Category Archives: Bible

1 Peter 3:19: Proclamation to spirits in prison

(image courtesy Himandus.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1 Peter 3:18-20 reads:

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

1.  Difficult to interpret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s examine some possibilities:

1.1 Christ preached to the dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.1.2 Pre-existent Christ and Noah’s generation

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

1.1.3 Christ proclaimed to the ‘disobedient spirits’

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

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

Kistemaker agrees:

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

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

2. Take note of these facts

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

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

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

2.1 Problems with NIV translation[5]

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

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

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

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

3. When was the proclamation made?

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

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

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

4. What was the content of the proclamation?

Simon Kistemaker quoted Dalton:

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

4.1 The verb used tells something

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

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

4.2 Who are the spirits (in prison)?

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

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

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

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

5. The nature of the prison

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

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

(image courtesy Storming the Gates of Hell)

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

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

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

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

6. Two main understandings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Conclusion

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

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

Congolese town crier

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

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

8. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How a KJV-only supporter stuffed up biblical interpretation

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Various English translations

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

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

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

3.  High on rûm

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

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

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

4.  A word to KJV-only supporters

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

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

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

5.  A better example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the 1383 Wycliffe translation of these verses:

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

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

6.  Which Bible is inspired by God?

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

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

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Works consulted

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

8.  Notes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John 6:44: God’s drawing power for salvation

Image result for clipart image No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What does this verse mean? ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44 ESV).

1. Questions emerge

  • Does the context of the verse shed any light on understanding?
  • Does God the Father ‘draw’ only some people in his predestination to eternal life?
  • What happens to those who are not drawn? Are they left to be damned?
  • If the person drawn is ‘raised up’ at the last day, what does that mean?

On an Internet Christian forum I met a person with this understanding:

The same people that insist on telling me that “every person without exception” was drawn in John 3, refuse to touch the fact that in John 6:44 everyone drawn comes to Jesus and is raised to eternal life at the last day. I know it does not say “to eternal life” in John 6:44 but what is the point of the verse in its context if God draws and teaches and raises you to eternal damnation? [… and people accuse the God of Calvinism of being a monster.][1]

Does John 6:44 teach what this fellow claims?

2. The context

To gain a perspective on what Jesus was communicating, the context states:

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me — 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:41-47 ESV).

  • The Jews confused Jesus metaphorical statement, ‘I am the bread … from heaven’ with Jesus’ being the child of Joseph and Mary whom they knew (vv 41-42).
  • Then he taught that nobody can come to him ‘unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (v 44) and that person will be raised up ‘on the last day’ (v 44).
  • The teaching from the Prophets was that everyone who heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus (v 45).
  • Only Jesus, the one from God, has seen the Father (v 46).
  • He is teaching about eternal life: ‘whoever believes has eternal life’ (v 47).

3. Who is drawn by God for eternal life?

Go back to John 6:37 to gain some clarity: ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’ (ESV).

That sounds like it’s done and dusted:

All that the Father gives me will come to me. Jesus’ confidence in the success of his mission is frankly predestinarian….

The flow of the verse is then as follows: All that (a singular neuter is used to refer to the elect collectively) the Father gives to Jesus, as his gift to his Son, will surely come to him; and whoever in fact comes (by virtue of being given by the Father to the Son), Jesus undertakes to keep in, to preserve (Carson 1991:290).

This kind of Calvinistic thinking causes Jacob Gerber to conclude with Carson:

All that the Father gives to the Son will irresistibly come to the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit, and of all those who do come (that is, the entirety of the elect), the Son will unfailingly preserve them, including by raising them up from the dead on the last day. In the Five Points of Calvinism, this doctrine that the Son cannot lose a single one of all whom the Father give to him—including you—is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (Gerber 2017:8)

Really? Carson and Gerber are Calvinistic commentators/writers.

In my view, Gerber has imposed his Calvinistic TULIP (especially the P) onto this text. John 6:37 teaches that …

  • Those chosen by the Father will come to Jesus, and
  • Those who come to Jesus will never be cast out.

But …

4. Are there limitations on God’s drawing power?

Does God choose some for salvation and leave the rest, as Calvinists teach through their TULIP doctrine?

This is taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith (a confession of the Presbyterian & Reformed Churches): (2) WCF 3:3-4 – Some are predestined to eternal life, others foreordained to death; this number is fixed.

4.1   D A Carson’s view

Carson considers that John 6:37 teaches Calvinistic predestination. How does he interpret John 6:44?

The combination of v. 37a and v.44 prove that this ‘drawing’ activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call ‘prevenient grace’ dispensed to every individual, for this ‘drawing’ is selective, or else the negative note in v. 44 is meaningless (Carson 1991:393).

So, for him, God’s drawing power is selective, i.e. some are chosen for salvation, which means by application that the rest are chosen by God for damnation. What’s the point of God’s wrath being poured out on people if they have no opportunity to flee from his wrath by which they are damned deterministically?

Image result for image And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myselfHow, then, does Carson interpret John 12:32,? Is it possible for ‘all’ to be drawn when ‘all’ actually  means ‘only some’?

Carson applies a typical Calvinistic technique:

There, (6:44) the focus is on those individuals whom the Father gives to the Son, whom the Son infallibly preserves and raises up at the last day. Here, ‘all men’ reminds the reader of what triggered these statements, viz. the arrival of the Greeks, and means ‘all people without distinction, Jews and Gentiles alike’, not all individuals without exception, since the surrounding context has just established judgment as a major theme (v. 31), a time for distinguishing between those who love their lives (and therefore lose them) and those who hate their lives (and therefore keep them for eternal life, v. 25). The critical event in Jesus’ ministry that sanctions his drawing of all people without distinction, and not Jews only (cf. 10:16; 11:52), is his cross/exaltation, his being ‘lifted up’. This is the implicit answer to the Greeks: the hour has come for him to die and be exalted, and in the wake of that passion/ glorification they will be able to approach him as freely as do the children of the old covenant (Carson 1991:444).

He makes ‘all men’ mean ‘all people without distinction’ and not ‘all individuals without exception’. He uses John 10:16 and 11:52 to support this view.

  • John 10:16 states, ‘And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd’. The context of John 9:40 indicates Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and the ‘other sheep’ indicates non-Jews – all the peoples of the world. Surely Jesus had no need to indicate that his ‘other sheep’ includes all individual Egyptians, Syrians, Ethiopians, Bereans, etc.
  • John 11:52 states, ‘and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad’. The context deals with what followed Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs (John 11:45-47 ESV).

The immediate context of v. 52 states:

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death (John 11:49-52).

One man, Jesus, was to die ‘for the people’ and the ‘whole nation should not perish’. What are we to make of the statement that ‘Jesus would die for the nation’ and ‘to gather into one the children of God’ who are scattered’? I can’t see anything here that states clearly that Jesus’ death ‘for the nation’ was not for all the people of the nation.

Let’s check out a Lutheran exegete and commentator:

4.2   R C H Lenski

We’ll look at the disputed verses one at a time. Please refer to the quotation of these verses above.

Verse 37:

  • ‘all that’ refers to the mass of people, ‘each individual’;
  • The neuter ‘him that’ (‘whoever’ ESV) is ‘the neuter singular and is used as an abstract expression and as such sums up the whole mass of believers of all ages and speaks of them as a unit’ (Lenski 1943:463).
  • ‘All believers are regarded as one complete unit’ (Vincent 1887/1946:150).

Lenski considers this passage teaches,

the gift as having been made once for all and now being permanent as such a gift…. For all that the Father “gives to me,” Jesus says, “shall get to me … because the Father’s gift cannot possibly fail…. In v. 39 the perfect tense, “all that he has given to me,” pictures the gift from the viewpoint of the last day when Jesus will appear and will not have lost any part of the gift (Lenski 1887/1946:464).

Lenski’s interpretation of this passage in John 6 seems to be open to contextual interpretation, without Calvinistic imposition:

But in these expressions, “all that the Father gives,” and, “all that he has given” Jesus speaks of all believers of all ages as already being present to the eyes of God, he also thus is giving them to Jesus … There, however, is not a fixed number, in some mysterious way chosen by an absolute decree of God to be such a gift to Jesus. Such an exegesis is wholly dogmatic and carries into what Jesus says a thought that is not contained in his words. On the other hand, equally dogmatic is the view that those who constitute God’s gift to Jesus are not those who in the first place are morally better than the rest, or who at least act better than the rest when the gospel is brought to them. These words of Jesus are without a trace of either predestinarian of synergism.[2] God’s grace is universal. He would give all men to Jesus. The only reason he does not do so is because so many men obdurately refuse to be part of that gift. On the other hand, God’s grace is alone efficacious….

Do they want to be part of this gift, or do they mean to exclude themselves?” (Lenski 1946/1961:464-465).

So, he does not consider John 6 teaches predestination (monergism)[3] or human responsibility (synergism).

Lenski’s interpretation of this chapter is that ‘Him that comes to me’ (‘whoever comes to me’, Jn 6:37 ESV) ‘makes the matter individual, personal, and a voluntary act. The Father’s drawing (v. 44) is one of grace alone, thus it is efficacious, wholly sufficient, able to change the unwilling into the willing, but not by coercion, not irresistibly. Man can obdurately [stubbornly] refuse to come. Yet when he comes he does so only through the blessed power of grace’ (Lenski 1946/1961:465).

John 12:32

‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (ESV).

Lenski demonstrates that the same ‘drawing power’ of 6:44 (cf. 6:37) also is used here, not for the Father, but for Jesus.

This is the drawing exerted by grace …[4] alike in effectiveness and seriousness for all men, not in any way limited on God’s part. Yet here, as in 6:37; 6:44; 10:16; 11:52, and other connections, Jesus is speaking of this universal and unlimited grace only insofar as it succeeds in actually drawing men from the world to himself. All are alike drawn, but by their perverse obduracy [stubbornness] many nullify all the power of grace and harden themselves in unbelief (Matt. 23:37), while others, in equal sin and guilt, are converted by this same power of grace. Why some are thus lost and others won, all being under the same grace, constitutes a mystery insoluble by our minds, about which we know only this, that those who are lost are lost solely by their own guilt, while those who are won are won solely by divine grace. Jesus is speaking only of the latter when he says, “I will draw all unto me.”

Lenski is careful to point out that this cannot be by irresistible grace because of the totality of Scripture. Matt 23:37 is clear that the stubborn can resist God, ‘’Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (NRSVA)

5. Conclusion

The battles between Calvinism (monergism) and non-Calvinism (e.g. synergism) are seen in exegesis of John 6 and John 12.

The Calvinist interprets 6:37, 44 as referring to predestination of an elect group while the Lutheran exegete provides evidence to counter this irresistible grace view.

I conclude with Lenski that the biblical emphasis is that God provides salvation, extends his grace to all people, but they can be stubborn and resist his offer of salvation.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality (Rom 2:6-11 ESV).

See my related articles:

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to right What is the nature of human free will?

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightCalvinists, free will and a better alternative

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightCan people choose to reject salvation?

Image result for clipart single color arrow pointing to rightSproul damns Arminianism by association with semi-Pelagianism

6.   Works consulted

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

Gerber, J 2017. Chapter 14: The Food of Jesus (online). Available at: https://jacobgerber.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/John-6-22-59.pdf (Accessed

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 Lutheran Book Concern; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Vincent, M R 1887/1946. Word studies in the New Testament, vol 2: The writings of John. New York City, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons (reprinted 1946. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

7.   Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2019. ‘Total Inability: Gen 1-4’, atpollard#59, 3 September. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/total-inability-genesis-1-4.30088/page-3#post-618543 (Accessed 4 September 2019).

[2]Synergism is defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result that is not obtainable independently.  In our natural world there are many synergistic relationships.  The same is true of the spiritual.

From a Biblical perspective this means that God and humanity work together, each contributing their part to produce salvation for the individual.  In other words God will not save a man without the man – God will not save a woman without the woman.  God works with the man, the woman, to produce this glorious salvation.

Synergism is the teaching of the Word of God’ (Biblical Synergism. Accessed 5 September 2019).

[3]Monergism: In regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh — giving rise to a delight in His Word — all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ’ (What is monergism? Accessed 5 September 2019).

[4] He inserted ‘through the means of grace (Word and Sacrament)’, which I’ve deleted, as I don’t consider that people are drawn to Christ by the means of the Word of God and Sacrament. Instead, they are drawn through the proclamation of the Gospel. See Rom 10:17.

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

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John 12:32: Jesus’ drawing all people

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does Jesus draw all people to the Gospel, anywhere in the world where no Gospel preachers have been in person or nobody has heard the Gospel by radio or any other means?

Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB) gives this as its mission: ‘Reach Beyond is part of a global community committed to reaching unreached people groups with the gospel through the use of dynamic media and high quality programs along with healthcare and community development’.[1]

How can Jesus draw all people to Himself?

1. Meaning of John 12:32

I interacted with a person on a Christian forum who cited a string of biblical references to answer these questions:

  • Can the natural man comprehend the gospel or come to saving knowledge of God on his own?
  • Can men of themselves accept God’s gift of salvation? Do men choose God or come to Him on their own?[2]

My response was: ‘you seem to have missed out one important verse from Jesus: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 NIV).[3]

His comeback was: ‘Context directs Jesus is speaking about judgement in this verse. All men will stand before the Judge’. Then he gave these verses of support: John 12:31-32, 37-40, 47-49. His conclusion was:

The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. It is our commission to be salt and light in this dark world. We continue to give witness and testimony to the glory God has yet to reveal in which we who believe are partakers. We in ourselves are powerless in bringing about belief for in our unbelief the Gospel is folly. Yet in His mercy some do come to belief despite ourselves (sic). God is no respecter of persons, therefore all creeds and colors, all social classes both great and small, people from every nation will come. But none can come unless it is granted by the Father. The Gospel is glory to those who believe, and condemnation to those who do not.
Glory be to God in the highest.
[4]

2. Which judgment?[5]

John 12:31-33 (NIV) states,

‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die’.

Krisis (judgment)[6] is spoken of also in John 3:17, 19-21; 5:22-30; 7:24; 8:16. While there will be judgment coming at the consummation of the age, these references that I’ve just given demonstrate that judgment began with Christ’s first coming. Since he is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12 NIV), those who follow Jesus will never walk in darkness. The rest walk in darkness – a judgment.

This judgment that Jesus began with his first coming forced a division between those who pursued evil deeds and those who accepted and embraced the light. In a similar fashion, Jesus’ death and resurrection (passion/glorification) draws people to himself (John 12:32 NIV) but it is also demonstrating ‘judgment on this world’ – not the last judgment, but judgment by rejecting the Son, which was rejecting God Himself (see John 5:23 NIV)

Remember the judgment expressed in John 5:24 (NIV), ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life’. This is judgment in this world that was inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection and the bringing of eternal life to those who believe.

At the cross, the world thought capital punishment judgment was being passed on Jesus but in the cross, Jesus was passing judgment on the world of sinners who were in rebellion against God.

So, commentator D A Carson, could write about John 12:31 (NIV), as context for John 12:32, ‘Now is the time for judgment on this world’,

Thus Jesus’ passion/glorification signifies judgment both positively and negatively. As far as “the world” is concerned, however, it can only be negative. There can be no further reprieve, for there can be no hope for those who reject the one Person whose death/exaltation is the epiphany of God’s gracious, saving self-disclosure (Carson 1991:443).

Therefore, John 12:32 (NIV) is affirming Jesus’ drawing all people to himself, in a judgment associated with his first coming, and believing or not believing in Him.

clip_image004For a fuller discussion of this verse, in association with verses in John 6, see the article: John 6:44: God’s drawing power for salvation

3.  Works consulted

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

4.  Notes

[1] Reach Beyond Australia 2017. ‘Who we are’. Available at: http://www.reachbeyond.org.au/who-we-are/reach-beyond-australia (Accessed 13 January 2017).

[2] Christianity Board 2017. Total depravity: Is it biblical? Justaname#18. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23426-total-depravity-is-it-biblical/ (Accessed 13 January 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[4] Ibid., justaname#25.

[5] This is from my post at ibid., OzSpen#26.

[6] Some of these details were from Carson (1991:442-443).

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

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Condemnation of modern Bible translations: He got it wrong

1 Samuel 24:3: ‘cover his feet’

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I met a person online who wanted to compare his first grade understanding of reading with Bible translations, especially with challenging the translation of one OT verse in the NIV.

This was his language:

When I was in the first grade, I learned with HORROR that the bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I didn’t like reading much to begin with, but this was just too much for me to withstand. Even at that young age, I saw no reason to believe the interpretations of someone else. I’m glad I stuck to that suspicion because I’ve found so many places where translators simply toss out the inspiration of the original authors in favor of their own dull translations.[1]

Then he gave an example of one of the translators’ ‘own dull translations’ in the New International Version (NIV) of the Old Testament:

Here’s a prime example. In the scene where David is hiding in a cave that Saul coincidently decides to use to relieve himself, the translators of the NIV present the situation devoid of anything one could view as inspired. Yet when we look at the originals, it is nothing less than divine. The NIV simply states that Saul “relieved himself”, but the original manuscripts depict Saul “covering his feet”. The wonderful thing about this euphemism is that it can still be employed today! It is criminal to take an author’s figurative language and discard it in favor of making the meaning more clear for the sake of the dullards among us. They could just as easily footnoted the passage and explained it in the footnote.[2]

He is so incompetent in the statement of his views that he didn’t bother to inform the readers of the exact verse to which he referred. It is 1 Samuel 24:3 (NIV).

1.  Study the meaning[3]

I replied: I do wish you would do your study to determine the meaning of this phrase, ‘cover his feet’. It doesn’t bring a meaning for this ‘dullard’ that you infer.

icons8-roundabout-48The NIV translates 1 Samuel 24:3 as ‘he came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave’.

icons8-roundabout-48The Easy-to-Read Version (1 Sam 24:3) translates as: ‘Saul came to some sheep pens beside the road. There was a cave near there, so Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were deep inside that same cave’.

This phrase is used also in Judges 3:24.

icons8-roundabout-48The more literal ESV translates 1 Sam 24:3 as: ‘And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself.a]”>[a] Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave’.

As you suggested, the ESV uses the footnote for ‘relieve himself’ as ‘cover his feet’.

icons8-roundabout-48The NASB gives an identical translation and footnote to the ESV: ‘He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to [a]relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave’ (1 Sam 24:3).

  • The point is: What does ‘cover his feet’ mean in the Hebrew context? Leading OT commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, made this comment on ‘cover his feet’: It ‘is a euphemism, according to most of the ancient versions, as in Judg 3:24, for performing the necessities of nature, as it is a custom in the East to cover the feet’ (Commentary on the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 24).

2.  Poo and Pee

The NIV, ESV, NASB and ERV provide perfectly legitimate translations for ‘cover his feet’ and its meaning for contemporary English.

Or, would you prefer, ‘Saul went into that place, removed his cloak to around his feet so he could do a poo and a pee’?

That’s what the phrase means and the NIV has given us a jolly good dynamic equivalence (meaning for meaning) translation of the phrase, ‘to relieve himself’.

3.  Support from other commentaries

  • Ellicott’s Commentary explains ‘cover his feet’: ‘It is an Eastern euphemism taken from spreading out the garments while relieving the needs of nature’.
  • Matthew Poole’s Commentary (Judg 3:24), ‘It is commonly understood in both places, of easing nature; because the men not then wearing breeches, as we do, but long coats, they did in that act cover their feet, as women do: but a late judicious interpreter expounds it of composing himself to take a little sleep or rest, as was very usual to do in the day-time in those hot countries;
  • Gill’s Exposition (Judg 3:24), ‘he covereth his feet in his summer chamber; that is, was easing nature; and, as the eastern people wore long and loose garments, when they sat down on such an occasion, their feet were covered with them; or they purposely gathered them about their feet to cover them, and so this became a modest expression for this work of nature’.

So the NIV translators did not ‘simply toss out the inspiration of the original authors in favor of their own dull translations’. Instead, they accurately translated the meaning of ‘covered his feet’ with ‘relieved himself’.

The fact is that the NIV got it right and you got it wrong.

4.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board 2019. The Hebrew New Testament (online), shnarkle#26, 23 August. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/the-hebrew-new-testament.29973/page-2 (Accessed 23 August 2019).

[2] Ibid.

[3] I responded as OzSpen#28.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2019.

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Unpacking 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Is trichotomy supported?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Image result for Bible image 1 Thessalonians 5:23

(image courtesy Heartlight)

I examine the controversial verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV): ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

On the surface this appears straight forward. People are made of three parts: spirit, soul and body. That’s signed, sealed and delivered. It’s as clear as crystal! Or, is it?

This verse is not an easy one to interpret for some of the following reasons. Are people tripartite beings – body, soul and spirit? Or are they bipartite – body and soul/spirit, with soul and spirit being interchangeable words for a person’s unseen, inner being?

It has caused long hours of study by Bible exegetes over the years. Commentator William Hendriksen gave his researched conclusions in 5 pages of small font in his commentary (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1983:146-150).

1. Introduction

Through the Judeo-Christian centuries, there have been three main views on the nature of human beings. They are:

1.1 Trichotomy

Human beings consist of body, soul and spirit. This was held by the Greek church fathers and has its origin with the Greek philosopher, Plato. This appears to be the view supported by 1 Thess 5:23. However, it’s the only NT verse I could find that stated this trichotomous view of people.

Kim Riddlebarger’s (2010) assessment was:

With its roots in Plato’s distinction between body and soul, and Aristotle’s further division of soul into “animal” and “rational” elements, the trichotomist notion of human nature as tri-partite is unmistakably Greek and pagan, rather than Hebrew and biblical. As Louis Berkhof notes, “the most familiar but also the crudest form of trichotomy is that which takes the body for the material part of man’s nature, the soul as the principle of animal life, and the spirit as the God-related rational and immortal element in man” (Berkhof 1941:191).

1.2 Dichotomy

Dichotomy means that human beings consist of body and soul/spirit. The immaterial part of a human being is described as either soul or spirit. This is the view of the Latin speaking Western theology in the early centuries of the church.

1.3 Unitarian or unitary

This view ‘rejects any kind of dualism. Man is simply made of the physical stuff of which the body is made. There is no soul, or spirit, or immaterial part of man that is distinct from the body’ (Craig 2009).

Therefore, I will not give a simplistic answer, especially in light of these …

2. Challenging verses

Le Brun, Charles - The Martyrdom of St. Andrew - Google Art Project.jpg(image of martyrdom of St. Andrew, courtesy Commons Wikimedia)

Matt 10:28 (NIV): Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell’. No ‘spirit’ here.

Matt 22:37 (NIV): ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 8:36 (NLT): ‘And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Mark 12:30 (NIV): ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ No ‘spirit’ here.

Acts 20:10 (NASB): ‘But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life [psuche] is in him.”’ Psuche is rightly translated as ‘life’. The term for ‘spirit’ is not used here.

1 Cor 2:14-15 (NASB), ‘But a natural [psuchikos] man does not accept the things of the Spirit [pneuma] of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [pneumatikos] appraised. But he who is spiritual [pneumatikos] appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one’.

So, the adjectives based on psuche (soul) and pneuma (spirit) are different in meaning.

1 Cor 7:34 (NIV), ‘An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband’. No ‘soul’ is used here.

Rom 1:9 (NIV), ‘God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you’. No ‘soul’ or ‘body’ here.

Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’. Soul and spirit are clearly different words and they can be ‘divided’ according to this verse.

What does it mean to penetrate ‘even to dividing soul and spirit’?

1 Pet 3:9 (NIV): ‘After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits….’ No ‘souls’ here.

Rev 8:9 (NASB): ‘and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life [psuche], died; and a third of the ships were destroyed’. No ‘spirit’ here.

3. William Hendricksen’s conclusions

He provides exegesis in his commentary to support this conclusion:

a. The trichotomistic appearance of the passage is considerably reduced as soon as it is seen that the words in dispute are found not in one clause but in two clauses:

hence not: “And may your spirit and soul and body be kept …”

but

“And without flaw may be your spirit,

and your soul-and-body

…………………………….

May it be kept.”

But thus rendering the passage we can do justice to its grammatical syntax and even to its word-order [and may your the spirit, the soul, and the body be preserved (completely) whole].

b. Every trace of trichotomy which still remains can be obliterated in one of these ways:

(1) by considering the word “soul” to have the same meaning as “spirit,” the change from “spirit” to “soul” having been introduced for stylistic reasons. This eliminates trichotomy.

(2) by accepting the position that although both “spirit” and “soul” refer to the same immaterial substance (hence, no trichotomy here either!), this substance is viewed first (in one clause) from the aspect of its relation to God – the “spirit” being man’s power of grasping divine things, his invisible essence viewed as a recipient of divine influences and as an organ of divine worship – ; then, in the next clause, from the aspect of its relation to the lower realm, as the seat of sensations, affections, desires. This could well be the true element in theory e.

If a choice must be made, I would prefer this second alternative. It is in harmony with the distinction between the two words which is present elsewhere (as has been shown). There is also an interesting parallel in a somewhat similar passage, Heb. 4:12, where it is obvious that the two words have distinct meanings.

The main point has been proved, namely, that, either way, every trace of trichotomy has disappeared (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955/1984:150).

I have a problem with this kind of explanation as it seems to be a begging the question logical fallacy (circular reasoning) where the non-trichotomous view (dichotomy) is assumed at the beginning and leads to the same non-trichotomous (dichotomous) conclusion.

For a detailed discussion of the difficulties with this verse, see the commentary in Hendriksen & Kistemaker (1955/1985:146-150).

3.1 A better explanation

Let’s look at the Greek construction of 1 Thess 5:23 (transliterated): hagiazw hymeis holoteleskai kai terew hymeis ho pneuma kai ho psyche kai ho swma terew holokleros ...

The literal translation is: ‘and may [the God of peace] sanctify you completely your (the) spirit and the soul and the body be preserved (completely) whole’.

Therefore, the meaning is not to develop support for a trichotomous view of human beings but for a holistic view of people. Lenski explained:

The question is simple: “is man composed of two or of three parts?” In other words, can spirit and soul be divided as soul and body can? A reference to Heb. 4:12 does not establish the affirmative. Man’s material part can be separated from his immaterial part; but the immaterial part cannot be divided; it is not a duality of spirit and soul.

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates. Death is described as the spirit’s leaving the body and as the soul’s leaving, for it is the sundering of the immaterial from the material (Lenski 1937:366-367).

4. A simpler explanation

Let’s examine Heb 4:12 (NIV): ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’.

This verse states that we can differentiate between a human being’s unseen part and what is seen. But it is not decisive in dividing soul from spirit. From other Scriptures such as 1 Cor 2:14-15 and 1 Thess 5:23 we find the immaterial part of the “spirit” relating to God and are able to discern God’s Spirit and Scripture. The immaterial part, called the “soul” indicates that which relates to life in the body and is associated with perceptions and desires – often carnal.

Also, at death what happens? Is it the soul or spirit that leaves the body?

4.1 At death, the soul leaves the body:

Genesis 35:18 (ESV): ‘And as her [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin’.

Matt 10:28 (ESV): ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].

Rev 6:9 (NIV): ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne’.

4.2 However, the spirit leaves the body at death:

Painting of a ship sinking by the bow, with people rowing a lifeboat in the foreground and other people in the water. Icebergs are visible in the background.(Painting “Untergang der Titanic” by Willy Stower, 1912, ‘ the sinking of the Titanic’, courtesy Wikipedia)

James 2:26 (ESV): ‘For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead’.

Eccl 12:7 (ESV): ‘and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’.

Luke 23:36 (ESV): ‘Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last’.

Luke 8:54-55 (ESV): ‘But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given to her to eat’.

Is this sending a contradictory message about the naming and function of the immaterial part of a human being? Some verses state the soul leaves the body at death while others take the view the spirit departs from the body. How do we resolve this difficulty?

5. Conclusion

There is enough biblical evidence to indicate that at death the immaterial part (whether named soul or spirit) leaves the body. i.e. the immaterial part leaves the material body to go to the Intermediate State to be with God or separated from God. The biblical data indicate the immaterial part of the human being is called soul or spirit. They are interchangeable words.

The Intermediate State is where all people go at death and it is not the grave. Only the body rots in the grave. See my article, The Intermediate State for believers and unbelievers: Where do they go at death?

John Calvin stated: ‘We, following the whole doctrine of God, will hold for certain that man is composed and consisteth of two parts, that is to say, body and soul’.

Leading apologist, William Lane Craig, in dialogue with a student stated:

When we get to the New Testament, it is indisputable that the language of the New Testament is dualistic throughout. You constantly have the dualism between soul and body, or spirit and body. No one denies that the language of the New Testament is dualistic. The only question is: is this to be taken literally, this dualistic language?

Here I think the answer is that this is meant to be taken literally especially when it concerns the intermediate state of the soul after death. When you have the intermediate state of the dead in Christ described, it is very evident that these persons are still existent, that they are in communion with Christ, and are awaiting the resurrection. In other words, it is exactly the traditional Jewish view that we have attested in the intertestamental Jewish literature.

The only difference is that the souls of the righteous dead are said to be with Christ, not kept in treasuries or chambers or sockets, but rather they have gone to be with Christ. So there is a Christian spin on it, but it is the traditional Jewish dualistic view (Craig 2009).

However, eminent Old Testament scholar, Gleason Archer, wrote of 1 Thess 5:23, ‘Quite clearly, then, the spirit is distinct from the soul, or else these verses add up to tautological nonsense. We therefore conclude that man is not dichotomic (to use the technical theological term) but trichotomic’ (Archer 1982:260).

In spite of Archer’s protestations, the evidence points to the soul and spirit being evidence for the unseen part of human beings.

I find Lenski’s explanation (as above) one of the simplest and soundest I’ve read to explain 1 Thess 5:23 and Heb 4:12,

Where, as here [in 1 Thess 5:23], spirit and soul are distinguished, the spirit designates our immaterial part as it is related to God, as being capable of receiving the operations of the Spirit of God and of his Word; while soul (psuche) designates this same immaterial part in its function of animating the body and also as receiving impressions from the body it animates.

6. Works consulted

Archer, G L 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House). Available online HERE.

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Craig, W L 2009. The doctrine of man (Part 5). Reasonable Faith (podcast online), 15 March. Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-man/the-doctrine-of-man-part-5/ (Accessed 23 June 2019).

Hendriksen, W & Kistemaker, S J 1955/1984. New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1937 and assigned in 1961 by Augsburg Publishing House).

Riddlebarger, K 2010. Trichotomy: A Beachhead for Gnostic Influences. Reformed Perspectives, vol 12, no 47, November 21-27. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ekim_riddlebarger%5Ekim_riddlebarger.Trichotomy.html&at=Trichotomy. (Accessed 31 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 August 2019

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Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:

‘ACL[1] managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).

The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:

In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.

“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).

1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge

I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.

I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …

  • Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
  • A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
  • Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.

Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.

I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.

The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (
Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).

2. Christian woman disagrees

A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church[2] established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:

  • When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
  • The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
  • She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
  • She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
  • Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
  • Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
  • She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
  • Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
  • The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
  • What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
  • The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
  • Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.

3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.

Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:[3]

Izzy began:

To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6

2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018

Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.

What is the Jesus Only false teaching?

Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).

As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism,[4] Monarchianism,[5] and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).

3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology

I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:

  • “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.

This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).

Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.[6]

  •  Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’

What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.

If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration[7] and glossolalist regeneration,[8] both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.

This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.

3.2 False teaching affirmed

As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:

Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).

In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.

4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy

Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?

If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.

Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

clip_image003Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

Politipower provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[9] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.

This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.

Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.

These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.

5. Conclusion

I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.

He belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.

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(image courtesy christart.com)

6. Works consulted

Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).

news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

7.  Notes

[1] ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[2] Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).

[3] Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).

[4] See: Michael 2013. Is modalism biblical? Youth Apologetics Training (online), 12 June. Available at: http://youthapologeticstraining.com/modalism/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[5] See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[6] Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[7] To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[8] See the article, Tongues and baptism for salvation. Let Us Reason Ministries. Available at: http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes15.htm (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[9] The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 July 2019.

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Hope for a Hopeless Australia

Salvation gives you hope that is out of this world (1 Peter 1:13)

Image result for Clipart Hope Christ's second coming

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In today’s values, this verse could be mutilated to say something like: “Don’t let your feelings be judged by anybody. In your thoughts and actions, be open-minded. You do whatever brings you pleasure right now. Set your sights on your self-esteem and go for it with gusto.”

I’m using ‘hopeless’ as an adjective for the wrong direction in which Australians, as a nation, are seeking hope. We seek it in:

blue-arrow-small Consumerism. We are a materialistic society seeking pleasure in things. ‘Australians spent up to $2.4 billion at the Boxing Day sales [2017]’.

blue-arrow-small False ethical standards. Ethical values by government and individuals – in the main – are decided by personal or government choice. There is no overall absolute standard by which moral decisions are made (e.g. Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount). We see this with the legalisation of prostitution, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, exaltation of same-sex relationships, transgenderism, and defacto relationships. Every one of those ethical values is refuted by the Christian Scriptures but relativism dominates ethical decisions at both national and personal levels.

All About Philosophy provides this explanation:

What is ethical relativism? Relativism is the position that all points of view are equally valid and the individual determines what is true and relative for them (sic). Relativism theorizes that truth is different for different people, not simply that different people believe different things to be true. While there are relativists in science and mathematics, ethical relativism is the most common variety of relativism. Almost everyone has heard a relativist slogan:

  •  What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me.
  •  What’s right for my culture won’t necessarily be what’s right for your culture.
  •  No moral principles are true for all people at all times and in all places.

Ethical relativism represents the position that there are no moral absolutes, no moral right or wrong. This position would assert that our morals evolve and change with social norms over a period of time.

The problems with relativism are:

3d-gold-star (1) In allowing all people to choose their own values, there is no value that can be prohibited because ethics are left up to personal choice. Why should murder be wrong if a person is allowed to choose his or her own values? From where do those standards come?

3d-gold-star (2) The logical consequences of relativism are that it gives licence to all kinds of extreme behaviour such as paedophilia, DV, Hitler’s holocaust, the mass shootings in Christchurch NZ and Sri Lanka, murders, lying, stealing, adultery and all kinds of immoral acts (by God’s standards).

They are some of the problems when there are no absolute standards. All nations need absolutes to make legislation and apprehend criminals.

· 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’.

God’s view is radically different.

1. God’s view of hope

God commands Peter’s readers, you and me to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 13). These persecuted believers of the first century “were to set their hope completely, with finality, on the grace being brought to them in connection with Jesus Christ’s revelation” (Blum 1981: 52).

When the going gets tough and you are persecuted for your faith, your salvation means that you place your hope completely on the future grace that you will receive when Christ is revealed. When will Christ be revealed again?

We know he was revealed at his birth, death and resurrection. But these believers are told that they must place their hope on the grace “that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV). It was future for the first century church and it is still future for us.

It undoubtedly refers to Christ’s Second Coming (the Parousia). We read about it in I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Or, 1 Cor. 1:7, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Also 2 Thess. 1:7, “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

During these tough times, you will need one another especially. That’s why Scripture teaches:

We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer. (Heb 10:25 ERV).

2. What is hope?

Our hope is NOT based on the temporal, but on the future revelation of the Lord Jesus. It is sometimes said of Christians that “they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Folks, the true Christian is one who is not half-heartedly, but completely and fully, setting his/her hope on the Christ who is to come.

Stephen Spencer states that:

Hope is waiting in confident expectation for God’s promises in Christ, summed up in the gospel. Hope is fundamental because the gospel concerns God’s culmination of his redemptive work, “the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed” (1 Pet 1:13 NRSV), the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Most of what for which we trust in Christ remains yet future (Rom 8:24b)….

Christians hope “by faith” (Gal 5:5). Faith trusts in God’s promises, while hope expects what is to come….

Christians’ most cherished hope is Christ’s personal, bodily return in judgment and blessing[1]

We are of great earthly good, because our hope is set on Him and his coming to rule and reign forever. If you set your hope on anything in this world, you are on a sinking ship. Chuck Colson’s view is that “the culture in which we live is nearly lost” (Colson 1994, p. x). What a tragedy that so many Christians have their hope on the sinking ship.

If you set your hope on who will win the election, you’re on board the Titanic – a sunken ship.

In order to “set your hope completely” on God’s grace at Christ’s second coming, Peter tells his persecuted readers that you must do two things:

Flower11 First, you are “preparing your minds for action” and

Flower11 Second, “exercise self-control” (1 Pet 1:13 NLT).

3. Simply stated

Hope is not a hope so, maybe, perhaps, it could be, or possibly!

It means you look forward, with anticipation, to Jesus’ second coming, the end of this wretched world, and ‘we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. Godliness will live there. All this is in keeping with God’s promise’ (2 Pet 3:13 NIRV).

It is not a hope-so but the guarantee of God’s grace coming to believers at the Second Coming of Christ with the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, what are Christians to do? See 1 Pet 1:13:

Foward  Prepare your minds for action, and

Foward Exercise personal and church self-control.

4. Notes

[1] Stephen R Spencer 2005. Hope. In Kevin J Vanhoozer (gen ed), Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 305-307.

5. Works consulted

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

Hope Butterfly Clip Art

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 April 2019.

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The Rapture in the early church fathers

1 Thessalonians 4:17 on the Rapture

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think anyone in the Christian church could be so audacious to make this kind of statement about eschatology (end times)? ‘The Rapture doctrine is only taught in America. Hardly anyone outside the US believes in such things’.[1]

1. Misinformation re rapture teaching

I found this statement not only overconfident but also ignorant of what is going to happen at the time of Christ’s second coming that will end world history.

Therefore, my response was:[2]

Come across the Tasman from NZ (Angelina lives in NZ) and you’ll find lots of people in Australia who also teach the Rapture, especially in Dispensational circles. I was taught it in an Assemblies of God Bible College in Brisbane in the 1970s. You’ll find it among Baptists, Wesleyan Methodists, especially Christian Brethren (Gospel Hall), and other evangelicals. There is a large Open Brethren assembly 15 minutes from where I live that teaches the Rapture.

2. Who will teach the Rapture?

clip_image004Any promoters of premillennial, pre-, mid- or post-tribulation eschatology, will promote the Rapture. See some examples in this publication (image on left) that deals with three views of the rapture.

Anyone who accepts one of these eschatological views will promote a Rapture of the saints. Here we have Three Views of the Rapture (Gundry et al 1996) that could be taught in any country around the world.

If you read the beliefs of Northside Baptist Church, Perth WA, Australia, you’ll see the doctrine of the Rapture taught. Here’s a list of Christian Brethren assemblies in your own country of New Zealand that teach the Rapture doctrine.

The Rapture is certainly not a doctrine restricted to North America. One of the leading verses used by Bible teachers to proclaim the Rapture is …

2.1    Interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Therefore, how do we understand 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (ESV), ‘Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord’?

What does ‘caught up together’ mean? The catching/snatching up is into the clouds to meet the Lord. Should this be taken literally or is there some symbolic view here that shoots down literal interpretation?

Is the Rapture bunkum doctrine promoted for ecstatic, futuristic reasons? Is this an over-the-top brand of exuberant pre-mill, pre-trib fundamentalism that is designed to get a following of those looking for a way out of this wicked world?

This is the context of verse 17 in 1 Thess 4:13-17 (NABRE):[3]

13 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers [and sisters], about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together[4] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.

To what is verse 17 referring? This is my:

2.1.1   Textual outline of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

clip_image006(photo courtesy Rapture bombs’: Clothes at the end)

a. Be aware of the destiny of those who have died (fallen asleep) (v. 13).

b. Don’t grieve like those who have no hope (after death) (v. 13).

c. Belief in Jesus’ death & resurrection at death puts you in the group coming with Jesus when he returns (v. 14).

d. The Lord’s word is: Those alive when Jesus’ returns will not precede [rising before] those who have died (v. 15).

e. The Lord’s shout / trumpet will be blasted as he returns and the dead in Christ rise first (v. 16).

f. Those sill alive will be caught up (raptured) with the Lord and others in the air (v. 17).

g. Then all believers will be with the Lord always (v. 17).

Another on that Christian forum spoke up:

I have been to [a] couple of countries where protestant denominations teach Rapture. They did that even long before Iron Curtain came down and Americans got there.

The reason why Rapture was not taught until just a couple of centuries ago is because Christian doctrine was controlled by Catholic/Orthodox churches. In some countries Bibles in native languages were not even available until 18th century and few people were literate enough to read them.[5]

2.1.2  Exegesis of 1 Thess 4:17

The contentious verse 17 in the Greek can be read at SBLNT.

The key word causing controversy against the Rapture doctrine is harpagesometha. I need to get a little technical to parse this word and seek its meaning in lexicons and word studies. It is first person plural (i.e. ‘we’), future, passive, indicative of harpazw (will be caught up).

Harpazw means ‘I snatch or take away … in such a way that no resistance is offered’. Paul was ‘caught up to the third heaven’ (2 Cor 12:2). First Thess 4:17 is associated with this meaning of being snatched away with no way to resist (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:108).

The church being ‘caught up’ or raptured was taught long before J N Darby (1800-1882).[6] Darby was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren denomination in the UK who promoted his dispensational theories, beginning in the Anglican church but he found no satisfaction there (see Graves 2007).

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In his word study of harpazw, Foerster (1964:472) gave the meaning as ‘to take something forcefully (firmly, quickly, or rapaciously)’.[7] It can mean ‘to steal’ (Josephus) and in the NT is is ‘used in parables to speak of conflict between the kingdom of God and that of Satan… It occurs at 2 Cor:12:2, 4 (vision); 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 12:5 (“to catch up or away”); Acts 8:39 – always expressing a mighty operation of God’.

A T Robertson’s assessment was that harpazw was an ‘old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin rapio…. This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul’s argument of consolation’ (Robertson 1931:32). Vincent’s word studies (1887/1946:43) gives the meaning of ‘shall be caught up’ to include ‘by a swift, resistless, divine energy’ (cf. 2 Cor 12:2, 4; Acts 8:39).

Therefore, the meaning of ‘caught up’ in 1 Thess 4:17 is to be caught up or taken away forcefully by a mighty operation of God, called the Rapture.

The message of the Rapture in 1 Thess 4:17 harmonises with Jesus’ statements about his Second Coming in Matthew 24:36-44 (NLT):

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[k] Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Christians don’t know the time of the Second Coming of Jesus and the Rapture of the church. Only God the Father knows that. However, those who love the Lord live in glorious expectation of meeting our Master and Saviour.

3. If you don’t know the information, use a logical fallacy

His reply was this sarcasm: ‘It is your opinion only. One of millions in at least a dozen of variations of beliefs on this topic. Go ahead and start a million first pre-post-mid-none trib topic’.[8] My rejoinder was, ‘It was NOT my opinion. I provided you with evidence from a church father to refute your view, but that’s not good enough’.[9]

Notice what he did. I provided the evidence so he erected a straw man logical fallacy. This happened when Skitnik ignored the evidence I presented and created his own distorted misrepresentation of what I stated. I provided evidence from Irenaeus that the rapture teaching was taught long before the last 2 centuries. His comeback was that it was my opinion. No, I provided the evidence that his statement was incorrect but he refused to accept that.

4.   Evidence from other early church fathers or literature

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The Shepherd of Hermas (ca. 150):[10]

You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then you prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and you spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly (Hermas, vision 4, ch 2, emphasis added).

Irenaeus (ca AD 130-202) wrote in his famous treatise, Against Heresies (5.29.1)

Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance — in fact, as nothing;” (1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” (2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption (emphasis added).

The church being ‘suddenly caught up’ is parallel with the language of 1 Thess 4:17.

Cyprian (ca. 200-258)[11] wrote in Treatise 7:

And this, as it ought always to be done by God’s servants, much more ought to be done now— now that the world is collapsing and is oppressed with the tempests of mischievous ills; in order that we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. If in your dwelling the walls were shaking with age, the roofs above you were trembling, and the house, now worn out and wearied, were threatening an immediate destruction to its structure crumbling with age, would you not with all speed depart? If, when you were on a voyage, an angry and raging tempest, by the waves violently aroused, foretold the coming shipwreck, would you not quickly seek the harbour? Lo, the world is changing and passing away, and witnesses to its ruin not now by its age, but by the end of things. And do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an earlier departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? (Cyprian 7.25)

Ephraim (AD 306 – 373) was made a deacon in the church in Syria in 338 and later became the bishop of Nisibis. Although he was made a “saint” in the Roman Catholic Church, he was not involved in Catholicism and did not even live in the Roman Empire until the final years of his life. The book Pseudo Ephraim is one of his still existing works. It was called “Pseudo” because of later dispute over authorship. However the book’s one reference to the rapture is very compelling.

In his work, On The Last Times 2, he wrote:

We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated), and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brother, because the coming (advent) of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very last time.

Or do you not believe unless you see with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!” For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. And so, brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of the world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the Lord. And we think that the earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and incursions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed, although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!’

With a sense of urgency and strong warning, Ephraim writes that the end times are upon this world and could start at any moment. This text very clearly states the saints and elect of God, all born again believers in The Lord Jesus Christ, will be “taken to the Lord” before the Great Tribulation. Ephraim also identifies the Old Testament Day of The Lord and the end times Great tribulation as the same event (in line with the teachings of the Beginning and End Rapture Series). Ephraim quotes Amos 5:18 which says: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light” (source).

5.   John Gill on the Rapture [12]

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clip_image012Dr. John Gill, a famous eighteenth-century Baptist theologian, published his commentary on the New Testament in 1748. He is considered a serious Calvinistic scholar who wrote many volumes on theology. In his commentary on I Thessalonians 4:15-17, Gill pointed out that Paul is teaching a doctrine that is ‘something new and extraordinary’. Gill calls the imminent translation of the saints ‘the rapture’ and calls for watchfulness because ‘it will be sudden, and unknown before-hand, and when least thought of and expected’. This is a clear, detailed 1748 teaching on the imminent pre-tribulation rapture (80 years prior to John Darby in 1830).

To summarise Dr. Gill’s 1748 pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching about the sequence of prophetic events it is vital to note that he declared: to all.

1. The Lord will descend in the air.
2. The saints will be raptured in the air to meet Him.
3. Here Christ will stop in the air and will be visible.
4. As yet, He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him.
5. He’ll take up the saints with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over.
6. He will preserve them from it.
7. And then shall all the elect of God descend from heaven to earth with Christ.

Gill then summarised the sequence:

1) They shall be with Him, wherever He is; first in the air, where they shall meet Him, then Him; then
2) In the third heaven, where they shall go up with
3) On earth, where they shall descend and reign with Him a thousand years.

6.   Philip Schaff: The Earliest Church Fathers Were Premillennial[13]

Without question, premillennialism was the earliest and most widely held view by leading teachers in the earliest centuries of the church. The dean of church historians, Philip Schaff wrote, ‘The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene Age [A.D. 100-325] is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism,… a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papia, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius’ (Schaff 1884:2.614).

German historian Adolph Harnack wrote,

First in point of time came the faith in the nearness of Christ’s second advent and the establishing of His reign of glory on the earth. Indeed it appears so early that it might be questioned as an essential part of the Christian religion…. It must be admitted that this expectation was a prominent feature in the earliest proclamation of the gospel, and materially contributed to its success. If the primitive churches had been under the necessity of framing a “Confession of Faith,” it would certainly have embraced those pictures by means of which the near future was distinctly realized.[14]

7. The Rapture – Not Historic Christian Teaching?

clip_image014This (to the left) is Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris’s caricature of a raptured person[15]

His theology is:

In this brief article, Fr. Anthony expresses with clarity the truth of the false teaching known as the “Rapture” and how much it distorts the teachings of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures.

As I was driving one day I encountered a bumper sticker admonishing me:

“WARNING! In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.”

The strange belief in the Rapture teaches that some day (sooner rather than later), without warning, born-again Christians will begin to float up from the freeway, abandoned vehicles careening wildly. There will be airliners in the sky suddenly with no one at the controls! Presumably, God is removing these favored ones from earth to spare them the tribulation of the Anti-Christ which the rest of us will have to endure.

Unfortunately the Rapture has been promoted widely by the Left Behind series of books that have sold over 70 million copies.

The Rapture represents a radical misinterpretation of Scripture. I remember watching “Sixty Minutes”a year ago and was appalled to hear the announcer say that “the Rapture is an unmistakenly Christian doctrine”. It is not!

It is a serious distortion of Scripture.

It is astonishing that a belief so contrary to Scripture and the tradition of the Church could be propagated by so-called “Christians”.[16]

That was Father Coniaris’s view. It is not mine. As long as 1 Thess 4:16 is in the Bible, it will announce that there will be no secret Rapture:

‘For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first’ (NABRE).

8. No secret Rapture

Confusion enters this discussion when pre-tribulation promoters claim that Christians will be whisked away before the tribulation. It will be a secret rapture of the saints, they claim. Erickson (1985:1187) notes the biblical emphasis: ‘While the fact of the second coming is very emphatically and clearly asserted in Scripture, the time is not. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that we do not know and cannot ascertain the exact time when Jesus will return’. See Mark 13:32-33, 35 (ESV) where it states,

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come…. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning.

Norman Geisler summarised the Pretribulationism of Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord & Dwight Pentecost:

Pretribulationism holds that the Rapture of the church occurs before the Tribulation, during which the church, Christ’s bride, will be in heaven, standing before His judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10) and preparing for His return to earth. Pretribulationism holds that Christ’s coming for His saints will be in the air and before the Tribulation; after the Tribulation, Christ will come with His saints and to earth to reign for a thousand years (Geisler 2005:612).

To address further aspects of this eschatology, see my articles,

clip_image016 Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

clip_image016[1] A pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding

clip_image016[2] What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

9.   Conclusion

If people take the Scriptures seriously, they will confirm a Rapture according to 1 Thess 4:17. However, there is no unanimity on when it will happen. It could be pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation.

To deny the Rapture is to deny the Scripture and the content of 1 Thess 4:17. I find it best to conclude with Norman Geisler: ‘Only believers who have received the power of the Holy Spirit are in Christ’s body (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:13), so only those who have this power will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:16-17)’ [Geisler 2005:548].

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

10. Works consulted

Bauer, W (transl, 4th rev, & aug ed), Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W, 1957, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, trans. & adapt. of Bauer, W, The University of Chicago Press (limited edition, Zondervan Publishing House), Chicago.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Coniaris, A M n.d. The Rapture – not historic Christian teaching. Orthocath (online). Available at: https://orthocath.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/the-rapture-not-historic-christian-teaching/ (Accessed 15 September 2016).

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Foester, W 1964. harpazw, in Kittel, G (ed) Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1, 372-373. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 2005. Systematic theology: Church, last things, vol 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Graves, D 2007. John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Christian History (online), April. Available at: https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/john-darby-of-the-plymouth-brethren-11630602.html (Accessed 28 February 2019).

Gundry, S N; Archer Jr., G L; Feinberg, P D; Moo, D J & Reiter, R R 1984,1996. Three views on the rapture: pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Harnack, A 1883. Millennium. The Encyclopedia Britannica, XVI, 9th ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Jeffrey, G n.d. Three fascinating discoveries! Rapture Ready (online). Available at: http://www.raptureme.com/terry/james27.html (Accessed 6 June 2016).

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Schaff, P 1884. History of the Christian church, vol 2. New York: Scribner.

Showers, R E 1990. There really is a difference! A comparison of covenant and dispensational theology. Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.

Vincent, M R 1887/1946. Word Studies in the New Testament, vol 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

11.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board, Intense dreams, I need answers (online), Angelina#3, 30 November 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22150-intense-dreams-i-need-answers/#entry276105 (Accessed 2 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[3] This translation is the New American Bible (Revised edition), which is not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible. The NABRE is a Roman Catholic version.

[4] The footnote here in the NABRE was: ‘Literally, snatched up, carried off; cf. 2 Cor 12:2; Rev 12:5. From the Latin verb here used, rapiemur, has come the idea of “the rapture,” when believers will be transported away from the woes of the world; this construction combines this verse with Mt 24:40–41 (see note there) // Lk 17:34–35 and passages from Revelation in a scheme of millennial dispensationalism.

[5] Christianity Board op. cit., Skitnik#8.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#10. Darby’s lifespan dates are from Christian History: John Nelson Darby. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-nelson-darby.html (Accessed 1 November 2016).

[7] Oxford Living Dictionaries (online) gives the meaning of ‘rapacious’ as: ‘Aggressively greedy or grasping’ (2019. s.v. rapacious).

[8] Christianity Board op cit., Skitnik#12.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[10] Date is from Cairns (1981:76).

[11] Lifespan from Cairns (1981:113).

[12] I gleaned this information about John Gill from Grant Jeffrey (n d).

[13] See: http://biblocality.com/forums/showthread.php?5663-The-Earliest-Church-Fathers-Were-Premillennial&s=a101604c8cc517077ef721ad4f042da4

[14] Adolph Harnack (1883:XVI, 314-315, in Showers (1990:117).

[15] Coniaris (n.d.).

[16] Ibid.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:7 June 2019.

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John 3:16 downgraded

How self-centredness replaced God-centredness

An edited version of this article is found at, Millennials choose fake theology  (On Line Opinion, 8 April 2019).

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(image courtesy 123RF)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What would influence Christians to ditch core Christianity for another kind of christianity?

Some of the process is expressed in an article in Fairfax newspapers (online) in Australia. This report on the research into how God-centred thinking has been replaced by another breed should be of concern to all Christians, especially evangelicals.

The replacement was self-centred picking and choosing what to believe in the Bible. Take a read of: Social media upends public’s Bible quote preferences.[1]

The research was associated with Reverend Dr Peter Phillips, director of CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology of St John’s College, Durham University, UK. He said: ‘Whereas once John 3:16 was the ‘poster-boy’ text of the 20th century, the latest star is Jeremiah 29:11’.
According to the article:

John 3:16 had been knocked of (sic) its pedestal in print by the social media era: “People don’t want to put a verse about Jesus’s death upon the cross on social media. It’s a bit heavy.” The passage, which reads: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” has been eclipsed in the UK by the offer of hope and prosperity in Jeremiah 29:11, according to YouVersion, a digital Bible provider with more than 350 million users.

It reads: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11 is also the favourite in nine other countries, including Canada and Australia.

 

1. An assessment

 

 

clip_image003(image courtesy KissClipart)

Here is my brief analysis of what I see happening in the UK with this digital Bible reading research of Millennials (or, Generation Y) who were born between 1982 and 2002.[2]

What is this article telling the Christian community that needs evaluation?

1.1 Fake theology[3] in the article

The false teaching in this article included:

clip_image005  1.1.1 People’s change in biblical emphasis and support.

This is told in the journalist’s writing:

In the beginning – and for centuries that followed – God’s sacrifice of Jesus to express his love on Earth was the favourite Bible passage of many Christians. But that is changing, as messages of hope and prosperity on social media find greater resonance with the younger generation.

The change in acceptance and emphases through social media is an example of pragmatism (what works best) in action. It is promoting fake theology when any generation promotes self-centredness instead of God-centredness.

That the Millennials discard John 3:16 for Jeremiah 29:11 is an example of abandoning Christo-centric theology for egotistic, feel-good theology.

Does it occur to these researchers and the Millennials that they are replacing the centre of Christianity with a bogus doctrine?

clip_image005[1]  1.1.2 From ‘poster boy’ to ‘star’: Christianity for the Oscars.

Fitzpatrick wrote:

“Whereas once John 3:16 was the ‘poster-boy’ text of the 20th century, the latest star is Jeremiah 29:11,” said Reverend Dr Peter Phillips, director of CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology of St John’s College, Durham University.

That one paragraph demonstrates a change in worldview by the Millennials. The change is from:

clip_image007 (1) God’s love for the world and Jesus’ sacrifice of his life to bring salvation to whomever believes, to

clip_image007[1] (2) The fake doctrine of prosperity and hope in the here and now.

clip_image005[2]  1.1.3 The crux of Christianity crucified by compromise.

Fitzpatrick again:

“People don’t want to put a verse about Jesus’s death upon the cross on social media. It’s a bit heavy.” The passage, which reads: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,”

So the cross of Christ and his shedding his blood to provide eternal life is ‘a bit heavy’ for social media.

I cannot imagine anyone with that approach standing up for their faith to the point of being a martyr like Peter, Paul, Polycarp, Hugh Latimer and those slaughtered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian.

clip_image009 (image courtesy TeePublic)

Compromise does not stoke fire in the heart of Christianity. Here we have an example of the Millennials who changed the truth of God (John 3:16) to fake theology (Jer 29:11).

clip_image005[3]  1.1.4 Let me interpret the Bible my own way.

This is done in true Frank Sinatra style, ‘My Way’.

According to experts, the switch is a product of social media and young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online (Fitzpatrick).

What is the ‘Bible’s Way’? This is every Christian’s responsibility, although directed to Timothy: ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 NASB, emphasis added).

You might say: You are cherry-picking a verse to support accurate handling / interpreting of the word of truth – the very thing that you accuse the Millennials of doing?

Please examine the context of 2 Tim 2:1-2 (NIRV),

My son, be strong in the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach in front of many witnesses. Pass on to people you can trust the things you’ve heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others also.

Timothy’s role of teaching others was central to his task of ‘accurately handling the word of truth’, as it is for all Bible teachers today. It is the role of all Christians to check out the Scriptures when any preacher or teacher speaks.

We know this from Acts 17:11 (NIRV):

The Berean Jews were very glad to receive Paul’s message. They studied the Scriptures carefully every day. They wanted to see if what Paul said was true. So they were more noble than the Thessalonian Jews.

It is every Christian’s responsibility to check any preaching or written teaching about Scripture.

According to these researchers, the switch from Christo-centric to self-centred fake theology is:

clip_image011  (a) ‘a product of social media’, and

clip_image011[1]  (b) ‘young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online’.

This is postmodern, deconstructed Christianity in action. Postmodernism is difficult to define simply. In this Fitzpatrick article we have an example of the trend that moves from ‘cold, hard facts’ (John 3:16) to ‘warm, fuzzy subjectivity’ (Jer 29:11).

Got Questions? has defined it as:

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Post-modern Christianity falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward…. When groups form under such thinking, theology and doctrine tend to lean more towards liberalism.
For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. This opens up all kinds of problems, as this lessens the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, and even disqualifies biblical truth as being absolute in many cases.[4]

Then add the deconstruction, reader-response elements of postmodernism. Here, an author’s intended meaning of a book or article does not provide the correct interpretation of his or her own work. The readers determine what any book or article means.

The ‘young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online’ is not the way to read any document to gain its true meaning. Expectations should not drive any person regarding the content of articles in The Sydney Morning Herald or History of Australia by Manning Clark, or the Bible.

You’ll appreciate that when many people read the one author’s book, there are many interpretations and each is as valid as the other – in deconstruction. So the intended meaning of any book of the Bible goes down the postmodern chute of confusing, multiple interpretations and nobody can say which is the correct meaning.

Imagine using that approach when completing your tax return, giving your driver’s licence details to a policeman, reading the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or the Bible. Which way does the promoter of postmodern deconstruction want us to read his or her own book? Literally or by deconstruction?

What I see in this preference of Jer 29:11 over John 3:16 is a deconstruction of biblical theology to replace it with fake theology, i.e. self-centredness instead of Christ-centredness.

It’s a different gospel of prosperity without the cross, hope without the atonement.

This is how the article describes postmodern theology in practice:

With apps such as Bible Lens – which allows users to create new images using their own photos overlaid with quotes from the Bible – and YouVersion’s search-by-emoji function soaring in popularity, Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings.

Bible Lens 

The YouVersion website explains Bible Lens:

YouVersion Bible Lens is the app that transforms your everyday photos into profound, Biblically-based artistic shareable images. Bible Lens lets you take a picture, or point to one you already have. It detects not only objects in your photo, but more importantly, the Biblical themes of the moment that photo captured… and then suggests Bible verses to match!

This highlights one of the issues with the YouVersion app approach. It matches your photos or artistic, shareable images to specific Bible verses. This is not the way to disciple people in important Christian disciplines of:

clip_image015   (a) contextual biblical interpretation,

clip_image015[1]   (b) learning not to cherry-pick single Bible verses to make them say what we want them to say,

clip_image015[2]   (c) refusing to use software that interferes with appropriate interpretation. This does not mean that all software linked to Bible knowledge is to be avoided. I access many articles online, including Bible translations through BibleGateway and BibleHub.

clip_image015[3]   (d) using the biblical themes of the moment that photos capture, and leaving the app to choose the Bible verse.

clip_image015[4]   (e) Since ‘YouVersion’s function [is] soaring in popularity, Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings’ (Fitzpatrick), Millennials have postmodernised the Bible through ‘search-by-emoji’. This leads to a pick-and-choose Christianity that avoids the wisdom and knowledge of God, gained through fear of Him.

I have no confidence that it will develop disciples who know how to study the Scriptures with the foundation, ‘Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding’ (Prov 9:10 ERV). All knowledge and wisdom must begin with the Lord or it is worthless.

Building a foundation for faith on apps that pick and choose Bible verses to go with the artistic images you use, is like building one’s house on the sand of intuitive emotion of feel-good faith. See Matthew 7:24-28. Taking action on what apps decide is not practising biblical Christianity.

‘Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings’ (Fitzpatrick). They sure have and it does not resemble the Gospel of John 3:16. It is time for God’s watchmen and watchwomen to stand up and be counted to counteract this Christless, fake gospel.

clip_image005[4]   1.1.5 Therapeutic, self-centred identity

The me-centred fake theology is declared in this kind of statement:

Reverend Dr Phillips, whose book Bible, Digital Culture and Social Media is published later this year, said: “We find that Millennials tend to share therapeutic messages – it’s far more about their own identity and how faith can help them in their future. The result is a shift in public display of the Bible.”

There you have it: ‘it’s far more about their own identity‘ and it’s ‘a shift in public display of the Bible’, according to the Millennials. The shift is more disturbing than public display of one’s identity.

A Christian’s personal identity is found in being made in the image and likeness of God (see Gen 1:26; 5:1–3; 9:6; Col 3:9–10; Eph 4:24–26; and James 3:9). Theologians down through the centuries have debated what it means for human beings to be created in God’s image. This is a reasonable summary of the meaning, in my view:

The image of God (Latin: imago dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. It sets human beings apart from the animal world, fits them for the dominion God intended them to have over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and enables them to commune with their Maker. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially.

Mentally, humanity was created as a rational, volitional agent. In other words, human beings can reason and choose. This is a reflection of God’s intellect and freedom. Anytime someone invents a machine, writes a book, paints a landscape, enjoys a symphony, calculates a sum, or names a pet, he or she is proclaiming the fact that we are made in God’s image.[5]

It is a radical change by YouVersion apps. It’s a leap of faith to another worldview of postmodern deconstruction that condemns any talk about truth. Absolute truth is taboo.

This is discarding biblical Christianity for feel-good millennial therapy. It is fake theology of personal importance over God Almighty’s sovereignty. Am I too dogmatic in labelling this as another gospel?

clip_image005[5]  1.1.6 Discard the context for therapeutic benefit

One of the major errors of the Millennials represented in this article is the approach to Christianity and its association with Jeremiah 29:11.

To whom was Jeremiah 29:11 addressed? This is the context of Jeremiah 29 (NET):

clip_image016(image, Babylonian Captivity, courtesy Pinterest)

 

clip_image018 ‘The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was addressed to the elders who were left among the exiles, to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the other people who were exiled in Babylon’ (Jer 29:1).

clip_image018[1] ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says to all those he sent into exile to Babylon from Jerusalem’ (Jer 29:4).

clip_image018[2] “For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘Do not let the prophets or those among you who claim to be able to predict the future by divination deceive you. And do not pay any attention to the dreams that you are encouraging them to dream. They are prophesying lies to you….”’ (Jer 29:8-9a)

clip_image018[3] ‘“For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore you to your homeland. For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope’” (Jer 29:10-11).

One of the ‘Comments’ posters examined the context of Jeremiah 29 and correctly interpreted verse 11:

From my cynical believers perspective you are absolutely right. Furthermore that passage is not about ‘me’ at all. It was written ‘to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon’. i.e. the Israelites held captive by the Babylonians after the invasion in 587BC. In fact here it is in context (from Jer 29):

10 When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”[6]

There are many problems with this approach to Christianity but hermeneutics (interpretation) is one of the BIG ones.

2. Post-truth in action

I consider Fitzpatrick’s content to be an example of Oxford Dictionaries word of the year in 2016, post-truth. which is ‘an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”’. (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2019. s.v. post-truth).

In context, this promise of Jer 29:11 is not for Christians in the 21st century. It was for the nation of Judah (cf. Jer 27 – 29, 39-43; Book of Ezra), the people carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. But it’s a classic example of feel-good Christianity in action. This time it avoids the truth of John 3:16 to replace it with an emotional appeal that is false because the verse is cherry picked and has no application to the believer today.

In my understanding of interpretation in context, it was not meant to extend contemporary hope and prosperity for Millennials in the 21st century. That meaning is generated out of context and provides false hope. Nevertheless, the Bible Society in the UK put this spin on it:

But the popularity of Jeremiah 29:11 also comes down to the context of social media, said the Bible Society.

“Passages like John 3:16 concern an eternal perspective and hope beyond death,” the society’s Rachel Rounds said. “These are not easy concepts to convey on social media, which doesn’t really do context or nuance and is a challenge for politicians, scientists and the Church alike”.

3. Conclusion

Two commanding themes against Christianity dominated this article.

clip_image020Firstly, postmodern fake theology replaced exegesis of the biblical text and its interpretation in context. It moves from facts to fuzzy feelings, driven by a reader-response technique of the reader determining the meaning of a text. Millennials decide for themselves what is ‘better’ faith than John 3:16. Since many readers read a text, there will be many interpretations and none of them is ‘correct’ in an absolute sense.

clip_image022Secondly, the post-truth view expressed in the article was that objective facts of Jesus’ life being given for the sins of the world are replaced by Millennials from a hope beyond death to a hope for now – prosperity.

All of this means self-centredness has replaced Christ-centredness. The result is a different gospel generated by fake theology.

This fake theology needs to be exposed by evangelicals and others who are concerned about the demise of truth in our culture.

However, this is a risk for evangelical Christianity that must be banished:

clip_image024

(image courtesy Pinterest)

4.   Notes

[1] Laura Fitzpatrick 2019. The Canberra Times (online)  25 February. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/europe/social-media-upends-public-s-bible-quote-preferences-20190225-p50zyy.html (Accessed 25 February 2019). This article is from the Telegraph, London.

[2] Although there are conflicting opinions about the timeline for the era of the Millennials, census bureau results (USA) show ‘that the millennial generation is the generation of children born between 1982 and 2002’ – Robert Farrington 2019. What is the Millennial Age Range and What Does That Mean Financially? The College Investor (online), 13 February. Available at: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/19793/millennial-age-range/ (Accessed 25 February 2019).

[3] I use ‘fake theology’ as an adaptation of ‘fake news’, which means, ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ (Collins English Dictionary 2019. s.v. fake news). So fake theology is false, sensational information circulated under the guise of orthodox biblical teaching.

[4] Got Questions 2002-2019. What is post-modern Christianity? (online). Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/post-modern-Christianity.html (Accessed 26 February 2019)).

[5] Got Questions 2019. What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? (online). Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/image-of-God.html (Accessed 26 February 2019).

[6] Fitzpatrick op. cit, sneakyguy12. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/europe/social-media-upends-public-s-bible-quote-preferences-20190225-p50zyy.html#comments (Accessed 25 February 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 26 February 2019.

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