Category Archives: Church

What is wrong with allegorical interpretation?

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(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

1. What is an allegory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Are there allegories in the Bible?

See examples in my article, What is literal interpretation?

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

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

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

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

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

3. What is allegorical interpretation?

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

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

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

3.1 Problems with allegorical preaching

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

Here is the crunch line of interpretation for this preacher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2   St Augustine’s strange allegorical interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this case, says Origen,

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

Clement of Alexandria - Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

4. What is literal interpretation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Image courtesy Quotefancy)

clip_image010[3]This anti-supernaturalism continues with:

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

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

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

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

4.1 Literal interpretation includes figures of speech[22]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.2 I do not use allegorical interpretation because:

clip_image018It destroys the meaning of the text.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.3 Compare allegorical interpretation with postmodern reconstruction

See 4.2 (2) above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image021

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

5. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

6.  Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Notes


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

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

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[13] Mark Dever defines expositional preaching as

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

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

[15] Ibid., 180.

[16] Ibid., 208.

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

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

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

[20] Ibid.

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

21 December 2020).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Was Jesus the Son of God or only the son of a woman?[1]

Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

(Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

Close-up street portrait of Dawid Samoszul, probably taken in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland, between 1936 and 1938. Dawid was killed in the Treblinka killing center at the age of 9. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Abe Samelson, View Archival Details)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Whenever I write a Christian-based article for On Line Opinion, it is guaranteed to receive a rant of abuse – mainly through the use of logical fallacies. These were some of the responses to my article, Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God?

1. Reactions from anti-Christians

One fellow who is known for his hostility wrote:

Jesus never claimed any more than the son of man. He’s on the record as allegedly saying, with regard to the miracles, it is not I who does these things, but the Father in me.
Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman. . . .

They also claim that Jesus was God (a false premise) and believe that confers some authority! And just risible rubbish, given they never ever had such authority! Never![2]

2. Was Jesus the Son of God?

It is too bad Alan B didn’t acquire accurate biblical knowledge to counter the ignorant statements like this. What he said here is blatantly false.
God, the Son, is regarded as God. He has the attributes of deity:

(1) Eternity (Jn 1:15; 8:58; 17:5, 24);

(2) Omniscience (Jn 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17);

(3) Omnipresence (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 3:13);

(4) Omnipotence. ‘I am the Almighty’ (Rev 1:8; Heb 1:3; Mt 28:18);

(5) Immutable (Heb 1:12; 13:8);

(6) He does the actions of deity:

  • creator (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:10; Col 1:16);
  • holds things together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3);
  • forgives sin (Mt 9:2, 6);
  • raises the dead (Jn 6:39-40, 54; 11:25; 20:25, 28);
  • he will be the Judge (Jn 5:22) of believers (2 Cor 5:10), of Antichrist and his followers (Rev 19:15), the nations (Ac 17:31), Satan (Gen 3:15) and the living and the dead (Ac 10:42).

Only Alan B’s bigotry against biblical content has caused him to reach his erroneous conclusion.[3]

3. A fundamentalist fanatic’s response[4]

“Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman.”

Yes, mate, evangelical believers like me, who take the Scriptures seriously, know that you are dumping your presuppositions on us.

You don’t know the Bible, do you? Why don’t you own up to the logical fallacies you use whenever articles on this forum clash with your worldview, particularly Christian-related topics?

Let’s check the Scriptures: ‘Jesus answered, “The fact is, before Abraham was born, I Am.” When he said this, they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus hid, and then he left the Temple area” (John 8:58-59).

We know from John chapter 5 that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. This did not please the Jewish leaders as they questioned Jesus about his violation of the Jewish law. Jesus claimed authority over the Sabbath.

Those Jews began trying to make Jesus stop these actions on the Sabbath. ‘But he said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I work too.” This made them even more determined to kill him. They thought it was bad enough that he was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. And now he was saying that God is his Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD’ (John 5:16-18).

Have you ever read this in Scripture? Peter called Jesus, “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? Did Jesus support your view and emphatically deny he was the Son of God? Not at all! Jesus’ response was: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt 16:17).

Jesus emphatically affirmed he was the Son of God and not just the son of man. The Bible contradicts your view. I suggest you obtain a REAL theological education by taking the Bible seriously and examining its claims.

4. An atheistic perspective

An atheist could not resist this jibe: “Here we go again, arguing over who has the correct sky fairy”.[5] My reply was just as pointed, “I hear the wind blowing; the thunder and lightning are flashing and clapping; the cyclone is blowing our way from your ‘sky fairy’ fantasy.”[6]

5. Questioning my orthodox view over liberalism

Diver Dan took a different line:

I take you to task on your confessed orthodoxy. You may be an orthodox Christian in these times, but Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.
Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.

The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process. Explaining away the Christian God head from the orthodox stance as you do, relies on the belief of the infallibility of the biblical text as it now stands.
The Liberal view is Academic. It is more inclined to see the evolution of the Christian faith in term of history.

I see a danger in both views. The extreme of the liberal view is effectively disbelief in the creed, which I see as created by an overly questioning study for which it’s (sic) reward is lack of faith, followed by agnosticism; because the text through the years has been inconsistent and often tied into current historical events.
I think all orthodoxies should be questioned without risking loss of faith. You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.

Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.[7]

6. My response to “shifting sands” of Christian orthodoxy

“Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.”

Then you gave not one example of these “shifting sands”, so you built a straw man fallacy.[8]

“Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.”

Have you read EVERYTHING of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries to conclude about the “lack of consistency”? Or is this a fallacy of hasty generalization that springs forth from your worldview?

“The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process.”

False again! The trinitarian teaching is orthodox from the “us” of Genesis 1 to the full blown articulation in the New Testament. Ray Pritchard asked: “What is the Trinity? Christians in every land unite in proclaiming that our God eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who deny that truth place themselves outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy. Having said that, I admit that no one fully understands it. It is a mystery and a paradox. Yet I believe it is true”, http://www.christianity.com/god/trinity/god-in-three-persons-a-doctrine-we-barely-understand-11634405.html.

The Trinity is not an “evolving” doctrine but one that is seen more clearly with progressive revelation in moving from Old Testament to New Testament.

“The Liberal view is Academic.”

No, the Liberal view changes what the Bible states. There are sound, evangelical, academic views of the orthodox Trinity.

“You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.”

I said my views were “evangelical”. You have inserted “orthodox” and “fundamentalist.” I do not shy away from labelling my theological views as containing fundamental theology at its core – including the inerrancy of Scripture in the original documents, Christ’s atoning blood sacrifice, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Christ’s second coming. However, the language of “fundamentalist” comes with too much baggage, as seen in your linking me to Jim Jones and his fanatical group.

“Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.”

This is an ad hominem (guilt by association) fallacy. Here you have a negative view of my beliefs because of its supposed association with Jim Jones, that you view negatively. We cannot have a rational conversation when you engage in this kind of fallacious reasoning.

7. “Who is Christ?” has many answers

Diver dan had this comeback. How accurate was he?

One of the problems dealing with people on this site, is accommodating their hypersensitive natures.

I’m not about to trade scriptural references towards proving a theory I put forward to you, based on my observations over a lifetime on this subject.

But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ” has as many answers as history has to any other subject.

So the difficulty with the answer is, the difficulty of who debates the question, and the biases that are natural in the mix. And historically, the question of who is Christ, has shifted through the years; that’s the point I make.
On another point you raised, which I noticed in your article, which was the differing opinions adding a different emphasis on scripture, between Liberals and evangelicals.

Unless there is consistency, then there are dangers in both views.
Jimmy Jones began his ministry with good intentions, but he lost the plot and strayed from tradition. Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.
[9]

How should I reply as his response contained some fundamental errors?

8. Who are Hitler, James Cook and Aristotle?

“But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ“ has as many answers as history has to any other subject.”

American soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. [LCID: 09807](US soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. Buchenwald, Germany, after April 11, 1945. Photo courtesy Holocaust Encyclopedia)

 

If I want to know about “who is Hitler?”; “Who is Captain James Cook?”; “Who is Aristotle?”, I go to the historical sources that deal with this historical information.
Since I want to know who Jesus Christ is, I go to the primary documents of the Gospels that deal with this information. I don’t go to the pseudepigraphical Gospel of Peter and the “Cross Gospel” which John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar promotes.

“Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.”

To the contrary, the Anglican tradition is with the formulators of the 39 Articles, which provide a very evangelical statement of beliefs in The Articles of Religion 1562.
They are not Liberal Anglicanism but support evangelical, Bible-believing Anglicans. I suggest you get your facts straight on this topic.

The heart of the Anglican doctrines is evangelical and does not synthesise with the teaching of John Shelby Spong or Peter Sellick. See HERE.

9. Conclusion

Notice what most of these comments contain:

(1) They avoid dealing with the primary content of the article. This means they choose to,

(2) dump their presuppositions on the reader.

(3) They allow their ignorance about a topic to be exposed, and

(4) It is a common trait of these anti-Christian antagonists to use logical fallacies to divert attention away from the main topic.

Logical fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others.

10. Notes


[1] This topic began as a blog on one of my ejournal articles with On Line Opinion, 3 December 2020. I blog as OzSpen.

[2] Posted by Alan B., Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:03:22 AM.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:53:35 AM

[4] This was a response to Alan B, posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:56 PM.

[5] Posted by TheAtheist, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:28:41 PM.

[6] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:40:50 PM.

[7] Posted by diver dan, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:15 PM.

[8] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 4 December 2020 12:50:38 PM.

[9] Posted by diver dan, Saturday, 5 December 2020 7:31:15 AM.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 December 2020.

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Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God?

St Andrew's Cathedral c.1868.jpg

(St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was published in On Line Opinion, ‘Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God?’ (3 December 2020)

I’m an orthodox evangelical believer. I watched the Christmas Eve service 2011 which the Dean of the Cathedral, Phillip Jensen, led from St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, telecast on ABC1 in Australia. It was a magnificent Christ-centred service led by Dr Jensen. I know his church is a member of the evangelical Anglican diocese of Sydney which has been an orthodox stalwart in the midst of an Anglican church that has become theologically liberal in many states.

Anglicans in Australia

What is happening to the liberal Anglicans in Australia? The Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson, at the Sydney ‘Lambeth Decision Briefing’, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, Friday 14th March 2008, wrote of ‘The Anglican Debacle’. Here he stated the obvious for that denomination in Australia that biblical Christianity has struggled under the Anglican umbrella. There was never a time when it was uniformly accepted by the church hierarchy.

He pointed out that early Anglicans such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were burnt at the stake with the consent of most of the rest of the bishops in Mary’s church.

According to The Melbourne Anglican (2017), the 2016 census revealed the ‘number of Australian Anglicans fell by 580,000 in five years.’

Primate of Australia, Archbishop Dr Philip Freier, attributed the decline in the Anglican Church to a number of factors, singling out a culture ‘that no longer “carries” Christianity.’

A Sydney Anglicans news’ release about the event in 2011 stated it was the first time in many years ABC Television screened an evangelical Christmas Eve service. It was chosen by the ABC for a 6pm Christmas Eve service. It featured Dean Phillip Jensen, the Cathedral choir, guest musicians and orchestra. Jensen said: ‘This broadcast provides a great opportunity to express the message of the birth of our Lord in a genuinely modern and Australian fashion.’

What’s at the heart of the Anglican problem?

David Ould(photo David Ould from his website)

Senior Associate Minister at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta, Sydney,  and a prolific blogger is Rev. David Ould, who became a minister in 2013. His beef with the undermining of Anglicanism is very different from the liberal wing of the denomination. He considers one of the main problems is with integrity of the ministers.

What? He is crystal clear on what he means. He used an illustration from the world of advertising: If you were a marketing director for a major drinks’ company who drank the opposition’s leading brand of milk at a press conference, you would expect to lose your job if the company had any integrity.

However, what has happened with the Anglicans? They discuss an aging population, schisms over sexuality issues, young people preferring experiential over traditional worship, etc. However, Ould does not see Core Value - Integritythis at the core of the problem. For him the nucleus of the issue is over promises made by bishops which states: ‘I firmly and sincerely believe the Catholic faith and I give my assent to the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons; I believe that doctrine to be agreeable to the Word of God.… I do solemnly and sincerely declare my assent to be bound by the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia.’

Then the bishops set about rejecting the standards set by Scripture, refusing to support the content of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, fail to accept the 39 Articles as the ‘standard of doctrine’, not using the Book of Common Prayer as the worship standard, and rejecting some of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia.

What then should these prodigal bishops and ministers do, since they deny fundamentals of biblical Christianity and of the Anglican requirements for ordination? C S Lewis got straight to the point of what should happen:

It is your duty to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men.… We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them (‘Christian Apologetics, 1945:1).

Evangelical Anglican: Christmas as the birth of God

Neapolitan presepe of Maiori (nativity scene courtesy Wikipedia)

This phrase caught my attention from Phillip Jensen several times in the telecast as he spoke about Christmas being a celebration of ‘the birth of God.’ Could this kind of language give the wrong impression? He has a brief article online that is titled, “Celebrate the Birth of God” (published 2 December 2005). In it he writes of Christmas as a time to ‘celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus, who is God in the flesh’ and ‘give thanks to God for the great privilege of celebrating the birth of our Mighty God in this way.’

He seems to be trying to communicate that Jesus is both God and man, but does the language, ‘the birth of God’ have potential problems? These are my questions:

  1. Is it misleading to speak of the birth of God when God the Son has always existed and has had no birth eternally? The God-man was born in Bethlehem.
  2. Could it be better to say that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became flesh (a man) and we celebrate His birth at Christmas time?
  3. Many do not understand how a virgin could conceive and give birth to the Son of God as flesh, without the insemination of a male. Does the language of ‘the birth of God’ convey orthodox theology, or is it meant to get the attention of secular people who celebrate Christmas for materialistic and holiday reasons?
  4. I cannot ever understand the supernatural act of God in the virgin birth if I reject miracles as John Shelby Spong (an Episcopalian/Anglican) does when he states, ‘Let me say bluntly that I no longer think that the miracles of the gospels have anything to do with what we once called the miraculous.’

Phillip Jensen clarified this in 2013, ‘We celebrate more than the birth of the baby, Jesus. When we retell the history of his birth, we are celebrating the meaning and purpose of God’s action in our salvation.’ That’s a better way of putting it.

Prophecy of Jesus’ birth

The prophecy of Christ’s birth in Isaiah 9:6 states, For to us a child is BORN, to us a son is GIVEN.’ For this one event of the incarnation, there are two distinct matters.

(1) A CHILD is born – this is the human Jesus, and

(2) A SON is given. The Son was not born; Jesus the Son was GIVEN. He was from eternity.

I am not sure that Phillip Jensen made this distinction as clearly as he should have. I consider that he ought to have made it unambiguous about the humanity of Jesus (a child is born) and the deity of Jesus (the eternal Son is given). God was not born on the first Christmas Day. God the Son has always existed as God and he became a human being on that first Christmas Day but there was no ‘birth of God’ as such.

We know this from a well-known verse such as John 3:16, ‘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, God SENT his Son. This presupposes that the Son was always with the Father and was ready to be sent.

The apostle Paul is clear about what this means at Christmas time. According to Romans 1:3-4, ‘concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (ESV).

The eternal generation of the son is orthodox Christian doctrine. The Nicene Creed affirms the eternal nature of the Son:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The Scriptures state that the child was born at the first Christmas, but the Son was given. The eternal Son of God was not born at the first Christmas. He was from eternity the Son.

I have been warned not to be another Nestorius

Since I see that Christmas celebrates the birth of the humanity of Jesus, the God-man, some have written to me warning that my view could come close to the false teaching of Nestorius (ca. 386-451). Most Christians would not know of Nestorius and his teaching.

The Nestorian controversy came to a head at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This Nestorian website gives a summary of the Christological controversies surrounding the teaching of Nestorius who was bishop of Constantinople in 428. He came from the Antioch school and was taught theology there by Theodore of Mopsuestia.

He opposed a new theological teaching of theotokos. This affirmed Mary was the ‘God-bearer’ or ‘Mother of God.’ Nestorius was concerned with this teaching when applied to Jesus because it could infer that the Son of God had a beginning and then suffered and died.

I confirm none of these things could happen to the infinite God. Therefore, instead of a God-man, Nestorius taught there was the Logos and the ‘man who was assumed.’ He favored the term ‘Christ-bearer’ (christotokos) as a summary of Mary’s role, or perhaps that she should be called both ‘God-bearer’ and ‘Man-bearer’ to emphasise Christ’s dual natures of God and man.

Nestorius was accused of teaching a double personality of Christ – two natures and two persons. He denied the charge, but the term Nestorianism has always been linked with such a teaching.

Yes, he was from the Antiochene ‘school’ (now in Turkey) and wished to emphasise a distinction between Christ as man and Christ as God. He did not deny that Christ was God. He said, however, that people should not call Mary thetokos, the ‘mother of God,’ because she was only the mother of the human person of Christ.

Great opposition developed against Nestorius’s teaching and his opponents charged that he taught ‘two sons’ and that he ‘divided the indivisible.’ Even though he denied this charge, Nestorianism continues to be linked with the teaching.

Nestorius was opposed by Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, who was one of the most ruthless and unrestrained of the major early bishops. Cyril ‘condemned Nestorius’s works by issuing twelve anathemas [stong curses] against him. Nestorius responded in kind. The two men were harsh individuals and fierce antagonists.’

The possible danger in my discussing the birth of the humanity of Jesus at Christmas, which is true, and rejecting anything to do with the birth of God (as the eternal God cannot be born), is that when I speak of the God-man Jesus, that I try to attribute some of Jesus’ actions to his humanity and some to his divinity. That is not what I’m saying, but I want to make it clear that God cannot be born, either as ‘Mary the mother of God’, or the celebration of ‘the birth of God’ (Phil Jensen) at Christmas.

Conclusion

The language that ‘God was born’ at Christmas does not provide biblical warrant for orthodox, biblical thinking. God, the Son, the second person of the Trinity, has existed eternally. At that first Christmas, the Son obtained his humanity through being born to a virgin. This inaugurated the God-man nature of Jesus, but the Son never ceased being God from eternity. That the first Christmas celebrates the ‘birth of God’ in Jesus, is false theologically. It was the ‘fullness of time’ (Gal. 4:4) at which God the Son became the God-man.

It’s unusual for an orthodox evangelical such as Phillip Jensen to define the incarnation as the ‘birth of God’ in his Christmas Eve service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, and telecast on Australian ABC1 television. I have written to him to get his views, with much of the information provided above.

God cannot be born. That’s an oxymoron. God is from eternity and is always eternally God so there can be no ‘birth of God’ or ‘God was born’.

Jesus, the Son, who also is called ‘the Word’, always existed and continues to exist as God. We know this from John1:1-2: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.’

As for the Anglican churches in Australia, they are losing attendances wholesale because ministers and bishops refuse to be loyal to their ordination vows. They suffer the consequences of lack of integrity in support of scriptural authority and other commitments made at ordination.

If Anglican ministers affirmed the full authority of Scripture at their ordinations and stray from that path they should do as C S Lewis recommended, ‘You must change your profession’ to be honest men.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 4 December, 2020.

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Christianity smashed and swapped for a new agenda

File:St Joseph Church demolition.jpg

Spencer D Gear PhD

1. How Christianity is smashed by Peter Bowden

When I write ‘smash’ in this context, I indicate ‘to defeat or wreck (persons, theories, etc)’ (Collins English Dictionary 2018. s.v. smash).

Here I deal with how Dr Peter Bowden has wrecked the biblical meaning of basic Christian teaching and replaced it with his own human, politically correct agenda.

Let’s check how he did that.

2. Christianity corrected

Dr Bowden went to the dictionary to find a definition of ‘Christian’ in his article, A Christian Church.[1] It’s a shame he didn’t go to an early source (the Book of Acts, written ca. AD 62-64) for his definition of what ‘Christian’ meant in the first century – and today.

Acts 11 states that the Gospel of repenting of sins and receiving eternal life when people believed in the Lord Jesus Christ extended from Jews to  non-Jews (vv 17-18). At Antioch, Syria, when the word of God was preached, a ‘large number’ of people came to know the Lord. It was at Antioch ‘ that the believers were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).

In turning to dictionaries to determine the meaning of Christian, Dr Bowden has wrongly identified one definition of a Christian, ‘a follower of the Christian Church’. When the early believers were first called ‘Christian’, they were not followers of the Christian Church, but believed in and were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Jews would not call them Christians because of their own use of Cristo the Messiah. The Jews termed them Galileans or Nazarenes. The followers of Christ called themselves disciples (learners), believers, brethren, saints, those of the Way. The three uses of Christian in the N.T. are from the heathen standpoint (here), Acts 26:28 (a term of contempt in the mouth of Agrippa), and 1 Peter 4:16 (persecution from the Roman government). It is a clear distinction from both Jews and Gentiles and it is not strange that it came into use first here in Antioch when the large Greek church gave occasion for it (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Acts 11:26).

3. Where the redefinition of God leads

Dr Bowden’s accolades for this denomination were: ‘The Uniting Church’s beliefs are impressive. They confirm that religion will be an everlasting aspect of human life on earth…. If I ever feel the need to turn to the formal practice of religion, it will be to the Uniting Church that I will turn’.

What’s the truth of where the Uniting Church’s agenda leads? See Philip Hughes’ article, ‘Why Some Churches Decline While Others Grow’ (Christian Research Association).

3.1 The ruin of the Uniting Church

Uniting Church in Australia

UCA-logo.svgUCA logo

The 2016 Australian census found ‘the Uniting church had declined to 3.7%’ of the Australian population, compared with 5% in the 2011 census (Bouma 2017).

John Sandeman wrote that Keith Suter does not claim to be a prophet but is a futurist. In 2014, he completed his third doctorate which sketched four ‘plausible futures’ for the Uniting Church of Australia (UCA). They are:

1. Word and Deed: A Uniting Church with a small number of large parishes, providing spiritual activities and social welfare.

2. Secular Welfare: Uniting Church congregations fade away, but a large social welfare movement remains.

3. Return to the Early Church: UCA re-invents itself.

4. Recessional: UCA is wound up and its assets dispersed.

Of these four scenarios, the ones being played out are number two – the growth of church welfare – and number four. Suter told Eternity.[2] “It is quite clear that the congregations are shrinking, and the government continues to provide money for welfare work” (Sandeman 2017).

The Uniting Church reported concerning it’s decline:

According to the church, it had 243,000 members in 2018. In the 2016 census, about 870,200 Australians identified with the church; in the 2011 census, the figure was 1,065,796. The UCA is Australia’s third-largest Christian denomination, behind the Catholic and the Anglican Churches (Wikipedia 2020. s.v. Uniting Church of Australia).

4. Consider how an Anglican justifies his liberalism

Peter Sellick is an articulate Anglican deacon in Perth, WA, Australia. Most recently, he wrote this article for On Line Opinion: The battle of the narratives of origin. A more accurate title would be, ‘The battle to stop the Anglican decline in liberal parishes’. Some of his points in this article included (not comprehensive):

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) catapulted the ‘new science of genetics…. The universe began in the big bang about 13 billion years ago and biologists have estimated the emergence of the first living things (microbia) about 3.5 billion years’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘Evidence of early humanity, close to a mere 300 thousand years, completed the picture of cosmic and human time. This composite narrative of origins of life on earth has become the narrative in modern times’.

·5tn_.jpg 1.1K  What about the biblical data? There was ‘a victory of scientific rationalism over against the feeble attempts to cling to the biblical account of creation as an explanation of the origin of all things’. ‘In the process, Christian belief for many was mortally damaged since central texts were found to be mythical and hence untrustworthy. The word “mythical” was taken to refer to the unreal, the pretend’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  What should have replaced the doubt about the reliability of the biblical texts? Scholars should have gone to German biblical research, he said.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  He mentioned that ‘Julian (sic)[3] Wellhausen published in 1878 his source theory of Old Testament texts that discovered the hands of different writers separated in time and in orientation that was later redacted into a single narrative. This undercut the idea that biblical texts were, in some way, obtained directly from the mouth of God’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘The source hypothesis demonstrated that biblical texts were cultural products that displayed their sources in time, place and authorship’.

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind rationalising away biblical authority, so I gave him this retort:

Peter,

I enjoy your writing style, but your articulation smothers your presuppositions. In this short piece, you tried to ‘trick’ us into believing Darwin’s view of the origin of the universe was correct, affirmed by cosmologists. You might learn that in your liberal Anglican theological college but it takes more than a few sentences to unpack and then refute.

Then you want us to swallow your line that the veracity of the biblical texts would have been supported if we followed the Wellhausen research, Source Criticism (SC), of 1878. When will you get it? The Graf-Wellhausen SC Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP for authorship of the Pentateuch) has been refuted over and over but your liberal theology keeps on keeping on.

There is internal evidence in the Pentateuch to demonstrate Mosaic authorship and not the 4-source Graf-Wellhausen theory. Space does not permit my going into these, except to say that a serious fallacy of the Hypothesis is that it assumes no part of the Torah was written before the middle of the 9th century BC. This would be the time of the Exile of the Israelites. This flies in the face of archaeological evidence of the last century.

If you continue to promote this kind of theology in your diocese, don’t expect people to flock to your churches. Your views cause people to doubt the authority of Scripture. For a better assessment, I think it’s time for you to engage in discussions with the faculty of Moore College, Sydney, and examine how the Sydney diocese is preventing the kind of decline of your churches. Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 15 October 2020 8:16:39 AM[4]

4.1 For other promotions of liberalism by Peter Sellick …

See:

Ant drawing Clinging to the wreckage

Ant drawing Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection

Ant drawing Resurrection: the vindication of the Christ

Ant drawing A former dean of St George’s cathedral runs afoul of the evangelicals

Ant drawing The second person of the Trinity: the Son

Ant drawing Who is responsible for the death of God?

This article shows you how to white ant your church.

To demonstrate termite repair behaviour, a hole was bored into a termite nest. Over a dozen worker termites with pale heads are visible in this close-up photo, most facing the camera as they engage in repair activities from the inside of the hole. About a dozen soldier termites with orange heads are also visible, some facing outwards from the hole, others patrolling the surrounding area.

5. Conclusion

If you want to ruin a Christian denomination and empty its churches, eliminate biblical authority from the pulpit and in Bible studies by the promotion of theological liberalism. Use the Sellick line: ‘Christian belief for many was mortally damaged since central texts were found to be mythical and hence untrustworthy. The word “mythical” was taken to refer to the unreal, the pretend’.

See my refutation of Sellick’s view in: The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Also, see my articles:

6.  Works consulted

Bouma, G D 2017. Census 2016 shows Australia’s changing religious profile, with more ‘nones’ than Catholics. The Conversation (online), 27 June. Available at: https://theconversation.com/census-2016-shows-australias-changing-religious-profile-with-more-nones-than-catholics-79837 (Accessed 3 July 2018).

Bowden, P 2017. A Christian church. On Line Opinion (online), 22 February. Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18856 (Accessed 11 December 2018).

Sandeman, J 2017. Decision time for Uniting Church in Australia. Eternity (online), 16 June. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/decision-time-for-uniting-church-in-australia/ (Accessed 3 July 2018).

7.  Notes


[1] Bowden (2017).

[2] Eternity is published by the Bible Society Australia and is a national news service for Australian Christians’. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/about/ (Accessed 11 December 2018).

[3] His Christian name is Julius. See Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Julius Wellhausen).

[4] Available at: https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=21147&page=2 (Accessed 17 October 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 October 2020.

kerftn_.jpg 1.3Kkerftn_.jpg 1.3Kkerftn_.jpg 1.3Kkerftn_.jpg 1.3Kkerftn_.jpg 1.3K

Welcome to ho-hum Christianity!

Ho Hum!

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I started attending a new evangelical church and had been three times. After 15 minutes of the service on 5 October 2020 I left the service. It was another example of ho-hum Christianity.

1. What’s the meaning of ‘ho-hum’?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary (2020. s.v. ho-hum), it refers to ‘an expression used when someone is bored, or when they accept that something unpleasant cannot be stopped from happening’.

My personal perspective is that in Brisbane, Australia (where I live), there are three prominent expressions of ho-hum Christianity that bore me to sleep. These include:

2. Evangelical Christianity

Yesterday’s church service was an example. It began with canned/data music of a new song. The words of the song were in such small font on the overhead screen that I could not see them, when sitting three-quarters of the way back in the auditorium.

This was compounded when the singers (on DVD) began singing. I couldn’t join the singing as I didn’t know the words to follow.

Then the melody line is typical of what is happening in the Hillsong and Jesus Culture dominated culture of new church music. I can’t remember the name of the song as the lyrics could not be seen by me. An example of this kind of song is HERE. The style is flooding evangelical/charismatic churches. Even the Presbyterian Church I previously attended occasionally sang a Hillsong item (credits were on the screen).

It is ho-hum Christianity because the lyrics of the songs reflect the organisations that promote this music. It’s big business but, even more, it’s big on false doctrine, especially the word of faith doctrine.

2.1 Allegorical teaching

Then there was a second ho-hum rub on 5 October 2020. The leader of the service spoke of Jesus walking on the water towards the disciples in the boat (see Matt 14:22-33 NIV) and his calling to Peter to walk on the water towards him.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt 14:28-30 NIV).

The leader (the pastor’s wife) invited the congregation to launch out in faith and walk on the water. That’s my paraphrase of what I heard her say. She used allegorical interpretation of this incident by adding content that was not in the text. That was enough for me so I quietly walked out of the service (using my walking stick).

The pastor phoned me on Monday to ask if I was OK. I proceeded to tell him why I left – the music and the allegorical teaching. He wished me well and said he was available for further contact if I needed it.

2.2 The dangers of allegorical interpretation

The term, ‘allegory’, is used only once in the New Testament at Galatians 4:24. Of this verse, A T Robertson comments:

Which things contain an allegory (atina estin allhgoroumena). Literally, “Which things are allegorized” (periphrastic present passive indicative of allhgorew). Late word (Strabo, Plutarch, Philo, Josephus, ecclesiastical writers), only here in N.T. The ancient writers used ainittomai to speak in riddles.

It is compounded of allo, another, and agoreuw, to speak, and so means speaking something else than what the language means, what Philo, the past-master in the use of allegory, calls the deeper spiritual sense.

Paul does not deny the actual historical narrative, but he simply uses it in an allegorical sense to illustrate his point for the benefit of his readers who are tempted to go under the burden of the law. He puts a secondary meaning on the narrative just as he uses tupikw in 1 Corinthians 10:11 of the narrative. We need not press unduly the difference between allegory and type, for each is used in a variety of ways. The allegory in one sense is a speaking parable like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:1 ff., the Good Shepherd in John 10:1 ff.

But allegory was also used by Philo and by Paul here for a secret meaning not obvious at first, one not in the mind of the writer, like our illustration which throws light on the point. Paul was familiar with this rabbinical method of exegesis (Rabbi Akiba, for instance, who found a mystical sense in every hook and crook of the Hebrew letters) and makes skilful use of that knowledge here.

Christian preachers in Alexandria early fell victims to Philo’s allegorical method and carried it to excess without regard to the plain sense of the narrative. That startling style of preaching survives yet to the discredit of sound preaching. Please observe that Paul says here that he is using allegory, not ordinary interpretation. It is not necessary to say that Paul intended his readers to believe that this allegory was designed by the narrative. He illustrates his point by it. For these are (autai gar eisin). Allegorically interpreted, he means. From Mount Sinai (apo orou Sina). Spoken from Mount Sinai. Bearing (gennwsa). Present active participle of gennaw, to beget of the male ( Matthew 1:1-16 ), more rarely as here to bear of the female ( Luke 1:13; Luke 1:57 ). Which is Hagar (hti estin Hagar). Allegorically interpreted (Word Pictures in the New Testament: Galatians 4:24).

Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon gives the meaning of allhgorew as ‘speak allegorically’ (1957:38).

So, the intent of allegorical preaching or teaching is to present an alternate sense – hidden meaning – to the plain meaning of the text.

These are some examples of allegorical interpretation that have been used in the history of the church. The Alexandrian early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen were well known for their use of allegorical interpretation.

2.2.1 Clement of Alexandria

He lived from AD 150-211/215 and was a Christian apologist and missionary theologian to the Greek speaking world. He was a leader and teacher in the school of Alexandria.[1]

In one of his publications that survives, he wrote:

Wherefore instruction, which reveals hidden things, is called illumination, as it is the teacher only who uncovers the lid of the ark, contrary to what the poets say, that “Zeus stops up the jar of good things, but opens that of evil…. Similarly David sings: “For, lo, Thou hast loved truth; the obscure and hidden things of wisdom hast Thou showed me.” “Day utters speech to day” (what is clearly written), “and night to night proclaims knowledge” (which is hidden in a mystic veil); “and there are no words or utterances whose voices shall not be heard” by God, who said, “Shall one do what is secret, and I shall not see him?” (The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Bk 5, Ch 10).

2.2.2 Philo

Philo - WikipediaGreek-speaking, Jewish philosopher, Philo (ca 15 BC – AD 50)[2] explained the need for allegorical/figurative interpretation:

If we only prefer the plain words and ignore the figurative interpretation, it will be like considering the body without the soul. ‘Just as we take care of the body because it is the abode of the soul, so also must we take care of the laws that are enacted in plain terms, but they are symbols of : for while they are regarded, those other things also will be more clearly understood, of which these laws are the symbols, and in the same way one will escape blame and accusation from men in general (The Works of Philo, On the Migration of Adam, 16. 93-94).

So, ‘the literal meaning is the body of the Bible, but the allegorical one is its soul; both must be kept in due consideration’ (Marco Rizzi 2019).

However, who chooses the ‘figurative interpretation’? It is the responsibility of the individual preacher-teacher to create the allegory. That’s what the leader did on 5 October 2020.

There is an interesting variation of allegorical preaching – postmodern deconstruction – that I address in my PhD dissertation: Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus : rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.

A couple examples from this thesis demonstrate that deconstruction provides a framework similar to that which Crossan promotes:

  • John Dominic Crossan stated of the race to the empty tomb by Peter and the Beloved Disciple (Jn 20), ‘I do not think that story was ever intended as a historical event, intended to describe something that first Easter morning. It always looked to me like a calculated and deliberate parable intended to exalt the authority of the Beloved Disciple over that of Peter’ (Crossan 2000:165).

· Stated another way, ‘Empty tomb stories and physical appearance stories are perfectly valid parables expressing that faith, akin in their own way to the Good Samaritan story’ (Crossan 1995:216).

Allegorical interpretation adds to the text, according to the preacher’s or leader’s imagination. Crossan’s deconstruction does something similar.

2.2.3 Origen

There is another leading light in the early church fathers who was renowned for his promotion of allegorical interpretation. He was Origen (ca AD 185-254), born in Phoenicia (now Lebanon) and he was ‘the most important theologian and biblical scholar of the early Greek church’. He was a student of Clement of Alexandria according to early church historian, Eusebius.[3]

3. Thrash music

My son is an excellent guitarist and he enjoys thrash’ Christian music. However, currently he’s learning classical guitar. He showed me the excellent lyrics of a ‘thrash’ song and I couldn’t believe how orthodox they were theologically. Then he played the song for me from a CD. I didn’t understand a word that was sung.

A friend invited me to his local Pentecostal church. The service began with thunderous music that caused me to jump in my seat. My friend’s wife was sitting beside me and noticed it, commenting the music does get a ‘bit’ loud.

During the service there was a fellow in the front row hopping and skipping for Jesus as he raised his hands in song. He was bouncing up and down.

I guess that puts a new meaning to ‘Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy’ (Ps 100:1-2 NLT).

4. Incompetent preachers

Leading ethicist, David Gushee, claims, ‘Many ministers play it safe in order to keep their jobs, or are simply not that talented’ (2016). Some of the worst mumbling I’ve heard behind microphones on the pulpit have come from preachers.

October Magazine Cover Photo of RunnersThere are far too many who mumble, don’t speak clearly and don’t project their voices. As a former radio DJ, TV newsreader, and long-term public speaker, I’m particularly sensitive to this issue. However, it could be easily overcome if preachers would join a Toastmasters’ or Rostrum club. When I started in radio in the 1960s, I joined a Rostrum club to assist my on-air presentations. It was recommended to me by the radio station’s manager. It was extremely helpful in assisting me to become more articulate on-air. However, here in Qld., Toastmasters has become the dominant public speaking club.

Every pastor-preacher should join one of these to help them become more fluent in expressing the Christian faith.

I saw this incompetence again with the preacher at the church I attended last Sunday. He spoke too quickly; his words were not articulated well, and he didn’t give the congregation much eye contact. He mumbled his words too often with slurring.

See my article: It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s Word.

5. Theological liberalism

If you want to cause people to exit the church, promote theological liberalism that denigrates Scripture and engages in eisegesis of the text. See my articles that address this topic:

For an example of the promotion of liberal Christianity by an Anglican liberal, see this recent article in On Line Opinion, an Anglican deacon from Perth WA, Australia: The battle of the narratives of origin.

My comment to him as OzSpen was:

Peter,
I enjoy your writing style, but your articulation smothers your presuppositions. In this short piece, you tried to ‘trick’ us into believing Darwin’s view of the origin of the universe was correct, affirmed by cosmologists. You might learn that in your liberal Anglican theological college but it takes more than a few sentences to unpack and then refute.

Then you want us to swallow your line that the veracity of the biblical texts would have been supported if we followed the Wellhausen research, Source Criticism (SC), of 1878. When will you get it? The Graf-Wellhausen SC Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP for authorship of the Pentateuch) has been refuted over and over but your liberal theology keeps on keeping on.

There is internal evidence in the Pentateuch to demonstrate Mosaic authorship and not the 4-source Graf-Wellhausen theory. Space does not permit my going into these, except to say that a serious fallacy of the Hypothesis is that it assumes no part of the Torah was written before the middle of the 9th century BC. This would be the time of the Exile of the Israelites. This flies in the face of archaeological evidence of the last century.

If you continue to promote this kind of theology in your diocese, don’t expect people to flock to your churches. Your views cause people to doubt the authority of Scripture. For a better assessment, I think it’s time for you to engage in discussions with the faculty of Moore College, Sydney, and examine how the Sydney diocese is preventing the kind of decline of your churches.

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 15 October 2020 8:16:39 AM

6. Conclusion

If you want to be bored with Christianity here is my recipe:

  • Sing contemporary Christian music that promotes unorthodox doctrines and is ‘unsingable’ by the congregation.
  • Engage in interpretation of the Bible that adds to the text, e.g. allegorical or postmodern deconstruction.
  • Put mumbling, incompetent preachers into the pulpit.
  • Then, play music that is so loud that the lyrics are blurred.

7.  Works consulted

Bauer, W; Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[4] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospel story of the death of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Gushee, D P 2016. Religion News Service (online). ‘Why is Christianity declining?’ Available at: https://religionnews.com/2016/09/06/why-is-christianity-declining/ (Accessed 15 October 2020).

8.  Notes


[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Clement of Alexandria).

[2] Dates obtained from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Philo Judaeus).

[3] These details are from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Origen).

[4] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

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

Compare the Ten Commandments with New Testament teaching[1]

Ten Commandments image | Public domain vectors

(image courtesy publicdomainvectors.com)

Prepared by Spencer D Gear PhD

The Ten Commandments:

The Old Covenant

New Testament Teaching:

The New Covenant

1. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex 20:3) 1. ‘‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:28b-30).
2. ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them’ (Ex 20:4-5). 2. ‘Dear children, keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21).
3. ‘You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’ (Ex 20:7). 3. ‘But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?’ (James 2:6-7)
4. ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’ (Ex 20:8). 4. ‘On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight’ (Acts 20:7).
5. ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you’ (Ex 20:12). 5. ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matt 19:19).
6. ‘You shall not murder’ (Ex 20:13). 6. Jesus said, ‘You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother” (Mk 10:19).
7. ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Ex 20:14). 7. See #6.
8. ‘You shall not steal’ (Ex 20:15). 8. See #6.
9. ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour’ (Ex 20:16). 9. See #6.
10. ‘You shall not covet….’ (Ex 20:17). 10. ‘For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph 5:5-6 ESV).

Notes

[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible citations are from the New International Version.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 April 2020.Accent vector line separator. Zig zag lines dividerAccent vector line separator. Zig zag lines dividerAccent vector line separator. Zig zag lines dividerAccent vector line separator. Zig zag lines dividerAccent vector line separator. Zig zag lines dividerAccent vector line separator. Zig zag lines divider

Matthew 16:18, The Church built on Peter?

Image result for image Matthew 16:18

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

1. Roman Catholic teaching

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

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

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

2. Greek and Peter the Pope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A T Robertson’s conclusion is sound:

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

3. Peter not first Pope

Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

Saint PeterSaint Peter – (image courtesy Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image result for clipart single horizontal color lines

Baptism and Salvation: I Peter 3:21

baptists tarrytown united methodist church

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1. Does baptism bring eternal salvation?

It seems as though this issue is clear – people need to be baptised to receive salvation. The Scriptures state that: “Baptism that now saves you….” (I Peter 3:21 NIV) and Jesus states, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16 NIV).

This sounds clear enough, doesn’t it? In fact, I was interacting with Andy (not his real name) on a theological bulletin board. He stated: “Recent theology cannot make the truth of 1 Peter 3:21 go away – Baptism now saves you. This is a great and precious promise. Christians throughout all ages have found great comfort in that fact that their salvation did not rest on them, but on God who had chosen them through baptism. I do believe in baptismal regeneration and in infant baptism.”[1]

Baptismal regeneration is the theology that states “that baptism is necessary for salvation.” This view is supported by “Roman Catholic teaching…. Although there are different nuances in their teaching, such a position is held by many Episcopalians, many Lutherans, and by the Churches of Christ”(Grudem 1999, n10, p. 384).

baptism-now-saves-youDoes 1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) teach baptism as a necessity for salvation, i.e. baptismal regeneration? The verse states: “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[2] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

The ESV reads: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Mark 16:16 (NIV) states, as the words of Jesus, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

Let me say up front that I Peter 3:21 (NIV) is a difficult verse to interpret because of the content of the context (1 Pet 3:18-22 NIV):

· It is a challenge to know exactly what Peter is saying in connecting “save” with the waters of Noah’s flood;

· Elsewhere in the Scripture we know that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone (Acts 4:12 NIV; Eph 2:8-9 NIV);

· In other places, the Bible teaches salvation and repentance prior to baptism (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9);

· Some verses used to support baptismal regeneration have better explanations.

2. Mark 16:16 does not teach baptismal regeneration

This verse is fairly easily dealt with on two counts:

clip_image001 Mark 16:9-20, the long ending of Mark, is not included in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, so I am confident in not including it as part of the canon of Scripture. Mark 16:16 was a teaching that crept into the early church, but it is not original to Mark. See the explanations by Bruce Metzger (1964/1968/1992, pp. 227-228) and Walter W. Wessel (1984, pp. 792-793) in Appendix I.

clip_image001[1]Mark 16:16 states that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” There is nothing in this statement about those who believe and are not baptised. In fact, this we do know that Jesus said to the dying thief on the cross, who did not have an opportunity to be baptised: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). “It is simply absence of belief, not of baptism, which is correlated with condemnation” (Erickson 1985, p. 1098). Grudem (1999) contends that

it is doubtful whether this verse [Mark 16:16] should be used in support of a theological position at all, since there are many manuscripts that do not have this verse (or Mark 16:9-20), and it seems most likely that this verse was not in the gospel as Mark originally wrote it (n11, p. 384).

We also know that a Christian’s justification by faith, when he/she is declared righteous before God, happens at the point of faith in Christ and not at the time of baptism (see Rom. 3:20, 26, 28; 5:1; 8:30; 10:4, 10; Gal. 2:16; 3:24).

We’ll get to 1 Peter 3:21 shortly, but it is important to note that

3. The Bible teaches belief BEFORE baptism

We see belief or trust in Christ prior to baptism in passages such as the following:

clip_image003Those who were baptised must be able to be discipled and taught to be obedient to Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV).

clip_image005One of the most profound examples is the thief on the cross. In Luke 23:42-43 (ESV) we read of the thief asking Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response was: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Obviously baptism was not compulsory for a person to enter into paradise.

clip_image007Acts 2:38 (ESV) gives the apostolic command: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”

clip_image009Acts 2:41 affirms that belief precedes baptism: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

clip_image011In Acts 10:47-48, those who were baptised were those who had “received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” This is hardly the language to support baptism for an infant. It is the language of believers’ baptism.

Old Testament believers were saved without being baptised. Therefore, we should expect that salvation, without baptism, is seen in the New Testament.

Church historian, Earle E. Cairns, stated that for the early church, baptism was “an act of initiation into the Christian church [and] was usually performed at Easter or Pentecost…. Baptism was normally by immersion; on occasion affusion, or pouring, was practiced. [There was the debate over] infant baptism which Tertullian opposed and Cyprian supported….” (Cairns 1954/1981, p. 119).

It was Martin Luther who rediscovered that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17 KJV) or, “The righteous will live by faith” (NIV), which is a quote from Hab. 2:4. This is affirmed by Rom. 4:4-5; Titus 3:5-7 and Acts 16:31. The Scriptures do not support the view that the just shall live by faith and baptism. It could not be stated any cleared in Eph. 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

4. Household baptisms

Sometimes the view is given that “I Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:14, 16:15, 33, 18:8; these passages all refer to households being baptized. What an opponent of infant baptism must do is explain how they arrive at the conclusion that there were no infants or young children in these households. If infants were not intended to be baptized they would be excluded in the text, but we have no reason to believe that they are. In short there is nothing to exclude infants from baptism in the Bible.” This was Andy’s view when I interacted with him on a seminary bulletin board.[3]

Let’s examine these examples provided by Andy.

clip_image013“Household” baptism that was used by him to support infant baptism – 1 Cor. 1:16, which reads, “I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.” If we read that verse alone we could be led to think that this included infants and those who had not believed and these people could be members of households.

However, this is clarified in 1 Cor. 16:15 where we read that “the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” This verse clearly supports the opposite of infant baptism. They were Christian converts when they were baptised. They were not infants who were incapable of believing. They were converts to the Christian faith. Faith comes before baptism.

clip_image013[1]Acts 11:14 reads: “He [Peter] will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”

This is clear. The “message” will be brought through which the “household will be saved.” The baptism referred to is not water baptism but the baptism in the Holy Spirit (11:16).

clip_image013[2] Acts 16:15 records what happened with Lydia who was “a worshiper of God” and “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (16:14). Chapter 16:15 records, “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.’ If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”

It is clear here that Lydia was a believer (“the Lord opened her heart”) when she was baptised as she affirms, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord.” It is not stated directly here that the “household” believed, but the precedent is set elsewhere in the Scripture that “households” that were baptised had previously believed. This is also consistent with the New Testament principle that faith alone in Christ alone is what brings eternal salvation.

clip_image013[3] In Acts 18:8, we have another example of “household” baptism. This verse states that “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”

Again, baptism happens after belief in the Lord is experienced and this applies to believing “households.” Therefore, infant belief is not possible.

5. First Peter 3:21

This verse states, “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[4] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (NIV).

Let me state upfront that this is a most difficult verse to interpret because of the analogy of Scripture which refutes what this verse seems to be saying on the surface, “baptism that now saves you also.” This is especially in light of Colossians 2:12 “…. having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” The key is “your faith in the power of God” and not through faith in water baptism. That’s what makes interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21 a challenging task.

Remember Andy’s words to me? “Baptism now saves you. This is a great and precious promise” and that Christians through the centuries have been comforted by the “God who had chosen them through baptism. I do believe in baptismal regeneration and in infant baptism.”[5]

What are the issues from this verse that seem, on the surface, to teach that “baptism now saves you”?

5.1 What is the context?

In vv. 18-19, the context is the death of Christ for sins, the “righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (v. 19), the resurrection (“made alive by the Spirit”, v. 18), and Noah, the ark, and eight people being saved through the flood (v. 20).

It is this flood that is used in some association with baptism.

5.2 What does it means that “water symbolizes baptism”?

The word translated, “symbolizes,” in the NIV is the Greek, antitypos. “Baptism is an antitype…. or counterpart of the type” (Blum 1981, p. 242). An antitype is ‘a person or thing that represents the opposite of someone or something else’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. antitype).There is some kind of resemblance between the waters of the flood and baptism. What is it? Baptism is a copy, representation or fulfillment of the Old Testament judgment that happened through the great flood.

The text allows for a resemblance between the flood and baptism. That is, as the flood waters cleansed the earth of man’s wickedness, so the water of baptism indicates man’s cleansing from sin. As the flood separated Noah and his family from the wicked world of their day, so baptism separates believers from the evil world of our day. Baptism, then, is the counterpart of the flood (Kistemaker 1987, p. 147).

5.3 In what sense can baptism be understood as that which “saves you”?

Does baptism bring salvation to the person baptised? In what sense can “save” be used here? We know from both Old and New Testaments that sins can be washed away.

  • Psalm 51:2, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
  • Ezekiel 36:25, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.”
  • Ananias told the apostle Paul to “get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
  • Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

How can baptism save?

Baptism is a symbol for cleansing the believer from sin, but Scripture does not teach that baptismal water saves a person. Rather, a believer is saved because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is a symbol of the shed blood of Christ that cleanses the believer from sin” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148).

This becomes clear through the next statement that baptism is “not the removal of dirt from the body.” That’s an obvious analogy to reject. But baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”

5.4 How is baptism related to “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (NIV)?

There are two ways of understanding, “pledge,” subjective, as in the NIV, or objective, as in the ESV, “as an appeal to God for a good conscience.”

As in the NIV, the subjective meaning of “pledge” is that “we look at baptism from our point of view and express ourselves subjectively.” There is a majority of translators who prefer the subjective approach, where “pledge” means “response.”

“In short, the believer receives not only the sign of baptism with water; he also responds by ‘keeping a clear conscience’ (see v. 16)” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148). This kind of translation is supported by the KJV, NKJV, RV, ASV, NEB, Phillips, GNB, JB, NAB and NIV. So, baptism is the proper response of somebody who is already related to God through faith.

The objective meaning is that of the believer making an “appeal to God for a good conscience.” By appealing to God to help us, “we see the importance of baptism objectively. Without God’s aid we are unable to make a pledge to serve him” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 148). This type of translation is supported by the RSV, NRSV, ESV, MLB, NASB, Moffatt and ISV.

In supporting the objective sense, Grudem (1994) interprets “but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience” to mean “an inward, spiritual transaction between God and the individual, a transaction symbolized by the outward ceremony of baptism.” Grudem states that

we could paraphrase Peter’s statement by saying, “Baptism now saves you—not the outward physical ceremony of baptism but the inward spiritual reality which baptism represents.” In this way, Peter guards against any view of baptism that would attribute automatic saving power to the physical ceremony itself (p. 974).

This seems the most satisfactory kind of explanation of a very difficult passage, to be in line with the scriptural emphasis of salvation through faith alone, trusting in Christ alone.

5.5 How can baptism that “saves you” be linked to “saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”?

This further indicates that the baptism which “saves you” is associated with the “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Thus, it is an analogy of baptism, associating it with eternal salvation through Christ, through the resurrection of Christ. See verses such as 1 Cor. 15:3-4 and 1 Peter 1:3 for affirmations of the link between salvation and the death and resurrection of Christ.

6. What does Acts 22:16 mean?

The verse, being the words of Ananias, reads, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” This is a more extensive statement than that in Acts 9:16. However, according to Acts 9:17, the “scales fell from his eyes” (the equivalent of belief) before he was baptised (9:18).

So, does baptism “wash your sins away,” thus making belief unnecessary? Is this a verse in support of baptismal regeneration?

While Acts 22:16 refers to Paul’s baptism, the apostle clearly distinguished between the gospel and baptism: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).

It is the gospel that “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:17), so baptism cannot have a salvific effect. Paul’s experience from Acts 9:17-18 involved a spiritual experience before baptism, so to “be baptized and wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16) cannot refer to baptismal regeneration.

Norman Geisler rightly concludes that “baptism then, like confession, is not a condition for eternal life but a manifestation of it. Baptism is a work that flows from the faith that alone brings salvation through the gospel” (2004, p. 498).

7. Examples from Church History

An example from the early church fathers was Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165), who wrote: “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true,… are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated [born-again] in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated” (Schaff, n.d., First Apology, Chapter LXI).

The regenerated were baptised according to Justin Martyr in the second century.

Professor of Church History & Historical Theology, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, summarised the biblical and historical evidence:

The patristic statements linking infant baptism with the apostles are fragmentary and unconvincing in the earlier stages…. Examples of believers’ baptism are common in the first centuries, and a continuing, if suppressed, witness has always been borne to this requirement…. The development of infant baptism seems to be linked with the incursion of pagan notions and practices. Finally, there is evidence of greater evangelistic incisiveness and evangelical purity of doctrine where [believers’ baptism] is recognized to be the baptism of the NT (Bromiley 1984, p. 116).

The facts are: The Bible (including the Apostles) and the Church established in the New Testament practised believers’ baptism. Why the change to paedobaptism?

This is not the place for a comprehensive documentation and assessment of the baptismal practices throughout church history. However, this we can note:

During the fifth century the towering figure of Augustine of Hippo with his powerful reassertion of the doctrine of original guilt settled the issue for a thousand years. Paedobaptism became the norm, and as by then the great expansion of the church among adults had run its course, adult baptism became increasingly rare and almost unknown. With the decline of adult baptism went, too, the decline of the catechumenate, as instruction before baptism was replaced, of necessity, with instruction after baptism. Yet that instruction became increasingly strange to modern ears. For although baptized infants grew up believing that their baptism had brought them forgiveness, eternal life, membership of the church and entry into the family of God, their position in that family became increasingly insecure. In time, a vast system of priests, penances and pilgrimages was needed to preserve their spiritual lives, while even after the intercession of saints, the assistance of Mary, the prayers of the church and the indulgences of the pope, centuries in purgatory still awaited them after death before their souls were cleansed from sin and prepared for heaven” (Bridge & Phypers 1977, pp. 82-83).

8. Appendix I

8.1 Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger, who has had a long and distinguished career in the discipline of textual criticism, which attempts “to determine the original text of the biblical books” (Erickson 1985, p. 83), states that:

The long ending [of Mark 16:9-20] in an expanded form existed, so Jerome tells us, in Greek copies current in his day, and since the discovery of W earlier this [20th] century we now have the Greek text of this expansion….

None of these four endings commends itself as original. The obvious and pervasive apocryphal flavour of the expansion [i.e. the long ending]…, as well as the extremely limited basis of evidence supporting it, condemns it as a totally secondary accretion.

The long ending [i.e. Mark 16:9-20, as in the Textus Receptus and, therefore, translated in the King James Version of the Bible], though present in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. For example, the presence of seventeen non-Marcan words or words used in a non-Marcan sense; the lack of a smooth juncture between verses 8 and 9 (the subject in vs. 9 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in vs. 9); and the way in which Mary is identified in verse 9 even though she has been mentioned previously (vs. 1) – all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark which ended abruptly with verse 8 and who wished to provide a more appropriate conclusion. An Armenian manuscript of the Gospels, copied A.D. 989 (see Plate XIVb) contains a brief rubic of two words in the space at the end of the lat line of verse 8 and before the last twelve verses, namely Ariston eritsou (‘of the Presbyter Ariston’). Many have interpreted this as a reference to Ariston, a contemporary of Papias in the early second century and traditionally a disciple of John the Apostle. But the probability that an Armenian rubricator [manuscript maker] would have access to historically valuable tradition on this point is almost nil, especially if, as has been argued, the rubric was added in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

The internal evidence of the so-called intermediate ending . . . is decidedly against its being genuine. Besides containing a high percentage of non-Marcan words, its rhetorical tone differs totally from the simple style of Mark’s Gospel. The mouth-filling phrase at the close (‘the sacred and imperishable message of eternal salvation’) betrays the hand of a later Greek theologian. [See Appendix II for a translation of this “intermediate ending.”]

Thus we are left with the short ending, witnessed by the earliest Greek, versional, and patristic evidence. Both external and internal considerations lead one to conclude that the original text of the Second Gospel, as known today, closes at xvi. 8″ (Metzger 1964/1968/1992, pp. 227-228).

8.2 Walter W. Wessel

External and especially internal evidence make it difficult to escape the conclusion that vv. 9-20 [of Mark 16] were originally not a part of the Gospel of Mark.

One further question arises: Did Mark actually intend to end his Gospel at 16:8? If he did not, then either (1) the Gospel was never completed, or (2) the last page was lost before it was multiplied by copyists….

Thus the best solution seems to be that Mark did write an ending to his Gospel but that it was lost in the early transmission of the text. The endings we now possess represent attempts by the church to supply what was obviously lacking” (Wessel 1984, pp. 792-793).

9. Appendix II

The intermediate ending is translated by Metzger: “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” Metzger stated that this intermediate reading “is present in several uncial manuscripts of the seventy, eighth and ninth centuries…. as well as in a few minuscule manuscripts…. and several ancient versions” (1964/1968/1992, p. 226).

10. Works consulted

Blum, Edwin A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’, in Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 207-254.

Bridge, D. & Phypers, D. 1977, The Water That Divides: The Baptism Debate, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

Bromiley, G. W. 1984, ‘Baptism, Believers”, in W. A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI.

Cairns, E. E. 1954, 1981, Christianity through the Centuries (rev. enl. ed.), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.

Erickson, Millard J. 1985, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, Norman 2004, Systematic Theology: Sin, Salvation (vol. 3), Bethany House , Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Grudem, Wayne 1994, Systematic Theology: An introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Grudem, Wayne 1999, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Kistemaker, Simon J. 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

Metzger, Bruce M. 1964, 1968, 1992, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.

Schaff, P. n.d., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus‘, Polycarp, ‘Christian Baptism’, Available from: http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/anf01/htm/viii.ii.lxi.htm [17 March 2005].

Wessel, Walter W. 1984, ‘Mark’, in Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 8), Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 601-793.

11. Notes


[1] Jeremy Jack’s response to OzSpen, “Christian History Project,” Open Issues, Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary, TDelta forum, 12.51 am, 12 March 2005, at: http://go.compuserve.com/Trinity?MSG=116364 [17 March 2005].

[2] Or, “response.”

[3] Trinity Seminary’s TDelta forum, ‘Christian History Project’, (Open Issues), Jeremy Jack’s response to OzSpen, 11.25 am, 11 March 2005, Available from, http://go.compuserve.com/Trinity?MSG=116354 [17 March 2005]. As of 9 October 2019, this forum was no longer available to me to interact.

[4] Or, “response.”

[5] See footnote no. 1 above.

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

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Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

clip_image002

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

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This title page points to five articles following that need to be read consecutively to see the message unfold.

1. Get to the heart of the BIG drought, fires and floods

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(photo courtesy WordPress at The University of Melbourne)

We can’t make it rain. But we can ensure that farming families and their communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet” the government said in a statement’.[1]

2. Pointing towards a solution: Australian disasters

But there’s not much we can do about it.”

3. Connection between spiritual condition of the nation and disasters

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

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(image courtesy http://100abortionphotos.com/#64)

They are only examples of two bits and pieces (euthanasia, abortion) in Australia. The bigger picture is what Francis A Schaeffer described as the inevitable consequences that follow for any nation that follows this world view:

Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality, whether they are Marxist or non-Marxist, not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is. Their concept of Man is what Man is not, just as their concept of the final reality is what final reality is not. Since their concept of Man is mistaken, their concept of society and of law is mistaken, and they have no sufficient base for either society or law.

They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top. And they see Man as acting in this way both individually and collectively as society (Francis A Schaeffer 1981:25-26).[2]

4. This deep-seated problem brings ruin to the outback and to the Australian nation

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(image courtesy Askideas.com)

The Australian Constitution of 1900 begins:

WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.[3]

Where is God in the media, marketplace of ideas, government and education? Labelling Australia as a ‘secular’ (nonreligious) nation demonstrates how secularists don’t understand the consequences of a secular-humanist world view. We see the consequences in Australia today.

5. The path Australia treads to ruin

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(image courtesy www.afain.net)

6.  Notes


[1] Stephanie Bedo 2018. Australia’s crippling drought crisis: Overcoming past mistakes to save ourselves for the future. news.com.au (online), 6 August. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/australias-crippling-drought-crisis-overcoming-past-mistakes-to-save-ourselves-for-the-future/news-story/136436de96fee5f33809de8d607f413c (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[2] Francis A Schaeffer 1981. A Christian Manifesto. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books. The chapter from which this citation is drawn, ‘The Abolition of Truth and Morality’ is available from The Highway at: https://www.the-highway.com/articleOct01.html (Accessed 28 May 2019).

[3] Available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Constitution/preamble (Accessed 6 November 2018).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2019.

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