Fitz Files Fail

 

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[image of Margaret Court (nee Smith) courtesy Wikipedia] 

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, 25 November 2019.

Fitz, your article against Margaret Court (The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2019, Opinion piece) failed fundamental tests of fairness. These include: Your intensely unpleasant homophobic remarks.

When will you and your mass media colleagues ever get a handle on the meaning of ‘homophobic’?

The Lexico/Oxford Dictionary describes homophobic as, ‘having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people’ (Lexico.com 2019. s.v. homophobic).

The Macquarie Dictionary relates homophobia to those who have a ‘fear of homosexuals, usually linked with hostility towards them’ (1997. s.v. homophobia).

Does Margaret Court fear or dislike homosexuals?

Fitz, why your hullabaloo about Margaret Court being homophobic? She rebutted your view in an interview with Vision Christian Radio (31 May 2017) when she stated: ‘I’ve got nothing against homosexual people as individuals. But my stand for my Christian beliefs is for marriage the Bible way’. 7News reported: ‘Margaret Court has said, I love them [homosexuals], I have them in the church‘.

Based on the dictionary definitions, Margaret Court is not homophobic. She presents God’s view of marriage between a man and a woman and not between two people of the same sex.

Jesus confirmed the Genesis teaching in Matthew 19:4-6. A man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. It does not say he will be joined (sexually) with another male. Margaret Court is correct in affirming the biblical view of sexuality in marriage. She is not homophobic but a promoter of God’s view, heterosexuality.

Talks between Israel Folau and Rugby Australia on his compensation claim will resume on Wednesday.Another sports’ star accused of homophobia is Israel Folau, pictured here with his wife, Maria (photo courtesy Lakes Mail).

See ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, Israel Folau to be sacked by Rugby Australia over homophobic comments, 11 April 2019.

Fake news by Fitz

Infographic How to spot fake news published by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (courtesy Wikipedia)

Again you presented fake news about Court’s beliefs. Fake news is ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. fake news).

You presented sensational false news about Court’s views when she stated ‘I love them (homosexuals)’. You created a homophobic, irrational understanding with your allegations against this former champion tennis player.

What was Margaret Court’s motive in her stand against homosexual marriage?

The Statement of Faith of Victory Life Centre, Perth, states: ‘That Marriage, according to Scripture is between a man and a woman; that man and woman are joined to become one flesh. God created man in His own image, male and female instructing them to be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24).

Accusation of Court’s double-standards

Margaret, remember a couple years ago you were ‘citing the Bible’ to proclaim the ‘only legitimate love is that between a man and a woman’. In doing this you asserted ‘those with a different sexuality to you are not your equal’.

These are your hypocrisies: You want the Bible to be your standard for marriage but you don’t use the Bible for your standard on teaching for women in ministry. I know this straight from the Bible you quote.

Fitz flunks the test

Here’s the real crunch for you Margaret: ‘Seeing as the Bible seems to be the only reference point you recognise … I feel I must cite St. Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 2:12; Ephesians 5:22; and 1 Corinthians 11:3-10’.

Fitz, if you were a student in one of my (Spencer Gear’s) courses at Bible College and gave your expositions of these three passages as you have done here, you would fail the exam. You didn’t come up to the standard because you, an atheist,could not achieve …

  • Proper exegesis of the texts. You cherry picked verses, allegedly against female teachers, without exposition. FAIL !
  • Your citation of 1 Cor 11:3-10 includes both husband and wife who prophesy (vv 3-4). Prophecy cannot happen without words and you didn’t explain what headship means and how women can prophesy in the public gathering of the church. FAIL !
  • Eph 5:22-23, ‘For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church’. What on earth does that have to do with women in ministry? Again, it requires you to expound the meaning of headship. You didn’t. FAIL !
  • 1 Tim 2:12 has caused angst among Bible scholars for 2,000 years because of the unusual word for authority, authentein, used only this one time in the entire New Testament. It has the connotation ‘to domineer’ and in context probably reflects the role of women in promoting errors of the false teachers in Ephesus, where Timothy was located. You provided none of this information. FITZ FAILS !

Related imageElsewhere the Apostle Paul affirmed the ministry of teaching by men and women. See 1 Cor 14:26 and Colossians 3:16-17. There was none of this information in your article. Seems to me you deliberately set out to denigrate Margaret Court’s view of Scripture, her alleged hypocrisy in supporting heterosexual marriage while violating the Bible’s view of women as teachers.

Fitz forgot fundamentals

The Christian faith is built on every-member ministry. It was declared on the Day of Pentecost: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants-men and women alike-and they will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).

The same Apostle Paul who wrote the words in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Timothy also wrote Galatians 3:28, ‘There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus’.

He also wrote: ‘The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ’ (1 Cor 12:12).

Jesus’ death and resurrection broke down the former barriers for women.

Your deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation

Would you want me to read your article the way you interpret Margaret Court’s statements? She stated she loves homosexuals and has them in her church. Your assessment is that Margaret is ‘a homophobic zealot’. Margaret stated clearly what she meant. Fitz twisted this in true deconstructionist, reader-response style.

Deconstruction can be slippery to define but it briefly means that Fitz writes about Mrs Court but she doesn’t mean what we think she means in promoting heterosexuality. You went searching for other meanings as a deconstructionist as ‘other meanings are always there’. That’s not the way I read The Sydney Morning Herald or Manning Clark’s, The History of Australia.

(image courtesy The Public Domain)

Reader-response is a postmodern, deconstructionist approach to reading literature where meaning does not reside in the text. ‘Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text’.

You deconstructed Margaret’s meaning and imposed your interpretation as a reader on what she wrote.

Let me try this approach with your article:

At Tennis Australia (TA) we have no religious views whatsoever, and welcome everyone. That’s what TA would like to say but we have a commitment to equality that excludes fundamentalist Christians, as your statements demonstrate. Intense feelings arise in TA members towards you, Margaret Court. You have brought disrepute on TA with your bigotry towards the LGBTI+ community.

Fitz, would you approve of my promoting that view, based on your article? Of course not, but that’s what you’ve done with putting words into Margaret Court’s mouth about the LGBTI+ community not being equal with the straights and the way she ‘trashed the gays’. This is Fitz deconstructing Mrs Court with his reader-response interpretation.

Wake up, Fitz. You don’t know the Scriptures you prepared to promote PC, fake, reader-response news to disparage Margaret Court’s statements. Based on how you have ruined the reputation by fake news of Margaret Court, I can’t read your articles with confidence that you tell the truth.

I call upon you to promote the accurate meaning of homophobic. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘involving a fear or dislike of gay people’ (2019. s.v. homophobic).

Margaret Court, based on her own statements, does not fear or dislike gay people. She loves them and has them in her church, Victory Life Centre, Perth – so is not homophobic.

Telling The Truth Clipart Image(image courtesy clker.com)

 

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

Baptism and Salvation: I Peter 3:21

baptists tarrytown united methodist church

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1. Does baptism bring eternal salvation?

It seems as though this issue is clear – people need to be baptised to receive salvation. The Scriptures state that: “Baptism that now saves you….” (I Peter 3:21 NIV) and Jesus states, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16 NIV).

This sounds clear enough, doesn’t it? In fact, I was interacting with Andy (not his real name) on a theological bulletin board. He stated: “Recent theology cannot make the truth of 1 Peter 3:21 go away – Baptism now saves you. This is a great and precious promise. Christians throughout all ages have found great comfort in that fact that their salvation did not rest on them, but on God who had chosen them through baptism. I do believe in baptismal regeneration and in infant baptism.”[1]

Baptismal regeneration is the theology that states “that baptism is necessary for salvation.” This view is supported by “Roman Catholic teaching…. Although there are different nuances in their teaching, such a position is held by many Episcopalians, many Lutherans, and by the Churches of Christ”(Grudem 1999, n10, p. 384).

baptism-now-saves-youDoes 1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) teach baptism as a necessity for salvation, i.e. baptismal regeneration? The verse states: “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[2] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

The ESV reads: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Mark 16:16 (NIV) states, as the words of Jesus, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

Let me say up front that I Peter 3:21 (NIV) is a difficult verse to interpret because of the content of the context (1 Pet 3:18-22 NIV):

· It is a challenge to know exactly what Peter is saying in connecting “save” with the waters of Noah’s flood;

· Elsewhere in the Scripture we know that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone (Acts 4:12 NIV; Eph 2:8-9 NIV);

· In other places, the Bible teaches salvation and repentance prior to baptism (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9);

· Some verses used to support baptismal regeneration have better explanations.

2. Mark 16:16 does not teach baptismal regeneration

This verse is fairly easily dealt with on two counts:

clip_image001 Mark 16:9-20, the long ending of Mark, is not included in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, so I am confident in not including it as part of the canon of Scripture. Mark 16:16 was a teaching that crept into the early church, but it is not original to Mark. See the explanations by Bruce Metzger (1964/1968/1992, pp. 227-228) and Walter W. Wessel (1984, pp. 792-793) in Appendix I.

clip_image001[1]Mark 16:16 states that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” There is nothing in this statement about those who believe and are not baptised. In fact, this we do know that Jesus said to the dying thief on the cross, who did not have an opportunity to be baptised: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). “It is simply absence of belief, not of baptism, which is correlated with condemnation” (Erickson 1985, p. 1098). Grudem (1999) contends that

it is doubtful whether this verse [Mark 16:16] should be used in support of a theological position at all, since there are many manuscripts that do not have this verse (or Mark 16:9-20), and it seems most likely that this verse was not in the gospel as Mark originally wrote it (n11, p. 384).

We also know that a Christian’s justification by faith, when he/she is declared righteous before God, happens at the point of faith in Christ and not at the time of baptism (see Rom. 3:20, 26, 28; 5:1; 8:30; 10:4, 10; Gal. 2:16; 3:24).

We’ll get to 1 Peter 3:21 shortly, but it is important to note that

3. The Bible teaches belief BEFORE baptism

We see belief or trust in Christ prior to baptism in passages such as the following:

clip_image003Those who were baptised must be able to be discipled and taught to be obedient to Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV).

clip_image005One of the most profound examples is the thief on the cross. In Luke 23:42-43 (ESV) we read of the thief asking Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response was: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Obviously baptism was not compulsory for a person to enter into paradise.

clip_image007Acts 2:38 (ESV) gives the apostolic command: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”

clip_image009Acts 2:41 affirms that belief precedes baptism: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

clip_image011In Acts 10:47-48, those who were baptised were those who had “received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” This is hardly the language to support baptism for an infant. It is the language of believers’ baptism.

Old Testament believers were saved without being baptised. Therefore, we should expect that salvation, without baptism, is seen in the New Testament.

Church historian, Earle E. Cairns, stated that for the early church, baptism was “an act of initiation into the Christian church [and] was usually performed at Easter or Pentecost…. Baptism was normally by immersion; on occasion affusion, or pouring, was practiced. [There was the debate over] infant baptism which Tertullian opposed and Cyprian supported….” (Cairns 1954/1981, p. 119).

It was Martin Luther who rediscovered that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17 KJV) or, “The righteous will live by faith” (NIV), which is a quote from Hab. 2:4. This is affirmed by Rom. 4:4-5; Titus 3:5-7 and Acts 16:31. The Scriptures do not support the view that the just shall live by faith and baptism. It could not be stated any cleared in Eph. 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

4. Household baptisms

Sometimes the view is given that “I Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:14, 16:15, 33, 18:8; these passages all refer to households being baptized. What an opponent of infant baptism must do is explain how they arrive at the conclusion that there were no infants or young children in these households. If infants were not intended to be baptized they would be excluded in the text, but we have no reason to believe that they are. In short there is nothing to exclude infants from baptism in the Bible.” This was Andy’s view when I interacted with him on a seminary bulletin board.[3]

Let’s examine these examples provided by Andy.

clip_image013“Household” baptism that was used by him to support infant baptism – 1 Cor. 1:16, which reads, “I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.” If we read that verse alone we could be led to think that this included infants and those who had not believed and these people could be members of households.

However, this is clarified in 1 Cor. 16:15 where we read that “the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” This verse clearly supports the opposite of infant baptism. They were Christian converts when they were baptised. They were not infants who were incapable of believing. They were converts to the Christian faith. Faith comes before baptism.

clip_image013[1]Acts 11:14 reads: “He [Peter] will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”

This is clear. The “message” will be brought through which the “household will be saved.” The baptism referred to is not water baptism but the baptism in the Holy Spirit (11:16).

clip_image013[2] Acts 16:15 records what happened with Lydia who was “a worshiper of God” and “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (16:14). Chapter 16:15 records, “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.’ If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”

It is clear here that Lydia was a believer (“the Lord opened her heart”) when she was baptised as she affirms, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord.” It is not stated directly here that the “household” believed, but the precedent is set elsewhere in the Scripture that “households” that were baptised had previously believed. This is also consistent with the New Testament principle that faith alone in Christ alone is what brings eternal salvation.

clip_image013[3] In Acts 18:8, we have another example of “household” baptism. This verse states that “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”

Again, baptism happens after belief in the Lord is experienced and this applies to believing “households.” Therefore, infant belief is not possible.

5. First Peter 3:21

This verse states, “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[4] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (NIV).

Let me state upfront that this is a most difficult verse to interpret because of the analogy of Scripture which refutes what this verse seems to be saying on the surface, “baptism that now saves you also.” This is especially in light of Colossians 2:12 “…. having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” The key is “your faith in the power of God” and not through faith in water baptism. That’s what makes interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 a challenging task.

Remember Andy’s words to me? “Baptism now saves you. This is a great and precious promise” and that Christians through the centuries have been comforted by the “God who had chosen them through baptism. I do believe in baptismal regeneration and in infant baptism.”[5]

What are the issues from this verse that seem, on the surface, to teach that “baptism now saves you”?

5.1 What is the context?

In vv. 18-19, the context is the death of Christ for sins, the “righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (v. 19), the resurrection (“made alive by the Spirit”, v. 18), and Noah, the ark, and eight people being saved through the flood (v. 20).

It is this flood that is used in some association with baptism.

5.2 What does it means that “water symbolizes baptism”?

The word translated, “symbolizes,” in the NIV is the Greek, antitypos. “Baptism is an antitype…. or counterpart of the type” (Blum 1981, p. 242). An antitype is ‘a person or thing that represents the opposite of someone or something else’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. antitype).There is some kind of resemblance between the waters of the flood and baptism. What is it? Baptism is a copy, representation or fulfillment of the Old Testament judgment that happened through the great flood.

The text allows for a resemblance between the flood and baptism. That is, as the flood waters cleansed the earth of man’s wickedness, so the water of baptism indicates man’s cleansing from sin. As the flood separated Noah and his family from the wicked world of their day, so baptism separates believers from the evil world of our day. Baptism, then, is the counterpart of the flood (Kistemaker 1987, p. 147).

5.3 In what sense can baptism be understood as that which “saves you”?

Does baptism bring salvation to the person baptised? In what sense can “save” be used here? We know from both Old and New Testaments that sins can be washed away.

  • Psalm 51:2, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
  • Ezekiel 36:25, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.”
  • Ananias told the apostle Paul to “get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
  • Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

How can baptism save?

Baptism is a symbol for cleansing the believer from sin, but Scripture does not teach that baptismal water saves a person. Rather, a believer is saved because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is a symbol of the shed blood of Christ that cleanses the believer from sin” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148).

This becomes clear through the next statement that baptism is “not the removal of dirt from the body.” That’s an obvious analogy to reject. But baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”

5.4 How is baptism related to “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (NIV)?

There are two ways of understanding, “pledge,” subjective, as in the NIV, or objective, as in the ESV, “as an appeal to God for a good conscience.”

As in the NIV, the subjective meaning of “pledge” is that “we look at baptism from our point of view and express ourselves subjectively.” There is a majority of translators who prefer the subjective approach, where “pledge” means “response.”

“In short, the believer receives not only the sign of baptism with water; he also responds by ‘keeping a clear conscience’ (see v. 16)” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148). This kind of translation is supported by the KJV, NKJV, RV, ASV, NEB, Phillips, GNB, JB, NAB and NIV. So, baptism is the proper response of somebody who is already related to God through faith.

The objective meaning is that of the believer making an “appeal to God for a good conscience.” By appealing to God to help us, “we see the importance of baptism objectively. Without God’s aid we are unable to make a pledge to serve him” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148). This type of translation is supported by the RSV, NRSV, ESV, MLB, NASB, Moffatt and ISV.

In supporting the objective sense, Grudem (1994) interprets “but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience” to mean “an inward, spiritual transaction between God and the individual, a transaction symbolized by the outward ceremony of baptism.” Grudem states that

we could paraphrase Peter’s statement by saying, “Baptism now saves you—not the outward physical ceremony of baptism but the inward spiritual reality which baptism represents.” In this way, Peter guards against any view of baptism that would attribute automatic saving power to the physical ceremony itself (p. 974).

This seems the most satisfactory kind of explanation of a very difficult passage, to be in line with the scriptural emphasis of salvation through faith alone, trusting in Christ alone.

5.5 How can baptism that “saves you” be linked to “saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”?

This further indicates that the baptism which “saves you” is associated with the “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Thus, it is an analogy of baptism, associating it with eternal salvation through Christ, through the resurrection of Christ. See verses such as 1 Cor. 15:3-4 and 1 Peter 1:3 for affirmations of the link between salvation and the death and resurrection of Christ.

6. What does Acts 22:16 mean?

The verse, being the words of Ananias, reads, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” This is a more extensive statement than that in Acts 9:16. However, according to Acts 9:17, the “scales fell from his eyes” (the equivalent of belief) before he was baptised (9:18).

So, does baptism “wash your sins away,” thus making belief unnecessary? Is this a verse in support of baptismal regeneration?

While Acts 22:16 refers to Paul’s baptism, the apostle clearly distinguished between the gospel and baptism: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).

It is the gospel that “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:17), so baptism cannot have a salvific effect. Paul’s experience from Acts 9:17-18 involved a spiritual experience before baptism, so to “be baptized and wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16) cannot refer to baptismal regeneration.

Norman Geisler rightly concludes that “baptism then, like confession, is not a condition for eternal life but a manifestation of it. Baptism is a work that flows from the faith that alone brings salvation through the gospel” (2004, p. 498).

7. Examples from Church History

An example from the early church fathers was Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165), who wrote: “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true,… are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated [born-again] in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated” (Schaff, n.d., First Apology, Chapter LXI).

The regenerated were baptised according to Justin Martyr in the second century.

Professor of Church History & Historical Theology, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, summarised the biblical and historical evidence:

The patristic statements linking infant baptism with the apostles are fragmentary and unconvincing in the earlier stages…. Examples of believers’ baptism are common in the first centuries, and a continuing, if suppressed, witness has always been borne to this requirement…. The development of infant baptism seems to be linked with the incursion of pagan notions and practices. Finally, there is evidence of greater evangelistic incisiveness and evangelical purity of doctrine where [believers’ baptism] is recognized to be the baptism of the NT (Bromiley 1984, p. 116).

The facts are: The Bible (including the Apostles) and the Church established in the New Testament practised believers’ baptism. Why the change to paedobaptism?

This is not the place for a comprehensive documentation and assessment of the baptismal practices throughout church history. However, this we can note:

During the fifth century the towering figure of Augustine of Hippo with his powerful reassertion of the doctrine of original guilt settled the issue for a thousand years. Paedobaptism became the norm, and as by then the great expansion of the church among adults had run its course, adult baptism became increasingly rare and almost unknown. With the decline of adult baptism went, too, the decline of the catechumenate, as instruction before baptism was replaced, of necessity, with instruction after baptism. Yet that instruction became increasingly strange to modern ears. For although baptized infants grew up believing that their baptism had brought them forgiveness, eternal life, membership of the church and entry into the family of God, their position in that family became increasingly insecure. In time, a vast system of priests, penances and pilgrimages was needed to preserve their spiritual lives, while even after the intercession of saints, the assistance of Mary, the prayers of the church and the indulgences of the pope, centuries in purgatory still awaited them after death before their souls were cleansed from sin and prepared for heaven” (Bridge & Phypers 1977, pp. 82-83).

8. Appendix I

8.1 Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger, who has had a long and distinguished career in the discipline of textual criticism, which attempts “to determine the original text of the biblical books” (Erickson 1985, p. 83), states that:

The long ending [of Mark 16:9-20] in an expanded form existed, so Jerome tells us, in Greek copies current in his day, and since the discovery of W earlier this [20th] century we now have the Greek text of this expansion….

None of these four endings commends itself as original. The obvious and pervasive apocryphal flavour of the expansion [i.e. the long ending]…, as well as the extremely limited basis of evidence supporting it, condemns it as a totally secondary accretion.

The long ending [i.e. Mark 16:9-20, as in the Textus Receptus and, therefore, translated in the King James Version of the Bible], though present in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. For example, the presence of seventeen non-Marcan words or words used in a non-Marcan sense; the lack of a smooth juncture between verses 8 and 9 (the subject in vs. 9 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in vs. 9); and the way in which Mary is identified in verse 9 even though she has been mentioned previously (vs. 1) – all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark which ended abruptly with verse 8 and who wished to provide a more appropriate conclusion. An Armenian manuscript of the Gospels, copied A.D. 989 (see Plate XIVb) contains a brief rubic of two words in the space at the end of the lat line of verse 8 and before the last twelve verses, namely Ariston eritsou (‘of the Presbyter Ariston’). Many have interpreted this as a reference to Ariston, a contemporary of Papias in the early second century and traditionally a disciple of John the Apostle. But the probability that an Armenian rubricator [manuscript maker] would have access to historically valuable tradition on this point is almost nil, especially if, as has been argued, the rubric was added in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

The internal evidence of the so-called intermediate ending . . . is decidedly against its being genuine. Besides containing a high percentage of non-Marcan words, its rhetorical tone differs totally from the simple style of Mark’s Gospel. The mouth-filling phrase at the close (‘the sacred and imperishable message of eternal salvation’) betrays the hand of a later Greek theologian. [See Appendix II for a translation of this “intermediate ending.”]

Thus we are left with the short ending, witnessed by the earliest Greek, versional, and patristic evidence. Both external and internal considerations lead one to conclude that the original text of the Second Gospel, as known today, closes at xvi. 8″ (Metzger 1964/1968/1992, pp. 227-228).

8.2 Walter W. Wessel

External and especially internal evidence make it difficult to escape the conclusion that vv. 9-20 [of Mark 16] were originally not a part of the Gospel of Mark.

One further question arises: Did Mark actually intend to end his Gospel at 16:8? If he did not, then either (1) the Gospel was never completed, or (2) the last page was lost before it was multiplied by copyists….

Thus the best solution seems to be that Mark did write an ending to his Gospel but that it was lost in the early transmission of the text. The endings we now possess represent attempts by the church to supply what was obviously lacking” (Wessel 1984, pp. 792-793).

9. Appendix II

The intermediate ending is translated by Metzger: “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” Metzger stated that this intermediate reading “is present in several uncial manuscripts of the seventy, eighth and ninth centuries…. as well as in a few minuscule manuscripts…. and several ancient versions” (1964/1968/1992, p. 226).

10. Works consulted

Blum, Edwin A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’, in Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 207-254.

Bridge, D. & Phypers, D. 1977, The Water That Divides: The Baptism Debate, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

Bromiley, G. W. 1984, ‘Baptism, Believers”, in W. A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI.

Cairns, E. E. 1954, 1981, Christianity through the Centuries (rev. enl. ed.), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.

Erickson, Millard J. 1985, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, Norman 2004, Systematic Theology: Sin, Salvation (vol. 3), Bethany House , Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Grudem, Wayne 1994, Systematic Theology: An introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Grudem, Wayne 1999, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Kistemaker, Simon J. 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

Metzger, Bruce M. 1964, 1968, 1992, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.

Schaff, P. n.d., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus‘, Polycarp, ‘Christian Baptism’, Available from: http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/anf01/htm/viii.ii.lxi.htm [17 March 2005].

Wessel, Walter W. 1984, ‘Mark’, in Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 8), Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 601-793.

11. Notes


[1] Jeremy Jack’s response to OzSpen, “Christian History Project,” Open Issues, Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary, TDelta forum, 12.51 am, 12 March 2005, at: http://go.compuserve.com/Trinity?MSG=116364 [17 March 2005].

[2] Or, “response.”

[3] Trinity Seminary’s TDelta forum, ‘Christian History Project’, (Open Issues), Jeremy Jack’s response to OzSpen, 11.25 am, 11 March 2005, Available from, http://go.compuserve.com/Trinity?MSG=116354 [17 March 2005]. As of 9 October 2019, this forum was no longer available to me to interact.

[4] Or, “response.”

[5] See footnote no. 1 above.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 November 2019.

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‘Inclusiveness’ that prostitutes the English language

Image result for clipart Inclusiveness

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The debate over Israel Folau’s statement about sinners, including homosexuals, has led to a prostitution of the English language. I use prostitution in the sense of ‘the act or process of misusing and wasting’ (Macmillan Dictionary 2019. s.v. prostitution).

Read the words of …

1. Rugby League & Union officials who violate the meaning of inclusive

Rugby ball vector clip artPeter Beattie, former chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) told Fox Sports (5 June 2019):

“Our position on Israel Folau remains the same,” Beattie told AAP.

“We are an inclusive game with respect for all. Israel has social media posts online that go against what our game stands for.

“As it stands, he will not be considered for registration. What Israel chooses to do in relation to his social media posts and his faith is a matter for him”.

Rugby ball vector clip artTwo days after he was announced as the new ARLC chairman, Mr Peter V’landys AM, violated the meaning of inclusiveness with this statement:

The inclusivity of rugby league changed his life as an immigrant child and he has zero tolerance for Folau’s anti-gay messaging.

Former chairman Peter Beattie had previously shut down an attempt by the sacked rugby union star to resume his NRL career, and V’landys has supported the move.

“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” V’landys said (news.com.au, 1 November 2019).

V’landys was adamant: ‘I think we need to be more inclusive and I think the greatest asset our game has is it is very inclusive’.

Rugby ball vector clip artBeattie and V’landys repeated the assessment of Rachel Castle, CEO of Rugby Australia, ‘”Inclusion means inclusion for everybody, and we’ve got portions of our community who were very hurt and upset by Israel’s comments, hence why we are in this situation’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 2019).

‘Inclusion means inclusion for everybody’. Really? That’s with the exception of being a Christian sportsman who posts on external social media with a warning from the Christian Scriptures:

clip_image002

(Photo: The image Folau posted on Instagram was accompanied by direct scripture quotes. (Supplied: @izzyfolau), courtesy abc.net.au, 11 May 2019)

Here are three sports’ leaders trumpeting inclusiveness but who have adopted a view of adding an exclusion to the meaning of inclusion. How do we know?

2. The meaning of ‘inclusive’

Dictionary clipartsThe Collins Dictionary (2019. s.v. inclusive) defines the adjective ‘inclusive’ as: ‘If you describe a group or organization as inclusive, you mean that it allows all kinds of people to belong to it, rather than just one kind of person’.

Dictionary clipartsLexico.com (Oxford dictionary) (2019. s.v. inclusive) provides the meaning as: ‘Not excluding any section of society or any party involved in something’.

Dictionary clipartsThe MacMillan Dictionary (2019. s.v. inclusive) describes inclusive as ‘deliberately aiming to involve all types of people’.

Therefore, to have an inclusive policy for Rugby League and Rugby Union teams means ‘all kinds of people’ should belong to them and not ‘just one kind of person’. It involves all types of people, including the secular, various religions (including Christianity), and those with no religion.

To require that a certain religion not express itself in activities outside of the sporting club – especially external to practice and playing games – is to violate the definition of ‘inclusive’. It is another issue if this anti-religious activity is written into the sports’ person’s contract.

Making an exclusion as part of the understanding of inclusion seems to be part of the definition for Peter Beattie, Peter V’landys and Rachel Castle.

3. Inclusive means excluding Christianity

If ‘inclusion’ is ‘for everybody’, why is it not for Folau’s Christianity? Castle, Beattie and V’landys have thus caused ‘inclusion’ to incorporate an exclusion. If Castle agreed with the Collins Dictionary, she would not be in the challenge of the Folau contract. That’s because Christianity must be a part of an inclusive rugby union code.

4. Conclusion

With both the NRL and ARU, it seems to me that we have leaders of the organisations that have written a new, idiosyncratic definition of ‘inclusion’ to exclude those whose beliefs (expressed externally) are those with which they disagree.

I’m of the view, based on the definition of ‘inclusive’, that both the NRL and ARU should have this policy with regard to all players: ‘We welcome players of all religious and non-religious perspectives. What you do off the field is your business, even if it is in public. You will never be excluded from our sports because of your religion’.

The prostitution of the English language by these sporting leaders has required that inclusive incorporate an exclusion – the message of Christianity.

They exclude those whose world views differ from theirs. It’s time for them to get back to the common explanation of ‘inclusive’ that excludes nobody.

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

Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?

‘I’m not running for Pope’

The Honourable Scott Morrison MP

Scott Morrison 2014 (cropped 2).jpg

30th Prime Minister of Australia

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published by On Line Opinion, 6 November 2019.

What is Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, telling us about his Christianity with these statements?

Flower8 Before becoming PM, he did not support same-sex marriage. What about now?

Flower8 When interviewed by Leigh Sales, he had an opportunity to tell those watching what his views were on the existence and nature of God. He pushed that one aside with a ‘love’ view.

Flower8 He’s a Christian who doesn’t mix religion and politics.

Which God is he serving? He and his family attend Horizon Church, Sutherland Shire, NSW, Australia. This is a Pentecostal congregation associated with the Australian Christian Churches, affiliated with the Assemblies of God worldwide.

He allowed the mass media into the worship service to see him with his wife at Easter Sunday service 2019. ScoMo was praising God with hand raised. This is a common practice in Pentecostal and other evangelical church worship, supported by Bible passages such as Psalm 63:4.

This article will examine how Morrison’s Christianity integrates in public with his politics.

1. Prime Minister’s moral views

When he was treasurer in 2016, he did not support change from traditional to same-sex marriage. This is in agreement with Jesus’ endorsement of heterosexual relationships:

‘‘’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Matthew 19:4-6).

What about abortion?

The context of the recent abortion debate in NSW was when the PM acknowledged it was a State issue where the MPs and MLCs were granted a conscience vote. He would not make it a Commonwealth issue but acknowledged

I have what I would describe as conservative views on this issue as people know I have on other issues. That’s really all I think I need to say”.

That statement was made after he became PM.

2. When new moral views become law

Now that homosexual marriage has been legalised in Australia, what is Morrison’s view? Notice how he dodges the journalist’s questions:

Mr Morrison abstained from voting for marriage equality when it passed the House of Representatives in 2018, and he voted “no” in the national survey.

When asked if he is still personally opposed to same-sex marriage, the prime minister replied: “It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”

When pressed on whether his opinions have changed, he told reporters in Perth: “I always support the law of the country“.

So, he supports Australian law but won’t own up to his current personal beliefs about homosexuality. I wonder, as a Pentecostal Christian, whether he accepts the Bible’s view on the topic.

OUTinPerth, an LGBTIQ+ news source, observed ScoMo’s views on homosexuality when a journalist interviewed him in Perth. Now he was supportive of same-sex couples being allowed to ‘get on with their lives’ because he ‘always supports the law of the country’.

ScoMo would not be drawn into a discussion on whether he believed ‘gay people would be sent to hell’ – referring to the Israel Folau controversy.

3. His views on God

Leigh Sales of ABC’s 7.30 grilled him on this topic: ‘I’m not running for Pope,’ Mr Morrison shot back. “I’m running for Prime Minister. And the theological questions are not ones that are actually, I think, germane to the political debate in this country’.

Then he defined faith as loving others, ‘which is what I’ve always believed’. His parents taught by example, serving in local youth organisations, boys and girls brigade for the youth in their community. ‘They taught me a life of faith and service and that’s what my faith means to me. It means service and caring for others’.

Image result for clipart Who Is GodHe had an ideal public opportunity to declare his belief in the Lord God Almighty and Jesus the Saviour who offers salvation to the world. He turned to the ‘loving others’ definition of who God is. In my view he dodged the issues regarding attributes of God for a Christian PM.

When will ScoMo have the courage to lead the country in repentance and prayer for rain? He stated when it rained in Albury: ‘I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that’.

We heard former PM, Malcolm Turnbull, state, ‘We can’t make it rain’. Step up to the mark ScoMo. You know the One who sends and withholds rain: God the Father ‘lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong’.

I’m waiting on Morrison’s call to the nation to flood into churches, public halls and local parks to pray earnestly for rain. We can’t force God to send the rain but he has told us to ‘never stop praying’ and wait for his sovereign action in sending the liquid gold to the parched regions of the nation.

It is time for this Christian PM to tell us who sends the rain. This view espoused by many that ‘we can’t make it rain’ is true but it avoids announcing who sends rain and how we should respond to the drought.

4. Religion does not mix with politics

Morrison told a journalist, ‘he doesn’t “mix [his] religion with politics”’.

Regarding homosexuals and hell, he clarified his view before the 2019 election: No, I do not believe that’, he told SBS News.

Image result for clipart religion and politicsHowever, only a year prior he supported Israel Folau’s ‘strength of character in standing up for what he believes in and I think that’s what this country is all about’. Folau believes sinners go to hell. Does he support Folau’s ‘strength of character’ without affirming Folau’s moral and theological beliefs?

Does he believe all sinners go to hell? I have not found his making a clear public statement about this.

However, The Horizon Church where he and his family attend, stated in its Doctrinal Basis (for Australian Christian Churches), ‘We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation’ (Bible references provided).

If ScoMo is a member of that Church he would have to accept this teaching.

5. Which Bible does ScoMo read?

Twelve months ago when he was treasurer, Morrison’s views on morality and a Christian world view do not match his philosophy with biblical teaching today. From what I’ve written above, alarm bells should be ringing of conflicts between his beliefs and actions.

Related imageThe first alarm concerns how a person’s world view affects life in the real world, including politics. All of us have a world view, a lens through which we look and interpret all of life.

The global warming world view uses a certain set of lenses. Left wing and right wing agitators also use different lenses. The Christian and atheistic world views see life through the theistic God’s existence (Christian) and the lack of evidence for God (atheism).

For ScoMo to state he doesn’t ‘mix religion with politics’, he violates a Christian fundamental belief: ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17).

So, ScoMo, as a biblical Christian, should live by the teaching: ‘I must mix my Christianity with political thinking and actions. By this I give thanks to God the Father through Jesus’.

Related imageA second alarm deals with ScoMo’s acceptance of moral issues after they become law, e.g. homosexual marriage and abortion. The biblical view is that promoted by Peter and the apostles when confronted with the Jewish high council (the Sanhedrin).

The high priest stated: ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us! But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:28-29).

Should that be ScoMo’s approach to legislation that clashes with Scripture?

6. Bible, homosexuality and abortion

First Corinthians 6:9-11 is clear. Wrong doers or the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. These include those who indulge in sexual sin, worship idols, commit adultery, are male prostitutes, practise homosexuality, are thieves, greedy, drunkards, abusive, or cheat people.

If they don’t inherit the kingdom of God, where do they go at death? Jesus said regarding the last judgment: ‘They [the unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46).

Therefore, Izzy scored the try across the biblical line while ScoMo fumbled the biblical material and presented a view that is foreign to the text.

https://i0.wp.com/www.campaignlifecoalition.com/shared/skins/default/images/abortionphotos/abortedbaby22wks.jpg?resize=317%2C231&ssl=1(aborted 22 weeks, Campaign Life Coalition)

As for God’s view on abortion, is it more than ScoMo’s ‘conservative’ view? Is the unborn a living human being (from God’s perspective) whose right to live should be preserved? Or is the unborn child a lump of cells of no more value than a chicken fillet?

Scripture teaches that human life exists in the womb: ‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Psalm 139:13).

In the New Testament (NT), when Mary and Elizabeth met, both being pregnant, Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) ‘leaped in her womb’ in salutation of Mary’s baby, Jesus.  Of special significance in Luke’s account is that he used the same word brephos (NT Greek) for an unborn child (1:41, 44), the new-born baby (2:12, 16) and the little ones brought to Jesus to bless (18:15).

Medical science agrees. Every human life begins at conception. The approximately 65,000 murdered in Australian abortions every year are pre-born children – human beings.

In 1970, in the midst of the United States’ abortion debate (it was legalised in 1973), the editors of the journal California Medicine (the official journal of the California Medical Association), noticed ‘a curious avoidance of thescientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra or extrauterine until death’.

Therefore, to kill an unborn infant is to murder a human being.

7. Conclusion

ScoMo’s world view is not driven by biblical Christianity’s, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings’. When he reneges on what the Bible says about the destiny of all evil doers, including homosexuals, he has made a trade off to weaken what the Bible states.

To affirm that he is not running for Pope and serves a God of love avoids fuller explanation of who God is: All-powerful, one who knows all things, has wrath as well as love; he offers salvation to all who believe; we can know him truly, and he is eternal.

Could you imagine ScoMo taking a stand on the 7.30 program like this? ‘As a Christian who believes in the inspiration of the Bible, I endorse the content of Israel Folau’s Instagram post. As a Christian PM, everything I say and do will be under the scrutiny of the Bible’.

I appreciate that that kind of comment would lose some votes at the next election – while gaining others – and could be used by the opposition to denigrate his beliefs in a multicultural Australia. Nevertheless, the Australian Constitution has its foundation in the five states that joined together, ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

All Christians are faced with the ScoMo challenge: ‘Everything you say and everything you do should be done for Jesus your Lord’. Imagine the PM saying it like that to Leigh Sales!

In my view, the public life of politics has weakened ScoMo’s overt Christianity.

ScoMo what will it be? Spiritual correctness or political correctness? Your future will depend on it.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 03 November 2019.

Australia - Free Clipart for Kids  Teachers

1 Peter 3:19: Proclamation to spirits in prison

(image courtesy Himandus.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1 Peter 3:18-20 reads:

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water (ESV).

1.  Difficult to interpret

Martin Luther (AD 483 – 1546)[1] made a profound statement about his text in his commentary on 1 Peter:

This is a strange text, and a more obscure passage, perhaps, than any other in the New Testament, for I do not certainly know what St. Peter means. At first sight, the words import as though Christ had preached to the spirits — that is, the souls which were formerly unbelieving at the time Noah was building the ark; but that I cannot understand, I cannot even explain it. There has been no one hitherto who has explained it. Yet if any one is disposed to maintain that Christ, after that He had suffered on the Cross, descended to these souls and preached to them, I will not dispute it. It might bear such a rendering. But I am not confident that St. Peter would say this (Luther 2009, of 1 Peter 3:18-21, emphasis added).

These are among the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. Commentator, D. Edmond Hiebert, observed, ‘Each of the nine words in the original has been differently understood’.[2] They are difficult because of these three questions that need answers:[3]

(a) About whom was Peter speaking when he wrote of the ‘spirits’ to whom Christ made this proclamation (v. 19)?

(b) When did this proclamation happen (v. 19)?

(c) What was the content of the proclamation? Was it a Gospel announcement or something else?

(d) When did these ‘spirits’ fall through disobedience?

Let’s examine some possibilities:

1.1 Christ preached to the dead

Those who interpret ‘the spirits in prison’ this way maintain that during the time between Christ’s death and resurrection he went to the realm of the dead and preached to Noah’s contemporaries:

This group is subdivided by various opinions on the nature of this proclamation. (1) Christ’s soul ministers an offer of salvation to the spirits. (2) He announces condemnation to the unbelievers of Noah’s time. (3) He announces good tidings [good news] to those who had already been saved (Blum 1981:241).

Briefly, let’s look at these 3 views. Firstly,

1.1.1 Christ offers salvation to those in the realm of the dead

This would possibly harmonise with that statement in the Apostles’ Creed:

… He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell….
[4]

In 1 Peter 3:19 it states that Christ ‘went and preached to the spirits in prison’. Does this refer to Jesus’ descent into hell, as in the Apostles’ Creed? Not at all. I haven’t found any biblical evidence for that conclusion. There is no biblical support for Christ between his death and resurrection or between his resurrection and ascension going down to Hades/hell.

Some suggest that Christ in his spirit preached to Noah’s contemporaries. Let’s wait to see what the biblical evidence demonstrates.

1.1.2 Pre-existent Christ and Noah’s generation

The second interpretation maintains that Christ, before he came in the flesh at the Incarnation, ‘preached in the time of Noah to Noah’s sinful generation’ (Blum 1981:241).

1.1.3 Christ proclaimed to the ‘disobedient spirits’

This third interpretation identifies the ‘spirits’ as the fallen angels to whom Christ proclaimed his victory on the cross. When did this proclamation take place? There are two options: (1) During the three days when Jesus descended into Hades, or (2) During his ascension.

This third position seems to be the option that Peter teaches in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. ‘After Christ’s death, he made a victorious proclamation to the fallen angels’. This is defended and developed in this passage that goes through to 4:6 (Blum 1981:241).

Kistemaker agrees:

Recent commentators teach that the resurrected Christ, during his ascension to heaven, proclaimed to imprisoned spirits his victory over death. The exalted Christ passed through the realm where the fallen angels are kept and proclaimed his triumph over them (Eph 6:12; Col 2:15). This interpretation has met favorable response in Protestant and Roman Catholic circles and is in harmony with the teaching of the Petrine passage and the rest of Scripture (1986:147-148).

See also Barnes’ Notes on 1 Peter 3 for a detailed discussion of v. 19.

2. Take note of these facts

screneRed-small The main purpose of vv 18-22 is stated in v. 18? What is it? ‘For Christ also suffered’ (NIV). This is further emphasised by the preceding verses (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small  This is the teaching in v. 18 that provides the reason for patient endurance (vv. 13-17).

screneRed-small According to v. 18, ‘to bring you to God’ was the reason for Christ’s death.

2.1 Problems with NIV translation[5]

The NIV translates v. 18 as, ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit’.

screneRed-small The NIV translates Spirit with a capital ‘S’. So, was Jesus’ body crucified and he was made alive ‘in the spirit’, small ‘s’? The ESV, Geneva Bible, LEB, NABRE, NASB, NRSV, and RSV translated as ‘spirit’ with a small ‘s’. Literally the Greek means, ‘Put to death in flesh, made alive in spirit’. Therefore, Blum (1981:242) gives this technical reason for rejecting the NIV translation

To translate one member of the antithesis [body vs spirit] as a dative of sphere or reference and the other as a dative of cause is inconsistent. It is best to take both as datives of reference (or “adverbial” or even “of sphere”) and to translate both “in the sphere of” (Blum (1981:242).

Thus the better translation of v. 18 would be one such as the NRSV, ‘He was put to death in [with reference to] the flesh, but made alive in [with reference to] the spirit’. Thus, grammatically, the small ‘s’ spirit is more consistent than capital ‘S’ Spirit.

3. When was the proclamation made?

Verse 18 says Jesus had been ‘made alive’, so this proclamation took place after his resurrection. I can’t find biblical evidence to support Christ’s ‘descent into hell’ between death and resurrection.

So Jesus must have gone to where these were located. We are not told where it was so we should not speculate. We can’t walk into a room of some confined space and discover these fallen, disembodied spirits.

The same verb, ‘went’, is used in verse 19 as verse 22.

4. What was the content of the proclamation?

Simon Kistemaker quoted Dalton:

What is meant by the word preached? The verb stands by itself, so that we are unable to determine the content of preaching. In brief, only the fact of preaching, not the message, is important. That is, we understand the verb preached to mean that Christ proclaimed victory over his adversaries. In his brevity, Peter refrains from telling us the context of Christ’s proclamation. We would be adding to the text if we should interpret the word preached to signify the preaching of the gospel. “Hence we may suppose with reason that it is the victory of Christ over His adversaries which is emphasized in 3:19, not the conversion or evangelization of the disobedient spirits.”[6]

4.1 The verb used tells something

The usual Greek word ‘to evangelise’ (euangelizw) is not used here but keryssw, which means ‘I proclaim/herald’. So the choice of the latter verb means that Christ came, not to preach the Gospel to spirits. What could that proclamation be?

There are no thoughts of salvation for lost angels in the NT (see Heb 2:16 and 1 Peter 1:12).

4.2 Who are the spirits (in prison)?

This is one of the easier parts to interpret. Verse 20 states ‘they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared’ (ESV). So at the time of Noah, these beings were disobedient and the Flood judgment came.

This judgment of the Flood is a warning to human beings that there is going to be a judgment of the disobedient, unrighteous world at Jesus’ second coming. This is stated in verses such as Matt 24:37-41 (ESV) and 2 Peter 3:3-7 (ESV). Noah’s ark that saved 8 people from the flood waters is a symbol of the salvation available in Christ right now.

First Peter 3:20 states who the ‘spirits’ are. They are those people who ‘formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water’ (ESV).

They were not angelic spirits but the spirits of the disobedient people who died at the time of Noah’s flood.

5. The nature of the prison

Eminent evangelical Lutheran scholar, R C H Lenski wrote of 1 Pet 3:19,

The Scriptures know of only one ‘prison,’ that confines ‘spirits,’ namely, hell, ‘hades,’ ‘the gehenna of the fire’ (Matt. 5:22; 18:9). To call this [prison] the realm of the dead; is to give a strange meaning to the word, ‘prison’ for all the dead are supposed to go into this fictitious place, the realm of the dead. Note 2 Pet. 2:9, 10, in fact all of 2 Pet 3:4-10 (Lenski 1966/2001:163).

(image courtesy Storming the Gates of Hell)

Another commentator wrote: ‘The prison confining the unbelieving spirits is not a reform school, but a penitentiary for life’ (Engelder 1945:381).

It is not clear whether Jesus did the preaching to spirits in prison at the time of Noah or at the time of his Incarnation.[7]

However, the prison refers to Hades and Gehenna/hell. See Prov 27:20; Matt 5:25; Luke 12:58 where ‘prison’ is a type for hell.

In hell, so this is taken, in Proverbs 27:20; compare with Matthew 5:25 Luke 12:58, where prison is mentioned as a type or representation of hell. There are similar expressions in 2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 1:6.

6. Two main understandings

From the time of the early church fathers until the twenty-first century, there have been two main interpretations of 1 Peter 3:19:[8]

6.1 Firstly, Jesus preached to the departed spirits NOW in prison.

Our Lord, through Noah, preached repentance to the people of Noah’s time. There is no association with the doctrine of ‘descent into hell’ in this interpretation.

6.2 Secondly, what Jesus did when his body was in the grave.

This is the most popular interpretation from the Fathers to Luther and a large number of contemporary interpreters. It is claimed that ‘this is the most natural construction to put on the words “in which also” (i.e. in spirit)’. It is associated with Jesus’ being ‘quickened in spirit’.

So, he went from his death and the spirits were alive when Christ preached to them. His spirit, ‘disengaged from the body’, went to the place of other disembodied spirits and proclaimed certain news. The content of this proclamation was not stated but 1 Peter 4:6 (ESV) points to Gospel preaching:

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The prison is not ‘a place of safe keeping’ for both good and bad spirits. Although ‘prison’ is used 28 times in the NT, not once is it a place of protection but twice (Rev 18:2) it is used as ‘a cage’.

7. Conclusion

Verses 18-19 demonstrate that Jesus was put to death with reference to the body/flesh and was made alive with reference to his spirit, thus pointing to Christ’s death and resurrection.

The proclamation made is not of the Gospel because of the verb used kerussw (not euangelizw). It is an announcement – maybe of the victory by Jesus – to those unbelievers who did not obey with repentance in the time of Noah. However, the exact content of the proclamation is not stated in the text.

Congolese town crier

Jesus did not descend into Hades and make a Gospel proclamation to the fallen angels. However, he went to the ‘prison’ where deceased spirits were and made an announcement like a town crier would do in the first century.

‘The spirits in prison’ refers to the people who had died and were now in hell/Hades, awaiting judgment. The prison is a representation of hell. However, the people in the ‘prison’ are those who did not repent in Noah’s day and died. Their spirits went Hades.

8. Works consulted

Blum, E. A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’ in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Engelder, T 1945. The Hades Gospel, Part 2. Concordia Theological Monthly, June, 374-396. Available at: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/EngelderHadesGospel2.pdf (Accessed 30 October 2019).

Hiebert, D E 1984. First Peter: An Expositional Commentary. Chicago: Moody.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude.[9] Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966/2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (© 1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

Luther, 2009. The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained (Tr. E H Gillett). The Project Gutenberg EBook (online). Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29678/29678-h/29678-h.htm (Accessed 10 September 2019).

9.  Notes

[1] Dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2019. s.v. Martin Luther).

[2] Hiebert (1984:226) (in Kistemaker1986:141 n 54).

[3] The first 3 questions were suggested by Blum (1981:341).

[4] Christian Reformed Church 2019. Apostles’ Creed (online). Available at: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed (Accessed 9 September 2019).

[5] These details are from Blum (1981:242).

[6] Dalton (1964:155) (in Kistemaker1986:142 n 59).

[7] A T Robertson. Available at: https://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-peter/3-19.html (Accessed 30 October 2019).

[8] These 2 points are based on Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Available at: ibid.

[9] Note that this commentary does not present continuous numbering but reverts to new numbers with each Bible book. The numbers for Jude are continuous with 1 & 2 Peter.

Lazarus and the Rich Man (illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 October 2019.

Pink bird in a branchPink bird in a branchPink bird in a branchPink bird in a branchPink bird in a branchPink bird in a branchPink bird in a branch

Dams needed. Who sends the rain?

Deism damns how to fill dams

Tractor on drought-ravaged farm in Guyra, NSW. (Photo: Guyra’s water reserves dried up earlier this year. (ABC News: Caitlyn Gribbin)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A friend copied me into his email to the Federal Treasurer of Australia, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg:[1]

Thankyou for your newsletter and for the concern you show for Dino the Stanthorpe Apple Grower suffering from the effects of drought. This concern is admirable but without action it is as meaningless as the Green’s political party concern.

Dino is suffering because of a failure to supply Water. It is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient water is stored to meet domestic, industrial, irrigation and environmental needs.

Unfortunately we have to go back to the 1960’s Ord scheme to find evidence of Federal Government active intervention to supply water on a large scale. Tony Abbott talked a lot. ALP is only concerned with their voter base which no longer includes farmers.

Tino is suffering because past governments have failed to build dams not because it is not raining.

The 1940’s and 1950’s Bradfield scheme if implemented would have solved the problem. Vince Gair was advocating this scheme in 1950’s and I personally heard Dr. Colin Clark praise the scheme.

As an absolute minimum to show true support for Dino please organise for a full investigation into the scheme with an undertaking to build if viable.

My reply was: There’s no point in building dams unless the Lord God Almighty sends the rain.
We should have people in droves, who believe in the power of prayer, flooding our churches to pray for rain. Of course we need national repentance. See: Australia is in deep trouble: Droughts, floods and fires

His comeback was:

I am not on the same wavelength as Spencer’s response to me.

I personally do not think God interferes with the running of his creation and I see our lack of rain as a natural part of that creation. Our failure to store it however is a failure by humans and has nothing to do with sin other than greed when allocating government resources.[2]

1. Which theology did he promote?

His was the God who created the world and left it running and did not involve himself in the creation any longer. The problem is a human one where not enough dams have been built and water stored.

He provided zero explanation for the lack of rain, except it was a natural part of what happens in our world.

Is this the God of the Bible in action or has he gone to sleep.

1.1 Deism damns how to fill dams

Who or what sends the rain so that we have water to store in dams?

Image result for symbol Deism public domainYours is the God of Deism. My understanding of creation is one where ‘God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords’ sustains the universe (1 Timothy 6:15). God the Son sustains ‘all things by his powerful word’ (Hebrews 1:3).

Why does the world continue to exist? It is not because he set it running and then doesn’t interfere. Rather, Scripture is clear: ‘For in him [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together‘ (Colossians 1:16-17).

The Bible does not support your view that God does not interfere with the running of creation. Instead, God is active in holding all things together in creation, including the sending and withholding of rain.

For the Israelites under the Old Covenant, Amos 4:7 states: ‘I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up’.

God is not the weak absentee landlord. He continues to be active in his creation. He is the God of action and not inaction when it comes to sending the rain: ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (Matthew 5:45).

1.2 Atrocious reasoning

What do you think his come back would be to my exposure of his Deism? It was simple: ‘Thank you for your reply. I have removed you from my e-mail contacts. You should get nothing from me from now on’.[3]

Instead of dealing with the negatives and positives of his Deist beliefs, he resorted to removing me from his email list.

I thoughtfully replied:

So you are unprepared to deal with your unbiblical view of God. Instead of dealing with the issues with your Deism, you removed me from your mailing list. You have used an Appeal to Invincible Ignorance Logical Fallacy. It involves a situation where …

the person in question (you) simply refuses to believe the argument, ignoring any evidence given. It is not so much a fallacious tactic in argument as it is a refusal to argue in the proper sense of the word, the method instead being to make assertions with no consideration of objections.

Deleting me from your email list demonstrated your use of this fallacy.
I hope that one day you’ll be able to man up to a critique of your Deism and see its distance from Christianity.

2. What are the beliefs of Deism?[4]

God made the world and does not interrupt its continuing with supernatural events. Thus, the statement by my friend, ‘I personally do not think God interferes with the running of his creation and I see our lack of rain as a natural part of that creation’.

There are several forms of deism. Some of their basic beliefs include (Geisler 1999:190):

clip_image002God is not interested in the world he created.

clip_image002[1]A second brand regards God as having a continuing interest in the universe but is not interested in whether people act morally or not.

clip_image003A third view maintains God governs the universe and is interested in the moral actions of people, but nothing happens after death.

clip_image003[1]Fourthly, it understands God regulates the world, expects obedience to his moral law in nature with rewards and punishments for the wicked.

Deists object to orthodox Christianity over their views on:

  • God (the non-Trinitarian God of Deism);
  • Origin of the universe;
  • Relation of God to the universe;
  • Miracles;
  • Ethics;
  • Human destiny;
  • History.

B A Robinson (1999-2018) of Religious Tolerance summarised the beliefs of Deism. They include:

clip_image005It’s a natural religion that believes in God’s existence, purely on rational grounds.

clip_image006It does not rely on revealed religion, religious authority or any holy texts.

clip_image005[1]So Deism is quite different from Judaism, Christianity and Islam because these 3 religions are ‘based on revelations that Jews, Christians and Muslims believe mostly came from God to prophet(s) who then taught it to humans’.

clip_image005[2] It’s a ‘bottom-up’ faith, which means it was created by humans about God. Deists regard revealed religions as ‘top-down’ for the reason ‘their followers believe that they were created by God and delivered to humans’.

clip_image005[3]Faiths that are the opposite of Deism are Atheism because it does not believe in the existence of God or gods. Another opposite is Theism which is ‘seen in the beliefs of most Theists who conceive of God as a deity who is all-present, all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing and has a personal interest and involvement in every human on Earth’. Robinson explained:

Many Deists reason that everything that exists has had a creator — from a wristwatch, to a television set, to the Internet itself. Thus it is logical that the universe itself must have been created by God:

2.1 Positive contributions of Deists

With such a low view of God and a perspective that is contrary to the Scriptures, how could I contemplate any positive benefits by Deists? Geisler (1999:191) states these three:

  • The importance of reason in considering matters of faith (cf. Isa 1:18; Acts 17:17; 1 Pet 3:15); claims made about miracles and supernatural relation need verification.
  • The existence of God is reflected in a Designer of the cosmos.
  • Exposing religious deception and superstition.

2.2 Critique of Deism

What are the major objections to this view of God and the universe?

2.2.1 Admit creation but refuse to accept lesser miracles

A being who could [as deists believe] bring the universe into existence from nothing could certainly perform lesser miracles if He chose to do so. A God who created water could part it or make it possible for a person to walk on it. The immediate multiplication of loaves of bread and fish would be no problem to a God who created matter and life in the first place. A virgin birth or even a physical resurrection from the dead would be minor miracles in comparison to the miracle of creating the universe from nothing [as deists believe]. It seems self-defeating to admit a great miracle like creation and then to deny the possibility of lesser miracles (Geisler 1999:191).

2.2.2 Scientists and natural law

Scientists’ views on natural law have moved past the Deists’ understandings. The Deist view is outdated as scientists regard the natural law as general today and not necessarily universal. Natural laws indicate how nature generally behaves but it is not fixated on that response.

If God created the universe for the good of his creatures, it seems that he would miraculously intervene in their lives if their good depended on it. Surely their all-good Creator would not abandon his creation. Instead it would seem that such a God would continue to exercise the love and concern for his creatures that prompted him to create them to begin with, even if it meant providing care through miraculous means (Geisler 1999:191).

The possibility of supernatural revelation through Scripture cannot be excluded if one admits to the possibility of miracles.

C S Lewis wrote: ‘A naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically Christian’ (Lewis 1947/2012:108).

2.2.3 Abuse is no excuse

Because some religious people have abused religious beliefs on miracles and other Christian beliefs does not make it legitimate to reject miracles. One bad tomato or even a bad bag of tomatoes does not stop people from eating tomatoes.

There have been abuses in science. See: Uses and Abuses of Tuskegee. That should not and has not prevented our engagement with the scientific disciplines.

An all-powerful, all-knowing God could conceivably overcome these problems. At least such problems should not rule out the possibility that God has revealed himself, either verbally or in written form. Again, the evidence should first be consulted….

The deists’ case against Christianity and the Bible has been found wanting…. What anti-supernaturalist has adequately answered such Christian theists as J. Gresham Machen, and C. S. Lewis?… They have built an extensive and solid case from science, philosophy, and logic against the belief that miracle stories in the Bible are necessarily mythical….

For example, [Thomas] Paine’s[5] belief that most of the books of the Bible were written by people other than the ones who claimed to write them and written very late is still proclaimed as indisputable fact by many critics. But there is not one credible shred of evidence that has not been rejected for good reason by archaeologists and biblical scholars. More than 25,000 finds have confirmed the picture of the ancient world given in the Bible …. There is sufficient evidence to support the authorship claims and early dates for most biblical books (Geisler 1999:192).

3. Conclusion

I found it interesting to have interaction with a friend whose belief is that of Deism. When I exposed that, he cut off communication with me.

In the above, I’ve discussed the positives and negatives of Deism when compared with biblical Christianity.

The foundation of a Deist world view is not based on Scripture and the God who intervenes with our world.

My view is that my friend’s statement summarises the despair of a Deist world view: ‘I personally do not think God interferes with the running of his creation and I see our lack of rain as a natural part of that creation’.

4. Notes

[1] It was dated 6 October 2019. Typographical errors have been corrected.

[2] Received 15 October 2019. Typographical errors were corrected.

[3] Email received 15 October 2019.

[4] Based on Geisler (1999:189-192).

[5] See Thomas Paine details at Thomas Paine 2019. Biography (online). Available at: https://www.biography.com/scholar/thomas-paine (Accessed 16 October 2019).

5.  Works consulted

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

Lewis, C S 1947/2012. Miracles: Do They Really Happen? London: William Collins (a division of Harper Collins).

Robinson, B A 1999-2018. Deism: A world religion. Religious Tolerance (online). Available at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/deism.htm (Accessed 15 October 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 October 2019.

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Cane toads and religious freedom

A prominent animal welfare group wants people to stop clubbing cane toads.

(image courtesy Katherine Times)

By Campbell Markham[1]

I consider this is the finest Christian assessment I’ve read of Australia’s draft Religious Discrimination Bills 2019: Religious Freedom Laws and Cane Toads. See Religious Freedom Bills to read a copy of the 2019 draft bills in Australia.

It is written by Campbell Markham, minister of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Hobart, Tas. who knows from personal experience what it is like to be the victim of ‘existing anti-discrimination action’.

He had to ‘face Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission over online blogs referring to the gay lifestyle as “distressingly dangerous” and having “appalling health risks”‘. After conciliation, the anti-discrimination case was dropped.

If you were encouraged by Campbell Markham’s analysis of the draft Religious Discrimination Bill 2019, why don’t you contact him with a word or two of encouragement? Contact: pastor@cornerstonehobart.com

Notes

[1] This information was copied from Campbell Markham’s blog by Spencer D Gear. His blog may be located at: http://campbellmarkham1970.blogspot.com/ (Accessed 13 October 2019).

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

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How a KJV-only supporter stuffed up biblical interpretation

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How do we communicate Scripture to a world that does not speak like this?

Loo! a virgyne ?hal haue in wombe, and ?he ?hal bere a ?one, and his name ?hal be clepid Emanuel, þat is interpretid, or expounid, God wiþ us. Soþely Jo?eph ry?ynge vp fro ?leep, did as þe angel of þe Lord comaundide hym, and toke his wijf; and he knewe hir nat, til ?he had boren hir fir?t bygoten ?one, and clepide his name Jhe?us (Early Wycliffe Bible, Maþeu, Capitulum I:23).[1]

This is how I got into trouble by quoting a contemporary Bible translation in place of the King James Version (KJV):

17 For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth. 18 As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. 19 Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, 20 rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks (Gen 7:11-20 NLT).[2]

What is wrong with that contemporary translation?[3] It is:

A false, altered version which adds to God’s Truth. Here is the KJV,

Gen 7:17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.
The “add to” in your version is in lifting the boat high above earth. The altered view preacher is getting ready to put his thoughts into God’s words.
Gen 7:18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.
The water deepened and the Ark floated on the water. Your version agrees.
Gen 7:19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
The “add to” here is claiming the highest mountains were covered instead of the high hills.
Gen 7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
The “add to” here is that the flood was 22.5 feet ABOVE the “mountain peaks” and the less altered version shows that Adam’s FLAT Earth was covered when the flood reached a depth of 22.5 feet PERIOD. No wonder so many people are confused when they read what they THINK was written. That’s religion/belief and not Scripture.

How should I respond to this KJV-only supporter? I took up only one verse, Genesis 7:17.

1.  KJV-only promoter relies on KJV as his standard of measuring an accurate Bible translation.

Let’s check the Scripture to see if he is correct in his correction of me for adding to God’s truth.

He spoke of ‘Adam’s FLAT Earth’.[4] I asked him to please prove that from Genesis 6-7. I’m waiting with baited breath! It hasn’t come yet.
You complain about the modern translation I used, New Living Translation, adding to the Bible with ‘high’ in Gen 7:17. By the way, the KJV you quoted is not the original KJV of 1611 (which I’ll quote below) but probably a parallel to the 1769 revision. Why is he not using the 1611 edition as the standard by which to judge all other translations?

2.  Various English translations

Let’s examine various English translations of Genesis 7:17:

Green_AtomWycliffe’s Bible appeared 2 centuries BEFORE the KJV of 1611: ‘And the greet flood was maad fourti daies and fourti niytis on erthe, and the watris weren multiplied, and reiseden the schip on hiy fro erthe’.
Green_AtomThe Great Bible (BEFORE KJV): ‘And the floude came fortye dayes vpon the earth, & the waters were increaced, and bare vp the Arke, whiche was lyfte vp aboue the erth’.
Green_AtomBishops’ Bible (BEFORE KJV): ‘And the fludde came fourtie dayes vpon the earth, and the waters were increased, and bare vp the arke, whiche was lyft vp aboue the earth’.

1609 Doway Old Testament.pdf
Green_AtomDouay-Rheims Bible was BEFORE the KJV: ‘And the flood was forty days upon the earth: and the waters increased, and lifted up the ark on high from the earth.
Green_AtomThe Geneva Bible (BEFORE KJV) with modern spelling, ‘Then the flood was forty days upon the earth, and the waters were increased, and bare up the Ark, which was lifted up above the earth’.
Green_AtomThe Coverdale Bible (BEFORE KJV): ‘Then came the water floude fourtie dayes vpon the earth, and the water increased, and bare vp the Arcke, and lift it vp ouer ye earth’.
Green_AtomKJV of 1611, ‘And the Flood was fortie dayes vpon the earth, and the waters increased, and bare vp the Arke, and it was lift vp aboue the earth’.
Green_AtomNKJV: ‘Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth’.
Green_AtomESV: ‘The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth’
Green_AtomNRSV: ‘The flood continued for forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth’.
Green_AtomNLT: ‘For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth’.
Green_AtomNIRV: ‘For 40 days the flood kept coming on the earth. As the waters rose higher, they lifted the ark high above the earth’.
Green_AtomNET: ‘The flood engulfed the earth for forty days. As the waters increased, they lifted the ark and raised it above the earth’.
Notice the difference between the KJV and the NKJV. Why has the KJV translated as ‘lift vp aboue‘ and the NKJV, ‘rose high above‘? It’s because that’s the meaning of the Hebrew. The modern versions convey it in a clearer way. It’s really the formal equivalence translation of the KJV (1611) that has left out the ‘high’. It is NOT that the modern translations have added ‘high’, but they have given us an accurate rendition into English of what the Hebrew language means for this verse.

3.  High on rûm

Hebrew scholar, H C Leupold, explained the meaning of ‘lift vp aboue‘ vs. ‘rose high above‘. His exegesis from the Hebrew language of this verse was,

Naturally “the waters mounted” (rabbah?”grew great”). It was not long before sufficient water was displaced to “lift up” (nasa’) the ark. So it “went high” (rûm?“be high“) above the earth (Leupold, 1942, Exposition of Genesis 7:17).?

Therefore, it is the KJV and earlier translations – except the Douay-Rheims – and your support for the KJV translation of Gen 7:17 – that demonstrates that it is the KJV and you that got it wrong with the translation of the Hebrew, rûm, in Gen 7:17. It means ‘be high’ and ‘high’ must be in the English translation of the Hebrew OR some word that is a synonym of ‘high’.

4.  A word to KJV-only supporters

I do wish KJV-only supporters like yourself would get your facts straight about the exegesis of the biblical text. Your accusation against me regarding Gen 7:17, that I used an ‘altered version which adds to God’s Truth’, is untrue. This was a false allegation. Shame on you!

This was an example of a Christian who delivered a red herring fallacy against me. What does a red herring fallacy do to a conversation? It is

attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument.[5]

5.  A better example

What has happened in this exchange with me is that this person assumes the KJV is the standard of Bible translations and any changing of the wording of a phrase or ‘adding’ of a word that opposes the KJV, is an example of adding to Scripture.

A better example would be to follow Paul’s instructions in 2 Tim 2:15 (NIRV), ‘Do your best to please God. Be a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed. Teach the message of truth correctly’. Other translations of the last sentence are, ‘rightly handling the word of truth’ (ESV) and ‘teaching the message of truth accurately’ (NET).

Which Bible translations are inspired or breathed out by God? Second Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) states:

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’.

Or, if you prefer the KJV of 1611, 2 Tim 3:16-17 reads:

All Scripture is giuen by inspiration of God, & is profitable for doctrine, for reproofe, for correction, for instrution in righteousnesse,

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished vnto all good workes.

This is the 1383 Wycliffe translation of these verses:

For al scripture inspirid of God is profitable to teche, to repreue, to chastice, to lerne in riytwisnes, that the man of God be parfit, lerud to al good werk (John Wycliffe’s Translation).

I prefer the NIV which translates more accurately the archaic into modern English.

6.  Which Bible is inspired by God?

Is it the KJV of 1611, the NIV of the twenty-first century or some other translation?

None of these translations is God-breathed. Only the original manuscripts are inspired by God. In fact when 2 Tim 3:16-17 was written it is highly probable ‘all Scripture’ refers to the OT only.

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem explained:

Here “Scripture” (graphe) must refer to the Old Testament written Scripture, for that is what the word graphe refers to in every one of its fifty-one occurrences in the New Testament.[6] Further, the “sacred Scriptures to which Paul has just referred to in verse 16.

Paul here affirms that all of the Old Testament writings are theopneustos, “breathed out by God.” Since it is writings that are said to be “breathed out,” this breathing must be understood as a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. This verse thus states in brief form what was evident in many passages in the Old Testament: the Old Testament writings are regarded as God’s Word in written form (Grudem 1994:74-75).

By implication, this does not refer to Old Testament translations but to the original documents of the OT.

So, who is adding to or subtracting from Scripture? The 1611 KJV added verses such as Mark 16:9-20 and the Apocrypha. So who is adding to Scripture?

For a list of the verses supposedly added by modern Bible translations, see: List of New Testament verses not included in modern English translations.

That’s not what modern translators have. The oldest surviving NT manuscript of the entire NT is Codex Sinaiticus:

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book (Codex Sinaiticus).

It includes many variants (like typos) when compared with other early MSS but the variants do not change any major Bible doctrines.

7.  Works consulted

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

8.  Notes


[1] This is the Bible, translated by John Wycliffe from the Latin Vulgate in the 1380s, Matt 1:23. Available at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_(Early_Wycliffe)/Ma%C3%BEeu#Capitulum_I (Accessed 25 December 2017). At this stage in Bible format, there were chapter divisions but no verse divisions in the English Bible.

The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524–1579). The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in nearly all English Bibles and the vast majority of those in other languages (Wikipedia 2017. Chapters and verses of the Bible. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible#cite_ref-5 (Accessed 25 December2017).

[2] Christian Forums.com 2017. Proving evolution is just a theory. OzSpen#6099. Available at: https://www.christianforums.com/threads/proving-evolution-as-just-a-theory.8028023/page-305 (Accessed 23 December 2017).

[3] Ibid., Aman777#6145. He wrote the KJV quotes in blue font.

[4] This was the phrase of Aman777 in ibid., #6145.

[5] Logically Fallacious (2017. s v red herring). Available at: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/150/Red_Herring (Accessed 23 December 2017).

[6] Grudem notes, ‘In at least two cases, 1 Tim. 5:18 and 2 Peter 3:16, graphe also includes some of the New Testament writings along with the Old Testament writings that it is referring to’ (Grudem 1984:74, n. 4).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 September 2019.

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Is reincarnation taught in the Bible?

(Reincarnation in Hindu Art, image courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer D Gear PhD

It is not unusual to encounter people (Christians) on Christian forums who claim they believe in reincarnation and state they are Christians. They try to defend their views from reinterpretation of Scriptures such as Hebrews 9:27.

1.  What is reincarnation?

Reincarnation refers to the indestructible soul, but not in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

The Western definition of death is known as “the irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity”. Although this is true to define the end of someone’s life, there are many who believe that there is more to life even after death. Those who worship Hinduism believe that death does not necessarily mean the end. They follow the idea of reincarnation which means that the soul is indestructible and repeatedly takes on a physical body until moksha. Moksha is a term in Hinduism which refers to the various forms of liberation or release which occurs when the cycle of dying and rebirth ends. It is the central concept in Hindu tradition and included as one of the four main goals in human life (Reincarnation in Hinduism).[1]

So reincarnation involves death of the physical body, taking on a new body and this happens over and over with a cycle of dying and rebirth.

2.  An encounter with a Christian reincarnationist

clip_image004 Of Hebrews 9:27, his view was it is used

‘almost universally as the Scripture that refutes reincarnation. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,…“. For a long time, I could not resolve Scripture with my personal experience. Then it hit me – that passage does not necessarily say that men only live once. It may only say that after every lifetime, there is a mandatory judgment (some call it a “life review”). The phrasing is a bit clumsy; perhaps it is even intentionally so?
There are Christians who believe in reincarnation. I guess I’m one of them’.
[2]

Issues emerging from that comment include:

  • Heb 9:27 is one verse used to refute reincarnation but there are many others that teach what happens at death for believer and non-believer.
  • Scripture and personal experience clashed but he got himself out of the bind by reinterpreting Scripture according to a reincarnation view. This means:
  • Another world view determined this theology and he was not listening to biblical content.
  • Men don’t die only once. After every lifetime (over and over is inferred)), compulsory judgment follows judgment.
  • His reincarnation theology does not stop him from being Christian.

clip_image004[1]Again: ‘Yes, but my point is that Hebrews 9:27 does not necessarily say we only die once, it may say (paraphrasing) that for every death there is a separate judgment. In other words, suppose you had 6 successive lives- after each death, there is a mandatory judgment. 6 lives, 6 judgments’.[3]

Concerns again from this comment:

   clip_image004[2]Heb 9:27 doesn’t necessarily say dying only once. How does he know that?

 clip_image004[3]How does he know that it may mean 6 successive lives are followed by deaths and 6 judgments?

clip_image004[4]He reiterated, ‘Begging to differ, but it does not say “only”‘.[4]

He’s moved in Heb 9:27 from ‘does not necessarily say that men only live once. It may only say that after every lifetime’, to …

‘it does not say “only”’.

3.  Some orthodox Jews teach reincarnation

These are examples.

Eminent Jewish scholar and researcher, Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin serves as content editor at Chabad.org, and writes the popular weekly Ask Rabbi Y column. Shurpin is the rabbi of the Chabad Shul in St. Louis Park, Minn. (USA)

In one of his columns, he wrote:

Every descent of the soul into this world has a specific Divine purpose. This is the case whether it is the soul’s first descent or a subsequent reincarnation. There are many aspects of gilgul haneshamot—reincarnation of the soul—that are complex and intricate beyond the scope of this response’ (Why & When Does Reincarnation Occur?)

Vector image of reincarnation The situation becomes more bizarre with his referral to …

the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, explains that only reincarnations into human beings is limited to “three strikes and you are out.” These souls can still continue to be reincarnated, first as kosher animals, and then, in decreasing order, as non-kosher animals, plants, and even eventually as inanimate objects, as long as the need exists.[5]

He turned to Rabbi Yeshaya HaLevi Horowitz, as provided by the Kabbalists, in his classic work Shnei Luchot HaBrit (Shaloh) for an explanation of why reincarnation was needed in the Jewish world. The three reasons are:

1. There are some sins for which the cleansing in the spiritual realm alone does not suffice. Thus souls who have sinned and have not properly repented whilst alive, are sometimes forced to undergo a second round of life in this world as rehabilitation for sins previously committed….

2. Reincarnation provides an opportunity for souls to perform those commandments that they were unable to do in a previous incarnation….

3. There are some souls who do not descend for their own growth or perfection. Rather, the only reason they return to this earth is to benefit others. This can be to help out an individual or the entire generation, spiritually or materially (Horowitz in Shurpin).

It is important for the emphases of my article to note that Shurpin provided not a shred of biblical evidence to support his view.

My Jewish Learning website has an article by Rabbi Louis Jacobs[6] who is (What Judaism says about reincarnation) is unafraid to denounce reincarnation: ‘there are no references to the idea in the Bible or the Talmud , and it was unknown in Judaism until the eighth century CE, when it began to be adopted by the Karaites [a sectarian Jewish group] (possibly, it has been suggested, under the influence of Islamic mysticism)’.

Rabbi Louis Jacobs said: ‘Some modern Jews are attracted to the occult and believe in reincarnation. Otherwise the doctrine has had its day, and is believed in by very few modern Jews, although hardly any Orthodox Jew today will positively denounce the doctrine’.[7]

4.  Biblical reincarnation is Greek to me.

I asked this person on the Christian forum: Do you read NT Greek? If you do,

you will know that the Greek uses hapax in Heb 9:27, ‘it is appointed for people to die hapax‘. What is the meaning of hapax? Does it mean to die multiple times, 10 times, twice or once?[8] I was trying to get out of him how he KNEW Heb 9:27 did mean one or only once.

How did he know that it doesn’t include the meaning of ‘only’ when you don’t read and understand Greek? Let’s check the leading Greek lexicon, Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich (1957:89) which gives the meaning of hapax:

clip_image006  ‘As an actual numerical concept, ‘I was stoned once’ (2 Cor 11:25); in Heb 9:26 we have the Greek phrase phanero? hapax, speaking of Jesus ‘has appeared once’ – numerically.

clip_image008  BAG includes this example under the ‘actual numerical concept of once’ = once only. Why did Jesus appear this one time? Verse 26 states: ‘to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’. He came only once, hapax, to do that. How often was Jesus sacrificed for sin? The same number of times a person dies (in v. 27) – only once.

clip_image010  BAG again places hapax as an ‘actual numerical concept of once’ in Heb 9:28: ‘prospher? hapax eis anapher? hamartia‘ = offered once to bear sins.

So the once in Heb 9:27 means one time only, numerically. There is no second time death and rebirth over and over. Reincarnation is not taught in Scripture.

So Jesus paid the price for sin only once, just as human beings die only once. A. T. Robertson, the leading Greek scholar of the 20th century, stated: ‘Once for all to die, as once for all to live here. No reincarnation here’ (Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol 5, p. 404).

In Job 16:22 (NLT), Job spoke of his death: ‘For soon I must go down that road from which I will never return’. There is no hint of reincarnation here. What could be clearer than Job 7:9-10 (NLT)?

Just as a cloud dissipates and vanishes,
those who die will not come back.
They are gone forever from their home—
never to be seen again.

Here are a couple articles that oppose transmigration of the soul in the Bible:

clip_image012Reincarnation in the Bible’;

clip_image012[1]What does the Bible say about reincarnation?

5.  Time for more Scripture twisting

Try this one for bending Scripture to make it fit one’s own preconceived ideas:

Speaking of Scripture, there is an interesting passing reference to what may be reincarnation. John 9:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The disciples ask Jesus if a man sinned before his birth. Thus it’s a question about reincarnation. They ask in a rather nonchalant way, as if it’s not even an unusual topic. The Lord answers it another way, but the argument goes that if there was no such thing, wouldn’t He have come right out and said, “There’s no such thing as reincarnation”?[9]

Another Jewish leader, Rabbi Menachem Posner, twists Scripture to make it support reincarnation:

These are not places which shout “reincarnation” in bold letters but they do form part of a greater picture.

Ecclesiastics 1:4: “A generation departs and a generation comes.” If this would refer to the normal flow of generations, a generation cannot come after the previous generation has gone. Rather this refers to the same soul(s) returning in consecutive lives.

Job 1:21: “Naked I left my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there.” Who comes back to their mom’s womb? Enter reincarnation.

These are just a few samples. There are a number of such places scattered throughout the Torah. The bulk of what we know about reincarnation is from the Oral Torah and these are just a few places where this dynamic is evident in an almost offhand manner in the written part.

The question remains though: Reincarnation is a major theological issue. Why is such a major issue not explicitly discussed in the Written Torah?[10]

The answer is simple. It is not found in the first five books of Moses (Torah) or the rest of the Old Testament. It is not a teaching of the New Testament. I’ve provided examples of Scripture twisting by Jewish leaders to try to make the OT fit with reincarnation. The end result is Scripture manipulation.

The fellow on that Christian forum was engaged in a similar kind of promotion of false doctrine while trying to make it look like he knew what he was talking about. The hapax factor found him out.

6.  Conclusion

Reincarnation is ‘the belief that the soul, upon death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form’ (Dictionary.com 2019. s.v. reincarnation). It also is called rebirth and transmigration, referring to human being’s soul being reborn in another body. Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation.

The primary reason for reincarnation is ‘that a person may be reborn successively into one of five classes of living beings (god or human or animal or hungry ghost or denizen of Hell) depending on the person’s own actions’ (vocabulary.com n.d. s.v. reincarnation). This is designed to cleanse in the spiritual realm of sins not forgiven in the first life.

It was seen that a few orthodox Jews have engaged in, (a) invention of the doctrine, or (b) eisegesis of a couple OT texts to try to support OT reincarnation.

It was shown from the Greek hapax that there is no biblical validity in promotion of reincarnation as, ‘Everyone must die once. Then they are judged’ (Heb 9:27 ERV). Hapax refers to the numeral one or once.

Therefore, any kind of Christian or Jewish promotion of reincarnation is a hoax.

7.  Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[11] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

8.  Notes

[1] Cindy Cheng 2017. Anthropological Perspectives on Death (online), 17 February. Emory WordPress Sites.

[2] ChristianForums.net 2019. Why do so many Christian believers do not believe in the possibility of reincarnation? KevinK#8. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/why-do-so-many-christian-believers-do-not-believe-in-the-possibility-of-reincarnation.79566/ (Accessed 6 June 2019).

[3] Ibid., KevinK#10.

[4] Ibid., KevinK#14.

[5] Shurpin’s footnote at this point was:

There is, however, an important distinction between souls that reincarnate into human bodies and those that reincarnate into other creatures. When a human soul incarnates into an animal, it does so merely as an observer. That is to say that this creature is like any other creature of its kind, except that a reincarnated soul is trapped inside. The excruciating pain and sorrow the soul experiences while trapped inside the animal, forced to live and observe the life of this creature while powerless to control its behavior, serves to rehabilitate it.
Additionally, while this soul cannot really rehabilitate itself as it has no control over the action of the creature, it can sometimes be rehabilitated through the actions of others, for example, by someone reciting a blessing over it, if it is kosher (footnote 5, Why & When Does Reincarnation Occur?’)

[6] My Jewish Learning 2002-2019. What Judaism says about reincarnation. Available at:

[7] My Jewish Learning. What Judaism says about reincarnation. Available at: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/reincarnation-the-transmigration-of-a-jewish-idea/ (Accessed 14 September 2019).

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[9] KevinK#37. After this post, he made no posts regarding content of reincarnation.

[10] Menachem Posner 1993-2019. Where is reincarnation found in G?d’s word, as opposed to Man’s word? (online) Available at: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/474456/jewish/Where-is-reincarnation-found-in-Gds-word.htm (Accessed 14 September 2019).

[11] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

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

clip_image013

Is Natural Law unchangeable?

Image result for clipart Natural Law public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you respond to this challenge?

Everyone on earth, in the civilized world, believes in the Natural Truth. A truth that is by its very nature accepted by everyone. The main reason for its acceptance is that it keeps the society in an orderly condition and avoids chaos.
I said in the civilized world because cannibals believe it is right to kill someone for their food; but they would still stop at killing each other for this purpose.
I believe some here, and I agree, are saying that today even the Natural Truth is being transgressed. Abortion, euthanasia are examples.
[1]

This person explained further:

I don’t know if I can say Christianity is the Truth because not everyone accepts it.
I CAN say that it is true. Why? Because no one else, Buddha, Krishna, etc. ever claimed to be God.

Also, there is the resurrection which I believe to be true because I trust the Apostles who said so.

Pilot asked Jesus “what is the truth”. Jesus did not reply because Pilot could not accept the truth, even though he was staring it in the face.

Pilot did not even accept the Natural Truth. Anyone who could crucify someone does not have the truth.

Whereas Jesus embodied the Truth. He was Natural Truth personified since HE wrote it![2]

1.  Who invented the Natural Law perspective?

The view that Natural Laws are immutable (unchangeable) was an argument against miracles that was popularised in the 1670s by Jewish pantheist, Benedict Spinoza.[3] As you may know, pantheism is the worldview that God is everything and everyone-everything is God.

Spinoza’s argument went like this:

  1. Miracles are violations of natural laws;
  2. Natural laws are immutable;
  3. It is impossible to violate immutable laws;
  4. So, miracles are impossible.

If we follow Spinoza’s philosophy/worldview, then natural laws cannot be overpowered and that puts an end to miracles.

The basic problem with Spinoza’s view of Natural Law is that it commits the begging the question fallacy or engages in circular reasoning. This fallacy includes the conclusion in its premises, directly or indirectly. It assumes the conclusion is true and places it in its presuppositions.

This is where Spinoza’s worldview needs to be exposed. His presupposition was that there is no theistic God who performs miracles because he was a pantheist and did not believe in the personal, theist Yahweh.

We know from the evidence of creation (whether one accepts it from Scripture or the Big Bang of science) that we have evidence of the greatest miracle of all in creation of the universe out of nothing. This example of the violation of Natural Law demonstrates that the Natural Law (miracle performed) is not immutable.

It has been put this way by Geisler & Turek:

We also know that natural laws are not immutable because they are descriptions of what happens, not prescriptions of what must happen. Natural laws don’t really cause anything, they only describe what regularly happens in nature. They describe the effects of the four known natural forces – gravitational, magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Once you introduce intelligent beings into the picture, natural forces can be over powered. We know that those forces can be overpowered because we do so ourselves every day.
For example, when a baseball player catches a falling baseball, he is overpowering the force of gravity. We do the same whenever we fly planes or blast off into space. In such cases, gravity is not changed, it is simply overpowered. If finite beings like us can overpower natural forces, then certainly the infinite Being who created those forces can do so (Geisler & Turek 2004:204).?

After making this post online, the person dealing with Natural Law responded and stated she ‘was speaking to moral law’.[4]

2.  God does not change his mind.

The difference between Natural Law and moral laws is that universal moral laws are based on the nature of God and he is immutable. These verses affirm the unchanging nature of God:

  • Num 23:19 (NLT), ‘God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?’
  • Mal 3:6 (NLT), ‘I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed’.
  • James 1:17 (NLT), ‘Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow’.

So whether under God’s revelations in the OT or NT, God is declared to be one who by essence/nature never changes.

3.  God is the standard of morality.

That standard is established in the moral laws contained in the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). Because the moral laws are related to the nature and attributes of God, they cannot be changed. God can intervene in natural laws through instances such as miracles and providence[5], but he cannot change moral laws because they are based on his nature.

Thus, God’s moral laws are absolute and not relativistic.

My response to the person who clarified she was referring to the moral law was:[6]

Image result for clipart God morality(image courtesy 123RF.com)

Since you were speaking about moral law and not Natural Law, it is important to note that the Natural Law is not based on God’s attributes/nature and so Natural Law is changeable. God can penetrate it with miracles. NASA can violate Natural Law with its space crafts.

However, God can’t defy his moral laws as they are based on his nature. Murder, adultery, theft, lying and covetousness are wrong (e.g. Ex 20 ESV) because they are based on God’s nature. The introduction to the Ten Commandments in Ex 20:1-2 (NLT) is: ‘Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery’. So God declares who he is, ‘the Lord your God’, before declaring the commandments for the Israelites to live by. God’s nature as the Lord God is what determines the content of his commands.

Yes, God can do anything (except sin) and is not limited, but that is based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. Spinoza did not accept that view as a pantheist – even though he was a Jew and should have known better.

I agree that the moment we speak of God as a ‘person’ (as in the 3 persons of the Trinity), it is way too easy to presume we know the characteristics of a person, based on human understanding. However, the truth is that we need to allow God to define and describe his nature/person of himself. Here we search the Scriptures for accurate descriptions of God’s personhood.

4.  God’s law written on the human heart.

There’s a revealing Scripture in Rom 2:12-15 (NLT):

12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. 13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

No people will get off scot-free before God, even if they have not heard the Gospel of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. This is because God has revealed in Scripture that God’s law is written in the hearts of all Gentiles and their consciences and thoughts will accuse them or confirm they are right before God.

5.  Conclusion

The Natural Law is a philosophical concept invented by Spinoza. It is not unchangeable (immutable) and authoritarian (prescriptive). Instead, natural laws describe what happens and do not prescribe what must happen. Natural laws cannot cause anything; they described what actually happens in nature.

God’s moral law that commands ethical standards is based on the nature of God and examples include the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The Jews depended on the OT Law for their standards while the Christian depends on the NT commands, Matt 5-7 being one example. Non-Jews (Gentiles) have the moral law of God in their hearts and their consciences or thoughts that condemn or clear them of guilt.

6.  Works consulted

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

7.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Is the world really searching for truth? Wondering#191, 6 December. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/is-the-world-really-searching-for-truth.67081/page-10 (Accessed 10 December 2016).

[2] Ibid., Wondering#193.

[3] In ibid., OzSpen$256. I have received some helpful information on this view from Geisler & Turek (2004:203-204).

[4] Ibid., Wonder#258.

[5] ‘Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. This divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God is the underlying premise of everything that is taught in the Scriptures’ (Bible Study Tools 2016. s v Providence of God).

[6] Christian Forums.net 2016. Is the world really searching for truth? OzSpen#259.

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

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