Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy
(image courtesy Wikipedia)
By Spencer D Gear PhD
In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:
‘ACL managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).
The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:
In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.
“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).
1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge
I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.
I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …
- Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
- A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
- Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.
Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.
I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:
Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.
The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).
2. Christian woman disagrees
A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:
- When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
- The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
- She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
- She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
- Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
- Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
- She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
- Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
- The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
- What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
- The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
- Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.
3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.
Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:
To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6
2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018
Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.
What is the Jesus Only false teaching?
Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).
As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism, Monarchianism, and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).
3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology
I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:
- “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.
This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).
Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.
- Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’
What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.
If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration and glossolalist regeneration, both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.
This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.
3.2 False teaching affirmed
As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:
Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10
This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.
Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).
In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.
4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy
Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?
If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.
Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.
See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).
The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).
Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)
The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).
Politipower provided this explanation:
Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.
According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.” A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.
Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.
This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.
Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.
These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).
As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.
I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.
I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.
He belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.
(image courtesy christart.com)
6. Works consulted
Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).
The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.
McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).
news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).
Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).
Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.
Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).
Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).
 ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).
 Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).
 Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).
 See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).
 Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).
 To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).
 The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.
Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 July 2019.