Monthly Archives: February 2020

Getting to the heart of domestic violence crisis

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Photo: Hannah Clarke with her three children, Trey, Aaliyah, and Laianah. (Facebook)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

As I began writing this article, horrendous grief and anger are being poured out by family, friends and neighbours in Brisbane over the alleged murder and suicide of a family of four (mother and 3 children) burned to death in a car and the alleged DV perpetrator killing himself.

The ABC Brisbane headline (20 February 2020) was: Hannah Baxter[1] dies in hospital after three children killed in suspected murder-suicide in Brisbane’s Camp Hill, father Rowan Baxter dies at scene.

It is understood the wife, Hannah, was driving, husband Rowan was in the passenger seat. Three children aged 6, 4 and 2 were in the car. One witness of the event told The Guardian, ‘[Hannah] Baxter had run from the car screaming, “He’s poured petrol on me.”[2] This was the result (see image):

clip_image004(Police attend the scene of the car fire which claimed the lives four people in Brisbane. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP)[3]

A flood of grief has burst upon this Australian nation along with a call to do something more about DV behaviour.

clip_image006Photo: Flowers have been left near where the family died in the Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

DV epidemic

Australia is in the midst of a crisis of domestic violence. John Wren looked at DV statistics in this country:

Domestic violence is an epidemic in Australia. The statistics make sobering reading. On average, one woman a week is killed by their (sic) partner. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year with costs rising exponentially in the future.

The Morrison Government loves to trot out the mantra that they are “keeping Australians safe” as their excuse for ever more draconian migration laws, monitoring laws and encryption laws, but their inaction on domestic violence and, in many cases, actions that actually make it worse belie the hollowness of the marketing spin that the phrase really is.

The Abbott Government cut funding to domestic violence programs and the Turnbull and Morrison Governments have continued that trend. It was suggested that Hannah Clarke had sought help to escape her violent husband but was unable to secure support through facilities already denuded by year after year of defunding. If this is true, then the Morrison Government through its budget cuts must bear some culpability for the death of her and her children (Wren’s Week: The Australian domestic violence epidemic, 22 February 2020).

So far today police in Australia would have dealt with on average 522 domestic violence matters.

(Data source: ABC News, Brisbane Qld)[4]

Is the government open to ‘whatever has to be done’?

Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, stated after this Clarke/Baxter tragedy:

“Baxter’s fire attack on his family was “horrific”.

“No-one could imagine the sadistic and premeditated nature of this violence, and I think Governments of any persuasion will do whatever we can.

“It is not an issue of money for a lack of ability or desire to change the laws. I think all of us stand united and have done for a long time in whatever we can do to stamp out this violence”.[5]

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the issue was above politics.

“I think all of us are open to whatever needs to be done, and I agree with you. You know, whatever has been done up until now doesn’t seem to be working.

“This is a scourge within our society and somehow we need to address it and get rid of it, and whatever that requires, in terms of whatever that requires, in terms of whatever kind of inquiry – and Peter is right – it is not about – we will do whatever, in terms of laws, money – this has to be brought to an end.”[6]

The Coalition’s Peter Dutton wants DV stamped out and governments will do whatever they can to make that happen.

clip_image008Richard Marles agrees from the opposition bench. All will do whatever needs to be done to get rid of the scourge of DV. Marles thinks of an inquiry, change of laws and money.

(image courtesy Clipartstation)

However, are they sincere in being ‘open to whatever needs to be done’ and will carry out ‘whatever we can do to stamp out this violence’? I have my doubts.

I’ll suggest a solution below that I can’t see Dutton and Marles doing hand-stands to achieve the eradication of DV.

Governments throw money at the problem

The Guardian Australia Edition reported in March 2019 ‘the Coalition [government] has pledged an extra $328m over three years to fight domestic violence, with frontline services, safe places and prevention strategies to receive the biggest grants’.[7]

In November 2019, the Queensland government (where I live) called for applications:

Apply now for a grant to help end domestic and family violence

Applications are now open for a share in $150,000 in grants for community organisations to host events during Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month in May 2020.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer said grants of up to $5,000 each were available for projects designed to raise awareness, encourage community participation, and support people affected by domestic and family violence.[8]

In November 2019, the Federal government advised the ‘National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (NFVPLS) its $244,000-a-year funding would not be renewed past June 2020’.[9] This organisation deals with DV among indigenous people. Labor’s Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney, said

the statistics showed a desperate need for more funding for domestic violence services, not less.

“When you look at the shocking statistics relating to Aboriginal women and family violence — 34 times more likely to be hospitalised, 10 times more likely to be murdered from violent assault — it beggars belief that this would happen,” she said.[10]

I’m in favour of funding DV services and education programs. More are needed and governments need to invest more if they are serious about spreading the anti-DV message, ‘Stop it at the start’.

It’s not only a male issue

9News reported:

Police respond to a “serious domestic dispute” somewhere in the country every two minutes.

· One in six women and one in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence

· One in four women and one in six men have experienced emotional abuse

· One in five women and one in 20 men have experienced sexual violence

· One in six women and one in nine men were physically or sexually abused

· One in two women and one in four men have been sexually harassed

· One in six women and one in 15 men have experienced stalking

· One in four Australian children is exposed to family violence.[11]

White Ribbon Australia acknowledged, ‘Sadly, both women and men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of men. Around 95% of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience violence from a male perpetrator’.[12]

clip_image010(image courtesy Pinterest)

The Australian Social Monitor (1999) reported that the usual belief is that the overwhelming amount of DV is perpetrated by men against women. However this study in 1996/97 found that

partnered men and women were questioned about committing or suffering physical domestic violence in the last 12 months,[and they] show that women and men were equally likely to suffer injuries of about the same severity. There was some evidence of intergenerational transmission of violent behaviour both from father to son and mother to daughter. However, most respondents who admitted violence did not claim to have had violent parents.[13]

Lewis & Sarantakos (2001:2) claimed that over the last few decades, DV has been primarily defined as violence by men against women. Violence by women against their male partners was ‘considered to be either non-existent, or the fault of men, or has been trivalised and justified in a variety of ways’.

Their research challenged this notion and consider ‘the existence of this form of abuse is part of a fundamental disempowerment of men which has arisen from a tacit acceptance in society of the radical feminist agenda’. Lewis & Sarantakos concluded ‘that domestic violence is not an issue of gender, and that official policy should be directed to providing the kind of help for abused men which up until now has been available only to women’ (2001:2).

While acknowledging there is a major percentage of DV by men against women, the Australian Institute of Criminology identified a proportion of female DV perpetrators against men:

According to the findings of the ABS (2006) Personal Safety Survey, 78 percent of persons who reported being a victim of physical violence at the hands of a partner in the previous 12 months were female. Similarly, research by Access Economics (2004) found that 87 percent of all victims of domestic violence are women and that 98 percent of all perpetrators are men (Morgan & Chadwick 2009).

Is the real solution too religious?

There is a cure for the problem for both males and females who commit domestic violence (DV). However, the treatment is very Christian. Are you open to this Christian solution?

Reddit came close with its flair: ‘Male depravity’. It’s short of the mark because it misses half of the story. ‘Depravity’ hit the mark but applying it only to males is a biblical no-no!

Why? All people are depraved, male and female. The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, nailed the problem for those who commit (DV), but it has application to all people who commit evil, ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?’ (Jer 17:9 NLT)

All people are badly sick with a sinful disease that is grounded in the human heart.

“Heart” (Hebrew lebab/leb [b’bel], Greek. kardia [kardiva]) occurs over one thousand times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in the Scripture. It denotes a person’s center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities; sometimes it is used figuratively for any inaccessible thing (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 1996. s.v. Heart).

The cure

I know of only one way to change the human heart from depravity to uprightness, from evil actions to freedom from the sin of DV. The cure comes from a changed inner person – a heart. It comes through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ who came to save sinners and make them righteous.

The apostle Paul stated it clearly in Scripture:

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it:

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life (1 Tim 1:15-16 NLT).

Image result for clipart The cureThis wicked blasphemer and persecutor of the Christian church, the Pharisee Saul, was changed from doing violence to Christians to proclaiming Jesus Christ across the then known world. He experienced the change all DV perpetrators need.

What changed him? ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’ (Rom 1:16 NIV). Proclamation of the gospel of salvation through Christ alone turned a wicked, Christ-blaspheming sinner into a firebrand for the proclamation of the Christian message.

How does this happen for Jewish persecutors of Christians in the first century, persecutors of Christians in the Western world, changing murderers to decent people, and changing DV perpetrators into righteous people?

Bob Thune explained it in another context:

Somewhere along the line, we have individualized the gospel. We said it was just about “you and Jesus.” We forgot that the gospel doesn’t just change eternal destinies; it changes everything. The gospel transforms societies, renews families, and heals relationships. That’s why Jesus called it “the gospel of the kingdom” (Luke 16:16).

The gospel is all about the rule and reign of Jesus. And where Jesus is rightly honored as Lord, there is more than just personal salvation; there is redemptive action! The gospel is holistic. For me to say that I cared about Ryan’s soul without caring about his relationship with his family would be the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

The answer wasn’t, “Get saved and then we’ll deal with your family relationships.” The answer was, “God wants to heal the wounds in your family. He is a redemptive God” (Thune 2010. The Gospel changes everything, emphasis added).

The treatment for the DV perpetrator is:

(1) Education about DV and anger-control strategies;

(2) Proclamation of the Gospel of salvation through Christ;

(3) A call to forgiveness of sins and repentance.

(4) If the person responds positively to the Gospel, the local church must provide discipleship to help the person grow as a Christian.

Follow these biblical principles[14]

The new Christian and former DV perpetrator will not change only by giving up DV habits. It may take time for change to blossom into maturity (called Christian sanctification).

For lasting change to be established in a person’s life, bad practices need to be replaced with godly practices. This ‘Principle of Replacement’ is found in such Scripture as Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT):

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (emphasis added).

In growing up to be more like Jesus in their behaviours, DV perpetrators need to stop DV actions and replace them with righteous and holy behaviour. Stopping bad behaviour is inadequate to bring about radical change. The old way of living must change, thanks to God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s fruit, God wants to see this change:

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Gal 5:22-23 NLT).

Can you imagine what your relationships would be like if these behaviours were demonstrated in your bonds with people, instead of DV?

The apostle Paul told the Corinthians what this means: ‘Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ (2 Cor 5:17 NLT).

Conclusion

I cannot see any government programme, rally, advertising campaign, or Royal Commission to be effective ultimately in smashing the DV emergency in Australia when the core issue is not being addressed.

DV education programs are worthwhile as a tool to offer help and techniques to resolve the anger outbursts. However, for a long-term solution that works, I know of only one way – an individual becomes a ‘new person’ through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s time for the Christian churches that believe in the Gospel proclamation to step up and demonstrate a true DV solution – proclamation of the Gospel and salvation through Christ – that leads to changed hearts of people. We need to see a deluge of DV perpetrators becoming ‘new persons’ in Christ. This won’t happen without a strong Gospel message in the public square.

Works consulted

Lewis, A & Sarantakos, S 2001. Domestic Violence and the Male Victim. Nuance no. 3 (online), December, 1-15. Available at: http://www.498a.org/contents/dv/DomesticViolenceAndMaleVictims.pdf (Accessed 22 February 2020).

Morgan, A & Chadwick, H 2009. Key issues in domestic violence. Australian Institute of Criminology (online), December. Available at: https://aic.gov.au/publications/rip/rip07 (Accessed 22 February 2020).

Notes:

[1] Also known as Hannah Clarke.

[2] Michael McGowan 2020. Brisbane car fire: Hannah Baxter dies of injuries, three children killed in suspected family violence case .(online)., The Guardian Australia Edition, 20 February. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/feb/19/three-dead-including-children-after-car-allegedly-set-alight-in-brisbane (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[3] Ibid.

[4] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Federal Government axes funding to peak body representing Indigenous survivors of domestic violence (online)., 6 December. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-06/aboriginal-domestic-violence-survivors-peak-body-defunded/11773066 (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[5] 9News 2020. ‘This has to be brought to an end’ (online), 21 February. Available at: https://www.9news.com.au/national/brisbane-car-fire-attack-police-appeal-for-information-about-baxter-family-killing/6300f87d-49c6-4fed-806c-74590d4b197e (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Coalition pledges an extra $328m to counter domestic violence (online), 5 March. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/05/coalition-pledges-an-extra-328m-to-counter-domestic-violence (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[8] Queensland Government 2019. The Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory. Media Statements (online), 11 November. Available at: http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2019/11/11/apply-now-for-a-grant-to-help-end-domestic-and-family-violence (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[9] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Federal Government axes funding to peak body representing Indigenous survivors of domestic violence (online), 6 December. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-06/aboriginal-domestic-violence-survivors-peak-body-defunded/11773066 (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[10] Ibid.

[11] 9News loc. cit.

[12] White Ribbon Australia 2020. Violence against men. Available at: https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/violence-against-men/ (Accessed 22 February 2020).

[13] Headey, Bruce; Scott, Dorothy and de Vaus, David. Domestic Violence in Australia: Are Women and Men Equally Violent? [online]. Australian Social Monitor, Vol. 2, No. 3, July 1999: 57-62. Available at: https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=759479315231736;res=IELAPA (Accessed 22 Feb 2020)..

[14] Some of these principles are adapted from: Richland Creek Community Church, Wake Forest NC: Put off – put on Worry V1.0. Available at: http://www.richlandcreek.com/uploads/Put-off-Puton-Worry-V1.pdf (Accessed 22 February 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 February 2020

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Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection

(image courtesy Wikipedia, Resurrection by Luca Giordano)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Many scholars and laity have attempted to debunk Jesus’ bodily resurrection. These are a few examples:

(a) John Shelby Spong: ‘Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history’ (1998).

(b) John Dominic Crossan, fellow of the infamous Jesus Seminar, wrote: ‘Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals’ (1994:160) and Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition – a ghost (Crossan 1994:160).

(c) Rudolf Bultmann asked: “But what of the resurrection? Is it not a mythical event pure and simple? Obviously it is not an event of past history” (Bultmann 1984, Kerygma and Myth, online version).

(d) An antagonist: ‘If, as you say you believe, Jesus, resurrected with a physical body about 2,000 years ago, the probability that he is still alive and well is so infinitesimal that it may be considered non-existent.

Are they correct, based on the texts of the Bible?

1. The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament. There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament. Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999:668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body? It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668).

Check out these Scriptures:

The doctrine of the bodily resurrection is affirmed abundantly in the New Testament (see Jn. 5:28-29; 6:39-40; Mk. 12:18-27; Acts 17:32; 26:8; Rom. 8:23; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).

2. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there was no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

3. He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers. Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance’ or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being. These are the objective facts:

  •  Christ became flesh;
  •  He died in the flesh;
  •  He was raised in the flesh, and
  •  He appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3 NIV).

4. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

[Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) by Raphael, 1502, courtesy Wikipedia]

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, just published by Oxford University Press, says that by mid-century there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (1930-2019), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection…. [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter. If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light. If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology. In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

5. The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

These are not minor reasons; they are essential to core Christianity.

5.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Also,

5.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

5.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

5.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).

(image courtesy of Heartlight)

What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like.

The New Living Translation translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 explains it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler Jr who provides a summary of the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognise the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

6. Conclusion

In spite of attacks from the cynics, sceptics and liberal church, the bodily (soma) resurrection of Jesus demonstrates he rose in a real body that could be touched. Those around him communicated with him; he ate with them (see John 20:20, 26-28; Luke 24:39-43).

It was a soma (bodily) resurrection when Jesus came ek (out from) among the dead. If there is no bodily resurrection, there is no Christianity. He appeared to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive (inferring doubters could go to check with them).

Belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection are necessary for salvation (Romans 10:9). His resurrection demonstrates he is God and resurrection of believers in the future is guaranteed.

Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14] (Albert Mohler Jr.)

7. Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The first epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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

Green, M. 1990. Evangelism through the local Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton

Mohler, A 2016. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Gospel (online), March 25. Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/03/25/the-resurrection-of-jesus-christ-and-the-reality-of-the-gospel/ (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

 

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 February 2020.

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Image result for clipart single horizontal colored line

Matthew 16:19 – binding and loosing

[According to Catholic doctrine, the popes are successors of Saint Peter (kneeling, right), courtesy Wikipedia]

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have been to Pentecostal-Charismatic churches where this verse has been used as a basis to bind the demon in a person and loosing a person from demonic bondage. I refer to Matthew 16:19 (ESV). Is that the meaning of the text?

The context includes Matt 16:18. See my article, Matthew 16:18, The Church built on Peter?

1. What is binding and loosing?

Eminent preacher and Christian writer, John MacArthur, claims:

There is no scriptural command to bind Satan, nor is there any biblical example of the practice. Satan remains at large as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) until he is chained or bound (by an angel, not a human being) during the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 20:1-3). The disciples cast out demons, but they never bound them or Satan (MacArthur 1969).

This verse has created quite a bit of controversy among interpreters since the time of Jesus. It reads: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 16:19 ESV).

The contentious statements include:

3d-gold-star-small  ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.

3d-gold-star-small  ‘Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’.

3d-gold-star-small  ‘Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’.

2. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven

In Matt 16:19 we have the ‘figure of a building with keys to open from the outside’. However, Rev 1:18 and 3:7 state that the Living One who was dead and is now alive holds the ‘keys of death and Hades’ and the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’.

In Matt 16:19, Jesus hands the keys of the kingdom over to Peter. This is not to make Peter the first pope. From Matt 16:18 we learn that Jesus hands the building (oikodomew) over to Peter for him to be a ‘gatekeeper’ or ‘steward’. The same power was given to the other apostles and belongs to every believer down through the centuries.

We know in the context this is not promoting Peter the pope because the disciples were having an argument over who would be the greatest in the kingdom and they presented this dispute to Jesus (Matt 18:1). They were at it again in Matt 20:21.

Surely these verses confirm that Jesus did not make Peter the foundation of the church and the first pope.

Peter held the keys just as every preacher-teacher does in proclaiming the Gospel. Alfred Edersheim in his massive exposition on the life of Christ expounds the significance of 16:19,

Viewing ‘the Church’ as a building founded upon ‘the Petrine,’ it was not to vary, but to carry on the same metaphor, when Christ promised to give to him who had spoken as representative of the Apostles – ‘the stewards of the mysteries of God’ – ‘the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.’ For, as the religious unity of His disciples, or the Church, represented ‘the royal rule of heaven,’ so, figuratively, entrance into the gates of this building, submission to the rule of God – to that Kingdom of which Christ was the King. And we remember how, in a special sense, this promise was fulfilled to Peter. Even as he had been the first to utter the confession of the Church, so was he also privileged to be the first to open its hitherto closed gates to the Gentiles, when God made choice of him, that, through his mouth, the Gentiles should first hear the words of the Gospel [Acts 15:7] and at his bidding first be baptized (Edersheim 1953:1035).

‘After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe’ (Acts 15:7 NIV).

So the ‘keys of the kingdom’ of heaven relate to the offer of salvation that any preacher, teacher or disciple can make to encourage all people to go through the gate of salvation to enter God’s kingdom. Jesus reminded us:

‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt 7:13-14 NIV).

3. Bind and loose on earth

Image result for image bind and looseTalk about controversy! I have heard them in churches and small groups, ‘I bind you, Satan, in the name of Jesus’. These preachers use verses like Matt 16:19 to support their theology of demonology.

In context, do binding and loosing have anything to do with Satan and his demons?

‘To “bind” … in rabbinical language is to forbid, to “loose” … is to permit’. The verbs for ‘bind’ and ‘forbid’ are future, perfect, indicative, indicating the binding and loosing will be completed – with continuing results. Jesus uses binding and loosing language to all of the disciples in Matt: 18:18. After his resurrection, Jesus’ repeats the same language (John 20:33), indicating this is not the special privilege given to Peter (Robertson 1930:134).

This view also is supported by Friedrich Büchsel in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament under the entries for dew (I bind) and luw (I loose) in Matt 16:19 and elsewhere,

Jesus does not give to Peter and the other disciples any power to enchant or to free by magic. The customary meaning of the Rabbinic expressions is equally incontestable, namely, to declare forbidden or permitted, and thus to impose or remove an obligation, by a doctrinal decision (Büchsel 1964.2:60).

So every preacher or disciple who shares the Gospel of Christ for salvation is engaged in binding and loosing.

Satan and his demons are missing from this context. It has everything to do with calling people to repentance (being loosed) and warning them about continuing in sin and the ultimate eternal consequences.

I cannot find any Scripture to support the view that Christians are called upon to bind and loose Satan.

4. Conflict with casting out demons?

How does the above exposition harmonise with the following verses or are they in conflict?[1]

Matt 10:1, ‘Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness’.

Matt 12:27, ‘And if I [Jesus] drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges’.

Matt 17:19-20, “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’.

Mark 3:14-15, ‘He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.

Mark 6:13, ‘They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them’.

Mark 9:18, ‘Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not’.

Luke 9:40, 49-50, ‘I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not…. ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us’. ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you’.

Luke 11:19, ‘Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges’.

Acts 16:16-18, ‘Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned round and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her’.

5. Genuine conflict or not?

None of these excellent verses above conflicts with the exegesis I provided in Matt 16:19 of binding and loosing. Jesus also used binding and loosing language to the disciples in Matt: 18:18. After his resurrection, Jesus’ repeats the same language in (John 20:33).

If you travelled with missionaries to countries where there is serious demonic activity in the culture, you’d be exposed to the need for exorcism. However, when some of these missionaries return to their conservative churches in the western world, they often avoid talk of the demonic. I spoke with a retired missionary from Brazil who told me of the spiritism in that country and the need for exorcism when a person submits to Jesus Christ. He was involved in a number of such exorcisms.

God certainly gives Holy Spirit power for demons to be cast out, but the passage in Matt 16 did not teach that.

6. Conclusion

Matthew 16:18 does not make Peter the first pope. Peter was the first to make the formal announcement, ‘You are the Christ/Messiah’.

In handing the keys of the kingdom over to Peter, Jesus was handing them also to every disciple down through the centuries. It is our responsibility to proclaim the Gospel of God’s message of salvation.

As for the message of binding and loosing, there is nothing in context to declare it has anything to do with binding and loosing Satan.

To bind in rabbinical language refers to forbidding something while to loose indicates to permit.

The Gospels and Book of Acts give examples of exorcism of demonic spirits. This still takes place in parts of the world. Today, demonic manifestations are seen in various countries of the world, including Ethiopia.

So to bind and loose refers to sharing the Gospel of salvation through Christ. Those bound in sin will be loosed – set free – through Christ.

7. Works consulted

Büchsel, F 1964. Dew, luw. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, G. Kittel (ed.), G W Bromiley (transl. & ed.), vol 2, 60-61. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Carson, D. A. 1984. Matthew. In F. A. Gaebelein (Gen. Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Vol. 8), (pp. 1-599). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Edersheim, A 1953. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, public domain. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.html (Accessed 28 January 2020).

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

MacArthur, J 1969. Does the Bible teach that Christians can bind Satan and demons? Grace to You (online). Available at: https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA150/does-the-bible-teach-that-christians-can-bind-satan-and-demons (Accessed 28 January 2020).

Robertson, A T 1930. Word Pictures in the New Testament (vol. 1, Matthew and Mark). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

8.  Notes

[1] The following quotes are all from the NIV.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 February 2020.

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Matthew 16:18, The Church built on Peter?

Image result for image Matthew 16:18

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matt 16:18 ESV).

This verse has caused controversy for 2,000 years. It shouldn’t if we knew the context and the Greek language used.

1. Roman Catholic teaching

The Roman Catholic interpretation is that the apostle Peter is the foundation of the Catholic Church. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 concluded:

Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him [Dioscorus] of the episcopate (Extracts from the Acts of the Council, Session III, emphasis added).

Catholic Straight Answers leaves no doubt: ‘Without question, St. Peter was the first pope of the Catholic Church’.

2. Greek and Peter the Pope

Does the NT Greek text confirm Peter as the first Pope, according to this verse?

screneRed-small  ‘You are Peter’. Here, Peter is the Greek, petros (masculine), which was a proper name for the Aramaic, Cephas.

screneRed-small  Then there is a pun, a play on words. This pun has caused theological heart-burn down through the centuries.

screneRed-small ‘on this rock’ uses petra (feminine) for rock and not petros – and a different gender. What could Jesus be referring to?

screneRed-small  Some interpreters have tried to see Peter as a rock on which Jesus builds his church but Jesus is the foundation.

screneRed-small  A play on words is common in Scripture (e.g. Ex 3:14) and should not be minimised because of this. It is still God-breathed Scripture.

It is true petros and petra mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek than the NT. However, in this passage, Jesus probably means in the underlying Aramaic, ‘You are kepha and on this kepha’ since the word was used both for a name and a ‘rock’ (Carson 1984:368).

If Jesus wanted to say (through Matthew’s Gospel) that Peter was a stone in contrast to Jesus, the Rock, he could have used lithos for ‘stone’ but there would be no pun used and that would defeat Jesus’ purpose.

The objection that Peter considers Jesus the rock is insubstantial because metaphors are commonly used variously, till they become stereotyped, and sometimes even then. Here Jesus builds his church; in 1 Corinthians 3:10, Paul is “an expert builder.” In 1 Corinthians 3:11, Jesus is the church’s foundation; in Ephesians 2:19-20, the apostles and prophets are the foundation (cf. also Rev 21:14), and Jesus is the “cornerstone.” Here Peter has the keys; in Revelation 1:18; 3:7, Jesus has the keys. In John 9:5, Jesus is “the light of the world”; in Matthew 5:14, his disciples are. None of these pairs threatens Jesus’ uniqueness. They simply show how metaphors must be interpreted primarily with reference to their immediate contexts (Carson 1984:368).

‘On this rock’ refers to a ledge or cliff of rock as in Matt 7:24 where the wise man built his house on the rock. Petros is usually a smaller piece of rock. However, we shouldn’t make too much of this distinction as Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and the pun was used regularly.

The point is that Jesus is speaking of the building of the ekklesia (church). In the NT ekklesia is used of both a local congregation and in the general sense of ‘the church’. Usually, the word referred to a local assembly (e.g. Acts 19:39) but became associated with an unassembled group that was persecuted (Acts 8:3).

A T Robertson’s conclusion is sound:

The wealth of imagery in Matthew 16:18 makes it difficult to decide each detail, but the main point is clear. The ekklesia which consists of those confessing Christ as Peter has just done will not cease. The gates of Hades or bars of Sheol will not close down on it. Christ will rise and will keep his church alive (Robertson 1930:131-132).

3. Peter not first Pope

Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

Saint PeterSaint Peter – (image courtesy Wikipedia)

 Peter could not have been the first Pope for a number of reasons (based on Geisler & Howe 1992:347-348):

gold foward button  Popes and RC priests are celibate but Peter was married (Matt 8:14).

gold foward button  We know from Gal 2:14, Paul had to rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy because ‘they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel’. Peter was not infallible in his teachings and practice.

gold foward button  The Roman Catholic Church clearly contradicts Scripture by making the Pope the foundation of the Church. The RCC website states:

Jesus spoke Aramaic, and, as John 1:42 tells us, in everyday life he [Jesus] actually referred to Peter as Kepha or Cephas (depending on how it is transliterated). It is that term which is then translated into Greek as petros. Thus, what Jesus actually said to Peter in Aramaic was: “You are Kepha and on this very kepha I will build my Church” (What the Early Church Believed: Peter as Pope).

This article then provides examples from the Early Church Fathers that ‘Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter’ – the first Pope.

However, this clashes with 1 Corinthians 3:11 (NIV) which states, ‘For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ’.

gold foward button  The church is ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone’ (Eph. 2:20 NIV). It is not built on Peter, the first Pope. What did the early church do? ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2:42). It was not a devotion to the apostle Peter’s teaching.

gold foward button  Peter was not head of the first church council in Jerusalem.

There is no indication that Peter was the head of the early church. When the first council was held at Jerusalem, Peter played only an introductory role (Acts 15:6–11). James seems to have a more significant position, summing up the conference and making the final pronouncement (cf. Acts 15:13–21). In any event, Peter is never referred to as the “pillar” in the church. Rather, Paul speaks of “pillars” (plural), such as, “James, Cephas, and John” (Gal. 2:9). Peter (Cephas) is not even listed first among the pillars (Geisler & Howe 1992:348)

gold foward button Some Protestant interpreters want to make ‘this rock’ refer to Peter who gave the solid (rock-like) testimony that Jesus was ‘the Christ, the son of the living God’ (Matt 16:16).

However, a significant difficulty with this view is that Peter was a rock and not the rock. And he was not ‘the only apostolic rock. Peter affirmed this in his own writing:

So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:7 ESV)

There is nothing in this passage about Peter’s and his successors’ infallibility, exclusive authority when speaking ex cathedra. It creates overwhelming exegetical and historical problems for this position, especially after Peter’s death and the appointment of another apostle to replace him.

What the NT does show is that Peter is the first to make this formal confession and that his prominence continues in the earliest years of the church (Acts 1-12). But he, along with John, can be sent by other apostles (Acts 8:14); and he is held accountable for his actions by the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:1-18) and rebuked by Paul (Gal 2:11-14). He is, in short, primus inter pares (“first among equals”); and on the foundation of such men (Eph 2:20), Jesus built his church (Carson 1984:368).

4. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it’

Image result for clipart Gates of Hades‘Hell’ is Hades in this text. Some interpreters consider this indicates Satan’s strength with his legion of followers because ‘gates’ in other biblical and non-biblical literature points to defence (5:22; 11:23). They see the church, being built by God, as not being defeated by the hosts of darkness (Gen 22:17; Ps 127:5).

Other interpreters focus on Hades and Rev 1:18, claiming that ‘death will not prevent Messiah’s people from rising at the last day…. But

“Gates of Hades” … seems to refer to death and dying…. Because the church is the assembly of people Jesus Messiah is building, it cannot die. This claim is ridiculous if Jesus is nothing above an overconfident popular preacher in an unimportant vassal state of first-century Rome. It is the basis of all hope for those who see Jesus as the Messiah who builds his church (Carson1984:370).

That seems to be the most reasonable conclusion I’ve encountered.

So, that leads to these Bible translations: the powers of death will not overcome the church (RSV), will not have any power over it (CEV), will not prevail against it (ESV, NRSV), will not overpower it (CSB, NIV), ‘will not be able to defeat my church’ (ERV), will not conquer it (NLT), and will not be strong enough to destroy it’ (NIRV).

These verses contain other controversial issues. See my article on Matthew 16:19 – binding and loosing.

5. Works consulted

Büchsel, F 1964. Dew, luw. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, G. Kittel (ed.), G W Bromiley (transl. & ed.), vol 2, 60-61. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Carson, D. A. 1984. Matthew. In F. A. Gaebelein (Gen. Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Vol. 8), (pp. 1-599). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Edersheim, A 1953. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, public domain. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.html (Accessed 28 January 2020).

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

MacArthur, J 1969. Does the Bible teach that Christians can bind Satan and demons? Grace to You (online). Available at: https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA150/does-the-bible-teach-that-christians-can-bind-satan-and-demons (Accessed 28 January 2020).

Robertson, A T 1930. Word Pictures in the New Testament (vol. 1, Matthew and Mark). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 January 2020.

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