A better way of dealing with Covid-19

‘How much have we been duped and sold down the river by the response?’

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[COVID-19 disease, image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article appeared in On Line Opinion, 31 August 2020, A better way of dealing with Covid-19

I was waiting to see my local Dr this week and scrolled through Google News on my mobile. I was shocked to hear Sky News host, Alan Jones, state that ‘people are being swept up into a sense of hysteria and alarmism around COVID-19’ (10 August 2020).

Alan Jones slammed our political leaders for not showing leadership in the Covid-19 pandemic. He said more people died in Australia in 2019 from influenza than from Covid-19 in 2020.

And there was no closing of borders and wrecking the economy in all states and territories.

It would be misplaced to discard Jones’ views because you disagree with his worldview and place him in the ‘right wing’ category of commentators. It would be wrong-headed to do that as the evidence has not been presented.

1. People dying from flu – with a vaccine

His point was, ‘More people are dying from the flu with a vaccine than are dying from Coronavirus without a vaccine’. ‘Eighty per cent of Covid-19 cases are considered mild. But nearly 99% of Covid-19 patients experience the same symptoms – fever, dry cough, and fatigue – at different levels of severity’.

A check of the Australian statistics revealed a total of 705 influenza-associated deaths were notified between January and September 2019, compared to 417 in 2017. However, this figure reached 745 deaths in 2017, reflecting a later seasonal peak. These counts were not statistically significant in their differences (654-759 vs 692-800).

The 2017 season had moderate clinical severity based on ICU admissions among hospitalised cases’ (Global Biosecurity, Severity of the 2019 influenza season in Australia- a comparison between 2017 and 2019 H3N2 influenza seasons).

How do the flu deaths (with a vaccine) compare with Covid-19 deaths? ‘As at 3pm on 12 August 2020, a total of 22,127 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Australia, including 352 deaths, and 12,774 have been reported as recovered from COVID-19’ (Australian Government: Department of Health).

There you have it: 705 influenza-related deaths in Australia in 2019. To date, there have been 313 Covid-19 related deaths. So, flu deaths (even with a vaccine) account for double the number of Covid-19 deaths.

However, in an attempt to deal with the alleged Covid-19 pandemic the …

2. The Australian economy has been wrecked

Image(image of queue outside Centrelink office, Townsville Qld., courtesy The Guardian: Australian edition, 24 March 2020)

 What has happened to our states and nation with closure of businesses, closure of borders, and quarantine? It has wrecked our economy, caused many to be placed in unemployment queues, and sent small and medium-size businesses to the wall.

Australia now has a national debt crisis. Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, presented an ‘optimistic’ deficit of $184.5 billion for the current financial year. That will take zillions of years to pay off.

The Commonwealth government has assigned almost $150 billion to prop up our economy. To this is added $35 billion from the States and $26 billion in tax cuts, which the Treasurer brought forward.

ABC News reported (20 July 2020), ‘For the financial year just ended, UBS’s chief economist George Tharenou is tipping a deficit of $81 billion and for the current year a massive $194 billion. The only way the Government can fund that is through raising debt’.

3. Lockdowns don’t work

Why don’t we listen to the research authorities such as the leading British medical journal, The Lancet, which concluded ‘the U.S.’s major weapons against the Coronavirus–––lockdowns and wide testing––do not reduce death rates?

See recent Lancet research, ‘A country level analysis measuring the impact of government actions, country preparedness and socioeconomic factors on COVID-19 mortality and related health outcomes’ (latest issue published 4 August 2020).

The Lancet study’s assessment was:

In our study, an increasing number of days to border closures was associated with a higher caseload, and more restrictive public health measures (such as a full lockdown compared to partial or curfew only measures) were associated with an increase in the number of recovered cases per million population. These findings suggest that more restrictive public health practices may indeed be associated with less transmission and better outcomes. However, in our analysis, full lockdowns and widespread COVID-19 testing were not associated with reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.

The conclusion to this research was that the Queensland government’s approach of full lockdowns and widespread Covid-19 testing is not associated with a reduction of serious medical cases and deaths.

4. A better policy to follow

What’s the alternative? Is there a national policy for Australia to emulate? The model set by Taiwan, with a similar size population to Australia (23.8 million), is worth considering. It consisted of these elements:

clip_image002 There was quick action to control the country’s borders.

clip_image002[1] On January 20 the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) was activated to coordinate cooperation across government agencies and between government and businesses.

clip_image002[2] ‘The CECC also coordinates big data analytics, testing, quarantine and contact tracing’.

clip_image002[3] The national health insurance administration and immigration agency ‘worked together to identify suspected cases for COVID-19 testing, integrating their databases of citizens’ medical and travel history’.

clip_image002[4] Like Australia, since late March all new arrivals in Taiwan must quarantine for 14 days.

clip_image002[5] The CECC partnered with police, local officials and telecom companies to enforce the quarantine. This included support of mobile phone tracking.

clip_image002[6] Care for those quarantined was guaranteed by citizens who asked about the health of people in quarantine and basic daily supplies were provided, if required.

clip_image002[7]A 24-hour helpline was available, provided by Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control collaborated with two tech companies – HTC and LINE. This created a chatbox which allowed people to report their health status and get advice about the virus’.

clip_image002[8] Taiwan tests about 5,800 samples a day. A health worker distributes hand sanitiser at Ningxia Night Market, Taipei in late May.

clip_image002[9] To avoid the panic buying of face masks, the government rationed their distribution and ramped up production. In February, the government partnered with the Machine Tool & Accessory Builders’ Association and manufacturers, investing in new machinery to produce surgical face masks. In return, manufacturers have to sell the masks back to the government at an agreed price. This cost approximately $6.8 million (What coronavirus success of Taiwan and Iceland has in common, The Conversation, 29 June 2020).

Iceland has a much smaller population (341,600), but has implemented a strategy similar to Taiwan’s. As of 29 June 2020, there were 1,838 confirmed Covid-19 infections; 1,816 have fully recovered; and 10 deaths were recorded. The government took quick action through its National Crisis Coordination Center on January 31, 2020.

5. What was the outcome in Taiwan?

It is important to remember that Taiwan learned its strategy as a result of the SARS epidemic in 2003. Thus, it was more prepared for the Covid-19 outbreak than many countries.

As a result of these strict measures taken, there have been 487 Covid-19 cases; 462 recovered; and there have been only 7 deaths.

6. Why not listen to these professionals?

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, is advising the British Government on Covid-19. He said that there is no proof that Covid-19 is transmitted from pupil to teacher in school anywhere in the world (with one exception in Australia). Therefore, ‘closing all schools completely during Britain’s lockdown might have been a mistake…. Statistics show 15 children and teenagers have died of coronavirus in England and Wales since March, 0.03 per cent of the total deaths’.

Australia is listening to the developers of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. ABC News, Brisbane (19 August 2020) reported Prime Minister Scott Morrison as saying the vaccine developed by Oxford University is ‘one of the most advanced and promising in the world’.

In addition, ‘the Australian Government has secured the rights to manufacture millions of doses of the potential vaccine — called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222 — if trials are successful and it’s approved. Plus, it’ll be free’.

Why aren’t ScoMo and his cabinet listening to another Professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, Sunetra Gupta? She is a top disease expert who has urged Australia to abandon its ‘selfish’ and ‘self congratulatory’ lockdown tactics and embrace a Swedish-style herd immunity strategy to fight Covid-19.

Professor Gupta said the Scandinavian country of Sweden has ‘done quite well in terms of deaths’ – despite its record of 5,300 fatalities not comparing with Australia’s much lower level.

The Daily Mail (4 July 2020) reported: ‘Sweden holds the fifth-highest rate of deaths per capita in the world after the Nordic nation took its own path and declined to close its restaurants, bars, schools and shops to fight the spread of the virus.

Sweden took the soft line, as opposed to Australia’s tough stand. The Daily Mail provided a photograph of Swedish locals lapping up the sun next to a social distancing sign which they ignored. The Swedes were sunbaking at Malmo, Sweden in June. They took their own liaise-faire line, in spite of recommended discipline. Could this have as much to do with the Swedish worldview of liberty than to abiding by the recommended Covid-19 course of action?

While the Swedes ignored their government’s recommendations – with no fines for infractions – Australia’s shopping precincts of shopping centres, restaurants, pubs, clubs and streets remain deserted. The tourism industry around Australia is ruined by the strict cross-border restrictions.

Alan Jones commented:

Red-Glass ‘No proper checks and balances to lockdown measures’ (President of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia, Robin Speed).

Red-Glass ‘Health advice should have been released months ago regarding lockdowns, keeping children out of school, or shutting businesses’.

Red-Glass You can’t travel more than 5km from home for essential items (Melbourne); curfew is from 8pm-5am; limiting numbers in restaurants. Shut the borders’. Where’s the evidence to justify these actions?’

‘I’m telling you there is none’ (Jones).

Red-Glass ‘The central issue is, “How much have we been duped and sold down the river by the response?”’ (Alan Jones).

7. Conclusion

It took a shock jock to alert me to these facts – yes, facts – about the Covid-19 virus:

snowflake-light-green-small We have been tricked into allowing unelected officials – such as Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young – to influence government policy. This policy includes:

snowflake-light-green-small Closing state borders, restricting numbers of people in restaurants, social distancing regulation, and school closures.

snowflake-light-green-small These measures were taken with the view of restricting Covid-19 deaths. I didn’t read public evidence to support these policies.

snowflake-light-green-small There are many infectious diseases for which there is no vaccine and these are controlled in the community, e.g. Dengue, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Hookworm infection, Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever, Chistosomiasis, and more.

snowflake-light-green-small The whole suite of strategies used to prevent Covid-19 from spreading across Australia should have been released months ago to provide the evidence to implement these policies.

See the Alan Jones’ commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scZJFQCYEFA

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 August 2020.

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2 Chronicles 7:14 is not for Christians

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(Image courtesy Cupcakegirl10)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is common among some evangelical Protestants (including Pentecostals) to use this verse to call Christians back to humility and prayer, turn from their sinfulness, and God will hear and bless their countries. He will forgive their sin and heal their land. It is used as a verse to call believers to the biblical disciplines that should lead to revival.

1. A call to revival

Here are a few online examples:

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb Steve Gaines was president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Memphis area Bellevue Baptist Church in 2017. He acknowledged that the context indicated the message was for the Israelites but added:

‘Just because 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to Americans does not mean that Christians in America cannot benefit from its admonitions by obeying its precepts. Again, “all Scripture is profitable.” The warnings in the Old Testament “were written for our instruction.”

Many Christians in America are praying for a fresh spiritual awakening and revival among those of us who know Jesus Christ. I for one am praying for American Christians to embrace genuine humility, hunger and holiness. I am also praying that the Lord will graciously see fit to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and send His much-needed healing (An appeal to rightly apply 2 Chronicles 7:14).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[1] Donald Dueck wrote in April 2020:

Personally I believe this is a promise to us as well as it was to the Israelites and so I believe it is still relevant. In my personal life as a believer I have received many more blessings from God during times I was actively seeking God’s will then at times when I didn’t really care about what God wanted from me. I believe it applies to nations as well as to individuals. This “healing” relates to all types of problems being solved and is not limited to healing from a physical sickness (Quora).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[2] A sermon by Dennis Lee:

Now consider God’s promise to the church and His people.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) [A special message: Our only hope, Sermon Central, 22 July 2020.]

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[3] Rev. Andrew B Natarajan is a Methodist preacher:

Today we are going to mediate on the theme ‘Welfare of a Nation’ based on the scriptural verse 2 Chronicles 7:14…. In this passage, the Lord spoke to Solomon about the cause and effect of loss and restoration of the welfare of a nation…. The welfare of a nation is depended (sic) on GOD-FEARING people…. Though, primarily the words “My People and their Land” refer to the People of Israel and the land of Israel. The promises are given to people of Israel is also promise given to the “people of New Israel” I.e., you and I (sic). (Welfare of a nation).

When I blog on Christian forums such as Christianity Board, Christian forums.com and Christian forums.net I sometimes encounter Christians who want to ignore the immediate context of the verse. They apply it to their nations, particularly the USA.

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[4] Pearl said: “He is speaking to the ‘people who are called by (his) name’ so that’s us” (Christianity Board, ‘God says…’ #3).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[5] Pearl, when I lived in California I used to go to The Church On The Way. Wednesday evenings we would pray for the nation, and our start time was 7:14 pm’ (Christianity Board, God says… CharismaticLady#4).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[6] 2 Chronicles 7:11-18 and especially Verse 14, is one of the most misused passages of scripture today, by especially preachers. They are misleading new and immature true believers and weakening their true and rightful faith in Christ. Let me explain it a bit…
‘It really does not apply to us (as believers) today in its original context and setting. The context in which it was written was after Solomon dedicated the temple. Then YHWH spoke to him and to his people concerning YHWH’s presence in the Temple and what is will do in the future. It was both a blessing and warnings’ (
APAK #11)

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[7] Ok then so are we are not to humble ourselves, are we not to pray, are we not to turn from our sin, are we not to seek his face? I don’t think I would go with that so I’ll continue to believe that the passage is for me’ (Pearl#13).

2. Original audience

Who were the people to whom 2 Chron 7:14 was addressed? This is the immediate context:

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron 7:11-14 ESV).?

So King Solomon finishing the ‘house of the Lord and the king’s house’ tells us exactly who the recipients of 2 Chron 7:14 are – the ones over whom Solomon was king.

This is stated clearly in the context: ‘When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (2 Chron 7:3 ESV).

3. Is there an application for our nations today?

We have seen 2 Chron 7:14 was not a promise for today’s Christians but for the Israelites. We violate Scripture when we reef it out of context to make it mean what it does not mean.

However, some people have challenged my application of 2 Chronicles to the situation in America (see examples above).

But 1 Corinthians 10 and Romans 15:4 instruct us that we can learn lessons from the Old Testament Scriptures for the Christian life and church age. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope ” (Romans 15:4).

“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Though the law of Moses is not the believer’s rule of life, it is an important source of instruction for the Christian life. We draw spiritual lessons from it. We learn from its examples.

For an excellent explanation of 2 Chron 7:14 in context see: What is the meaning of 2 Chronicles 7:14?

4. Conclusion

When 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) was written, to which Scripture did it refer? ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’.

Since the NT was in the process of being written, the OT could be the only text to which this ‘Scripture’ applies. Therefore, on the authority of the NT, the OT is ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ so that the messengers of God would be equipped for their work.

Based on that kind of explanation, it would be easy to conclude that 2 Chron 7:14 is profitable for teaching true believers today.

This would be a false assumption as 2 Chron 7:14 in context applies primarily to this situation: ‘On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he [King Solomon] sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people’ (2 Chron 7:10 ESV). The immediate context for v. 14 is v. 13 which states: ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people’.

It is a mistake of biblical interpretation to make a text mean what it does not state in context. We are allowed to make many applications of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness from 2 Chron 7:14.

However,

We must not confuse application with interpretation.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 August 2020.

The gift of tongues is ‘jibberish’

(Photo worship service at Dream City Church, affiliated to the Assemblies of God USA, in 2007, in Phoenix, United States, courtesy Wikipedia)

A contemporary worship team leads the congregation in praise and worship

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a fairly standard approach by those who believe in the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit:

In 1 Cor 14 the tongues Paul is talking about are known understandable earthly languages…”many kinds of voices in the world”. Your bias does not allow you to see this.


For example:
1 Cor 14:8-9 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”
If someone blows random notes on a trumpet (blows jibberish) then no knows what is going on causing mass confusion. Therefore what is blown MUST BE UNDERSTOOD so people know what is going on. Likewise a tongue must be spoken in a language the hearer CAN UNDERSTAND or it is meaningless jibberish to the hearer, the speaker is speaking to the air, no edification takes place.
[1]

How should I respond?[2] These are only a few examples from the early church (after the apostles). A number of others could be cited.

Let the early church fathers speak

I suggest you go searching in the early church fathers to determine if miracles (including the gift of tongues) continued. Here’s a starter:

snowflake-light-green-small Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-202) was a pupil of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. He wrote in his book “Against Heresies”, Book V, ch 6.1:

“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.”

snowflake-light-green-small Chrysostom (ca. AD 347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, wrote:

“Whoever was baptized [in apostolic times] he straightway spoke with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied, and some also performed many other wonderful works. For since on their coming over from idols, without any clear knowledge or training in the ancient Scriptures, they at once on their baptism received the Spirit, yet the Spirit they saw not, for It is invisible; therefore God’s grace bestowed some sensible proof of that energy. And one straightway spoke in the Persian, another in the Roman, another in the Indian, another in some other such tongue: and this made manifest to them that were without that it is the Spirit in the very person speaking”….

For as the Apostles themselves had received this sign first, so also the faithful went on receiving it, I mean, the gift of tongues; yet not this only but also many others: inasmuch as many used even to raise the dead and to cast out devils and to perform many other such wonders: and they had gifts too, some less, and some more. But more abundant than all was the gift of tongues among them: and this became to them a cause of division…. (Chrysostom, 1 Corinthians 12, Homily XXIX).

snowflake-light-green-small In the early writings of St Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, he wrote:

In the earliest times, the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4 These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away (Homily 6.10 on the First Epistle of John).

snowflake-light-green-small However, in his later ministry he had a change of heart with regard to his understanding of Scripture and its manifestation in his time. In The City of God, he had a chapter titled, ‘That All the Miracles Which are Done by Means of the Martyrs in the Name of Christ Testify to that Faith Which the Martyrs Had in Christ‘ (Book XXII, ch 9). Here he documents the miracles happening in his day. In the same Book he stated,

‘For men whom they knew to be acquainted with only one, or at most two languages, they marvelled to hear speaking in the tongues of all nations’ (Book XXII, ch 5)….

For the canon of the sacred writings, which behooved to be closed, causes those to be everywhere recited, and to sink into the memory of all the congregations; but these modern miracles are scarcely known even to the whole population in the midst of which they are wrought, and at the best are confined to one spot. For frequently they are known only to a very few persons, while all the rest are ignorant of them, especially if the state is a large one; and when they are reported to other persons in other localities, there is no sufficient authority to give them prompt and unwavering credence, although they are reported to the faithful by the faithful.

The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown, but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream, and discovered by him. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day (The City of God, Book XXII, ch 8).

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (northern Africa), one of the four great fathers of the Latin Church and considered the greatest of them all said: “We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans and called down the Holy Spirit on them in the laying-on of hands. It is expected that converts should speak with new tongues” (Comments on Acts 8:17-19).[3]

Notes


[1] Ernest T Bass#187. Christian Forums.net, ‘Speaking in Tongues’, true vs false (online), 23 August 2020. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/speaking-in-tongues-true-vs-false.79801/page-10 (Accessed 24 August 2020).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#201.

[3] Cited in Grace Christian Center n.d. Speaking in tongues (online). Available at: http://doorofgrace.org/images/pdf/SITpamphlet.pdf (Accessed 24 August 2020). I have not been able to locate the primary source of this quote in Augustine’s writings.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 August 2020.

Genesis 6:4: Nephilim

Demons having sex with human beings?

(The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair, sculpture by Daniel Chester French, image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The meaning of ‘Nephilim’ has caused quite a bit of theological uneasiness down through the centuries.

William Cook stated the issue well:

The interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4 is difficult and controversial. The debate centers on the interpretation of the phrase “sons of God.” Who are they? The crucial question concerns whether the phrase refers to human beings or to spiritual beings (demons) [Cook 2020].

I refer particularly to Genesis 6:4 (ESV), ‘The Nephilim[1] were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown’.

The Geneva Bible (1599), Douay-Rheims Bible (1609/1899), KJV (1611),The Good News Bible (1992), NKJV (1982), Wycliffe Bible (2001) unfortunately gave the primary meaning as ‘giants’. I say, ‘unfortunately’ because that diverts readers away from attempting to discover the essential meaning of the Nephilim.

Most contemporary English translations leave the Nephilim in its transliterated form as the meaning is somewhat obscure.

A few issues emerge from this verse:

clip_image002Who are the Nephilim?

A NET Bible footnote states:

The Hebrew word ????????? (nefilim) is simply transliterated here, because the meaning of the term is uncertain. According to the text, the Nephilim became mighty warriors and gained great fame in the antediluvian world. The text may imply they were the offspring of the sexual union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of humankind” (v. 2), but it stops short of saying this in a direct manner. The Nephilim are mentioned in the OT only here and in Num 13:33, where it is stated that they were giants (thus KJV, TEV, NLT “giants” here).[2]

clip_image002[1]Who are the sons of God?

clip_image002[2]Are the ‘daughters of man’ female human beings?

clip_image002[3]Who are ‘the mighty men … the men of renown’?

1. The Nephilim

Adam Clarke stated that the Nephilim referred to those who

fell… Those who had apostatized or fallen from the true religion…. the word when properly understood makes a very just distinction between the sons of men and the sons of God; those were the nephilim, the fallen earth-born men, with the animal and devilish mind.[3]

Regarding the translation of ‘giants’ (KJV), Clarke’s exegesis was that the translation as ‘giants [was] without having any reference to the meaning of the word, which we generally conceive to signify persons of enormous stature’.

This is a contemporary interpretation that demands a response. It’s from Bill Perkins of Compass International (2020):

There was one specific and creepy sin that God pointed out:

… that the sons of God [angels] saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Gen. 6:2

The “Sons of God,” referring to angelic spirits (Job 1:6), took the form of humans (Heb. 13:2) and began mating with earthly humans and producing children. Ostensibly, the children had their human DNA compromised.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Gen. 6:4 (Perkins 2020).

Perkins’ interpretation seems to be a throw-back to his view of what the preceding verses mean. If one has the premonition of angelic marriages, then ‘sons of God’ is a read phrase to flow in with that interpretation.

Verse 4 is not that difficult to interpret. The nephilim were the front-line men who stirred up fear as the only other OT passage that uses nephilim indicates: ‘And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’ (Num 13:33 ESV). The men of Anakim were of great stature.

Therefore, Kaiser Jr., et. al. (1996:108) conclude, ‘The meaning of nepilim/gibb?r?m is not “giants,” but something more like “princes,” “aristocrats” or “great men”’. Leupold favours an ‘awe-inspiring’ translation such as:

Following the Hebrew root naphal is by far the simplest. One meaning of this verb is to “fall upon = attack”: see Jer 48:32; Josh 11:7; and without any preposition, Job 1:15. This verb could readily yield this noun in the sense of “attackers,” “robbers,” “bandits.” So we have the thought: So we have the thought: the descendants of the godly patriarchs abandoned their spiritual heritage (v.1, 2) so that God was moved to determine upon their destruction (v.3); and there were also violent attackers and robbers abroad in those days (v.4) [Leupold 1942:258].

Luther translated nephilim as ‘tyrants’ (in Leupold 1942:258).

2. Were the ‘sons of God’ angels?

So, are the ‘sons of God’ really angels who had sex with human beings, according to Gen 6:4? In addition to the challenge of the meaning of nephilim, to what does the ‘sons of God’ refer?

The view of Jewish ancient historian, Josephus, was:

For many angels[4] of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants (Antiquities 1.3.1).

There are times in Scripture when ‘sons of God’ refer to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Daniel 3:25; Psalm 29:1; 89:7). Perkins concludes that is the meaning here.

Cook’s (2020) conclusion of the meaning of ‘sons of God’ is that

in light of examples we see in the New Testament [Mark 5:1-20; John 13:27] it seems best to assume that these evil spirits took possession of the bodies of wicked men and used them for their own sinful purposes.

The New Testament gives us clear examples of demons—and even Satan himself—indwelling human beings and causing them to act in horrific ways.

However, he notes the oldest and most widely held interpretation is that ‘sons of God’ refers to demons (fallen angels). This interpretation was accepted by ancient Judaism and the early church.

Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165)[5] wrote:

Justin Martyr (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Justin Martyr.jpg

The angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begot children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness (Second Apology, ch 5).

I find it strange exegesis of the passage that angels have sex with human beings and produce demons, especially when the context of 6:1-4 makes it clear who the ‘sons’ are. They are the Sethites from chapter 5, among whom were godly men such as Enoch (Gen 6:22) and men like Lamech who worshipped God, even when the going was tough (Gen 4:26).

It is appropriate these men should be called ‘sons of God’, a designation given to true followers of the Lord God (cf Deut 32:5; Hos 1:10). In this latter verse, there is a stronger emphasis:

Yet the number of the Israelites
will be like the sand of the sea,
which cannot be measured or counted.
And in the place where they were told:
You are not my people,
they will be called: Sons of the living God (Hos 1:10 CSB).

So, the description, ‘sons of God’, refers to those who truly follow the Lord God.

Yes, ‘sons of God’ is used to refer to angels in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 and Dan 3:25. It is erroneous to state that in the OT ‘sons of God’ refers only to angels. As the above examples indicate, that is not so.

Hebrew, like English, can use the one word with several different meanings. Take the English, ‘wave’: I can move my hand back and forth to wave goodbye; the trees waved in the wind; my hair has waves in it (curly); he rides the monster waves at Hawaii on his surfboard, and a wave of sadness swept over me.

3. Did the angels have sex with each other?

No, the ‘sons of God’ were not angels but godly Sethites and others. They were godly men.

4. Who are the mighty men?

It is regrettable the KJV and some other translations read ‘giants’ for nephilim as the word refers to ‘the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown’. Angelic marriages are not indicated to produce this offspring.

The mistranslated ‘giants’ are villains – robbers, attackers, bandits, even tyrants (Luther).

5. Conclusion

clip_image003The nephilim were the conquering men who stirred up fear. They were the bandits who were mighty men. However, the exact meaning of the term is not yet fully understood by scholars and others.

clip_image003[1]The sons of God were not angels but were godly men, probably Sethites.

clip_image003[2]The godly men had sex with women who produced ‘mighty men … men of renown’.

6.  Appendix

(Image Chester Beatty XII, Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, 4th century, courtesy Wikipedia)

As I was concluding this article, I became aware of recent research by Cavan W. Concannon, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California – a scholar of early Christianity. In The Conversation (12 August 2020) is found the article, The belief that demons have sex with humans runs deep in Christian and Jewish traditions. He cites ancient and contemporary supporters of this view, including Tertullian of Carthage who, in the third century BC, cited the “Book of the Watchers”[also called Book of Enoch, 1 Enoch] an apocalyptic vision written in the name of a mysterious character named Enoch mentioned in Genesis’.

Tertullian wrote: ‘I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either’ (On Apparel of  Women, 1.3). Further,

And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness (Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 18)

It is evident that Tertullian and other early church fathers relied heavily on a book from the Pseudepigrapha – false identification of the author – Book of Enoch (chs 6-9) for their teaching on the interpretation of Gen 6:4.

Should it be included in Scripture? See:

7.  Works consulted

Cook, W F 2020. The Gospel Coalition, U.S. edition (Online). Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6? 6 January. Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/who-are-sons-of-god-genesis-6/ (Accessed 7 August 2020).

Josephus F 2017. Project Gutenberg The antiquities of the Jews (online), W Whiston (ed), 2017. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2848/2848-h/2848-h.htm#linknote-11 (Accessed 14 August 2020).

Kaiser Jr, W C, Davids, P H, Bruce, F F & Brauch, M T 1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Leupold H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis 1942. The Wartburg Press, also London: Evangelical Press. Also available online at CCEL at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/leupold/genesis.i.html (Accessed 14 August 2020).

Perkins, B 2020. Compass International (online), The return of the Nephilim, 28 July. Available at: https://compass.org/the-return-of-the-nephilim/ (Accessed 7 August 2020).

8.  Notes

[1] The ESV has the footnote, ‘Or giants’.

[2] Available at: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gen+6%3A4&version=NET (Accessed 13 August 2020).

[3] Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: Genesis 6:4. Bible Hub. Available at: https://biblehub.com/niv/genesis/6-4.htm (Accessed 7 August 2020).

[4] At this point in the translation by William Whiston has the note: ‘This notion, that the fallen angels were, in some sense, the fathers of the old giants, was the constant opinion of antiquity’.

[5] Dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Justin Martyr). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Justin-Martyr (Accessed 7 August 2020).

PPT - Genesis 6:4 PowerPoint Presentation, free download - ID:2127343

(image courtesy SlideServe)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 August 2020.

clip_image004

What is the nature of the spirit?

I'll fly away, oh glory Ill Fly Away, Flies Away, Holy Ghost, God Is Good, Sword, Tattoo Ideas, Blues, Wings, Bible

(image courtesy Pinterest)

Which part of human beings goes to be with the Lord at death?

Listen to Alan Jackson sing, ‘I’ll fly away’.

Dottie Rambo & The Crabb Family, ‘Tears will never stain the streets of that city’

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A person asked on a Christian forum:

What is the actual substance of spirit? We know God is a Spirit [John 4:24]; Jesus says so and I do believe scripture states that God is the Father of spirits [Heb 12:9].
But what is spirit and the substances thereof? Also, just how powerful is spirit in comparison to the physical part of creation? Which is greater?
I’m not sure Christians as a whole really understand just what spirit is.
[1]

1. What is spirit?[2]

Scripture uses various descriptions of the inner, immaterial part of human beings. These include mind (Phil 4:7), heart (Prov 4:23), spirit (1 Cor 2:11) and soul (Rom 13:1).

The purpose of this article is not to differentiate among these aspects of the inner being. I seek to examine the meaning of spirit as it applies to human beings and to God.

1.1 Ruach

The Old Testament speaks of the ‘Spirit of the Lord’ (Isa 61:1; Job 33:4) or the ‘Spirit of God’ (Gen 1:2). The word for ‘Spirit’ is the Hebrew, ruach, or pneuma (Greek). When it is associated with the human spirit, it can mean:

The immaterial part of human beings that is often used interchangeably with ‘soul’. However, are soul and spirit two different unseen parts of the human being or are the words used interchangeably? Spirit is the unseen part of human beings that is associated with,

(a) ‘one’s mood, emotional state, or general disposition’;[3]

(b) A leading Hebrew Lexicon gives the meaning as ‘spirit (of the living, breathing being in man and animals). As gift, preserved by God, God’s spirit, departing at death, disembodied being; spirit (as seat of emotion), desire, sorrow, trouble; as seat or organ of mental acts; rarely of the will; as seat especially of moral character’.[4]

(c) breath (Gen 6:17; 2 Chron 9:4) or wind (Gen 8:1; Amos 4:13), and

(d) that which leaves the body at death to be present with the Lord (Eccl 12:7): ‘The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’. This harmonises with 2 Cor 5:8, ‘We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord’.

It is not the human body that is in the presence of the Lord but the unseen dimensions of people – the soul/spirit. However, Eccl 12:7 doesn’t differentiate between believers and non-believers and their location at death. Therefore, I’m left to conclude that the spirits of all people return to God. The NT affirms: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NIV).

Autumn Graveyard Free Stock Photo - Public Domain PicturesSee my articles:

balls116tn_.jpg 1.0K  The Intermediate State for believers and unbelievers: Where do they go at death?

balls116tn_.jpg 1.0K What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

balls116tn_.jpg 1.0K  Where will unbelievers go at death?

 1.2 Nephesh

This Hebrew word means:

balls136tn_.jpg 0.9K  ‘soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion

balls136tn_.jpg 0.9K  that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man

balls136tn_.jpg 0.9K  living being’.[5]

From these two definitions of ruach and nephesh, one could conclude that the verses are used interchangeably and there is no point in trying to separate their meanings.

I’ve found only one verse in Scripture that divides soul from spirit: ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Heb 4:12 ESV).

We can get into long discussions of tripartite (body, soul & spirit) vs bipartite (body & soul/spirit) dimensions of human beings. There is no point to separate Christian friendship over these theological matters as the Scriptures are not emphatic either way.

I find it simplest to leave it as defined by the Scriptures:

balls172tn_.jpg 1.2K Matt 10:28 (NIV): Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell’. No ‘spirit’ is mentioned here.

balls172tn_.jpg 1.2K James 2:26 (ESV): ‘For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead’.

balls172tn_.jpg 1.2K Eccl 12:7 (ESV): ‘And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’. James 2:26 (ESV) states: ‘For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead’.

Some commentators who deny the continuation of the soul/spirit at death. They want to make Eccl 12:7 mean,

The spirit that returns to God at death is the breath of life. Nowhere in all of God’s book does the “spirit” have any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies. It is the “breath of life” and nothing more.[6]

This is skipping over the above understanding of ‘spirit’.

“Spirit” represents something non-physical and normally invisible. We can conclude, except in the one case where “spirit,” ruach, or pneuma describes a being that has revealed itself, that spirit is never seen. All that is ever seen is what spirit causes, motivates, inspires, encourages, impels, triggers, stirs, provokes, stimulates, influences, or activates. Why? Because in every other sense, except where spirit clearly means a spirit being who has revealed himself, spirit is seen as a function of the mind, whether it is God’s mind, angel’s mind, or man’s mind (John D Ritenbaugh).

2. Meaning of ‘God is spirit’ (John 4:24)

This verse states: ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’.

It’s a strong pointer to the function of the human spirit. It is the immaterial dimension of human beings through which we worship God ‘in spirit and truth’. God has given spirits by which they are enabled to give God adoration.

2.1 Welcome to anthropomorphisms

Before examining the meaning of ‘spirit’ in John 4:24, we need to understand that Scripture uses anthropomorphisms to refer to God on some occasions. An anthropomorphism is ‘the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object’ (lexico.com 2020. s.v. anthropomorphism).

Examples of this in Scripture include: God having a face (Lev 20:6), hands (Isa 23:11), arm (Ps 89:10), finger (Ex 31:18), eyes (Deut 11:12), and ear (2 Kings 19:16). God has emotions such as sorrow (Gen 6:6), jealousy (Ex 20:5), and anger (Ps 7:11).[7]

These examples help us to better understand what God does and his emotions. We know that these examples cannot be taken literally …

balls59tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘But He answered, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live”’ (Ex 33:20 HCSB). Surely the spirit of God does not have an actual, physical face!

balls59tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent’ (1 Sam 15:29 RSV).

Technically, the John 4:24 text has some challenges that must not be ignored. It states, pneuma ho theos = spirit the God. There is no verb ‘to be’ in the Greek text. It has to be inserted for it to make sense in English. When we add ‘is’ [estin] we know that God is the subject of the sentence because His name is accompanied by the definite article, ‘the’. Pneuma (without the article) is the complement of the sentence (after the verb to be). However, pneuma is at the beginning of the sentence, thus placing it in the emphatic position.

This is a sound, biblical summary of the meaning of ‘God is spirit’:

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Even though the King James Version uses the article “a” with Spirit, God should not be referred to as a Spirit, which means “one of many.” The original languages should be interpreted to read “God is spirit,” which describes his nature.

As Spirit, God is not limited by a physical body. “Spirit” means incorporeal being. God is a real Being who does not exist in or through a physical body (Luke 24:39). Although God is said to have hands (Isa. 65:2), feet (Ps. 8:6), eyes (1 Kings 8:29) and fingers (Exod. 8:19), he is not to be understood as having a physical body. God attributes human form and personality to himself in order to relate to humanity in terms meaningful to us. In some passages God is also said to have wings (Ps. 17:8; 36:7) and feathers (Ps. 91:4), but this figurative language, depicting God as a protecting mother bird, does not imply that God has a physical body.

A spirit is also invisible. Though God was in the pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness, he was never visible to the nation (Deut. 4:15). There are some passages in Scripture where it seems that men actually saw God (Gen. 32:30; Exod. 3:6; 34:9, 10; Num. 12:6-8; Deut. 34:10; Isa. 6:1). Actually, it would be more correct to say these men saw a reflection of God, but did not see him directly. The only ones who have seen God are those who saw Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Because God is invisible Spirit, no one has ever seen him (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17).[8]

Since the emphasis is on ‘spirit’, it is promoting another dimension of …

2.2 God’s spirituality

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth John Bible Quotes, Bible Verses, Salt And Light, Worship God, John 4, Christian Memes, Christianity, Quotations, Wisdom(Image courtesy Pinterest)

Spirit’ is a quality or attribute of God’s nature, as is ‘God is light’ and ‘God is love’ (1 John 1:5; 4:8). It means that God …

clip_image002 God is a substance but he’s not flesh and blood but is spiritual (John 4:24).

clip_image002[1]That means God is immaterial (Luke 24:39). He’s without a body, transcendent and supernatural.

clip_image002[2] He is invisible. When the Lord appeared to the Israelites at Mt Horeb (Deut 4:15-19), they didn’t see any form of God. He spoke to them ‘out of the midst of the fire’. God warned Moses: ‘You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’ (Ex 33:20).

clip_image002[3] He is alive and well. He is not some inanimate piece of matter. He’s called ‘the living God’ (Matt 16:16).

clip_image002[4]He does the things that a person does, so he is a Person. He is self-conscious (1 Cor 2:10), has self-determination (Job 23:13), and psychological characteristics of personality:

The Scripture writers ascribe both self-consciousness (Ex. 3: 14; Isa. 45:5; 1 Cor. 2: 10) and self-determination (Job 23:13; Rom. 9:ll; Eph. 1:9, 11; Heb. 6:17) to God. He is a being who can say “I” and “me” (Ex. 20:2f.) and can respond when addressed as “You” (Ps. 90: l ff).

Scripture also represents God as possessing the psychological characteristics of personality: intellect (Gen. 18:19; Ex. 3:7; Acts 15:18), sensibility (Gen. 6:6; Ps. 103:8,-14; John 3:16), and volition (Gen. 3:15; Ps. 115:3; John 6:38). Furthermore, it ascribes qualities and relations of personality to God. He is represented as speaking (Gen. 1:3), seeing (Gen. 11:5), hearing (Ps. 94:9), grieving (Gen. 6:6), repenting (Gen. 6:6), and being angry (Deut. 1:37), jealous (Exod. 20:5), and compassionate (Ps. 111:4). He is said to be the creator (Acts 14:15), upholder (Neh. 9:6), ruler (Ps. 75:7; Dan.-1:32), and sustainer (Ps. 104:27-30; Matt. 6:26-30) of all things (Thiessen 1949/1979:77)

God’s spirituality requires that he be

clip_image002[5]Self-existent. His being is not dependent on anything or anyone outside of himself. This is confirmed by verses such as:

Ex 3:14: ‘God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you’”. God did not cause himself to exist. He didn’t bring himself into being. Self-existence is fundamental to his nature. Of this attribute, Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274) said: He is ‘the first cause, Himself uncaused’.[9]

All of these attributes are incorporated in God’s attribute of spirit. This is a sound description of God’s being spirit:

God’s spirituality means that God exists as a being [who][10] who is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence (Grudem 1999:86).

3.  Conclusion

The human spirit is the unseen internal dimension that is the fountain of the emotions and morality. It also means breath and wind. However, it is the part of human beings that goes to be with God at death.

As for ‘God is spirit’ (John 4:24), it refers to God’s spirituality. This is an attribute of God that refers to his being immaterial (no flesh & blood), invisible, living, a person, and he’s self-existent. He does not need any outside help to exist.

4.  Works consulted

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Thiessen, H C 1949/1979. Lectures in systematic theology (rev. V D Doerksen). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Available online at: http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-2/PDF%20Books/00045%20Thiessen%20Lectures%20in%20Systematic%20Theology.pdf (Accessed 11 August 2020).

5.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board 2020. Spirit? (online), 7 August, DPMartin#1. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/spirit.34170/ (Accessed 8 August 2020). I have taken the liberty to edit the original poster’s punctuation to make it more readable.

[2] This is my response as OzSpen#34.

[3] See NAS Old Testament Lexicon. Ruwach (online). Available at: https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/ruwach-2.html. Got Questions Ministries 2020. What is the meaning of the Hebrew word ruach? (online). Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-ruach.html (Accessed 11 August 2020).

[4] Ibid., NAS Old Testament Lexicon.

[5] The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon n.d. Nephesh (online). Available at: https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/nephesh.html (Accessed 11 August 2020).

[6] Truth about Death n.d. What is the ‘spirit’ that returns to God at death? (online) Available at: https://www.truthaboutdeath.com/q-and-a/id/1843/what-is-the-spirit-that-returns-to-god-at-death (Accessed 11 August 2020).

[7] This list with references is from Compelling Truth (online) 2020. How does the Bible use anthropomorphism to talk about God? Available at: https://www.compellingtruth.org/anthropomorphism.html (Accessed 10 August 2020).

[8] BibleSprout.com 2020. How is God described in the Bible: The 7 special qualities of God (online). Available at: https://www.biblesprout.com/articles/god/described-in-the-bible/ (Accessed 10 August 2020).

[9] In Thiessen (1949/1979:78).

[10] The original used the impersonal, ‘that’.

  

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 August 2020.

Jesus’ resurrection: Mary Magdalene not to touch Jesus

File:Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene.jpg ...

(Image: Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why was Mary Magdalene told not to touch Jesus but Thomas could touch him? Isn’t this a contradictory message for the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus?

On a Christian forum, a poster asked:

One of the gospels has Jesus telling Mary not to touch him as he has not yet risen. Another gospel has Thomas touching him. When he died, was [he] resurrected as a spirit or did his flesh come back to life like Lazarus?[1]

1. ‘Don’t touch’ – too soft a translation

On the morning Jesus was resurrected, Mary Magdalene met the Saviour in the garden near the tomb where Jesus had been buried (John 20:17). This verse reads, ‘”Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (CSB).

clip_image002(Image The Resurrected Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene in the Garden, courtesy, courtesy The Cloisters Collection, 1956, public domain)

While the KJV translates the beginning of this verse as ‘Touch me not’, this is too weak a translation for the Greek verb haptomai that is used. It means: ‘to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to’ (TDNT). It can mean ‘touch’ but the context here seems to favour, ‘Do not cling to me’. The Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek Lexicon gives the meaning for John 20:17 as, ‘Stop clinging to me’ (1957:102).

A technical explanation from the Greek confirms this is not an experience of ‘don’t touch me’. Instead,

Touch me not (mh mou aptou). Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet (ekrathsan) and worship (prosekunhsan) as we read in Matthew 28:9 . The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, John 20:17).

2. Thomas did touch Jesus

While it is true that doubting Thomas touched Jesus, the language used is clear that it meant touching and not clutching:

The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias ...Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28-29 CSB).

(image The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias, St Matthias, Whittier)

This was a touching of and sight of Jesus’ wounds. It was not a clinging to Jesus. In his ministry, there were others who touched Jesus after His resurrection. Matt 28:9 (CSB) states, ‘Just then Jesus met them [the disciples] and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him’.

Thus, there is no contradiction in the happenings of these two events.

 3.  Notes

[1] Christian forums.net 2020. Resurrection, Susannah#1, 14 March. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/resurrection.81924/ (Accessed 6 August 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 6 August 2020.

Theism vs Panentheism

https://i2.wp.com/www.rivieraucc.org/files/Panenthesim.png?resize=376%2C289

(Image courtesy riveraucc)

Is this a diagram of orthodox Christian theism?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Panentheism means ‘”all in God.” It is also called process theology (since it views God as a changing Being) [Geisler 1999:576].

This is the person’s retort to my teaching at: Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Does Christianity affirm this understanding of God? This person’s responses are in red font.

1.    The Judeo-Christian God is outside the universe

The biblical teaching is that the Judeo-Christian God had to be outside the universe for him to create the universe, which is external to him.

1.1   Illogical that God is outside the universe

Regarding my statement that the God who is outside the universe created it, you stated:

This is not logical. I feel this is a lame attempt to explain how evil can exist alongside God.  What did God use then, to create the universe?  This does not resonate with me as I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.  God may be “outside” the universe, however, this does not mean that the universe is not God.  He may not be in this universe, however, this universe is in him.

Take a listen to an interview with leading Christian apologist, born in India, the late Ravi Zacharias, about the problem of evil and God:

It is perfectly logical if you take the biblical text of Genesis 1 seriously. Your response indicates to me that you haven’t done an exegesis of Genesis to arrive at an understanding of how God created the heavens and the earth. In Scripture, He tells us specifically but you don’t seem to want to accept God’s view, but instead take the line, ‘This does not resonate with me’.

That sure sounds like Frank Sinatra’s worldview, ‘I did it my way‘. I’m trying to be kind in my understanding of your analysis of the origin of the universe, but I find some contradictory and nonsensical things in what you wrote here, for example:

clip_image003‘I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.’ If I’m to take that at face value, there is nothing – including you and me – that is not God. I can assure you that I’m a sinful human being who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). I am not God. My car, house and the beautiful Australian landscape are not God. They are separate from God because they are created things and are in need of creators.

clip_image003[1] If the universe is God, then this keyboard on which I type, computer screen, PC hard drive, office chair, and my meal tonight are God. Surely you know that is nonsensical thinking.

1.2 Genesis 1-2 disagrees

It seems to me you need to do some reading and study of the first 2 chapters of the Book of Genesis. I recommend H C Leopold, Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (available online).  Genesis 1:1 (NIV), the first verse of the Bible, is teeming with meaning, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. This sentence is so full of meaning because it declares to us:

    (a)    God did several things (all stated in this verse) at once. These are …

    (b)    God is the Supreme Being who created the universe. Before the universe came into being, there was the Person, God. We know He is a person because he created personal beings, Adam & Eve.

    (c)    God exists independently of matter and sequential time. He is independent of space and time. This is possible because some of His prominent attributes are declared in this verse.

    (d)    According to this verse, before the creation of the heavens and the earth there was nothing. ‘Theologians speak of God’s immensity, infinity, and transcendence to describe this and our minds race at the thought of it, unable to take it in. All we can do is acquiesce and worship’.

1.3 God’s creation of everything in the universe

Genesis 1:1 teaches that everything that exists in the universe was created by God. There is a special Hebrew verb used in this verse which is translated ‘God created’. For this act of creation the verb b?r? is used. When this verb appears in the Old Testament, God is always the subject, stated or implied. Yes, human beings also ‘create poetry, music, literature, construction work, etc, but there is nothing to compare with God who creates. It is used in Gen 1:1, 21, 27 and Gen 2:4.

In Gen 1:21 and 27, creation does not exclude pre-existing material. However, in all of these verses, the emphasis is on the ‘achievement of something completely new’. The point of these verses is that the All-Powerful God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). Eastern creation stories from Egypt and Mesopotamia assumed their gods worked with existing materials.

Can you imagine the power of the God who created the entire universe? But there is more to the what of creation …

1.4 God and creation of darkness

Genesis 1:2 states, ‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. What does it mean that it was ‘formless and empty’? God’s initial creation out of nothing was on in its final form.

What God initially brought into being was “t?hu vab?hu,” a “formless and empty mass.” Initially, the created universe had no distinctive shape; its structure would be formed by the artistry and design of God. In this sense, we are like God. We, too, fashion and mold and make things that are often beautiful. It is, in part, what Genesis 1:26–27 means by saying that Adam was created “in the image of God.” Man, too, creates, or better, re-creates, shapes his environment in such a way as to reflect something pleasing and good. Once man fell, this capacity became as much a liability as a blessing: his capacity to fashion became a means to idolatry (Derek Thomas, Table Talk, ‘Creation Ex Nihilo‘, January 2006).

In Scripture, God doesn’t reveal Himself in anyway that resembles ‘it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God‘. Your view promotes panentheism, i.e. the world is in God; nothing is not God. To be honest, this is a self-construct, although there are many followers. See the panentheist supporter, Dr Marcus J Borg (1997). The God we never knew. He died in 2015, so now knows the truth about his view of God.

News from the Diocesan Worship Adviser - The Church of England ...

(photo of Michael W Brierley courtesy Diocese of Worster, UK)

 

Other panentheists include Michael W. Brierley, a Church of England priest in the diocese of Exeter UK  and Philip Clayton, contemporary American philosopher of religion and science, Claremont Graduate School of Theology.

Imagine having a minister of a Christian church who did not accept that God who lives outside creation, created the universe. That’s what we have with Michael Brierley, an Anglican priest in the  UK. This is a demonstration of how far the Anglican church has moved away from orthodox Christianity, to accept a leader who is a panentheist.

2.    Lucifer is part of God

In my discussion about the origin of Satan, you responded:

Once again, this does not quite sit well with me.  If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all.  There must be trillions upon trillions of different endings to this story if we have the ability to choose.  Only God knows which ending is the true ending then. How can God create what he doesn’t know?  Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?

2.1 Subjective opinion is not good enough

clip_image005‘Once again, this does not quite sit well with me‘ is a subjective response that is open to other kinds of subjective responses, e.g. The ‘7 deadly sins’ nails areas of my life where I need to be right with God. May I suggest you move to the more objective position: What does God say about these sins in Scripture? I need to be obedient to him.

clip_image005[1]    ‘If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all‘. This is your hypothesis. We know Lucifer did not create the 7 deadly sins. It is a misinterpretation to make the 7 deadly sins an indicator for your panentheistic theology. Besides, all sins are forgivable by God, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29).

clip_image005[2]    ‘How can God create what he doesn’t know?‘ He knows everything because of his attribute of omniscience, so there is nothing God doesn’t know (1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:1-4; Acts 1:24).

Your God is too small and has the wrong digestion system. I suggest you read a sound book of Christian theology on the attributes of God. I’m thinking of Norman L Geisler, Systematic Theology in one volume. I could never find your God in Scripture. God knows everything he created. How do we know? He told us so: Psalm 147:5; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:18).

Are the 7 deadly sins found in the Bible? Yes and no! In Proverbs 6:16–19 you can read of 7 things that God detests.

When God created human beings he didn’t create robots. He produced men who raise cattle and work in offices, women who raise children at home while others choose to go into many occupations in the work force. Wouldn’t it be a horrible world if you or I could not make choices of what we eat and which brand of steak is preferred?

clip_image005[3]    ‘Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?‘ Your premise is false. God had a full understanding of the negative choices people would make (see verses above), but he chose to create people with free will, knowing the consequences. Remember that the one who created everything from nothing, knew what people would do with their free will, provided a way of escape. It was redemption for sinners who respond in faith to Jesus, the one who shed his blood for our atonement (cleansing of sin).

3.    No place for evil side with God

You wrote: ‘there is no place for this evil/negative side to exist within God ‘. This causes your worldview to come crashing down in the heap of panentheism. If there is no place for evil within God, how can you justify this statement: ‘God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God ‘? If ‘God is all‘, then ‘God’s “all” includes evil and the negative side‘. Are you prepared to defend that position in the public square: Facebook, Twitter, online forums, letters to the editor that the terrorist monsters, the rapists and Hitler exist within God? Is he the holy God of justice or is he some other ‘person’ who has an image generated by panentheism?

4.    Darkness is not separate to God

clip_image007 You wrote: ‘To suggest that the darkness is separate to God would give the impression that God is up against another entity separate from him.  I can’t gel with that.

Neither does it gel with me either. Here’s why: In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told the story of the ungodly rich man and the godly beggar. When they died, the rich man went to Hades (for punishment), while the beggar went to Abraham’s Side (heaven). The rich man in Hades was experiencing ‘agony in the fire … this place of torment’ (vv 26, 28). It was conscious punishment. See also Matthew 12:36-37 and Luke 12:47-48. This article explains the biblical teaching: Is God in hell?

clip_image007[1]  ‘I haven’t read anywhere in the Bible that in the beginning there was God and the Word and darkness‘.

I can’t believe you’ve made such an uninformed statement. Take a read of these early verses from Genesis 1: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day’ (Gen 1:1-5).

There you have it right before your eyes that in the beginning there was God and darkness. Where does Scripture affirm that the Word was in the beginning? It’s in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’.

Who is ‘the Word’? ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. So, John 1:1 teaches that Jesus was the Word who was God. However, this One who is God also became a human being, the God-man who was ‘the Word [who] became flesh’ (John 1:14) and lived on earth among human beings.

The Bible contradicts your view that there was no darkness separate to God as He created darkness. May I suggest you do more careful reading of Scripture to arrive at an accurate understanding, instead of imposing your panentheistic views on Scripture.

5.    Why I will never support panentheism

Figure 2The references you have provided do not convince me that there is something that is not a part of God that can then go up against him’.

I can guarantee you that I’m not a part of God, although I have Jesus living in me, because of salvation through Christ. I don’t expect to convince you from Scripture that the almighty God is the Creator who created the universe from outside the universe. Here is why I’m not a panentheist:[1]

a. The nature of God.

The Bible teaches nothing about the panentheist God who has two poles. The biblical God is self-existent and this includes many supernatural attributes.

b.    The nature of the universe.

Instead of the universe being processed (changing), the Christian God is immutable (changeless) and the evidence he provided in the reliable Bible (using historical criteria) is that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing)..

c.    Miracles

Since your view is that the world is in God, it conflicts with the almighty God who demonstrated many miracles throughout history. He can do that because he stands outside of the universe. In your worldview, there is no need for supernatural acts and in fact they are impossible.

d.    The nature of human beings

Your worldview allows for human beings to be personal and free. But your view is that humanity was co-created with God and is of God. This is radically different to the Christian view of original sin and the need for a Saviour to cleanse us from sin through repentance and faith.

e.    Ethics

Do you believe there are absolute values? Are the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) always true or are they in process and can change?

In the words of Dr William Lane Craig, these are three reasons why I am not a panentheist:

1) Does God act as a cause outside of nature or are acts of nature acts of God without an external cause outside of nature? The Bible teaches that God on occasion acts as a cause outside nature. The effects of such actions are called miracles. The supreme example is the creation of the universe itself. We have good evidence for such a transcendent cause, e.g., evidence for the beginning of the universe and evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, which cannot be accounted for by wholly natural causes.

2) Is the universe eternal? If the universe is eternal could God be the cause of the universe’s existence? The Bible teaches that the universe is not eternal but was created by God at some time in the past, a view that is confirmed scientifically and is eminently reasonable philosophically. Setting aside philosophical arguments against the eternality of the past, there is no reason that God could not create an eternal universe. For any time t, the universe would depend for its existence upon God at t, whether or not there were moments of time earlier than t.

3) Can God be the universe and exist apart from the universe at the same time? Obviously, if God = the universe, then since the universe cannot exist apart from the universe, neither can God exist apart from the universe! But I think the more appropriate question is whether the universe could be a part of God. Biblically, that’s ruled out, and most of the traditional theistic arguments rule it out as well. God and the world are ontologically distinct (Panentheism).

f.    The nature of biblical revelation

I consider one of your greatest issues with biblical Christianity is that you will not accept Scripture at face value. When the eternal God stated he ‘created the heavens and the earth’ from outside of the universe, you reject this and impose your panentheistic interpretation on it. The presuppositions of panentheism drive your views of reality. You seem to impose them on Scripture and don’t want to admit what you do. Nowhere in Scripture have I read anything that looks like ‘the universe is in God’.

6.    God is sinful

‘Because God is all creating does not mean He is not sinless.

By this statement, are you contending that God is sinful – He is not sinless? Sadly, you don’t understand how a sinful person could cleanse the sins of all people throughout human history who have responded to Jesus in repentance and faith.

6.1 Jesus is sinless

Your view flatly denies biblical teaching on the need for a sinless Saviour who was a sacrifice to cleanse human beings of their sins. These are but a few examples:

clip_image0092 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV): ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

clip_image009[1] 1 Peter 2:22 : ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’.

clip_image009[2]Hebrews 4:15: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin’.

clip_image009[3]1 John 3:5: ‘But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin’.

So, God the Son, one person in the Trinity, was sinless.

 

6.2 What about God the Father?

clip_image011 Numbers 23:19: ‘God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind’. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?’

 

clip_image011[1]Deuteronomy 32:34: ‘I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he’.

 

clip_image011[2]1 Samuel 15:29, ‘He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind’.

 

clip_image011[3]2 Timothy 2:13: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself’.

 

clip_image011[4]Titus 1:2: ‘… in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time’.

 

clip_image011[5]Hebrews 6:18: ‘God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged’.

 

clip_image011[6]James 1:13: ‘When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone’.

 

clip_image011[7]1 John 1:5: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’.

 

I could provide additional Scripture to support the teaching on God, the Holy Spirit, who is not a sinner.

7. Theism vs Panentheism

Norman Geisler has provided this helpful summary of the differences between orthodox theism and panentheism (Geisler 1999:576):

Theism Panentheism
God is Creator. God is director.
Creation is ex nihilo. Creation is ex materia.
God is sovereign over world. God is dependent on world.
God is independent over world. God is dependent on world.
God is unchanging. God is changing.
God is absolutely prefect. God is growing more perfect.
God is mono-polar. God is bi-polar.
God is actually infinite. God is actually finite.

 

Where can panentheism be found today? It can be found in Hinduism, Sikhism, certain mystical Jewish traditions, Taoism, some Christianity where it is also called process theology (including the Eastern Orthodox Church. Unitarian Universalist Church),  some Sufi Islamic saints and thinkers had panentheistic views, and Gnosticism.

8.    Main issue

In my view, your main problem is that you choose not to accept the Scripture at face value but replace it with the irrational reasoning of panentheism that does not match reality. This is called eisegesis of any form of literature. It is based on the NT Greek preposition eis, which means ‘in/into’. So, when you read your worldview into the text, you come up with an interpretation that does not come out of the text.

9. Works consulted

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

10. Note

[1] These points were made by Geisler (1999:577-578).

Panentheism - Wikiquote

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 July 2020.

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Process-Relational Panentheism Diagram | Pantheism, Buddha ...

(Image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

‘Panentheism’ may seem strange language to you. It’s not a word we hear very often from evangelical Christian pulpits. However, my view is that it ought to be explained and refuted because it promotes damaging theology.

1. What is it?

I’ve encountered it in two situations: (1) Recently, from a Christian friend who had this view presented, and (2) when I was researching for my PhD dissertation on the historical Jesus, I came across some liberal, postmodern scholars. One who was an ardent advocate was Marcus J. Borg in his book, The God we never knew (1997). He died in 2015 at the age of 72.[1]

1.1 Marcus Borg the false teacher

Borg contended that ‘how we think about God matters…. I argue that a “panentheistic” concept of God offers the most adequate way of thinking about the sacred; in this concept, the sacred is “right here” as well as “the beyond” that encompasses everything”’ (1997:VII, 5)

I agree with him on one point: ‘How we think about God matters’. However, does he have the correct biblical thinking about the Lord God of the universe?

Borg defines panentheism as

God is the encompassing Spirit; we (and everything that is) are in God. For this concept, God is not a supernatural being separate from the universe; rather, God (the sacred Spirit) is a nonmaterial layer or level or dimension of reality all around us. God is more than the universe, yet the universe is in God…. This way of thinking about God is found among many of the mot important voices in the Christian theological tradition (Borg 1997:12).

He claims that these statements from Scripture support panentheism.

bronze-arrow-small ‘The whole earth is full of God’s glory’ (Isaiah);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The earth shining with God’s glory’ (Ezekiel);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Psalm 19).

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ (Psalm 29:1-9 NIV; Borg 1997:34-35)

That these verses should be misinterpreted to divert attention from the LORD of glory who created the universe and calls us to praise the Lord of glory for his nature and actions in the universe, is a mockery of justice.

For a further critique of panentheism, see my article, Differences between orthodox theism and panentheism.

2. Down-to-earth questioning

A friend sent some questions to me from a discussion he had with a colleague. These are the colleague’s issues:

Here the issues are in red font:

clip_image002  ‘If there is nothing outside of God….’

This is a false premise as it promotes the heresy of panentheism that can be diagrammed as,

clip_image004

(Image from Facebook, ‘Christian Answers for the New Age’, 18 March 2019)

In biblical Christianity, God is outside the universe which he created. The Scriptures teach that God reigns over the nations from His holy throne in heaven (see Psalm 47:8; Isaiah 6:1, 66:1; Hebrews 4:16).

clip_image005‘Why did Lucifer have thoughts of rebellion?’

“With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan—probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18)—in pride chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god.

Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God; he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels—demons” (GotQuestions 2020. Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?)
There is not enough biblical information in the inspired Word to give a definitive answer to this question.

clip_image002[1]‘These negative thoughts would have to be part of God’s nature?’

That could never be so because of God’s absolute holiness (Isaiah 6:5), absolute justice (Deuteronomy 32:4), and absolute sinlessness (Habakkuk 1:13).

clip_image005[1]‘If time is just a construct for the human mind…’

Biblically, we know this is false because it was God who created everything and that included time. See Genesis 1:1; Ecclesiastes 11:5; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17. God needed nothing external to himself to create the universe (Acts 17:24–28). There are many more Bible verses in support of these teachings.

clip_image005[2]  ‘… God would know and see everything instantaneously, therefore, Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is exactly right. It’s called God’s omniscience. God knows everything, past, present and future, seen and unseen. The Bible confirms this in 1 John 3:20; Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 139:1-3, 15-16; and Acts 1:24.

clip_image005[3]‘Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is correct. But that is because of the nature of God’s omniscient attribute. God knows even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30).

See the next installment of the person’s retort to my reply in, ‘Theism vs Panentheism’.

clip_image0073.  Works consulted

Borg, M J 1997. The God we never knew. New York, NY. HarperSanFrancisco.

4.  Notes


[1] See the obituary in the Los Angeles Times, ‘Marcus Borg, scholar who challenged literal view of Jesus, dies at 72’, 24 January. Available at: https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-marcus-borg-20150125-story.html (Accessed 9 July 2020).

Jenn 3d

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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clip_image009

Is God in hell?

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

clip_image002

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

While blogging on a Christian forum, I met a person who wrote: ‘I don’t believe God dwells in Hell. That’s what Jews believe’.[1]

Is that true or false?

1. Hades and God’s omnipresence

God’s omnipresence means

God is everywhere present at once (omni=everywhere = present). Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent [from]…. It is helpful to see what omnipresence does not mean. It does not mean that God is creation; this is pantheism…. In theism God made the world; in pantheism God is the world. Nor does omnipresence mean that God is in creat6ion, which is panentheism (Geisler 2003:169-170).

The Bible teaches God is omnipresent (Prov 15:3; 1 Kings 8:27; Jer 23:23-24; Matt 18:20; Ps 139:7-12). He is everywhere all the time and that means he will be present forever in hell as the Judge and perpetrator of punishment.

Proverbs 15:3 (NIV) supports this view: ‘The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good’. The wicked are on earth and also in Hades/Hell. The Lord is active in watching them.

2. What is Hades?

It is ‘the place of the dead’ (Eccl 9:10; Ps 55:23; Acts 2:27) or ‘the place of departed souls/spirits’ (Eccl 12:7; Isa 14:9-10, 19).

There does seem to be a contradiction in Scripture regarding God’s presence in Hades or not. Paul speaks of being ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thess 1:9 NIV).

However, Scripture also teaches in Revelation 14:20 (NIV) that anyone who receives the beast’s image

will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

How can the damned be shut out from God’s presence and still experience fury from God, in the presence of the Lamb? They seem to be conflicting statements.

These verses are best reconciled, in my view, by recognizing that judgment consists in being excluded from God’s presence as the source of all blessedness, but not from God’s omnipresent lordship (Michael Horton, Hell is not separation from God).

Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV) destroys the view that God is not in Sheol/Hades:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.


Seamless Realistic Fire Border...

3. Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology, vol 2: God, creation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

4.  Notes

[1] Brian100 #587. Christianity Board, ‘Atheist objections to evidence for God’s existence’, 8 July 2020 (Accessed 10 July 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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Buddhist, Rohingya and Christian lives matter

Why must I go to alternate media for information about persecution?

(Image of Christian girl, Orissa, India  who was bruised and burnt during the anti Christian violence in Orissa in August 2008. It occurred when a bomb was thrown into her house by extremists; Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Two men on an asphalt surface, behind a black police SUV with the city name "MINNEAPOLIS", and a license plate that reads "POLICE" (some letters are obscured in this frame). One man has light skin, a blue shirt with identifying badges on his chest and shoulder, black pants and boots, and black sunglasses pushed to the top of his close-shorn head. He is kneeling with his left knee and upper shin resting on the neck of the other man, and his right knee out of sight behind the van. The other man is lying prone, with his left cheek pressed against the asphalt close to a painted line. He is dark-skinned, with similarly short hair, and is not wearing a shirt; His mouth is slightly open, his eyes are closed with his eyebrows raised, and his arms are down, not visible behind the van. The kneeling man has his left hand in a dark glove, with his right arm hidden behind the van, and is looking at the viewer with his eyebrows slightly lifted and mouth slightly open.(Frame from witness video, showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd‘s neck. Image courtesy Wikipedia).

This article was published in On Line Opinion, 25 June 2020.

There have been 8:46 rallying cries across the USA to coincide with the length of time it was assessed for George Floyd to die on 25 May 2020. Others conclude it took 7 minutes 46 seconds.

The police officer, alleged perpetrator of the crime, Derek Chauvin, has been sacked from the police force. However, Floyd’s death has propelled rallies for ‘Black lives matter’ across the world – in the USA, Great Britain, across Europe, Australia, and in other countries.

This Rohingya crisis caught media attention.

I honestly support these protesters and their reasons. A policeman killing a man by putting so much pressure on his neck he could not breathe, if convicted, should be called a murderer.

However, there are other situations as serious that have had some mass and social media coverage. In recent years, mass media outlets have reported on the persecution of the minority sect that Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted in Myanmar (Burma) and have fled to Bangladesh.

BBC News (23 January 2020) gave details on the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims.

(Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017; Image courtesy Wikipedia)

‘The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma)….

Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.

UN investigators have warned that genocidal actions could recur.

How have Myanmar people responded?

Tun Khin tweeted the ICJ ruling was ‘a crucial moment for Rohingya justice, and vindication for those of us who have lived through this genocide for decades’. He is the president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and continued:

‘The court’s decision clearly shows that it takes the allegations of genocide seriously, and that Myanmar’s hollow attempts to deny these have fallen on deaf ears’ (BBC News).

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said the ICJ decision ‘sent a message that the world would not tolerate Myanmar’s “atrocities”’.

The extent of Rohingya sprawling camps near the Bangladesh border for those fleeing Myanmar’s violence has been captured by a camera on a drone (BBC News 2017).

The Australian Government has explained its position but it hasn’t been updated since 14 June 2018. The Sydney Morning Herald (2017) reported: ‘Australia must act on Rohingya genocide’ which relates how ‘Almas saw her seven children and husband murdered during a wave of massacres in Myanmar. She and thousands of other survivors now face new threats as they languish in refugee camps’. ABC News, Brisbane Qld, ‘Aung San Suu Kyi denies genocide, says Rohingya Muslims caught up in armed internal conflict’.

Why don’t the people take to the streets with this slogan: ‘Rohingya Muslim lives matter’?

Why do I need to go to alternate media for other deaths?

George Floyd’s death is in the news, and rightly so. Have you heard much on the following?

Release International Voice reported on Indian Christian believers who were ‘taunted, beaten and forced to pose “like Christ on the cross” in police custody when extremists accused them of “forced conversion”’.

‘Pastor Indresh Kumar Gautam and four others were arrested after 30 Hindu extremists broke up their Sunday service in Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh’. Australian mainstream media gives this persecution a flick pass as it doesn’t seem to have the worldwide implications of a George Floyd murder.

Why haven’t we heard a media campaign, ‘Indian teens’ lives matter’, following the death of a 16-year-old by stabbing and stoning? What was his crime? He was a Christian and wouldn’t renounce his faith. What was the crime he committed?

If it were not for alternate news’ sources I would not know of this persecution to death by Hindu extremists.

He refused to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ. Where were Australia’s news outlets to report this with catchphrases such as, ‘Indian Christian lives matter’?

It’s time for the ABC, SBS, Fox News, Sky News, Channels 7, 9, and 10 to wake up to international news’ responsibilities. I commend The Guardian Australia edition for reporting in February 2020 on the Australian ambassador’s meeting with the Myanmar military chief who was accused of Rohingya genocide. ‘Human Rights Watch has said Australia’s decision to take the meeting risked giving legitimacy and credibility to a military accused of mass atrocities’.

Other Australian news sources may have given limited coverage to some of the examples which follow. However, as a regular news reader and watcher, I have not seen any kind of uprising like ‘black lives matter’ in association with the deaths of other ethnic minorities – except Rohingya Muslims.

According to The Gulf News (01 March 2020) in Pakistan, 22-year-old Saleem Masih was ‘tortured to death for taking a dip in a village tube well in Pakistan, his fault was that he was a Christian’ and ‘polluted’ the water he bathed in.

Masih’s father said Saleem claimed the men who attacked, abused and cursed him did it because he was a ‘filthy Christian’. Social media users were furious about Saleem’s treatment and spread the word through #JusticeForSaleemMasih. ‘Pakistani Christian lives matter’.

The Buddhist minority in Vietnam has been under threat for decades in fear of persecution. At the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum in Hsinchu City in June 2018, Vo Tran Nhat, executive secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, a nongovernmental organisation founded in Paris in 1975, explained his views as a non-religious person: ‘He cares a great deal about the Buddhists and minority Christians, who raise their voices against oppression and injustice. If Buddhists lose their religion, Vietnam would lose its “soul,” he warned’.

What has Australia’s main-stream media reported about these situations?

There are many other examples that the mass media choose to ignore. I’m thinking of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who maintains his allegiance to Jesus in spite of suffering unemployment, persecution from Muslim family members, and homelessness.

An Egyptian woman is another case in point. She was kidnapped by extremists, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. It is exceedingly difficult to bring such women back home to a normal life when they live in an honour-shame culture.

In April 2020, a Christian pastor, his wife and 15-year-old son were attacked by a Muslim neighbour in Pakistan. They were severely injured by machetes, sticks and pistols and they were treated in hospital. The case was reported to a local police station. Pakistani Christians face severe maltreatment. Often it comes from family members, radical Islamic groups, and even the government.

North Korea is a closed country and distribution of unapproved literature is a capital offence that could lead to forced labour or execution.

However, in 2014 Natasha Moore from the Centre for Public Christianity (a Christian organisation) published an opinion piece for the ABC’s, The Drum, Why don’t we hear about persecuted Christians? She gave an example of ‘the plight of Mosul’s Christians [that] has been noted by a growing number of news outlets, from The Independent to The New York Times. It has broken the surface of the international news cycle in a way that other atrocities – the fire-bombing of churches in Nigeria, the summary execution of North Koreans caught with Bibles – have not’. She does not consider the media were covering up the global persecution, but it reveals the media’s blind spots. As an example of the seriousness of the situation, she stated that Christians were persecuted in139 countries and about four or five acts of religious discrimination are against Christians.

Countries that were moderately secular and are now ‘avowedly secular’ have stepped up their hostility towards Christians. Turkey and Egypt join with post-communist, Islamic and some South Asian countries, Moore wrote. She referred authors to the 2008 book, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion (Paul Marshall et. al.).

Farce of injustice by media

I find it to be a pretence against fair journalism when the media can so promote ‘Black lives matter’ when we have examples of Buddhist lives matter, Rohingya Muslim lives matter, and Christian lives matter around the world.

When will we see major, objective reporting on the Christian, Buddhist, Rohingya and other persecutions?

(Image courtesy fssx.news. An 11-year-old Christian child was beaten to death by his Muslim employer on July 11, 2019, in Faisalabad, in northeastern Pakistan.)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 June 2020.

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