Category Archives: God

The gift of tongues is ‘jibberish’

(Photo worship service at Dream City Church, affiliated to the Assemblies of God USA, in 2007, in Phoenix, United States, courtesy Wikipedia)

A contemporary worship team leads the congregation in praise and worship

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a fairly standard approach by those who believe in the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit:

In 1 Cor 14 the tongues Paul is talking about are known understandable earthly languages…”many kinds of voices in the world”. Your bias does not allow you to see this.


For example:
1 Cor 14:8-9 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”
If someone blows random notes on a trumpet (blows jibberish) then no knows what is going on causing mass confusion. Therefore what is blown MUST BE UNDERSTOOD so people know what is going on. Likewise a tongue must be spoken in a language the hearer CAN UNDERSTAND or it is meaningless jibberish to the hearer, the speaker is speaking to the air, no edification takes place.
[1]

How should I respond?[2] These are only a few examples from the early church (after the apostles). A number of others could be cited.

Let the early church fathers speak

I suggest you go searching in the early church fathers to determine if miracles (including the gift of tongues) continued. Here’s a starter:

snowflake-light-green-small Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-202) was a pupil of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. He wrote in his book “Against Heresies”, Book V, ch 6.1:

“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.”

snowflake-light-green-small Chrysostom (ca. AD 347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, wrote:

“Whoever was baptized [in apostolic times] he straightway spoke with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied, and some also performed many other wonderful works. For since on their coming over from idols, without any clear knowledge or training in the ancient Scriptures, they at once on their baptism received the Spirit, yet the Spirit they saw not, for It is invisible; therefore God’s grace bestowed some sensible proof of that energy. And one straightway spoke in the Persian, another in the Roman, another in the Indian, another in some other such tongue: and this made manifest to them that were without that it is the Spirit in the very person speaking”….

For as the Apostles themselves had received this sign first, so also the faithful went on receiving it, I mean, the gift of tongues; yet not this only but also many others: inasmuch as many used even to raise the dead and to cast out devils and to perform many other such wonders: and they had gifts too, some less, and some more. But more abundant than all was the gift of tongues among them: and this became to them a cause of division…. (Chrysostom, 1 Corinthians 12, Homily XXIX).

snowflake-light-green-small In the early writings of St Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, he wrote:

In the earliest times, the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4 These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away (Homily 6.10 on the First Epistle of John).

snowflake-light-green-small However, in his later ministry he had a change of heart with regard to his understanding of Scripture and its manifestation in his time. In The City of God, he had a chapter titled, ‘That All the Miracles Which are Done by Means of the Martyrs in the Name of Christ Testify to that Faith Which the Martyrs Had in Christ‘ (Book XXII, ch 9). Here he documents the miracles happening in his day. In the same Book he stated,

‘For men whom they knew to be acquainted with only one, or at most two languages, they marvelled to hear speaking in the tongues of all nations’ (Book XXII, ch 5)….

For the canon of the sacred writings, which behooved to be closed, causes those to be everywhere recited, and to sink into the memory of all the congregations; but these modern miracles are scarcely known even to the whole population in the midst of which they are wrought, and at the best are confined to one spot. For frequently they are known only to a very few persons, while all the rest are ignorant of them, especially if the state is a large one; and when they are reported to other persons in other localities, there is no sufficient authority to give them prompt and unwavering credence, although they are reported to the faithful by the faithful.

The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown, but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream, and discovered by him. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day (The City of God, Book XXII, ch 8).

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (northern Africa), one of the four great fathers of the Latin Church and considered the greatest of them all said: “We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans and called down the Holy Spirit on them in the laying-on of hands. It is expected that converts should speak with new tongues” (Comments on Acts 8:17-19).[3]

Notes


[1] Ernest T Bass#187. Christian Forums.net, ‘Speaking in Tongues’, true vs false (online), 23 August 2020. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/speaking-in-tongues-true-vs-false.79801/page-10 (Accessed 24 August 2020).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#201.

[3] Cited in Grace Christian Center n.d. Speaking in tongues (online). Available at: http://doorofgrace.org/images/pdf/SITpamphlet.pdf (Accessed 24 August 2020). I have not been able to locate the primary source of this quote in Augustine’s writings.

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

Responding as a Christian to opponents

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

(Image courtesy ChristianWeek)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

This is what caught my attention.

Should we answer a fool?

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

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

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

Should we answer a fool?

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

The relevant Scripture the Lord prompted me with was:

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

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

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

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

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

Version Information

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

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

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

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

Free Proverbs Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on ...Free Proverbs Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on ...Free Proverbs Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on ...

Why does the good God allow COVID-19?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Published in On Line Opinion (30 April 2020)

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

What makes him a good God?

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

Dr David Jeremiah explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam and Eve fouled it up for the whole universe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The media and Mother Nature

Who are the media blaming for the virus?

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

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

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

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

The stupidity of human beings

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

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

WetmarketHK.jpgA wet market in Hong Kong

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

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

Don’t expect transparency from a Communist government.

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

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

Wuhan, sub-provincial city, China

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

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

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

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

Tragedy sent to shake our priorities

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

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

Reasons why God allows suffering

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gold foward button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(image courtesy OCHA)

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

Why did God create human beings knowing they would sin?

Image result for clipart omniscience public domain

(image courtesy ya-webdesign.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

1. Theologians define omniscience

These evangelical theologians define omniscience as:

clip_image002

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

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

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

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


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


clip_image002[3]

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

2. God created human beings to sin?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

2.1 There was fellowship in the Trinity but …

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

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

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

3. God doesn’t tell us the reason.

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

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

Let’s ponder a possibility:

4. Sinful human beings to glorify God!

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

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

What’s the point of an image?

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

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

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

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

4.1  Meaning of bringing glory to God

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

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

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

Image result for clipart Glory to God

5.  Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

6.  Notes


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

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

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

horizontal line clipart made of many colors

Dr Albert Mohler asked: Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?[1]

Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel.

By Dr Albert Mohler Jr, December 18, 2015.[2]


Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

A statement made by a professor at a leading evangelical college has become a flashpoint in a controversy that really matters. In explaining why she intended to wear a traditional Muslim hijab over the holiday season in order to symbolize solidarity with her Muslim neighbors, the professor asserted that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Is this true?

The answer to that question depends upon a distinctly Christian and clearly biblical answer to yet another question: Can anyone truly worship the Father while rejecting the Son?

The Christian’s answer to that question must follow the example of Christ. Jesus himself settled the question when he responded to Jewish leaders who confronted him after he had said “I am the light of the world.” When they denied him, Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). Later in that same chapter, Jesus used some of the strongest language of his earthly ministry in stating clearly that to deny him is to deny the Father.

clip_image002The modern red star and crescent (a heraldic decrescent) design used as the de facto Emblem of Turkey (courtesy Wikipedia).

Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. Christians worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no other god. We know the Father through the Son, and it is solely through Christ’s atonement for sin that salvation has come. Salvation comes to those who confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). The New Testament leaves no margin for misunderstanding. To deny the Son is to deny the Father.

To affirm this truth is not to argue that non-Christians, our Muslim neighbors included, know nothing true about God or to deny that the three major monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — share some major theological beliefs. All three religions affirm that there is only one God and that he has spoken to us by divine revelation. All three religions point to what each claims to be revealed scriptures. Historically, Jews and Christians and Muslims have affirmed many points of agreement on moral teachings. All three theological worldviews hold to a linear view of history, unlike many Asian worldviews that believe in a circular view of history.

clip_image004Each circle represents: The Father, the Son, and The Spirit. The “Shield of the Trinity” or Scutum Fidei diagram of traditional medieval Western Christian symbolism (image courtesy Wikipedia).

And yet, when we look more closely, even these points of agreement begin to break down. Christian trinitarianism is rejected by both Judaism and Islam. Muslims deny that Jesus Christ is the incarnate and eternal Son of God and go further to deny that God has a son. Any reader of the New Testament knows that this was the major point of division between Christianity and Judaism. The central Christian claim that Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah and the divine Son become flesh led to the separation of the church and the synagogue as is revealed in the Book of Acts.

There is historical truth in the claim of “three Abrahamic religions” because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all look to Abraham as a principal figure and model of faith. But this historical truth is far surpassed in importance by the fact that Jesus explicitly denied that salvation comes merely by being merely one of “Abraham’s children” (John 8:39-59). He told the Jewish leaders who rejected him that their rejection revealed that they were not Abraham’s true sons and that they did not truly know God.

Christians do not deny that Muslims know some true things about God. As a matter of fact, in Romans 1:19-20 Paul explains that all people have some real knowledge of God by general revelation, so that they are without excuse. Speaking at Mars Hill in Athens in Acts 17, Paul argued that even some of the Greeks’ own philosophers and poets gave evidence of a rudimentary knowledge of God — but this was not a saving knowledge, and the Apostle was broken-hearted when he saw the Athenians at worship.

In making her claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the professor claimed the authority of Pope Francis, and since Vatican II the Roman Catholic Church has become ever more explicit in its teaching that salvation can come without a conscious and explicit faith in Christ. This is simply not an option for evangelical Christians committed to the authority of Scripture alone and to the Gospel as defined in the New Testament.

Francis J. Beckwith, a leading Catholic apologist and philosopher, defended the claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. At one point, Beckwith argued that two people could have differing knowledge of Thomas Jefferson while knowing the same Thomas Jefferson as the third President of the United States. He continued: “In the same way, Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity, but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? Again, of course not.”

But this line of argument evades the entire structure of promise and fulfillment that links the Old Testament and the New Testament. Abraham and Moses could not have defined the doctrine of the Trinity while they were on earth, but they believed that God would be faithful to all of his promises, and those promises were fulfilled only and fulfilled perfectly in Christ. And, going back to John 8:56-58, Jesus said: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad … Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Evangelical Christians understand that, theologically, there is a genetic link between Judaism and Christianity. That is why Christians must always be humbled by the fact that we have been grafted onto the promises first made to Israel. In terms of both history and theology, there is no genetic link between Christianity and Islam. The Qur’an claims that to confess Jesus Christ as the divine Son and the second person of the Trinity is to commit blasphemy against Allah.

Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel. Christians affirm the image of God in every single human being and we must obey Christ as we love all people everywhere as our neighbor. Love of neighbor also demands that we tell our neighbor the truth concerning Christ as the only way to truly know the Father.

We must also understand that the most basic issue is the one Jesus answered with absolute clarity. One cannot deny the Son and truly worship the Father. There is no question that the Muslim is our neighbor, but there is no way to remain faithful to Scripture and the gospel and then claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

For other resources I have written on this topic see:

Flower25 Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God.

Flower25What Does God Care What We Call Him.

Notes:


[1] Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/12/18/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god/ (Accessed 20 December 2015). I am indebted to Dr Mohler for this superb analysis of the differences among the God of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Permission was granted to upload this article by Caleb Shaw, Director of Communications, Office of the President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville KY on 18 January 2020.

[2] Dr Mohler Jr is the President of The Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville KY, USA.

Image result for clipart single color lines

Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?

‘I’m not running for Pope’

The Honourable Scott Morrison MP

Scott Morrison 2014 (cropped 2).jpg

30th Prime Minister of Australia

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published by On Line Opinion, 6 November 2019.

What is Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, telling us about his Christianity with these statements?

Flower8 Before becoming PM, he did not support same-sex marriage. What about now?

Flower8 When interviewed by Leigh Sales, he had an opportunity to tell those watching what his views were on the existence and nature of God. He pushed that one aside with a ‘love’ view.

Flower8 He’s a Christian who doesn’t mix religion and politics.

Which God is he serving? He and his family attend Horizon Church, Sutherland Shire, NSW, Australia. This is a Pentecostal congregation associated with the Australian Christian Churches, affiliated with the Assemblies of God worldwide.

He allowed the mass media into the worship service to see him with his wife at Easter Sunday service 2019. ScoMo was praising God with hand raised. This is a common practice in Pentecostal and other evangelical church worship, supported by Bible passages such as Psalm 63:4.

This article will examine how Morrison’s Christianity integrates in public with his politics.

1. Prime Minister’s moral views

When he was treasurer in 2016, he did not support change from traditional to same-sex marriage. This is in agreement with Jesus’ endorsement of heterosexual relationships:

‘‘’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Matthew 19:4-6).

What about abortion?

The context of the recent abortion debate in NSW was when the PM acknowledged it was a State issue where the MPs and MLCs were granted a conscience vote. He would not make it a Commonwealth issue but acknowledged

I have what I would describe as conservative views on this issue as people know I have on other issues. That’s really all I think I need to say”.

That statement was made after he became PM.

2. When new moral views become law

Now that homosexual marriage has been legalised in Australia, what is Morrison’s view? Notice how he dodges the journalist’s questions:

Mr Morrison abstained from voting for marriage equality when it passed the House of Representatives in 2018, and he voted “no” in the national survey.

When asked if he is still personally opposed to same-sex marriage, the prime minister replied: “It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”

When pressed on whether his opinions have changed, he told reporters in Perth: “I always support the law of the country“.

So, he supports Australian law but won’t own up to his current personal beliefs about homosexuality. I wonder, as a Pentecostal Christian, whether he accepts the Bible’s view on the topic.

OUTinPerth, an LGBTIQ+ news source, observed ScoMo’s views on homosexuality when a journalist interviewed him in Perth. Now he was supportive of same-sex couples being allowed to ‘get on with their lives’ because he ‘always supports the law of the country’.

ScoMo would not be drawn into a discussion on whether he believed ‘gay people would be sent to hell’ – referring to the Israel Folau controversy.

3. His views on God

Leigh Sales of ABC’s 7.30 grilled him on this topic: ‘I’m not running for Pope,’ Mr Morrison shot back. “I’m running for Prime Minister. And the theological questions are not ones that are actually, I think, germane to the political debate in this country’.

Then he defined faith as loving others, ‘which is what I’ve always believed’. His parents taught by example, serving in local youth organisations, boys and girls brigade for the youth in their community. ‘They taught me a life of faith and service and that’s what my faith means to me. It means service and caring for others’.

Image result for clipart Who Is GodHe had an ideal public opportunity to declare his belief in the Lord God Almighty and Jesus the Saviour who offers salvation to the world. He turned to the ‘loving others’ definition of who God is. In my view he dodged the issues regarding attributes of God for a Christian PM.

When will ScoMo have the courage to lead the country in repentance and prayer for rain? He stated when it rained in Albury: ‘I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that’.

We heard former PM, Malcolm Turnbull, state, ‘We can’t make it rain’. Step up to the mark ScoMo. You know the One who sends and withholds rain: God the Father ‘lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong’.

I’m waiting on Morrison’s call to the nation to flood into churches, public halls and local parks to pray earnestly for rain. We can’t force God to send the rain but he has told us to ‘never stop praying’ and wait for his sovereign action in sending the liquid gold to the parched regions of the nation.

It is time for this Christian PM to tell us who sends the rain. This view espoused by many that ‘we can’t make it rain’ is true but it avoids announcing who sends rain and how we should respond to the drought.

4. Religion does not mix with politics

Morrison told a journalist, ‘he doesn’t “mix [his] religion with politics”’.

Regarding homosexuals and hell, he clarified his view before the 2019 election: No, I do not believe that’, he told SBS News.

Image result for clipart religion and politicsHowever, only a year prior he supported Israel Folau’s ‘strength of character in standing up for what he believes in and I think that’s what this country is all about’. Folau believes sinners go to hell. Does he support Folau’s ‘strength of character’ without affirming Folau’s moral and theological beliefs?

Does he believe all sinners go to hell? I have not found his making a clear public statement about this.

However, The Horizon Church where he and his family attend, stated in its Doctrinal Basis (for Australian Christian Churches), ‘We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation’ (Bible references provided).

If ScoMo is a member of that Church he would have to accept this teaching.

5. Which Bible does ScoMo read?

Twelve months ago when he was treasurer, Morrison’s views on morality and a Christian world view do not match his philosophy with biblical teaching today. From what I’ve written above, alarm bells should be ringing of conflicts between his beliefs and actions.

Related imageThe first alarm concerns how a person’s world view affects life in the real world, including politics. All of us have a world view, a lens through which we look and interpret all of life.

The global warming world view uses a certain set of lenses. Left wing and right wing agitators also use different lenses. The Christian and atheistic world views see life through the theistic God’s existence (Christian) and the lack of evidence for God (atheism).

For ScoMo to state he doesn’t ‘mix religion with politics’, he violates a Christian fundamental belief: ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17).

So, ScoMo, as a biblical Christian, should live by the teaching: ‘I must mix my Christianity with political thinking and actions. By this I give thanks to God the Father through Jesus’.

Related imageA second alarm deals with ScoMo’s acceptance of moral issues after they become law, e.g. homosexual marriage and abortion. The biblical view is that promoted by Peter and the apostles when confronted with the Jewish high council (the Sanhedrin).

The high priest stated: ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us! But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:28-29).

Should that be ScoMo’s approach to legislation that clashes with Scripture?

6. Bible, homosexuality and abortion

First Corinthians 6:9-11 is clear. Wrong doers or the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. These include those who indulge in sexual sin, worship idols, commit adultery, are male prostitutes, practise homosexuality, are thieves, greedy, drunkards, abusive, or cheat people.

If they don’t inherit the kingdom of God, where do they go at death? Jesus said regarding the last judgment: ‘They [the unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46).

Therefore, Izzy scored the try across the biblical line while ScoMo fumbled the biblical material and presented a view that is foreign to the text.

https://i0.wp.com/www.campaignlifecoalition.com/shared/skins/default/images/abortionphotos/abortedbaby22wks.jpg?resize=317%2C231&ssl=1(aborted 22 weeks, Campaign Life Coalition)

As for God’s view on abortion, is it more than ScoMo’s ‘conservative’ view? Is the unborn a living human being (from God’s perspective) whose right to live should be preserved? Or is the unborn child a lump of cells of no more value than a chicken fillet?

Scripture teaches that human life exists in the womb: ‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Psalm 139:13).

In the New Testament (NT), when Mary and Elizabeth met, both being pregnant, Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) ‘leaped in her womb’ in salutation of Mary’s baby, Jesus.  Of special significance in Luke’s account is that he used the same word brephos (NT Greek) for an unborn child (1:41, 44), the new-born baby (2:12, 16) and the little ones brought to Jesus to bless (18:15).

Medical science agrees. Every human life begins at conception. The approximately 65,000 murdered in Australian abortions every year are pre-born children – human beings.

In 1970, in the midst of the United States’ abortion debate (it was legalised in 1973), the editors of the journal California Medicine (the official journal of the California Medical Association), noticed ‘a curious avoidance of thescientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra or extrauterine until death’.

Therefore, to kill an unborn infant is to murder a human being.

7. Conclusion

ScoMo’s world view is not driven by biblical Christianity’s, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings’. When he reneges on what the Bible says about the destiny of all evil doers, including homosexuals, he has made a trade off to weaken what the Bible states.

To affirm that he is not running for Pope and serves a God of love avoids fuller explanation of who God is: All-powerful, one who knows all things, has wrath as well as love; he offers salvation to all who believe; we can know him truly, and he is eternal.

Could you imagine ScoMo taking a stand on the 7.30 program like this? ‘As a Christian who believes in the inspiration of the Bible, I endorse the content of Israel Folau’s Instagram post. As a Christian PM, everything I say and do will be under the scrutiny of the Bible’.

I appreciate that that kind of comment would lose some votes at the next election – while gaining others – and could be used by the opposition to denigrate his beliefs in a multicultural Australia. Nevertheless, the Australian Constitution has its foundation in the five states that joined together, ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

All Christians are faced with the ScoMo challenge: ‘Everything you say and everything you do should be done for Jesus your Lord’. Imagine the PM saying it like that to Leigh Sales!

In my view, the public life of politics has weakened ScoMo’s overt Christianity.

ScoMo what will it be? Spiritual correctness or political correctness? Your future will depend on it.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 03 November 2019.

Australia - Free Clipart for Kids  Teachers

Is Natural Law unchangeable?

Image result for clipart Natural Law public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you respond to this challenge?

Everyone on earth, in the civilized world, believes in the Natural Truth. A truth that is by its very nature accepted by everyone. The main reason for its acceptance is that it keeps the society in an orderly condition and avoids chaos.
I said in the civilized world because cannibals believe it is right to kill someone for their food; but they would still stop at killing each other for this purpose.
I believe some here, and I agree, are saying that today even the Natural Truth is being transgressed. Abortion, euthanasia are examples.
[1]

This person explained further:

I don’t know if I can say Christianity is the Truth because not everyone accepts it.
I CAN say that it is true. Why? Because no one else, Buddha, Krishna, etc. ever claimed to be God.

Also, there is the resurrection which I believe to be true because I trust the Apostles who said so.

Pilot asked Jesus “what is the truth”. Jesus did not reply because Pilot could not accept the truth, even though he was staring it in the face.

Pilot did not even accept the Natural Truth. Anyone who could crucify someone does not have the truth.

Whereas Jesus embodied the Truth. He was Natural Truth personified since HE wrote it![2]

1.  Who invented the Natural Law perspective?

The view that Natural Laws are immutable (unchangeable) was an argument against miracles that was popularised in the 1670s by Jewish pantheist, Benedict Spinoza.[3] As you may know, pantheism is the worldview that God is everything and everyone-everything is God.

Spinoza’s argument went like this:

  1. Miracles are violations of natural laws;
  2. Natural laws are immutable;
  3. It is impossible to violate immutable laws;
  4. So, miracles are impossible.

If we follow Spinoza’s philosophy/worldview, then natural laws cannot be overpowered and that puts an end to miracles.

The basic problem with Spinoza’s view of Natural Law is that it commits the begging the question fallacy or engages in circular reasoning. This fallacy includes the conclusion in its premises, directly or indirectly. It assumes the conclusion is true and places it in its presuppositions.

This is where Spinoza’s worldview needs to be exposed. His presupposition was that there is no theistic God who performs miracles because he was a pantheist and did not believe in the personal, theist Yahweh.

We know from the evidence of creation (whether one accepts it from Scripture or the Big Bang of science) that we have evidence of the greatest miracle of all in creation of the universe out of nothing. This example of the violation of Natural Law demonstrates that the Natural Law (miracle performed) is not immutable.

It has been put this way by Geisler & Turek:

We also know that natural laws are not immutable because they are descriptions of what happens, not prescriptions of what must happen. Natural laws don’t really cause anything, they only describe what regularly happens in nature. They describe the effects of the four known natural forces – gravitational, magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Once you introduce intelligent beings into the picture, natural forces can be over powered. We know that those forces can be overpowered because we do so ourselves every day.
For example, when a baseball player catches a falling baseball, he is overpowering the force of gravity. We do the same whenever we fly planes or blast off into space. In such cases, gravity is not changed, it is simply overpowered. If finite beings like us can overpower natural forces, then certainly the infinite Being who created those forces can do so (Geisler & Turek 2004:204).?

After making this post online, the person dealing with Natural Law responded and stated she ‘was speaking to moral law’.[4]

2.  God does not change his mind.

The difference between Natural Law and moral laws is that universal moral laws are based on the nature of God and he is immutable. These verses affirm the unchanging nature of God:

  • Num 23:19 (NLT), ‘God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?’
  • Mal 3:6 (NLT), ‘I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed’.
  • James 1:17 (NLT), ‘Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow’.

So whether under God’s revelations in the OT or NT, God is declared to be one who by essence/nature never changes.

3.  God is the standard of morality.

That standard is established in the moral laws contained in the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). Because the moral laws are related to the nature and attributes of God, they cannot be changed. God can intervene in natural laws through instances such as miracles and providence[5], but he cannot change moral laws because they are based on his nature.

Thus, God’s moral laws are absolute and not relativistic.

My response to the person who clarified she was referring to the moral law was:[6]

Image result for clipart God morality(image courtesy 123RF.com)

Since you were speaking about moral law and not Natural Law, it is important to note that the Natural Law is not based on God’s attributes/nature and so Natural Law is changeable. God can penetrate it with miracles. NASA can violate Natural Law with its space crafts.

However, God can’t defy his moral laws as they are based on his nature. Murder, adultery, theft, lying and covetousness are wrong (e.g. Ex 20 ESV) because they are based on God’s nature. The introduction to the Ten Commandments in Ex 20:1-2 (NLT) is: ‘Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery’. So God declares who he is, ‘the Lord your God’, before declaring the commandments for the Israelites to live by. God’s nature as the Lord God is what determines the content of his commands.

Yes, God can do anything (except sin) and is not limited, but that is based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. Spinoza did not accept that view as a pantheist – even though he was a Jew and should have known better.

I agree that the moment we speak of God as a ‘person’ (as in the 3 persons of the Trinity), it is way too easy to presume we know the characteristics of a person, based on human understanding. However, the truth is that we need to allow God to define and describe his nature/person of himself. Here we search the Scriptures for accurate descriptions of God’s personhood.

4.  God’s law written on the human heart.

There’s a revealing Scripture in Rom 2:12-15 (NLT):

12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. 13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

No people will get off scot-free before God, even if they have not heard the Gospel of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. This is because God has revealed in Scripture that God’s law is written in the hearts of all Gentiles and their consciences and thoughts will accuse them or confirm they are right before God.

5.  Conclusion

The Natural Law is a philosophical concept invented by Spinoza. It is not unchangeable (immutable) and authoritarian (prescriptive). Instead, natural laws describe what happens and do not prescribe what must happen. Natural laws cannot cause anything; they described what actually happens in nature.

God’s moral law that commands ethical standards is based on the nature of God and examples include the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The Jews depended on the OT Law for their standards while the Christian depends on the NT commands, Matt 5-7 being one example. Non-Jews (Gentiles) have the moral law of God in their hearts and their consciences or thoughts that condemn or clear them of guilt.

6.  Works consulted

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

7.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Is the world really searching for truth? Wondering#191, 6 December. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/is-the-world-really-searching-for-truth.67081/page-10 (Accessed 10 December 2016).

[2] Ibid., Wondering#193.

[3] In ibid., OzSpen$256. I have received some helpful information on this view from Geisler & Turek (2004:203-204).

[4] Ibid., Wonder#258.

[5] ‘Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. This divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God is the underlying premise of everything that is taught in the Scriptures’ (Bible Study Tools 2016. s v Providence of God).

[6] Christian Forums.net 2016. Is the world really searching for truth? OzSpen#259.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 September 2019.

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

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.

clip_image005

(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.

clip_image006clip_image006

How to understand three persons in the Trinity

clip_image002

(image courtesy slideplayer.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I refer you to my previous articles that document the biblical teaching on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each being regarded as God. The second link below raises some objections to the Trinity.

clip_image004 Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

clip_image004[1] Problems with the Trinity

This study begins with an assessment of some indications of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit of the Trinity in the Old Testament. It also deals with actions of the separate Persons in the Trinity throughout the Bible.

1. Hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament [1]

This is not a comprehensive list but give a few indications of the Trinity in the Old Testament.

1.1 Plural nouns and pronouns are applied to God

See: Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:6, 7; 20:13; 48:15; Isa. 6:8. The plurality of the Godhead also is indicated in Gen 1:1, 26 and 48:15-16.

For example, Gen 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. The word translated ‘God’ is Elohim. It is an abstract plural.

The term includes, as a plural, all persons in the Trinity but itself does not declare the fact. There is a plurality of persons. It is a title, not a name, denoting either intensification of the original meaning, or is a plural of that majesty which is deity (Stigers 1976:50).

Francis Schaeffer explained this with precision for our contemporary culture:

When we read, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we are not left with something hung in a vacuum: Something existed before creation and that something was personal and not static; the Father loved the Son; there was a plan; there was communication; and promises were made prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. This whole conception is rooted in the reality of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, Christianity would not have the answers that modern man needs (Schaeffer 1976:18).

1.2  God’s name is plural (Elohim) and the verb is singular.

The verb, “Come,” in Gen. 11:7 is really in the plural and must be addressed to at least two others. This seems not to be the angels as God SENDS them. The NLT translates as, “Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other”.

Neither is Gen. 1:26 addressed to angels because in the next verse we are told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (ESV), or as in the NLT, ‘So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

2. More OT indicators of plurality in unity

This sounds like strange language but there is biblical evidence that indicates …

2.1  Jehovah is distinguished from Jehovah

See Gen. 19:24 and Hosea 1:7. Genesis 19:24 (NIV) states: ‘Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven’. There are intricacies in this text in understanding how the ‘LORD rained’ and ‘from the LORD out of heaven’.

One of the finest commentaries with a high view of Scripture is by H C Leupold, Exposition of Genesis. Of Gen 19:24 he wrote:

The view which the church held on this problem from days of old is still the simplest and the best…. “God the Son brought down the rain from God the Father,” as the Council of Sirmium[2] worded the statement. To devaluate the statement of the text to mean less necessitates a similar process of devaluation of a number of other texts like Ge 1:26, and only by such a process can the claim be supported that there are no indications of the doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis. We believe the combined weight of these passages, including Ge 1:1, 2, makes the conclusion inevitable that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in a measure revealed in the Old Testament, and especially in Genesis (Leupold 1942:570).[3]

2.2  Jehovah has a son

See Ps. 2:7; cf. John 3:16, 18; 9:36; Rom. 1:7; Heb. 1:6). He was a son before he was “given” (Isa. 9:6); Micah 5:2 (ESV) “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days”; he is called “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6).

2.3 The Spirit is distinguished from God (the Father)

See Gen. 1:1-2; 6:3; Num. 27:18; Ps. 51:11; Isa. 40:13; 48:16; Hag. 2:4-5.

This is evident from Gen 1:1-2 (NET): ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water’.

Here, Elohim (God) created while Ruach (the Spirit of God) moved over the waters. We have plurality in the one God in action, thus providing early indications of the Trinity.

2.4 “The angel of Jehovah” is regarded as a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Logos, the Son

An exception is Hag. 1:13 where Haggai himself is the “messenger” which is the same word as “angel”.

Examples of the angel of the Lord manifestations include to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14); to Abraham (Gen. 22:11-18); to Moses (Ex. 3:2-5); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-7), etc. In Gen. 18, one of the “men” who appeared to Abraham is repeatedly represented as Jehovah (vv. 13, 17, 20, 22-23).

2.5  The three-some of Isa. 6:3 (“Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts”)

See also the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26) that could point to the Trinity. Although this is a three-fold benediction, there is only one God who blesses. cf. Rev. 4:8.

The Scriptures declare Father, Son and Holy Spirit each is God, as I’ve explained in the article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? How do we know these three are Persons in the Godhead?

3. How do Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate in the Godhead?

These diagrams by Wayne Grudem are the most helpful I’ve seen for explaining the Trinity, comparing false views with his orthodox understanding. Originally they were from Grudem (1994:253-258).[4]

clip_image006This (to the left) is an heretical view of the Trinity where God’s being is divided into three equal parts, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – thus making three Gods. The Athanasian Creed was written to address this error.

clip_image008Since I’m examining the personhood of each member of the Trinity, how can we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in unity and yet they are separate persons. ‘If each person is fully God and has all of God’s being, then we also should not think that the personal distinctions are any kind of additional attributes added on to the being of God, like this pattern (to the left).

Human beings (and I’m one of them) find it difficult to comprehend the nature of the Trinitarian God. However, this teaching is straight from Scripture. Analogies fail and diagrams have disadvantages. It is essential doctrine that we understand ‘each person of the Trinity has all of the attributes of God, and no one person has any attributes that are not possessed by the others’ (Grudem 1994:253).

‘The three persons of the Trinity are not just three different ways of looking at the one being of God’.

clip_image010‘What are the differences between Father, Son and Holy Spirit? There is no difference in attributes at all. The only difference between them is the way they relate to each other and to the creation (Grudem 1994:254).

clip_image012While Grudem regarded the above three diagrams as flawed representations of the Trinity, he considered this diagram (to the left), although imperfect, was a representation of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.

Grudem explained:

In this diagram (to the left), the Father is represented as the section of the circle designated by F, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter F; the Son is represented as the section of the circle designated by S, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter S; and the Holy Spirit is represented as the section of the circle marked HS and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the HS. Thus, there are three distinct persons, but each person is fully and wholly God. Of course the representation is imperfect, for it cannot represent God’s infinity, or personality, or indeed any of his attributes. It also requires looking at the circle in more than one way in order to understand it: the dotted lines must be understood to indicate personal relationship, not any division in the one being of God. Thus, the circle itself represents God’s being while the dotted lines represent a form of personal existence other than a difference in being. But the diagram may nonetheless help guard against some misunderstanding….

Because the existence of three persons in one God is something beyond our understanding, Christian theology has come to use the word person to speak of these differences in relationship, not because we fully understand what is meant by the word person when referring to the Trinity, but rather so that we might say something instead of saying nothing at all.

Can We Understand the Doctrine of the Trinity? We should be warned by the errors that have been made in the past. They have all come about through attempts to simplify the doctrine of the Trinity and make it completely understandable, removing all mystery from it. This we can never do. However, it is not correct to say that we cannot understand the doctrine of the Trinity at all. Certainly we can understand and know that God is three persons, and that each person is fully God, and that there is one God. We can know these things because the Bible teaches them. Moreover, we can know some things about the way in which the persons relate to each other…. But what we cannot understand fully is how to fit together those distinct biblical teachings. We wonder how there can be three distinct persons, and each person have the whole being of God in himself, and yet God is only one undivided being. This we are unable to understand. In fact, it is spiritually healthy for us to acknowledge openly that God’s very being is far greater than we can ever comprehend. This humbles us before God and draws us to worship him without reservation (Grudem 1994:255-256).

I found Grudem’s diagrams of the errors and a suggested solution to be first-rate when confirming the deity of each person of the Trinity and expressing the differentiation of persons in the Godhead.

Louis Berkhof’s assessment is profound:

It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead (Berkhof 1939/1941:88)?

4. Duties of each person[5]

clip_image014

(image courtesy slide 6, slideshare.net)

For practical purposes, what does each member of the Godhead do differently from the others? How do the ‘job descriptions’ differ?

Personhood normally has the attributes of

intellect, feeling, and will. All three of these characteristics are attributed to all three members of the Trinity in Scripture [which I’ll discuss below]. Essentially, personhood refers to an “I,” a “who,” or a subject. Each “I” in the Trinity possesses (by virtue of its common nature) the power to think, feel, and choose. Personhood itself is its I-ness or who-ness (Geisler 2003:379).

4.1  God the Father is a person

Which biblical evidence verifies the Father’s activities as that of a person (acting as ‘You’ or ‘He’):

The Father is a person who has attributes of personhood:

clip_image016Intellect: According to Matt 6:32, ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (NIV);

clip_image018Emotional attribute to feel: Gen 6:6 (NIV), ‘The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled‘.

clip_image020The will. The Father has power to choose. See Matt 6:9-10 (NIV), ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

clip_image022The ability to communicate: Matt 11:25, ‘At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children‘.

clip_image024Teach: “Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own'” (John 7:16).[6]

4.2   Jesus the God-man is a person

He demonstrates the attributes of personhood as demonstrated in Scripture:

clip_image016[1]He has the power of intellect according to John 2:25 (NLT), ‘No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart’.

clip_image018[1]He had feelings for people: ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). ‘But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep’ (Luke 19:41). Luke 10:21 exposes another side of Jesus’ emotions:

‘At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way”’ (Luke 10:21).

You may disagree that joy is a feeling or an emotion. What then is it?  This article from God Questions supports what I understand is the biblical view that joy is an emotion: Is there a difference between joy and happiness?

clip_image020[1]The will of Jesus: In John 6:38 Jesus declared, ‘For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will’. These three verses indicate Jesus had the power of the will:

Just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep….

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:15, 17-18).

clip_image025Jesus taught (attribute of a person): ‘Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.

As the God-man, Jesus had the characteristics of a physical being – a person: He became tired (John 4:6), got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He developed physical weakness (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). He had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).[7]

4.3  God the Holy Spirit is a person

Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit had attributes of personhood. ‘He’ was not an impersonal ‘it’.

clip_image016[2]John 14:26 demonstrates the Holy Spirit ‘reminds’ and teaches: ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’.

clip_image026Ephesians 4:30 expresses the feelings of the Holy Spirit: ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’. Also, ‘and so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven’ (Matt 12:31). The Spirit can be insulted: ‘So think how much more punishment people deserve who show their hate for the Son of God—people who show they have no respect for the blood sacrifice that began the new agreement and once made them holy or who insult the Spirit of God’s grace’ (Heb 11:29 ERV).

clip_image020[2]This is another dimension of the Holy Spirit’s feelings: ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers’ (Acts 9:31).

1 Corinthians 12:11 demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has a will to dispense the gifts: ‘It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have’ (NLT).

clip_image025[1]John 16:13 refers to the ‘Spirit of truth’ with the Greek masculine, ekeinos, i.e. ‘He’ and not ‘it’, although pneuma (Spirit) is neuter gender: ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come’ (NIV)

The Person of the Holy Spirit has the attributes of being a ‘he’ who guides, speaks and hears.

clip_image027There is more NT evidence that the Spirit ‘searches, knows, speaks, testifies, reveals, convinces, commands, strives, moves, helps, guides, creates, recreates, sanctifies, inspires, intercedes, orders the affairs of the church, and performs miracles (see Gen 6:3; Luke 12:12; John 3:8; 16:7-8; Acts 8:29; Rom 8:26; 1 Cor 2:11; Eph 4:30; 2 Peter 1:21, etc’.[8]

4.4  Communication within the Godhead[9]

Another dimension to better understand the persons in the Trinity is to be aware of the ‘many times in Scripture one member of the Trinity is speaking to another. This indicates that they are not one and the same person’ (Geisler 2003:288).

4 .4.1  The Father speaks to the Son

Hebrews 1:5 (quoting Psalm 2:7) states: ‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”’.

Psalm 110:1 states, ‘The Lord (Father) says to my Lord (Son): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’ (ESV). Jesus used this Scripture to demonstrate his deity in Matt 22:41-46.

See also Psalm 45:6-7; Heb 1:8-9 and three examples where God, the Father, spoke from heaven approving Jesus Christ, the Son (Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28).

4.4.2  The Son speaks to the Father

In Zechariah 1:12 we read: ‘Upon hearing this, the angel of the Lord [regarded as the Son] prayed this prayer: “O Lord [Yahweh] of Heaven’s Armies, for seventy years now you have been angry with Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. How long until you again show mercy to them?”’ (NLT) Yahweh, the ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3:14 is the name reserved for God alone.

Both Father and Son are referred to in Prov 30:4 (NLT),

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

In the NT there is a similar emphasis of the Son communicating with the Father:

clip_image029John 17:1, ‘After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you”’.

clip_image030Luke 23:46, ‘Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last’.

4.4.3  The Spirit acting separately from the Father and the Son, but connected  with personal acts performed by them

Strong (1907:325) explained:[10]

Matt. 3:16 – 17, “ And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”; Luke 3:21- 22, ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’.

4.4.4  The three persons speaking together

These are but three examples:

clip_image032Isaiah 63:7-10 (ESV):

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord [Father] has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Saviour.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence [Son] saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.

Here Father, Son and Holy Spirit act together.

clip_image032[1]We also see this co-operative action at Jesus’ baptism:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17).

clip_image033In the baptism formula given in Matt 28:19 it is stated: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. ‘Name’ is singular.

There are a number of other examples that there are three different and distinct persons existing concurrently and eternally and share the same essence or nature of the one God (e.g. 2 Cor 13:14).

‘This is in stark contrast to modalism (sabellianism), which claims there is only one person in God who appears at different times in the form of different persons’ (Geisler 2003:289).

4.4.5 The three persons acting together

In Jesus’ resurrection, we see the three persons of the Godhead acting together:

(1) The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11 NLT);
(2) The Father raised Jesus from the dead (
Acts 2:32-33 NLT);
(3) Jesus raised Jesus from the dead (
John 10:18 NLT).

Dr Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, rejected the Trinity description as a triplex. A triplex is ‘a building divided into three self-contained residences’ or ‘a flat on three floors’ (Lexico 2019. s.v. triplex). A triplex consists of 3 separate substances and is complex.

Martin’s statement was: ‘God is not triplex (1+1+1)—He is triune (1X1X1), and he has revealed Himself fully in the Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9, John 14:9).” — Christian Research Institute tract, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity’ (cited in, Is the Trinity a Biblical Concept? Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jehovah).

St Augustine rejected this view. He explained it in On the Trinity:

Chapter 7.–God is a Trinity, But Not Triple (Triplex).

But God is truly called in manifold ways, great, good, wise, blessed, true, and whatsoever other thing seems to be said of Him not unworthily: but His greatness is the same as His wisdom; for He is not great by bulk, but by power; and His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things; and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself.

9. Neither, since He is a Trinity, is He therefore to be thought triple (triplex) [615] otherwise the Father alone, or the Son alone, will be less than the Father and Son together. Although, indeed, it is hard to see how we can say, either the Father alone, or the Son alone; since both the Father is with the Son, and the Son with the Father, always and inseparably: not that both are the Father, or both are the Son; but because they are always one in relation to the other, and neither the one nor the other alone. But because we call even the Trinity itself God alone, although He is always with holy spirits and souls, but say that He only is God, because they are not also God with Him; so we call the Father the Father alone, not because He is separate from the Son, but because they are not both together the Father.

Footnotes

[615] [The Divine Unity is trinal, not triple. The triple is composed of three different substances. It has parts, and is complex. The trinal is without parts, and is incomplex. It denotes one simple substance in three modes or forms. “We may speak of the trinal, but not of the triple deity.” Hollaz, in Hase’s Hutterus, 172.–W.G.T.S.]

‘Trinal’ means ‘having three parts; threefold; triple’ (yourdictionary.com 2019. s.v. trinal).

Scriptural reasons for my conclusion re the persons of the Trinity are spread through this article. Each person of the Trinity being regarded as God, and the biblical basis for such, is in my earlier article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? A couple other verses are included in a polemical article, Problems with the Trinity.

4.5  Don’t forget the implications of John 14:28

This verse states: ‘You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I’ (John 14:28 ESV).

This verse leads us to a very important dimension of the Trinity:

clip_image035Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal in the Trinitarian godhead. Each member of the Trinity has an identical essence. By essence I mean nature. Therefore, God has one nature but Scripture confirms there are three distinct persons who are God. All are called God so are co-equal and are eternal, i.e. co-eternal.

BUT

clip_image036This does not exclude a purposeful (functional) order in the Trinity. This perfect design or focus can be explained as a ‘functional subordination’ among the persons and not a subordination of being (i.e. ontological subordination). If the being of the Father were superior to the being of the Son who is superior to the Holy Spirit, the three persons in the Godhead could not each be God in nature – which is not the case. For an examination of these details, see my article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

R C Sproul explained this functional subordination (technically labelled in theology by a misleading title, ‘the economic Trinity’):

What are the individual, personal qualities that belong to the three persons of the Godhead? From all eternity, the Father begets[11] the Son [Heb 1:5-6, 8]; the Son is begotten by the Father [Jn 1:14, 18], and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son [Jn 15:26, Gal 4:6]” (WLC 10).[12] With regard to the economic Trinity, we distinguish among the three persons of the Godhead in terms of their roles in creation and redemption. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in the economy of redemption in terms of what they do (Sproul 2014).

This functional subordination can be summarised:

‘The Father is the Planner, the Son is the Accomplisher, and the Holy Spirit is the Applier of salvation to believers. The Father is the Source, the Son is the Means, and the Holy Spirit is the Effector of salvation—it is He who convicts, convinces, and converts…. [The nature and duration of this subordination] is not just temporal and economical: it is essential and eternal…. Paul wrote:

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power…. Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere (1 Cor 15:24, 28 NLT)’ (Geisler 2003:291).

5. Conclusion

Norman Geisler, eminent apologist and theologian, who left this earth to be present with the Lord on 1 July 2019[13] when I was preparing this article, provided this precise conclusion to how three persons can be one God:

By saying God has one essence and three persons it is meant that he has one ‘What’ and three ‘Whos.’ The three Whos (persons) each share the same What (essence). God is a unity of essence with a plurality of persons. Each person is different, yet they (sic)[14] share a common nature (Geisler 1999:732).[15]

6. Notes

[1] Based on Thiessen (1949:136-145).

[2] The Council of Sirmum was held between AD 357 and 359. See: http://www.self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Council_of_Sirmium (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[3] The commentary is online at Bible Hub: Exposition of Genesis: Vol 1. Available at: https://biblehub.com/library/leupold/exposition_of_genesis_volume_1/index.html (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[4] I copied them from Calvary Baptist Church, Available at: http://www.calvarydothan.com/public/system/PodcastOutlines/2017_03_15_1.pdf (Accessed 5 July 2019).

[5] This section is based on formation from Geisler (2003:287-288).

[6] Much of this summary of the Persons in the Godhead is based on Geisler (2003:287).

[7] These personal characteristics were given by Mathis (2016).

[8] Geisler (2003:288). This list of personal actions by the Holy Spirit in Geisler mainly comes from Augustus Strong’s Systematic Theology (1907:324).

[9] Much of this section is from Geisler (2003:288-289).

[10] In the Bible quotes I have replaced the KJV with the ESV here.

[11] Modern translations replace the older word, ‘begets’, with something more comprehensible to modern readers: ‘For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father [or today I reveal you as my Son’ (quoting Ps 2:7) NLT.

[12] WLC refers to the Westminster Larger Catechism. I have quoted from a modernised English version of the WLC. Available at: https://dansonnenberg.com/2015/12/21/the-westminster-larger-catechism-modern-english-version/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

[13] As I wrote this portion of the article on 5 July 2019 I learned of Dr Geisler’s death. See Toalston (2019).

[14] Grammatically, ‘each person’ is singular and ‘their’ is a plural possessive pronoun. The correction of this sentence should be: ‘Each person is different, yet he shares a common nature’. Or, better: ‘Every person (plural) is different, yet they (plural) share a common nature’. You can tell I’m a grammar policeman.

[15] However, I’m aware of the challenges made to Geisler’s view of ‘persons’ in the Godhead in ‘The Error of Insisting on Three “Persons” as a Litmus Test of Orthodoxy’ (Contending for the Faith).

7. Works consulted

Berkhof, L 1939/1941. Systematic theology (online). London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Available at: http://archive.org/stream/SystematicTheology/93884037-Louis-Berkhof–Systematic-Theology_djvu.txt (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Geisler, N L 1999. Trinity. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

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

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

Mathis, D 2016. Jesus is fully human. Desiring God (online), 15 December. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/jesus-is-fully-human (Accessed 10 July 2019).

Schaeffer, F A 1976. Genesis in space and time. London: Hodder and Stoughton (1972. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press).

Sproul, R C 2014. What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity? Ligonier Ministries (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-difference-between-ontological-and-economic-trinity/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

Stigers, H G 1976. A Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Strong, A 1907. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Project Gutenberg EBook. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44035/44035-h/44035-h.html (Accessed 10 July 2019).

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

Toalston, A 2019. Norman Geisler, defender of Christian faith, dies, Baptist Press (online), 2 July. Available at: http://www.bpnews.net/53217/norman-geisler-defender-of-christian-faith-dies (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 April 2020.

clip_image038clip_image039clip_image039clip_image039clip_image039clip_image039clip_image039

God and elections

The God factor cannot be measured in elections

By Spencer D Gear PhD

clip_image001

(image courtesy Dreamstime.com)

The headline told it all: ‘Nation’s most influential pollster can’t explain election disaster’ in Australia (Hartcher 2019).

1. Pollsters did not predict result.

David Briggs is the man behind well-knowing polling organisations such as Newspoll, which is published by Rupert Murdoch’s, The Australian, according to Hartcher.

YouGov Galaxy polls were conducted by his organisation as was the exit poll of the election for Channel 9.

On the day of the election, 18 May, ‘the exclusive YouGov Galaxy poll of more than 3300 voters in 33 separate booths showed Labor ahead of the Coalition 52-48 on a two party preferred basis’ (Wright 2019).

The Ipsos poll was in harmony with this result. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on election day:

Labor has gained a crucial lead over the Coalition in key mainland states at the end of the federal election campaign, securing an edge in NSW and Victoria and a swing in its favour in Queensland.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten goes into the final day of campaigning with a boost in the Labor vote in most states compared to the narrow outcome at the last election, with a significant lead of 53 to 47 per cent in Victoria (Crowe 2019).

2. The ‘miracle’ victory for Coalition

clip_image003

(Photo courtesy ABC News: Marco Catalano)

The Guardian Australia had the headline: Scott Morrison credits ‘quiet Australians’ for ‘miracle’ election victory (Murphy & Martin 2019). These are taken from the Prime Minister’s own words when he thanked the voters for this shock election win. Labor, is seems, lost an unlosable election.

“I have always believed in miracles,” the Prime Minister said firmly sometime after midnight on election night, as he claimed victory. “I am standing with the three biggest miracles in my life” he added. “And tonight we have been delivered another one.”

These were the words of our Pentecostal PM who had heard his faith mocked or disparaged during the campaign (Sandeman 2019).

In what sense was it a miracle? Yes it was in this sense: ‘A remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences’ for the Coalition government (Oxford Living Dictionary). However, I don’t see it as ‘an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency’ (OED) like Jesus’ resurrection.

The God factor was included in ScoMo’s blessing on the Shorten couple and exhorting God to bless Australia?

2.1     Why can’t the God factor be measured?

Firstly, he is spirit and not flesh and blood (John 4:24), so

Secondly, how his direct work is conducted is not seen by human beings, satellites or any other devices. We can see the results of his miraculous actions in the world if there are signs and wonders. We know he sustains the world – keeps it going: ‘He [Christ] existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.’ (Col 1:17).

A question was asked on Quora: ‘Why is God invisible?’ Angie Neik’s response was:

God is always present in the spiritual realm, but He is hidden in the physical realm.

If God was visible in the physical realm, people would do what they do with everything they put their hands on:

– measure it
– weigh it
– find the physical specifications
– and chemical properties
– describe it by those terms
– classify it by same terms
– file it away in a compartment
– forget about it
– thinking that they know all there is to know about it
– and move on to the next big thing
– so they can repeat the process

Maybe that is the very reason that so many of those standing by with rulers, scales, notebooks, pencils, calculators, etc. in hand, find it so aggravating that so much of humanity believe in a being that can’t be defined by those limited dimensions we live in.

Thirdly, that means God’s actions in causing an upset in the 2019 Australian federal election win by the Coalition were by the unseen God who acted in answer to prayers of many people across Australia.

And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him (1 John 5:14-15 NET).

3. Public scoffing about prayer and fasting

On the evening of Monday, 27 May 2019, I viewed ABC TV’s premier program, Q&A. This question came from a woman in the audience:

Ruth McKie asked: The Liberal Party just won the unwinnable election that even the secular press was calling a miracle and a miracle it was. Unbeknown to them there was a massive groundswell of united prayer and fasting that went out across our nation, from small groups to the large denominations; the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime. Israel Folau’s sacking may have acted as a catalyst for some. It was over parents’ rights and the loss of religious freedoms. What is the Liberal party going to do to address these issues?[1]

The Age’s response to this question was headlined, Q&A recap: Panel goes to hell and back in religious freedom debate (McMahon 2019).

His beefs with McKie’s questions included:

clip_image005 It ran ’for roughly a quarter of the total running time’

clip_image005[1] ‘Ruth McKie, who had apparently recovered from weeks of fasting to offer some thoughts on the election result’. This is a pathetic insult to a woman who offered other details that could have contributed to the outcome of the election. McMahon didn’t treat her contribution in an acceptable way. He effectively sneered at what he inferred she had been doing.

clip_image005[2] ‘The “secular press”? Pray tell, what is that?’ McMahon is a journalist and he gave this kind of insulting, ignorant response. Doesn’t he want to own up to the secular nature of his own media organisation? His comment demonstrated how secular it is. Secular means, ‘Not connected with religious or spiritual matters’ (Oxford Living Dictionaries 2019. s.v. secular).

I found that comment to be journalistic one-upmanship and a dumbing down of Christian believers who prayed and fasted for this election.

McMahon’s cynical attack continued against McKie:

clip_image005[3]‘”Prayer and fasting”? The analysts and the pollsters missed it: it was the starving and the prayers wot won it – even if Liberal panellist Tim Wilson didn’t really want to go there’.

Note the sarcastic way McMahon concluded his article,

clip_image005[4]‘Or perhaps we could just fast and pray.”

That’s one truth you missed, Neil McMahon, and so did the pollsters. Based on your antagonism towards Ruth McKie’s questions and her raising the issue of prayer, fasting and the secular press, the importance of these matters zoomed right past you. You didn’t pursue the meaning of the impact of these disciplines on the course of the election and the nation.

You acted like a secular journalist writing for the secular press that is not interested in getting to the heart of what drives the evangelical Christian faith and the Almighty God who is sovereign over the nations, including Australia.

Of course I respond as an evangelical Christian. See ‘Why I am a Christian’.

4. How does a poll measure God’s influence in elections?

One of the activities of God in relation to the universe is His sovereignty.

Sovereignty is God’s control over His creation, dealing with His governance over it. Sovereignty is God’s rule over all reality…. [It is] God’s right to control all, but also as His actual sovereign dominion over all things (Geisler 2003:2.536).

The biblical basis for such conclusions includes:

clip_image007Heb 1:3: God the Son is ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’.

clip_image007[1]Prov 21:1: ‘The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases’ (NLT).

clip_image007[2]Dan 4:17: ‘For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses—even to the lowliest of people.”

clip_image008Rev 19:16. God is the sovereign over sovereigns, including over Australia, because he is the ‘King of all kings and Lord of all lords’.

To confirm the specifics of what happens in any nation, including the surprising win for the Coalition on 18 May 2019, the Lord has told us in Christian Scripture why this has happened.

‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God’ (Romans 13:1 NIV).

I am not convinced that any pollster could ever measure the God, prayer and fasting factors in the elections of any nation’s political representatives.

5. Conclusion

ScoMo’s leading the Australian Coalition to victory was described by him as a ‘miracle’, thanks to the ‘quiet Australians’.

In spite of the commentary by some cynical journalists, it was a victory by the Lord God Almighty, King of kings and Lord of Lords. This is what we saw on 18 May 2019:

[God] controls the course of world events;
he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the scholars (Dan 2:21).

I don’t expect any pollster in the world will discover how to measure God’s sovereign activity in a nation. Measuring the immeasurable is like measuring all of the dimensions of the universe.

Mr Briggs, I understand as a businessman you want to offer an excellent product – conducting reliable polls. You got it wrong this time and your clients got it wrong, including the Labor Party. Welcome to the world of imperfect humanity!

The better result, in my view, would be for you to submit to the Lord God Almighty, the King of kings and Lord of lord and seek His salvation.

Accept that it’s not possible to get it right all the time when we know God has ‘the whole world in His hands’ – even the outcome of Australian elections.

6. Works consulted

Crowe, D 2019. Labor gains a crucial lead over the Coalition in key mainland states: Ipsos poll. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 18 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/labor-gains-a-crucial-lead-over-the-coalition-in-key-mainland-states-ipsos-poll-20190517-p51olv.html (Accessed 28 May 2019).

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

Hartcher, P 2019. Nation’s most influential pollster can’t explain election disaster. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 28 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/nation-s-most-influential-pollster-can-t-explain-election-disaster-20190527-p51rhc.html (Accessed 28 May 2019).

McMahon, N 2019. Q&A recap: Panel goes to hell and back in religious freedom debate, The Canberra Times (originally in The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age), 28 May. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6185473/qa-recap-panel-goes-to-hell-and-back-in-religious-freedom-debate/ (Accessed 28 May 2019).

Murphy K & Martin S 2019. Scott Morrison credits ‘quiet Australians’ for ‘miracle’ election victory. The Guardian Australia (online), 19 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/19/scott-morrison-credits-the-quiet-australians-for-miracle-election-victory (Accessed 28 May 2019).

Sandeman, J 2019. Yes! I believe in miracles. Eternity (online), 19 May. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/yes-i-believe-in-miracles/ (Accessed 28 May 2019).

Wright, S 2019. Labor in box seat for victory as Liberal vote falls, exit poll shows. The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/labor-in-box-seat-for-victory-as-liberal-vote-falls-exit-poll-shows-20190518-p51ord.html (Accessed 28 May 2019).

7.   Notes


[1] Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/qanda/2019-27-05/11130358 (Accessed 28 May 2019).

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

clip_image010clip_image010