A Tidal Wave in East Pakistan

From pp. 39-40 of David Keller’s “Great Disasters: The Most Shocking Moments in History“:

In East Pakistan, in 1970, [a tsunami] killed almost half a million people. East Pakistan (it’s now called Bangladesh) had been hit with gigantic waves before, but none with the force and destruction of this one.

It all started with a cyclone roaring through the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Winds blew at over 100 miles per hour. The storm was so fierce that it churned up a huge surge of water, aimed directly at East Pakistan. For hours the people had watched as the winds whipped and the rain fell in sheets. Then the wave struck. Twenty feet high and miles wide, it swept over the Pakistani coast and flooded over 3,000 square miles of land.

Thousands of people were crused or pulled out to sea to drown. On the largest island off the coast, 200,000 people were killed. On many smaller islands, no one was left alive at all.

One of the reasons that there were so many deaths is that Pakistan had so many people: nearly 1,000 for every square mile of land. Most of the country is on land not much higher than the ocean itself, so there was no high ground to run to. Another reason is that the peopl were unprepared for the storm. There had been another storm just a few weeks before, and many people fled the coast. But the storm died out and nothing happened. This time many people thought the same thing would happen again and stayed where they were. By the time the wave hit, it was too late to run.

Were Jesus’ Miracles a Demonstration of His Humanity or Deity?

“If anything, what the miracles show is that Jesus is the genuinelyhuman being who, because he is utterly obedient to the Father, is ableto reflect the love and power and creative wisdom of the Father intothe world.” –N.T. Wright

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“A lot of Christians, and possibly even more non-Christians, think that central to Christianity is the view that Jesus could perform miracles because he was more than a mere human being. We shall take walking on water as an example. A vast majority of people today think that it is impossible to walk on water. Some Christians, though be no means all, think that they are required to believe that Jesus could do so; this ability was limited to him, since he was more than human. Many non-Christians also think that Christians must believe this. Moreover, a lot of Christians and non-Christians think that the faith of the first Christians depended on Jesus’ miracles.

“Historically, none of this is accurate. In the substantive part of this chapter, we shall see that in the first century Jesus’ miracles were not decisive in deciding whether or not to accept his message and also that they did not ‘prove’ to his contemporaries that he was superhuman. Ever since the fifth century (when the issue was officially settled), orthodox Christians have believed that Jesus was ‘true man of true man’ and that his divinity (which they also affirm) neither combined with nor interfered with his humanity: he was not an odd mixture. It is heretical to say that his divinity buoyed him up while his human feet lightly grazed the water. The definitive statement on this issue is that he is ‘of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us apart from sin’ – not, ‘apart from the ability to walk on water’.” –E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus

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“‘For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit’ (John 3:34). It was the Spirit of God living in Jesus that gave him the power to do miracles, to know the thoughts of men, to be -God with us.- The humanity of Jesus prayed to the Spirit of God in him for strength, insight, wisdom, knowledge, direction, and power.” –WhoIsJesus.com

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“Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and did all His miracles by the Power of the Holy Spirit — because He was a man made completely under the Law.” –Matt Slick

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“As a man, Christ also relied on Himself – His own Deity, to performmiracles without qualifying them as being done by the Holy Spirit or byHis Father.” (>>)

God’s Will in Two Different Senses

“So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’  – Romans 9:18-19

From pp. 191-2 of John Piper’s “The Justification of God“:

To be sure, Pharaoh said, “No” to God’s command that he send the Israelites into the wilderness. This can reasonably be called “resisting” God (cf. Acts 7:51). But this is so obvious to everyone that it is utterly implausible that the objector would be affirming that no one has ever resisted God in this sense. Everyone has. But Paul’s point was that even this resistance is in one sense willed (9:18) by God as hardness. The objector sees clearly that Paul is saying: God wills that Pharaoh resist God’s own commands.7

This fact has compelled both exegetes and systematic theologians to speak of God’s will in two different senses. These two senses have sometimes been designated as God’s signified will and effectual will, or as God’s revealed will and secret will, or as his will of command and will of decree. What is important for us here is to note that it is the second member of each of these pairs which the objector says cannot be resisted. And indeed this is a necessary and legitimate inference from Paul’s teaching in Romans 9:14-18. Perhaps Paul chose the unusual [Greek word for will] in Romans 9:19b (although he had used [another] in 9:18) to stress what cannot be resisted is precisely the effectual will or decree of God. Probably the will referred to is the [”purpose”] of 9:11 which stands firm because it is established “apart from works” (9:12) and before Jacob and Esau were born (9:11).

Therefore, what the objector correctly sees is that God, not man, holds final sway even in the lives of unbelievers. But his premise is that, unless man has the power of self-determination over against God, his evil acts cannot justly be faulted, i.e. he cannot be judged as a sinner (cf. Romans 3:7). From this premise he opposes Paul’s description of how God acted with Pharaoh and by implication the way he acts with all people in all times. In all likelihood the historical reality behind this (formally familiar) objection is the same pharisaical standpoint countered by Paul in Romans 9:11, as described and located by Herhard Maier…

7 Even Forster and Marston would have to admit this in some cases because they think that after the fifth plague God gave Pharaoh “supernatural strength to continue with his evil path of rebellion” (God’s Strategy, 73). In other words it was in some sense God’s will that for four more plagues Pharaoh not let the people of Israel go. Nevertheless, even after God had willed not to let Israel go, “The Lord said to Moses: ‘God to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, Let my people go!” ‘ ” (Exodus 8:1). So even in their scheme, Forster and Marston have to distinguish between God’s “will of command” and his “will of decree.”

Jonathan Edwards on the two wills:

“When a distinction is made between God’s revealed will and his secret will, or his will of command and decree, ‘will’ is certainly in that distinction taken in two senses. His will of decree, is not his will in the same sense as his will of command is. Therefore, it is no difficulty at all to suppose, that the one may be otherwise than the other: his will in both senses is his inclination. But when we say he wills virtue, or loves virtue, or the happiness of his creature; thereby is intended, that virtue, or the creature’s happiness, absolutely and simply considered, is agreeable to the inclination of his nature.

“His will of decree is, his inclination to a thing, not as to that thing absolutely and simply, but with respect to the universality of things, that have been, are or shall be. So God, though he hates a thing as it is simply, may incline to it with reference to the universality of things. Though he hates sin in itself, yet he may will to permit it, for the greater promotion of holiness in this universality, including all things, and at all times. So, though he has no inclination to a creature’s misery, considered absolutely, yet he may will it, for the greater promotion of happiness in this universality.” (>>)

Those Of The Synagogue Of Satan

From pp. 405-6 of Paul Barnett’s “Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity“:

The writer [of Revelation] speaks of “those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews but are not” in reference to Smyrna and Philadephia. “Synagogue of Satan” implies that the Jewish synagogue was a source of trouble for Christians living in those cities. There were, of course, communities of Jews living throughout the province of Asia, as they had been for the centuries of the Jewish diaspora (cf. Acts 19:10, 17). References in the book of Acts suggests significant antipathy toward a movement that they would have regarded as schismatical and heretical (Acts 19:33-34; 20:3, 19).

Their hostility may have been increased as a consequence of the disastrous defeat at the hands of the Romans in Palestine (66-70), at which time the temple was destroyed as well as the greater part of Jerusalem. Whereas the former Julio-Claudian dynasty had been generally tolerant toward the Jews, their successors the Flavians were less permissive. The generals Vespasian and Titus, who led the campaign in Palestine, tasted firsthand the fury of Jewish fanaticism. After the humiliation of the Jewish prisoners of war in Rome, Vespasian imposed a tax on the Jews, the fiscus Judaicus, for the upkeep of the temple of Jupiter in Rome. No longer having a temple of their own to provide for in their annual temple tax, they must pay instead for an idolatrous shrine for the hated Gentile king. That Christians were free from this obligation (unless they happened to be Jewish Christians) probably intensified the bitterness.

Yet the fiscus Judaicus did secure a degree of protection from local demands for participation in the worship of “the image of the beast”, that is, the emperor. Christians enjoyed no such immunity; they were exposed to harsh treatment from the authorities. It is possible that the Jewish communities in Smyrna and Philadelphia were called “synagogues of Satan” because their members reported Christians to the local authorities, who would have compelled the Christians to participate in idolatrous ceremonies31.

31 Hemer, Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, pp. 9-10.