Monthly Archives: March 2020

John 6:37; John 6:44; and John 12:32: Jesus drawing all people

Does the Holy Spirit draw all people for salvation? Or is it only a few who are chosen?

(Seining for fish in a river, image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1. Challenges from John’s Gospel

There are 3 challenging (even confusing) verses in John’s Gospel. They are:

clip_image002‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away’ (John 6:37 NIV).

Some interesting questions emerge from this verse for me:

  • Does the Father give the elect to Jesus and that is the basis of their coming to Jesus Christ for salvation?
  • ‘Whoever’ comes to Jesus won’t be driven away, but are they only the ones the Father gives to Jesus?
  • Here, do we have God’s sovereignty of giving people to Jesus and of human beings choosing to come to Jesus?
  • If they will not be driven away from Jesus, does that mean they experience irresistible grace that they cannot refuse?

clip_image004‘‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:44 NIV).

The questions rising are:

  • Since nobody can come to Jesus without the Father’s drawing, what is the meaning of drawing?
  • Is it like drawing people together by persuasive preaching?
  • Trawler fishermen search for prawns in the ocean with trawling nets and then they drag the nets in.

clip_image006(The image is released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0, public domain)

· Is the drawing of a person to Christ like a tug-of-war pulling or a gentle drawing of a cloth together for sewing purposes? We’ll need to examine the Greek verb for ‘pull’ to try to understand its meaning.

  •  I look forward to the ‘raising up’ of believers at Jesus’ Second Coming.

clip_image008(Easy tee shirt midi dress sewing tutorial – It’s Always Autumn, image courtesy Pinterest)

clip_image010John 12:32 uses the same verb for ‘pull’ in John 6:44: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (Jn 12:32 NIV).

For me, questions include:

  •  Jesus’ being ‘lifted up’ most often refers to the crucifixion. How can all people everywhere be drawn to him since the crucifixion?
  •  Are they all saved? If so, this is the heretical doctrine of universalism.
  •  I can accept the need of the Father to draw people to Jesus, but how can John 12:32 avoid universal salvation?

2. Let’s check some major theological views on John 12:32

2.1 The Calvinistic view

The Calvinistic website, Monergism, includes an article, ‘Does the Spirit Draw All People That They May Have An Opportunity to Respond?

In it, the author John Hendryx states concerning John 12:32:

Remember that Jesus speaks of John 12 in a completely different context as John 6. Take the time to read that passage and you will quickly discover that it is an entirely different discussion. In John 6 Jesus is speaking to some unbelieving Jews and in John 12 to a group of Gentiles. The emphasis is that Jesus was doing something new…

Up to that time only the Jews were privy to God’s revelation…

Gentiles were largely excluded. Now Jesus was grafting the gentiles onto the vine … so in content of John 12… Jesus is not teaching that he is going to draw all men without exception, but all men without distinction – Jews and Gentiles alike.

Calvinistic commentator, D A Carson, takes a similar line of interpretation in John 12:32:

Here, ‘all men’ reminds the reader of what triggered these statements, viz. the arrival of the Greeks, and means ‘all people without distinction, Jews and Gentiles alike’, not all individuals without exception, since the surrounding context has just established judgment as a major theme (v. 31) [Carson 1991:444].

The late Leon Morris admitted:

“All men” is something of a problem. In fact not every man is drawn to Christ as this Gospel envisages the possibility that some will not be.[1] We must take the expression accordingly to mean that those who are to be drawn will be drawn. That is to say Christ is not affirming that the whole world will be saved. He is affirming that all who are to be saved will be saved in this way. And he is speaking of a universal rather than a narrowly nationalistic religion. The death of Christ would mean the end of particularism. By virtue of that death, “all men” and not the Jews alone should be drawn. And they would be drawn only by virtue of that death (Morris1971:598-599).

These are verses from John’s Gospel that confirm ‘all men’ does not mean everyone who has ever lived since the crucifixion – according to the above scholars.

2.2 ‘Draw’ means to ‘drag’

Ligonier Ministries (the teaching fellowship of R C Sproul) claims:

It is also clear that any position that says the Lord only “woos” us cannot be maintained. The same word translated “draw” in John 6:44 is found in Acts 16:19 and James 2:6 where the apostolic authors speak of someone being “dragged” somewhere. Though the elect may try at first to resist God’s drawing, He drags us, against our fallen wills, to Jesus. God overcomes our natural enmity toward Himself and guarantees that His elect people will choose to follow Christ.[2]

This is an extreme Calvinistic view, not supported by the Lexicons’ definition of helkuw (or helkw). Thayer agrees with Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich in defining elkuw: In Acts 16:19 and James 2:6 it means ‘a person forcibly and against his will (our drag, drag off)’. However, in Jn 6:44 and 12:32 it is used ‘metaphorically to draw by inward power, lead, impel…. I by my moral, my spiritual, influence will win over to myself the hearts of all’ (Thayer 1962:204-205).

2.3 Arminian views

John Wesley considered John 12:32, ‘I will draw all men — [to mean] Gentiles as well as Jews’.[3]

An Arminian Baptist wrote of this verse:

The Calvinist who takes “all” to mean “all kinds” has to resort to saying, “There was a common misconception among the people known to the Evangelist who really wanted only one kind of people to be saved, and the Evangelist emphasises “all kinds” to fix this misconception.” Maybe such people thought that God only wanted men saved whose last name began with ? (pi). But you don’t find such stuff in John’s Gospel. There simply is no emphasis on the diversity of the Elect in John’s Gospel, or in John’s letters, either.

What you do find in John’s Gospel is the incredible news that Jesus even loves you! For Jesus loves everyone! The Calvinist inverse of this statement, “Jesus doesn’t love everyone! He might not love you!” is so shocking and contrary to expectation, that if it were true, you’d expect John to make explicit exclusive statements to this effect, including long, protracted argumentation.[4]

2.4 A moderate Calvinistic view

The late Dr Norman Geisler considered himself a ‘moderate Calvinist’ (Geisler 1999:52). It seems to be his views could be those of a ‘moderate Arminian’ his following exposition explains.

2.4.1 John 6:44

Of John 6:44 he wrote that ‘no free human act can move toward God or do any spiritual good without the aid of His grace’ (Geisler 1999:35).

‘Draw’ is from the Greek, helkuw, and some extreme Calvinists (e.g. Ligonier Ministries)[5] want this to mean ‘drag’ as in Acts 16:19; 21:30 and James 2:6.

In other passages such as John 18:10; and 21:6, 11 it can mean ‘drag’. The LXX translates with helkuw in Deut 21:3-4.

Does that mean all translations of helkuw must mean ‘drag’? Certainly not! There is a range of meanings for many words and helkuw in the NT is no exception.

Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon gives the meaning of helkuw in John 6:44 as, ‘figuratively of the pull on man’s inner life’ – John 6:44:12:32 (1957:251).

2.4.2 John 12:32

Geisler admits sometimes the NT allows helkuw to mean to drag a person or object (e.g. John 18:10; 21:6, 11; Acts 19:10). However, at other times the Standard Greek Lexicons allow for the meaning ‘draw’ as well as ‘drag. The LXX used both senses of the word: Deut 21:3-4 uses it to mean ‘drag’ while Jer 38:3 provides the sense of ‘draw’ out of love.

As for John 12:32, it cannot mean drag – irresistible grace – because this verse would prove too much for the Calvinist. Jesus said: ‘”But I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself”. No true Calvinist believes that all men will be saved’.

In this verse it is important to note the word, ‘all’ as it cannot mean ‘some’. In John 2:24-25, Jesus said he knew all people sinned. In that situation it is clear he wasn’t speaking of some people – the elect. So, ‘all’ cannot mean ‘some’ – the elect.

Here in John 12:32, if Jesus meant some he could have used a separate Greek word, tis, which is a diverse word meaning: anyone, anything, someone, many a one or thing, or somebody (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:827). Therefore, under the weight of Greek exegesis, irresistible grace crumbles.

Geisler shows that people ‘being drawn to God’ is ‘conditioned on their faith’. The context of their being “drawn” (6:37) was “he who believes” (6:35). Later in John 7:17, Jesus stated: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out where my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17)’ (Geisler 1999:93).

3. John 6:37

John 6:37 (NIV) reads, ‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away’.

This is the immediate context for this verse:

36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:36-40 NIV).

Panoramic view of Tower Bridge(photo of draw-bridge, the Tower Bridge, London, courtesy Public Domain Photography)

 The ESV translation of John 6:37 is more accurate than the NIV, in reflecting the nuances of Greek grammar: ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’ (Jn 6:37 ESV).

  • ‘All that’ is pan (neuter singular), an abstract idiom and seems to include the whole mass of believers down through the ages.
  • Then John became personal: ‘Whoever comes to me’ – ton erchomenon pros me. Here, Jesus places the responsibility on each person to respond to God’s drawing to salvation.

There are 2 parts to this verse:[6]

clip_image012There is the sovereign ministry of God the Father: ‘All that the Father gives Me will come to Me’. Could we call this election or predestination. However, there is a second part to people’s coming to Christ:

clip_image014‘The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out’. This is a figure of speech known as a litotes ‘in which something is affirmed by negating its contrary’.

Jesus affirms that whoever comes to him will never be driven away. So, the two parts are:

a. The sovereignty of God in giving believers to Jesus, AND

b. The human responsibility of ‘whoever comes to me’. In modern philosophy this is called ‘compatibilism’.

John does not see human responsibility as lessening God’s sovereignty. Both are necessary in God’s plan of salvation.

Norman Geisler regards this as another example where ‘both God’s sovereignty and our responsibility’ are in the same text’. However, ‘only those the Father preordains to do so will come to Christ (Jn 6:44). On the other hand, it is also true that “whoever” chooses to come will be saved (Rom. 10:13) (Geisler 1999:40).

Geisler pointed to an example of this in Acts 13:48 (NIV): ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed’. Then Acts 14:1 states: ‘At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed”

There’s the combination: (1) God’s sovereignty and appointing people to eternal life, and (2) Through effective preaching a ‘great number’ of Jews and Greeks became Christian believers.

Therefore, Geisler concludes ‘there is no contradiction between preordination and persuasion, since God preordained the means (persuasion) with the end (eternal life)’ (1999:41)

So John 6:37 affirms God’s sovereignty in drawing people to salvation and human response to the offer of salvation. However, I’m aware that even free-will decisions are contaminated by comprehensive depravity.

4. Another example of draw and not drag

I was alerted to this example in Richard Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament (1880/1953:72-74).

There are two Greek words, of theological importance, that show the difference between draw and drag. They are surein and helkuein. Both of these are in the infinitive form. Surein is most often translated as ‘to drag’ and helkuein (to draw).

Surein includes the notion of violence (see Acts 8:3; 14:19; 17:6). However, helkuein does not have violence as its primary meaning, although it is seen in Acts 16:9; 21:30 and James 2:6.

Only by keeping in mind the difference which thus exists between these, can we vindicate from erroneous interpretation two doctrinally important passages in the Gospel of St. John (Trench 1880/1953:72).

He refers to John 12:32 and asks, ‘How does a crucified, and thus an exalted Saviour draw all men unto Him? Not by force, for the will is incapable of force, but by the divine attractions of his love’. In John 6:44, helkuein rejects being ‘dragged to God’ as a machine but it relates to ‘potent allurements’ or attractiveness of love by the Father for the son.

The Septuagint of Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV) uses the word, ‘The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”’.

Helkuein is predominantly the sense of drawing to a certain point. In surein, merely of dragging after one … likening a man to a fish already hooked and dragged through the water. [See Isa 3:16], which is forcibly dragged along with no will of its own; a dead body (Trench 1880/1953:73).

Compare John 21:6, 8, and11 where helkuein is used for ‘a drawing of the net to a certain point; by the disciples to themselves in the ship, by Peter to himself upon the shore.

However, at verse 8, helkeuein is taken over by surein, ‘dragging the net full of fish’ (ESV).

5. Conclusion

These three verses from John 6 and John 12 confirm the need for people to be ‘drawn’ to Jesus for salvation. This is not based on irresistible grace where the Father drags people to Jesus.

I reject the Calvinistic understanding by which salvation is preordained, without the need for a human response.

However, Trench has masterfully demonstrated the difference between ‘to draw’ (helkuein) and ‘to drag’ (surein).

6. Works consulted

Bauer, W; Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[7] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Carson, D A 1991. The gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

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

Thayer, J H 1962. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Trench, R C 1880/1953. Synonyms of the New Testament. London. Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College, Wenham, MA March 2006. Available at: https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/new_testament_greek/text/trench-synonyms.pdf (Accessed 27 March 2020).

7.  Notes

[1] At this point Morris gave no references from John to support his statement.

[2] 2020.Man’s Radical Fallenness, Exposition of John 6:44. Available at: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/mans-radical-fallenness/ (Accessed 27 March 2020).

[3] John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, John 12. Available at: https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=43&c=12 (Accessed 26 March 2020).

[4] The Universality of Jesus’ Drawing All to Him (John 12:32) 2010. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online), 9 February. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-universality-of-jesus-drawing-all-to-him-john-12-32/ (Accessed 26 March 2020).

[5] See above @ 2.2.

[6] I posted the following as Fate… Free Will vs Determinism#464. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/fate-free-will-vs-predestination.81557/page-24 (Accessed 26 March 2020). Some of this exegesis came from Carson (1991:290-291).

[7] 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 & augmented edn 1952) (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 March 2020.

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Vector drawing of decorative floral pattern

Total depravity: Are all people infected by sin?

Lessons I learned from this interaction

Dialogue

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

By Spencer Gear PhD

It is acceptable to send rugby league, ice hockey and basketball players to the SIN BIN when they violate certain rules of the code. To talk about all people committing SIN and needing punishment invites hisses from opponents.

Some of the articles in ‘Truth Challenge’ are generated by my discussion of issues with people. This topic is one of them.

1. The White Australia Policy is not the solution

A person had the cheek to sing the praises of The White Australia Policy:[1] He (I think he’s male) claimed human beings were tribal and territorial. What held societies together were shared beliefs and values of what constitutes right and wrong?

Therefore, it is a ‘cultural universal’ to want to live among one’s own kind of people. The ghettoes of ‘suburban enclaves’ in Australia demonstrate that multiculturalism has failed. It never works, he stated.

What do these “multicultural” states have in common?

Lebanon, Fiji, Cyprus, Georgia, Afghanistan, Biafra, Rhodesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Liberia, Kashmir, Punjab, Sudan, Nigeria, Bougainville, East Timor, Yugoslavia, Kurdistan, New Zealand, Bhutan, Angola, Burma, Chechnya, Guadalcanal, Aden, Malaya, Oman, Congo, Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel, Czechoslovakia, Yemen, Mexico, East Timor, Thailand and recently, Ukraine.
Why do you want Australia to emulate their failed societies?

Then there was this king hit from him: ‘If Australia had kept the White Australia Policy, this country would now be a stronger, more prosperous and a safer country than it is now’.

Instead we have ‘diversity bollards’ on our streets, teachers not wanting to teach in troubled schools with Muslim and African students. He gave many other examples of how he sees multiculturalism’s failures.

He tackled another person who he claimed thought that ‘racism is bad. ‘Anything associated with racism must not even be thought about or considered in any way. Turn off brain. Bask in the reflected glory of your shining moral virtue’.

He continued to extol the virtues of the White Australia Policy, which he claimed would have made Australia ‘a stronger, more prosperous and a safer country than it is now’.

Is a return to The White Australia Policy a decent step towards progress in immigration in Australia?

2. A major error of his analysis

The problem with this assessment[2] is that it avoids a fundamental problem with the human race, including the Caucasian race.

Exalting the White Australia Policy and dumbing down on multiculturalism misses a critical factor that is present in all people.

2.1 ‘Whites’ have the same contamination

Sin (breaking God’s laws) infects all of us, no matter what the colour. I’ve addressed some of this problem in my On Line Opinion article: Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us‘.
clip_image001Here’s an example of a rugby league referee giving a “sin bin” penalty against a player, signifying the ten minutes that the offender must spend off the field (photo courtesy Wikipedia). Ice hockey calls it the ‘penalty box’. A similar action applies to other sports where the violation was not serious enough to ban for the rest of the game.

Sin is a good word to describe the corruption all of us suffer from. We have no problem sending rugby league and rugby union players to the Sin Bin when they violate rules of the game.
Many non-Christians will reject this diagnosis, but we see it all over Australia in examples from the
Sexual Abuse Royal Commission, the Banking Royal Commission, and the crime and violence we see on the nightly TV news. I know we all have to battle with lying, stealing, deceit, evil thoughts, sexual immorality, etc (and that includes me, a ‘white’ person).
You do remember Hitler & the Nazi Holocaust, Mussolini’s killing brigade, the Soviet Gulag and the European-Communist problem? Resorting to a White Australia Policy focusses on one group that is supposed to be better than other races. The truth is that ALL races are infected with the same sinful disease as the rest of humanity. Europeans and Russian people have as much contamination as people from all races with different coloured skins.

This is what this fellow’s analysis demonstrated. In my view, his conclusions are wrong but I couldn’t imagine he would recognise the problem and be open to the solution.

2.2 Claims with illogical reasoning

This person’s reply did not deal with the issues I raised by the all-encompassing influence of sin. Take a read of his comeback:

I gather from your article that you are a Christian? OK, I don’t have a problem with Christianity because it is part of western culture, and the moral code that Christianity imparted is the reason why western societies are much more peaceful and honest than cultures based upon other religions. But I reject the idea that all people are equal. Even God discriminates between those who worship him and those who do not.

Exactly what you are inferring in the rest of your reply is unclear. You seem to associate racism with sin, Hitler and genocide. Your inference seems to be, that even thinking that there might be some validity in racism is sinful and therefore unthinkable. You have set yourself an intellectual boundary that you refuse to think past, because you think it must lead to Nazism and genocide.[3]

So he considers in what I’ve written above that:

clip_image003 He ‘reject(s) the idea that all people are equal’.

clip_image003[1] He can express his worldview of God discriminating against those who don’t worship Him.

clip_image003[2] I seem to associate racism with sin, Hitler and genocide.

clip_image003[3] I think racism must lead to Nazism and genocide.

Of these points, there is only one with which I agree: Racism is sin. How do I know? The Scriptures tell me so:

clip_image005 Gal 3:28 (NIV), ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’.

clip_image005[1] James 2:5-7 (NIRV),

5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen to me. Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor in the world’s eyes to be rich in faith? Hasn’t he chosen them to receive the kingdom? Hasn’t he promised it to those who love him? 6 But you have disrespected poor people. Aren’t rich people taking advantage of you? Aren’t they dragging you into court? 7 Aren’t they speaking evil things against the worthy name of Jesus? Remember, you belong to him.

In 1993, Billy Graham wrote his message on ‘the sin of racism’. Part of what he wrote was:

Racism is a sin precisely because it keeps us from obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, and because it has its roots in pride and arrogance. Christians who harbor racism in their attitudes or actions are not following their Lord at this point, for Christ came to bring reconciliation—reconciliation between us and God, and reconciliation between each other. He came to accept us as we are, whoever we are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) [Billy Graham on Racism, 2018].

2.2.1 Nature of illogical reasoning

This was how he dished it up to me: [4]

Thinking my way was pursuing the thoughts of …

Christians who refused to consider the validity of the Earth not being the centre of the universe, or whether the earth was round, or whether evolution was a fact. Because to even think about any of these concepts meant that you were denying the holy scriptures, and therefore committing heresy.

He came down on me as one who

may even believe that the earth is the centre of the universe, that the earth is flat, and a committed “intelligent design” believer? But if you are smart enough to realise that those concepts are clearly wrong, and that believing the opposite does not mean that you are renouncing God, then for God’s sake do the same with racism.

He proceeded to goad me: If I considered that racism had some validity, it doesn’t mean I’ve resigned from the human race. He put forward two racist ideas in the western world:

clip_image007 ‘White western people are cause of all the world’s problems and they are vilest race on Earth’.

clip_image007[1] ‘The reason why some ethnicities are always successful and why some are always dysfunctional may have a lot to do with genetics’.

He asked: Which idea is correct?

What is he trying to do with this kind of response which imposes his non-Christian views about Christianity on what I wrote? Is he using a particular tactic that avoids dealing with the matters I raised? Read on!

3. The human heart is desperately wicked

Please read my post again at: OzSpen, Saturday, 6 October 2018 6:31:33 AM.[5]

At no point did I suggest any of the red herring logical fallacies you raised in your last post.

What I emphasised was your favouring the White Australia Policy when the whites are as contaminated with sin like all others – whether black, white or brindle.

The prophet Jeremiah nailed it: ‘The human heart [inner part] is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?’ (Jer 17:9).

The next verse affirms that the Lord God ‘searches all hearts and examines secret motives’. The human race has had this sinful nature problem since the beginning of time (Genesis 3).
You claim: ‘But I reject the idea that all people are equal’.
The Scriptures contradict you (and so do I). Scriptures support the equality of all human beings. When God made the first human beings, ‘God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us’’ (Genesis 1:26). Equality among all human beings is God’s design.

You stated: “Even God discriminates between those who worship him and those who do not”.

That might be how you see it, but when God says, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex 20:3), he is demonstrating who He is in the context of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and crossing the Red Sea into Canaan. Exodus 15:11 states ‘Who is like you among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?’

This is not discrimination but stating facts:
clip_image009 In the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the miracle of Yahweh allowed them to cross the water on dry land, while Pharaoh and his armies were drowned.
clip_image009[1] Israel saw God’s great power against the Egyptians in their deliverance.
clip_image009[2] Therefore, the Israelites exalted the one true God. Who is like Jehovah among the gods? No other god compares.

We see evidence all around us of human depravity – from individuals, corporations, church organisations and governments. I urge you to quit inventing things I didn’t write in my post.

4. Refusal to debate if biblical texts used

To the above, this person only had this to say:

I debate using reason and logic. If you wish to use religious texts to justify your amazing worldview, then let’s just call it a day. I will note your name and I will not address posts to you again.[6]

This assumes my quoting from the Bible (religious texts) to support my ‘amazing worldview’ is not of sufficient value to continue the discussion and he won’t address posts by me again

Let’s see if he can live up to that claim or will he be dishonest and continue to interact with me?

4.1 Is the Bible a reliable source?

When I use biblical texts,[7] I’m quoting from documents that are reliable and trustworthy, even on a purely historical basis. Take a read of this article from the secular, The Huffington Post, “2,500 Year Old Jewish Tablets Discovered in Iraq” (2015).

clip_image011(Image courtesy The Huffington Post Australia)

What does this non-Christian source conclude about this discovery? “This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text”.

See also my articles:

clip_image013 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image013[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image013[2] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image013[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

My “amazing worldview” is rooted in aletheia (truth) which means,

(a) ‘truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed’ (Rom 3:7; 15:8);

(b) ‘truth as the opposite of false’ (Mk 5:33; 1 Tim 2:7);

(c) ‘reality as opposed to mere appearance’ (Rom 2:2; Phil 1:18) [from Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:35-36].

In the future, you state you [LEGO] will avoid posts by Toni and me. Are you afraid to debate alternate views with reason, logic and truthfulness?

When addressing ‘runner’, you dumped your worldview on the readers, “Mothers of Gods, etc.” without explanation.

As for eternal life or eternal damnation, one minute after your last breath you’ll wish you had discussed this further with us, instead of resorting to your Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy of “compulsive psychological need” and “even stars die”.
Don’t you get it that human beings are not stars?

4.2 Avoiding the issues: The errors of his ways

Take a read of how LEGO replied to the above response. [8]

He wrote of ‘pseudo liberals’, left wing people who think they are intelligent, progressives who don’t denounce free speech, freedom of association, and evidence-based logic.

His claim was that leftist activists are social conservatives trying to shut up criticism of their failed ideologies of socialism and multiculturalism. The public no longer trusts the pseudo liberal media to tell the truth. (Note: He does acknowledge there is ‘truth’ but what is truth to him? Where would he fit in the above definitions?)

His next discussion was

the farcical, fake news furore over the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice in the USA. By any application of reasoned logic, it is obvious that the charges of sexual misconduct leveled at Trump’s appointee by politically partisan activists is a frame up. When the pseudo liberals demanded the FBI investigate, it did so and found nothing. No witnesses, no corroboration, and odd memory lapses and strange behaviour by the accusers. Then the pseudo liberals claimed the FBI was biased.

Those are not my words but those of LEGO, to whom I responded.

He compared the pseudo liberal media with its fake news to the Korean War Chinese propaganda where some US pilots were forced to admit the cruel capitalist masters forced them to commit inhumane germ warfare on the ‘peace loving socialist people’.

What did he do with that kind of response to what I wrote?

4.2.1 Failing to address the issues

My retort will demonstrate the errors I saw in his post.[9]

In my previous reply to him, I mentioned …

clip_image015 Your illogical use of an Appeal to Ridicule logical fallacy;

 clip_image015[1]Your failure to write a logical sentence when you misspelled ‘psuedo’;

 clip_image015[2] When I quote from the Bible, I’m referring to reliable and trustworthy texts and I gave one example.

clip_image015[3]
My Christian worldview is rooted in aletheia (NT Greek for truth);

clip_image015[4]I asked: Are you afraid to debate Toni (another poster) and OzSpen when you stated you would avoid posts by us?
You dumped your worldview on ‘runner’ (another poster).

clip_image015[6] You committed an Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy in your comment about those who seek eternal life.

 There was not one sentence in his reply that addressed the specifics of what I wrote.

He gave his rationalisation about Tony vs Toni and then called Toni he, him and his. How does he know Toni is a male?

Instead of addressing my issues with his reply post, he was off and running with his own agenda of …

• today’s left wing people;
• leftist activist class;
• new Supreme Court judge in the USA, and
• pseudo liberal media.

When he avoids the topics I raised, creating his own content, he gave us another logical fallacy, the Red Herring.

Red Herring
(also known as: beside the point, misdirection [form of], changing the subject, false emphasis,… irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, clouding the issue, ignorance of refutation)
Description: 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 (Source:
Logically Fallacious).

He doesn’t seem to understand how his claim of using logic and reason is wrecked by his use of logical fallacies, which amount to erroneous reasoning.
I urged him to address the issues I raised and give us the agenda with which he is more comfortable debating. We can’t have a rational debate when he uses irrational tactics – logical fallacies.

4.3 How logical fallacies destroy meaningful debates or discussions

Dr L Kip Wheeler, assistant professor at Carson-Newman University, Tennessee USA, provided this assessment of logical fallacies for his students in composition and literature:

Fallacies are statements that might sound reasonable or superficially true but are actually flawed or dishonest. When readers detect them, these logical fallacies backfire by making the audience think the writer is (a) unintelligent or (b) deceptive. It is important to avoid them in your own arguments, and it is also important to be able to spot them in others’ arguments so a false line of reasoning won’t fool you (Logical Fallacies Handlist).

The Future Team at the University of Auckland stated:

One reason they’re [logical fallacies] common is that they can be quite effective! But if we offer or are convinced by a fallacious argument we will not be acting as good logical and critical thinkers (Common Fallacies).

4.3.1 Lessons I’ve learned from conversation with LEGO

I have to be honest and say that I failed in my approach with him, particularly with the naming of his logical fallacies. Josh Brahm paraphrased what his friend and colleague, Trent Horn, said about identifying logical fallacies:

I would encourage people to not say ‘you committed X fallacy’ because it’s terribly presumptuous and arrogant and most people don’t appreciate talking to someone who points out every little fallacy they make. Instead you should follow Greg Koukl’s tactics and Justice For All’s training and ask, “why do you think that?” And then continue to ask follow up questions.

As Trent suggests, you could ask whether a bad person could be right about something. That’s so much better than accusing them of making an ad hominem fallacy!

Confession time: it was only a few months ago that I responded to somebody who posted a comment on my Facebook profile by telling them that it appeared they were committing the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc and included this link so they could educate themselves and not make that mistake anymore.

I’m cringing as I write this. Yeah, I really did that.

clip_image017If you’re using Latin during a debate, you probably sound like a jerk.

You know what would have been better? I could have said something like this: “I want to understand your argument, but I’m not sure I do. What it sounds like you’re saying is that because this thing happened after this other thing that the first thing caused it. Am I misunderstanding you? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.”

Do you see the difference? It’s not easy though. Easy is naming the fallacy. Hard, but better, is being able to think to yourself, “I believe he just committed the genetic fallacy,” and then thinking of questions to ask with an open heart that will help the person see the problem with their reasoning. You could ask, “I want to understand you. Can I ask a clarification question? It sounds like you’re implying that because this person is biased, their argument must be wrong. Is that what you’re saying?”

But to do that you really need to understand what the fallacies are, because that will better prepare you to ask the right kinds of questions when a fallacy is committed (The Best Way to Expose Logical Fallacies: Don’t Call Them by Name).

I have learned a big lesson from this discussion / debate with LEGO. I must ask probing questions instead of labelling his logical fallacies by name.

5. Conclusion

Throughout this interchange, I saw my blind spots concerning biblical teachings

(a) There was an acknowledgement that ‘I don’t have a problem with Christianity because it is part of western culture, and the moral code that Christianity imparted is the reason why western societies are much more peaceful and honest than cultures based upon other religions’.

However, there was a failure to pursue this to deal with the foundation of Christianity in the Judeo-Christian God with whom there is no parallel.

(b) If Christianity is so valuable, why dumb down on the nature of the biblical texts (Scripture) and treat them as unreliable or irrelevant.

(c) One of his major problems is violating the law of non-contradiction, which can be described in these ways:

Bill Pratt has explained the law of non-contradiction this way:

What is the law of non-contradiction? There are at least three ways to state it:

1. A thing cannot both be A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense.

2. A thing cannot both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense.

3. A statement cannot both be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense

LEGO was assuring us that he used ‘reason and logic’ and then committed illogical actions in his use of logical fallacies, which amount to erroneous reasoning. Thus, his view was: I believe in logic and not-logic (logical fallacies).

To maintain rational existence, we must live by the law of non-contradiction.

(d) He refused to respond when I called him for the logical fallacies he committed. Instead he would go into what he wanted to talk about, thus committing another logical fallacy, the Red Herring.

(e) I learned much from this encounter: I should never give the proper name to the logical fallacy, but to use questions that try to get to the heart of what I see as the fallacy committed. I’ll never name logical fallacies in further posts online or those that make it from blogs to an article on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge.

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(Image courtesy Cognitive World)

6. Works consulted

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

7. Note

[1] Comment to Spencer Gear’s article, Fake News! The Senator Fraser Anning saga, 3 October, 2018, On Line Opinion, (online). Posted by LEGO, Friday, 5 October 2018 1:53:49 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=3 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[2] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen [Spencer Gear], Saturday, 6 October 2018 6:31:33 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=4 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[3] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Saturday, 6 October 2018 9:12:43 AM, Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=5 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 6 October 2018 1:16:27 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=5 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[6] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Sunday, 7 October 2018 3:49:28 AM.

[7] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 7 October 2018 7:58:51 AM.

[8] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Sunday, 7 October 2018 10:43:28 AM.

[9] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 8 October 2018 8:05:23 AM,

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 March 2020.

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Bible Translation Challenges

Image result for clipart KJV Bible

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What would get Christians up in arms about the best Bible translation?

Try a dialogue with the heading, ‘What is regarded as the best and most accurate version of the Bible?’ on a Christian online forum and the antagonists emerge from the pages of the Bible with Textus Receptus grins or snarls.

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(image courtesy fundamentallyreformed)

This topic led to a particular defender of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible to come forward, presenting it as the best Bible translation.

1. Difficulties for translators

As the discussion was progressing with the KJV supporter opposing those who supported modern translations such as the NIV and ESV, one of the moderators, gave this excellent example of the difficulties translators face:[1]

When a phrase is translated from one language to another, the translator has no recourse but to do so by expressing a thought. Differences in sentence structure, word meanings, context, and interpretation of the message all play a role. For example, because of the sentence structure differences between languages, to translate a phrase from French or Spanish to English in direct word-for-word form would generally result in a phrase that would not make any sense at all. This is because the order of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. are different. Furthermore, some of the French or Spanish words won’t have an English equivalent so what does one do with that? The only choice is to translate the phrase thought-for-thought along with intent-for-intent.

Here’s an example of how changing the order of just one word within a sentence written in English can completely change the meaning of the entire sentence.

Only you can have a sandwich for lunch. When I read this sentence, it is understood that I am the only one that can have a sandwich and nobody else.

You can only have a sandwich for lunch. Moving the word “only” to a different place within the same 8-word sentence and look what happens. Now, it is understood that all I can have is a sandwich for lunch and nothing else. Also, the word “you” could be either singular or plural and possibly addressing a group.

You only can have a sandwich for lunch. Look what happened now. Now, the sentence is confusing. Is this sentence saying that I can have a sandwich and nothing else or is it saying that I am the only one that can have a sandwich and nobody else?

There isn’t a Bible that has been translated into English or any language that is truly accurate. Every one of them is the result of a group of scholars agreeing on the intended meaning. Just like my sample sentence above, just repeating what another has said is really just another form of translation but how the translator understands what is said or written can impact the result.

Whenever we carry on a conversation, the intention of what is said and what is understood can be entirely different. Since we don’t have the original autographed text to work from we are left with ancient writings that had already been translated at least once or more even if within the same language. Therefore, we are stuck trying to piece it all together by combining the reference texts we have.

Even if we did have the original autographed text to work from and we could read and understand the words, we would not agree on the intended meaning of what is written. This is then when we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us, and lead us toward understanding God’s intended meaning.

I found this to be a superb example of the challenges many Bible translators face, not only for established ancient and modern English translations but also with translators who work for Wycliffe Bible Translators / SIL and other such organisations.

These latter translators work from the oral language, beginning with translators who know the language, bring it into print (a massive job in understanding grammar and syntax of the oral language). Then they translate Scripture into that language – one book of the Bible at a time. What a job!

Here SIL explains The Typical Process of Bible Translation.

2. A stubborn stickler for the KJV

That splendid response by moderator WIP was on the heels of a KJV supporter who made these kinds of claims:

clip_image004 ‘I stick with the good ole KJV that is also free, and is in the “Public Domain”, time honored at 400+ years and going strong!’[2]

He acknowledged he didn’t stick with the KJV that was 400+ years old: ‘I like the 1769 version, that’s what I use, it revised the old English into middle English’.[3]

2.1 ‘The good ole KJV’

Does being old make it a good translation?

What is the rationality in sticking with ‘the good ole KJV’ that is ‘time honored at 400+ years and still going strong’? The facts are:

clip_image006 He is not reading the KJV that is 400+ years old, but reads the KJV that is 249 years old as of 2018. He misled us with his claim.

clip_image006[1] Because a Bible translation is 400 years old, does that make it better?

2.2 Imagine using that approach with typewriters.

When was the typewriter invented?

Since the fourteenth century, when the idea of writing machines became technologically feasible, more than one hundred prototype models were created by over 50 inventors around the world. Some of the designs received patents and a few of them were even sold to the public briefly without much success. The first such patent was issued to Henry Mill, a prominent English engineer, in 1714. The first American paten for what might be called a typewriter was granted to William Austin Burt, of Detroit, in 1829.

clip_image008However, the breakthrough came in 1867 when Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee with the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule invented their first typewriter. Sholes’s prototype model, which is still preserved by the Smithsonian Institution, incorporated many if not all the ideas from the early pioneers. The machine “looked something like a cross between a small piano and kitchen table” as one historian observed (Typewriter History 2006).

clip_image009Prototype of the Sholes and Glidden typewriter, the first commercially successful typewriter, and the first with a QWERTY keyboard (1873) [Wikipedia 2018. s.v. typewriter].

Do you know of anyone who demands that the best means to type documents in the twenty-first century is to use the 1867 or 1873 models of a typewriter?

For this article, I use an MS Word 2003 word processor on a Windows 10 operating system and copied the document using WordPress and Open Live Writer to upload to my homepage. I’m encouraged more modern equipment is available in 2020.

It would be idiotic of me to demand that I use the typewriter when so much better technology is available in the 21st century.

But … I know a fellow who has a hard copy of the KJV (1611) that he takes to church every Sunday because ‘this is the best translation of the Bible that does not have verses cut out of it’ (his words to me).

2.3 There are other issues: Byzantine vs Alexandrian text-type

clip_image010I have addressed some of these in my articles:
Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

clip_image010[1]The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?

clip_image010[2]Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible

clip_image010[3]The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations

 clip_image010[4]Corn or grain? KJV or NIV in Matthew 12:1

2.4 Samples of John 3:16 translations in KJV editions

Try these two versions of this verse:

clip_image006[2] KJV (1611): ‘For God so loued þe world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life’.

Is that how English people speak and spell in the 21st century?

Why would anyone want to read in church the language of 1611 or share the Gospel with people using that kind of translation? It would reinforce the views of some secularists that the Bible is an out-dated book for an obsolete religion.

Generally, it is because there is a small band of KJV-only supporters who use this approach:

clip_image006[3] They try to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus, compiled by a Dutch Roman Catholic priest and humanist, Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) is the best translation.

clip_image006[4] KJV (1769 rev ed): ‘ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ is the version most KJV enthusiasts use, but it also is a revised version, but based on the Textus Receptus.

If a person is fixated on reading from the KJV and using the Greek Textus Receptus for the NT translation, wouldn’t this be more appropriate for the current century than 1611 language?

clip_image006[5] King James 2000 Bible: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’.

clip_image006[6] Or, the NKJV: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’.

clip_image012 ‘I like to share God’s word as found in Matthew 17:21, 18:11, Acts 8:37, Romans 16:24 [from Textus Receptus and in KJV].
Can’t use the NIV, ESV, the verses are not there’.
[4]

clip_image014 ‘The fact stands today that over 5,000 Majority reading textual family witnesses exist.

The Alexandrian textual family is roughly at 50 witnesses; this is how the 99/1 ratio is determined’.[5]

clip_image016 ‘I have clearly shown you the fact of history, the church outside of Egypt didn’t use or transmit the Alexandrian Minority Text, This Is A Fact.
Westcott & Hort in 1881 revived the Alexandrian Text and published it to the world.

St. Jerome (Jerusalem) 347-420AD maintained knowledge of the Alexandrian schools, and he didn’t use their textual readings in his (Latin Vulgate)?’[6]

Why is the Alexandrian text-type out of the city of Alexandria – a port city in northern Egypt – the supposed ‘minority text-type’? In contrast, why is the Byzantine text-type the majority text-type?

3. It is quite simple to explain according to KJV promoters.

This is one example readily available to me.

clip_image018 ‘The argument is the Majority Greek Text 99% or the Alexandrian Minority Greek Text 1% of MSS.

The 57 KJV Translators were fully aware of the 1% minority text, and they didn’t use it because of it never being used or received by the early church.
The Alexandrian 1% minority text was basically localised to Egypt, the Church never used or received this text, A historical fact’.
[7]

3.1 What are some other reasons?

Why is the Alexandrian text-type of, say, Codex Sinaiticus or Codex Vaticanus so small a representative of Greek MSS when it was closer to the original documents than the Byzantine text-type?

In light of the above objections, I find it necessary to examine some background to the Byzantine text-type, the Textus Receptus behind the KJV, and the Greek text gathered by Erasmus (died 1536).

Is the KJV a superior Bible version and have the modern versions been corrupted by Westcott & Hort’s ideology of Alexandrian text-type in gathering NT manuscripts?

clip_image020
A part of page 336 of Erasmus’s Greek Testament, the first “Textus Receptus.”
Shown is a portion of John 18.
[8]

clip_image021 In my article, The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?[1], I have listed 13 sound reasons for regarding the Textus Receptus behind the NT of the King James Version as not being superior to that used by the modern Greek critical text.

4. Conclusion

I recommend you visit that article for an assessment of the Byzantine vs Alexandrian text-type. Please note that most modern translations of the Bible use the critical text of the Alexandrian text-type e.g. RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NIRV, NLT, NET, ERV, REB, HCSB, JB, NAB, and NASB. Those using the Byzantine TR include the KJV 1611, KJV 1769 (rev), NKJV, Mounce Reverse-Interlinear, and others translated around the time of the KJV – John Wycliffe Bible, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew’s, The Great Bible, Geneva Bible, and Bishops’ Bible, Later versions using the TR include Webster’s Bible, Julia E Smith’s Bible, J P Green’s Literal Translation, and the Revised Young’s Literal Translation.[9]

The Erasmus Greek text that became the Textus Receptus and had so much influence on the text used for the translation of the KJV New Testament, is based on a ‘debased form of the Greek Testament’ (Metzger’s words).[10]

Better Greek manuscripts are available in the twenty-first century and most of the new translations are based on these texts. The Greek texts gathered by Erasmus that became the Textus Receptus are not the most reliable Greek texts available for NT translation.

The manuscripts found since the time of Erasmus and the eclectic Greek text of Nestle-Aland 26, which is used in the United Bible Societies Greek NT (edition 27 is now available), provide a more reliable Greek text from which to translate. The latter Greek text is used in such English Bible translations as the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV, NASB and NLT.

However, there is no point in trying to convince a dogmatic KJV-only supporters of these details.[11] They are inflexible in considering another alternative. I wish these people well with a greeting such as, ‘We’ll need to agree to disagree. God bless and encourage you’.

To my knowledge, no major Christian doctrine is affected if one of these textual lines of transmission is preferred over the other.

5. Works consulted

Metzger, B M 1964/1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration (third, enlarged, edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc.

6. Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2018. What is regarded the best and most accurate version of the Bible? (online), WIP#99, 24 June. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/what-is-regarded-the-best-and-most-accurate-version-of-the-bible.76719/page-5#post-1469744 (Accessed 25 June 2018).

[2] Ibid., Truth7t7#64, 23 June 2018.

[3] Ibid., Truth7t7#70.

[4] Ibid., Truth7t7#74.

[5] Ibid., Truth7t7#48,

[6] Ibid., Truth7t7#52.

[7] Ibid., Truth7t7#32.

[8] Available at: http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/TR.html (Accessed 18 January 2019).

[9] With assistance from Textus Receptus Bibles 2019. Available at: http://textusreceptusbibles.com/ (Accessed 18 January 2019).

[10] Metzger (1964/1992:103).

[11] The last 3 paragraphs of the conclusion are taken from the conclusion of my article, The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 March 2020.

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Total depravity

Image result for clipart Total Depravity

(image courtesy David Cox)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The term, ‘total depravity’, gets people squirming as they think of all people being put into this wicked, sinful, immoral and evil class. The language used, ‘total depravity’, is enough to scare people away from considering Christianity.

Most Christians I know wouldn’t use the term when sharing Christ with unbelievers. I don’t use it in evangelism but speak of ‘we are all sinners’ who have missed the mark of God’s standard. Most people can get a handle on that type of language.

Isn’t it over the top to think that non-Christians and people of other religions are totally bad? How is it possible to say that about Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Corrie ten Boom, and those who work to relieve the poverty and deprivation of children through Compassion International?

What did it mean to Reformers such as Martin Luther, Jacob Arminius, and John Calvin?

1. Martin Luther on total depravity

In The Bondage of the Will (1976), he replied to the Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (The Netherlands), The Freedom of the Will which Luther called the ‘Diatribe on Free-Will’ (1976:13).

1.1 Who was Erasmus?

Erasmus was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar (AD 1466-1536) who translated the New Testament into Greek. His publications included ‘the Novum Instrumentum consisting of the Greek text and Erasmus’ own Latin translation of the New Testament’.[1]Textus Receptus was published by Desiderius Erasmus in his 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament: Novum Instrumentum omne’.

This is the New Testament base for the New Testaments by William Tyndale, the Bishops Bible, the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible. Although none of Erasmus’s manuscripts was older than the 10th century, it essentially agreed with the others. Erasmus made the Greek NT available to scholars across Western Europe.

It was a monumental feat and one for which the Dutch priest should be given much credit. While Erasmus Himself was not thinking in terms of Bible translations for the masses, the new Protestant movement certainly was, and this Greek text became a vital tool to that end (Wayne 2018).

1.2 Debate over Erasmus’s diatribe

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(image courtesy Peace Apostolic Ministries)

Luther wrote insensitively to Erasmus:

For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?…

Responding to Erasmus, he said that throughout Erasmus’s treatment he forgot that “that ‘free-will’ can do nothing without grace, and you prove that ‘free-will’ can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies [fail]. “For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?” (1957:149)

Luther went on to drive home the point: “Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength” (1957:202).

It seemed that Luther caught out Erasmus when Luther said that he would not want ‘free will’ nor anything eels be left in his own hands to enable him after salvation.

This is ‘not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground; but because even were there no dangers, I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success’.

He stated ‘that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him (1957:313-314).

Therefore, Luther confessed that total depravity meant there was no such thing as free-will and God had taken his salvation out of the control of his free will. Human beings cannot will to do good before God and are left in their sin – unless God intervenes.

This strict view of total depravity is similar to that of Calvin.

2. Calvinism and total depravity

The Calvinistic Synod of Dordt concluded concerning the corruption of human beings:

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto (The Canons of Dordt, Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof, Article 3).

2.1 John Calvin’s view

John Calvin wrote that concisely in expressing his view:

… our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. I, Bk. II, Chap. 1, Para. 8; J Allen transl.)

‘Concupiscence’ is an antiquated word that means ‘strong sexual desire; lust’ (lexico.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence) and ‘ardent, usually sensuous, longing’ (dictionary.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence’). It came into middle English via the old French and late Latin.

2.2 Summary of Reformation doctrine of total depravity

‘The Reformational doctrine of total depravity seen especially in Calvin can be stated summarily in these sentences:

1. Sin is the responsible choice of man to violate God’s law.
2. Sin is a depravity of the whole nature of man.
3. Sin conveys guilt before God for man’s personal and Adam’s representational sin.
4. Sin is the actively developed apostasy of man against God.
5. Sin is a full warrant for eternal punishment’ (Gregory n.d.).

3. Reformed Arminian: Total depravity

I accept a traditional Reformed Arminian approach to total depravity. Reformed Arminian is the theology of Jacob Arminius. It is not that of Wesleyan Arminianism or Semi-Pelagian Arminianism.

This means that because of the Fall into sin, no human beings are able to save themselves. Sinners are ‘dead in sin’.[2]

My understanding of total depravity or total inability is parallel with that of Jacob Arminius. Before the Fall into sin, human beings were ‘good’ in their ability to love and do the works of God.
Before the Fall, human beings were created in the image of God (
Gen 1:26-27). According to Gen 2:17, before the Fall human beings hd the ability to choose good from evil. After the Fall, for believers, they have ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:10 NIV).

3.1 Dead in sins

Ephesians 2:1-2 (NIV) are critical verses in understanding Total Depravity:

‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’.

What does it mean to be ‘dead in sins’?

They were spiritually dead in their former lives and this was their lifestyle (present participle – continual action). We note in Eph 1:7 the plurals, ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (NIV). Every trespass/sin (missing the mark) demonstrated this deadness.

?Does it mean that unbelievers cannot respond to God’s offer of salvation? We know this is not the case because of the content of Titus 2:11 (NIV). Do sinners have a total inability to respond to the offer of salvation without God’s unconditional election and irresistible grace?? See my article: How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11

?We know that Adam ad Eve, after they had sinned, could still hear the voice of God (Gen 3:8-19 NIV). Therefore, Total Depravity does not cut one off from hearing the voice of God. It is a demonstration of what has happened within human beings.?

3.2 The crunch time

The crunch is this, described as total depravity, and it is that sinful human beings cannot do what is good towards God. That’s because the free will has not only been ‘wounded, maimed, made infirm, bent, and weakened’ but also it is ‘imprisoned, destroyed, and lost’.

Its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace’. For Christ has said, “Without me you can do nothing.”?

St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man’ (Arminius 1977:525-526).?

But the great and good news is that God has provided a way to deal with this ‘dead in sin’ situation: ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11 NIV). This is the enabling grace of God available ‘to all people’ for the offering of salvation.

I believe in Total Depravity because it is a Bible teaching. It refers to comprehensive inability to do God’s good because of sins and transgressions.

3.3 Let’s explain this further

The Reformed Arminian perspective is that human beings in the beginning were created in the image of God. Adam & Eve fell from this sinless state through willful disobedience, leaving the whole human race in a state of total depravity.[3]
This means they were sinful, separated from God and sentenced to God’s condemnation (Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3). Total depravity does not mean that human beings are as bad as bad could be. But it means every part of a human being – body, soul/spirit, heart, and mind – has been infected with sin.

All human beings have a sinful nature with a natural desire/inclination to sin. So, all human beings are fundamentally corrupt throughout their entire beings (Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5; Matt 19:17; Luke 11:13).

All people are spiritually dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13) and as a result are slaves to sin (Rom 6:17-20). Could anything be clearer than the Apostle Paul’s statement, ‘For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out’ (Rom 7:13 NIV).

Paul further explains the nature of total depravity: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Rom 3:10-12; cf. Rom 1:18-32; Eph 4:17-22).

So in their natural states, people are hostile to God and they cannot submit to his Law or please him – they are totally depraved (Rom 8:7-8).

4. What it looks like in the community

As I prepared this article today, I came across this headline from yesterday’s, The Sydney Morning Herald:

All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP’

This was a headline in an Australian newspaper (online)

clip_image002

(image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)[4]

Journalist Madonna King explained:

But for each good act, we’ve also seen how the fear of this disease, which is only beginning, can bring out the worst of human behaviour.

Today, that behaviour is being seen in our GP surgeries, where staff are being abused, ridiculed and told lies.

It’s that latter behaviour – where patients are lying to receptions and nurses, denying they have travelled overseas or have had contact with other COVID-19 cases, in order to see a doctor – that is particularly worrying….

Dr Glynn Kelly: ‘”They are lying. And it’s happening all over Australia,’’ he says. Some patients were filling out COVID-19 forms denying overseas travel or contact with other infected people, so they could get into see a doctor – and then would confess (King 2020).

We may well conclude that this lying is a manifestation of the environment since we are experiencing a pandemic of Coronavirus. We are tempted to place the blame on the environment from childhood to adulthood, i.e. it’s learned behaviour.

This is why we need God’s word on total depravity. Jeremiah 17:9 is but one example of the core problem: ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (NLT)

Doctors are finding out how depraved a person’s inner being is – in their consulting rooms.

5. A biblical perspective

The sinfulness of all human beings, as a result of the guilt inflicted on us by Adam’s first sin is that righteousness cannot be found in us (Rom 3:10; Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

Instead, the whole of human nature is corrupted (i.e. total depravity or original sin). See: Ps 51:5; John 3:6; Rom 3:18; 8:7-8, and Eph. 2:3.

Although the context deals with the prediction of Noah’s world-wide flood, Gen 6:5 (NET) summarises well the human condition: ‘But the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time’.

clip_image003A Sistine Chapel fresco depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden for their sin of eating from the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Image courtesy Wikipedia).

Sadly, that is the condition of all people without Christ.

After the Flood, the Lord still described human beings this way: ‘The inclination of their minds is evil from childhood’ (Gen 8:21 NET).

Could Isaiah be clearer? ‘All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf,
and our iniquities carry us away like the wind’ (Isa 64:6 HCSB).

‘It might be more accurate to say that we are totally unable to be righteous’ (Stack Exchange 2015).

The New Testament view is that all human beings are in a fallen state and are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-2). We are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and all unbelievers are ‘darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts’ (Eph 4:18 HCSB).

6. Conclusion

Human beings are wretches before God. ‘We can’t think, will, nor do anything good in and of [ourselves].[5] We are unable do anything that merits favor from God and we cannot do anything to save ourselves from the judgment and condemnation of God that we deserve for our sin’.

We cannot even believe the gospel on our own (John 6:44). If anyone is to be saved, God must take the initiative’ (see F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation: T).

All human nature is corrupt – total inability to respond to God unless he draws us to Himself.

7. Works consulted

Gregory, T M n.d. Presbyterian doctrine of total depravity (online). Available at: https://www.the-highway.com/depravity_Gregory.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

King, M 2020. The Sydney Morning Herald (online). All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP, 19 March. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/queensland/all-over-the-world-patients-are-lying-about-virus-gp-20200319-p54bob.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

Luther, M 1957. The Bondage of the Will, J I Packer & O R Johnston (eds). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.

Stack Exchange 2015. What is the biblical basis for total depravity? (online), 24 February. Available at: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/27/what-is-the-biblical-basis-for-total-depravity (Accessed 17 March 2020).

Wayne, L 2018. CARM (online). What is the Textus Receptus? Available at: https://carm.org/KJVO/what-is-the-tr (Accessed 19 March 2020).

8.  Notes

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy n.d. Desiderius Erasmus (1468?—1536). Available at: https://www.iep.utm.edu/erasmus/ (Accessed 19 March 2020).

[2] This was my post to Christianforums.net 2020. T.U.L.I.P., OzSpen#16. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/t-u-l-i-p.81940/#post-1551578 (Accessed 16 March 2020).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[4] Available at: https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=23313 (Accessed 20 March 2020).

[5] The original said, ‘themselves’.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 March 2020.

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An Australian way of death: voluntary assisted dying

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Fritz Klein, the camp doctor, standing in a mass grave at Bergen-Belsen [northern Germany] after the camp’s liberation by the British 11th Armoured Division, April 1945)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, 19 March 2020.

John is 65 and has been suffering from cancer for many years. The pain is too much. When he asks his doctor to put him to sleep permanently (kill him!), should the doctor agree? Jean has such severe dementia, lies in bed for much of the day and is in a vegetative state in an aged care facility. She doesn’t recognise me when I visit her.

In the twenty-first century, there is considerable public support for euthanasia to be legalised across Australia. There is a minority group of medical practitioners, Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice, that is supportive of euthanasia in certain circumstances.

The dangers of the majority view

According to The Guardian Australia Edition “a nationwide poll of 1,032 people conducted by Essential Research has found that 73% of Australians support voluntary assisted dying” (VAD).

If a majority of people agree with a position, does that make it right? An Appeal to Popularity is a logical fallacy that is difficult to notice because it sounds like common sense if the majority of people agree with it. The falsehood is that it doesn’t deal with the content of why VAD is right or wrong for a society or individual.

What is voluntary assisted dying?

Let’s get it clear what euthanasia (VAD) is. We are sometimes confused by the current debate because it seems some are talking about disconnecting life support systems. Others think we deny the patients’ rights to say, “This is enough. I want no extraordinary means to be used to keep me alive when all hope of physical life seems to be gone”.

We don’t need euthanasia for this. It is the common law right of all Australians to decide which treatments they want to have for themselves. We have legislation for an enduring power of attorney and an advanced health directive to cover these medical situations.

(image courtesy docotal)

Euthanasia is “the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life. For euthanasia to occur there must be an intention to kill”.

Now, euthanasia promoters don’t use the word “kill”, but it is the only accurate word to describe the reality of what happens. Besides, it is the word that our current law uses. Retired anaesthetist and palliative care physician at Concord Hospital, Sydney, Dr Brian Pollard, stated, “Euthanasia is a form of homicide – even if legalised, it would be legalised homicide. Intention is central to the concept”.

Sad and distressing cases are put forth so that it is made to appear there is a vast amount of suffering for which nothing less than death is good enough. Yet, I am told that those who practise palliative care with the terminally ill encounter few requests for euthanasia by patients. Too often, the distressed relatives who often feel impotent, sense a lack of support, and may be encountering a financial burden, are the ones calling for euthanasia.

I do not reject euthanasia because of the results it is likely to cause.

When Luke Gormally, director of London’s Linacre Bio-Ethics Centre, was in Australia he warned that legalising euthanasia could lead to “killing the disabled and dependent for economic reasons”. He also warned that euthanasia would endorse youth suicide because of the “wholly negative message” it would send to youth.

What will stop Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada, certain USA states and Australia from getting to this example once the slippery slope has begun? The Atlantic (3 Sept 2014) reported this story:

In July 1939, Richard and Lina Kretschmar, two farm workers from eastern Germany, wrote to Adolf Hitler to ask for permission to kill their son.

Gerhard Kretschmar had been born five months earlier with one arm, one leg, and vision loss. The Kretschmars were loyal Nazis, and “The Monster,” as they referred to Gerhard, was considered both burdensome and incompatible with the pursuit of genetic perfection. Gerhard was killed a few days later at a hospital near his home, likely by lethal injection.

The Netherlands has become a dangerous country

We know that when we support VAD, it can go beyond the person’s choice. Holland is the most recent example for which we have clear evidence. That country has permitted VAD for some time, and has legalised it.

The Uniting Church in Australia’s consultation paper, “Voluntary Assisted Dying Queensland Synod 2019” stated: ‘In Belgium and the Netherlands, the criteria for voluntary assisted dying includes that someone be experiencing “unbearable suffering”‘. This paper detailed a very sad case of a person suffering from severe dementia.

Is that all that happens in the Netherlands with VAD?

The Netherlands’ medical doctor, Dr. Karel Gunning, on his 1992 visit to Australia said: “Holland has indeed become a very dangerous country, as patients may have their lives ended without their request and without knowledge of the authorities. The doctor thus has become a powerful man, able to decide on life or death”.

The New Scientist magazine (20 June 1992) confirmed this alarming situation in an article titled, The Dutch way of death.” It stated that:

… doctors and nurses in the Netherlands can practise euthanasia if they stick to certain guidelines. Yet many patients receive lethal injections without giving their consent.

In some hospitals, doctors routinely approach patients who are terminally ill, offering to inject them with lethal doses of barbiturates and curare. But Dutch euthanasia has its sinister side, too. Involuntary euthanasia of sick and elderly people is commonplace in the Netherlands, and that when patients do opt for euthanasia, it is frequently out of fear of being a nuisance rather than to avoid unnecessary physical suffering.

The details are alarming. At least a third of the 5000 or so Dutch patients who each year receive lethal doses of drugs from their doctors do not give their unequivocal consent. About 400 of these patients never even raise the issue of euthanasia with their doctors. Moreover, of those who willingly opt for euthanasia, only about 5 per cent do so solely because of unbearable pain.

The magazine concluded that “these revelations strike a blow at the two central canons of the worldwide euthanasia lobby: that euthanasia should be used only as a means to end pointless physical suffering, and that the patient alone should make the decision.”

As one Dutch doctor put it: “Everywhere doctors are terminating lives. The only difference in Holland is that here we talk about it.”

Is this the morality for Australia?

Even though it is clear from this Dutch example that it is impossible to control VAD, is this the right kind of morality Australia should follow? By looking to the end results, this is a system of ethics called utilitarianism. It simply means that a “good” result (for example, relieving pain of a cancer patient) justifies the means (killing the person–euthanasia). This is a dangerous view.

Two examples show us how bad this view of right and wrong can become. In Germany during World War 2, Hitler’s goal was to develop a more perfect race. A pretty good goal one could think? But his way to attain it was evil (killing six million Jews and millions of others).

President Richard Nixon’s goal was a noble one, national security. But the criminal activity of Watergate was not justified to reach it.

The popularity of this view of morality

( Photo courtesy Wikipedia: Hartheim Euthanasia Centre in Upper Austria is where over 18,000 people were killed in the Holocaust).

There are droves of Australians who support the VAD view of morality. We are in deep trouble if this nation follows such an ethical system. The end never justifies the means; the means must justify themselves. An act is not automatically good because it has a good goal.

How do we know what is good? We need a fixed standard of good by which to judge right and wrong, rather than a person’s opinion of what is good. This fixed standard for euthanasia needs to be: murder or assisted murder is always wrong. This is the morality of universal standards of the 10 commandments (the Judeo-Christian world view).

I have taken this lengthy look at why I do not support euthanasia, based on the end justifying the means, because it is a view of right and wrong that could lead to chaos in our lucky country. Those who support VAD and some of those who oppose euthanasia both follow this system of morality.

The Australian Medical Association’s position

In its position statement, “the AMA (Australian Medical Association) maintains that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.

“This does not include the discontinuation of treatments that are of no medical benefit to a dying patient. This is not euthanasia,” says AMA president Dr Michael Gannon.

The AMA has grave concerns about the VAD Bill now legislated by the Victorian Parliament. It opposed it.

Why I do not support VAD

As a Christian minister I reject VAD for these reasons:

1. The Guardian Australia Edition (2019) summarised one point: “As this generation [baby boomers] enters its final years, the precept that life is precious irrespective of one’s medical condition is being called into question as never before“.

Human beings are unique and special. God’s view is that we are not higher animals but made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). If human beings are not special, we can do to them what a doctor advocated to me: “We put down dogs, why shouldn’t we offer the elderly in a vegetative state the same?”

Human life is sacred throughout life and in all circumstances, whether one is strong, independent and healthy or weak, dependent and handicapped.

When we reduce human beings to animals, it logically follows that a whole range of horrendous evils could eventuate. God has forbidden that any life be murdered. There is no need for a commandment that says, “You shall not commit euthanasia.” All deliberate, premeditated killing (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, homicide–war raises some other issues) is covered by the one commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13; Matt 5:21).

2. Secondly, we already know the consequences of a permissive approach to euthanasia. We have glaring examples before us of where permissive euthanasia laws will lead us. The Netherlands, Belgium and Canada are examples, but don’t forget what happened in Germany.

In Germany in 1920, there was a publication by a lawyer, Karl Binding, and a psychiatrist, Alfred Hoche, called The Permission to Destroy Life Not Worth Living, that opened the floodgates and led to open discussion and legislation to permit euthanasia in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Initially, it was seen to have a beneficial social effect in dealing with the so-called “useless” sick.

Why did they do it? For the very same reasons that are being advocated today: compassion, quality of life, and to cut the cost of caring for these so-called “useless people”. They stressed the cost of caring for the handicapped, the disabled (retarded) and the mentally ill. They were called “useless eaters”.

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia: Soviet POWs in the Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria)

This led to experimentation on human beings and genocide. It was a small step from euthanasia to the Nazi killing fields of 6 million Jews, and it is estimated that about 6 million others also were killed.

3. It is a strange paradox that VAD is being strongly promoted at a time when the medical profession has made great advances in the treatment of pain. This is not the time to recommend assistance in the killing of the terminally ill or others.

According to Dr. Bob Allan, president of the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association, “Modern palliative care ensured that patients should never have to consider euthanasia on the grounds of severe pain. Treatments are available to ensure death with dignity and without pain” happens (The Canberra Times, 3 February 1993, p. 5).

4. VAD degrades the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor/patient relationship. It violates the doctor’s pledge to not harm patients, according to The Hippocratic Oath (created by the Greek physician, Hippocrates, ca. 460), which in its common form is taken by many medical doctors upon graduation, dating back to the time of the Greeks, states:

I will follow that system of treatment which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is harmful to them. I will give no deadly drug to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.

Some medical schools modify this oath.

5. There is a better alternative: promote life and become actively involved in compassionate care for the dying, people who have a disability and other sufferers in our society.

6. I reject euthanasia because I support the 10 commandments and believe it is always wrong to murder or assist with the murder of anybody. The foundation of Australian society has been built on this view.

I also reject euthanasia because it is an attack on the sovereignty of God. We must answer two fundamental questions: Who are human beings? Whose right is it to terminate human life? Jesus Christ said, “I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).

At the time of preparing this article, only 2 Australian states had legislated VAD. However, Queensland is considering following the Victorian legislation and is currently engaged in a round of forums and have made a call for submissions.

(Image courtesy Wikipedia: Euthanasia legislation status in Australian states and territories (as of 2020):  Voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide illegal red Voluntary euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide legal blue.)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 March 2020.

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Joshua and the Bible Bashers

Did the sun really stand still?

Sunset, Sky, Sea, Ocean, Setting, Sun, Golden Glow

(image courtesy pixabay)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

When people doubt the Word of God, even in the church, Joshua’s account of the sun stopping (Joshua 10:12-14) takes a beating. Gregory W. Dawes does it in his challenge of history to religious authority (Dawes 2001).

1. Gregory Dawes disputes biblical authority

Who is Gregory Dawes and what is his theological persuasion? At the time of writing this book, Dawes was a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand (Dawes 2001: rear cover). He is now associate professor of philosopher at the University of Otago.[1]

The pitch for his book is summarised in the conclusion:

It seems that there is something wrong with the believer’s claim to religious authority. If this is the case, then the problem with which our authors have been dealing is a pseudoproblem, not because of the historian’s assumptions, but because of the theologian’s. The simplest explanation would seem to be the sceptical one. There is no way of reconciling Christian claims to religious authority with the knowledge and methods of the discipline of history. The historical viewpoint of our age undermines claims to biblical authority, while the Jesus of history is not a figure who can be reappropriated for out own time (Dawes 2001:368).

Therefore, after studying the ‘doubting Thomases’ of modern theology, Dawes concludes with some of them as a sceptic of biblical authority.

Dawes doubts the validity of miracles: ‘How can we be certain that an event is both beyond the productive capacity of nature[2] and that it is performed by God (rather than some other supernatural power)? It is hard to see how this can be done outside of the framework of a particular set of religious beliefs’ (Dawes 2001:105).

1.1 William Lane Craig’s definition of miracles is:

…. contra the Newtonian conception, miracles should not be understood as violations of the laws of nature, but as naturally impossible events. Contra Spinoza, admission of miracles would not serve to subvert natural law, and the possibility that a miracle is a result of an unknown natural law is minimized when the miracles are numerous, various, momentous, and unique. Contra Hume, it is question-begging or invalid to claim that uniform experience is against miracles (Craig 2020).

2. Origin of recent challenges to biblical authority

Generally, you won’t find it in the Early Church Fathers. Here are a few example of what they thought of the Bible:

clip_image002Saint Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335 – 394), ‘We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (On the Holy Trinity, To Eustathius, emphasis added)

clip_image004Irenaeus (d. 202), ‘We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith (Against Heresies, 3.1.1, emphasis added).

clip_image006Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373), after he had outlined the books of the Bible stated:

These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’ (Festal Letter 39, 6–7, emphasis added)

clip_image008St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), ‘For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics[3] and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine. (Augustine, Letters, 148. 4.15, emphasis added).

From this sample of four early church fathers, we see that they had a high regard for the authority of the canonical Scriptures.

2.1 Why the confrontation of biblical authority?

The challenge to biblical authority came through ‘the new astronomy’ of the seventeenth century with people like Johann Kepler. This challenge, says Dawes, ‘was the heliocentric cosmology set forth by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) which called into question the accepted picture of a geocentric world’ (Dawes 2001:10). In other words, the old-fashioned (biblical) earth-centred world was challenged by the Copernican sun-centred universe.

To draw attention to the so-called, out-dated biblical view, the miracle that Joshua experienced of the sun stopping was used. Dawes wrote: “The text here is Josh. 10:12-14, which suggests that the sun revolved around the earth, not vice versa” and The Book of Mormon “corrects the biblical cosmology” (Dawes 2001:10).

2.2 Book of Mormon ‘corrects’ Bible?

The Book of Mormon (Helaman 12:15) reads: ‘And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun’.

The verses from Joshua that have taken a beating by the sceptics (secular or religious) contain this kind of language:

‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day (Josh. 10:13 ESV)

How is it possible for the sun to be stopped when it does not revolve? In our scientific day, we know that the earth revolves around the sun. Was the Bible wrong in its statement about standing still? That’s the view of those who doubt God’s word and want to make light of supposed errors in the Bible.

3. How could the sun and moon stop?

Is there an explanation that does justice to the Bible’s integrity and does not cause Christians to close down the use of their minds?

We need to remember a fundamental of biblical interpretation. The Bible speaks in everyday language as it seems to us – it’s called phenomenological language. In its pre-scientific language, the Bible speaks to the common people. Just as we speak of the sun ‘rising’ and ‘setting’, so does the Bible (see Psalm 50:1). Meteorologists today speak of the times of ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’.[4] This is how we commoners see and understand it, even though it is technically incorrect.

4. Responsible assessment of Joshua 10: Sun standing still

How do we explain the sun standing still, according to Joshua 10? The God of miracles who created the world is capable of doing that and he doesn’t have to explain it to us because of his all-powerful nature and operation (omnipotence).

However, that is hardly an answer that will satisfy doubting Australians. Did God stop the earth’s rotation for 24 hours or is there another solution? Here are some other factors to consider:[5]

clip_image010Take a look at what Joshua 10:13 states: ‘So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day’.

clip_image010[1]The last sentence of this verse reads literally, ‘The sun did not hasten to go down for about a whole day’.[6]

clip_image010[2]Therefore, the earth’s movement was retarded so it took 48 hours rather than 24 hours for the earth’s circuit of the sun.

Or, could the Hebrew, dom, be like the English onomatopoeia , ‘be dumb’,[7] thus indicating ‘the sun was to remain hidden – hence “silent”— during the violent thunderstorm that accompanied the troops as they fled before the Israelites down the Valley of Aijalon’.[8]

In Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu sources there have been ‘alleged stories about a long day’ but they ‘are difficult to verify’.[9]

clip_image010[4]Since a hail storm accompanied this event (Josh 10:11), it is reasonable to conclude the Hebrew dom should be translated as ‘was dumb’ or ‘silent’. Therefore, ‘the sun did not “stop” in the middle of the sky, but its burning heat was “silenced”’.[10]

The information in Josh 10:11 adds fuel to this interpretation, ‘The Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites’ (NIV). So, ‘Joshua’s long day’ is really ‘Joshua’s long night’.[11]

5. Conclusion

In my view,

the best solution is this. Joshua prayed early in the morning, while the moon was in the western sky and the sun was in the east, that God would intervene on their behalf. God answered Joshua and sent a hailstorm. This had the effect of prolonging the darkness and shielding the men from the searing rays of the sun. The sun, therefore, was ‘silenced’ in the middle of the sky and the moon ‘did not hasten to come’.

What a day to remember, for on it God went out and personally fought for Israel—and more died from the hailstones than from the weapons of the army of Israel.[12]

6.  Works consulted

Craig, W L 2020. The Problem of Miracles:  A Historical and Philosophical Perspective. Reasonable Faith (online). Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/historical-jesus/the-problem-of-miracles-a-historical-and-philosophical-perspective/ (Accessed 2 March 2020).

Dawes, G W 2001. The historical Jesus question: The challenge of history to religious authority. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

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

7.  Notes

[1] See Greg Dawes 2020. Academia (online). Available at: https://otago.academia.edu/GregDawes (Accessed 2 March 2020).

[2] Dawes referred me to Craig’s (2020) definition of ‘miracles’.

[3] He wrote of the general church, i.e. Christians.

[4] See Australian Government: Geoscience Australia 2010. Compute Sunrise, Sunset & Twilight Times (online). Available at: http://www.ga.gov.au/geodesy/astro/sunrise.jsp (Accessed 2 March 2020).

[5] I obtained these points from Kaiser et al (1996:186-188).

[6] Kaiser et. al. (1996:186)

[7] ‘Onomatopoeia’ ‘refers to the use of words which sound like the noise they refer to. ‘Hiss’, ‘buzz’, and ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ are examples of onomatopoeia’ (Collins Dictionary 2020. s.v. onomatopoeia).

[8] Kaiser et. al. (1996:186).

[9] Kaiser et. al., (1996:187).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaiser et. al. (1996:188).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 March 2020.

Why did God create human beings knowing they would sin?

Image result for clipart omniscience public domain

(image courtesy ya-webdesign.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

God knows all things, past and present. This is the attribute of God’s omniscience? What is it? If he knows all things, why did he fashion human beings who would soon defy his command?

1. Theologians define omniscience

These evangelical theologians define omniscience as:

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‘Historically, the omniscience of God was a straightforward doctrine: God knows everything—past, present, and future’.

This is confirmed in passages such as Gen 6:5; Job 21:22; 36:4; 37:16; Ps 139:2-4, 17-18; 147:4-5; Isa 40:28; 42:9; 46:10. In the New Testament this teaching is affirmed in Matt 6:8; 10:29-30; Acts 15:17-18; Rom 8:29; 11:33; Eph 1:11 and Heb 4:13.

‘His omniscience can be arrived from a number of his attributes. These include His infinity, His causality, His necessity, His knowledge of reality, His eternality, and His absolute perfection’ (Geisler 2003:180-181).

clip_image002[1]Dr H C Thiessen: ‘He knows Himself and all other things, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future, and that He knows them perfectly and from all eternity. He knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly. He also knows the best ways to attain His desired ends’ (Thiessen 1949:124).


clip_image002[3]Louis Berkhof: ‘The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection of God whereby He, in an entirely unique manner, knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act. The Bible testifies to the knowledge of God abundantly, as, for instance, in I Sam. 2:3; Job 12:13; Ps. 94:9; 147:4; Isa. 29:15; 40:27-28’ (Berkhof 1941:66).


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Dr Wayne Grudem gives a simple definition: ‘God’s knowledge may be defined as follows: God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and dental act’. He used Job 37:16 and 1 John 3:20 to support this view’ (Grudem 1999:88).

2. God created human beings to sin?

Is that reasonable or is this a sign that He’s a wicked God who creates or endorses evil?

Image result for clipart SIN public domain(Adam & Eve in garden scenery, courtesy publicdomainvectors.org)


These are penetrating questions that any thoughtful person could ask, which is what a person did on a blog. Since God is all-knowing (Ps 139:4, 7-12; Matt 10:30; Heb 4:12-13; 1 John 3:20), he would have known Adam & Eve would sin by making the wrong decision to eat of the tree. Why, then, did God bother to tell them not to do it?

‘If all humans are meant to be sinners, why did He even create us in the first place already knowing that we would be so imperfect?’[1]

This leads to the questions: What place do sinners have in God’s redemptive plans? My human mind would think of another way to do it of making human beings so they could not sin (taking free will away from them) and making the crucifixion of Jesus unnecessary.

That’s my befuddled human thinking and not the mind of God.

Let’s examine a few reasons why a holy God who knows everything would make human beings, knowing they would sin.

2.1 There was fellowship in the Trinity but …

Have you thought about what God was doing before creation? That’s a fair question. St. Augustine cited one person’s provocative answer: ‘He was preparing hell … for those who pry into mysteries’ (Confessions, Book XI, ch 12.14). Don Stewart explains:

Before any finite creatures were created, God existed. Although God is a unity, He is a compound unity made up of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity was conscious of the other two. Therefore God was never alone. There was love and communication within the members of the Godhead before humanity was created. Consequently there was no need on his part to create the human race. God did not need anything. Therefore the reason for the creation of humankind cannot be found in something lacking in the nature of God (Was God alone before he created the universe?)

The Psalmist hit the mark to help us better understand this dilemma: ‘what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?’ (Ps 8:4 NLT).

3. God doesn’t tell us the reason.

God could have chosen not to create human beings who would not fall into sin. However, they would be robots who had no power to choose anything, including agreeing with God or refusing his offer of salvation.

As to why he still created humankind with the knowledge that humanity would bring sin into the world we are not told. We are only told that he has done it this way. Since God has not explained his motives it would be fruitless for us to speculate. No one knows the answer because God has not revealed it to us (Don Stewart).

Let’s ponder a possibility:

4. Sinful human beings to glorify God!

God has provided an answer to this mystery that He knew people would sin, but he created human beings anyway.[2] The reason for creation of the universe and human beings starts in Genesis 1:27,

‘So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’ (NLT).

What’s the point of an image?

An image is to image. Images are erected to display the original — to point to the original, glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God — images of God, seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God — knowing, loving, showing God (Why did God create the world? John Piper).?

God created human beings and the universe for his glory. Even sinful human beings still retain the image of God and he wants to use all these people to bring him glory.
Isaiah spoke to the Israelites:

I will say to the north, ‘Let them go!’
And I will say to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from far away.
Bring my daughters from the farthest places on earth.
Bring back everyone who belongs to me.
I created them to bring glory to me.
I formed them and made them” (
Isa 43:6-7 NIRV)?

As far as I can see, that’s why God created human beings who sinned. They were formed from the beginning, sinned from the commencement, but they were created to bring glory to God.

4.1  Meaning of bringing glory to God

I found James N Anderson’s explanation to be powerful:

If God’s primary purpose in creation and redemption is the display of his glory, what does that tell us about why he allowed the fall? Both logically and chronologically, the fall comes between creation and redemption. Without a creation there could be no fallen creation; without a fallen creation there could be no redeemed creation. Salvation presupposes sin; restoration presupposes a fall. Thus it’s reasonable to infer that God’s primary purpose in allowing the fall was to showcase his glory both in the original creation and also in his powerful and merciful restoration of that creation from its rebellion and corruption (The Gospel Coalition 2017).

How can Christians bring God glory? We glorify God by our faith, worship, and humble service.

Image result for clipart Glory to God

5.  Works consulted

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Also available online at: https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof/systematic_theology.html#communicable (Accessed 1 March 2020).

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

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

Thiessen, H C 1949. Lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

VanDrunen, D 2019. 3 Ways to Glorify God in Your Life. The Gospel Coalition U.S. Edition (online), 24 June. Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-glorify-god-life/ (Accessed 1 March 2020).

6.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2018. Bible Study: Adam and Eve, 9 January, HeIsRisen2018#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/adam-and-eve.73372/ (Accessed 10 January 2018).

[2] This is my response at: ibid., OzSpen#28.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 01 March 2020.

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The Bible and Contraception

(image contraceptive pill courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A Christian stated on a blog:

It’s impossible for the bible to address every issue that could come up in a person’s life.
I cannot, however, think of one that is not covered somehow by the 10 commandments … or the Great Commandments of Christ.
[1]

Another responded:

Contraception is the first one that comes to mind.
Is it right or wrong from a Christian perspective and why?
[2]

This is why it is important to have a solid Christian world view and be in a church that encourages Christians to have faith, thinking and reasoning about issues of today. See: Learn how to screw up your worldview.

1.  Faith, thinking and reasoning

The Bible supports all 3 of these issues:[3]

  • God states we are to reason (Isaiah 1:18).
  • We are required to be ready to share a defense with people (1 Peter 3:15).
  • It is right to show unbelievers our faith is reasonable and logical.
  • This challenge influenced my writing this article: When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy
  • ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’ (Heb 11:6 NIV).

How does contraception fit into this world view? I reason that it is responsible to plan a family (& the number of children we have) that fits the income and expectations for this Christian family.

2.  Nothing in Bible forbids contraception

I have not found any Bible references that support or forbid contraception, so Christians should not add rules not in Scripture and make them universal rules.
However, I accept that some contraception does kill the unborn child through an early abortion:

Some forms of contraception, specifically the intrauterine device (IUD), Norplant, and certain low-dose oral contraceptives, often do not prevent conception but prevent implantation of an already fertilized ovum. The result is an early abortion, the killing of an already conceived individual. Tragically, many women are not told this by their physicians, and therefore do not make an informed choice about which contraceptive to use” (Randy Alcorn).?

I’m not surprised the Pope took that position as the anti-contraception view has been part of RC theology for a long time.

3.  Papal Encyclical Letter

The Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI states, in part,

Unlawful Birth Control Methods

14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.[4]

While I don’t agree with the RC position, I commend that church leadership for its high regard for all of human life, from conception to natural death.

As for Genesis 38:8-10 (NIV), it deals with a specific Old Covenant situation and is not applicable to Gentiles (and Jews) under the New Covenant. These verses state:

Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to avoid providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death also.

4.  Conclusion

Intrauterine device

IUD with scale.jpg

Copper IUD (Paragard T 380A, courtesy Wikipedia)

There is nothing specifically stated in Scripture to affirm or deny contraception. The only exception is the use of a device that prevents implantation of an already fertilized ovum, e.g. an IUD.

5.  Notes


[1] wondering#54 2020. Stoned to death. Christianforums.net (online), 1 March. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/stoned-to-death.81713/page-3 (Accessed 1 March 2020).

[2] Ibid., Christ the King#54.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#62.

[4] The Vatican 1968. Available at: http://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html (Accessed 1 March 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 01 March 2020.

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