Category Archives: Bible

Who can break the drought?

(Image courtesy, Australian Government 2018. “Councils offer aid to drought-stricken farmers“)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

There are heartbreaking examples across Australia of how a long drought is creating devastation, especially for farmers in the outback.

1.  Messages from the media

How are the mass and social media portraying it?

clip_image002The Guardian Australia Edition published an article in 2019, “Just one in 20 Australian news stories about drought mention climate change,” 2 August.

Just one in 20 Australian news stories about drought mention climate change…. However, only around one in 20 news stories about the drought mention climate change. An analysis of media coverage of the drought was prepared for Guardian Australia by Streem, a media monitoring company.

clip_image002NSW Farmers produced the story, “The day the city woke up to the drought,” May 2019. In it these examples and photos were given:

The role of the media and the perception it relays to consumers and even foreign trade partners is a contentious topic, hotly debated at the Global Food Forum (GFF) in Sydney in late March, where farmers, journalists and agribusiness leaders met to discuss the future prosperity of agriculture.

clip_image004(Emotive headlines: there was a concentrated focus on the drought by newspapers, television and the internet in mid-2018. This was later followed by ‘Adopt a Farmer‘ campaign launched in May 2019.)

clip_image002[2]ABC News, Brisbane, Qld wrote, “Australia’s drought crisis,”

Farmers are facing ruin across New South Wales and Queensland in what some are calling the worst drought in living memory, with costs of stock feed and transport spiralling….

Large swathes of eastern Australia have been in drought for periods ranging from a year to seven years, with the record dry conditions prompting calls for further federal and state measures.

clip_image002[3] ABC News, Rural reported in 2018, “Challenging the public perception of drought: not all farmers are ‘busted cockies with starving animals,” 7 August:

“In the media at the moment all you seem to see is busted cockies with starving animals. I don’t know if that is a great reflection of what is happening out there,” Scone farmer Adam Williamson said.

“These are times where there’s a lot of judgment on people not doing the right thing, and I don’t think the industry wants to be tarred with such a brush.”

Almost 100 per cent of New South Wales is either in drought, on drought watch or experiencing the onset of drought, while 57 per cent of Queensland is classified as in drought.

Mr Williamson, who has been experiencing dry conditions for two years, said many in Queensland and New South Wales had planned for drought and destocked early, while also setting aside reserve fodder or grain.

So the media reflects on tough times for farmers in regional, outback Australia. Some coverage blames climate change for this disaster.

clip_image002[4]What is the Australian government’s view (Department of Agriculture)? Part of the Plan for Drought response, resilience and preparedness is:

This Plan cannot make it rain; no plan can. And the Plan is not just about responding to and preparing for drought—it is about giving our farmers and regional communities hope for the future and building resilience….

Putting food on the table of the farmers who feed the nation

Farm Household Allowance (FHA) is an income support payment for farmers and their partners experiencing financial hardship, regardless of its cause.

The package of assistance includes:

· a fortnightly payment—$105,266 total payment over four years per household where both partners are on FHA

· allowances to help with expenses like rent, phone and medicine

· a Health Care Card

· a financial assessment of the farm business (worth up to $1,500)

· funding to help develop skills, access training and pay for professional advice (worth up $4,000).

FHA was established on 1 July 2014. In 2019 an independent review panel made recommendations for improvements to FHA. In response to the review, and in recognition of the ongoing drought conditions, the government has made, or is in the process of making, a number of improvements to ensure that the payment is more reflective of the needs of farmers facing financial hardship.

These changes mean more farmers will have access to vital income support.

It is true this government’s Plan cannot make the rain come. What an amazingly practical and basic statement! But it’s missing something profound: Please answer the question: Who can make it rain?

clip_image002[5]There was this urgent plea on Instagram:

clip_image006Farmers are sharing horrific photographs of the impact of the drought on social media, along with the hashtag scottmorrisonwhereareyou. Source: Instagram.com/thewestiswaiting

A new viral Instagram page called ‘The West is Waiting’ was launched earlier this week and is already gaining traction online. Farmers who set up the campaign said the purpose is to flood the internet with images of people, places and business that have been, are being, or are about to be, destroyed by the drought.

Farmers are encouraging those impacted by the harsh conditions to use the #scottmorrisonwhereareyou

hashtag on social media and share their images and stories. The aim is for the gut-wrenching photographs to go viral and capture Morrison’s attention. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2fnoBpD-eF/[1]

2. An example of Queensland heartache

Queensland Country Life posted this story on Facebook with a link to, “Central and north west graziers in need of a start or follow-up rain“, 18 January 2021. In the article, it provided these contrasting photographs:

clip_image008“The green tinge in paddocks in north west and here in central west Queensland is deceiving, with much of it being weeds rather than growth from grass tussocks.”

The article stated:

“Matt and Amanda Bauer at Greendale to the west of Tambo, are in a pocket that’s not received even a hint of a break in the season yet.

They have rainfall records stretching back to the 1890s and say this is the first time those records show four consecutive years of less than 325mm on the property.

clip_image010Recent rainfall records at Greendale, west of Tambo.

“We’ve been here for 27 years and this is definitely the worst we’ve experienced,” Mr Bauer said.

The pain of waiting while rain has fallen around them has been compounded by forecasts of 100mm or more by the Bureau of Meteorology that haven’t eventuated.

“We did expect a break by now, and it hasn’t happened,” Mr Bauer said. “We’re in a pocket that’s just missed out.”

They’ve been saved by their property Glenariff at Stonehenge, which was in the line of storms in 2019 and which still has some grass, but have been seeking out agistment options in recent days.

“February 18 was when it rained at Greendale last year,” Mr Bauer said. “But we’re going to need a lot of rain to turn this around.”

2.1 Where is Greendale, Qld?

clip_image012(Image courtesy bonzle.com)

“The nearest more populous place is the village of Tambo which is 18km away with a population of around 360.”

 

3. What is the solution for more rain?

Yes, Australia needs to build more dams and proceed with plans like those for the Murray-Darling basin. Sometimes cloud-seeding may be helpful but who sends the clouds? Australians and the government need to be generous to those suffering through these severe catastrophes with practical and financial help.

But there’s a more fundamental and essential conclusion. ABC News Southern Qld reported: “Two-week-old baby Clay ‘brings rain’ to drought-stricken Queensland as producers rejoice,” 21 January 2021.

clip_image014Wide Bay Creek is running at Kilkivan, Qld after 61mm of rain in recent days. (Supplied: Piggy in The Middle) Kilkivan is 50.1 km W/NW of Gympie, Qld.

Mason Mayne from Kilkivan had 61mm of rain in recent days, which got the creek running.

“We’ve been really lucky here,” he said.

“We had rain in December, and we’ve had good follow-up falls.

“The grass is growing like crazy and our tanks are overflowing.”

The Department of Agriculture and Queensland’s drought committee will meet after the wet season and make its drought declaration recommendations in April.

Did you get it? A brand-new baby brought the generous rain to Mitchell Qld. For the rain that came to Kilkivan, “We’ve been lucky here.” How much luck brings rain? Surely this is a happy father’s quip and not one that gets to the heart of the drought crisis.

3.1 Have you ever thought seriously about who or what brings the rain and droughts?

I consider many Aussies are ignorant of the fact that Mother Nature can do absolutely nothing to bring or take away the rain. The Christian Scriptures make it abundantly clear who sends the rain and withholds it:

clip_image016“He [God] sends showers on earth and waters the fields” (Job 5:10 CEV).

There is no Mother Nature or “lucky to get the rain” in this explanation. The word for God in Job 5:10 is El = Almighty God. Do you understand the vast difference between an Australian’s explanation of the generator of rain and the true creation of rain? How long will it take for us to acknowledge that God sends the rain and do what Job did to restore his misfortune. Read about it in Job 42:7-17 (ERV).

Job 14:10 (ERV) is a summary of God’s answer when Job prayed, not to Mother Nature, but to Almighty God: “Job prayed for his friends, and the Lord made Job successful again. The Lord gave him twice as much as he had before.”

There are profound lessons here for those in Australia who are losing many things through drought. Job lost everything: Job 1:13-22. Imagine having a wife like this: “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your faith? Why don’t you just curse God and die!’” (2:9)

clip_image016[1]“Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong” (Matthew 5:45 CEV).

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian believer, disinterested person or an atheist; you need to understand the facts. The media and politicians admit it:

clip_image018 “We can’t make it rain” (Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull).

 

clip_image018[1]“This Plan cannot make it rain; no plan can,” (Australian Government Plan for Drought response, resilience and preparedness)

 

clip_image018[2]Margaret Kowald & W Ross Johnston wrote a book about the North Australian Pastoral Company, which is one of Australia’s largest and oldest private cattle companies and is located in the Northern Territory. The book is titled appropriately,

clip_image020

By Boolarong Press Pty Ltd ABN 60 009 754 929

clip_image021So, what should we do when God is withholding the rain and there is drought? God provides the instruction: “Elijah was a person just like us. He prayed that it would not rain. And it did not rain on the land for three and a half years! Then Elijah prayed that it would rain. And the rain came down from the sky, and the land grew crops again” (James 5:17-18 ERV).

The message is crystal clear: Pray intensely for God to end the drought. How many people in these drought-stricken areas are going to churches and houses (with social distancing) and crying out to God in prayer for Him to break the drought. You don’t have to go to a group gathering but it is an excellent place for encouraging support and giving encouragement.

Blaming Mother Nature for our situation is a farce – a lie – as no such personification sends the rain. The Almighty God is the only one who can break the drought.

Is this too Christian of a message? However, it is God’s truth about who breaks the drought by sending the rain in His season.

4. Who causes floods and droughts?

The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 107:33-34 (ERV):

He changed rivers into a desert.
He stopped springs from flowing.
He made the fertile land become salty,
because the people living there did such evil things.

The Almighty God is the One who changes the weather, brings or stops the rain. We promote falsehood when we blame it on Mother Nature. As for the slogan, “We can’t make it rain”, that’s as stupid as saying green frogs should learn to fly.

Of course no person on earth can make it rain. However, it’s time for the mass and social media to be honest with who sends the rain. Is it too blunt to say, “The Almighty God” sends the rain and we desperately need to seek drought-breaking rain?

It’s probably better to acknowledge that there are too few people in the media, on the street, and politicians who serve and fear the Lord God.

We must not be embarrassed in Australia to talk about the Lord God’s sending the rain. After all, Australia’s Christian foundation is demonstrated each day when the President of the House reads a Christian prayer. Christian values brought to Australia by the First Fleet and enshrined in the Australian Constitution: ‘Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

The introduction (preamble) of the Australian Constitution reads:

An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia

[9th July 1900]

WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established….[2]

This introduction is part of the Act and demonstrates Australia is a nation built on a Christian foundation that seeks the blessing of the God Almighty (revealed in the Scriptures of Old and New Testaments).

Jeremiah the prophet warned Israel of the consequences of not serving God and seeking Him to send rain:

Jeremiah 14:22 (ERV):

Foreign idols don’t have the power to bring rain.
The sky does not have the power to send down showers of rain.
You, the Lord our God, are our only hope.
You are the one who made all these things.

What should we learn from this verse? No foreign god of any sort has the power to bring rain. We do know who sends the rain and it’s time for the media, politicians and ordinary folks to own up: “We do know that Almighty God sends the rain but we are not prepared to bow down to His laws.” Therefore, the more we pursue secular values, the more droughts, floods, and other disasters will come from the hand of God who showed what he could do with drought and floods.

He has done it on a much larger scale in years of the past – the worldwide flood that wiped out all people except 8 in Noah’s Day (Genesis 6-9) and the devastation of what happened at Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19).

Let’s apply this to Australia. It could be said of other nations also. Your idols of materialism, entertainment and false religion cannot send the rain and will prohibit you from focussing on the One who is responsible for the rain.

clip_image023(image courtesy Dreamstime)

Mother Nature (the sky) does not have the power to send rain or end the drought. It’s fantasy to look to an image of something to bring rain. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Mother Nature is “Nature personified as a creative and controlling force affecting the world and humans.” Synonyms for it include: “the natural world, the living world, creation, the world, the environment, the earth, Mother Earth, the universe, the cosmos, natural forces” (Oxford English Dictionary 2021. s.v. Mother Nature).

The Lord is the only One who can break the drought and bring rain. When that happens, the children will be rejoicing in the mud like this:

clip_image025Archie Saunders experiences the largest rainfall of his life with his dad, Nick. Source: Facebook

Olivia Lambert, News Editor, Yahoo! Sports, 10 January 2020 wrote:

In a time of severe drought and disastrous bushfires, a NSW mum has found a drop of hope amid the devastating circumstances.

Nkala Frost, from Wollomombi in NSW’s New England region, for months has been confronted by bone dry dams and dust on the property where she lives with her family.

Not only have they been dealing with the extremities of the drought, but they were also forced to evacuate in November as a bushfire came within just eight kilometres of their home.

But on Thursday afternoon, Ms Frost and her family finally had a bit of respite, with the heaviest rainfall they’ve had in months drenching their usually withered surroundings.[3]

See my other articles about Australia and disasters:

clip_image027 Australia is in deep trouble: Droughts, floods and fires

clip_image029Get to the heart of the BIG drought, fires and floods

clip_image031This deep-seated problem brings ruin to the outback and to the Australian nation

clip_image033Pointing Towards a Solution

clip_image035Connection between spiritual condition of the nation and disasters

clip_image037Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

Please join me in telling the truth about who sends the rain.

5.  Notes


[1] Phillip Portman, startsat60, “Drought-stricken farmers make emotional plea to PM in series of dramatic photos,” 20 September 2019. Available at: https://startsat60.com/media/news/politics/farmers-australia-drought-social-media-scott-morrison-where-are-you-the-west-is-waiting (Accessed 20 January 2021).

[2] Parliament of Australia. “Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act,” 9 July 1900. Available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Constitution/preamble (Accessed 20 January 2021).

[3] Yahoo! Sport, “’He wasn’t sure what to do’: Emotional moment dad and two-year-old revel in long-awaited rain.” Available at: https://au.sports.yahoo.com/australia-drought-nsw-mum-takes-photos-son-playing-rain-095146562.html (Accessed 20 January 2021).

 

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 January 2021.

Pink and green decorative ribbon clip artPink and green decorative ribbon clip artPink and green decorative ribbon clip art

What is wrong with allegorical interpretation?

clip_image002

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this understanding make sense when you read the newspaper online, view the TV news, and read the Bible?

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.[1]

1. What is an allegory?

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of “allegory” is that it is “a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics.”[2] Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of the spiritual journey through life. St Augustine’s City of God is “an allegory of the triumph of Good over Evil.”[3] What we must remember is that for an allegory, there must be specific characters and events that are used to represent symbols. Biblical examples include: rock (Deut 32:4; 2 Sam 22:3); lamb (Gen 22:8; Ex 12:7); the cross (as in “The old rugged cross”), and

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/ICTHUS.gif = ICHTHYS | Christian symbols, Greek words and meanings, Christian fish

The Christian hymn (written by George Bennard in 1913), “The Old Rugged Cross,” was abounding in allegories:[4]

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame
    ;
    And I love that
    old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain
    .

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see
    ,
    For ’twas on that
    old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me
    .
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    There His glory forever I’ll share (allegories highlighted)

I led a Bible study in 2018 and the pastor of the church was present. We had just finished singing  “The Old Rugged Cross” when he declared there was false doctrine in the hymn. He said we don’t worship a cross. I jumped in: “Pastor, what do the first 2 lines teach? An old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame’. As I’ve highlighted above, allegories are found throughout this hymn. We don’t worship the cross but it reminds us of the one who suffered and experienced shame for sinners.”

2. Are there allegories in the Bible?

See examples in my article, What is literal interpretation?

Of course there are biblical examples of allegories. See illustrations in other sources:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K “Does the Bible contain allegory?” (Got Questions)

2tn_.jpg 1.0K  Allegory Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary

2tn_.jpg 1.0KAllegory” (Oxford Biblical Studies Online)

Let’s move from allegories in the Bible to allegorical interpretation. What’s the difference? Surely there is a need to understand biblical allegories. How can that be at variance with allegorical interpretation?

3. What is allegorical interpretation?

You will find some of my exposition on allegorical interpretation in this article: What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

There are many articles online explaining allegorical interpretation. I see no reason to repeat their content. I refer you to these articles:

Basically, when you interpret Scripture allegorically, you don’t allow the text to speak for itself in exegesis (obtaining meaning out of the text) but choose to impose another “deeper meaning” on the text – which we call eisegesis (reading something into the text).

3.1 Problems with allegorical preaching

David E Reid told of a sermon he heard from Genesis 24:63-64. It was supposed to be a “revival” sermon from the first book of the Bible. These verses state: “One evening he [Isaac] went out to the field to think.[5] He looked up and saw the camels coming from far away. Rebekah also looked and saw Isaac. Then she jumped down from the camel” (ERV).

Here is the crunch line of interpretation for this preacher:

Without elaborating on his interpretation, the preacher explained that Isaac symbolized Christ; Rebekah, the church; and the camel, whose physical characteristics would be the focus of his message, represented the grace of God. Then he delivered a seven-point exposition based on an allegorical interpretation as classic as any I’ve ever heard.

The camel’s nose, he said, can detect water from far away and lead its rider to drink. The spiritual lesson, he added, is that God’s grace can lead us to spiritual water. He similarly interpreted and applied six more of the camel’s characteristics, none of which was mentioned in the text….

As the preacher’s message illustrates, allegorical interpretation seeks some implicit, symbolic meaning hidden in the explicit, literal meaning of Scripture.

Allegorists consider this perceived “deeper” or “spiritual” meaning to be more profound and therefore more desirable than a text’s literal interpretation.[6]

David Reid gave his reasons for rejecting allegorical interpretation (and I endorse them):

clip_image008“Fundamentally, there is no reason to believe God regularly invests Scripture with more than one meaning.[7]

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.

For instance, nothing in Genesis 24 indicates Isaac, Rebekah or the camels represent anything other than themselves, so the narrative should be taken literally. On the other hand, in John 15:1, Jesus clearly was speaking metaphorically when He said, “I am the true vine …” and His words should be interpreted as such.

It is true that in Galatians 4:21ff. the Apostle Paul interpreted the Genesis account of Sarah and Hagar allegorically even though the Old Testament text nowhere indicates that story is allegorical. But Paul received his interpretation from the Holy Spirit as he wrote a New Testament letter. We don’t have his inspired prerogative.

Since the Bible never suggests it regularly has more than one meaning, additional interpretations should not be assumed.

clip_image008[1]The allegorical method obscures the true meaning and legitimate application of Scripture.

Allegorists generally see the literal meaning of a text only as a tool for unlocking the perceived allegory. Their pursuit of an illusion, then, causes them to ignore the truth which is there.

When interpreted literally, the Song of Solomon exalts the joy of sexual love in a marital relationship. However, generations of Christian allegorists have interpreted it as symbolic of the relationship of Christ to His bride, the church.

Embarrassed by the sexual nature of the text, they have obscured its meaning, even though nothing in the Song indicates an allegory. Their inhibitions have caused them to conceal what God and the author meant to praise.[8]

clip_image008[2]Allegorical interpretation is open to almost unlimited subjectivity.
The allegorist can make Scripture say whatever he wishes. Although his interpretation may seem reasonable and be consistent with what Scripture teaches elsewhere, who can know if it is the right one for a given passage?
[9]

3.2   St Augustine’s strange allegorical interpretation

Take this example from the eminent church father, St Augustine (354-430). Robert Kinney[10] made these observations for Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

In Augustine’s rendering, there is a man (Adam) traveling a road. Having been stripped (of immortality) and beaten (or persuaded to sin) by robbers (the devil), he is ignored by a priest (the Law) and a Levite (the Prophets) before being attended to by a Samaritan (Jesus Christ). The Samaritan takes him to the inn (or the Church) where two denarii (the promises of this life and the life to come) are paid to the innkeeper (the Apostle Paul), to take care of the man.[11]

It’s an intriguing example of allegorical interpretation. Yet for those committed to biblical exposition, this kind of interpretation is deeply problematic.[12]

Expositional preaching should be constrained by the biblical or any other author’s intent—and neither Jesus in his telling nor Luke in his recording could have meant much of what Augustine suggests.[13]

This is a longer version of Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 13-14; slightly abridged).

Another one of the “villains” promoting allegorical preaching was an early church father, the Alexandrian of northern Africa, Origen (185-254), known as the father of allegorical interpretation. Other church leaders preceded and followed him.

Take a read of his articles online and you’ll see how he does it. See HERE. This is one example of how he abandoned literal interpretation to impose his own view on Scripture:

Origen, in his Treatise on First Principles, recommended that the Old and New Testaments be interpreted allegorically at three levels, the first being the “flesh,” the second the “soul,” and the third the “spirit.” Many of the events recounted in the Scriptures, interpreted in the literal or fleshly sense, Origen claims, are impossible. Many of the laws, when interpreted literally, are impossible or nonsensical. To get at the meaning of these passages, it is necessary to interpret them allegorically. Some connected passages will contain parts that are literally true and parts that are literally impossible.

In this case, says Origen,

For as man is said to consist of body, and soul, and spirit, so also does sacred Scripture, which has been granted by the divine bounty for the salva­tion of man…. The reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all” (Bk 4, para 11, 20).

Clement of Alexandria - Wikipedia

(Clement of Alexandria – ca. 150 –215 –  Image courtesy Wikipedia)

The individual ought, then, to portray the ideas of holy Scripture in a threefold manner upon his own soul; in order that the simple man may be edified by the ‘flesh,’ as it were, of the Scripture. For so we name the obvious sense. While he who has ascended a certain way may be edified by the ‘soul,’ as it were. The perfect man, again, … may receive edification from the spiritual law…. For as man consists of body, and soul, and spirit, so in the same way does Scripture.

Origen’s predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, also supported the need for allegorical interpretation:

For many reasons, then, the Scriptures hide the sense. First, that we may become inquisitive, and be ever on the watch for the discovery of the words of salvation. Then it was not suitable for all to understand, so that they might not receive harm in consequence of taking in another sense the things declared for salvation by the Holy Spirit. Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in the parables— preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic (The Stromata – Miscellanies 6.15.para 15).

The fundamental error with allegorical interpretation is its adding to the text what is not there.

4. What is literal interpretation?

On 19 December 2020 in Australia, I watched test cricket on TV where Australia convincingly won the test by bowling out India for India’s lowest test score on record of 36 – their worst ever performance at test level. Did that happen? Is the plain meaning that it was literal cricket, a literal test match between Australia and India played at the Adelaide Oval, and there was a literal winner and a literal loser? Australia won by 8 wickets. Was that a literal fact or not?

Some symbolic language was used to describe this diabolical performance, “’Carnage… unbelievable… wait, what happened?‘” So symbolic language was used by a journalist to describe a literal event.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline of 19 December 2020 was, “COVID-19 concerns for inner-city; northern beaches in lockdown.” Was this an actual outbreak of Covid-19 or should we seek for a deeper meaning as we read the news?

You know that would be ridiculous but when it comes to the Bible there have been all kinds of reasons given, generally by liberal interpreters, to reject literal interpretation. These are but a few examples:

clip_image010John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims, “Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.”[14]

clip_image010[1]Crossan again: “The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is made to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong.”[15]

clip_image010[2]“The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul.”[16]

There are other biblical scholars who have ridiculed literal interpretation. German theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, was one of them. This is how he attacked the Christian faith:

People cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the case of illness, take advantage of modern medical and clinical means, and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the new testament. and whoever intends to do so must be aware that they can profess this as the attitude of christian faith only by making the christian proclamation unintelligible and impossible for the present.[17]

clip_image012

(Image courtesy Quotefancy)

clip_image010[3]This anti-supernaturalism continues with:

John Shelby Spong who had a stroke in 2016 and had 90% completed his last book. He can’t write now, so his wife transcribed the last 10%. In the book he stated:

The Incarnation, the virgin birth, resuscitation as the meaning of resurrection and the concept of the Holy Trinity—all are explanations that will never last. People hear the experience of Christ being challenged when it is only the explanation that is at stake. I wanted to make sure that people could understand that explanations have to die, but the experience remains eternal.[18]

clip_image014 There was a public forum at St Francis (Anglican) Theological College, Milton, Brisbane, on December 9, 1998, involving Dr Greg Jenks of the Jesus Seminar (of the Drayton Anglican parish, Toowoomba, Qld., Australia), and Dr Paul Barnett, Anglican bishop of North Sydney, defending the orthodox view. The Seminar was titled, “Behind and Beyond the Jesus Seminar: Implications for Christian Discipleship.”  Dr Paul Barnett[19] is author revised, Is the New Testament History?[20] As of 2012, Dr. Jenks was on the faculty of St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, but as of December 2020, he was: Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton NSW; Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University; Executive Director, History; Coin Curator, Bethsaida Excavations Project, Israel; Fellow, Westar Institute, Willamette University, Salem, OR.[21]

Please understand this anti-supernaturalism is associated with their naturalistic world-view. Naturalism dominates their presuppositions. There is no place in their theology for the supernatural Lord God almighty. People like Greg Jenks, John Dominic Cross, John Shelby Spong and others of similar belief are threats to those who don’t know their Bible.

4.1 Literal interpretation includes figures of speech[22]

Thomas Horne, British theologian and researcher (AD 1780–1862) wrote:

The Literal Sense of any place of Scripture is that which the words signify, or require, in their natural and proper acceptation, without any trope [a figure of speech], metaphor, or figure, and abstracted from mystic meaning…. The literal sense has been called the Historical Sense, as conveying the meaning of the words and phrases used by the writer at a certain time….

Interpreters now speak of the true sense of a passage, by calling it the Grammatico-Historical Sense…. The object in using this compound name is, to show that both grammatical and historical considerations are employed in making out the sense of a word or passage.[23]

When I was an MA student at Ashland Theological Seminary, I used A Berkeley Mickelsen’s (1963) text in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Mickelsen provided this definition:

Literal … means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of ‘door’ in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning.[24]

The nature of parables is that they are similitudes, i.e. extended similies.
Some examples may help to understand the differences.
[25]

clip_image016 A simile: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth’ (Acts 8:32 ESV, emphasis added). The eunuch is quoting from Isa 53:7 (ESV) but it is a figure of speech known as a simile.

clip_image016[1] A metaphor: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29 ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image016[2]We have an example of a similitude, i.e. parable, in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 (ESV), ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?’ (Luke 15:4 ESV) In this same context of Luke 15 (ESV) Luke tells us the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32 ESV).

clip_image016[3]There is an example of an allegory of the door for the sheep and the good shepherd in John 10:1-16 (ESV). ‘I am the door of the sheep…. I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:7 ESV; John 10:11 ESV). Like the sheep need a fence with a door to keep them safe and from wandering, Jesus is the door into the Kingdom of God.

All of these are examples of the literal sheep, lamb or shepherd but different figures of speech are used.

I take the Scriptures literally but this does not exempt understanding the use of figures of speech in that literal language. I speak of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, similitude/parable and allegory. When Jesus said, “I am the door” he used a metaphor and did not refer to a wooden door when speaking of himself. When he told Christians, “You are the salt of the earth” he did not refer to literal salt but to the metaphor of how Christians should penetrate the world’s systems with their world views and pervade the secular culture like salt permeates a prepared meal.

This is why it is important to explain what “literal interpretation” means. From the examples I’ve given here, it does not mean an acceptance of dead letterism that does not include figures of speech. Letterism

is a wooden, thin interpretation that fails to go beyond the standard meanings of words and expressions … or to discern the manner in which an author attends to these meanings…. Hence literalism short-circuits the literal sense insofar as it fails to appreciate the author’s intention to give his or her utterance a certain kind of force.[26]

Can you imagine reading your local newspaper or any information online with an allegorical interpretation? How would you ever know if the 9/11 disaster was real or only an allegory? How about Nero’s slaughter of people in the Roman Empire in the first century? Do we have to abandon literal interpretation for the alleged “deeper meaning”? How is my “deeper meaning” of a passage more legitimate than yours? If we use a diversity of meanings of the text it will create chaos in interpretation.

I urge you not to interpret this article using allegorical interpretation. This writing is meant to be read literally.

4.2 I do not use allegorical interpretation because:

clip_image018It destroys the meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It invalidates the plain meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It promotes eisegesis rather than exegesis of the text. It reads into the text an alleged “deeper meaning” that is not in the text. I wouldn’t do that when I read the daily newspaper and I don’t do it when reading Origen, Bultmann, Spong or Crossan. Promoters of allegorical interpretation wouldn’t dare ask us to use that methodology when reading their writings.

clip_image019[1]It is parallel to a contemporary postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation. See my article that explains the similarity: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

What does a postmodern deconstructionist hermeneutic do to the text? I had an interesting email discussion with New Zealand researcher, Dr Jeremy Koay, who supports the reader-response model because:

(1) Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience. He rejects the theory that meaning resides exclusively in the text. Why?

Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text.[27]

(2) We need to view reading “on an efferent-aesthetic continuum.” Efferent refers to the information taken away after reading, but aesthetic focusses on the readers’ thoughts and feelings during the reading. Both foci are needed, according to reader-response.[28]

I’m sure happy a judge doesn’t use that method of interpretation when making a judgment on the guilt or otherwise of someone who breaks into my house and steals valuables. I’ve had 5 open-heart, valve replacement surgeries. They left me with emotional and physical scars but I can’t deny the facts of where and when I had those surgeries.

I have no problem accepting that emotions can be stirred when reading some narratives. That happens with me, especially when I read of the persecution and martyrdom happening today through Voice of the Martyrs newsletters. No matter how much my emotions are stirred and I’m provoked to pray more for these persecuted saints, we cannot overlook the fact that these facts don’t go away:

  • IRAN: Imprisoned Christian Dangerously Depressed;
  • INDIA: Christian Pastor Beaten and Left to Die;
  • EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation;
  • PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih;

Is this an either/or situation when we read books, news, etc? No! However, we don’t act on the emotions, the aesthetics.

Here you’ll read some of the interaction I had with Dr Koay. While he emailed me, he refused to print my article on the website of Edumaxi. This is my article as a response: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Are the death and resurrection facts of history or feelings of aesthetic beauty?

4.3 Compare allegorical interpretation with postmodern reconstruction

See 4.2 (2) above.

Allegorical interpretation is another version of contemporary, reader-response deconstruction of a text: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts.

I consider that I would be cheating John Milton in Paradise Lost to use my culture, experience and world view to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical world view to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from Yahoo News, or to the Bible.

This is done by listening to the “plain meaning” of a text. I don’t use the language of “pure literal meaning,” so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing “pure literal meaning” when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

clip_image020HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland
by Samuel Atkins c. 1794 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison being elected by his cabinet as the new Prime Minister of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated “This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text.” Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation of the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or reading the Bible.

This is the major problem with allegorical interpretation and a postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response method of interpretation. I find it best to describe with an image. It wrecks the text of its plain meaning.

clip_image021

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

5. Conclusion

The major problems with allegorical interpretation and postmodern, reader-response interpretations is that they fly along parallel tracks of biblical interpretation. They add to what the text states. This is taboo and should be rejected outright.

While allegorical interpretation adds to the text, it must not be confused with application of a text. I don’t have to follow St Augustine’s interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 ERV). But the application to people in this century is:

  • Whenever we see a person in need and are able to help, act like the Good Samaritan and go out of your way to meet the practical need.
  • Be the one who helps your neighbour and other people in need.
  • A friend of mine works in aged care. She said many of the older folks are never visited by relatives. Could you check with a local retirement village to see if you can visit people in the village? Make sure you follow the Covid-19 safe procedures.

There are many practical reasons for Christian pastors to abandon allegorical interpretation and stick with the plain meaning of the text. Faithful Bible expositors remain with the text to try to discern what the intent of the author was for the original listeners. They don’t search for “deeper meanings” they invent behind the text.

6.  Works consulted

Barnett, Paul 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

Bultmann, Rudolf. “Theologie des Neuen Testaments.” ET: Theology of the New Testament.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Horne, T H 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son. This citation is available as part of a Google Book HERE  (Accessed 19 December 2020).

Koay, Jeremy 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Reid, David E 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Spong, J S 2018. Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. New York NY: HarperOne.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes


[1] David E Reid 2019. Preaching.com, “The problem with allegory in preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[2] Collins Dictionary (2020. s.v. allegory).

[3] Ibid.

[4] From Timeless Truths: Free Online Library, public domain. Available at: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Old_Rugged_Cross/ (Accessed 19 December2020).

[5] Or, “to go for a walk” (ERV footnote).

[6] David E Reid 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[7] David R Reid, “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Robert Kinney 2020. 9Marks.com, “Allegorical Interpretation: Finding the Line Before You Cross It”, 31 March. Available at: https://www.9marks.org/article/allegorical-interpretation-finding-the-line-before-you-cross-it/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[11] Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 118, 121 and 125, De Doctrina Christiana 1.30.31ff, Sermo 299.

[12] Without naming Augustine, John Calvin responds to this kind of interpretation in characteristically blunt fashion:

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation… I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.” See Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Gospels, Vol. 3 (trans. W. Pringle and J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 49. While Calvin’s comments indicate that he is strongly opposed to this kind of allegorical interpretation, he ironically engages in it with a striking frequency. For example, in his commentary on Exodus 28:X, he notes that the garments made for Aaron and his sons are meant to ‘conceal their faults’ and, instead, display virtue and, indeed, the ‘wondrous glory of Christ.’ The text, in Exod 28:2, simply states the garments are to be made “for glory and for beauty.” See Calvin’s commentary on Exodus 28:2 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Law, Vol. 2 (trans. J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 103.

[13] Mark Dever defines expositional preaching as

preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 44. David R. Helm defines it similarly as “empowered preaching that rightfully sub­mits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” David R. Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (Wheaton, Crossway, 2014), 13. D.A. Carson defines it similarly as “the unpacking of what is there.” He goes on to add: “it is unpacking what the biblical text or texts actually say. If we expect God to re-reveal himself by his own words, then our expositions must reflect as faithfully as possible what God actually said when the words were given to us in Scripture.” D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit” in Preach the Word: Essays in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (ed., L. Ryken, T. Wilson; Wheaton: Crossway: 2008), 176-177. Finally, Bryan Chapell offers this definition: “An expository sermon takes its topic, main points, and subpoints from a text.2 In an expository message, a preacher makes a commitment to explain what a particular text means by using the spiritual principles it supports as the points of the message.”Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 131.

[14] J D Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 184.

[15] Ibid., 180.

[16] Ibid., 208.

[17] Rudolf Bultmann, “neues testament und Mythologie,” 18.

[18] From J S Spong Unbelievable, in Insights magazine 2018, “Controversial Author Releases Final Book”, 19 January. Available at: https://www.insights.uca.org.au/controversial-author-releases-final-book/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[19] Paul Barnett 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Information available at Greg Jenks’ homepage: https://gregoryjenks.com/about/ (Accessed

21 December 2020).

[22] Some of the following material is taken from my article, What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

[23] T H Horne 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son, 357. This citation is available as part of a Google Book here.

[24] A B Mickelsen 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 33.

[25] These examples are taken from Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, 212-213.

[26] K J Vanhoozer 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press), 311.

[27] Jeremy Koay 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[28] Koay, “What is reader-response theory?”

 

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

The First 20 Years of Christianity

World English Bible - Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I wrote this article published in On Line Opinion (OLO): Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God? (3 December 2020). OLO has published a number of my articles over the years. Since I’m an evangelical Christian with an eye and ear for a defense of the faith, some apologetics’ emphases come out in what I write.

Often the anti-Christian, anti-God group comes out in full force and often they don’t address the topics I write about. Instead, they sometimes resort to the use of logical fallacies of erroneous reasoning to put me down or to rubbish the content.

1. Literature not infallible

 

diver dan made this comment regarding my article:

And the authenticity of that literature is not infallible is it. For the first twenty odd years of Christianity there is no literary record of what they believed. [1]

I took him to task: You overlook some fundamentals in understanding basic Christianity:[2]

clip_image002 All historical literature comes with a “not absolutely, 100% sure of the content.” This applies to Manning Clark’s History of Australia, the record of the ransacking of Jerusalem in A D 70, and the biblical literature. It’s the nature of historical science. We weren’t there, so we depend on ancient sources.

clip_image002[1]Since you reject the supernatural God and his power to oversee the writing of Scripture, you won’t accept what God has stated: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). When something is THEOPNEUSTOS (breathed out by God) it emanates from the absolutely honest, pure and just Lord God.

clip_image002[3]How did God’s Word reach human beings? What was the process of how the infallible God could produce inerrant Scripture in the beginning? “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Without your accepting the nature of God as revealed in creation and Scripture, I don’t expect you to accept God’s Word of describing how we get reliable Scriptures.

clip_image002[5]For the first 20+ years of Christianity, there IS a literary record and that’s contained in the Book of Acts.[3]

Leading Luke-Acts biblical scholar, Dr Darrell Bock, concludes concerning the dating of Acts: “Given all the evidence, when was Acts written? Sometime in the late 60s—enough time for Mark to have been written and circulated—but not after AD 70.”[4]

Leading Australian ancient historian (he has taught ancient history at Macquarie University) has a 2005 publication,

clip_image002[6]Barnett’s conclusion was:

the historian is able, with confidence tempered with critical caution, to make use of the data in Acts in pursuit of the task of historical reconstruction…. Few have so clearly stated the importance of Acts for early Christianity as Meyer, who was himself critical of Christianity…. We have the completely inestimable advantage … of having access to the portrayal of the beginning stages of the development directly from the pen of one of its co-participants. That alone ensures for the author an eminent place among the significant historians of world history” (cited in Barnett 2005:204).

2. Splinter groups of early Christianity

Dan continued:

In the end, it was so confused with congregations of splinter groups, innovations were necessary to focus attention on what was to be the core belief system.

Yes, there were congregations where early Christian writers had to challenge erroneous groups. We see this in:

2.1 Errors in the Corinthian Church

Paul commends the Corinthian Christians who were chosen to be God’s holy people (1 Cor 1:2).

However, all was not well in that church where he corrected errors about marriage (1 Cor 7) and sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:12-20), abuse of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12-14); there was disorder at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34). There were some who doubted the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15).

To understand how these sins could happen in the new Corinthian church, we need to know about the culture of Corinth in the first century. Lacoste Munn explained:

Perhaps the most significant of the factors which comprised the atmosphere of Corinth was gross, unashamed immorality. Both the old city and the Roman colony were known far and wide for their sexual looseness. The most prominent site was the Acrocorinth, a sharp projection which rose to a height of 1,800 feet. On the summit of this steep mountain stood the temple of Aphrodite, a symbol of the lust which pervaded the mind of the city. The worship of this goddess was not Greek in origin but Oriental; it had been imported from the Phoenician cult of Astarte.

In old Corinth the temple maintained a thousand priestesses who amounted to no more than common prostitutes. It is not certain that the thousand priestesses were maintained in the temple of rebuilt Corinth; nevertheless, the gross immorality continued as before. The attitude of the city toward immorality involved no condemnation whatever; on the contrary, it was considered to be a normal part of life. The same loose attitude was often reflected in the church. The case of incest and the question about the Christian view of marriage had their roots in the immoral mind of the city. Most of the members of the church were Gentiles, and the strict morality characteristic of the Jews was foreign to them. They found it difficult to understand that what they once considered virtue was now sin.

Idolatry is another feature of the city which was closely linked to its immorality. In addition to the temple of Aphrodite, there were numerous others, and the worship in these temples was popular among the residents. These idol temples played a significant role in both economic and social life (Munn 1960).

Therefore, it is not surprising that a new church raised in this milieu would need to grow through many sinful challenges.

There were other challenges to the churches in the first century that were addressed by various epistles:

2.2 The Letter to the Colossians

The church at Colossae was under attack from false teachers who were denigrating the deity of Jesus; they were teaching that He was not actually God. Though Paul had never been to the church itself, he addressed these issues head-on. The nature of Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer was nonnegotiable, so Paul wrote to them that he might bring his wisdom to bear on this difficult and trying situation. It was critical to him that this church know God in His greatness and glory, rather than in the deficient view given them by the false teachers (Colossians 1:25; 2:1–2) [Chuck Swindoll 2020].[5]

How did Paul address this Christological error? In this book we read some of the grandest language of the pre-eminence of Christ in all things. Colossians 2:9 (ERV) states: “All of God lives in Christ fully, even in his life on earth.” So, Christ is the center of the universe, not only as the active Creator but also as the recipient of creation—in His taking on of human flesh. Christ was and is the visible image of the invisible God, containing within Himself the fullness of Deity.[6]

2.3 Serious error corrected in 1 John.

First John 4:1-6 (ERV) gets to the crux of the issue:

My dear friends, many false prophets are in the world now. So don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God. 2 This is how you can recognize God’s Spirit. One spirit says, “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah who came to earth and became a man.” That Spirit is from God. 3 Another spirit refuses to say this about Jesus. That spirit is not from God. This is the spirit of the enemy of Christ. You have heard that the enemy of Christ is coming, and now he is already in the world.

4 My dear children, you belong to God, so you have already defeated these false prophets. That’s because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 And they belong to the world, so what they say is from the world too. And the world listens to what they say. 6 But we are from God. So the people who know God listen to us. But the people who are not from God don’t listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit that is true and the spirit that is false.

ASV Star Bible.jpg(American Standard Version, image courtesy Wikipedia)

John wrote to a group of Christians. This is clear from statements such as:[7]

gold foward button 1 John 2:12 (ERV), “I write to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven through Christ.”

gold foward button 1 John 2:13-14, “I write to you, fathers, because you know the one who existed from the beginning.
I write to you, young people, because you have defeated the Evil One.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know the one who existed from the beginning.
I write to you, young people, because you are strong.
The word of God lives in you, and you have defeated the Evil One.”

gold foward button 1 John 2:20, “You have the gift that the Holy One gave you. So you all know the truth.”

gold foward button 1 John 2:24 provides clear evidence he wrote to regenerate people: “Be sure that you continue to follow the teaching you heard from the beginning. If you do that, you will always be in the Son and in the Father.”

gold foward button 1 John 2:27, “Christ gave you a special gift. You still have this gift in you. So you don’t need anyone to teach you. The gift he gave you teaches you about everything. It is a true gift, not a false one. So continue to live in Christ, as his gift taught you.”

gold foward button 1 John 3:1, “The Father has loved us so much! This shows how much he loved us: We are called children of God. And we really are his children. But the people in the world don’t understand that we are God’s children, because they have not known him.”

gold foward button 1 John 3:2, “Dear friends, now we are children of God. We have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him. We will see him just as he is.”

gold foward button 1 John 4:4, “My dear children, you belong to God, so you have already defeated these false prophets. That’s because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

gold foward button 1 John 5:5, “It is our faith that has won the victory against the world. So who wins against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

gold foward button 1 John 5:13, “I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.”

gold foward button It is clear from John’s Gospel, 3:15-16, that “everyone who believes in him can have eternal life. Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.“

gold foward button 1 John 5:18, “We know that those who have been made God’s children do not continue to sin. The Son of God keeps them safe. The Evil One cannot hurt them.”

Since this book was written to Christian believers, why the warnings?

gold foward button “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

They have been warned many antichrists are in their midst and there is the possibility they will deny Jesus. Could they follow Peter in denying Jesus?

There is another warning to Christians, based on 1 John 4:1-6,

gold foward button They need to test the spirits of false prophets;

gold foward button John faced the heresy of Gnosticism among these Christians: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (4:2). We discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood by those who listen to the teachings of the God of truth.

gold foward button This is why it is of critical importance to know the spirit of truth in Scripture to be able to differentiate between it and falsehood.

2.4 Another error corrected in the Book of Galatians

The problem in the Galatian church was mixing grace with works of the law. It was dealt with in Council of Acts 15. Because so many of the early Christians were of Jewish origin, it was not surprising that these believers wanted to retreat to some elements of Judaism.

See the article: “Who were the Judaizers?” (Got Questions)

Paul particularly addressed this problem in Galatians 2:14, “They were not following the truth of the Good News. When I saw this, I spoke to Peter in front of everyone. I said, “Peter, you are a Jew, but you don’t live like one. You live like someone who is not a Jew. So why are you trying to force those who are not Jewish to live like Jews?”

3. Conclusion

(Revised Version image courtesy Wikipedia)

MRevised Version Bible 01.JPGany of the NT letters were written to combat errors in the emerging churches. It is natural that new Christians would bring with them some errors of their previous lifestyle. They are warned about refusing to continue with their worldly lifestyles:

These are only a few biblical examples:

clip_image0041 John 1:6 (ERV), “But when you ask God, you must believe. Don’t doubt him. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is blown up and down by the wind.

clip_image004[1]1 John 2:4 (ERV), “If we say we know God but do not obey his commands, we are lying. The truth is not in us.”

clip_image0051 John 2:15 (ERV), “Don’t love this evil world or the things in it. If you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”

clip_image005[1]In the Epistle of James, he states that “The worship that God wants is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. This is the kind of worship that God accepts as pure and good.” So “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father” (ESV) is (among other things) “to keep [oneself] unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, ESV), or “keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence” (ERV). This will be what “God accepts as pure and good.”

“Religion” is a biblical word but it has strong practical dimensions and not have academic overtones. Caring for orphans and widows is not like teaching systematic theology at seminary but it is regarded as core “religion” by James.

clip_image004[2]In James 4:4, the author of James labels some Christians as those who “are not faithful to God! (ERV, NIRV).” Other translations use the language of “adulterous people” (ESV, NIV), “adulteresses” (HCSB, NASB), “adulterers” (NET, NLT, NRSV, Wycliffe), “adulterers and adulteresses” (NKJV, WEB), and “unfaithful creatures” (RSV).

You should know that loving what the world has is the same as hating God. So anyone who wants to be friends with this evil world becomes God’s enemy.

They are labelled as “adulterers and adulteresses” because of their friendship with the world, adding that the one who will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

The other passage is 1 John 2:15, where John commands Christians not to love the world. The force of the Greek grammar is: “Stop loving the world.” That couldn’t be clearer. The reason John gives is similar to James: “If any man love the world, the

love of the Father is not in him.”

4. Bibliography

Barnett, P 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids,

Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Munn, G. Lacoste 1960. “The Historical Background of First Corinthians,”

Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 3 – Fall. https://preachingsource.com/journal/the-historical-background-of-first-corinthians/.

 

5. Notes


[1] Posted by diver dan, Sunday, 6 December 2020 7:25:13 AM.

[2] This was the first part of my reply: Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 6 December 2020 8:46:22 PM.

[3] Since I’m only allowed 350 words in a post, this was the second part of my response to Dan: Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 6 December 2020 8:49:06 PM.

[4] Darrell Bock 2018. “When was Acts written?” 12 January. Zondervan Academic. https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/when-was-acts-written. This post is adapted from Darrell Bock’s Theology of Luke and Acts online course.

[5] Available at: https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-pauline-epistles/colossians (Accessed 7 December 2020).

[6] Ibid.

[7] These verses were suggested by Bill Pratt, “Who were the original readers of 1 John?” Tough Questions Answered. Available at: https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/11/25/who-were-the-original-readers-of-1-john/ (Accessed 7 December 2020).

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 December 2020.

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2 Chronicles 7:14 is not for Christians

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(Image courtesy Cupcakegirl10)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is common among some evangelical Protestants (including Pentecostals) to use this verse to call Christians back to humility and prayer, turn from their sinfulness, and God will hear and bless their countries. He will forgive their sin and heal their land. It is used as a verse to call believers to the biblical disciplines that should lead to revival.

1. A call to revival

Here are a few online examples:

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb Steve Gaines was president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Memphis area Bellevue Baptist Church in 2017. He acknowledged that the context indicated the message was for the Israelites but added:

‘Just because 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to Americans does not mean that Christians in America cannot benefit from its admonitions by obeying its precepts. Again, “all Scripture is profitable.” The warnings in the Old Testament “were written for our instruction.”

Many Christians in America are praying for a fresh spiritual awakening and revival among those of us who know Jesus Christ. I for one am praying for American Christians to embrace genuine humility, hunger and holiness. I am also praying that the Lord will graciously see fit to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and send His much-needed healing (An appeal to rightly apply 2 Chronicles 7:14).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[1] Donald Dueck wrote in April 2020:

Personally I believe this is a promise to us as well as it was to the Israelites and so I believe it is still relevant. In my personal life as a believer I have received many more blessings from God during times I was actively seeking God’s will then at times when I didn’t really care about what God wanted from me. I believe it applies to nations as well as to individuals. This “healing” relates to all types of problems being solved and is not limited to healing from a physical sickness (Quora).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[2] A sermon by Dennis Lee:

Now consider God’s promise to the church and His people.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) [A special message: Our only hope, Sermon Central, 22 July 2020.]

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[3] Rev. Andrew B Natarajan is a Methodist preacher:

Today we are going to mediate on the theme ‘Welfare of a Nation’ based on the scriptural verse 2 Chronicles 7:14…. In this passage, the Lord spoke to Solomon about the cause and effect of loss and restoration of the welfare of a nation…. The welfare of a nation is depended (sic) on GOD-FEARING people…. Though, primarily the words “My People and their Land” refer to the People of Israel and the land of Israel. The promises are given to people of Israel is also promise given to the “people of New Israel” I.e., you and I (sic). (Welfare of a nation).

When I blog on Christian forums such as Christianity Board, Christian forums.com and Christian forums.net I sometimes encounter Christians who want to ignore the immediate context of the verse. They apply it to their nations, particularly the USA.

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[4] Pearl said: “He is speaking to the ‘people who are called by (his) name’ so that’s us” (Christianity Board, ‘God says…’ #3).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[5] Pearl, when I lived in California I used to go to The Church On The Way. Wednesday evenings we would pray for the nation, and our start time was 7:14 pm’ (Christianity Board, God says… CharismaticLady#4).

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[6] 2 Chronicles 7:11-18 and especially Verse 14, is one of the most misused passages of scripture today, by especially preachers. They are misleading new and immature true believers and weakening their true and rightful faith in Christ. Let me explain it a bit…
‘It really does not apply to us (as believers) today in its original context and setting. The context in which it was written was after Solomon dedicated the temple. Then YHWH spoke to him and to his people concerning YHWH’s presence in the Temple and what is will do in the future. It was both a blessing and warnings’ (
APAK #11)

lu1089227q91v_tmp_1aa640af0b3c26cb[7] Ok then so are we are not to humble ourselves, are we not to pray, are we not to turn from our sin, are we not to seek his face? I don’t think I would go with that so I’ll continue to believe that the passage is for me’ (Pearl#13).

2. Original audience

Who were the people to whom 2 Chron 7:14 was addressed? This is the immediate context:

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron 7:11-14 ESV).?

So King Solomon finishing the ‘house of the Lord and the king’s house’ tells us exactly who the recipients of 2 Chron 7:14 are – the ones over whom Solomon was king.

This is stated clearly in the context: ‘When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (2 Chron 7:3 ESV).

3. Is there an application for our nations today?

We have seen 2 Chron 7:14 was not a promise for today’s Christians but for the Israelites. We violate Scripture when we reef it out of context to make it mean what it does not mean.

However, some people have challenged my application of 2 Chronicles to the situation in America (see examples above).

But 1 Corinthians 10 and Romans 15:4 instruct us that we can learn lessons from the Old Testament Scriptures for the Christian life and church age. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope ” (Romans 15:4).

“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Though the law of Moses is not the believer’s rule of life, it is an important source of instruction for the Christian life. We draw spiritual lessons from it. We learn from its examples.

For an excellent explanation of 2 Chron 7:14 in context see: What is the meaning of 2 Chronicles 7:14?

4. Conclusion

When 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) was written, to which Scripture did it refer? ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’.

Since the NT was in the process of being written, the OT could be the only text to which this ‘Scripture’ applies. Therefore, on the authority of the NT, the OT is ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ so that the messengers of God would be equipped for their work.

Based on that kind of explanation, it would be easy to conclude that 2 Chron 7:14 is profitable for teaching true believers today.

This would be a false assumption as 2 Chron 7:14 in context applies primarily to this situation: ‘On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he [King Solomon] sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people’ (2 Chron 7:10 ESV). The immediate context for v. 14 is v. 13 which states: ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people’.

It is a mistake of biblical interpretation to make a text mean what it does not state in context. We are allowed to make many applications of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness from 2 Chron 7:14.

However,

We must not confuse application with interpretation.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 August 2020.

Genesis 6:4: Nephilim

Demons having sex with human beings?

(The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair, sculpture by Daniel Chester French, image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The meaning of ‘Nephilim’ has caused quite a bit of theological uneasiness down through the centuries.

William Cook stated the issue well:

The interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4 is difficult and controversial. The debate centers on the interpretation of the phrase “sons of God.” Who are they? The crucial question concerns whether the phrase refers to human beings or to spiritual beings (demons) [Cook 2020].

I refer particularly to Genesis 6:4 (ESV), ‘The Nephilim[1] were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown’.

The Geneva Bible (1599), Douay-Rheims Bible (1609/1899), KJV (1611),The Good News Bible (1992), NKJV (1982), Wycliffe Bible (2001) unfortunately gave the primary meaning as ‘giants’. I say, ‘unfortunately’ because that diverts readers away from attempting to discover the essential meaning of the Nephilim.

Most contemporary English translations leave the Nephilim in its transliterated form as the meaning is somewhat obscure.

A few issues emerge from this verse:

clip_image002Who are the Nephilim?

A NET Bible footnote states:

The Hebrew word ????????? (nefilim) is simply transliterated here, because the meaning of the term is uncertain. According to the text, the Nephilim became mighty warriors and gained great fame in the antediluvian world. The text may imply they were the offspring of the sexual union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of humankind” (v. 2), but it stops short of saying this in a direct manner. The Nephilim are mentioned in the OT only here and in Num 13:33, where it is stated that they were giants (thus KJV, TEV, NLT “giants” here).[2]

clip_image002[1]Who are the sons of God?

clip_image002[2]Are the ‘daughters of man’ female human beings?

clip_image002[3]Who are ‘the mighty men … the men of renown’?

1. The Nephilim

Adam Clarke stated that the Nephilim referred to those who

fell… Those who had apostatized or fallen from the true religion…. the word when properly understood makes a very just distinction between the sons of men and the sons of God; those were the nephilim, the fallen earth-born men, with the animal and devilish mind.[3]

Regarding the translation of ‘giants’ (KJV), Clarke’s exegesis was that the translation as ‘giants [was] without having any reference to the meaning of the word, which we generally conceive to signify persons of enormous stature’.

This is a contemporary interpretation that demands a response. It’s from Bill Perkins of Compass International (2020):

There was one specific and creepy sin that God pointed out:

… that the sons of God [angels] saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Gen. 6:2

The “Sons of God,” referring to angelic spirits (Job 1:6), took the form of humans (Heb. 13:2) and began mating with earthly humans and producing children. Ostensibly, the children had their human DNA compromised.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Gen. 6:4 (Perkins 2020).

Perkins’ interpretation seems to be a throw-back to his view of what the preceding verses mean. If one has the premonition of angelic marriages, then ‘sons of God’ is a read phrase to flow in with that interpretation.

Verse 4 is not that difficult to interpret. The nephilim were the front-line men who stirred up fear as the only other OT passage that uses nephilim indicates: ‘And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’ (Num 13:33 ESV). The men of Anakim were of great stature.

Therefore, Kaiser Jr., et. al. (1996:108) conclude, ‘The meaning of nepilim/gibb?r?m is not “giants,” but something more like “princes,” “aristocrats” or “great men”’. Leupold favours an ‘awe-inspiring’ translation such as:

Following the Hebrew root naphal is by far the simplest. One meaning of this verb is to “fall upon = attack”: see Jer 48:32; Josh 11:7; and without any preposition, Job 1:15. This verb could readily yield this noun in the sense of “attackers,” “robbers,” “bandits.” So we have the thought: So we have the thought: the descendants of the godly patriarchs abandoned their spiritual heritage (v.1, 2) so that God was moved to determine upon their destruction (v.3); and there were also violent attackers and robbers abroad in those days (v.4) [Leupold 1942:258].

Luther translated nephilim as ‘tyrants’ (in Leupold 1942:258).

2. Were the ‘sons of God’ angels?

So, are the ‘sons of God’ really angels who had sex with human beings, according to Gen 6:4? In addition to the challenge of the meaning of nephilim, to what does the ‘sons of God’ refer?

The view of Jewish ancient historian, Josephus, was:

For many angels[4] of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants (Antiquities 1.3.1).

There are times in Scripture when ‘sons of God’ refer to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Daniel 3:25; Psalm 29:1; 89:7). Perkins concludes that is the meaning here.

Cook’s (2020) conclusion of the meaning of ‘sons of God’ is that

in light of examples we see in the New Testament [Mark 5:1-20; John 13:27] it seems best to assume that these evil spirits took possession of the bodies of wicked men and used them for their own sinful purposes.

The New Testament gives us clear examples of demons—and even Satan himself—indwelling human beings and causing them to act in horrific ways.

However, he notes the oldest and most widely held interpretation is that ‘sons of God’ refers to demons (fallen angels). This interpretation was accepted by ancient Judaism and the early church.

Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165)[5] wrote:

Justin Martyr (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Justin Martyr.jpg

The angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begot children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness (Second Apology, ch 5).

I find it strange exegesis of the passage that angels have sex with human beings and produce demons, especially when the context of 6:1-4 makes it clear who the ‘sons’ are. They are the Sethites from chapter 5, among whom were godly men such as Enoch (Gen 6:22) and men like Lamech who worshipped God, even when the going was tough (Gen 4:26).

It is appropriate these men should be called ‘sons of God’, a designation given to true followers of the Lord God (cf Deut 32:5; Hos 1:10). In this latter verse, there is a stronger emphasis:

Yet the number of the Israelites
will be like the sand of the sea,
which cannot be measured or counted.
And in the place where they were told:
You are not my people,
they will be called: Sons of the living God (Hos 1:10 CSB).

So, the description, ‘sons of God’, refers to those who truly follow the Lord God.

Yes, ‘sons of God’ is used to refer to angels in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 and Dan 3:25. It is erroneous to state that in the OT ‘sons of God’ refers only to angels. As the above examples indicate, that is not so.

Hebrew, like English, can use the one word with several different meanings. Take the English, ‘wave’: I can move my hand back and forth to wave goodbye; the trees waved in the wind; my hair has waves in it (curly); he rides the monster waves at Hawaii on his surfboard, and a wave of sadness swept over me.

3. Did the angels have sex with each other?

No, the ‘sons of God’ were not angels but godly Sethites and others. They were godly men.

4. Who are the mighty men?

It is regrettable the KJV and some other translations read ‘giants’ for nephilim as the word refers to ‘the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown’. Angelic marriages are not indicated to produce this offspring.

The mistranslated ‘giants’ are villains – robbers, attackers, bandits, even tyrants (Luther).

5. Conclusion

clip_image003The nephilim were the conquering men who stirred up fear. They were the bandits who were mighty men. However, the exact meaning of the term is not yet fully understood by scholars and others.

clip_image003[1]The sons of God were not angels but were godly men, probably Sethites.

clip_image003[2]The godly men had sex with women who produced ‘mighty men … men of renown’.

6.  Appendix

(Image Chester Beatty XII, Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, 4th century, courtesy Wikipedia)

As I was concluding this article, I became aware of recent research by Cavan W. Concannon, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California – a scholar of early Christianity. In The Conversation (12 August 2020) is found the article, The belief that demons have sex with humans runs deep in Christian and Jewish traditions. He cites ancient and contemporary supporters of this view, including Tertullian of Carthage who, in the third century BC, cited the “Book of the Watchers”[also called Book of Enoch, 1 Enoch] an apocalyptic vision written in the name of a mysterious character named Enoch mentioned in Genesis’.

Tertullian wrote: ‘I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either’ (On Apparel of  Women, 1.3). Further,

And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness (Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 18)

It is evident that Tertullian and other early church fathers relied heavily on a book from the Pseudepigrapha – false identification of the author – Book of Enoch (chs 6-9) for their teaching on the interpretation of Gen 6:4.

Should it be included in Scripture? See:

7.  Works consulted

Cook, W F 2020. The Gospel Coalition, U.S. edition (Online). Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6? 6 January. Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/who-are-sons-of-god-genesis-6/ (Accessed 7 August 2020).

Josephus F 2017. Project Gutenberg The antiquities of the Jews (online), W Whiston (ed), 2017. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2848/2848-h/2848-h.htm#linknote-11 (Accessed 14 August 2020).

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

Leupold H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis 1942. The Wartburg Press, also London: Evangelical Press. Also available online at CCEL at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/leupold/genesis.i.html (Accessed 14 August 2020).

Perkins, B 2020. Compass International (online), The return of the Nephilim, 28 July. Available at: https://compass.org/the-return-of-the-nephilim/ (Accessed 7 August 2020).

8.  Notes

[1] The ESV has the footnote, ‘Or giants’.

[2] Available at: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gen+6%3A4&version=NET (Accessed 13 August 2020).

[3] Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: Genesis 6:4. Bible Hub. Available at: https://biblehub.com/niv/genesis/6-4.htm (Accessed 7 August 2020).

[4] At this point in the translation by William Whiston has the note: ‘This notion, that the fallen angels were, in some sense, the fathers of the old giants, was the constant opinion of antiquity’.

[5] Dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Justin Martyr). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Justin-Martyr (Accessed 7 August 2020).

PPT - Genesis 6:4 PowerPoint Presentation, free download - ID:2127343

(image courtesy SlideServe)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 August 2020.

clip_image004

Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Process-Relational Panentheism Diagram | Pantheism, Buddha ...

(Image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

‘Panentheism’ may seem strange language to you. It’s not a word we hear very often from evangelical Christian pulpits. However, my view is that it ought to be explained and refuted because it promotes damaging theology.

1. What is it?

I’ve encountered it in two situations: (1) Recently, from a Christian friend who had this view presented, and (2) when I was researching for my PhD dissertation on the historical Jesus, I came across some liberal, postmodern scholars. One who was an ardent advocate was Marcus J. Borg in his book, The God we never knew (1997). He died in 2015 at the age of 72.[1]

1.1 Marcus Borg the false teacher

Borg contended that ‘how we think about God matters…. I argue that a “panentheistic” concept of God offers the most adequate way of thinking about the sacred; in this concept, the sacred is “right here” as well as “the beyond” that encompasses everything”’ (1997:VII, 5)

I agree with him on one point: ‘How we think about God matters’. However, does he have the correct biblical thinking about the Lord God of the universe?

Borg defines panentheism as

God is the encompassing Spirit; we (and everything that is) are in God. For this concept, God is not a supernatural being separate from the universe; rather, God (the sacred Spirit) is a nonmaterial layer or level or dimension of reality all around us. God is more than the universe, yet the universe is in God…. This way of thinking about God is found among many of the mot important voices in the Christian theological tradition (Borg 1997:12).

He claims that these statements from Scripture support panentheism.

bronze-arrow-small ‘The whole earth is full of God’s glory’ (Isaiah);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The earth shining with God’s glory’ (Ezekiel);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Psalm 19).

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ (Psalm 29:1-9 NIV; Borg 1997:34-35)

That these verses should be misinterpreted to divert attention from the LORD of glory who created the universe and calls us to praise the Lord of glory for his nature and actions in the universe, is a mockery of justice.

For a further critique of panentheism, see my article, Differences between orthodox theism and panentheism.

2. Down-to-earth questioning

A friend sent some questions to me from a discussion he had with a colleague. These are the colleague’s issues:

Here the issues are in red font:

clip_image002  ‘If there is nothing outside of God….’

This is a false premise as it promotes the heresy of panentheism that can be diagrammed as,

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(Image from Facebook, ‘Christian Answers for the New Age’, 18 March 2019)

In biblical Christianity, God is outside the universe which he created. The Scriptures teach that God reigns over the nations from His holy throne in heaven (see Psalm 47:8; Isaiah 6:1, 66:1; Hebrews 4:16).

clip_image005‘Why did Lucifer have thoughts of rebellion?’

“With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan—probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18)—in pride chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god.

Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God; he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels—demons” (GotQuestions 2020. Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?)
There is not enough biblical information in the inspired Word to give a definitive answer to this question.

clip_image002[1]‘These negative thoughts would have to be part of God’s nature?’

That could never be so because of God’s absolute holiness (Isaiah 6:5), absolute justice (Deuteronomy 32:4), and absolute sinlessness (Habakkuk 1:13).

clip_image005[1]‘If time is just a construct for the human mind…’

Biblically, we know this is false because it was God who created everything and that included time. See Genesis 1:1; Ecclesiastes 11:5; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17. God needed nothing external to himself to create the universe (Acts 17:24–28). There are many more Bible verses in support of these teachings.

clip_image005[2]  ‘… God would know and see everything instantaneously, therefore, Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is exactly right. It’s called God’s omniscience. God knows everything, past, present and future, seen and unseen. The Bible confirms this in 1 John 3:20; Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 139:1-3, 15-16; and Acts 1:24.

clip_image005[3]‘Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is correct. But that is because of the nature of God’s omniscient attribute. God knows even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30).

See the next installment of the person’s retort to my reply in, ‘Theism vs Panentheism’.

clip_image0073.  Works consulted

Borg, M J 1997. The God we never knew. New York, NY. HarperSanFrancisco.

4.  Notes


[1] See the obituary in the Los Angeles Times, ‘Marcus Borg, scholar who challenged literal view of Jesus, dies at 72’, 24 January. Available at: https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-marcus-borg-20150125-story.html (Accessed 9 July 2020).

Jenn 3d

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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Buddhist, Rohingya and Christian lives matter

Why must I go to alternate media for information about persecution?

(Image of Christian girl, Orissa, India  who was bruised and burnt during the anti Christian violence in Orissa in August 2008. It occurred when a bomb was thrown into her house by extremists; Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Two men on an asphalt surface, behind a black police SUV with the city name "MINNEAPOLIS", and a license plate that reads "POLICE" (some letters are obscured in this frame). One man has light skin, a blue shirt with identifying badges on his chest and shoulder, black pants and boots, and black sunglasses pushed to the top of his close-shorn head. He is kneeling with his left knee and upper shin resting on the neck of the other man, and his right knee out of sight behind the van. The other man is lying prone, with his left cheek pressed against the asphalt close to a painted line. He is dark-skinned, with similarly short hair, and is not wearing a shirt; His mouth is slightly open, his eyes are closed with his eyebrows raised, and his arms are down, not visible behind the van. The kneeling man has his left hand in a dark glove, with his right arm hidden behind the van, and is looking at the viewer with his eyebrows slightly lifted and mouth slightly open.(Frame from witness video, showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd‘s neck. Image courtesy Wikipedia).

This article was published in On Line Opinion, 25 June 2020.

There have been 8:46 rallying cries across the USA to coincide with the length of time it was assessed for George Floyd to die on 25 May 2020. Others conclude it took 7 minutes 46 seconds.

The police officer, alleged perpetrator of the crime, Derek Chauvin, has been sacked from the police force. However, Floyd’s death has propelled rallies for ‘Black lives matter’ across the world – in the USA, Great Britain, across Europe, Australia, and in other countries.

This Rohingya crisis caught media attention.

I honestly support these protesters and their reasons. A policeman killing a man by putting so much pressure on his neck he could not breathe, if convicted, should be called a murderer.

However, there are other situations as serious that have had some mass and social media coverage. In recent years, mass media outlets have reported on the persecution of the minority sect that Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted in Myanmar (Burma) and have fled to Bangladesh.

BBC News (23 January 2020) gave details on the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims.

(Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017; Image courtesy Wikipedia)

‘The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma)….

Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.

UN investigators have warned that genocidal actions could recur.

How have Myanmar people responded?

Tun Khin tweeted the ICJ ruling was ‘a crucial moment for Rohingya justice, and vindication for those of us who have lived through this genocide for decades’. He is the president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and continued:

‘The court’s decision clearly shows that it takes the allegations of genocide seriously, and that Myanmar’s hollow attempts to deny these have fallen on deaf ears’ (BBC News).

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said the ICJ decision ‘sent a message that the world would not tolerate Myanmar’s “atrocities”’.

The extent of Rohingya sprawling camps near the Bangladesh border for those fleeing Myanmar’s violence has been captured by a camera on a drone (BBC News 2017).

The Australian Government has explained its position but it hasn’t been updated since 14 June 2018. The Sydney Morning Herald (2017) reported: ‘Australia must act on Rohingya genocide’ which relates how ‘Almas saw her seven children and husband murdered during a wave of massacres in Myanmar. She and thousands of other survivors now face new threats as they languish in refugee camps’. ABC News, Brisbane Qld, ‘Aung San Suu Kyi denies genocide, says Rohingya Muslims caught up in armed internal conflict’.

Why don’t the people take to the streets with this slogan: ‘Rohingya Muslim lives matter’?

Why do I need to go to alternate media for other deaths?

George Floyd’s death is in the news, and rightly so. Have you heard much on the following?

Release International Voice reported on Indian Christian believers who were ‘taunted, beaten and forced to pose “like Christ on the cross” in police custody when extremists accused them of “forced conversion”’.

‘Pastor Indresh Kumar Gautam and four others were arrested after 30 Hindu extremists broke up their Sunday service in Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh’. Australian mainstream media gives this persecution a flick pass as it doesn’t seem to have the worldwide implications of a George Floyd murder.

Why haven’t we heard a media campaign, ‘Indian teens’ lives matter’, following the death of a 16-year-old by stabbing and stoning? What was his crime? He was a Christian and wouldn’t renounce his faith. What was the crime he committed?

If it were not for alternate news’ sources I would not know of this persecution to death by Hindu extremists.

He refused to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ. Where were Australia’s news outlets to report this with catchphrases such as, ‘Indian Christian lives matter’?

It’s time for the ABC, SBS, Fox News, Sky News, Channels 7, 9, and 10 to wake up to international news’ responsibilities. I commend The Guardian Australia edition for reporting in February 2020 on the Australian ambassador’s meeting with the Myanmar military chief who was accused of Rohingya genocide. ‘Human Rights Watch has said Australia’s decision to take the meeting risked giving legitimacy and credibility to a military accused of mass atrocities’.

Other Australian news sources may have given limited coverage to some of the examples which follow. However, as a regular news reader and watcher, I have not seen any kind of uprising like ‘black lives matter’ in association with the deaths of other ethnic minorities – except Rohingya Muslims.

According to The Gulf News (01 March 2020) in Pakistan, 22-year-old Saleem Masih was ‘tortured to death for taking a dip in a village tube well in Pakistan, his fault was that he was a Christian’ and ‘polluted’ the water he bathed in.

Masih’s father said Saleem claimed the men who attacked, abused and cursed him did it because he was a ‘filthy Christian’. Social media users were furious about Saleem’s treatment and spread the word through #JusticeForSaleemMasih. ‘Pakistani Christian lives matter’.

The Buddhist minority in Vietnam has been under threat for decades in fear of persecution. At the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum in Hsinchu City in June 2018, Vo Tran Nhat, executive secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, a nongovernmental organisation founded in Paris in 1975, explained his views as a non-religious person: ‘He cares a great deal about the Buddhists and minority Christians, who raise their voices against oppression and injustice. If Buddhists lose their religion, Vietnam would lose its “soul,” he warned’.

What has Australia’s main-stream media reported about these situations?

There are many other examples that the mass media choose to ignore. I’m thinking of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who maintains his allegiance to Jesus in spite of suffering unemployment, persecution from Muslim family members, and homelessness.

An Egyptian woman is another case in point. She was kidnapped by extremists, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. It is exceedingly difficult to bring such women back home to a normal life when they live in an honour-shame culture.

In April 2020, a Christian pastor, his wife and 15-year-old son were attacked by a Muslim neighbour in Pakistan. They were severely injured by machetes, sticks and pistols and they were treated in hospital. The case was reported to a local police station. Pakistani Christians face severe maltreatment. Often it comes from family members, radical Islamic groups, and even the government.

North Korea is a closed country and distribution of unapproved literature is a capital offence that could lead to forced labour or execution.

However, in 2014 Natasha Moore from the Centre for Public Christianity (a Christian organisation) published an opinion piece for the ABC’s, The Drum, Why don’t we hear about persecuted Christians? She gave an example of ‘the plight of Mosul’s Christians [that] has been noted by a growing number of news outlets, from The Independent to The New York Times. It has broken the surface of the international news cycle in a way that other atrocities – the fire-bombing of churches in Nigeria, the summary execution of North Koreans caught with Bibles – have not’. She does not consider the media were covering up the global persecution, but it reveals the media’s blind spots. As an example of the seriousness of the situation, she stated that Christians were persecuted in139 countries and about four or five acts of religious discrimination are against Christians.

Countries that were moderately secular and are now ‘avowedly secular’ have stepped up their hostility towards Christians. Turkey and Egypt join with post-communist, Islamic and some South Asian countries, Moore wrote. She referred authors to the 2008 book, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion (Paul Marshall et. al.).

Farce of injustice by media

I find it to be a pretence against fair journalism when the media can so promote ‘Black lives matter’ when we have examples of Buddhist lives matter, Rohingya Muslim lives matter, and Christian lives matter around the world.

When will we see major, objective reporting on the Christian, Buddhist, Rohingya and other persecutions?

(Image courtesy fssx.news. An 11-year-old Christian child was beaten to death by his Muslim employer on July 11, 2019, in Faisalabad, in northeastern Pakistan.)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 June 2020.

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Some Christians unacceptable in Australian sport

When diversity has come to mean exclusion in sport

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Two situations have highlighted this recently in Australia and both relate to the one sportsman:

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(Israel Folau image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image004Rugby union champion, Israel Folau, a Christian,[1] had his 4-year contract cancelled by Rugby Australia (RA) in May 2019. In making the announcement, Rugby AU CEO, Raelene Castle, stated:

This has been an extremely challenging period for rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team. But our clear message to all Rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork (Newman 2019).

clip_image006Peter Beattie, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, told AAP Folau was ruled out of playing for rugby league again because

our position on Israel Folau remains the same…. We are an inclusive game with respect for all. Israel has social media posts online that go against what our game stands for (Zemek 2019).

One of RA’s major sponsors, Qantas, said of Folau’s Instagram post, ‘These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support’ (Decent 2019).

1. What is diversity Peter Beattie?

The Cambridge Dictionary (2019. s.v. diversity) defines diversity as:

(a) ‘the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people:

(b) ‘the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something’.

The Collins Dictionary (2019. s.v. diversity) gives similar meanings:

(c) ‘The diversity of something is the fact that it contains many very different elements’.

(d) ‘A diversity of things is a range of things which are very different from each other’.

Diversity does not mean acceptance of a range of things, except what we don’t like or consider unworthy of a sportsman or sportswoman. Diversity is diversity. clip_image008

No ifs, buts and exceptions.

Based on these definitions of ‘diversity’, Mr Beattie of ARL diversity includes different things, people, ideas, opinions, theologies and values. It includes the Christian values of Israel Folau. He should never be excluded if ‘diversity’ is one or ARL’s guiding principles – as you state it is.

To be consistent with ARU’s values, diversity means acceptance of Christian values, including Folau’s values, even though you might not like them. Would you allow him to make this personal post on Instragram without sacking him?

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(Image courtesy WikiIslam)

2. Ms Castle: What is ‘inclusion’?

Dictionary definitions are:

(a) ‘The act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(b) ‘The idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(c) ‘Inclusion is the act of making a person or thing part of a group or collection’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(d) ‘The act of including or the state of being included’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

Therefore, …

3. To exclude Folau’s pro-Christian view is censorship and exclusion.

It flies in the face of promoting a diversity and inclusion of views in RA and ARU. It is time for Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby League to accept and promote genuine diversity that includes Folau’s Christian values.

This has nothing to do with whether you like what he stated or whether you find it offensive. Folau paraphrased Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) with his Instagram post.

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(Image courtesy The Roar)

This accurate meaning of diversity and inclusion includes athletes who speak their values into the public square, whether they are secular, atheistic, humanistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or Tao.

To be truly diverse, these two codes of sport need to realise that their current positions practise censorship of a player’s Christian values – and it must stop because it goes against the meaning of diversity and inclusion. Christianity is included in inclusion and is part of the incorporation of diversity.

The Samoa News reported:

A former Australian rugby international says anyone who believes Israel Folau has a right to publicly express his views on sexuality has no place in the sport….

But the former Wallaby and now journalist Peter FitzSimons said if other players are offended by the sanctions handed down to Folau and support his views their time in the sport may also be up.

“The answer to those Pacific Islanders is two-fold. Number One: We love you blokes. You’re terrific, you’re wonderful people and you are great rugby players,” he told Morning Report.

“Number Two: If you’re deeply offended and you’re on Israel’s side on this and you feel so strongly you’re going to leave we’ll miss you but Rugby Australia and the Australian rugby community are not going to have people wearing the Wallaby jersey that put up public posts that say that gays are going to burn in hell.

“The gays have had centuries of vilification – we’re not doing that anymore….[2]

4. It is hypocrisy

In my view, what is currently named and practised by ARU and RA as diversity and inclusion is falsely named. It is factually against true diversity and amounts to uniformity with the politically correct views within the sport. Genuine inclusion means ‘the act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2020. s.v. inclusion).

Margaret Court - Wikipedia(Image Margaret Court 1970, courtesy Wikipedia)

 Therefore, to exclude Israel Folau for religious reasons, is not inclusion, but exclusion.

What has been done to Margaret Court is hypocritical as it has opposed and excluded her because of her views on the Christian position on homosexuality.

When will these sporting bodies agree with the truth that what they do in excluding Folau and Court amounts to discrimination of these two sports’ champions.

5.  Christians not acceptable in Australian sport

See other examples of vilification against her Christian views for Margaret Court in my articles:

6. Conclusion

The appeal to reject the intolerance of Israel Folau and Margaret Court falls flat because the folks who want tolerance and inclusiveness in sport actually practise intolerance and exclusiveness.

They have redefined tolerance and inclusiveness to agree with their politically correct views.

(This image of professional rugby league player for Fiji, Australian teams, and English teams, Kevin Naiquama. Courtesy NT Times.)

He is unashamedly Christian with this crucifixion tattooed across his back. He has John 3:16 on his chest. The back tattoo took 40 hours to complete. These Christian symbols have not been a cause of opposition by the rugby league community – to my knowledge. Why?

‘From the bottom is The Last Supper going into Jerusalem City, then finishing up the top with Jesus Crucifixion’ (West Tigers Forum).

Sport Confidential: Kevin Naiqama spent 40 hours getting back ...7. Works consulted

Decent, T 2019. Rugby Australia set to sack Israel Folau for anti-gay social media post. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 11 April. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/rugby-australia-set-to-sack-israel-folau-for-anti-gay-social-media-post-20190411-p51dar.html (Accessed 14 June 2019).

Newman, B 2019. Israel Folau “considering options” after “landmark” decision to terminate his contract. Rugby.com.au International (online), 17 May. Available at: https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2019/05/17/folau-verdict-castle-hore (Accessed 14 June 2019).

Zemek, S 2019. ‘We are an inclusive game’: Chairman Peter Beattie slams the door on Israel Folau’s NRL plea. News.com.au (online), 5 June. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/sport/nrl/we-are-an-inclusive-game-chairman-peter-beattie-slams-the-door-on-israel-folaus-nrl-plea/news-story/047903812065e9d52b68baec328937b8 (Accessed 14 June 2019).

8.  Notes


[1] He is a non-Trinitarian, so promotes heresy. See my article: Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

[2] Samoa News 2019. Players who support Folau ‘have no place in Australian rugby’ (online), 5 August. Available at: https://www.samoanews.com/regional/players-who-support-folau-have-no-place-australian-rugby (Accessed 8 March 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 May 2020.

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Responding as a Christian to opponents

Atheists Want a World Without Christianity. Here's How It Would ...

(Image courtesy ChristianWeek)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

As I was having my devotions today and was working through the Book of Proverbs, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my ‘Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

This is what caught my attention.

Should we answer a fool?

After only being online for 12 hours, my article on God, evil and the Coronavirus had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments. Many of the people who comment don’t deal with the content of my articles but dump their presuppositions on the reader and use a Red Herring Logical Fallacy.

This is where the folks don’t deal with my topic but attempt to redirect the conversation to a direction in which they are more comfortable to address. It is similar to the ‘Avoiding the Issue Fallacy’. However, the red herring is an intentional attempt to seek to abandon my argument in the article. Many posters also throw in an Ad Hominem Fallacy. This abuses me or the God I write about.

This message hit me like a ton of bricks. As I was having my devotions, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

Should we answer a fool?

After my article had been uploaded to On Line Opinion on 30 April 2020, within 12 hours it had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments.

The relevant Scripture the Lord prompted me with was:

“Criticize a person who is rude and shows no respect, and you will only get insults. Correct the wicked, and you will only get hurt. 8 Don’t correct such people, or they will hate you. But correct those who are wise, and they will love you. 9 Teach the wise, and they will become wiser. Instruct those who live right, and they will gain more knowledge.

“10 Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding. 11 Wisdom will help you live longer; she will add years to your life” (Prov 9:7-11 ERV),

I have wasted so much time on forums over the years trying to answer those who show no respect towards me and will insult my God. Here Wisdom (God) commands me not to correct the wicked, as that will lead to hatred of me. Instead correct the wise; they will love me, and gain more knowledge and wisdom.

Thank you Lord for teaching such a profound lesson after 50 years as a believer.

Some of you may not be familiar with the ERV, the Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible I have used. It originally was a translation for the deaf who were used to sign language.

Version Information

The Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) is an accurate translation of the Bible created by the translation team at Bible League International. New readers sometimes struggle with reading older standardized translations of Bible text because of their unfamiliarity with the Bible. The ERV uses simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences while maintaining the integrity of the original texts.

One of the basic ideas that guided the work was that good translation is good communication. In 2015, a major revision was completed in the English text. It uses broader vocabulary and it is revised to reflect new cultural perspectives. The ERV is now in the process of revision for the other language texts while continuing to stay true to the original Biblical texts. In this process of revision we are committed to keeping the text fresh and applicable to the global community of Bible readers.

The ERV uses the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1984) as its Old Testament text with some readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also, it follows the Septuagint when its readings are considered more accurate. For the New Testament, the ERV uses the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th revised edition, 1993) and Nestle-Aland Novum Testament Graece (27th edition, 1993).

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

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Why does the good God allow COVID-19?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Published in On Line Opinion (30 April 2020)

Thoughtful people can have honest questions about God’s goodness because of COVID-19, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Tracy (1974), the Nazi Holocaust during World War 2, and the September 11, 2001 disaster in the USA. So …

What makes him a good God?

Everything he does is ‘worthy of approval’. God is the final standard of goodness, holiness and righteousness. It is his very nature – as demonstrated through Scripture and the world around us.

Dr David Jeremiah explained:

God’s goodness conveys His generosity. His goodness means far more than His generosity, but it certainly includes His infinitely generous attitude toward us. By nature, He longs to bring joy and blessing to all His creatures.

The Bible repeatedly presents goodness as a core quality of our Lord.

clip_image002[4](Image courtesy Turning Point: Dr. David Jeremiah)

Jesus said ‘no one is good but God alone’. After he had created everything in the beginning he declared ‘it was very good’. We may find it hard to understand but the truth is that ‘The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made’.

Consider how this is worked out in a Covid situation. We are dependent on God for every breath we breathe. He made plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Human beings mainly breathe in nitrogen and oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So the God-given cycle continues with God maintaining it.

He created the universe in the beginning and provides light through the planets. The scientific discipline of astronomy has helped us gain a much better understanding of the enormous universe. He sustains the cosmos. Life and death are in his hands. Is this pandemic causing people to consider how short life can be and what lies beyond death? God patiently waits for people to come to him in remorse for their sins against him.

Adam and Eve fouled it up for the whole universe.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he gave them the choice to eat from any tree in the garden except ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’.

They ate from that tree and death and sin entered the human race with disease like we are experiencing. There was increased pain in childbirth, cursing of the ground with thorns and thistles. Its origin is from our first parents who disobeyed God’s command.

What were the consequences of sin-disobedience entering the human race? Romans 8:19-21 explains that creation is waiting for God’s children to be revealed. Until then, creation is subject to God’s curse (including COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, rabies, the plague, and Black Death). ‘Glorious freedom from death and decay’ awaits God’s future kingdom.

Bill Gates, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, considers ‘Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise…. It can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems…. Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase’.

I disagree about the origin. The great harm to creation brought on by Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in the curse of disease for plant and human life. Yes, there may be transmission from animals to human beings but the origin is not with Mother Nature but with the first human beings.

Fadela Chaib, spokesperson for the World Health Organisation, told a news briefing in Geneva: ‘All available evidence suggests the (Covid) virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else’.

The media and Mother Nature

Who are the media blaming for the virus?

Common Dreams’ assessment (2 April 2020) had nothing to do with God: The coronavirus may not, in retrospect, prove to be the tipping point that upends human civilization as we know it, but it should serve as a warning that we will experience ever more such events in the future as the world heats up…. In so many ways like these, Mother Nature strikes back when her vital organs suffer harm’.

With the Ebola virus, it is known that villagers became infected when ‘a number who had carried, skinned, chopped or eaten a chimpanzee from the nearby forest.

Channel 9’s ’60 Minutes’ programme reported in March 2020: ‘“This is Mother Nature’s revenge”: Coronavirus expert calls for shut down of Asia’s wildlife markets…. The Coronavirus is believed to have originated at a wildlife market in China’s Wuhan city’ and ‘it is suspected that the virus crossed to humans from the pangolin’.

What is Mother Nature? It is a personification ‘used for referring to nature and natural forces’ (Macmillan Dictionary 2020. s.v. Mother Nature). This is how the meaning of Mother Nature is skewed, with an example from the Macmillan Dictionary: ‘We hope Mother Nature will save the crops by bringing rain’. This is an example of mistaken identity for God the Father who sends the rain (see Matthew 5:45). The invented Mother Nature has not a skerrick of power to create rain or send the sun.

The stupidity of human beings

It started with the defiance of the first human beings. We know God sends judgments on people and nations for disobedience to his commands. We’ve seen it through Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s not where it will end. God has set a day when all people will be judged by Jesus: ‘He will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead’.

‘Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens’ (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, 18 April 2020). Would this virus have originated without contact through ‘wet markets’?

WetmarketHK.jpgA wet market in Hong Kong

This folly is seen in how human beings transmit HIV/AIDS. It is spread through certain body fluids of an infected person. Mostly it is from sexual behaviours and sharing injection needles. However, it can also be proliferated through ‘blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk’.

Research by Deo et.al. (2009) confirmed the hypothesis that human beings who cleared the land of native vegetation had a ‘significant effect on climate extremes including the duration and severity of droughts in eastern Australia’. Could we call this an example of raping the land and experiencing the cost?

Don’t expect transparency from a Communist government.

At the beginning of January 2020, the mayor of Wuhan admitted there was a lack of action but when 100 cases had been confirmed by 23 January, ‘city-wide restrictions were enacted’. About that time a whistleblower, Dr Li Wenliang warned colleagues of a Sars-like virus. He was silenced by the authorities and later died of COVID-19.

The Lancet medical journal reported Dr Li’s message was ‘meant to be a private message, he encouraged them to protect themselves from infection. Days later, he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan and made to sign a statement in which he was accused of making false statements that disturbed the public order’.

Wuhan, sub-provincial city, China

File:Montage of wuhan(2017).jpgBBC News reported on 17 April 2020 that the ‘China outbreak city Wuhan raises death toll by 50%’. On 27 March 2020, Radio Free Asia estimates the death toll in Wuhan is much higher than 2,500. ‘The city’s seven crematoriums should have a capacity of around 2,000 bodies a day if they worked around the clock’.

This isn’t the first time the Communists misrepresented the facts. Remember the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989; the persecution of the Muslim Uighurs in western China, and Hong Kong’s core freedoms to continue after the British handing over of the colony in 1997?

China-based media support the deceit of the Chinese regarding the pandemic: (1) According to Chinese authorities, the death toll from COVID-19 in Wuhan (population 11 million) is a little over 2,500. (2) Those figures don’t add up as Caixin investigative journalism discovered ‘one native crematorium within the metropolis was working for 19 hours a day and in simply two days, 5,000 urns [for ashes of the dead] had been delivered to the institution’.

The principles of Marxist atheism are demonstrated in China. COVID-19 has exposed the lie at the heart of Communism. Eminent Soviet dissident and writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, put it bluntly in his Nobel Laureate lecture for literature. His Soviet experience demonstrated the root of Communist totalitarianism ‘is invariably intertwined with the lie…. Violence cannot conceal itself behind anything except lies, and lies have nothing to maintain them save violence. Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose the lie as his principle’ (Nobel Lecture 1970)

Tragedy sent to shake our priorities

Before COVID-19, how long has it been since you considered the shortness of life and the possibility of dying? Has this loss of income and job caused you to re-evaluate how dependent you are on God’s mercy and compassion? When did you last thank him for the food in the fresh food market or the supermarket?

Over the last 12 months, Australia has been subjected to horrific drought. Where has been the call from Christian politicians and churches for the Lord to break the drought? He has answered our prayers in many areas but March rainfall was below average across the country. ‘Water storage levels in the northern Murray–Darling Basin remain low despite some inflows’. Drought continues in SE NSW.

Reasons why God allows suffering

Pope Francis spoke to God about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it was not a time of God’s judgment ‘but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others’.

I’m not as confident as he about God’s justice allowing wickedness to continue worldwide without consequences when Scripture states, ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’. How can we as a nation live with clear consciences before God when we kill 80,000 unborn children a year, legalise euthanasia, brothels and same-sex marriage?

This is God’s recipe for Australian greatness: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people’. In Isaiah’s day, king Cyrus the Great, was anointed as leader of a non-Jewish nation by Isaiah who confirmed that the Lord forms the light, creates darkness, brings prosperity and creates disaster. ‘I the Lord do these things’ (Isaiah 45:7). So, we could be in the midst of a pandemic created by God to shake up our values to get us on track with the Lord of the universe.

Conclusion

Evidence provided above indicates evil began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. The diseases among human beings, animal and plant life are related to the effects of disobedience.

No person or thing, no tsunami, September 11, or the Qld floods, can ruin the nature and actions of the sovereign will of God. They may cause people to doubt God but we need to get back to the fundamentals of God Himself. ‘I am God, and there is no other’. Will we scoff at Him, blame disasters on Mother Nature, or will we bow before Him who could be the one sending this debacle?

C S Lewis’s words from 70 years ago ring with a contemporary sound if we replace ‘atomic bomb’ with ‘COVID-19’, which I will do in some places. We think too much of COVID-19. How can we live in a pandemic age? We could have lived through it before with the London plague, the Viking raiders from Scandinavia, the age of cancer, STDs, strokes and paralysis, heart attacks, and terrorism.

‘You and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was discovered…. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty’.

If we are going to be destroyed by the atomic bomb and these other calamities, including COVID-19, we ought to be sensible people – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about a pandemic. ‘They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds’ (Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays 1948).

For a case study on suffering, read the Book of Job in the Bible. I have gleaned these principles:

gold foward button  Job 1:8-12 (ERV) gives a powerful message that provides the meaning of suffering for Job:

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a good, faithful man. He respects God and refuses to do evil.”

9 Satan answered the Lord, “But Job has a good reason to respect you. 10 You always protect him, his family, and everything he has. You have blessed him and made him successful in everything he does. He is so wealthy that his herds and flocks are all over the country. 11 But if you were to destroy everything he has, I promise you that he would curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “All right, do whatever you want with anything that he has, but don’t hurt Job himself.”

God used Satan to test a good man to determine if Job would continue to serve the Lord while experiencing horrific suffering. Will we go on living the Christian life in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis? Suffering is meant to test the tenacity of our faith in the Lord. For unbelievers, God can use suffering as a ‘rattling of the cage’ to get them to consider God’s call. It also confirms that in God’s world, bad things happen to good and godly people.

gold foward button

According to Job 1:21 (ERV), Job bowed before God and said: ‘“When I was born into this world, I was naked and had nothing. When I die and leave this world, I will be naked and have nothing. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In other words, no matter what happened to Job (and he lost everything), the Lord God was sovereign and he accepted God’s actions in his life.

gold foward button  There are about 25 ‘why?’ questions in the Book of Job. Job wanted to know why God did this to him. No answer came from God, but Job continued to serve Him.

gold foward button  Job stood strong in the middle of this atrocity:

10 But God knows me.
He is testing me and will see that I am as pure as gold.

11 I have always lived the way God wants.
I have never stopped following him.
12 I always obey his commands.
I love the words from his mouth more than I love my food.

13 “But God never changes,
and who can stand against him?
He does anything he wants.
14
He will do to me what he planned,
and he has many other plans for me
(
Job 23:10-14 ERV).

gold foward button  Imagine you were in Job’s shoes: horrific loss and suffering beyond imagination and you got this message: ‘Then he said to humans, “To fear and respect the Lord is wisdom. To turn away from evil is understanding”’ (Job 28:28 ERV). So, COVID-19 suffering is the Lord’s wisdom that we need to respect. It is wise to turn away from evil to bring understanding. This is profound wisdom from the Lord, through Job’s ministry: Suffering sent by God has a purpose to make us wise and bring understanding. That’s a higher knowledge than the esteemed Cambridge Dictionary.

gold foward button  The human race doesn’t have all the answers about suffering. Job gives us a peep into God’s view. However, Job was so angry with what was happening to him that he cursed the day he was born:

I wish the day I was born would be lost forever.
I wish the night they said, ‘It’s a boy!’ had never happened.
4 I wish that day had remained dark.
I wish God above had forgotten that day
and not let any light shine on it (
Job 3:3-4 ERV)

Will COVID-19 cause more people to think about how quickly people have died across the world? Will they seek God and his revelation that happens after death? Is eternal salvation on their minds?

(image courtesy OCHA)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 April 2020.