Thou shalt not kill / murder

Breaking the sixth commandment

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How should Christians respond to terminal illness, suffering and euthanasia? How should a government respond to a request for euthanasia with this kind of facial disease?

Should this heart-breaking story be enough to push a society over the edge to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide? Are emotional, heartbreaking stories like this one enough to convince politicians it’s time to stop the pain and approve the killing of such a person – with her informed consent?

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(image courtesy El Mundo)                                          (image courtesy The Deep Portal)

Chantal Sébire was a French schoolteacher who developed a rare form of cancer which severely disfigured her eye-sockets and face. She also lost her senses of sight, taste and smell’. She died in 2008 from a drug overdose when the French government would not grant her the right to euthanasia’ (courtesy Ranker).

Image result for photo Kerry Robertson euthanasia Victoria(Photo: Jacqui Hicks, left, and Nicole Robertson, right, were with mum Kerry Robertson when she died. (Go Gentle Australia), ABC News, Brisbane Qld)

On 19 June, 2019 in the Australian State of Victoria voluntary assisted dying was legalised. The first person euthanised (killed) under this legislation was Kerry Robertson, aged 61, who had lived with cancer for about 10 years. She died, surrounded by family, in a Bendigo nursing home on 15 July 2019.

1. Rejecting euthanasia

Martyn Iles was the new managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), as of 2018. I received an emailer from ACL that included Martyn’s brief, but exceptional article, Dr David Goodall, euthanasia, and suffering‘.

It contains the line, ‘If we rip off the band-aid that says, “thou shalt not kill” in such circumstances, we are asking for a myriad of troubles’.

2. Does it mean, ‘Thou shalt not kill’?

I encourage Martyn and other writers for ACL not to use this erroneous KJV translation, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. The correct translation from the Hebrew (Ex 20:13) and Greek (Matt 19:18) is: ‘You shall not murder’. These various translations correct the meaning of Thou shalt not kill” (LXX ou phoneuseis)   and ‘You shall not murder’ (Hebrew lo tir?a?) for Exodus 20:13.

The better translation of Ex 20:13 is found in these translations:

  • NKJV: You shall not murder.
  • ESV: You shall not murder. The footnote for ‘murder’ states, ‘The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence’.
  • NRSV: You shall not murder. The footnote is, ‘or kill’.
  • NIV: You shall not murder.
  • NLT: You must not murder.

If it means ‘you shall not kill’, God contradicted himself many times in the OT. A couple examples are:

Joshua 6 describes the destruction of Jericho (the Canaanites) at God’s command. Why would God authorise such murder? Norman Geisler explained:

Israel was commanded by God to completely exterminate the Canaanite inhabitants of the land including men, women, and children. This has been called a primitive and barbaric act of murder perpetrated on innocent lives.

Several factors must be kept in mind in viewing this situation.

(1) There is a difference between murder and justifiable killing. Murder involves intentional and malicious hatred which leads to life-taking. On the other hand, the Bible speaks of permissible life-taking in capital punishment (Gen. 9:6), in self defense (Exod. 22:2), and in a justifiable war (Gen. 14).

(2) The Canaanites were by no means innocent. They were a people cursed of God from their very beginning (Gen. 9:25). They were a vile people who practiced the basest forms of immorality. God described their sin vividly in these words, “I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25).

(3) Further, the innocent people of the land were not slaughtered. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah clearly demonstrates that God would save a whole city for ten righteous people (Gen. 18:22f.). In that incident, when God could not find ten righteous people, He took the four or five righteous ones out of the place so as not to destroy them with the wicked (Gen. 19:15). On another occasion God saved some thirty-two thousand people who were morally pure (Num. 31:35). Another notable example is Rahab, whom God saved because she believed (cf. Heb. 11:31).

(4) God waited patiently for hundreds of years, giving the wicked inhabitants of Canaan time to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3:9) before He finally decided to destroy them (Gen. 15:16). When their iniquity was “full,” divine judgment fell. God’s judgment was akin to surgery for cancer or amputation of a leg as the only way to save the rest of a sick body. Just as cancer or gangrene contaminates the physical body, those elements in a society—if their evil is left to fester—will completely contaminate the rest of society.

(5) Finally, the battle confronting Israel was not simply a religious war; it was a theocratic war. Israel was directly ruled by God and the extermination was God’s direct command (cf. Exod. 23:27-30; Deut. 7:3-6; Josh. 8:24-26). No other nation either before or after Israel has been a theocracy. Thus, those commands were unique. Israel as a theocracy was an instrument of judgment in the hands of God. (Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1977, pp. 99-100, in ‘How could a loving God tell the Israelites to kill their enemies, even children?’)

Jesus confirmed this commandment, ‘You know the commandments: xDo not murder….’ (Mark 10:19).

God authorised the murder / killing of many people according to the OT and he authorised the command not to murder in the NT.

2.1 Mistranslation of ‘kill’

The mistranslation of the word as ‘kill’ includes these translations: Wycliffe Bible (1395), Tyndale (1536), the Bishop’s Bible (1568),  the Geneva Bible (1599), Douay-Rheims (1610), KJV (1611), ASV, RSV,  NAB, and NJB.

The translations that correctly render the word as ‘murder’ include: NRSV, NKJV, NLT, NIV, NIRV, NASB, NABRE, LEB, ISV, HCSB, GNB, ESV, Complete Jewish Bible, YLT, and REB.

Why is ‘kill’ a mistranslation? The Hebrew uses the word, rasah, which is a specific word for murder in the 6th commandment. This does not prohibit capital punishment, but is in harmony with Gen 9:6.  Rasah is not a general word for ‘kill’ as we have in English.
The next chapter of Exodus gives and example that demonstrates Ex 20:13 does not refer to general killing: ‘Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death’ (Ex 21:12 NIV).

We need to remember that God is not against killing: ‘… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ (Heb 9:22 NIV).

As Professor Berel Lang of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (USA) has noted:

“The original Hebrew, lo tirtsah., is very clear, since the verb ratsah. means ‘murder,’ not ‘kill.’ If the commandment proscribed killing as such, it would position Judaism against capital punishment and make it pacifist even in wartime. These may be defensible or admirable views, but they’re certainly not biblical” (cited in Andrew Holt PhD).

3. Conclusion

There would be a substantial contradiction created by God if his command was, ‘You shall not kill’, as God Himself ordered the killing of many people, Israelites and Gentiles in the OT. He also ordered the killing of Jesus on the cross (Matt 27:46; John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).

The exegesis of Ex 20:13 and Matt 19:18 demonstrates that the correct translation is, ‘You shall not murder’ and not ‘you shall not kill’.

Both medical science and Scripture confirm that the life of a human being begins at conception/implantation. See my articles:

clip_image004 Abortion and Life: A Christian Perspective

clip_image004[1]Exodus 21:22-23 and abortion

clip_image004[2]    The Church Fathers on Abortion

clip_image004[3]When an abortion goes horribly wrong

Therefore, I conclude that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide involve the murder of a human being and should be criminal offences.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 August 2019.

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Peter FitzSimons: It may come back to bite you

 

By Spencer Gear PhD

 

Image result for image freedom of religion

(image courtesy Senn Times)

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, Peter FitzSimons: It may come back to bite you,  6 August 2019.

Who wants freedom of speech folks taking a stand for Israel Folau’s cousin, Josiah, who lost his job at a Roman Catholic College over his anti-Catholic rants?

Disguised support through gritted teeth came from an unexpected source, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Peter FitzSimons.

I found his language hostile to his ‘religious friends, my champions of free speech’ who don’t treat Josiah Folau like Israel’s dilemma. FitzSimons was peeved: ‘You were apoplectic with rage at the very idea that Israel Folau could be sacked by Rugby Australia for twice putting up homophobic gibberish’.

His rage continued: ‘You shrieked, outweighed everything else, and his individual “freedom of speech” was so sacrosanct there could be no question of sacking him, even if it did piss off just about the entire rugby community, sponsors et al’.

This got up FitzSimons’ nose so he called for the ‘religious friends’ who opposed Israel Folau’s sacking to get behind Josiah:

‘We really need to hear from you now that Israel Folau’s cousin, Josiah Folau, has, as reported by the Herald, been let go from his casual teaching job at the prestigious Catholic school St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown, only a short time after describing the Catholic Church as “the synagogue of Satan”’.

1.  Is FitzSimons fighting for his enemy?

Seems to me that, without knowing it, he plays right into the hands of those promoting freedom of religion and free speech for employees, employers and other institutions – including the church, synagogue, mosque and other religious organisations.

This is what I have in mind: He has highlighted this important issue of the need for freedom of religion but without realising he is backing that position in his article.

The very thing he advocates – religious friends speaking out against the sacking of Josiah – is the issue that religious institutions across the country are battling to retain. The proposed Religious Discrimination Act in federal parliament is designed to address this matter. I have grave doubts it will concentrate on some concerns by religious institutions.

St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown NSW should have every right to hire staff that support the ethos of the College. When a staff member violates those religious principles, at the school or by promoting them elsewhere, termination of employment should be in order.

Family Voice Australia promotes the view that:

‘Freedom of religion is a pre-eminent international right. It deserves primary recognition and protection. Currently exemptions treat religious freedom as a mere afterthought. This is disrespectful and ungrateful in view of the great work faith-based services and institutions provide. 

‘Since Australia is committed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, our nation should treat freedom as a positive right and not regard it as a narrow exemption’.

2.  ‘Devil worship’ statement against Roman Catholic Church

Josiah Folau deserves to have his work as tutor and boarding house supervisor concluded. He called the Catholic Church ‘the synagogue of Satan’ and ‘any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies. The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship. Roman Catholicism is masked devil worship’.

Josiah Folau has contradicted the values of the church that employed him. St Greg’s College, if we truly had freedom of religion, should have every right to sack him whether he promoted it at the College or elsewhere.

Whether one agrees with this statement or not, it is contrary to Catholic Church doctrine. He has not upheld the values of a Catholic College.

So, instead of outrage over Josiah Folau’s termination of employment, FitzSimons and his religious friends who champion freedom of religion and free speech (and I’m one of them). We should commend St Greg’s for taking the stand of backing its values and hiring those who support the ethos of the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s time for legislation in Australia that allows all institutions the rights to choose staff based on values of the organisation. These employees should not go public with beliefs that are contrary to those of the employer if one wants to continue employment.

Here, here for Catholic and independent schools being allowed to employ staff to promote their ethics.

FitzSimmons’ complaint disguises the truth of the need in a free society to give all employers and other organisations the choice of a staff person’s values.

Could you imagine a Labor MP or Coalition MP not hiring pro-Labor or Pro-Coalition supporters in their respective local offices?

The bee in FitzSimons’ bonnet about the actions of ‘religious friends’ falls in a heap over Josiah Folau’s sacking. This is because his tirade against religious friends promotes the need for robust freedom of religion and free speech in Australian legislation.

3.  How does sport relate to religion?

I write as a committed evangelical, Protestant Christian who has a high view of the authority of Scripture.

I’ve heard from friend and foe in person or on Internet forums:

4.  What is Scripture’s exhortation?

In spite of folks in the public square wanting religious people to shut up about their faith, that is not what the Scriptures teach. The apostle Paul addressed an issue in the church at Corinth that is just as relevant today: ‘So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Corrie ten BoomTo give glory to God is to honour him with everything Christians do, whether on the job, in your family, and on the sporting field. Put simply, all sports’ people, whether religious or not, see their world, not as a private matter, but through the lens of faith – even secular faith. For me, that is through the lens of Scripture and its teaching.

 

Photo: via The Corrie ten Boom Foundation (Available from: https://www.biography.com/activist/corrie-ten-boom)

This was the faith of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker, who along with her sister Betsie, helped many Jews escape from the Nazi Holocaust in World War 2. These Jews were hidden in their house. She wrote about it in her famous book, The Hiding Place. Eventually they were arrested and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

There was no thought of private Christianity for Corrie and Betsie.

Neither is his Christian faith a secret for former Australian rugby league player, Kevin Naiquama, a Fiji International, who played for the Sydney West Tigers in the NRL. Naiqama was off-contract at the end of 2018 when he departed ‘Wests Tigers to take up a multi-year deal in the English Super League’ (Kevin Naiqama to depart Wests Tigers at season’s end).

He has John 3:16 tattooed on his chest and the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion and the Last Supper on his back.

St Helen’s (UK) wrote of Naiqama: ‘The religious scriptures inked across the chest of St Helens’ new signing Kevin Naiqama are passages from John 3:16 and Romans 10:9, passages which identify one’s faith in Jesus’ (Kevin Naiqama: My God My Land).

Related image  (Kevin Nyiquama, John 3:16 tattooed on chest, courtesy couriermail.com.au)  

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Kevin Nyiquama, tattoo of crucifixion and Last Supper on his back, courtesy dailytelegraph.com.au)

FitzSimons stated: ‘I think we have to go hard on defending Josiah Folau, or risk being made to appear completely ludicrous for our stunning inconsistency’.

You bet we need to ‘go hard’ at it to allow the Catholic College freedom to implement its policies against those who are on staff who oppose their values.

FitzSimons: ‘I said . . . ARE YOU WITH ME???’ Definitely not! To your dismay, Peter, I’m with St Gregory’s College!

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 August 2019.

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Using Jesus’ resurrection to promote liberal theology

Professor Dr N T Wright vs Retired Archbishop Dr Peter Carnley on Jesus’ resurrection

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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N T Wright Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St. Andrews; photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

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Former Anglican Archbishop of Perth and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley. Image courtesy Wayback Machine, Alia 2002 speaker biographies.

This article responds to parts of Peter Sellick’s[1] article: Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection (On Line Opinion, 26 July 2019).[2] Sellick’s article pits Wright’s conclusions against Carnley’s and sides with Carnley.

I’ve done battle with him on other occasions on On Line Opinion. I’ll use a dialogue format for this interaction, even though the material was covered over several Comments by Peter and me:

Spencer: You object to Wright’s taking ‘the physical view’ of Jesus’ as an historical event to be investigated ‘without the eyes of faith’.
Firstly, Wright took a large portion of his 817pp tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God (RSG), to demonstrate from the biblical text that Jesus’ resurrection was soma, in a physical body.
He concluded:

‘The historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the “meetings” with Jesus as “historical events” in all the senses we sketched…. They took place as real events: they were significant events; they are, in the normal sense required by historians, provable events; historians can and should write about them. We cannot account for early Christianity without them’ (Wright 2003:709).

If Jesus’ Resurrection must be perceived through ‘the eyes of faith’ (Peter’s statement), is this a leap of faith or faith founded on the facts of the Resurrection?
Your claim is that Wright,
[3]

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Peter: ‘effectively excludes the activity of the “Spirit as a datum of Easter Faith”’.[4]
Spencer: This is not true. Wright cites a post-biblical passage from the Mishna where it states that ‘saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead’ (RSG 193). He supports ‘all those who are given new, resurrection life by the Spirit’ (RSG 258).[5]
Peter: ‘Wright takes this physical view from the traditions of Israel’.[6]
Spencer: That’s partially true. Wright demonstrates from the NT that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection because of the use of soma (physical body) to refer to it and the characteristics of a physical being.

Of the Holy Spirit he stated: ‘Paul not only believed that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead; he believed he knew how it was done, both in the sense of where the power came from (the Spirit of the creator God), and in the sense he knew what the difference was (corruptibility and non-corruptibility) between the body which died on the cross and the body which rose’ (RSG 360).
I have yet to read Carnley.
[7]

You complain about the apparent biblical contradiction re Jesus’ resurrection:

Peter: ‘The maze of biblical texts that deal with the Resurrection, many of which are at cross purposes, even to themselves as to the nature of Jesus’ risen body. For example, the appearance of Jesus in the locked room in John 20:19-28 both affirms the bodily reality of the risen Christ as the one bearing the wounds of crucifixion and, in contradiction, one who can appear and disappear at will.[8]

Spencer: That’s not contradiction unless you have a presupposition that Jesus’ resurrected body had to be the same as the body he had before the crucifixion. N T Wright explains this well, using the term ‘transphysicality’ to describe the nature of the resurrected body – many qualities that were physical (Jesus talked, could be touched, and he ate food) and other qualities in the 2 examples you gave of something beyond the physical, i.e. transphysical.

The same applies on the Emmaus’ Rd with the transphysicality of the resurrected Lord.

It’s not a matter of the two texts wanting it ‘both ways’ – Jesus physical and non-physical. That’s what the biblical texts state. Why can’t you accept that instead of hypothesising your contradiction? It doesn’t exist, except in your presuppositions.[9]

Peter: I feel like I am repeating myself here. How does a physical body that is “more than physical” because it has been made immortal appear and disappear at will and be unrecognised by the disciples on the Emmaus road and to May[10] (sic) in John? And I repeat, how does this physical body ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of God? One can only believe that the resurrection was physical by ignoring the things that make it unthinkable and thus untransmissible (sic). Certainly, it is important for all the NY[11] (sic) writers to portray the resurrection as physical because the risen Jesus would have to be the crucified one, complete with the wounds of crucifixion of Jesus’ death for any idea of him taking our place can be credited. This lies at the base of our understanding of the incarnation as the kenotic hymn found in Philippians bears witness.

About the Spirit. You object that Wright takes the Spirit seriously but It is interesting that he has to quote the Mishna to do so. Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars, that he could not think that the Jews of Jesus’ time could think otherwise that in the tradition. Most of the NT undermines this approach.
Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are. The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with the fact the bible is an historical document compiled by men seeking the truth in their own lights. The world has changed! We no longer live in their time or see the world as they see it.
As for “transphysicality” that is just speculation. What is the biblical basis for it? It is just an argument invented by Wright to solve a central contradiction to his scheme.
Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit.
[12]

Spencer: You are repeating yourself.

How did Jesus’ resurrected physical body appear and disappear? That’s based on the fact it was more than physical. N T Wright’s word, ‘transphysicality’ (which he placed in inverted commas) was a created word that covered the reality of what happened.

Others now use ‘transphysical’, e.g. http://ericweiss.com/the-long-trajectory-10-transphysical-humans.[13]

Peter: ‘Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars’.[14]

Spencer: That seems to be Carnley’s presupposition. I’ll make my judgment after reading his book.

Peter: ‘Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are’.[15]

Spencer: This demonstrates your low view of biblical authority (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Paul and Matthew were writing God-breathed / inspired Scripture, which you reject by your statement that these 2 writers ‘may have believed’ in a physical resurrection. In his massive body of research, Wright has demonstrated it was a physical resurrection with extra-physical qualities that he called ‘transphysical’.
Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture: Paul’s ‘letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16).
[16]

Peter: ‘The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with….’[17]

Spencer: There you go again with your pejorative Appeal to Ridicule Logical Fallacy, http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/42/Appeal-to-Ridicule.

We cannot have a rational dialogue when you resort to fallacious reasoning like this. I’m an evangelical, born again Christian, just like the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. Would you call him a ‘fundamentalist’ and put him down like you’ve done to me? Would you call the evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, a ‘fundamentalist reader’?[18]

Peter: ‘Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit’.[19]

Spencer: Do you deny Jesus was a man of human flesh?[20]

Peter: ‘On the authority of the bible. My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible is that they mistake the sign for the thing signified. The bible is the human witness (sign) to the Word (signified). Scripture does not record that the Word became a book, but became flesh in the body of Jesus’.[21]

Spencer: This is false again. You push your presuppositions. God-breathed Scripture is recorded in the Book of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is a fact.
For Paul who wrote this under the inspiration of the Spirit, he referred primarily to the Old Testament Scripture. Where was that contained in the first century? On papyri, parchment, ostraca, etc. God’s revelation was in written form.
http://www.josh.org/materials-scribes-used-bible/

We know how the New Testament was transmitted in writing and now you give your opinion:[22]

Peter: ‘The bible is man’s attempt to bear witness to this object’.[23]

Spencer: The Gospel of Luke demolishes your thesis:

‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke compiled a narrative and wrote an orderly account. He didn’t have an existential experience of faith. He received the messages from eyewitnesses.
Your replies constantly regurgitate your presuppositional bias against the God-breathed written Scripture. I don’t worship the Book of Scripture but God has revealed himself through this Book.
[24]

Peter: ‘My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’[25].

Spencer: There you go again with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy: http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/1/Ad-Hominem-Abusive.
If you were to meet the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord George Carey (whose beliefs are similar to mine), would you label his ‘fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’? How about evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies? Will you resort to fallacious reasoning with these two evangelical Anglican leaders?
[26]

Peter: Yes.[27]

Spencer: You resort to erroneous reasoning to evade dealing with the issues between Evangelicalism and your Liberalism. Therefore, to have a rational conversation with you is impossible. Trying to be rational with irrational reasoning is like jumping the electric fence without getting an electrical shock. It’s nigh impossible to reason with the unreasonable – those who use logical fallacies, like Peter.

You decided not to comment on any other portion of my post than the last question.

It’s unusual for you that you are short of words, especially when your world view is exposed for its weaknesses.[28]

Peter: ‘What you fail to understand is that Evangelicalism is a product of modernity. It is a way of thinking that is completely under the control of the current culture the insists on material evidence’.
Spencer: This is a false assessment. Evangelicalism is a product of the Evangel, the Good News, that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

It is a direct result of Jesus’ command to his disciples:

‘Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Evangelicalism is not a cultural creation but a biblical mandate from Jesus Himself.
Peter: ‘It does not represent mainstream theological thought i.e. the thought of the Church fathers or the doctors of the church’.
Spencer: This is false again. One of the leading Church Fathers, Irenaeus, refuted your statement:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, — [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine’ (Against Heresies, Bk 2, 11.7).

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (fourth century) wrote: ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest anyone should glory in his deeds and thereby incur sin’ (In Ps. 43 Enarr. 14, Explanations of Twelve Psalms of David).

Evangelicalism is not a recent invention. ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works’ (Ambrose).

Peter: ‘That Wright produces a book that has to resort to made-up concepts’.[29]

Spencer: You gave not one example while you berated N. T. Wright, an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar, with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.[30]
Peter: [They are concepts] fraught with contradictions and as such is unthinkable, demonstrates the basic weakness of this methodology’.[31]
Spencer: Not one example again and it’s a Red Herring fallacy.[32]
Peter: ‘In other words, this is a prime example of the failure of the Evangelical mind. It is no wonder that our secular society would not be caught dead in a church that insists that our intellect be left at the door. This is why I give you a hard time, because you have mistaken belief for faith and have closed the door to anyone who asks the simplest questions’.[33]
Spencer: Some of the finest contemporary scholars are/were Evangelicals: William Lane Craig, D A Carson, R C H Lenski, Norman Geisler, Australian Anglican ancient historian Dr Paul Barnett, the late Anglican Dr Leon Morris, Alister McGrath, Oxford Professor John Lennox, F F Bruce, Carl F H Henry, Gleason Archer, Craig Blomberg, Anglican theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, Lord George Carey, Wayne Grudem, Kenneth Kitchen, Anglican J I Packer, Ravi Zacharias, etc.

Your claim of Evangelicals kicking the intellect out the door commits a straw man fallacy. [34]
Peter: ‘BTW you still have not given me an answer to the question “where are the bones of Jesus”’.[35]
Spencer: Ever heard of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension?? In your worldview you want Jesus’ bones. In my worldview, I accept what the authoritative Scriptures state and you will never find Jesus’ bones on earth – NEVER. He did not rot in the grave.[36]

Peter: Archaeologists could dig up bones that are identified with Jesus. Your whole belief is vulnerable to a fact because it rests on a fact.[37]

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Spencer: If you believed the Scriptures you would not make those confusing statements. There is zero chance that archaeologists will dig up his body because of the biblical details surrounding his Ascension.
Luke recorded it as it happened for Jesus’ ascension:

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-9 NIV).[38]

Peter: If the bones of Jesus will never be found on earth where are they to be found? The only answer is that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.[39]

Spencer: The answer is in the above text: ‘He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight’ (Acts 1:9).

It doesn’t state that the spiritual Jesus ascended. ‘He’, the one standing with his disciples, ascended. It was not his spirit that went up into the cloud. You regularly push for an understanding that is beyond what the text states. [40]

This is postmodern reader-response deconstruction where Peter deconstructs the biblical text and imposes his own meaning on it. He does not allow the writer’s intended meaning to shine forth.

Peter: Thus we have the usual problem of the mixture between material and spiritual. Which is it? Is heaven a material place?[41]

Spencer: You don’t like the language of N T Wright that the resurrected Jesus’ body was transphysical. Factually, it was more than physical. And this same Jesus ‘will come back … from heaven’.

We know heaven is a place, based on the testimony of Jesus: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2).

For you to even ask if heaven is a ‘material place’ demonstrates you refuse to believe what Jesus said about its being a ‘place’. The ‘rooms’ or ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 are from the transliterated Greek word, mone (pronounced monay) which has the sense of ‘assured residence’ or ‘assured home’.

As for it being a ‘material place’ composed of material from this current universe, we know this will not be a ‘material place’ with materials from this present world. ‘In keeping with his [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet 3:13).

Eminent Australian Anglican commentator of the Gospel of John, the late Dr Leon Morris, stated:

“My Father’s house” clearly refers to heaven. The meaning of “mansions” is not so clear. It seems better understood as “permanent residences” than as “steps along the way of development”…. “Many” should not be misinterpreted as though it signified for all. “The phrase means that there is room and to spare for all the redeemed in heaven” (Morris 1971:638-639).[42]

Peter: This argument is becoming rather strange. If heaven is a material place then it must take up space in the universe. It is not on earth but must be extraterrestrial. Behind the moon is no good, we have looked. Likewise, anywhere else in the Solar system. Of course, it could be quite a few light-years away in another part of our galaxy. This is my last post on this thread.[43]

Spencer: It is strange because you make it that way. What did Jesus say about heaven? ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NRSV).
Jesus did not state it was ‘a material place’. Neither did I.
You are promoting your postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response hermeneutic again.
[44]

Peter decided to quit the conversation at this point.

Conclusion

For details of some of Dr Peter Carnley’s unorthodox theology (not discussed here), see: Peter Carnley.

This communication with the author of the article, Peter Sellick, demonstrates what happens when he rejects the authority of Scripture and invents his own meaning through postmodern, deconstructionist interpretation of the Bible. In this case he had two eminent scholars opposed to each other in regard to Jesus’ resurrection. Even though he compares the theology of Jesus’ resurrection between Carnley and Wright, he essentially defends his and Carnley’s non-bodily resurrection with Wright’s extensive research into the biblical text to support the soma/bodily resurrection.

To that he adds what is not in the text and gives his view of what the text states. It is known as reader-response interpretation that is similar to allegorical interpretation. He doesn’t interpret by gaining the meaning out of the text (exegesis) but imposes his meaning on the text. It also is similar to eisegesis.

It is impossible to reach a solid biblical conclusion with someone who does not deal with a plain, literal meaning of the text. See my article on what literal interpretation means: What is literal interpretation? Literal interpretation incorporates the use of figures of speech.

Works consulted

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Image result for clipart He Is Risen public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Notes:


[1] Sellick is ‘an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences’. In one of his replies to me (OzSpen) in another article, he claimed to be a follower of Karl Barth but my understanding of contemporary theology places him in realm of liberal theology. You will note his aversion to Evangelical Christianity which, he claims, is for the uneducated.

[2] Occasionally in this interchange I have added material like the content of what Irenaeus stated. The additions are few and they were designed to clarify and amplify a little.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[4] This is a claim in the article to which I respond.

[5] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[6] From his article.

[7] Spencer’s comments prior to this were Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM, http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20416 (Accessed 31 July 2019).

[8] From his article.

[9] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 4:59:36 PM

[10] Should be ‘many’.

[11] Should be NT as acronym for New Testament.

[12] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[13] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[14] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[15] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[16] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[17] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[18] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[19] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[20] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[21] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[22] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[23] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[24] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[25] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[26] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM,

[27] This was Posted by Sells, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 12:26:43 PM.

[28] Posted by OzSpen, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 5:53:32 PM.

[29] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[30] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[31] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[32] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[33] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[34] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[35] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[36] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[37] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[38] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[39] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[40] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[41] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[42] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 6:02:11 PM.

[43] Posted by Sells, Friday, 2 August 2019 6:46:02 PM.

[44] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 2 August 2019 7:54:11 PM.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 04 August 2019.

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Unpacking 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Is trichotomy supported?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Image result for Bible image 1 Thessalonians 5:23

(image courtesy Heartlight)

I examine the controversial verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV): ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

On the surface this appears straight forward. People are made of three parts: spirit, soul and body. That’s signed, sealed and delivered. It’s as clear as crystal! Or, is it?

This verse is not an easy one to interpret for some of the following reasons. Are people tripartite beings – body, soul and spirit? Or are they bipartite – body and soul/spirit, with soul and spirit being interchangeable words for a person’s unseen, inner being?

It has caused long hours of study by Bible exegetes over the years. Commentator William Hendriksen gave his researched conclusions in 5 pages of small font in his commentary (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1983:146-150).

1. Introduction

Through the Judeo-Christian centuries, there have been three main views on the nature of human beings. They are:

1.1 Trichotomy

Human beings consist of body, soul and spirit. This was held by the Greek church fathers and has its origin with the Greek philosopher, Plato. This appears to be the view supported by 1 Thess 5:23. However, it’s the only NT verse I could find that stated this trichotomous view of people.

Kim Riddlebarger’s (2010) assessment was:

With its roots in Plato’s distinction between body and soul, and Aristotle’s further division of soul into “animal” and “rational” elements, the trichotomist notion of human nature as tri-partite is unmistakably Greek and pagan, rather than Hebrew and biblical. As Louis Berkhof notes, “the most familiar but also the crudest form of trichotomy is that which takes the body for the material part of man’s nature, the soul as the principle of animal life, and the spirit as the God-related rational and immortal element in man” (Berkhof 1941:191).

1.2 Dichotomy

Dichotomy means that human beings consist of body and soul/spirit. The immaterial part of a human being is described as either soul or spirit. This is the view of the Latin speaking Western theology in the early centuries of the church.

1.3 Unitarian or unitary

This view ‘rejects any kind of dualism. Man is simply made of the physical stuff of which the body is made. There is no soul, or spirit, or immaterial part of man that is distinct from the body’ (Craig 2009).

Therefore, I will not give a simplistic answer, especially in light of these …

2. Challenging verses

Le Brun, Charles - The Martyrdom of St. Andrew - Google Art Project.jpg(image of martyrdom of St. Andrew, courtesy Commons Wikimedia)

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’ here.

Matt 22:37 (NIV): ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 8:36 (NLT): ‘And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 12:30 (NIV): ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Acts 20:10 (NASB): ‘But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life [psuche] is in him.”’ Psuche is rightly translated as ‘life’. The term for ‘spirit’ is not used here.

1 Cor 2:14-15 (NASB), ‘But a natural [psuchikos] man does not accept the things of the Spirit [pneuma] of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [pneumatikos] appraised. But he who is spiritual [pneumatikos] appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one’.

So, the adjectives based on psuche (soul) and pneuma (spirit) are different in meaning.

1 Cor 7:34 (NIV), ‘An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband’. No ‘soul’ is used here.

Rom 1:9 (NIV), ‘God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you’. No ‘soul’ or ‘body’ here.

Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’. Soul and spirit are clearly different words and they can be ‘divided’ according to this verse.

What does it mean to penetrate ‘even to dividing soul and spirit’?

1 Pet 3:9 (NIV): ‘After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits….’ No ‘souls’ here.

Rev 8:9 (NASB): ‘and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life [psuche], died; and a third of the ships were destroyed’. No ‘spirit’ here.

3. William Hendricksen’s conclusions

He provides exegesis in his commentary to support this conclusion:

a. The trichotomistic appearance of the passage is considerably reduced as soon as it is seen that the words in dispute are found not in one clause but in two clauses:

hence not: “And may your spirit and soul and body be kept …”

but

“And without flaw may be your spirit,

and your soul-and-body

…………………………….

May it be kept.”

But thus rendering the passage we can do justice to its grammatical syntax and even to its word-order [and may your the spirit, the soul, and the body be preserved (completely) whole].

b. Every trace of trichotomy which still remains can be obliterated in one of these ways:

(1) by considering the word “soul” to have the same meaning as “spirit,” the change from “spirit” to “soul” having been introduced for stylistic reasons. This eliminates trichotomy.

(2) by accepting the position that although both “spirit” and “soul” refer to the same immaterial substance (hence, no trichotomy here either!), this substance is viewed first (in one clause) from the aspect of its relation to God – the “spirit” being man’s power of grasping divine things, his invisible essence viewed as a recipient of divine influences and as an organ of divine worship – ; then, in the next clause, from the aspect of its relation to the lower realm, as the seat of sensations, affections, desires. This could well be the true element in theory e.

If a choice must be made, I would prefer this second alternative. It is in harmony with the distinction between the two words which is present elsewhere (as has been shown). There is also an interesting parallel in a somewhat similar passage, Heb. 4:12, where it is obvious that the two words have distinct meanings.

The main point has been proved, namely, that, either way, every trace of trichotomy has disappeared (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1984:150).

I have a problem with this kind of explanation as it seems to be a begging the question logical fallacy (circular reasoning) where the non-trichotomous view (dichotomy) is assumed at the beginning and leads to the same non-trichotomous (dichotomous) conclusion.

For a detailed discussion of the difficulties with this verse, see the commentary in Hendriksen & Kistemaker (1955/1985:146-150).

3.1 A better explanation

Let’s look at the Greek construction of 1 Thess 5:23 (transliterated): hagiazw hymeis holoteleskai kai terew hymeis ho pneuma kai ho psyche kai ho swma terew holokleros ...

The literal translation is: ‘and may [the God of peace] sanctify you completely your (the) spirit and the soul and the body be preserved (completely) whole’.

Therefore, the meaning is not to develop support for a trichotomous view of human beings but for a holistic view of people. Lenski explained:

The question is simple: “is man composed of two or of three parts?” In other words, can spirit and soul be divided as soul and body can? A reference to Heb. 4:12 does not establish the affirmative. Man’s material part can be separated from his immaterial part; but the immaterial part cannot be divided; it is not a duality of spirit and soul.

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates. Death is described as the spirit’s leaving the body and as the soul’s leaving, for it is the sundering of the immaterial from the material (Lenski 1937:366-367).

4. A simpler explanation

Let’s examine Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’.

This verse states that we can differentiate between a human being’s unseen part and what is seen. But it is not decisive in dividing soul from spirit. From other Scriptures such as 1 Cor 2:14-15 and 1 Thess 5:23 we find the immaterial part of the “spirit” relating to God and are able to discern God’s Spirit and Scripture. The immaterial part, called the “soul” indicates that which relates to life in the body and is associated with perceptions and desires – often carnal.

Also, at death what happens? Is it the soul or spirit that leaves the body?

4.1 At death, the soul leaves the body:

Genesis 35:18 (ESV): ‘And as her [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin’.

Matt 10:28 (ESV): ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].

Rev 6:9 (NIV): ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne’.

4.2 However, the spirit leaves the body at death:

Painting of a ship sinking by the bow, with people rowing a lifeboat in the foreground and other people in the water. Icebergs are visible in the background.(Painting “Untergang der Titanic” by Willy Stower, 1912, ‘ the sinking of the Titanic’, courtesy Wikipedia)

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

Eccl 12:7 (ESV): ‘and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’.

Luke 23:36 (ESV): ‘Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last’.

Luke 8:54-55 (ESV): ‘But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given to her to eat’.

Is this sending a contradictory message about the naming and function of the immaterial part of a human being? Some verses state the soul leaves the body at death while others take the view the spirit departs from the body. How do we resolve this difficulty?

5. Conclusion

There is enough biblical evidence to indicate that at death the immaterial part (whether named soul or spirit) leaves the body. i.e. the immaterial part leaves the material body to go to the Intermediate State to be with God or separated from God. The biblical data indicate the immaterial part of the human being is called soul or spirit. They are interchangeable words.

The Intermediate State is where all people go at death and it is not the grave. Only the body rots in the grave. See my article, The Intermediate State for believers and unbelievers: Where do they go at death?

John Calvin stated: ‘We, following the whole doctrine of God, will hold for certain that man is composed and consisteth of two parts, that is to say, body and soul’.

Leading apologist, William Lane Craig, in dialogue with a student stated:

When we get to the New Testament, it is indisputable that the language of the New Testament is dualistic throughout. You constantly have the dualism between soul and body, or spirit and body. No one denies that the language of the New Testament is dualistic. The only question is: is this to be taken literally, this dualistic language?

Here I think the answer is that this is meant to be taken literally especially when it concerns the intermediate state of the soul after death. When you have the intermediate state of the dead in Christ described, it is very evident that these persons are still existent, that they are in communion with Christ, and are awaiting the resurrection. In other words, it is exactly the traditional Jewish view that we have attested in the intertestamental Jewish literature.

The only difference is that the souls of the righteous dead are said to be with Christ, not kept in treasuries or chambers or sockets, but rather they have gone to be with Christ. So there is a Christian spin on it, but it is the traditional Jewish dualistic view (Craig 2009).

However, eminent Old Testament scholar, Gleason Archer, wrote of 1 Thess 5:23, ‘Quite clearly, then, the spirit is distinct from the soul, or else these verses add up to tautological nonsense. We therefore conclude that man is not dichotomic (to use the technical theological term) but trichotomic’ (Archer 1982:260).

In spite of Archer’s protestations, the evidence points to the soul and spirit being evidence for the unseen part of human beings.

I find Lenski’s explanation (as above) one of the simplest and soundest I’ve read to explain 1 Thess 5:23 and Heb 4:12,

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates.

6. Works consulted

Archer, G L 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House). Available online HERE.

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Craig, W L 2009. The doctrine of man (Part 5). Reasonable Faith (podcast online), 15 March. Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-man/the-doctrine-of-man-part-5/ (Accessed 23 June 2019).

Hendriksen, W & Kistemaker, S J 1955/1984. New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1937 and assigned in 1961 by Augsburg Publishing House).

Riddlebarger, K 2010. Trichotomy: A Beachhead for Gnostic Influences. Reformed Perspectives, vol 12, no 47, November 21-27. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ekim_riddlebarger%5Ekim_riddlebarger.Trichotomy.html&at=Trichotomy. (Accessed 31 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 August 2019

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Censorship of Israel Folau’s views

By Spencer D Gear PhD

(Israel Folau playing for Australia in 2008. Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of words in my current vocabulary:

  • Rugby league
  • Theology
  • Facts
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Adultery
  • Homosexual marriage
  • Election

Would you have every right to call me homophobic and say nothing more about anything else in that list?

Shouldn’t I also be leagophobic, theophobic, factaphobic, faithaphobic, familophobic, adulterophobic or electophobic? These are my invented words to cover the nouns in the list above.

To say otherwise would make you a person who censors what I discuss and falsely labels who I am. What is someone who is homophobic? According to Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019. s.v. homophobic), it means ‘having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people’.

Mentioning the terms, homosexuals or homosexual marriage, does not make anyone homophobic because it says nothing about their like or dislike of homosexuals. The context is needed to clarify such conclusions.

When I upload this article to my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge’, I expect some to label me falsely as being homophobic, simply by mentioning homosexual. It’s a phoney label for my views.

Why take one item from my list and make it into news – fake news? Surely it’s driven by a contemporary political correctness that is irrational?

1. Folau’s fateful post

That is what has happened to champion Rugby Union player Israel Folau as a result of his personal post on Instagram on 10 April 2019:

Instagram (image courtesy SBS: The Feed, 11 April 2019)

One word, ‘homosexuals’, was reefed from this list to accuse Folau, who calls himself a Christian, of being homophobic. Why could that be?

It’s a cultural subject and behaviour that is gaining in public and mass media popularity. How dare Folau use that favoured word in his list of sins needing repentance through Jesus Christ!

This is blatant bigotry and censorship, in my view, that picks one word to send Folau to Rugby Gehenna.

2. Headlines

What kinds of mass media stories would be fair from this Instagram post? ‘Drunks are heading for the pit’; ‘Liars will reap their lying crop’, or ‘Adulterers will burn in Hades’.

Instead, the one word is isolated to brand Folau homophobic. See how homosexuality is favoured in these articles:

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

3. Statement by NSW Rugby Union

Part of the statement of termination of Folau’s contract by Rugby Australia was:

“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated” (Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union statement regarding Israel Folau, 11 April 2019).

Folau did not mention homosexuals only. Does the NSW Rugby Union want liars, drunks, promiscuous, and thieves hanging around their football grounds? Why single out sexuality, race, gender and religion, especially homosexuality and not adultery and fornication (mentioned by Folau)?

4. Freedom of speech in Australia.

What prevents Folau from making openly Christian statements in the public square? Is he not guaranteed freedom of speech as an elite sportsman?

The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department has defined this freedom:

The right to freedom of opinion is the right to hold opinions without interference, and cannot be subject to any exception or restriction.

The right to freedom of expression extends to any medium, including written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right is not absolute. It carries with it special responsibilities, and may be restricted on several grounds. For example, restrictions could relate to filtering access to certain internet sites, the urging of violence or the classification of artistic material (What is the right to freedom of opinion and expression?)

(image courtesy Clip Art Mag)

From where does this freedom of opinion come? ‘Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is contained in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)I.

Radio 2GB talk-back host, Alan Jones, defended Folau, saying this issue has ‘nothing to do with Israel, or Rugby, or religion, or homosexuals. Where are we in this country on free speech?’

Macquarie Sports Radio host, James Willis, opposed Jones, stating that Rugby Australia has every right to terminate his contract:

“By signing up and accepting the $4 million that Israel Folau did, part of the contract was not putting anything on social media that may potentially offend.

“12 months ago he was hauled in and told, ‘please do not do that again’, and he agreed to. He resigned and then 12 months later has done so again”.

What are the issues at stake:

(1) Freedom of speech,

(2) Freedom of religion,

(3) Eliminating fake news where only one word (homosexuals) is chosen when many more were in the Instagram message; and

(4) Folau’s integrity in abiding by the terms of his contract.

5. Origin of Folau’s quote

Almost all of the now famous Instagram quote is straight from the Christian Scriptures:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were (1 Cor 6:9-11).

That text does not say that these sinners will go to hell, but that they ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’. That’s the same end in biblical terms as ‘hell awaits you’ (Folau’s quote).

The Scriptures tell who will end in Hades/Hell after this life: ‘Then he will say to those on his left (the unrighteous), “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”’ (Matt 25:41).

6. My counsel to Folau

To Israel I say: You are a superb rough and tumble professional rugby player. You are not an expert lawn bowler. However, all Christians are to grow in the fruit of the Spirit which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

While your Instagram quote was faithful to biblical teaching, it was not presented with kindness and gentleness, in my view. You also sent these sinners to hell, when 1 Corinthians 6 says they ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’, which I find to be a less confronting way of dealing with the reality of what happens after death.

I commend you for your stand for Christian truth in the public square, but have unwise words cost you your sporting career?

See also:

   Israel Folau: When diversity means censorship

   Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 01 August 2019.

Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:

‘ACL[1] managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).

The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:

In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.

“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).

1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge

I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.

I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …

  • Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
  • A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
  • Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.

Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.

I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.

The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (
Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).

2. Christian woman disagrees

A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church[2] established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:

  • When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
  • The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
  • She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
  • She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
  • Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
  • Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
  • She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
  • Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
  • The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
  • What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
  • The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
  • Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.

3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.

Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:[3]

Izzy began:

To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6

2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018

Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.

What is the Jesus Only false teaching?

Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).

As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism,[4] Monarchianism,[5] and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).

3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology

I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:

  • “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.

This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).

Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.[6]

  •  Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’

What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.

If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration[7] and glossolalist regeneration,[8] both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.

This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.

3.2 False teaching affirmed

As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:

Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).

In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.

4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy

Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?

If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.

Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

clip_image003Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

Politipower provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[9] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.

This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.

Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.

These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.

5. Conclusion

I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.

He belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.

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(image courtesy christart.com)

6. Works consulted

Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).

news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

7.  Notes

[1] ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[2] Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).

[3] Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).

[4] See: Michael 2013. Is modalism biblical? Youth Apologetics Training (online), 12 June. Available at: http://youthapologeticstraining.com/modalism/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[5] See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[6] Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[7] To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[8] See the article, Tongues and baptism for salvation. Let Us Reason Ministries. Available at: http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes15.htm (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[9] The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 July 2019.

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Journalist is out of biblical depth

 

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 

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(photo Israel Folau courtesy The South African)

 

I came across this excellent secular article by Harry Richardson in The Pickering Post, ‘Israel Sparks a Holy War’, 21 April 2019

I consider it to be an excellent well constructed defence of Folau from a secular source. In the article, he makes it obvious he is not supportive of supernatural Christianity.
I’d like to pick up on one of Richardson’s comments: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that equality is a virtue. Tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity don’t get a mention either‘.

How does this statement line up with biblical content?

  • If equality is not a virtue, how do we interpret Adam & Eve being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and after the Fall, human beings were still said to be in God’s image (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7) and likeness of God (James 3:9). Does that mean the Bible teaches equality by all of us being made in God’s image?

For an explanation of the meaning of human beings being made in God’s image, see: ‘What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)?’ (Got Questions 2019)

  • What about the warning against prejudice/favouritism in James 2 (NLT)?
  • Equality as a virtue is taught in Rom 2:11, ‘For God does not show favoritism’. Human beings demonstrate inequality but God doesn’t.
  • As for tolerance, it is a Christian virtue. As a foundation for life and the nations, it is the belief that the truth will come out eventually. This is a Christian understanding of tolerance: ‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love’ (Eph 4:2). In fact, the Christian advocates much more than tolerance. We are told to love our neighbours and our enemies (Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27-36);
  • Is inclusiveness a biblical virtue? Yes it is (see Gal 3:28 for believers). What about for unbelievers? See Mark 2:15-17 (NLT).
  • Diversity is promoted in the multiplicity of gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:11-12; Rom 12:6-8).

I think Richardson should take a couple Bible courses such as ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ and ‘Survey of the Bible’. He doesn’t know his Bible well enough to make an informed comment like he has made.

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 July 2019.

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Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo of Cameron Bancroft’s cricket ball-tampering, courtesy thesportsrush.com)

This article first appeared in Australia’s e-journal, On Line Opinion, on 13 April 2018, Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us.

Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018. Smith and Warner were banned from all forms of professional cricket for a year while the penalty was a ban of 9 months for Bancroft.

They could play local grade cricket and engage in coaching around the world but could not engage in professional cricket at any level.

Why did they do it? Smith admitted, “We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we’re deeply regrettable”. Bancroft admitted, ‘I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition’.

It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket’s rules and not being in ‘the spirit of the game’. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

1.  The bigger problem

I have not read the mainstream media’s diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.

There’s a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?

2.  ‘We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus.’

This would not be a theme in the mass media’s diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that’s too religious for worldly-wise readers.

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The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) So, the headline should be: ‘A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers’. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering ‘virus’.

We saw it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.

3.  The cricketers need consequences BUT….

I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.

This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…

4.  The heart of the matter

The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It’s a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.

You’ll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.

(photo of rugby league player sent to the sin bin, courtesy Wikipedia)

Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi.

This is a problem that a secular society doesn’t want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.

What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God’s standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).

It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.

I, the writer, am infected with the same ‘disease’. I’ve lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my way’. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God’s power.

5.  Cricketers sought forgiveness

Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?

It’s for all who seek God’s forgiveness.

When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: ‘I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.’

Bancroft explained: ‘It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness‘.

Warner: ‘I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It’s extremely regrettable. I’m very sorry‘ (31 March 2018).

When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: ‘I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow’.

6.  What is forgiveness?

It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus’ crucifixion – to provide forgiveness for sin.

To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.

The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God’s unconditional love has changed a person, ‘it keeps no record of being wronged’.

Wouldn’t it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.

The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.

7.  Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.

I anticipate some harsh opposition:

  • That’s only your opinion;
  • You’re forcing your religious view on people;
  • It’s propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
  • How dare you push religion like this!

This originally was an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer’s views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time. For objections to the content of my article seee the ‘Comments’ section. Note some of the logical fallacies used by commentors rather than dealing with the issues I raised.

8.  Telling the truth

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(image courtesy YouTube)

One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That’s the truth, the reality.

A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.

The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.

These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.

9. The solution

There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved’.

Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ’s salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.

What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, ‘I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It’s my identity‘.

There is a permanent solution to the ‘cricket cheating’ disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 April 2018.

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How to understand three persons in the Trinity

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(image courtesy slideplayer.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I refer you to my previous articles that document the biblical teaching on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each being regarded as God. The second link below raises some objections to the Trinity.

clip_image004 Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

clip_image004[1] Problems with the Trinity

This study begins with an assessment of some indications of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit of the Trinity in the Old Testament. It also deals with actions of the separate Persons in the Trinity throughout the Bible.

1. Hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament [1]

This is not a comprehensive list but give a few indications of the Trinity in the Old Testament.

1.1 Plural nouns and pronouns are applied to God

See: Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:6, 7; 20:13; 48:15; Isa. 6:8. The plurality of the Godhead also is indicated in Gen 1:1, 26 and 48:15-16.

For example, Gen 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. The word translated ‘God’ is Elohim. It is an abstract plural.

The term includes, as a plural, all persons in the Trinity but itself does not declare the fact. There is a plurality of persons. It is a title, not a name, denoting either intensification of the original meaning, or is a plural of that majesty which is deity (Stigers 1976:50).

Francis Schaeffer explained this with precision for our contemporary culture:

When we read, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we are not left with something hung in a vacuum: Something existed before creation and that something was personal and not static; the Father loved the Son; there was a plan; there was communication; and promises were made prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. This whole conception is rooted in the reality of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, Christianity would not have the answers that modern man needs (Schaeffer 1976:18).

1.2  God’s name is plural (Elohim) and the verb is singular.

The verb, “Come,” in Gen. 11:7 is really in the plural and must be addressed to at least two others. This seems not to be the angels as God SENDS them. The NLT translates as, “Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other”.

Neither is Gen. 1:26 addressed to angels because in the next verse we are told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (ESV), or as in the NLT, ‘So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

2. More OT indicators of plurality in unity

This sounds like strange language but there is biblical evidence that indicates …

2.1  Jehovah is distinguished from Jehovah

See Gen. 19:24 and Hosea 1:7. Genesis 19:24 (NIV) states: ‘Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven’. There are intricacies in this text in understanding how the ‘LORD rained’ and ‘from the LORD out of heaven’.

One of the finest commentaries with a high view of Scripture is by H C Leupold, Exposition of Genesis. Of Gen 19:24 he wrote:

The view which the church held on this problem from days of old is still the simplest and the best…. “God the Son brought down the rain from God the Father,” as the Council of Sirmium[2] worded the statement. To devaluate the statement of the text to mean less necessitates a similar process of devaluation of a number of other texts like Ge 1:26, and only by such a process can the claim be supported that there are no indications of the doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis. We believe the combined weight of these passages, including Ge 1:1, 2, makes the conclusion inevitable that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in a measure revealed in the Old Testament, and especially in Genesis (Leupold 1942:570).[3]

2.2  Jehovah has a son

See Ps. 2:7; cf. John 3:16, 18; 9:36; Rom. 1:7; Heb. 1:6). He was a son before he was “given” (Isa. 9:6); Micah 5:2 (ESV) “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days”; he is called “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6).

2.3 The Spirit is distinguished from God (the Father)

See Gen. 1:1-2; 6:3; Num. 27:18; Ps. 51:11; Isa. 40:13; 48:16; Hag. 2:4-5.

This is evident from Gen 1:1-2 (NET): ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water’.

Here, Elohim (God) created while Ruach (the Spirit of God) moved over the waters. We have plurality in the one God in action, thus providing early indications of the Trinity.

2.4 “The angel of Jehovah” is regarded as a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Logos, the Son

An exception is Hag. 1:13 where Haggai himself is the “messenger” which is the same word as “angel”.

Examples of the angel of the Lord manifestations include to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14); to Abraham (Gen. 22:11-18); to Moses (Ex. 3:2-5); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-7), etc. In Gen. 18, one of the “men” who appeared to Abraham is repeatedly represented as Jehovah (vv. 13, 17, 20, 22-23).

2.5  The three-some of Isa. 6:3 (“Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts”)

See also the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26) that could point to the Trinity. Although this is a three-fold benediction, there is only one God who blesses. cf. Rev. 4:8.

The Scriptures declare Father, Son and Holy Spirit each is God, as I’ve explained in the article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? How do we know these three are Persons in the Godhead?

3. How do Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate in the Godhead?

These diagrams by Wayne Grudem are the most helpful I’ve seen for explaining the Trinity, comparing false views with his orthodox understanding. Originally they were from Grudem (1994:253-258).[4]

clip_image006This (to the left) is an heretical view of the Trinity where God’s being is divided into three equal parts, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – thus making three Gods. The Athanasian Creed was written to address this error.

clip_image008Since I’m examining the personhood of each member of the Trinity, how can we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in unity and yet they are separate persons. ‘If each person is fully God and has all of God’s being, then we also should not think that the personal distinctions are any kind of additional attributes added on to the being of Go, like this pattern (to the left).

Human beings (and I’m one of them) find it difficult to comprehend the nature of the Trinitarian God. However, this teaching is straight from Scripture. Analogies fail and diagrams have disadvantages. It is essential doctrine that we understand ‘each person of the Trinity has all of the attributes of God, and no one person has any attributes that are not possessed by the others’ (Grudem 1994:253).

‘The three persons of the Trinity are not just three different ways of looking at the one being of God’.

clip_image010‘What are the differences between Father, Son and Holy Spirit? There is no difference in attributes at all. The only difference between them is the way they relate to each other and to the creation (Grudem 1994:254).

clip_image012While Grudem regarded the above three diagrams as flawed representations of the Trinity, he considered this diagram (to the left), although imperfect, was a representation of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.

Grudem explained:

In this diagram (to the left), the Father is represented as the section of the circle designated by F, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter F; the Son is represented as the section of the circle designated by S, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter S; and the Holy Spirit is represented as the section of the circle marked HS and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the HS. Thus, there are three distinct persons, but each person is fully and wholly God. Of course the representation is imperfect, for it cannot represent God’s infinity, or personality, or indeed any of his attributes. It also requires looking at the circle in more than one way in order to understand it: the dotted lines must be understood to indicate personal relationship, not any division in the one being of God. Thus, the circle itself represents God’s being while the dotted lines represent a form of personal existence other than a difference in being. But the diagram may nonetheless help guard against some misunderstanding….

Because the existence of three persons in one God is something beyond our understanding, Christian theology has come to use the word person to speak of these differences in relationship, not because we fully understand what is meant by the word person when referring to the Trinity, but rather so that we might say something instead of saying nothing at all.

Can We Understand the Doctrine of the Trinity? We should be warned by the errors that have been made in the past. They have all come about through attempts to simplify the doctrine of the Trinity and make it completely understandable, removing all mystery from it. This we can never do. However, it is not correct to say that we cannot understand the doctrine of the Trinity at all. Certainly we can understand and know that God is three persons, and that each person is fully God, and that there is one God. We can know these things because the Bible teaches them. Moreover, we can know some things about the way in which the persons relate to each other…. But what we cannot understand fully is how to fit together those distinct biblical teachings. We wonder how there can be three distinct persons, and each person have the whole being of God in himself, and yet God is only one undivided being. This we are unable to understand. In fact, it is spiritually healthy for us to acknowledge openly that God’s very being is far greater than we can ever comprehend. This humbles us before God and draws us to worship him without reservation (Grudem 1994:255-256).

I found Grudem’s diagrams of the errors and a suggested solution to be first-rate when confirming the deity of each person of the Trinity and noting expressing the differentiation of persons in the Godhead.

Louis Berkhof’s assessment is profound: ‘It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead’ (Berkhof 1939/1941:88)?

4. Duties of each person[5]

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(image courtesy slide 6, slideshare.net)

For practical purposes, what does each member of the Godhead do differently from the others? How do the ‘job descriptions’ differ?

Personhood normally has the attributes of

intellect, feeling, and will. All three of these characteristics are attributed to all three members of the Trinity in Scripture [which I’ll discuss below]. Essentially, personhood refers to an “I,” a “who,” or a subject. Each “I” in the Trinity possesses (by virtue of its common nature) the power to think, feel, and choose. Personhood itself is its I-ness or who-ness (Geisler 2003:379).

4.1  God the Father is a person

Which biblical evidence verifies the Father’s activities as that of a person (acting as ‘You’ or ‘He’):

The Father is a person who has attributes of personhood:

clip_image016Intellect: According to Matt 6:32, ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (NIV);

clip_image018Emotional attribute to feel: Gen 6:6 (NIV), ‘The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled‘.

clip_image020The will. The Father has power to choose. See Matt 6:9-10 (NIV), ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

clip_image022The ability to communicate: Matt 11:25, ‘At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children‘.

clip_image024Teach: “Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own'” (John 7:16).[6]

4.2   Jesus the God-man is a person

He demonstrates the attributes of personhood as demonstrated in Scripture:

clip_image016[1]He has the power of intellect according to John 2:25 (NLT), ‘No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart’.

clip_image018[1]He had feelings for people: ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). ‘But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep’ (Luke 19:41). Luke 10:21 exposes another side of Jesus’ emotions:

‘At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way”’ (Luke 10:21).

You may disagree that joy is a feeling or an emotion. What then is it?  This article from God Questions supports what I understand is the biblical view that joy is an emotion: Is there a difference between joy and happiness?

clip_image020[1]The will of Jesus: In John 6:38 Jesus declared, ‘For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will’. These three verses indicate Jesus had the power of the will:

Just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep….

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:15, 17-18).

clip_image025Jesus taught (attribute of a person): ‘Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.

As the God-man, Jesus had the characteristics of a physical being – a person: He became tired (John 4:6), got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He developed physical weakness (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). He had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).[7]

4.3  God the Holy Spirit is a person

Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit had attributes of personhood. ‘He’ was not an impersonal ‘it’.

clip_image016[2]John 14:26 demonstrates the Holy Spirit ‘reminds’ and teaches: ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’.

clip_image026Ephesians 4:30 expresses the feelings of the Holy Spirit: ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’. Also, ‘and so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven’ (Matt 12:31). The Spirit can be insulted: ‘So think how much more punishment people deserve who show their hate for the Son of God—people who show they have no respect for the blood sacrifice that began the new agreement and once made them holy or who insult the Spirit of God’s grace’ (Heb 11:29 ERV).

clip_image020[2]This is another dimension of the Holy Spirit’s feelings: ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers’ (Acts 9:31).

1 Corinthians 12:11 demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has a will to dispense the gifts: ‘It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have’ (NLT).

clip_image025[1]John 16:13 refers to the ‘Spirit of truth’ with the Greek masculine, ekeinos, i.e. ‘He’ and not ‘it’, although pneuma (Spirit) is neuter gender: ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come’ (NIV)

The Person of the Holy Spirit has the attributes of being a ‘he’ who guides, speaks and hears.

clip_image027There is more NT evidence that the Spirit ‘searches, knows, speaks, testifies, reveals, convinces, commands, strives, moves, helps, guides, creates, recreates, sanctifies, inspires, intercedes, orders the affairs of the church, and performs miracles (see Gen 6:3; Luke 12:12; John 3:8; 16:7-8; Acts 8:29; Rom 8:26; 1 Cor 2:11; Eph 4:30; 2 Peter 1:21, etc’.[8]

4.4  Communication within the Godhead[9]

Another dimension to better understand the persons in the Trinity is to be aware of the ‘many times in Scripture one member of the Trinity is speaking to another. This indicates that they are not one and the same person’ (Geisler 2003:288).

4 .4.1  The Father speaks to the Son

Hebrews 1:5 (quoting Psalm 2:7) states: ‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”’.

Psalm 110:1 states, ‘The Lord (Father) says to my Lord (Son): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’ (ESV). Jesus used this Scripture to demonstrate his deity in Matt 22:41-46.

See also Psalm 45:6-7; Heb 1:8-9 and three examples where God, the Father, spoke from heaven approving Jesus Christ, the Son (Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28).

4.4.2  The Son speaks to the Father

In Zechariah 1:12 we read: ‘Upon hearing this, the angel of the Lord [regarded as the Son] prayed this prayer: “O Lord [Yahweh] of Heaven’s Armies, for seventy years now you have been angry with Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. How long until you again show mercy to them?”’ (NLT) Yahweh, the ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3:14 is the name reserved for God alone.

Both Father and Son are referred to in Prov 30:4 (NLT),

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

In the NT there is a similar emphasis of the Son communicating with the Father:

clip_image029John 17:1, ‘After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you”’.

clip_image030Luke 23:46, ‘Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last’.

4.4.3  The Spirit acting separately from the Father and the Son, but connected  with personal acts performed by them

Strong (1907:325) explained:[10]

Matt. 3:16 – 17, “ And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”; Luke 3:21- 22, ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’.

4.4.4  The three persons speaking together

These are but three examples:

clip_image032Isaiah 63:7-10 (ESV):

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord [Father] has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Saviour.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence [Son] saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.

Here Father, Son and Holy Spirit act together.

clip_image032[1]We also see this co-operative action at Jesus’ baptism:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17).

clip_image033In the baptism formula given in Matt 28:19 it is stated: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. ‘Name’ is singular.

There are a number of other examples that there are three different and distinct persons existing concurrently and eternally and share the same essence or nature of the one God (e.g. 2 Cor 13:14).

‘This is in stark contrast to modalism (sabellianism), which claims there is only one person in God who appears at different times in the form of different persons’ (Geisler 2003:289).

4.4.5 The three persons acting together

In Jesus’ resurrection, we see the three persons of the Godhead acting together:

(1) The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11 NLT);
(2) The Father raised Jesus from the dead (
Acts 2:32-33 NLT);
(3) Jesus raised Jesus from the dead (
John 10:18 NLT).

Dr Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, rejected the Trinity description as a triplex. A triplex is ‘a building divided into three self-contained residences’ or ‘a flat on three floors’ (Lexico 2019. s.v. triplex). A triplex consists of 3 separate substances and is complex.

Martin’s statement was: ‘God is not triplex (1+1+1)—He is triune (1X1X1), and he has revealed Himself fully in the Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9, John 14:9).” — Christian Research Institute tract, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity’ (cited in, Is the Trinity a Biblical Concept? Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jehovah).

St Augustine rejected this view. He explained it in On the Trinity:

Chapter 7.–God is a Trinity, But Not Triple (Triplex).

But God is truly called in manifold ways, great, good, wise, blessed, true, and whatsoever other thing seems to be said of Him not unworthily: but His greatness is the same as His wisdom; for He is not great by bulk, but by power; and His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things; and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself.

9. Neither, since He is a Trinity, is He therefore to be thought triple (triplex) [615] otherwise the Father alone, or the Son alone, will be less than the Father and Son together. Although, indeed, it is hard to see how we can say, either the Father alone, or the Son alone; since both the Father is with the Son, and the Son with the Father, always and inseparably: not that both are the Father, or both are the Son; but because they are always one in relation to the other, and neither the one nor the other alone. But because we call even the Trinity itself God alone, although He is always with holy spirits and souls, but say that He only is God, because they are not also God with Him; so we call the Father the Father alone, not because He is separate from the Son, but because they are not both together the Father.

Footnotes

[615] [The Divine Unity is trinal, not triple. The triple is composed of three different substances. It has parts, and is complex. The trinal is without parts, and is incomplex. It denotes one simple substance in three modes or forms. “We may speak of the trinal, but not of the triple deity.” Hollaz, in Hase’s Hutterus, 172.–W.G.T.S.]

‘Trinal’ means ‘having three parts; threefold; triple’ (yourdictionary.com 2019. s.v. trinal).

Scriptural reasons for my conclusion re the persons of the Trinity are spread through this article. Each person of the Trinity being regarded as God, and the biblical basis for such, is in my earlier article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? A couple other verses are included in a polemical article, Problems with the Trinity.

4.5  Don’t forget the implications of John 14:28

This verse states: ‘You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I’ (John 14:28 ESV).

This verse leads us to a very important dimension of the Trinity:

clip_image035Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal in the Trinitarian godhead. Each member of the Trinity has an identical essence. By essence I mean nature. Therefore, God has one nature but Scripture confirms there are three distinct persons who are God. All are called God so are co-equal and are eternal, i.e. co-eternal.

BUT

clip_image036This does not exclude a purposeful (functional) order in the Trinity. This perfect design or focus can be explained as a ‘functional subordination’ among the persons and not a subordination of being (i.e. ontological subordination). If the being of the Father were superior to the being of the Son who is superior to the Holy Spirit, the three persons in the Godhead could not each be God in nature – which is not the case. For an examination of these details, see my article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

R C Sproul explained this functional subordination (technically labelled in theology by a misleading title, ‘the economic Trinity’):

What are the individual, personal qualities that belong to the three persons of the Godhead? From all eternity, the Father begets[11] the Son [Heb 1:5-6, 8]; the Son is begotten by the Father [Jn 1:14, 18], and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son [Jn 15:26, Gal 4:6]” (WLC 10).[12] With regard to the economic Trinity, we distinguish among the three persons of the Godhead in terms of their roles in creation and redemption. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in the economy of redemption in terms of what they do (Sproul 2014).

This functional subordination can be summarised:

‘The Father is the Planner, the Son is the Accomplisher, and the Holy Spirit is the Applier of salvation to believers. The Father is the Source, the Son is the Means, and the Holy Spirit is the Effector of salvation—it is He who convicts, convinces, and converts…. [The nature and duration of this subordination] is not just temporal and economical: it is essential and eternal…. Paul wrote:

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power…. Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere (1 Cor 15:24, 28 NLT)’ (Geisler 2003:291).

5. Conclusion

Norman Geisler, eminent apologist and theologian, who left this earth to be present with the Lord on 1 July 2019[13] when I was preparing this article, provided this precise conclusion to how three persons can be one God:

By saying God has one essence and three persons it is meant that he has one ‘What’ and three ‘Whos.’ The three Whos (persons) each share the same What (essence). God is a unity of essence with a plurality of persons. Each person is different, yet they (sic)[14] share a common nature (Geisler 1999:732).[15]

6. Notes

[1] Based on Thiessen (1949:136-145).

[2] The Council of Sirmum was held between AD 357 and 359. See: http://www.self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Council_of_Sirmium (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[3] The commentary is online at Bible Hub: Exposition of Genesis: Vol 1. Available at: https://biblehub.com/library/leupold/exposition_of_genesis_volume_1/index.html (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[4] I copied them from Calvary Baptist Church, Available at: http://www.calvarydothan.com/public/system/PodcastOutlines/2017_03_15_1.pdf (Accessed 5 July 2019).

[5] This section is based on formation from Geisler (2003:287-288).

[6] Much of this summary of the Persons in the Godhead is based on Geisler (2003:287).

[7] These personal characteristics were given by Mathis (2016).

[8] Geisler (2003:288). This list of personal actions by the Holy Spirit in Geisler mainly comes from Augustus Strong’s Systematic Theology (1907:324).

[9] Much of this section is from Geisler (2003:288-289).

[10] In the Bible quotes I have replaced the KJV with the ESV here.

[11] Modern translations replace the older word, ‘begets’, with something more comprehensible to modern readers: ‘For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father [or today I reveal you as my Son’ (quoting Ps 2:7) NLT.

[12] WLC refers to the Westminster Larger Catechism. I have quoted from a modernised English version of the WLC. Available at: https://dansonnenberg.com/2015/12/21/the-westminster-larger-catechism-modern-english-version/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

[13] As I wrote this portion of the article on 5 July 2019 I learned of Dr Geisler’s death. See Toalston (2019).

[14] Grammatically, ‘each person’ is singular and ‘their’ is a plural possessive pronoun. The correction of this sentence should be: ‘Each person is different, yet he shares a common nature’. Or, better: ‘Every person (plural) is different, yet they (plural) share a common nature’. You can tell I’m a grammar policeman.

[15] However, I’m aware of the challenges made to Geisler’s view of ‘persons’ in the Godhead in ‘The Error of Insisting on Three “Persons” as a Litmus Test of Orthodoxy’ (Contending for the Faith).

7. Works consulted

Berkhof, L 1939/1941. Systematic theology (online). London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Available at: http://archive.org/stream/SystematicTheology/93884037-Louis-Berkhof–Systematic-Theology_djvu.txt (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Geisler, N L 1999. Trinity. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

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

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Mathis, D 2016. Jesus is fully human. Desiring God (online), 15 December. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/jesus-is-fully-human (Accessed 10 July 2019).

Schaeffer, F A 1976. Genesis in space and time. London: Hodder and Stoughton (1972. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press).

Sproul, R C 2014. What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity? Ligonier Ministries (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-difference-between-ontological-and-economic-trinity/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

Stigers, H G 1976. A Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Strong, A 1907. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Project Gutenberg EBook. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44035/44035-h/44035-h.html (Accessed 10 July 2019).

Thiessen, H C Lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Toalston, A 2019. Norman Geisler, defender of Christian faith, dies, Baptist Press (online), 2 July. Available at: http://www.bpnews.net/53217/norman-geisler-defender-of-christian-faith-dies (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 July 2019.

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Was John Calvin a TULIP Calvinist?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(Tulip image courtesy photos public domain)

Does it matter what your church teaches and practices concerning Christian salvation?

What is the future for churches that proclaim the following?

clip_image004All people are saved (universalism)?

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

clip_image006People have a free will that enables them to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.

clip_image005[1]The offer of salvation is open to everyone in the world?

Two of these positions come under what is known as the salvation theology of Calvinism.They are:

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

In this article, I will examine whether the teaching of TULIP was included in the doctrines of Calvin.

I’m particularly concerned with whether John Calvin, who preceded the formulation of TULIP, believed the doctrines of TULIP.

1. What is TULIP Calvinism?

TULIP is an acronym for the theology expounded at the Synod of Dort (1618-19), held in the city of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, that responded to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. These doctrines have been summarised as TULIP. Here is a brief explanation of these five doctrines at: ‘The Calvinistic “TULIP”’:[1]

In brief, TULIP means:

clip_image008 – ‘total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself’.

clip_image010– ‘unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit’.

clip_image012 – ‘limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect’.

clip_image014 – ‘irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

clip_image016 – perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.

Since Calvin did not originate TULIP, the purpose of this article is to discover from Calvin’s writings if he taught the theology expressed in TULIP.

Of necessity, this article will require many quotes from Calvin, especially to demonstrate favour or disfavour towards each point of TULIP.

clip_image0181.1 Total Depravity:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.26: ‘The will is so utterly vitiated[2] and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil’.

Elsewhere in Institutes he states:

‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,’ (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are acceptable? (John Calvin, Institutes, Book 2:2.25)

… Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling, but voluntarily, by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion, or external force, but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. If this is true, the thing not obscurely expressed is, that he is under a necessity of sinning (Institutes Book 2:3:5).

clip_image020See my articles in support of total depravity:

clip_image0221.2 Unconditional Election:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Book Three, Chapter 21.1: OF THE ETERNAL ELECTION, BY WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED SOME TO SALVATION, AND OTHERS TO DESTRUCTION.

The covenant of life is not preached equally to all, and among those to whom it is preached, does not always meet with the same reception. This diversity displays the unsearchable depth of the divine judgment, and is without doubt subordinate to God’s purpose of eternal election.

But if it is plainly owing to the mere pleasure of God that salvation is spontaneously offered to some, while others have no access to it, great and difficult questions immediately arise, questions which are inexplicable, when just views are not entertained concerning election and predestination. To many this seems a perplexing subject, because they deem it most incongruous that of the great body of mankind some should be predestinated to salvation, and others to destruction.

How ceaselessly they entangle themselves will appear as we proceed. We may add, that in the very obscurity which deters them, we may see not only the utility of this doctrine, but also its most pleasant fruits. We shall never feel persuaded as we ought that our salvation flows from the free mercy of God as its fountain, until we are made acquainted with his eternal election, the grace of God being illustrated by the contrast–viz. that he does not adopt all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what he denies to others.

See also Institutes 3.22.7,10. In point 10 of this quote, Calvin wrote:

Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the distinction of special grace. . . . But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isa. 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare (emphasis added).

This point also infers the doctrine of Limited Atonement as well.

In his commentary on Romans 9:3 he wrote:

It was then a proof of the most ardent love, that Paul hesitated not to wish for himself that condemnation which he was impending over the Jews, in order that he might deliver them. It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was based on the election of God, which could by no means fail; for as those ardent feelings hurry us on impetuously, so they see and regard nothing but the object in view. So Paul did not connect God’s election with his wish, but the remembrance of that being passed by, he was wholly intent on the salvation of the Jews (Calvin’s Commentary, Romans 9:3).

Second Timothy 2:19 (ESV) states, ‘But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity”’.

Calvin responded:

Having this seal ([It] denotes either “a seal” or “the print of a seal”) having led into a mistake some people who thought that it was intended to denote a mark or impress, I have translated it sigillum (a seal,) which is less ambiguous. And, indeed, Paul means, that under the secret guardianship of God, as a signet, is contained the salvation of the elect, as Scripture testifies that they are “written in the book of life.” (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3.)

The Lord knoweth who are his This clause, together with the word seal, reminds us, that we must not judge, by our own opinion, whether the number of the elect is great or small; for what God hath sealed he wishes to be, in some respect, shut up from us. Besides, if it is the prerogative of God to know who are his, we need not wonder if a great number of them are often unknown to us, or even if we fall into mistakes in making the selection.

Yet we ought always to observe why and for what purpose he makes mention of a seal; that is, when we see such occurrences, let us instantly call to remembrance what we are taught by the Apostle John, that “they who went out from us were not of us” (1 John 2:19) (Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:19-21).

While Calvin’s language is not that of unconditional election but elect who are known only to God who has sealed them, shut them in. That sounds awfully like unconditional election language.

Elsewhere he stated it more clearly: ‘It is no small matter to have the souls perishes who are bought by the blood of Christ’. (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Titus 1:15-16, p. 84).

This reads like universal atonement but the same sermon he wrote of God’s eternal predestination and election before the world began:

Whereupon hangeth our salvation? Is it not upon the election and choice that hath been from everlasting? God chose us before we were. What could we do then? We were made fit, We were well disposed to come to God. Nay, we see that our salvation doth not begin after we have knowledge, discretion, and good desires; but it is grounded in God’s everlasting decree, which was before any part of the world was made: (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Sermon II, 2 Tim 1:8-9. p. 42).

There you have the contradictory nature of Calvin’s views: (1) Souls perish who have been bought by Jesus’ blood sacrifice, BUT (2) God’s salvation is grounded in His decree before believers were created and before the world came into existence.

I’m befuddled how Calvin could say that he bought the souls of unbelievers with his blood but they didn’t make it into the elect. This is a glaring example of Calvin’s violation of the law of Noncontradiction.

clip_image020[1]See my articles opposing unconditional election:

clip_image0241.3 Limited Atonement

Calvin wrote (quoted above) that salvation is solely for the ‘sons’ (believers) of the church and is not effectual for all. So, Jesus’ salvation through substitutionary sacrifice could not have been for everyone.

By application, it means Jesus’ atonement was for a limited number of people, ‘the sons of the church’. Did he believe in limited atonement? Was it only for the elect of God? Let’s check him out!

He continued:

Though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all (Isa. 53:1). Had he said, that the gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for this universal call (Institutes 3.22.10).

Paul Helm’s research on Calvin and the atonement led to this conclusion:

While Calvin did not commit himself to any version of the doctrine of definite atonement, his thought is consistent with that doctrine; that is, he did not deny it in express terms, but by other things that he most definitely did hold to, he may be said to be committed to that doctrine. The distinction is an important one in order to avoid the charge of anachronism (Helm 2013:98).

Not all Calvinistic scholars are in agreement with Helm’s conclusions as he acknowledged:

Those who claim that Calvin held to indefinite atonement are by no means agreed about its consequences. G. Michael Thomas refers to a “dilemma” in Calvin’s theology, the existence of “stress points,” rendering Calvin’s overall position “inherently unstable.” R. T. Kendall holds that while Calvin had an unlimited view of the atonement, Christ’s intercessions were definite, on behalf of the elect alone. Kevin D. Kennedy claims that, according to Calvin, while atonement is universal, union with Christ is particular. The difficulty with the last two views, which tend in the direction of post-redemptionism, or Amyraldianism,[3] is that they imperil the unity of the divine decree, and the divine operations ad extra that Calvin emphasized (Helm 2013:100).

He included this example from Calvin to support his conclusion:

That which Augustine adds in continuation must by no means be omitted. “Since we know not (says he) who belongeth to the number of the predestinated, and who doth not, we ought so to feel as to wish all to be saved. From this it will come to pass that whosoever shall come in our way, we shall desire to make him a partaker of the peace which we ourselves enjoy. ‘Our peace,’ however, will nevertheless ‘rest upon the sons of peace’ (John Calvin, A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God).

Calvin wrote this treatise to challenge the teachings of ‘Albertus Pighius, the Campanian, a man of evidently phrensied audacity, [who] attempted, at the same time, and in the same book, to establish the free-will of man. and to subvert the secret counsel of God, by which He chooses some to salvation and appoints others to eternal destruction’ (ibid.).

Other Calvinistic scholars are not as sure as Helm – neither am I – about Calvin’s support for limited atonement. The following evidence should demonstrate that Calvin’s teaching on the scope of the atonement extended to the whole world. But there are passages where he is double minded.

1.3.1   I John 2:2 (ESV) states:

‘He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’.

Calvin’s interpretation endorses his view of limited atonement.

And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated?…

They who seek to avoid this absurdity [universalism – all saved, including Satan], have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world. (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles: John 2:1-2).

Honestly, is that what 1 John 2:2 teaches? Sounds more like Calvin pushing his own Reformed barrow to me.

Here Calvin confirmed again that Christ’s propitiation/expiation was not for the sins of the whole world of unbelievers but for the ‘whole Church’ and that ‘all … does not include the reprobate’. It only designates those who ‘should believe’.

Simply put, that is not what 1 John 2:2 teaches. Jesus died for ‘our sins’ (believers’ sins) and ‘the sins of the whole world’ of unbelievers. Any other interpretation manufactures conclusions to agree with one’s presuppositions.

1.3.2 Conversely, Calvin also supported universal atonement

However, in other passages Calvin supported unlimited atonement. This is only a sample from some of his commentaries, Institutes, and other writings:[4]

He wrote:

We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us (Institutes 3.1.1).

Calvin used the language of the offer of universal salvation, hence unlimited atonement, to have limited effects on people:

If it is so (you will say), little faith can be put in the Gospel promises, which, in testifying concerning the will of God, declare that he wills what is contrary to his inviolable decree. Not at all; for however universal the promises of salvation may be, there is no discrepancy between them and the predestination of the reprobate, provided we attend to their effect. We know that the promises are effectual only when we receive them in faith, but, on the contrary, when faith is made void, the promise is of no effect (Institutes 3.24.17).

I find this commentary by Calvin to be conflicting, even contradictory:

This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol 3, Mark 14:24).

On the one hand, the Lord’s Supper reminds believers that ‘God is pacified towards them’, i.e. His wrath towards sinners has been appeased (expiation). However, according to Calvin, ‘shed for many’ means for ‘the whole human race’. Wait a minute! Is it for the whole world? Not according to Luke where this message is directed to the disciples/believers and this shedding of blood is applied only to them and their own sin being expiated.

Here, I see that Calvin has violated the law of non-contradiction.

The law of non-contradiction states that A and not-A (where A is a proposition) cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, my car cannot be parked in my driveway and not parked in my driveway at the same time and in the same sense.[5]

Calvin’s contradictory remarks were: (1) The Lord’s Supper reminds believers God is pacified towards them, and (2) When the ‘holy table’ is approached, ‘let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ’. Has the whole world been ‘redeemed’ by Christ’s death or only that of believers? He did not state it plainly as it is.

However, everyone does not embrace the Gospel that is proclaimed:

Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him,[6] all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings (Institutes 3.1.1).

1.3.3 Calvin, Scripture and universal atonement[7]

clip_image026 Matt 22:14: ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (ESV).

Calvin’s interpretation was:

The expression of our Saviour, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear, viz., that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts (Institutes 3.24.8).

clip_image027 The parallel in the Synoptics is Mark 14:24 (ESV): ‘And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.

Concerning this verse, Calvin’s comment is significant:

Mark 14:24. This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20).

Here would have been an ideal opportunity for Calvin to expound on ‘many’ meaning that Jesus did not die for the whole world but only for the elect. He didn’t. Instead he stated that ‘many’ does not leave out a chunk of the world’s population that are excluded from Jesus’ atonement.

This was in opposition to contemporary Calvinistic commentator, the late William Hendriksen, who stated that ‘Jesus’ says that his blood is poured out “for many,” not for all’ (Hendriksen 1975:575).

This is in contrast with the biblical teaching in 1 Timothy 2:9 (ESV), ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time’.

Jesus’ atonement cannot be ‘for many’ and that does not mean ‘for all’. Why is ‘for many’ used in this way? Lenski, a Lutheran commentator, explained the meaning of huper mallwn (‘in behalf of many’) in the synoptic parallel of Matt 26:28 as:

These polloi [many] are all men [people], for all of whom the blood was shed “for remission of sins,” and not merely the believers in whom this remission was realized. They are “many,” and thus extend far, far beyond the eleven. Mark combines this by using huper mallwn, “in behalf of many” in the sense of “in place of many, huper having the idea of substitution (Lenski 1943:1031).

clip_image026[1] John 1:29 (ESV): ‘The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

How would Calvin interpret ‘the sin of the world’? He leaves no doubt that it applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles – everyone:

Who taketh away the sin of the world. He uses the word sin in the singular number, for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said, that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says, the sin Of The World, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race; that the Jews might not think that he had been sent to them alone. But hence we infer that the whole world is involved in the same condemnation; and that as all men without exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God, they need to be reconciled to him (Commentary on John 1:29-34).

Calvin did no understand Jesus’ taking away the ‘sin of the world’ in any limited way. All were guilty of unrighteousness and needed to be reconciled to God through Christ’s death for all. Calvin is sounding more like Amyraldians who support a universal atonement.

clip_image026[2] John 3:14-16 (ESV):

Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 was:

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father — that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ (Commentary on John 3:16).

So, all are invited to Christ to partake of the Christian life and unbelievers are without excuse. However, while all people ‘without exception’ are invited to faith in Christ, but there is one brick wall for them: Only the elect have eyes opened by God.

There we have a violation of the Law of Noncontradiction again: All are invited to come but all do not have a chance of responding positively to the invitation. I could paraphrase Calvin’s position: ‘Yes, all of you can come to Christ but all of you can’t come because you are not elected to salvation’.

clip_image026[3] John 12:48 (ESV): ‘The one who rejects me [Jesus] and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day’.

How is it possible for anyone to reject Christ if he or she is included in TULIP theology? What did Calvin have to say about this verse? ‘And receiveth not my words…. We m