden Rule before Jesus spoke it audibly. These laws are a natural part of God’s creation.

codesteleThat does not mean men have the ability to follow their conscience in order to earn God’s favor. Look at the last part of that passage above. God will judge men by Christ Jesus. Salvation hinges on one thing only: Are you in Christ Jesus or not?

But what this does mean is that God has given rise to a thing we know as “natural law” or the “law of nature.” Natural law is a generally accepted theory of law that posits the existence of a law, which is set by nature and, therefore, has validity everywhere. It is the law that has general acceptance the world over. In practically every society and every culture you will find prohibitions against murder, theft, etc. There are exceptions — but not many.

Richard Maybury expresses this law in its most concise form in his book, “Whatever Happened to Justice?” He reduces natural law to two, basic, principles:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do
  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property

Similarly Jesus condensed all of the law — both God’s law and Natural law — into two, basic, principles:

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” — Matthew 22: 37-40

This natural law has had a profound impact on the world — most notably in the foundation of the United States. In the text of America’s foundational document, the Declaration of Independence, there is an explicit acceptance of natural law.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

There has always raged a debate as to whether or not America’s founding fathers were Christians or deists or atheists or something else. But what is not debatable is their understanding of natural law. It was upon an appeal to natural law that the founders justified their rebellion against England because they regarded natural law as a higher authority than the laws of men (more on that later).

Even beyond the shores of the United States the blessings of natural law are evident. It has been at the heart of many of the world’s most civilized societies. Go figure, it comes right from the heart of God, Himself, and is a blessing, indeed.

(To be continued in Part III)

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