My Tattoos

These are all my tattoos and their meanings, in order of when I got them. Click each picture to get a better look. See this post for an understanding of tattoos.


Done by Jeremy Maxfield at Elite Tattoo Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas (July 2013). “Taste and see that the LORD is good,” Psalm 34:8. I just wanted a reminder of God’s constant goodness. Dang, God’s so good.


Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (November 2013).”Bind my wandering heart to Thee,” a line from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount. This tattoo represents my favorite hymn, my love for beautiful art devoted to the Lord (like many classic hymns), and the meaning of the line itself is a plea to the Lord to bind our hearts to Him, as we fickly wander toward sin and worldliness away from that which satisfies.


Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (March 2014). The crown represents our union with Christ; Paul would call us “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), or viceroys: representatives of an authority not our own. We wear the crown that Christ has earned and purchased with His blood. The castle is a reminder of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, that the Lord is preparing for us (Revelation 21:2), and ultimately a reminder of God’s presence, as God will dwell with us (Revelation 21:3). God’s dwelling with man was once full in the Garden of Eden, broken after the Fall and relegated to the Tabernacle, then the Temple, then the Church, and will finally be fully restored in the new Earth. See T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem for a better understanding of God’s presence and man’s viceregency. The roses and background are just aesthetic, at the artists’ choice. I love letting the artist freely design his artwork, as he’s likely to design something to the best of his ability when given little limitations. And Cody’s awesome.


Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (July 2014). There’s a ton of sword imagery all throughout the New Testament, e.g. “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), “He does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), “the word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), etc. Thus, several motifs are implied but ultimately the tattoo points to the face that we exercise the authority of the Lord, the same Lord who tells us He came to this world not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34).


Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (September 2014). This tattoo is a reminder of God’s bigness, and our obligation to reach the nations. He’s not merely the God of Dallas, or Texas, or the Bible Belt, or America, or even the world, he reigns over all creation. “All nations” is a phrase that occurs some 200+ times in the Bible, most commonly recognized in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus, we’re called to take the gospel of God’s kingdom to all nations, not just where we’re comfortable or the places with God-fearing churches on every corner. There are soooo many unreached nations, in urgent need of Jesus.

Processed with Moldiv

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (November 2014). The tattoo is on a curving part of my forearm so it’s a bit difficult to get a good picture, which is why the photo above is actually two merged together. This tattoo relates to my anxiety, that is, when I’m not trusting the Lord. The words and imagery all come from Matthew 6, part of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). When I’m seeking the Lord, I don’t need to worry about money or school or work or whatever; I don’t mean that I neglect diligence and responsibility in those respective areas I may worry about, rather, I trust the Lord with them knowing that He is good and He is in control. Further, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). The bird is a reminder that if God’s taking care of mere birds, then He’s got me. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:20-21). The heart in the lamp is a reminder that if I’m treasuring those things that are bound to fail me, I will reap worry and struggle, but if I’m treasuring the Lord, I will not fret. God’s good, and I’ve got every reason to trust Him and His goodness.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (December 2014). A chalice or goblet with blood spilling out, most obviously associated with communion (read Matthew 26:26-29). Beyond the more obvious meaning, this tattoo is a reminder to strive for compassion. I serve a God of great and deep compassion, but often I demonstrate much apathy and cynicism rather than a concern for others. Compassion, ‘com-‘ meaning “with” and ‘passion’ meaning “to suffer,” literally means “to suffer with,” and like Christ has suffered with us and drank the cup of wrath that the Father has given Him (Matthew 26:38-39, 42; John 18:11), I want to strive to emulate that compassion daily, suffer with those around me, and to demonstrate love for God and people.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (December 2014). First tattoo of mine to not yet have a ‘meaning,’ I guess I’m open to suggestions. I just told him to do an arrow, and he did this. Good art looks dope.

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). In this piece, the snake symbolizes the enemy, the candle symbolizes time. The length of our short life is like that of a burning candle, and satan aims to get a stranglehold on our time in so many different ways, that it wouldn’t be used for the Lord. Ultimately, life is war and time is precious; we cannot waste a second.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). In general, this tattoo is a reminder of wisdom. Chess is historically considered a “wise man’s game,” or associated with nobility and intelligence. Wisdom is a necessity in the Christian life, taking all that we know and sifting through what life throws at us day by day. Moreover, the knight alternates black and white spaces with each move, similar to how we make ‘moves’ throughout life alternating between the head and the heart.


Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). This is Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, I freaking love this movie. My love for studying and enjoying culture manifests itself in good music (Drake, Bring Me the Horizon, etc.), good TV shows (Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, etc.), and good movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy. Good art glorifies God, and I wanted to engrave a reminder of the good gifts that God gives us through good movies, songs, books, shows, on and on I could go.


Done by Joseph Ayala at Saints and Sinners in Carrollton, Texas (April 2015). The verse is Leviticus 19:28, which states: “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.” I got this because people often quote this verse, ripped of its proper context, mistaking it to forbid Christians from marking their bodies, i.e. tattoos. For one, this verse is written to the Israelites. This is part of the Law, given by God to His chosen people, to obey, yes. And were Jesus never to come and the Lord to never intend a plan of redemption that freed us from the Law and the New Testament never be written and I be born into the country of Israel, then I would be required to obey it. But the New Testament is replete with the fact that Christ came and fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), freed us from it (Romans 7:6), and instituted the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15). This is a major aspect of the gospel, and far more important than freeing us merely to get tattoos. I got this as a controversial, trolling, tongue-in-cheek way of pointing to the New Covenant, and ultimately to Jesus Christ who came and freed us from the Law. A permanent irony.

ROSE tattoo

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (September 2015). This is just a beautiful rose that I got as a filler, a red rose tattoo is a very standard traditional tattoo, so it’s something I’ve always found aesthetically pleasing and it was convenient that the size/shape of the piece filled up the last large chunk of space on my sleeve. I’d been dying to get the last of my arm filled so that my sleeve would be complete but I’d been saving up for an engagement ring, thus I denied my tattoo addiction and told myself I couldn’t spend any money on them. But, my wonderful girlfriend (soon-to-be fianceé) knew this and decided to go behind my back and contact Cody, and after explaining my situation he decided he’d cut her a discount because he knew me (and he was engaged at the time, so he sympathized with why I was saving). Thus this final tattoo was a gift, and it holds a special significance because it reminds me of Lindsey, who’s my beautiful rose. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but that’s love, sorryboutchya. And I’ve got a super dope sleeve now, shout out to Cody Dresser. Check him out!


Chronological Snobbery


     “I have called…”chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”
     – C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (207-208)


    “J.I. Packer describing the heretical spirit of our age, which holds that: “The newer is the truer, only what is recent is decent, every shift of ground is a step forward, and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.””


     “…But how does [Hillary Clinton] know what “history” will do? And what makes her think that “history” never makes mistakes? … The spirit of the age is in any case notoriously fickle. You might as well, walking in the mist, take a compass bearing on a mountain goat. What is more, the Church’s foundation documents (to say nothing of its Founder himself) were notoriously on the wrong side of history. The Gospel was foolishness to the Greeks, said St Paul, and a scandal to Jews.”


     “…The youth-centred spirit of the age, in which freshness is more fashionable than faithfulness, innovating inspires people more than imitating, technology trumps tradition, and novelty is confused with creativity. Many still think that the Dylanesque call to change everything your parents stood for is iconoclastic, without noticing that true iconoclasm is to be found when people challenge the deepest convictions of a culture, and (say) teach that children should obey their parents rather than tell them to move over because they don’t understand the world no more. When you add to that the modernist metanarrative of progress (which is not completely dead yet), and the wider social obsession with the possibilities brought by technology, it is easy to see why the view could creep into the church that changing things was Good and conserving things was Bad.”


     “If it’s true, it’s not new; new truth is an oxymoron.”
          – Anonymous


     “And, as the inner life of the Believer thus endures, so, thank God, the outward truth also passes not away. There is not a single Truth of God that is revealed in this blessed Book that shall ever become a lie. There is not one promise there that shall ever be revoked. What God has revealed in His Word is not for yesterday nor for today, alone, but for tomor- row, and until the world’s end and throughout eternity! I know that there are those who would like to see a new Bible, or a revised version of it. I mean a revised version of the original Scriptures to suit their depraved taste! They would gladly have what they call “new developments” and “fresh light” worthy of this “advanced” generation! But, beloved Friends, there is nothing new in theology but that which is false—only the old is true—for the Truth of God must be old, as old as God Himself! So let us rejoice that whatever may happen, and although the fashion of this world shall surely pass away, there is not a single text between the covers of this Book that shall ever lose an atom of its Divine Truth and force. Oh, no! The old Book is not effete and the Revelation it has brought to us will never grow stale! The promises well up with as rich consolation to us today as they did to the first of the martyr-band! The solemn oaths and Covenant of God stand as firm and fast today as when He first gave them to our fathers! So let us cling to the Holy Word and to the doctrines of God’s Grace, for these are among the things that are to abide forever!—
     “Engraved as in eternal brass, the mighty promise shines,
          Nor can the powers of darkness erase, those everlasting lines!
          He that can dash whole worlds to death, and make them when He please—
          He speaks and that almighty breath, fulfils His great decrees!
          His very Word of Grace is strong as that which built the skies.
          The voice that rolls the stars along speaks all the promises!”
     – Charles Spurgeon, The Fashion of This World
     – Isaac Watts, Begin, My Tongue, Some Heav’nly Theme


     “But what else can this [the problematic “critical study of history”] mean but that it was in the eighteenth century that man began to axiomatically to credit himself with being superior to the past, and assumed a standpoint in relation to it whence he found it possible to set himself up as a judge over past events according to fixed principles, as well as to describe its deeds and to substantiate history’s own report? And the yardstick of these principles, at least as applied by the typical observer of history living at that age, has the inevitable effect of turning that judgment of the past into an extremely radical one. For the yardstick is quite simply the man of the present with his complete trust in his own powers of discernment and judgment, with his feeling for freedom, his desire for intellectual conquest, his urge to form and his supreme moral self-confidence.
     What historical facts, even, can be true except those which to the man of the age seem psychologically and physiologically probable, or at any rate not improbable? How, in face of such firm certainty about what was psychologically and physiologically probable and improbably could eighteenth century man conceive of the existence of historical riddles and secrets?”
     – Karl Barth, Protestant Thought: from Rousseau to Ritschl (36)


1. Everything in the Bible is either cultural or timeless.
2. There is a cultural reason for a particular biblical statement, X.
3. Therefore, X is not timeless, and we don’t have to live by it any more.”
     – Andrew Wilson, The Cultural/Timeless Fallacy


The form of the chronological snobbery fallacy can be expressed as follows:
     1) It is argued that A.
     2) A is an old argument, dating back to the times when people also believed B.
     3) B is clearly false.
     4) Therefore, A is false.
          – Wikipedia, Chronological snobbery


     “And people say I talk about the same ol’ thang; reason that I sound the same cause the truth don’t change.”
          – Lecrae Moore, Gimme a Second


     “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me.”
     – Charles Spurgeon, Election


     “The appeal to history is thus a nifty little piece of rhetorical violence, a ‘performative utterance’ that seeks to bring about the fate that it announces and to excuse the opposition’s loss of agency as the inevitable triumph of justice.”


     “Upon inspection, “X is on the right side of history” turns out to be a lazy, hectoring way to declare, “X is a good idea,” by those evading any responsibility to prove it so.”
     – William Voegeli, The Redskins and the Wrong Side of History


     “We invoke the future’s verdict of guilt precisely because we’d like to smuggle back into our politics the moral force of Divine judgment. But our appeals to progress are a pathetic substitute for the concept of Providence. The former stifles critical reflection about the past. The latter is at least flexible enough to account for the sudden flowering of great evil, even in an age as advanced as ours.
     What we do know from history is that the future often rejects the past. Political ideals are often abandoned, rarely refuted.
     And so we are thrown back on ourselves. If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.”
     – Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Most Bullying Argument in Politics


     – Relevant Magazine, Suffering from Chronological Snobbery

God’s Sovereignty

     “But, of course, the Bible says more than that God could have prevented it; it says it occurs “according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). Indeed, he works all thingsaccording to the counsel of his will. And when the Bible says ‘all things,’ it means all things. This ‘all things’ includes the fall of sparrows (Matt 10:29), the rolling of dice (Prov 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Ps 44:11), the decisions of kings (Prov 21:1), the failing of sight (Exod 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Sam 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Sam 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Pet 4:19), the completion of travel plans (Jas 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Heb 12:4–7), the repentance of souls (2 Tim 2:25), the gift of faith (Phil 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Phil 3:12–13), the growth of believers (Heb 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Sam 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27–28).”

     “The Bible verses below are far from exhaustive, and each should be interpreted according to its genre and context. But I am convinced that these verses—rightly interpreted—definitively establish God’s absolute sovereignty over all things. And since compatiblism is true, none of this contradicts the equally biblical teaching that Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and that human choices are genuine and significant.

God Is Sovereign Over…
     Seemingly random things:
     The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33

     The heart of the most powerful person in the land:
     The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will. Proverbs 21:1

     Our daily lives and plans:
     A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? Proverbs 20:24
     Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
     Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring… Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

     “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:15-16
     As many as were appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48
     For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30

     Life and death:
     See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand. Deuteronomy 32:39
     The LORD kills and brings to life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. 1 Samuel 12:6

     Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” Exodus 4:11

     The death of God’s Son:
     Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:23
     For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27-28
     Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief… Isaiah 53:10

     Evil things:
     Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? Amos 3:6
     I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7
     “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong…“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 1:21-222:10
     [God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave…As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Psalm 105:17Genesis 50:21

     All things:
     [God] works all things according to the counsel of His will. Ephesians 1:11
     Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. Psalm 115:3
     I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2
     All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” Daniel 4:35
     – Justin Taylor, What Is God Sovereign Over?

Filthy Rags or Fully Pleasing?

     “Many Christians believe that all their righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags. After all, that’s what Isaiah 64:6 seems to say: even your best deeds are dirty and worthless. But I don’t think this is what Isaiah means. The “righteous deeds” Isaiah has in mind are most likely the perfunctory rituals offered by Israel without sincere faith and without wholehearted obedience. In Isaiah 65:1–7 the Lord rejects Israel’s sinful sacrifices. They are an insult to the Lord, smoke in his nostrils, just like the ritual “obedience” of Isaiah 58 that did not impress the Lord because his people were oppressing the poor. Their “righteous deeds” were “filthy rags” (64:6, KJV) because they weren’t righteous at all. They looked good but were a sham, a literal smoke screen to cover up their unbelief and disobedience.
     But we should not think that every kind of “righteous deed” is like a filthy rag before God. In fact the previous verse, Isaiah 64:5, says “you [God] meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” It is not impossible for God’s people to commit righteous acts that please God. John Piper explains:
     Sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. It is true–gloriously true–that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean that God does not produce in those “justified” people (before and after the cross) an experiential righteousness that is not “filthy rags.” In fact, he does; and this righteousness is precious to God and is required, not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.
     It is a dangerous thing to ignore the Bible’s assumption, and expectation, that righteousness is possible. Of course, our righteousness can never appease God’s wrath. We need the imputed righteousness of Christ. More than that, we cannot produce any righteousness in our own strength. But as born-again believers, it is possible to please God by his grace. Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are fully pleasing to God (Col. 1:10). Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God (Rom. 12:1). Looking out for your weaker brother pleases God (14:18). Obeying your parents pleases God (Col. 3:20). Teaching the Word in truth pleases God (1 Thess. 2:4). Praying for the governing authorities pleases God (1 Tim. 2:1–3). Supporting your family members in need pleases God (5:4). Sharing with others pleases God (Heb. 13:16). Keeping his commandments pleases God (1 John 3:22). Basically, whenever you trust and obey, God is pleased.
     We can think it’s a mark of spiritual sensitivity to consider everything we do as morally suspect. But this is not the way the Bible thinks about righteousness. More importantly, this kind of spiritual resignation does not tell the truth about God. A. W. Tozer is right:
     From a failure to properly understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today. The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing. He is austere, peevish, highly temperamental and extremely hard to please.
     But this is no way to view the God of the Bible. Our God is not a capricious slave driver. He is not hyper-sensitive and prone to fits of rage on account of slight offenses. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). “He is not hard to please,” Tozer reminds us, “though He may be hard to satisfy.”
     Why do we imagine God to be so unmoved by our heart-felt attempts at obedience? He is, after all, our heavenly Father. What sort of father looks at his daughter’s homemade birthday card and complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on the wrong shelf, “This is worthless in my sight”? What sort of parent rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not onlynot filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him.
     – Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness
     – Kevin DeYoung, Filthy Rags or Fully Pleasing?

     We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)
     It is true that any shortcoming of God’s law offends against his perfect holiness and makes us liable to judgment, since God cannot look with favor on any sin (Habakkuk 1:13; James 2:10–11).
     But what brought a person to ruin in the Old Testament (and it is the same for us today) was not the failure to have the righteousness of sinless perfection. What brought them to ruin was the failure to trust in the merciful promises of God, especially the hope that he would one day provide a redeemer who would be a perfect righteousness for his people (“the Lord is our righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). The saints knew that this is how they were saved, and that this faith was the key to obedience, and that obedience was the evidence of this faith.
     It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Clearly, justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God.
     They often cite Isaiah 64:6, which says our righteousness is as filthy rags, or “a polluted garment.” “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
     But in the context, Isaiah 64:6 does not mean that all righteousness performed by God’s people is unacceptable to God. Isaiah is referring to people whose righteousness is in fact hypocritical. It is no longer righteousness. But in the verse just before this, Isaiah says that God approvingly meets “him who joyfully works righteousness” (verse 5).
     It’s true — gloriously true — that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean God does not produce in those “justified” people an experiential righteousness that is not a “polluted garment.”
     In fact, he does, and this righteousness is precious to God and is, in fact, required — not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.”
     – John Piper, Future Grace
     – John Piper, Dirty Rags No More

     “When it comes to our justification—our legal standing before God—our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.” Indeed, the gospel is good news because we are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done. We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.
     So what does God think of our good works after we are saved? Here, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages. Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is. 64:6).
     But does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion? Is God pleased only with Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?
     Righteous Deeds
     Not at all. Time and time again, the Scriptures show that God is pleased with the righteousness deeds of the saints. God was pleased with Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). God was pleased with Zechariah and Elizabeth: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Christ was pleased with Mary’s gift of perfume (Mark 14:6), a deed he called “beautiful.” Christ was pleased with the widow’s offering: “She put in more than all of them” (Luke 21:3).
     Indeed, one could say that the entire “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 is a catalog of the great deeds of the saints. Think of all that was done by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and others. Are all their deeds “filthy rags” in God’s sight?
     Of course, we should not be surprised that God is pleased with the good works of his people. AsHebrews 11:1-2 tells us, God is pleased with these works precisely because they were done out of faith. They are good works generated from the work of God’s own Spirit in the hearts of the saints (Eph. 2:10). Sure, they are not perfect works—they are always tainted by sin to some degree. And no, we cannot think for a moment that they merit salvation. They do not. But they are the works of God’s own sons and daughters, and he delights in them.
     Biblical Context
     This larger biblical context can provide the proper framework for understanding the intent of passages like Isaiah 64:6. The “filthy rags” in this passage does not refer to the Spirit-wrought works of the regenerate, but the outward religious grandstanding of the wicked (see Isaiah 58). This understanding allows John Piper to say the following:
     It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6, which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. . . . [But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect. Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags.” (Future Grace, 151-152).
     In a similar fashion, the Westminster Confession offers a wonderfully balanced perspective on how God views the good works of his people:
     Yet notwithstanding, the person of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works are also accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections (WCF 16.6).
     Good and Faithful
     God’s delight in the works of his people is not, as some might think, a recipe for pride. Rather, it is a tremendous (and much needed) encouragement to those of us laboring in ministry. Our efforts can seem futile. We often find ourselves spent and exhausted.
     What a refreshment to our souls to know that our Father in heaven actually delights in these labors! It is like salve on our blisters and a balm to our aching muscles to know that he is pleased with the faith-driven works of his children.
     He is like a Father who sees the painting his 5-year old brought home from school. He doesn’t pour scorn on the effort because it is not a Rembrandt. Instead, he takes the painting, with all its flaws, and sticks it on the refrigerator for all to see.
     Indeed, it is this very hope—that God might be pleased with our labors—that Jesus lays out as a motive for us. For our hope is that one day we might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).”
     – Michael J. Kruger, God Does Not View Your Labors As ‘Filthy

Common Apologetic Arguments

1. Cosmology:
– The universe has a beginning. Therefore, the universe has a cause, as it cannot be infinite.
– The first cause must be an ‘uncaused cause’; timeless, spaceless, etc. The cause must be beyond space and time, because it created space and time. The cause cannot be physical, because it created all matter and energy. But there are only two kinds of non-physical cause: abstract objects or minds. Abstract objects do not cause effects, therefore it must be an abstract mind.
– A natural (of nature) cause cannot be the cause, because it is circular logic to believe that nature created nature. Therefore, only a supernatural cause remains plausible, namely, God.
– “Who created God?” This question assumes that everything requires a cause; but only dependent, contingent things require causes to depend upon, and contrarily, God is independent, necessary, and eternal.
– The Christian worldview contends that God has no beginning; rather, he is eternal and outside of time, and therefore able to create the universe. The atheistic worldview contends that the universe has a beginning; thus, it came out of nothing. God can plausibly be eternal, as he is not restricted within the human concept of ‘time,’ and as such, requires no beginning. The universe, restricted within time (as Big Bang proponents assert that the Big Bang created time), cannot plausibly be before itself. It must have a transcendent cause outside of itself.

2. Teleology:
– God created the world with absolute, transcendent purpose: to manifest His glory in creation and reconcile His elect unto Himself. A world without God is a world without purpose; Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Camus, etc. all recognized that without a transcendent Creator or Being, there is no purpose in this world or in life at all (nihilism).
– The world we live in has fine-tuned constants, laws, and ratios (just a few among many are listed below) that make sense in a purposed world. They are utterly unexplainable in a fatalistic, purposeless world (i.e. atheistic).
      + The strong nuclear force
      + The weak nuclear force
      + Electromagnetic force
      + Cosmological constant
      + Gravitational constants
      + Ratio of masses for protons and neutrons
      + Laws of planetary motion (Kepler)
      + Laws of motion (Newton)
      + All other scientific constants, laws, ratios, etc.
 – There are specific, arbitrary quantities: constants and quantities fall into an infinitesimally narrow range of life-permitting values (e.g. if the weak nuclear force were different by 1 x (10^100) degree, then life would not be possible; if Earth were 5% closer to Sun, the water from the oceans would boil up, and if it were 1% farther away from the Sun, then the oceans would completely freeze over, etc.).
– There are 3 plausible explanations: physical law, chance, or design:
      + Not due to physical law, because constants and quantities are independent of the laws that they themselves are.
      + The mathematical odds for chance are trememendously high. Some have calculated the odds as ‘low’ as 1 in 1 x (10^10’s), while some have calculated the odds as high as 1 chance in 1 x (10^282). [Dr. Hugh Ross, astrophysicist, Probability for Life on Earth, 2004]. Either way, banking on pure chance is not precisely ‘rational’, as most atheists claim.
      + These scientific constants, laws, ratios, etc. are consistent with the ontological, epistemological, and logical coherency of God (within the Christian worldview).
– Therefore: you may place faith in the belief that the universe, sustainment and consciousness of life, perfectly arbitrary scientific constants/laws/ratios, etc. are derived from chance, or God.

3. Morality:
– Objective moral values are defined as: moral values that are true independent of the belief of human beings.
– Basic syllogism:
      1) If God does not exist, then objective, culture-transcending moral values do not exist.
      2) Objective, culture-transcending moral values do exist.
      3) Therefore, God exists.
– There can be no other plausible explanation or justification for the existence of moral values, or standards for what is regarded as “good” and “evil.”
– Our personal, subjective moral values (i.e. our different ‘moral compasses’, our different beliefs in what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’) do not negate the existence of objective moral law. This principle is demonstrated in the following example: If a math teacher delivers a test to her students with a single question, “What does 2+2 equal?”, and the students all return different answers (one student calculates the answer to be 5, another finds it to be 9.5, another finds it to be -3, and so on), must the teacher conclude that there is no objective answer? No. Likewise, just because we may return different moral beliefs, this does not negate the existence of objective moral values.
– A claim to objective moral values does not necessarily mean that we know what the objective moral values are, explicitly. But our lack of knowledge of them has no bearing on their existence, just as our lack of explicit knowledge of the laws of gravity or the laws of planetary motion did not negate their existence before Newton and Kepler ‘discovered’ them. Just as the teacher in the aforementioned example knows the answer to be 4, we know basic moral values such as “Murder is wrong,” and “Rape is wrong,” and “Theft is wrong,” and “Love is good,” and “Selflessness is good,” and “Kindness is good,” and so on. These values were not invented by man, just as we would not say that Newton and Kepler invented the laws of science.

4. Miracle of the resurrection:
– The resurrection of Christ is inexplicable by any historical or natural cause. No natural cause leaves only a supernatural cause (that is, a miracle). A miracle implies a miracle-giver (that is, God). Therefore, God exists.
– The typical argument against the occurence of miracles goes as such: “Miracles don’t happen because miracles don’t happen.” Granted, this circular logic is never stated as explicitly as I’ve phrased it, but this is the fundamental premise of the argument. Circular logic, nevertheless.
– 3 minimal facts of the resurrection pass the historical tests (early attestation, eyewitness testimony, multiple attestation, extra-Biblical resources, etc.):
      + Empty tomb: (1) “Was it really empty?” Firstly, even the initial enemies of Christianity never disputed the claim that the tomb was found empty. All they tried to do was explain why it was empty. Secondly, if Jesus’ body remained in the tomb, then why did the enemies of Christianity not simply produce the body to dispel the disciples’ claims? (2) “Could the body have been stolen?” Only 3 groups could have plausibly stolen Jesus’ body: the disciples, the Jews, or the Romans. Had the disciples stolen the body and then claimed Christ was resurrected, they would not have held to this (or any) lie to the point of death. Had the Jews stolen the body, all they would had to have done to disprove the Christians’ claims was produce the body. Had the Romans stolen the body, they too, would had to have only produced the body to disprove the Christians’ claims. (3) “Was he really dead?” The description of his prolonged torture before his body was placed in the tomb demonstrates he was undoubtedly dead, yet even if he were to (impossibly) survive the torture, he would not have the strength to move the stone, overtake the guard(s), travel away, etc.
      + Appearances: (1) Christ first reportedly appeared to women (Mary and Mary Magdalene). This would mean nothing to the contemporary, but in the 1st century, with such incredibly low views of women, nobody would regard their claims seriously. If the entire story was falsified, why would they have relied on a testimony that would never be accepted or believed? (2) Christ appeared to his disciples, who preached it and died for this belief.
      + Early belief in the resurrection: If the disciples had simply made up the idea of the resurrection, all they had to do was recant their supposed lies to save their own lives. They did not, and thus all 11 (excluding John) were martyred. To think that 11 men would foolish die for a lie that they gained absolutely nothing out of, essentially requires more faith than to believe that Christ was raised from the dead.
     + Also see The Case for Christianity

5. Ontological argument
This argument goes back to bishop Anslem of the 11th century, and is rather difficult to follow if you’re not familiar with what philosophers mean by ‘possible’ and ‘actual.’ It stands or falls on the very first premise. For better understanding, I’d refer you to the video at the bottom. The argument is as follows:
– 1) It is possible that a maximally great being (i.e. God) exists.
– 2) If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
– 3) If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
– 4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
– 5) Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
– 6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
– 7) Therefore, God exists.

6. Properly basic belief in God:
Personal experience is properly basic: it’s just like the belief in the external world, or the presence of other individual minds, or that the world didn’t start 5 minutes ago and things just happened; it’s properly grounded in experience. Some 2 billion or so Christians claim a personal, experiential relationship with God. In the absence of defeaters, those experiences are valid.

7. Transcendental argument
– Only the Christian worldview can properly account for the existence of transcendent, objective laws (such as the laws of logic, the laws of science, the laws of morality, etc.). The grounding for their unchanging, abstract existence can only be accounted for within the ontology of God. An atheistic, naturalistic worldview cannot account for any transcendent, abstract laws of ideas. They clearly exist and were not and cannot be man-made ideas (that is, for example, Aristotle did notinvent the laws of logic, but rather ‘discovered’ or systematically outlined their existence).
– Only the Christian worldview can account for ‘epistemological consciousness’, or the ability to come to knowledge. If everything is naturalistic and the result of an unpurposed big bang, there is no explanation of how ‘life,’ or consciousness, can come from non-life. Essentially, we’re just physical and chemical reactions randomly reacting within the meaningless universe; no more conscious than a soda can fizzing up.
– Only the Christian worldview can account for the uniformity of nature. If everything is naturalistic, complete and utter chaos, and entirely subject to chance, we have no reason to believe that what has occured before will occur again (e.g. that things won’t randomly explode, that the laws of science will apply tomorrow as they did today, etc.). This concept has always been the greatest difficulty to history’s more adamant atheistic philosophers, such as Hume and Russell. Within the confines of God’s ordered, purposed creation, the uniformity of nature is actually plausible and possible. Within chaos and chance, the uniformity of nature is entirely impossible.
– 10 things science presupposes:
     + The existence of a theory-independent, external world
     + The orderly nature of the external world
     + The knowability of the external world
     + The existence of truth
     + The laws of logic
     + The reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual environment
     + The adequacy of language to describe the world
     + The existence of values used in science (e.g., “test theories fairly and report test results honestly”); (9) the uniformity of nature and induction
     + The existence of numbers.
     –  Justin Holcomb, Why Science Needs the Christian Worldview

Ancient-Near East Religions

     “Internet sites abound with alleged similarities between the events of the New Testament narrative, in particular the person and work of Jesus Christ, and ancient mythological accounts of gods. Horus, Osiris, Dionysius, Mithra: all allegedly share in characteristics which Christians uniquely attribute to Christ. What are we to make of these parallels?
     Superficial Claims
     First and foremost, it is necessary to recognize the superficiality of such comparisons. Alleged similarities are typically a mile wide and an inch deep, intended to confuse and mislead in an area in which very few are personally informed. Internet claims are simply recited without actually being researched. Here are a couple of examples of such distortions of the actual evidence:
     Virgin birth
     It is certainly true that a few myths and religions spoke of something which has been described as a “virgin birth,” but examination of the source texts reveal that such terminology is misleading and irresponsible. Those accounts are decidedly sexual in nature with a male deity procreating with a female (virgin or not in some cases) in order to produce a son. In other words, a male god is engaging in physical sex with a female woman. If a man (deity or not) has sex with a female, then it is not a virgin birth because she is no longer a virgin. To call this a “virgin birth” is simply irresponsible and misunderstands the nature of Christ’s virgin birth.
     For the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth, read in particular Luke 1:34-35. God did not sexually interact with Mary. The pagan pictures of “virgin birth” are extremely dissimilar to the biblical account of the conception of Christ in which the power of the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary.
     The parallel is very weak and unconvincing at best.
     What of the many other mythical accounts of dying and rising gods? Analysis reveals that this too is hardly analogous to the Christian doctrine of resurrection. Those “gods” rose again each year as part of the agricultural cycle not as a watershed moment in history. It is the historical account of resurrection that sets the Christian claim apart and it is the central question which must be answered. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is false (1 Corinthians 15) and should be discarded as such. But if He did rise, this reality has profound implications for us and our lives.
     The reality of the resurrection best accounts for the objective data that we have. We know for a fact that the early church professed the resurrection (i.e. it was not invented some years later). We know for a fact that the disciples were willing to lay down their lives for that message (i.e. this makes it extremely unlikely that they stole the body). No body of Christ ever surfaced. Why not? Did the Romans or Jews steal it? That is extremely illogical since it would have only intensified the claims of Christianity. Was it a random grave robber? We have absolutely no evidence for that. Though it might grate against man’s rational desire for natural explanations, the resurrection simply best explains what we know to be historically true. Denial of the resurrection demands great faith in speculative answers to the questions which are raised by the data of the 1st century.
     [For an in-depth analysis of the absolute uniqueness of the biblical account of resurrection, set aside a large portion of time to begin to work through N.T. Wright’s mammoth The Resurrection of the Son of God. Wright looks at pagan accounts in particular and analyzes the claim that Christianity merely borrowed the concept of resurrection from surrounding cultures. Wright evidences that the Christian conception of resurrection was totally dissimilar to the expectations of the Ancient Near Eastern culture of that time or previous. There is a marked contrast between the hope of Christian resurrection and the pagan desire for life after death.]
     The following summarizes the resurrection “parallels” quite nicely, “It is superficial and unfounded to say that the study of the history of religions has shown the dependence of the resurrection of Jesus on mythology. On the contrary, it is precisely the comparison with the history of religion that gives rise to the strongest objections to any kind of mythifying of the resurrection of Jesus.”
     When one examines the claims of pagan parallels, one finds the such comparisons are incredibly shallow. Ultimately, it is not the similarities that are incredible, it is the depth of dissimilarity. The uniqueness of the biblical portrait of Jesus is astounding.
     The Existence of Parallels
     Though many parallels are weak, the fact that there are some similarities still needs to be considered. We will limit our consideration to similarities pointed out within the text of the Old Testament for the sake of time as I have posted a few resources which deal more specifically with claims of parallels in the New.
     First, I think it is important to consider that many parallels are intentional devices on the part of the authors of Scripture to show YHWH’s superiority over, not similarity to, pagan gods. Biblical studies have shown indeed that the language of the Scriptures often alludes to surrounding myths in taking a polemical posture against those religions and their idols. The Scriptures were not given from within a vacuum devoid of context. In speaking against Baalism in early Israel, it is only fitting that the authors of the Scriptures use language that parallels and supersedes that which was used by proponents of Canaanite paganism. The Bible is full of such intentional engagement with false teachings. For example, many believe that Psalm 29 is intentionally aimed at displaying the superiority of YHWH to Baal. YHWH’s voice is highlighted (7 times in the 11 verses) and is described as a thunderstorm to evidence His great power. This is particularly enlightening when one considers that Baal was considered the “storm-god” whose “voice” was heard in storms. In using the same language and imagery of the pagan god, David is here elevating the voice (7 being a number of completion or perfection in Hebrew culture) and power of YHWH over that of Baal. Rather than simply borrowing from ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) myths, the Scriptures are using similarities as inroads to consider the superiority of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the “gods” of the culture.
     Second, I think that in many cases parallels actually strengthen the case for the biblical account. For instance, the vast distribution of pagan flood accounts in the ANE should not lead us to conclude that there was no flood, but rather that something actually happened. If one were investigating a murder and witness A claimed to hear an explosion late at night, witness B testified to fireworks sometime after 11:30, witness C argued for a backfiring car about 12:05, and witness D described a gunshot at 11:58, you would not conclude that they were all colluding or lying. Only a foolish detective would consider the contrasting accounts to be necessarily contradictory. They instead carry the common theme of a loud bang sometime around midnight. Even more foolish would be to assume that nothing actually happened. Further investigation of the evidence would highlight whether indeed there was a gunshot wound and approximate time of death.
     What are we ultimately to make of the existence of some parallels? If the biblical account is true, then man and demons are rebellious resisters of the revelation of God. If so, is it not extremely likely that both would seek to corrupt the account by reinterpreting actual events? Pagan parallels do not disprove Christianity any more than a witness who swears that he heard a car backfire disproves a murder.”
     – Geoff Ashley, Jesus Christ and Pagan Parallels

     – William Lane Craig, Jesus and the Story of Osiris and Horus
     – The Divine Evidence, Alleged parallels between Jesus and pagan deities
     – Frontline Apologetics, Alleged parallels between Christianity and Mithraism
     – PhilVaz, Horus: an Egyptian copy of Christ?
     – ChristianThinkTank, Was Jesus Christ just a ‘copycat savior myth’?
     –  AlwaysBeReady, Analysis and Response to Zeitgest
     – Mark Foreman, Mark Foreman refuting Zeitgeist the Movie
     – John Piipo, Rough transcript/notes of Foreman’s presentation
     – David Anderson, Zeitgest Parallels
     – John Currid, Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament
     – Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology Paperback