Category Archives: Jesus Christ

By his stripes you are healed

Is it physical healing or eternal salvation?

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have a question for all Christians: Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, does this guarantee that Christians who pray for healing will be healed? True or False?

I refer to 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB), ‘He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed’.

This is the prophetic fulfillment of Isa 53:5 (NASB), ‘And by His scourging we are healed’.

I’ve heard it over and over from preachers, mainly in Pentecostal-Charismatic churches: ‘By his stripes you are healed’. Then comes something like this: Those who are sick, please come forward and we’ll pray for you. On the authority of God’s Word, because of Jesus’ suffering he is obliged to heal you. ‘By his stripes you are healed’.

Here are three examples from the Internet of this kind of teaching:

clip_image004Benny Hinn Ministries

gives ‘7 Purposes of Divine Healing’.[1]

This article begins:

God’s will for you to walk in divine health is emphasized throughout His Word.

  • Jesus heals because He is full of compassion.
  • The blood of Jesus was shed to forgive sin and provide healing.

The wonderful English Bible teacher Smith Wigglesworth used to tell about traveling one day in a railway coach. Two others on the train-a mother and daughter-were very sick, so Wigglesworth said to them, “Look, I’ve something in the bag that will cure every case in the world. It has never been known to fail.”

The mother and daughter were quite interested, so the minister went on to tell them about this “remedy.” When they finally asked for a dose, he opened the bag, took out his Bible, and read them the verse that says;

“I am the Lord who healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

What a wonderful way to share how the Bible is filled with promises and accounts regarding health and healing for His children.

clip_image004[1]Andrew Wommack Ministries

teach,

Matthew [18:17], under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, substituted the words “infirmities” and “sicknesses” for Isaiah’s words “griefs” and “sorrows.” Indeed, a study of the Hebrew words in Isaiah 53:4 will reveal that they were always speaking of physical healing. The following verse, Isaiah 53:5, makes it very clear that this was speaking of physical healing when Isaiah said, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”.

Couple this with the example of Jesus healing every single person who came to Him for healing, and the truth that healing is a part of Christ’s atonement is undeniable….

Not all sickness is caused by something we do. Regardless of the reason, however, there is always something we can do about it. We can believe God, and He will heal ALL our diseases (Ex. 15:26, Ps. 103:3).

If it is God’s will to heal all our diseases, why isn’t everyone healed? That’s a simple question with a complex answer.

The bottom line is faith. The prayer of faith saves the sick (James 5:15). Prayer doesn’t save the sick; the prayer of faith saves the sick (Healing & Niki’s Miracle).[2]

I find Wommack’s teaching especially concerning. We’ll examine its biblical authenticity below:

There are a number of keys to seeing the miraculous power of God manifest on a consistent basis. One of the least understood, and therefore seldom practiced, is the fact that healing is under the authority of the believer. God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it. Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen….

I know this goes contrary to popular Christian doctrine. We’re constantly told that it’s not us but God who is the Healer, and I agree with that totally. But, I also believe that God has placed His healing power under our authority, and it is up to us to release it. If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released. There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue (Our Authority Releases God’s Power, emphasis in original).[3]

Elsewhere Wommack continues his teaching on healing:

Here’s another indispensable basic truth you must know and understand about healing: It’s never God’s will for us to be sick; He wants every person healed every time. That’s nearly-too-good-to-be-true news, but that’s the Gospel (Faith for Healing Is Based on Knowledge, emphasis in original).[4]

Andrew Wommack is an American Charismatic TV evangelist and faith healer now based in Colorado Springs CO.[5]

Is that an accurate teaching of Scripture?

clip_image004[2]Joseph Prince

wrote:

‘Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. The price has been paid so that you can rise up and get out of your bed of affliction!’ (By Jesus’ stripes you are healed).[6]

Prince is an evangelist and senior pastor of New Creation Church based in Singapore. His TV program, Destined to Reign, is broadcast in more than 150 countries. He attended the Hillsong Conference 2007 in Sydney.[7]

Is that what the Bible teaches? If so, we should head down to Caboolture Hospital, Qld and then Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and pray for all the people who are sick. Then they will be able to get out of their bed of sickness without any further help from medical doctors.

If we did that, we may be called nutty or labelled members of a cult. Why?

1. Is physical healing taught in these Scriptures?

Read 1 Peter 2:22-25 (NET):

22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (emphasis added).

Verse 24 is quoted from Isa 53:5 (NET).

The prophecy in Isaiah 53:3-6 reads:

He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.

4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.

5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.

6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

How do we decide if it’s physical healing or spiritual healing, i.e. salvation?

The context determines the truth of verse 5 if there is concern over the meaning of a word, in this case, ‘healed’.

1.1  In Isaiah

This verse confirms:

  • He was despised and rejected.
  • He was lifted up for ‘our illnesses’ (‘born our griefs, carried our sorrows’, ESV).
  • Punished, attacked by God; afflicted for something he had done.
  • Wounded for our rebellion,
  • ‘crushed because of our sins’;
  • Endured punishment to make us well;
  • ‘Because of his wounds we have been healed’.

Are those phrases and prophetic predictions referring to physical or spiritual healing?

Verse 6 answers with a thunderous response:

  • Like sheep, we wandered off.
  • We strayed doing our own thing.
  • The Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. Or as the ESV puts it, ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

This confirms that Jesus’ death for sinners was not for physical healing but for salvation – spiritual healing.

1.2  First Peter chapter 2

What do verses 22-25 (ESV) teach us in context?

  • Jesus was not a sinner or deceiver.
  • When he was maligned (insulted ERV; shouted at him & made fun of him NIRV), he didn’t back answer.
  • He suffered without retaliation.
  • Committed himself to God, the judge;
  • He bore our sins in his body on the cross …
  • So we would stop sinning and live righteously. 
  • By his wounds people are healed. That’s how the English reads but the words for ‘his wounds’ or ‘his stripes’ are not plural but singular, tw mwlwpi – the wound. This is the only time this word is used in the NT.
  • The classical Greek writers, Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Plutarch (c. AD 46 –120) used it to mean ‘bruise or bloody wound’. Robertson says that if Peter were ‘writing to slaves who may have received such stripes, Peter’s word is effective’ (Robertson 1933:106).

Why would that wound on Jesus be recorded by Peter is in the singular when we know from other verses that Jesus was mocked, flogged, and crucified. Matt 27:29 (NASB) states, ‘And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head….’ (See also Mark 15:17 and John 19:2, 5).

One commentator stated: This was perhaps ‘suggesting that his body was one massive welt’ (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 2357).[8]

Listen to the language from the Gospels:

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‘Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him’ (John 19:1 ESV).

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Jesus predicted that would happen to him. Matt 20: 18-19 (ESV), ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day”.

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 ‘They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head’ (Matt 27:28-30, ESV).

The OT prophesied this would happen to Jesus:

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‘But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed…. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him’ (Isa 53:5, 10a ESV).

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment” and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears”.[10]

 Our sins will not be healed in the future. They were healed. When? By Christ’s death on the cross.

 Theodoret of Cyrus was an early church father who lived AD 393 – 457. He wrote about 1 Peter 2:24, ‘A new and strange method of healing; the doctor suffered the cost, and the sick received the healing’ (in Selwyn 1981:181).

 People were like sheep going astray but now have been turned back.

What kind of healing is stated in this context? Salvation! ‘He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed’ (Isa 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

This conclusion is reinforced by:

Image result for clipart star public domain  The verb for ‘you were healed’ that indicates it happened – full stop. You were healed by Christ’s shed blood.[11]

It’s the verb used in James 5:16 (NET), ‘So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness’.

Image result for clipart star public domain  However, in James it is the grammatical mood of doubt:[12] It may happen or may not. You ‘may be healed’.

Image result for clipart star public domain  So it is not a command to God: ‘In the name of Jesus, I command that you heal this person’. It is more like, ‘If it be your will, please raise this person to health’.

Wait a minute. What kind of healing is it in James 5:16? Look at the context.

The answer is found in James 5:14-15:

  Is anyone ill? (sick ESV) It’s an old word that means ‘to be weak (without strength)’…. The use of olive oil was one of the best remedial agencies known to the ancients. They used it internally and externally’ (Robertson 1933:64). See also Matt 10:8.

  Why was it needed for Christians to care for the physically sick? See 1 Thess 5:14 (ERV), ‘We ask you, brothers and sisters, to warn those who will not work. Encourage those who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone’.

2. A question for you

I ask: ‘In what sense … did Christ “bear” our sins?’

He took the blame for sinners. ‘He suffered the “curse” for them’ (see Deut 21:23 which is quoted in Gal 3:13). That “curse” is separation from God and he ‘endured our penal consequences’ (Selwyn 1981:180).

See the article: What does it mean that “by His stripes you were healed”? (Got Questions)[13]

I have two more issues associated with this topic.

3. Is there a place for divine healing in the contemporary church?

Yes, there is on two accounts:

3.1 Believers do the works of Jesus

Jesus teaches it in John 14:12-14 (NIV) states:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

  Whoever believes in Jesus will be able to do his works (including miracles);

They will do greater things/works because the one person of Jesus will not be here any longer. Many true believers will be scattered around the world.

Whatever believers ask in Jesus’ name he will do to glorify the Father and the Son.

  In context, believers can ask for any of the ‘greater things’ and Jesus ‘will do’ them. Does this open the floodgates to Andrew Wommack’s kind of theology, ‘It’s never God’s will for us to be sick?

Definitely not, because believers asking “in Jesus’ name” means

Prayers that are offered in thorough accord with all that his name stands for (i.e. his name is not used as a magical incantation: cf. 1 Jn. 5:14, and in recognition that the only approach to God those who pray enjoy, their only way to God (cf. vv. 4-6) is Jesus himself (Carson 1991:496).

We pray for a person’s illness and recovery and leave the results with God himself. It’s not a farcical kind of prayer but a realisation that God Almighty is Lord of all and he sovereignly decides what happens through prayer for healing.

3.2 Heresies of Hinn, Wommack and Prince

Some of you may consider my assessment too condemning and rather see me put these three prominent preachers into the category of false teachers rather than teachers of heresy.

What is a heresy?

In NT Greek, the term from which we get the English, ‘heresy’ is hairesis. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon (1957:23) states that hairesis means ‘sect, party, school’. It was used of the Sadducees in Acts 5:17; of the Pharisees in Acts 15:5; of the Christians in Acts 24:5. It is used of a heretical sect or those with destructive opinions in 2 Peter 2:1 (‘destructive heresies’ ESV, NIV). This latter verse uses ‘haireseis (plural) of destruction’.

The Lexico/Oxford dictionary gives these meanings of heresy:

(a) ‘Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine’;

(b) ‘Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted’ (Lexicon/Oxford Dictionary (2019. s. v. heresy).[14]

From the NT, we see the term, heresy, being used to mean what Paul called strange doctrines, different doctrine, doctrines of demons, and every wind of doctrine (I Timothy 1:3; 4:1; 6:3; Ephesians 4:14). This is in contrast to sound doctrine, our doctrine, the doctrine conforming to godliness, and the doctrine of God (I Timothy 4:6; 6:1,3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10).

Therefore, I am justified in labelling the teaching on healing by Hinn, Wommack and Prince as heresy as it does not conform to sound doctrine, is a strange, unbiblical doctrine that is contrary to God’s teaching in Scripture.

4. Are these faith healers teaching heresy?

This is why these prominent ‘faith healers’ are promoting heresy.

4.1 Benny Hinn

He used Smith Wigglesworth as an example to support his theology:

‘I am the Lord who healeth thee’ (Exodus 15:26).

What a wonderful way to share how the Bible is filled with promises and accounts regarding health and healing for His children.[15]

What does Exodus 15:26 teach?

This is the context:

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you’

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water (Ex 15:22-27 NIV).

Not once in this passage is there a hint that this was a general text for healing of people throughout human history, whether the 20th century with Wigglesworth or the 21st century with Hinn.

This is what it teaches:

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 After crossing the Red Sea and going into the Desert, the Israelites could not find water, only finding bitter water at Marah.

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  The people grumbled against Moses, wanting something to drink.

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 Moses sought the Lord who showed him a piece of wood which he threw into the water and the Israelites were now able to drink it.

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 Then the Lord tested the Israelites: If you listen carefully to the Lord, do what is right towards him, paying attention to his commands, then the Lord will not bring onto the Israelites that diseases inflicted on the Israelites.

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 At this point the Lord gave the reason for saving Israelites from those diseases: ‘For I am the Lord who heals you’.

This passage has nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary healing by Benny Hinn or Smith Wigglesworth. It only applied to the Israelites in specific circumstances.

Hinn has cherry picked a verse to make it say what it does not state. It inflicts his theology on the text and thus promotes his strange heresy of OT Jewish healing for all people.

4.2 Andrew Wommack

This Charismatic preacher is even more extreme. He promotes the heresy that:

 ‘If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released. There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue’

I have not found a shred of NT or OT evidence to support such an extremist, heretical claim. Jesus said believers would be able to ‘do whatever you ask in my name’ (Jn 14:13) but that is only according to the Father’s will. We cannot command or demand or ‘take our authority’. Human authority is useless in the presence of the sovereign God who answers or refuses to answer human requests.

As for Wommack’s statement,

God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it. Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen.[16]

This is fanciful nonsense that has Charismatic, irrational enthusiasm behind it, but it does not stand up against the Scriptures. Sadly, I need to condemn it a ‘destructive heresy’ (2 Pet 2:1).

I wonder how many Christians have become disillusioned with the faith because of this kind of fake theology. It is fake news with a supposed biblical ‘coating’ of Charismatic gloss.

4.3 Joseph Prince

The pastor of a large church in Singapore has sealed his own heretical fate with this view:

Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. The price has been paid so that you can rise up and get out of your bed of affliction![17]

As the above exposition demonstrated, those stripes that Jesus bore were for our salvation – spiritual healing – and not for curing physical illnesses. Poor exegesis by Prince causes him to promote heresy.

5. Does Jesus heal today?

From the dampener I’ve placed on physical healing by my exposition of the biblical texts above, maybe you ask: Has God provided any means for physical healing? Does God perform miracles today?

See my articles:

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  Are Miracles Valuable?

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  Why doesn’t God heal everyone who is prayed for?

Did Jesus promise more physical miracles would continue after he departed from his earthly ministry?

5.1 John 14:12-14

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.

The ‘works’ (erga) available to all believers, that Jesus was doing, ‘cannot legitimately be restricted to deeds of humility (13:15) or acts of love (13:34-35) still less to proclamation of Jesus’ ‘words’ [14:10]. Jesus’ ‘works’ may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them” (Carson 1991:495).

What about ‘greater works’ (v. 12)? To what does it apply? Carson wrote:

Greater works is not a transparent expression. It cannot simply mean more works – i.e. the church will do more things than Jesus did, since it embraces so many people over such a long period of time – since there are perfectly good Greek ways of saying ‘more’, and since in any case the meaning would then be unbearably trite. Nor can greater works mean ‘more spectacular’ or ‘more supernatural’ works: it is hard to imagine works that are more spectacular or supernatural than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the multiplication of bread and the turning of water into wine.

The clues to the expression’s meaning are two: first, the final clause, because I am going to the Father, and second, the parallel in 5:20: ‘For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these‘ (meizona touton, as in 14:12). The two clues point in the same direction. Jesus’ disciples will perform greater works because he is going to the Father: this cannot mean that they will have greater scope for their activity because he will have faded from the scene and relinquished the turf to them, but that the very basis for their greater works is his going to the Father. Their works become greater precisely because of the new order that has come about consequent on his going to the Father (Carson 1991:495-496, emphasis in original).

Lenski agrees that the present participle of v. 12 refers to the person who continues in this faith. The universality of this designation is demonstrated by the language of ‘whoever believes’. ‘The works that I am doing’ refers to the very works of which Jesus spoke in 14:10-11, i.e. ‘the mighty miracles’, However, Lenski considers that the ‘greater works’ means to ‘convert sinners by God’s grace, carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, save souls for life eternal’; cf. John 4:35-38; 10:16; 12:24 and 32; and the story of the Acts.

He emphasises that Jesus ‘returns to the Father as one having completed his mission, and this it is possible that, with redemption accomplished, the greater works of the gospel of redemption can begin.’ He rejects the meaning ‘that believers today must do miracles such as Jesus and the apostles and others performed in the first church’ (Lenski 1943:988-989).

I’m supportive of Jesus’ teaching that the “works” of Jesus in John 14:12 include his miracles and much more. Don Carson’s words are concise and accurate: ‘Jesus’ “works” may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them’ (Carson 1991:495).

See examples of the continuation of miracles into the fourth century through St Augustine:

Augustine’s last illness: A divine healing encounter

St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing

See further examples of miracles in the time of Augustine in my article: Are Miracles Valuable?

What about verified miracles in the twenty-first century? There are verified accounts of physical healing in Delores Winder with Bill Keith (2009), Surprised by healing.

A few months before writing this article, I experienced severe pain in one of my calf muscles of the leg during the night. The pain was so excruciating I was about to hobble to the phone and call for an ambulance. The Lord prompted me to pray for it and the pain ceased immediately. That’s impossible for anybody else to verify as I was the only one in my bedroom when it happened.

See evidence in: Famed heart doctor tells the dramatic story of how a patient of his was ‘raised from the dead’ after prayer

Steve Stewart explained his experience with the supernatural of God:

I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: “Why don’t we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?”

I usually respond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone.

In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India.

Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement.

It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives) [Stewart 2014].

5.2 James 5:13-15

This is a clear account of how God offered physical healing or relief from distress to people in the early church:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil[18] in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven (NLT).

clip_image015 Here in 5:12, people are ‘sick’ or ‘suffering’; also in 5:10. It is not parallel to the English idea of suffering with pain. It places an emphasis on enduring hardship, experiencing adversity or calamity. You’ll appreciate this means more than physical sickness and extends to general trouble and distress (Hiebert 1979:316-317).

For people in such a situation, what should they do?

clip_image015[1]They call for the elders who engage in prayer and anointing with oil in ‘the the name of the Lord’, i.e. because of the power of the Lord.

The NABRE[19] translation makes an excellent comment about this ministry of anointing with oil:

In case of sickness a Christian should ask for the presbyters of the church, i.e., those who have authority in the church (cf. Acts 15:2, 22–23; 1 Tm 5:17; Ti 1:5). They are to pray over the person and anoint with oil; oil was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). In Mk 6:13, the Twelve anoint the sick with oil on their missionary journey. In the name of the Lord: by the power of Jesus Christ’ (Note for James 5:14 NABRE).

It is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times. See Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34. Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 172 [vi. 5] reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. The papyri, Philo, Pliny, and the physician Galen all refer to the medicinal use of oil. Galen described it as `the best of all remedies for paralysis” (De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis 2.10ff). It is evident, then, that James is prescribing prayer and medicine (Burdick 1981:204, emphasis added).

Is this relevant for contemporary Australia and other Western countries? It would be applicable to countries with inadequate medical facilities.

clip_image016‘A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer, while a telephone repairman worked

nearby “Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray,” the priest said.

“No,” said the minister. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.”

“You’re both wrong,” the guru said. “The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor’.

The repairman could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted. “The best prayin’ I ever did was when I was hangin’ upside down from a telephone pole.” [20]

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clip_image015[2]Who are to pray for the sick or suffering person? They are the presbuteros, i.e. elder, bishop (overseer), and pastor. All three seem to refer to the same office (see Titus 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4). These are the church leaders.

However, in James 5:16 we are exhorted to pray for one another:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (NLT).

In context, there may be a connection between physical illness and spiritual condition (needing forgiveness).

clip_image015[3]What is ‘a prayer offered in faith’ for healing the sick?

All faith must be ‘in faith’. This is the basis of the Christian life. What’s the point of any prayer if it does not believe fully that God is able to do it?

Faith was the secret of the Lord’s earthly life and gospel: its value, even outside religion, is recognized in some modern psychosomatic medicine. The faith James here has in mind is, of course, both that of the patient and that of the elders, shown in his calling for them and their response to his call (Adamson 1976:198).

clip_image015[4]Does this prayer guarantee healing? Of course not! Answers to prayer are always conditioned on God’s sovereign will that effects what is best for us in our growth in Christ.

See my articles:

sync Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

sync DIVINE HEALING: IS IT FOR EVERYONE?

clip_image015[5]What is the connection between physical healing, sins committed, forgiveness and repentance?

Donald Burdick summarised these verses:

The assurance is given that prayer “will make the sick person well.” In the final analysis this is what effects the healing. In answer to “the payer offered in faith,” God uses the medicine to cure the malady. The statement “the Lord will raise him up” means that the sick man will be enabled to get up from his sick bed. If it was sin that occasioned the sickness, “he will be forgiven.” This suggests the possibility that, because of persistence in sin, God sent sickness as a disciplinary agent (cf. 1 Cor 11:30). The conditional clause “if he has sinned” makes it clear that not all sickness is the result of sin (Burdick 1981:204).

6. Conclusion

Benny Hinn, Andrew Wommack and Joseph Prince promote heretical doctrines regarding healing because they maintain positions that are contrary to Scripture and lead to false hope for believers. This fake theology is seen in statements such as, ‘It’s never God’s will for us to be sick; He wants every person healed every time’ (Wommack).

Exegesis and exposition of 1 Peter 2:24-25 and the parallel verses in Isaiah 53 demonstrate that, in context, these narratives deal with Jesus’ punishment of being wounded for the sins of human beings. They don’t teach physical healing but spiritual healing, i.e. salvation.

Scripture provides support for the continuation of the physical healing ministry, based on Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in John 14. Physical healing in association with prayer and medicinal means by church leadership is possible (God willing), based on the teaching of James 5.

7. Works consulted

Adamson, J B 1976. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle of James. F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[21] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Burdick, D W 1981. James, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 12, 159-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

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

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Selwyn, E G 1981. Thornapple Commentaries: The First Epistle of St. Peter (The Greek Text), 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Stewart, S 2014. Why Are There More Miracle Healings in Third World Countries? Charisma (online). Available at: https://www.charismamag.com/spirit/supernatural/22521-why-are-there-more-miracle-healings-in-third-world-countries (Accessed 7 September 2019).

Winder, F & Keith, B 2009. Surprised by Healing. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers Inc.

8.   Notes

[1] Benny Hinn Ministries 2019. 7 Purposes of Divine Healing (online). Available at: https://www.bennyhinn.org/your-life/healing/7-purposes-of-divine-healing/ (Accessed 21 August 2019).

[2] Andrew Womack Ministries n.d. Healing & Niki’s Miracle (online). Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/healing_niki/ (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[3] Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/authority_releases/ (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[4] Available at: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/healing_knowledge/ (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[5] Details from Wikipedia 2019. Andrew Wommack (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wommack (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[6] Joseph Prince Ministries 2008-2019. By Jesus’ stripes you are healed (online). Available at: https://www.josephprince.org/blog/daily-grace-inspirations/by-jesus-stripes-you-are-healed (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[7] Details from Wikipedia 2019. Joseph Prince (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Prince (Accessed 14 August 2019).

[8] Available HERE (Accessed 12 August 2019).

[9] Available at: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/32299322315108885 (Accessed 6 September 2019).

[10] Cited in Wikipedia 2019. Crucifixion. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion#cite_note-24 (Accessed 13 August 2019).

[11] It is iathete, aorist passive indicative of iaomai, a common verb meaning to heal.

[12] It is aorist, passive, subjunctive.

[13] Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/by-His-stripes-healed.html (Accessed 10 August 2019).

[14] Available at: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/heresy (Accessed 06 September 2019). Throughout this document I’ll use ‘s.v.’ as an acronym for the Latin ‘sub verba’, i.e. under the word. When I write ‘ s.v. heresy’, it means that you need to go to the reference in the resource to obtain the meaning (here it is Lexico/Oxford Dictionary online) and check the word, ‘heresy’. The abbreviation s. v. is used primarily for dictionary and encyclopaedia entries.

[15] Hinn op. cit.

[16] Wommack op. cit.

[17] Prince op. cit.

[18] ‘In case of sickness a Christian should ask for the presbyters of the church, i.e., those who have authority in the church (cf. Acts 15:2, 22–23; 1 Tm 5:17; Ti 1:5). They are to pray over the person and anoint with oil; oil was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). In Mk 6:13, the Twelve anoint the sick with oil on their missionary journey. In the name of the Lord: by the power of Jesus Christ’ (Note for this verse in NABRE translation).

[19] The NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition) is a Roman Catholic dynamic equivalence modern translation of the Bible. Please don’t confuse the NAB with the NASB.

[20] Illustration taken from Stone United Methodist Church 2019. Available at: http://www.stoneumc.org/653550 (Accessed 7 September 2019).

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

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2019.

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

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

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

1. Questions emerge

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

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

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

Does John 6:44 teach what this fellow claims?

2. The context

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

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

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

3. Who is drawn by God for eternal life?

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

That sounds like it’s done and dusted:

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

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

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

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

Really? Carson and Gerber are Calvinistic commentators/writers.

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

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

But …

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

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

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

4.1   D A Carson’s view

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

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

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

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

Carson applies a typical Calvinistic technique:

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

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

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

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

The immediate context of v. 52 states:

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

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

Let’s check out a Lutheran exegete and commentator:

4.2   R C H Lenski

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

Verse 37:

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

Lenski considers this passage teaches,

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 12:32

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

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

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

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

5. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

See my related articles:

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

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

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

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

6.   Works consulted

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

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

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

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

7.   Notes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John 12:32: Jesus’ drawing all people

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

How can Jesus draw all people to Himself?

1. Meaning of John 12:32

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

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

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

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

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

2. Which judgment?[5]

John 12:31-33 (NIV) states,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Works consulted

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

4.  Notes

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

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

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[4] Ibid., justaname#25.

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

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

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

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Using Jesus’ resurrection to promote liberal theology

Professor Dr N T Wright vs Retired Archbishop Dr Peter Carnley on Jesus’ resurrection

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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N T Wright Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St. Andrews; photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

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Former Anglican Archbishop of Perth and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley. Image courtesy Wayback Machine, Alia 2002 speaker biographies.

This article responds to parts of Peter Sellick’s[1] article: Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection (On Line Opinion, 26 July 2019).[2] Sellick’s article pits Wright’s conclusions against Carnley’s and sides with Carnley.

I’ve done battle with him on other occasions on On Line Opinion. I’ll use a dialogue format for this interaction, even though the material was covered over several Comments by Peter and me:

Spencer: You object to Wright’s taking ‘the physical view’ of Jesus’ as an historical event to be investigated ‘without the eyes of faith’.
Firstly, Wright took a large portion of his 817pp tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God (RSG), to demonstrate from the biblical text that Jesus’ resurrection was soma, in a physical body.
He concluded:

‘The historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the “meetings” with Jesus as “historical events” in all the senses we sketched…. They took place as real events: they were significant events; they are, in the normal sense required by historians, provable events; historians can and should write about them. We cannot account for early Christianity without them’ (Wright 2003:709).

If Jesus’ Resurrection must be perceived through ‘the eyes of faith’ (Peter’s statement), is this a leap of faith or faith founded on the facts of the Resurrection?
Your claim is that Wright,
[3]

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Peter: ‘effectively excludes the activity of the “Spirit as a datum of Easter Faith”’.[4]

Spencer: This is not true. Wright cites a post-biblical passage from the Mishna where it states that ‘saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead’ (RSG 193). He supports ‘all those who are given new, resurrection life by the Spirit’ (RSG 258).[5]

Peter: ‘Wright takes this physical view from the traditions of Israel’.[6]

Spencer: That’s partially true. Wright demonstrates from the NT that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection because of the use of soma (physical body) to refer to it and the characteristics of a physical being.

Of the Holy Spirit he stated: ‘Paul not only believed that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead; he believed he knew how it was done, both in the sense of where the power came from (the Spirit of the creator God), and in the sense he knew what the difference was (corruptibility and non-corruptibility) between the body which died on the cross and the body which rose’ (RSG 360).
I have yet to read Carnley.
[7]

You complain about the apparent biblical contradiction re Jesus’ resurrection:

Peter: ‘The maze of biblical texts that deal with the Resurrection, many of which are at cross purposes, even to themselves as to the nature of Jesus’ risen body. For example, the appearance of Jesus in the locked room in John 20:19-28 both affirms the bodily reality of the risen Christ as the one bearing the wounds of crucifixion and, in contradiction, one who can appear and disappear at will.[8]

Spencer: That’s not contradiction unless you have a presupposition that Jesus’ resurrected body had to be the same as the body he had before the crucifixion. N T Wright explains this well, using the term ‘transphysicality’ to describe the nature of the resurrected body – many qualities that were physical (Jesus talked, could be touched, and he ate food) and other qualities in the 2 examples you gave of something beyond the physical, i.e. transphysical.

The same applies on the Emmaus’ Rd with the transphysicality of the resurrected Lord.

It’s not a matter of the two texts wanting it ‘both ways’ – Jesus physical and non-physical. That’s what the biblical texts state. Why can’t you accept that instead of hypothesising your contradiction? It doesn’t exist, except in your presuppositions.[9]

Peter: I feel like I am repeating myself here. How does a physical body that is “more than physical” because it has been made immortal appear and disappear at will and be unrecognised by the disciples on the Emmaus road and to May[10] (sic) in John? And I repeat, how does this physical body ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of God? One can only believe that the resurrection was physical by ignoring the things that make it unthinkable and thus untransmissible (sic). Certainly, it is important for all the NY[11] (sic) writers to portray the resurrection as physical because the risen Jesus would have to be the crucified one, complete with the wounds of crucifixion of Jesus’ death for any idea of him taking our place can be credited. This lies at the base of our understanding of the incarnation as the kenotic hymn found in Philippians bears witness.

About the Spirit. You object that Wright takes the Spirit seriously but It is interesting that he has to quote the Mishna to do so. Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars, that he could not think that the Jews of Jesus’ time could think otherwise that in the tradition. Most of the NT undermines this approach.

Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are. The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with the fact the bible is an historical document compiled by men seeking the truth in their own lights. The world has changed! We no longer live in their time or see the world as they see it.

As for “transphysicality” that is just speculation. What is the biblical basis for it? It is just an argument invented by Wright to solve a central contradiction to his scheme.
Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit.
[12]

Spencer: You are repeating yourself.

How did Jesus’ resurrected physical body appear and disappear? That’s based on the fact it was more than physical. N T Wright’s word, ‘transphysicality’ (which he placed in inverted commas) was a created word that covered the reality of what happened.

Others now use ‘transphysical’, e.g. http://ericweiss.com/the-long-trajectory-10-transphysical-humans.[13]

Peter: ‘Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars’.[14]

Spencer: That seems to be Carnley’s presupposition. I’ll make my judgment after reading his book.

Peter: ‘Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are’.[15]

Spencer: This demonstrates your low view of biblical authority (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Paul and Matthew were writing God-breathed / inspired Scripture, which you reject by your statement that these 2 writers ‘may have believed’ in a physical resurrection. In his massive body of research, Wright has demonstrated it was a physical resurrection with extra-physical qualities that he called ‘transphysical’.
Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture: Paul’s ‘letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16).
[16]

Peter: ‘The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with….’[17]

Spencer: There you go again with your pejorative Appeal to Ridicule Logical Fallacy, http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/42/Appeal-to-Ridicule.

We cannot have a rational dialogue when you resort to fallacious reasoning like this. I’m an evangelical, born again Christian, just like the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. Would you call him a ‘fundamentalist’ and put him down like you’ve done to me? Would you call the evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, a ‘fundamentalist reader’?[18]

Peter: ‘Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit’.[19]

Spencer: Do you deny Jesus was a man of human flesh?[20]

Peter: ‘On the authority of the bible. My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible is that they mistake the sign for the thing signified. The bible is the human witness (sign) to the Word (signified). Scripture does not record that the Word became a book, but became flesh in the body of Jesus’.[21]

Spencer: This is false again. You push your presuppositions. God-breathed Scripture is recorded in the Book of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is a fact.

For Paul who wrote this under the inspiration of the Spirit, he referred primarily to the Old Testament Scripture. Where was that contained in the first century? On papyri, parchment, ostraca, etc. God’s revelation was in written form. http://www.josh.org/materials-scribes-used-bible/

We know how the New Testament was transmitted in writing and now you give your opinion:[22]

Peter: ‘The bible is man’s attempt to bear witness to this object’.[23]

Spencer: The Gospel of Luke demolishes your thesis:

‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke compiled a narrative and wrote an orderly account. He didn’t have an existential experience of faith. He received the messages from eyewitnesses.
Your replies constantly regurgitate your presuppositional bias against the God-breathed written Scripture. I don’t worship the Book of Scripture but God has revealed himself through this Book.
[24]

Peter: ‘My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’[25].

Spencer: There you go again with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.

If you were to meet the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord George Carey (whose beliefs are similar to mine), would you label his ‘fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’? How about evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies? Will you resort to fallacious reasoning with these two evangelical Anglican leaders?[26]

Peter: Yes.[27]

Spencer: You resort to erroneous reasoning to evade dealing with the issues between Evangelicalism and your Liberalism. Therefore, to have a rational conversation with you is impossible. Trying to be rational with irrational reasoning is like jumping the electric fence without getting an electrical shock. It’s nigh impossible to reason with the unreasonable – those who use logical fallacies, like Peter.

You decided not to comment on any other portion of my post than the last question.

It’s unusual for you that you are short of words, especially when your world view is exposed for its weaknesses.[28]

Peter: ‘What you fail to understand is that Evangelicalism is a product of modernity. It is a way of thinking that is completely under the control of the current culture the insists on material evidence’.

Spencer: This is a false assessment. Evangelicalism is a product of the Evangel, the Good News, that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

It is a direct result of Jesus’ command to his disciples:

‘Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Evangelicalism is not a cultural creation but a biblical mandate from Jesus Himself.

Peter: ‘It does not represent mainstream theological thought i.e. the thought of the Church fathers or the doctors of the church’.

Spencer: This is false again. One of the leading Church Fathers, Irenaeus, refuted your statement:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, — [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine’ (Against Heresies, Bk 2, 11.7).

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (fourth century) wrote: ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest anyone should glory in his deeds and thereby incur sin’ (In Ps. 43 Enarr. 14, Explanations of Twelve Psalms of David).

Evangelicalism is not a recent invention. ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works’ (Ambrose).

Peter: ‘That Wright produces a book that has to resort to made-up concepts’.[29]

Spencer: You gave not one example while you berated N. T. Wright, an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar, with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.[30]

Peter: [They are concepts] fraught with contradictions and as such is unthinkable, demonstrates the basic weakness of this methodology’.[31]

Spencer: Not one example again and it’s a Red Herring fallacy.[32]

Peter: ‘In other words, this is a prime example of the failure of the Evangelical mind. It is no wonder that our secular society would not be caught dead in a church that insists that our intellect be left at the door. This is why I give you a hard time, because you have mistaken belief for faith and have closed the door to anyone who asks the simplest questions’.[33]

Spencer: Some of the finest contemporary scholars are/were Evangelicals: William Lane Craig, D A Carson, R C H Lenski, Norman Geisler, Australian Anglican ancient historian Dr Paul Barnett, the late Anglican Dr Leon Morris, Alister McGrath, Oxford Professor John Lennox, F F Bruce, Carl F H Henry, Gleason Archer, Craig Blomberg, Anglican theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, Lord George Carey, Wayne Grudem, Kenneth Kitchen, Anglican J I Packer, Ravi Zacharias, etc.

Your claim of Evangelicals kicking the intellect out the door commits a straw man fallacy. [34]

Peter: ‘BTW you still have not given me an answer to the question “where are the bones of Jesus”’.[35]

Spencer: Ever heard of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension?? In your worldview you want Jesus’ bones. In my worldview, I accept what the authoritative Scriptures state and you will never find Jesus’ bones on earth – NEVER. He did not rot in the grave.[36]

Peter: Archaeologists could dig up bones that are identified with Jesus. Your whole belief is vulnerable to a fact because it rests on a fact.[37]

clip_image008(image courtesy beliefnet)

Spencer: If you believed the Scriptures you would not make those confusing statements. There is zero chance that archaeologists will dig up his body because of the biblical details surrounding his Ascension.
Luke recorded it as it happened for Jesus’ ascension:

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-9 NIV).[38]

Peter: If the bones of Jesus will never be found on earth where are they to be found? The only answer is that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.[39]

Spencer: The answer is in the above text: ‘He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight’ (Acts 1:9).

It doesn’t state that the spiritual Jesus ascended. ‘He’, the one standing with his disciples, ascended. It was not his spirit that went up into the cloud. You regularly push for an understanding that is beyond what the text states. [40]

This is postmodern reader-response deconstruction where Peter deconstructs the biblical text and imposes his own meaning on it. He does not allow the writer’s intended meaning to shine forth.

Peter: Thus we have the usual problem of the mixture between material and spiritual. Which is it? Is heaven a material place?[41]

Spencer: You don’t like the language of N T Wright that the resurrected Jesus’ body was transphysical. Factually, it was more than physical. And this same Jesus ‘will come back … from heaven’.

We know heaven is a place, based on the testimony of Jesus: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2).

For you to even ask if heaven is a ‘material place’ demonstrates you refuse to believe what Jesus said about its being a ‘place’. The ‘rooms’ or ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 are from the transliterated Greek word, mone (pronounced monay) which has the sense of ‘assured residence’ or ‘assured home’.

As for it being a ‘material place’ composed of material from this current universe, we know this will not be a ‘material place’ with materials from this present world. ‘In keeping with his [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet 3:13).

Eminent Australian Anglican commentator of the Gospel of John, the late Dr Leon Morris, stated:

“My Father’s house” clearly refers to heaven. The meaning of “mansions” is not so clear. It seems better understood as “permanent residences” than as “steps along the way of development”…. “Many” should not be misinterpreted as though it signified for all. “The phrase means that there is room and to spare for all the redeemed in heaven” (Morris 1971:638-639).[42]

Peter: This argument is becoming rather strange. If heaven is a material place then it must take up space in the universe. It is not on earth but must be extraterrestrial. Behind the moon is no good, we have looked. Likewise, anywhere else in the Solar system. Of course, it could be quite a few light-years away in another part of our galaxy. This is my last post on this thread.[43]

Spencer: It is strange because you make it that way. What did Jesus say about heaven? ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NRSV).
Jesus did not state it was ‘a material place’. Neither did I.

You are promoting your postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response hermeneutic again.[44]

Peter decided to quit the conversation at this point.

Conclusion

For details of some of Dr Peter Carnley’s unorthodox theology (not discussed here), see: Peter Carnley.

This communication with the author of the article, Peter Sellick, demonstrates what happens when he rejects the authority of Scripture and invents his own meaning through postmodern, deconstructionist interpretation of the Bible. In this case he had two eminent scholars opposed to each other in regard to Jesus’ resurrection. Even though he compares the theology of Jesus’ resurrection between Carnley and Wright, he essentially defends his and Carnley’s non-bodily resurrection with Wright’s extensive research into the biblical text to support the soma/bodily resurrection.

To that he adds what is not in the text and gives his view of what the text states. It is known as reader-response interpretation that is similar to allegorical interpretation. He doesn’t interpret by gaining the meaning out of the text (exegesis) but imposes his meaning on the text. It also is similar to eisegesis.

It is impossible to reach a solid biblical conclusion with someone who does not deal with a plain, literal meaning of the text. See my article on what literal interpretation means: What is literal interpretation? Literal interpretation incorporates the use of figures of speech.

Works consulted

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

Image result for clipart He Is Risen public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Notes:


[1] Sellick is ‘an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences’. In one of his replies to me (OzSpen) in another article, he claimed to be a follower of Karl Barth but my understanding of contemporary theology places him in realm of liberal theology. You will note his aversion to Evangelical Christianity which, he claims, is for the uneducated.

[2] Occasionally in this interchange I have added material like the content of what Irenaeus stated. The additions are few and they were designed to clarify and amplify a little.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[4] This is a claim in the article to which I respond.

[5] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[6] From his article.

[7] Spencer’s comments prior to this were Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM, http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20416 (Accessed 31 July 2019).

[8] From his article.

[9] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 4:59:36 PM

[10] Should be ‘many’.

[11] Should be NT as acronym for New Testament.

[12] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[13] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[14] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[15] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[16] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[17] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[18] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[19] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[20] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[21] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[22] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[23] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[24] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[25] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[26] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM,

[27] This was Posted by Sells, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 12:26:43 PM.

[28] Posted by OzSpen, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 5:53:32 PM.

[29] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[30] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[31] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[32] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[33] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[34] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[35] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[36] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[37] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[38] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[39] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[40] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[41] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[42] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 6:02:11 PM.

[43] Posted by Sells, Friday, 2 August 2019 6:46:02 PM.

[44] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 2 August 2019 7:54:11 PM.

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

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Journalist is out of biblical depth

 

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 

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(photo Israel Folau courtesy The South African)

 

I came across this excellent secular article by Harry Richardson in The Pickering Post, ‘Israel Sparks a Holy War’, 21 April 2019

I consider it to be an excellent well constructed defence of Folau from a secular source. In the article, he makes it obvious he is not supportive of supernatural Christianity.
I’d like to pick up on one of Richardson’s comments: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that equality is a virtue. Tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity don’t get a mention either‘.

How does this statement line up with biblical content?

  • If equality is not a virtue, how do we interpret Adam & Eve being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and after the Fall, human beings were still said to be in God’s image (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7) and likeness of God (James 3:9). Does that mean the Bible teaches equality by all of us being made in God’s image?

For an explanation of the meaning of human beings being made in God’s image, see: ‘What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)?’ (Got Questions 2019)

  • What about the warning against prejudice/favouritism in James 2 (NLT)?
  • Equality as a virtue is taught in Rom 2:11, ‘For God does not show favoritism’. Human beings demonstrate inequality but God doesn’t.
  • As for tolerance, it is a Christian virtue. As a foundation for life and the nations, it is the belief that the truth will come out eventually. This is a Christian understanding of tolerance: ‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love’ (Eph 4:2). In fact, the Christian advocates much more than tolerance. We are told to love our neighbours and our enemies (Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27-36);
  • Is inclusiveness a biblical virtue? Yes it is (see Gal 3:28 for believers). What about for unbelievers? See Mark 2:15-17 (NLT).
  • Diversity is promoted in the multiplicity of gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:11-12; Rom 12:6-8).

I think Richardson should take a couple Bible courses such as ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ and ‘Survey of the Bible’. He doesn’t know his Bible well enough to make an informed comment like he has made.

 

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

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Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo of Cameron Bancroft’s cricket ball-tampering, courtesy thesportsrush.com)

This article first appeared in Australia’s e-journal, On Line Opinion, on 13 April 2018, Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us.

Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018. Smith and Warner were banned from all forms of professional cricket for a year while the penalty was a ban of 9 months for Bancroft.

They could play local grade cricket and engage in coaching around the world but could not engage in professional cricket at any level.

Why did they do it? Smith admitted, “We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we’re deeply regrettable”. Bancroft admitted, ‘I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition’.

It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket’s rules and not being in ‘the spirit of the game’. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

1.  The bigger problem

I have not read the mainstream media’s diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.

There’s a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?

2.  ‘We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus.’

This would not be a theme in the mass media’s diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that’s too religious for worldly-wise readers.

Related image(image courtesy Pinterest)

The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) So, the headline should be: ‘A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers’. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering ‘virus’.

We saw it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.

3.  The cricketers need consequences BUT….

I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.

This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…

4.  The heart of the matter

The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It’s a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.

You’ll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.

(photo of rugby league player sent to the sin bin, courtesy Wikipedia)

Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi.

This is a problem that a secular society doesn’t want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.

What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God’s standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).

It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.

I, the writer, am infected with the same ‘disease’. I’ve lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my way’. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God’s power.

5.  Cricketers sought forgiveness

Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?

It’s for all who seek God’s forgiveness.

When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: ‘I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.’

Bancroft explained: ‘It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness‘.

Warner: ‘I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It’s extremely regrettable. I’m very sorry‘ (31 March 2018).

When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: ‘I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow’.

6.  What is forgiveness?

It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus’ crucifixion – to provide forgiveness for sin.

To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.

The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God’s unconditional love has changed a person, ‘it keeps no record of being wronged’.

Wouldn’t it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.

The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.

7.  Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.

I anticipate some harsh opposition:

  • That’s only your opinion;
  • You’re forcing your religious view on people;
  • It’s propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
  • How dare you push religion like this!

This originally was an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer’s views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time. For objections to the content of my article seee the ‘Comments’ section. Note some of the logical fallacies used by commentors rather than dealing with the issues I raised.

8.  Telling the truth

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(image courtesy YouTube)

One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That’s the truth, the reality.

A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.

The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.

These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.

9. The solution

There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved’.

Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ’s salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.

What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, ‘I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It’s my identity‘.

There is a permanent solution to the ‘cricket cheating’ disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 April 2018.

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How to understand three persons in the Trinity

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(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 Go, 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 noting 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]

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(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 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: 12 July 2019.

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The path Australia treads to ruin

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(The bushfire in Bunyip State Park, Victoria, Australia. Picture: Ionee Reid. Source: Supplied, courtesy news.com.au)[1]

If we want to deal with the devastation of Australia’s drought and other catastrophes, we need to start with a clean up of the churches and a call to repentance by the nation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s voice has been silent about this core issue that associates Australia’s spiritual condition with the drought, floods, fires and other crises.

1. A core issue

Why hasn’t the PM called the nation to HUMILITY, PRAYER AND REPENTANCE for our sins and for God to send rain to break the drought?

We need leadership from the Prime Minister to call for a Day of Repentance and Prayer for rain. Step up to the mark Mr Morrison and lead the way! What an example it would be to see a Christian Prime Minister, ScoMo, and many MPs in local churches praying as they repent and ask God to heal the land and send rain.

This also means reversing the ungodly legislation that is a ‘disgrace’ to the people and the nation.

Other nations have called their people to repent in times of disaster.

1.1 Great Britain did it during World War 2

King George VI had called the people of Great Britain to National Days of Prayer and Repentance four times [during World War 2].  Yet, his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in [66][2] years as the Queen of England, has not once called for [a] National Day of Prayer. The last time Britain had a National Day of Prayer was during the Second World War (Newman 2012).

1.2 South Africans called to prayer during drought

South Africa’s Colin Newman related what happened in South Africa after his conversion to Christ in 1977. The President called for a National Day of Repentance and Humiliation before God. As a new Christian he was impressed with the masses of people in central Cape Town who filled the churches to overflowing. It was a time of intense, earnest heart searching prayers of repentance.

The rains came a couple days later and he was awe struck Newman 2012).

1.3 Zambia’s national day of prayer

clip_image004(map of southern Africa courtesy Biofocuscommunicatie)

Since Zambia officially was declared a Christian nation in 1991,[3] its President has called the nation to days of prayer during drought, and the nation has also celebrated National Days of Thanksgiving when God graciously answered their prayers with rain (Newman 2012).

Could you imagine this kind of statement appearing in any mass media outlet in Australia in a capital city or elsewhere?

“Our [Zambian] identity is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. The values, principles and ethics which we embrace as a people reflect the person of Jesus Christ.

“Love, dignity, integrity, honest, hard work, patriotism among others are the hallmark of who we are as a people,” she said.

That’s from the Lusaka Times 2016. Zambia commemorated its 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December.[4] Lusaka is the capital and largest city in Zambia, with a population of about 1.7 million people.[5]

1.4 Alabama, USA

With parts of Alabama [USA] suffering an exceptional drought, Gov. Bob Riley [was] turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.

Riley issued a proclamation Thursday declaring June 30 [2007] through July 7 as “Days of Prayer for Rain” and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty. This drought is without question a time of great difficulty for our farmers and for communities across our state,” Riley said in a statement.[6]

I know I’ll be criticised, especially by the media, for reminding you and our communities that droughts provide us with a reminder that human beings and government cannot control the creation of when rain comes or when the heavens are closed. Surely this drought reminds us we depend on a Higher Power – the Lord God – who sends the rain and stops the rain.

3. Call to action

clip_image006(James Edmund Allen 1938, prayer for rain, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Australia’s Brian Pickering explained:

It was back in 2006 when Australia experienced a severe drought. God called for Australia to repent following national prayer to end a severe drought. God is still waiting according to the leader of the Australian Prayer Network, Brian Pickering.

God Is Still Waiting for Australia to Repent.[7]

I add: God is still waiting for Australian legislation to be determined by God’s standards. Quit this human morality and practise God’s justice in ALL legislation.

How could my headline be changed to reflect what Australia can do about the BIG drought?

The big dry: ‘See us, hear us, help us Lord God Almighty. We repent of our sins against You. Lord, encourage Aussies please, please to dig deep and send material help to the farmers’.

Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, and church leaders: Australia needs your leadership to call all God-fearing people to pray for an end to the drought.

Why should God break the drought when ‘righteousness exalts a nation’ and Australia legislates laws that are a disgrace, i.e. promoting wicked, immoral behaviour?

We can take action as a nation by repenting of our sins, returning to God, and legislating God’s righteousness. That will mean cancelling legislation that violates God’s commands of righteousness.

3.1 Expect mass media attacks

3.1.1 The ABC

There was an opinion piece in ABC Religion & Ethics by Bryon Smith. It was titled: ‘Faith without works: Why the Prime Minister’s call to pray for rain is offensive’ (Smith 2018).

It was a response to Morrison’s speech in Albury: ‘It’s great to see it raining here in Albury today. I pray for that rain everywhere else around the country. And 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’.

Byron Smith found fault with this statement:

For many Christians, this was a small but encouraging gesture: the nation’s most prominent public official acknowledging that rain is a blessing we receive as gift, an expression of our dependence upon a whole network of creaturely relationships overseen by a Creator.

BUT …

for many atheists, it was a small but offensive gesture: the national leader talking to a sky fairy, embracing and promoting irrational superstition. Some responded on social media with angry mockery, warning of theocracy or taking the opportunity to criticise Morrison’s particular brand of Christianity.

As a Christian, I found Morrison’s comment to be offensive. But not because a Prime Minister speaks publicly of prayer or is open about his Christian beliefs.

Rather, what I find truly offensive is the profound disconnect between his professed prayers and the pro-coal – and thus anti-farmer – agenda of his government. To pray when facing a crisis like widespread drought is not the problem. But when the government Morrison leads has spent many years doing little or nothing about the root causes of the warming that is worsening such extreme weather, then inviting the nation to pray in response is somewhat galling (Smith 2018).

So, according to Smith, prayer is unacceptable until the government gets its act together over global warming.

Byron, who sends the rain and who withholds it? You’ve left the Lord God out of your equation, even though you say you speak ‘as a Christian’. Is God’s intervention that far down your priority list?

3.1.2 Pray for Rain

On 22 April 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald had this headline:[8]

Pray for rain, urges [John] Howard’

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(photograph John Howard courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The report stated:

Prime Minister John Howard has urged Australians to pray for rain as hard-hit agricultural regions face zero water allocations due to drought.

Mr Howard warned last week that farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin faced having no water for the coming irrigation year unless heavy rain fell in the next six to eight weeks.

On Sunday he said he intended to meet irrigators over coming weeks to discuss the grim situation.

Meanwhile, he encouraged people to seek divine intervention.

“It’s very serious, it’s unprecedented in my lifetime and I really feel very deeply for the people affected,” Mr Howard told ABC Television.

“So we should all, literally and without any irony, pray for rain over the next six to eight weeks”

What was the result?

3.1.3 It rained

God held off the drought-breaking rains until 2010-11. The headline in ABC News, 14 April 2010, was:

Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin

Chrissy Arthur, ABC News, Brisbane, Qld: Posted 14 Apr 2010, 7:47am:[9]

A river expert says water from the Paroo River in south-west Queensland is flowing into the Darling River in New South Wales for the first time in 20 years.

There were record floods in the Paroo River last month (March 2010) and authorities say that is providing a boost for the Murray-Darling Basin.

clip_image010(No way through to Glenorchy, where the Wimmera River has flooded houses, sheds and farm properties. At Ashens, just north of Glenorchy, in the Wimmera region of NW Victoria, crops are under water. Photo courtesy Laura Poole)’[10]

Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, got it right on one point I’ve stressed in this series of articles:

‘“We can’t make it rain. But we can ensure that farming families and their communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet” the government said in a statement’.[11]

He didn’t give any hint as to whom or what can cause it to rain. God Almighty has his reasons for delaying the rain, sending cyclones, allowing fires. Some of these include:

  • The link between a nation’s morality and God’s judgment.
  • ‘‘Righteousness raises a people to greatness; to pursue wrong degrades a nation’ (Prov 14:34 REB).
  • Ungodly legislation and practices in Australia are a disgrace to the nation and lead to Australia’s doom.
  • Only God sends the rain and withholds it.
  • Godless, secular Australia refuses to bow the knee to the Lord God Almighty.
  • We want his blessings of rain without the commitment to Him. We deserve what we get.
  • When will local, State and national leaders call the nation to prayer to break the drought and stop other disasters?

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

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(photo courtesy North Queensland Register)[12]

4.  Note

[1] Available at: https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/heatwave-prompts-serious-health-alert-and-fire-bans/news-story/45600fce2e3251bf4838a19c0b9e4578 (Accessed 25 May 2019).

[2] She began her reign in 1952 and the coronation was in 1953. As of 2018 she has reigned 66 years and was aged 92 in 2018.

[3] Lusakatimes.com 2016. Zambia commemorates 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December. Available at: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/12/29/zambia-commemorates-25th-anniversary-declaration-christian-nation/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[4] Available at: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/12/29/zambia-commemorates-25th-anniversary-declaration-christian-nation/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[5] Wikipedia (2018. s.v. Lusaka).

[6] Phillip Rawls 2007 (Associated Press writer). Riley calling for statewide prayer for rain. The Decatur Daily (online), 29 June. Available at: http://archive.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/070629/rain.shtml (Accessed 6 November 2018).

[7] Vision Christian Radio 2018. God is still waiting for Australia to repent (online). Available at: https://vision.org.au/radio/2016/09/15/god-still-waiting-australia-repent/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[8] Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/pray-for-rain-urges-howard-20070422-gdpyx1.html (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[9] Chrissy Arthur 2010. Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin. ABC News Brisbane, Qld. (online), 14 April. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-04-14/flood-rain-reaches-murray-darling-basin/395022 (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[10] ABC Rural and News reporters 2010. Drought breaks at last, as Victoria floods (online), 5 September. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/site-archive/rural/news/content/201009/s3002960.htm (Accessed 7 January 2019).

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

[12] North Queensland Register is based in Townsville City, Qld, Australia. Available at: https://www.northqueenslandregister.com.au/contact-us/ (Accessed 4 April 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2019.

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Israel Folau: When diversity means censorship

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo Israel Folau, courtesy France 24)

A blogger stated: ‘Folau is not being persecuted for his beliefs but for using his position within Rugby Union and Rugby Union owned and operated venues for propagating hate speach (sic)’.[1]

Where did he get the idea that Folau used his position in Rugby Australia’s (RA) ‘owned and operated venues for propagating hate speech’? Can he prove this statement? Folau made the post in his personal Instagram account and not from an RA venue?

ASICS, one of Folau’s sponsors, dropped his sponsorship, stating (according to The Age): ‘While Israel Folau is entitled to his personal views, some of those expressed in recent social media posts are not aligned with those of ASICS. As such, our partnership with Israel has become untenable and he will no longer represent ASICS as a brand ambassador’.[2]

Only a few days before the 2019 Australian federal election, the Folau issue and what he said led to a ‘spat’ between PM Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, according to the Fairfax Canberra Times:

Mr Morrison accused Mr Shorten of a “cheap shot” over the question on Tuesday and made it clear he did not believe that gay people would go to hell, one day after giving a less direct answer to the question….

“No, I do not believe that,” Mr Morrison said in a statement….

The matter of personal belief arose on Monday when a journalist put the following question to Mr Morrison: “What’s your belief, do gay people go to hell?”

Mr Morrison replied: “I support the law of the country and I always don’t mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics”….

[Mr Shorten said], “I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell.

When Mr Shorten was asked if he believed gay people would go to hell, he said: “No, I don’t believe gay people, because they’re gay, will go to hell. I don’t need a law to tell me that. I don’t believe it”.[3]

1. They were religious statements

clip_image004Photo: The image Folau posted on Instagram was accompanied by direct scripture quotes. (Supplied: @izzyfolau)[4]

That is an image of the Instagram statement made by champion Rugby Union player, Israel Folau, that has gotten him into the hullabaloo with RA, some rugby players, and especially the mass media.

Folau is an evangelical Christian born in Minto, NSW to Tongan parents. Minto is 38 km south-west of the Sydney CBD, in the local government area of the City of Campbelltown.

It is claimed the Wallabies fullback ‘refused to delete his controversial Instagram post to save his rugby career during his code-of-conduct hearing with Rugby Australia’[5]. He recently signed a contract that was worth $4 million over four years.

The Anglican bishop of Grafton, the Rt Rev Dr Murray Harvey disagrees with Pogi: He “branded the religious statements of Australian rugby union player Israel Folau as hate speech”.

1.1 Folau’s quote from Scripture

What Folau said was essentially straight from the Bible:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV).

He did not state it on the rugby field but in a public post on his personal Instagram account, a public medium outside of rugby. Why have the media taken ONE sin from the list – homosexuality – and excluded all of the others mentioned in Folau’s post and in the Christian Scriptures?

1.2 Where have the other sinners gone?

I haven’t read of the sexually immoral or idolaters kicking a stink about what Folau wrote. The adulterers, thieves, and greedy have been strangely silent. As for the drunks and swindlers, they have zipped their lips.

clip_image006 (image courtesy Clipart Library)

Thieves, atheists and idolaters, from my observation, have gone hush-hush in this chain of events.

1.2.1 Verbal abusers and profane language

What about revilers? That’s not a common word today. In English, synonyms include abuser, knocker [informal], rubbisher, slanderer, bad-mouth, curse and swear at.[6]

A reviler is a person who uses words to damage, control, or insult someone’s character or reputation. Today we would call a reviler a verbal abuser. Reviler is a multi-purpose word that is used in the Bible to describe all manner of verbal sin, such as slander, angry outbursts, and foul language.[7]

The NIV translates ‘revilers’ as ‘slanderers’ and the NLT provides the meaning of ‘abusive’.

To swear, slander, verbally abuse, have angry outbursts, and use blankety blank language is such a normal part of Aussie conversation that the folks who commit these sins laugh them off as, ‘She’ll be right mate. You’re a fuddy-duddy old square who needs to lighten up if you object’.[8]

In the NT Greek, a ‘reviler’ is loidoros (singular), ‘reviler, abusive person’, as in 1 Cor 5:11 and 6:10.[9] First Peter 3:9 (ERV) uses a variation of this word that gets to the heart of the meaning,

‘Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult[10] anyone to pay them back for insulting you.[11] But ask God to bless them. Do this because you yourselves were chosen to receive a blessing.

However, FindLaw Australia confirmed:

In a day and age where swearing has become so commonplace, that most people wouldn’t even flinch when someone drops a swear word, it’s remarkable to think that Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria all have laws regulating offensive language. The issue has received some prominence lately when a football player fronted court for offensive language. So if someone is about to go on a verbal blue streak in public, be careful, you may be in breach of the law….

Not only are the penalties for offensive language similar in Queensland and Victoria, but the definitions as well. Generally speaking, offensive language is considered as:

• disorderly
• offensive
• threatening
• indecent, and
• violent.[12]

While Folau has been crushed by RA, the mass and social media in raising the issue of homosexuals going to hell, why have all these other sins been overlooked and only one sin has been reefed out of the list?

1.3 Able to express offensive opinions

In his assessment of the Folau situation, Akos Balogh[13] has raised the issue of how all people ought to be able to express offensive opinions. He drew attention to some comments from the homosexual community’s gay activist, Dawn Grace-Cohen, who wrote for Fairfax:

We all need to skill up to create a new world where everyone gets a fair go. When we are not demanding compliance with our own view, many Australians habitually attack a person with an alternative view, rather than countering with a reasoned argument….

We mock rather than debate. We use slut-shaming or racist, ageist and sexist slurs. We don’t listen for the grain of truth in the opposition’s perspective because we cannot bear the discomfort of there being no easy answer….

Then let him [Folau] keep his job, with considerable support laid on to help him explore what inclusion means.[14]

clip_image008(Photograph Israel Folau, courtesy familyvoice.com.au)

It is Balogh’s view that Australia needs a new conversation about real ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘tolerance’ in the workplace, especially. This call is urgent because it is not long since RA could have argued that its actions regarding Folau would have been easy to argue as RA “didn’t show enough ‘tolerance’ or ‘inclusiveness’ towards Folau’s ‘diverse’ religious viewpoint”.

Instead, “‘inclusivity’ has now come to mean ‘anyone who doesn’t agree with us is excluded’, and ‘tolerance’ means ‘you must not criticise certain people or practices’. ‘Diversity’ refers to anything except viewpoint diversity”.[15]

What type of public square[16] do Australians want? (1) The ‘sacred public square’ where one religion is preferred over all others; (2) The ‘naked public square’ which removes all religion; and (3) the ‘civil public square

where people of all faiths and none, are free to enter into public life on the basis of their faith (or lack of it). The crucial qualifier in this model is that they do so within an agreed framework of what is just and fair for everybody else too. A good understanding of rights, responsibilities and respect are essential qualities for such a model to work. The Israel Folau case would test such a framework.[17]

With the Folau case, it is Balogh’s observation that Australia is moving to ‘the naked public square’.

2. Media promotion of homosexuality: Liberalising attitudes

Take a read of these headlines and the content of the articles:

clip_image010Gay rugby union club Sydney Convicts condemns ‘offensive’ Folau social media post” (ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 7 May 2019).

clip_image011NRL rule out Folau return over ‘disrespectful’ anti-gay posts’ (SBS News, 12 April 2019).

clip_image011[1]Israel Folau launches another anti-gay social media blitz’ (ESPN, 11 April 2019).

clip_image011[2]Australian rugby star Israel Folau shares more vile anti-LGBT social media posts’ (Attitude Newsletter, 10 April 2019).

It is politically correct to promote homosexuality in the current Australian political, mass media, social media and everyday environment. To declare homosexuality a sin calls for an immediate labelling of the person as homophobic, which many times is an Ad Hominem (Circumstantial) logical fallacy.

It is erroneous reasoning because it suggests Folau’s argument is biased by his predisposition that unforgiven homosexuals and other sinners go to hell. This is an invalid argument as it does not logically argue the case for homosexuality making a person homophobic.

The consequence of homophobic accusations is that there is a ‘coming out’ by prominent people such as Senator Penny Wong, retired Senator Bob Brown, rising Australian tennis star Casey Dellacqua, and Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.

Phillip Ayoub and Jeremiah Garretson in their research reached the conclusion that

researchers, advocates, and policymakers, and producers should take into account how cultural contact through media can shape opinions and values, even across national borders. Television, film, radio and the Internet remain powerful socializing mechanisms through which younger generations come into contact with previously invisible minorities.[18]

This confirms the power of the mass media in promoting social change. I see it regularly when I view TV news and current affairs.

Homosexuals and gay supporters were outed when Australia voted for homosexual marriage. According to the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department (2017), ‘From 9 December 2017, sex or gender no longer affects the right to marry under Australian law and same-sex marriage became legal in Australia’.[19]

This is how the House of Representatives looked after the ‘marriage equality’ (homosexual marriage) vote:

clip_image013Photo: Nationals MPs David Littleproud and Keith Pitt (left) were among just four MPs to vote no on the same-sex marriage bill. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)[20]

It became evident this was not an issue of diversity or tolerance but of censorship. The other sins in Folau’s post have been censored by the media to highlight Folau’s alleged homophobia.

The ‘progressive’ and trendy left of politics and media have bulldozed this pro-homosexual agenda into the public square. People like this writer will be regarded – falsely – as homophobic because of my support for biblical Christianity’s views on who will enter God’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11).

2.1 Support for Folau

Eternal destinies as articulated in the Bible are not ‘hate speech’ but God-breathed truthfulness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Some of Folau’s teammates from Polynesia have come out in support of him. News.com.au reported on how his supporters have responded:

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(Rebels and Reds players unite in prayer.Source:FOX SPORTS)

Australian Super Rugby players from the Melbourne Rebels and the Queensland Reds have huddled for a post-match prayer amid reports of anger among the game’s Christians over the handling of the Israel Folau social media furore.

Wallabies fullback Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, moved a step closer to being sacked by Rugby Australia this week after he was found to have committed a “high-level” code of conduct breach for a post that said hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.

The case has upset a number of Folau’s Wallabies teammates who share his religious beliefs, with Reds prop Taniela Tupou writing that RA “might as well sack…all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world.”[21]

2.2 Negative language about Folau’s beliefs

Notice the uncomplimentary language used in the news.com.au story when it described Folau as ‘a fundamentalist Christian’. A century ago, that would have been a compliment, describing those who adhered to the fundamentals of the Christian faith – its core values – like those articulated in The Nicene Creed:

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.

In the twenty-first century, it’s a negative term designed to denigrate a certain group of Evangelical Christians. Matt Thompson in writing for The Atlantic stated that ‘today, “fundamentalism” is often applied as a pejorative, used almost interchangeably with words such as “extremism”’.[22]

Thompson cited Larry Eskridge, a scholar of American religion at Wheaton College: “Casually invoked to describe anyone who seems to hold some sort of vaguely-perceived traditional religious belief—be they a Bible Baptist TV preacher, a Hasidic rabbi, a Mormon housewife, or a soldier of the Islamic Jihad—the word [fundamentalism] has become so overused as to be nearly useless”.[23]

2.3 Satire on Izzy and Rugby Australia

Satire is ‘the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues’ (Oxford Living Dictionaries 2019. s.v. satire) [OLD].

Synonyms include mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn, caricature, irony, and sarcasm (OLD).

One of the finest pieces of satire I’ve read in recent years is in this article by Akos Balogh, ‘Dear Izzy, If Only You Had Behaved Like An Elite Athlete’ (See your world through a Christian lens, 20 May 2019).

I’ve sent a link to this article to Rugby Australia.

2.4 Disappointment with PM Scott Morrison’s pussyfooting on homosexuals and hell.

This point is worth an article in itself. How is it possible for a declared Pentecostal Christian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to say what is reported in The Guardian?[24]

Scott Morrison has claimed he now supports same-sex marriage because it has allowed people to “get on with their lives” and he “always supports the law of the country”.

Morrison made the claim at a press conference in Perth, brushing off questions about whether his personal views have changed since his vocal opposition to marriage equality during the marriage law postal survey in 2017.

Morrison, a Pentecostal Christian who attends the Horizons’ church, said he doesn’t “mix [his] religion with politics” and evaded a question about whether gay people go to hell, an apparent reference to the controversy surrounding rugby player Israel Folau….

Asked on Monday if he still opposes same-sex marriage, Morrison replied: “It’s law and I am glad that the change has now been made and we and people can get on with their lives, that’s what I am happy about. I always support the law of the country.”

How is it that a Christian who opposed homosexual marriage now supports it because it is law and he ‘always supports the law of the country’?

That was conveyed in the AAP report in The Canberra Times:

Scott Morrison says he supports the law of the country but wouldn’t say if his personal opposition to same-sex marriage has changed since it was legalised….

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.”[25]

It’s not surprising that this is Bill Shorten’s view: ‘I don’t think if you’re gay you’re going to go to hell. I don’t know if hell exists actually. But I don’t think, if it does, that being gay is what sends you there’.[26] That’s in light of the ALP’s policy #319 (p. 191). See also, ‘Labor Party agrees to maintain conscience vote on same-sex marriage for next two terms of government’ (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, 2015).

This is Bill Shorten’s and the ALP’s ideology and not biblical theology speaking.

2.4.1 When laws of God conflict with laws of the nation

ScoMo, how can you support the ungodly law supporting homosexuality in Australia when God opposes such sinners (along with other unrighteous people) entering the kingdom of God (Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11)? There is contradiction by you in your beliefs. You have violated the law of non-contradiction:

clip_image016(image courtesy YouTube)

In your work as Prime Minister, do you ever face a situation where the laws of God clash with the laws of the country? In that circumstance, the law of non-contradiction can be violated. Something cannot be both A (a law of God) and non-A (a law of the country) at the same time and in the same sense for the people of God and not become contradictory.

Here’s the clash of values you don’t seem to have comprehended, Mr Morrison:

A: God’s law is that those who practise homosexuality and other sins are ‘abandoned’ by God ‘to their shameful desires’ (Rom 1:24-32) and sinners, including homosexuals, ‘will not inherit the Kingdom of God’ (1 Cor 6:9-11).

But you now support, not A, but

Non-A: Now you agree with Australian law that conflicts with God’s law when you ‘now support same-sex marriage because it has allowed people to “get on with their lives” and [you] “always support the law of the country”’.

(a) Let Acts 5:29 guide you

According to Acts 5:17-32, the Christian apostles were thrown into a public prison by the Jewish authorities because the apostles performed ‘many miraculous signs and wonders among the people’ (v. 12). During the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison and let the apostles out to go to the Temple to ‘give the people this message of life’ (v. 20).

Not surprisingly, the captain of the Temple guard was sent by the Jewish leaders to arrest the apostles, but non-violently (v. 26). The high priest said to the apostles:

“We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s [Jesus’] name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” (v. 29)

What was the response? ‘Sorry for the horrible mistakes we made. Will you please forgive us for violating your Jewish laws? We are ashamed of what we did’. That is NOT what they retorted.

‘But Peter and the apostles replied,

“We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).

(b) My disappointment with ScoMo’s compromise

I consider this is compromise by ScoMo from what he said when he was federal treasurer. Before the same-sex marriage plebiscite, he supported traditional marriage and voted ‘no’ in his personal approach to homosexual marriage. ‘It is OK to say “no”. It is OK to say “yes”, but make sure you have your say’ was what he said.[27]

ScoMo could have shown political and Christian leadership in maintaining consistency (even though it may cost him votes) in his world view. His views are not integrated and holistic. He did not view sexuality through God’s lens.

He could have done it without reference to the Scriptures by demonstrating the consequences of homosexual behaviour. One of the most viewed articles on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge’, on a daily basis is:

clip_image017 The dangers of anal sex and fisting, see also

clip_image017[1] A Christian discussion of homosexuality & sexuality

clip_image017[2] Queen Elizabeth II and Jesus silent on homosexuality

clip_image017[3] Tolerance, homosexuality and not inheriting the Kingdom of God

clip_image017[4] Genetic cause of homosexuality?

clip_image017[5]Please do not support same-sex marriage

clip_image017[6]Why politicians should not support ‘marriage equality’

3. Other assessments

One of the finest assessment’s I’ve heard of this Folau vs Rugby Australia saga is by Sydney talk-back host and top-rating radio king, 2GB’s Alan Jones, who stated that Rugby Australia is on ‘the wrong side of common sense”.

The new One Nation politician (former Labor Leader), Mark Latham, supported Folau in Latham’s inaugural speech to the NSW Upper House:

“I stand with Israel Folau,” the NSW One National leader told parliament.

“In his own private time away from his job playing football, he’s a preacher at his community church and naturally, he quotes the Bible.

“How did our state and our nation ever come to this? Those claiming outrage have fabricated their position solely for the purpose of censorship. This is not an argument about diversity.”

Australians shouldn’t have to fear being sacked for stating their religious beliefs, Mr Latham said.

“No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilisation: I am a Christian.”[28]

Latham added that Folau ‘believes, as millions of people have believed for thousands of years that sinners go to hell…. Yet for his beliefs, his Christianity, he is not allowed to play rugby, to chase the pigskin around the park’.

“How did our State and our nation ever come to this?” [29]

The Spiked website considers Folau is “the Aussie rugby player … being punished for his Christian beliefs”.

ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 15 April 2019 reported Folau

‘would be prepared to walk away from rugby union. “I live for God now,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.

“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first”’.

3.1 Temptation to accept peace offering

Channel 9’s Wide World of Sports reported on 13 May 2019 that Folau considered the ‘peace offering’ from Rugby Australia (RA) ‘to resurrect his playing career’ as ‘the work of Satan’. Folau indicated being tempted by the ‘opportunity’ but considered it ‘the work of Satan’. He gave these details in a Sydney church talk.

Wide World of Sports joined in the chorus of labelling him ‘the fundamentalist Christian’ who ‘committed a high-level code of conduct breach for an Instagram post that said hell was the destiny for ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers’ and others.

Folau’s language about the work of Satan and the RA offer was:

“Potentially I could get terminated, which means that there’s no more playing contract and therefore no more finances or money coming in,” he said from the lectern.

“It would be the first time it has happened to me in my life.

“All the materialistic things I have been able to have over the last number of years are slowly being taken away from me.

It’s understood Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer would have been allowed to resume playing again had he agreed to take down his latest controversial post.

“There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier. I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be,” Folau said.

“The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away.

“[But] it is always the will of God that comes first.” [30]

4. Threat to freedom of religion?

Several religious leaders have been so concerned over what happened to Folau that the ABC News reported:

Israel Folau’s clash with RA ‘over his fundamentalist religious social media posts’ motivated ‘nine prominent Christians to send letters about the protection of religious freedom to Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten’. These people included leaders from Presbyterian, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist and Apostolic churches, as well as a number of religious school leaders.

clip_image019 (image courtesy YA-webdesign)

The letters were worded differently for each political leader but both letters ‘flagged a range of issues, with protection of religious belief and free speech at the forefront’.

Each letter began:

“In recent years the protections to be accorded to religious freedom, and the related freedoms of conscience, speech and association, have come under increasing focus within Australia.”

“We write to invite you to provide clarification on a range of key issues that are important to the preservation of these freedoms in our country”.

Reverend Dr Hedley Fihaki, a Uniting Church minister and the national chair of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, said he was worried the Wallaby’s case could set “a dangerous precedent”.

“Scripture is the book the whole church is based on, so if we are not free to teach from that, not just in the private but particularly in the public domain, it is a dangerous precedent,” Dr Fihaki told the ABC.

“From the Bible, from the holy scriptures, that’s the Old and New Testament”.[31]

Anna Patty, in writing for The Age, pointed out some of the apprehension of religious leaders:

The letter to Mr Shorten details concerns that Labor Party policies do not go far enough to protect religious freedom and have the potential to impact on the free expression of traditional views of sexuality and marriage. It asks Labor for an assurance that religious institutions will continue to be able to hold such views and defend them in public….

The Liberal Party has committed to introducing a Commonwealth Religious Discrimination Act, but the religious leaders asked the Prime Minister to go further by protecting believers in associations including churches, mosques, charities, schools and corporations.[32]

4.1 Folau case points to destruction of Western culture?

Peter FitzSimons (Peter F), writing for The Age, challenges ‘Six of the worst fallacies surrounding the Israel Folau case. One of these is: ‘This is the end of Western civilisation as we know it. Uh, no. This is Western civilisation evolving, and saying that while publicly marginalising a group used to be acceptable, and even a part of the law of the land, it is no longer acceptable’.[33]

What is the truth? Is Peter F on target or is he promoting a view that minimises the sins of Australia.

Jude 1:7 (NRSV) reminds us of what awaits those who practise immorality, including ‘unnatural lust’:

‘Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire’.

4.1.1 Morality according to secularism

Peter F is taking off on the wrong runway. He wants morality to be decided by the evolution of acceptance of a previously ‘marginalised’ group (of homosexuals).

This is secular thinking that is not in harmony with the Lord God’s plan for the universe. Peter F’s world and life view causes him to be blind to the moral degradation happening in Australia.

What is God’s way of thinking regarding sinful behaviour and eternal issues? It is straight out of the Israel Folau handbook, Scripture:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NET).

Not only does sinful behaviour have eternal consequences, but sinful thinking has the same destiny. See Matt 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NET).

Remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? Billy Graham made this pointed observation:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).[34]

4.1.2 The immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah

Surely this also can be applied to Australia.

clip_image021 See my article: Can Australia be turned around?

What does it mean ‘they were haughty and did detestable things’? Other dynamic equivalence translations help clear up the meaning:

  • ‘Sodom and her daughters became too proud and began to do terrible things in front of me. So I punished them’ (ERV);
  • ‘They thought they were better than everyone else, and they did things I hate. And so I destroyed them’ (CEV);
  • ‘They were very proud. They did many things that were evil in my eyes. I hated those things. So I got rid of Sodom and her daughters, just as you have seen’ (NIRV);
  • ‘She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (NLT);

What was the detestable, terrible, evil sin committed in Sodom & Gomorrah?

Genesis 19 reveals it.

Before they [the two angels] retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. 5 They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”[35] [36]

6 So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. 7 “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection” (Gen 19:4-8 NLT).

Therefore, the men of Sodom, both young and old, wanted to have sexual relations with other men (the two angels). That’s what the text states.

However, some scholars want to make this encounter of the men of Sodom with the male angels as an example of selfishness or being inhospitable when compared with Ezek 16:48-50 (NLT):

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters. 49 Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. 50 She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.

One scholar who takes the hospitality view is homosexual clergyman, Rev Dr Patrick S Cheng:

The true sin of the Sodomites as described in the Bible has nothing to do with same-sex acts per se. Rather, the ancient Sodomites were punished by God for far greater sins: for attempted gang rape, for mob violence, and for turning their backs on strangers and the needy who were in their midst. In other words, the real sin of Sodom was radical inhospitality. And, ironically, it is often anti-gay Christians who are most guilty of this sin today….

So, who are the real Sodomites today? Who are the people who turn their backs on the strangers and the least among us? Ironically, I believe that anti-gay Christians are often the ones who are most guilty of committing the true sin of Sodom….

The bottom line is that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus Christ ever condemn LGBT people. However, Jesus does expressly condemn people who turn their backs on strangers and on those who are the neediest among us [Matt 25:43].[37]

For Dr Cheng, ‘the true sin of Sodom: radical inhospitality’.

Dr Cheng supports his lifestyle this way but he’s not promoting a biblical view of the sin of Sodom according to Genesis 19 and other portions of Scripture:

Yale University historian, John Boswell, concluded that Sodom was destroyed because:

(1) The Sodomites were destroyed for the general wickedness which had prompted the Lord to send angels to the city to investigate in the first place; (2) the city was destroyed because the people of Sodom had tried to rape the angels; (3) the city was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to engage in homosexual intercourse with the angels…; (4) the city was destroyed for inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord.[38]

(a) Ezekiel drew attention to Sodom’s problem[39]

‘She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (Ezek 16:50 NLT). So, she was proud, which infers she did selfish things, thus making it an inhospitable city.

However, the bigger picture is that Sodom’s sin also was homosexuality. We know this from a few biblical facts:

clip_image023 Examine the context of Genesis 19 and we find that 19:8 reveals the perversion was sexual sin of men with men.

clip_image023[1] Since there was ‘pride’ or selfishness in Sodom, according to Ezek 16:50, the sin of homosexuality can be included as ‘sexual sins are a form of selfishness, since they are the satisfaction of fleshly passions’.[40] Ezekiel 16 confronts Jerusalem and ‘her daughters’ with their detestable sins.

clip_image023[2] Sodom ‘committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (Ezek 16:50). By calling Sodom’s sins ‘detestable’ this is an indication it was sexual. The same Hebrew word is used in Leviticus 18:22 (NLT) where it describes homosexual sins, ‘Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin’.

clip_image023[3] According to the Collins Dictionary, sodomy in English ‘is anal sexual intercourse’ (2019. s.v. sodomy). This is a homosexual act. Its origin is from an Old Testament ‘city destroyed by God for its wickedness that, with Gomorrah, traditionally typifies depravity (Genesis 19:24)…. this city [was seen as] representing homosexuality’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. Sodom).

clip_image023[4] Jude verse 7 in the NT states: ‘Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example[41] by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire’ (NRSV).

Jude 7 associates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with ‘sexual immorality’ and pursuing ‘unnatural lust’. The Greek states, apelthousai hopisw sarkos heteras (transliterated) and is translated as ‘went after other flesh’ (unnatural lust) which Thayer is careful to note ‘is used of those who are on a search for persons with whom they can gratify their lust’.[42]

Therefore, we have every biblical reason to understand the sin of homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah led to

(b) Sodom and Gomorrah’s punishment

This was God’s punishment for these two cities:

Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:24-26 NLT).

Why did God wipe out Sodom & Gomorrah?

‘So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard”’ (Gen 18:20-21).

‘And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake” (Gen 18:26).

‘For we (the angels) are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it’ (Gen 19:13).

Therefore, Greg Koukl concludes:

Piecing together the biblical evidence gives us a picture of Sodom’s offense. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was some kind of activity—a grave, ongoing, lawless, sensuous activity—that Lot saw and heard and that tormented him as he witnessed it day after day. It was an activity in which the inhabitants indulged the flesh in corrupt desires by going after strange flesh, ultimately bringing upon them the most extensive judgment anywhere in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation.[43]

There is enough contextual information and biblical data elsewhere to indicate Sodom & Gomorrah’s sins were homosexuality and other sensual sins. Further insight is gained from 2 Peter 2:6-8 (NLT):

God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. 8 Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.

It was not God turning these cities into ashes as punishment for occasional sin, but for wickedness ‘day after day’.

I say it again, based on Ruth Graham’s words: “If God doesn’t punish Australia, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

5. Folau’s punishment

A three-person independent panel’s decision in the RA vs Folau controversy decided Folau’s $4 million, 4-year contract should be terminated because of his anti-gay social media post on 10 April 2019.

Folau’s response was:

“It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.

“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.

“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression. The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.

“I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs. We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community.

“Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them”.[44]

What are Folau’s next moves? After the announcement of this punishment, Folau had 72 hours to challenge the decision, which he did not take up.

He also could take the decision to court to stop RA from terminating his contract. It could eventually be heard in the NSW Supreme Court or the Federal Court.[45]

At the time of concluding this article, Fairfax newspapers reported that Folau had had discussions with a leading Melbourne workplace relations’ lawyer, Stuart Wood QC, but it was too early to say Wood had been ‘engaged’ as a lawyer to represent Folau in this contractual controversy.[46]

Another option for him is to appeal his case with the Fair Work Commission, for unlawful dismissal on religious grounds. He has until 10 June to commence that process.[47]

6. Conclusion

While RA has found Folau guilty of committing a “high-level” code of conduct breach for his personal Instagram post, he had his 4-year contract terminated and is deliberating over future options.

My own views are that Folau has not been included in the actual understanding of diversity and tolerance by Rugby Australia.

clip_image025 Diversity means:

  • ‘a range of things which are very different from each other’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. diversity).
  • ‘the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. diversity).

Therefore, diversity means that Folau’s Christian values need to be accepted among the range of different ideas, values and opinions in Australia. Instead, Folau has been censored from expressing his values (one of the diverse views) of the destiny of a whole range of sinners, from God’s perspective. Any country accepting diversity will agree with Folau’s right to express his Christian views.

clip_image025[1] As for tolerance, it means:

  • ‘the quality of allowing other people to say and do as they like, even if you do not agree or approve of it’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. tolerance).
  • a ‘willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. tolerance).

Based on these two definitions, Folau has not been afforded tolerance towards his Christian views. RA has failed the tolerance test.

Therefore, what has happened by the RA actions in relation to Folau? It has closed down any opportunity for RA to implement fully the values of diversity and tolerance in the Rugby Union fraternity.

So Folau has been the victim of censorship of his values and an attack on free speech which affects his freedom of religion.

clip_image027

(courtesy Clipart Library)

7.   Notes


[1] On Line Opinion 2019. Fairies at the bottom of the garden : Comments (online).

Posted by Pogi, Friday, 10 May 2019 3:37:48 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20266&page=0 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[2] Tom Decent 2019. Sponsor abandons Folau as Farr-Jones claims star has not breached deal. The Age (online), 8 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-dumped-by-sponsor-asics-20190508-p51lcy.html (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[3] David Crowe 2019. Morrison accuses Shorten of taking a ‘cheap shot’ over gays going to hell. The Canberra Times (online), 14 May. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6123617/morrison-accuses-shorten-of-taking-a-cheap-shot-over-gays-going-to-hell/?cs=14350 (Accessed 17 May 2017).

[4] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Israel Folau’s case prompts Australian religious leaders to pen letters to Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-11/israel-folau-religious-leaders-send-letter-to-shorten-morrison/11104094 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[5] Ben Francis 2019. Rugby: Israel Folau refused to delete controversial Instagram post to save Wallabies career – report. Newshub (online), 10 May. Available at: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/sport/2019/05/rugby-israel-folau-refused-to-delete-controversial-instagram-post-to-save-wallabies-career-report.html (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[6] Collins Dictionary (2019 s.v. revile).

[7] Got Questions Ministries 2019. What is a reviler in the Bible? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/reviler-in-the-Bible.html (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[8] Suggested by Urban Dictionary (1999-2019. s.v. fuddy duddy).

[9] Bauer, W; Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), p. 480.

[10] The Greek noun in this verse is loidoria.

[11] The ESV translates ‘insult’ as ‘reviling’; the NASB, NET and NIV as ‘insult’; and the NRSV as ‘abuse’.

[12] FindLaw 2019. Swearing in Public is Against the Law (Really) [online]. Available at: https://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4251/swearing-in-public-is-against-the-law-really.aspx (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[13] Akos Balogh 2019. 4 Urgent Conversations Australians Need To Have After Folau. See Your World through a Christian Lens (online). Available at: http://akosbalogh.com/2019/05/15/4-urgent-conversations-australians-need-to-have-after-folau/ (Accessed 16 May 2019).

[14] Dawn Grace-Cohen 2019. Silencing Folau with queer fascism betrays our gay marriage victory. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 4 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/silencing-folau-with-queer-fascism-betrays-our-gay-marriage-victory-20190503-p51jsk.html (Accessed 16 May 2019).

[15] Balogh 2019, with help from Simon Smart of the Centre for Public Christianity and Christian author and social commentator, Os Guinness.

[16] ‘Public square’ means ‘the sphere of public opinion’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2019. s.v. public square).

[17] In Balogh 2019.

[18] Phillip Ayoub and Jeremiah Garretson 2018. How the Media Has Helped Change Public Views about Lesbian and Gay People. Scholars’ Strategy Network (online), 24 May. Available at: https://scholars.org/brief/how-media-has-helped-change-public-views-about-lesbian-and-gay-people (Accessed 14 May 2019).

[19] Marriage equality in Australia 2017. Available at: https://www.ag.gov.au/marriageequality (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[20] David Lipson 2017. Same-sex marriage and the defining image that almost wasn’t. ABC News, Brisbane Qld (online), 11 December. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-11/same-sex-marriage-the-lone-voice-of-david-littleproud/9246370 (Accessed 11 May 2019). According to this ABC News report, ‘Just four MPs voted against same-sex marriage in the chamber: Mr Littleproud and Mr Pitt, along with Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and crossbencher Bob Katter’.

[21] News.com.au 2019. Super Rugby players in huge public show of support for Israel Folau (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/sport/rugby/super-rugby-players-in-huge-public-show-of-support-for-israel-folau/news-story/f13197aa1688febc7d3d8246500869f2 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[22] Matt Thompson 2015. The Origins of ‘Fundamentalism’, The Atlantic, 30 June. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/the-origins-of-fundamentalism/397238/ (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Paul Karp 2019. Scott Morrison claims he now backs same-sex marriage – but dodges question on hell. The Guardian Australia (online), 13 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/13/scott-morrison-claims-he-now-backs-same-sex-marriage-but-dodges-question-on-hell (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[25] AAP 2019. Gay marriage is the law: PM Morrison. The Canberra Times (online), 13 May. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6122212/gay-marriage-is-the-law-pm-morrison/?cs=14231 (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[26] Paul Karp 2019.

[27] Staff writers 2017. Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison reveals he is voting ‘no’ in same-sex marriage plebiscite. News.com.au [from 7.30], 31 August. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/federal-treasurer-scott-morrison-reveals-he-is-voting-no-in-samesex-marriage-plebiscite/news-story/d7be152a9ef873e777dcb653af478a20 (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[28] Tom Rabe 2019. I stand with Israel Folau: Mark Latham. Mandurah Mail (online), 8 May. Available at: https://www.mandurahmail.com.au/story/6114327/i-stand-with-israel-folau-mark-latham/?cs=9397 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[29] Ibid.

[30] AAP 2019. Israel Folau reveals RA settlement rejection, saying ‘temptation’ is ‘Satan’s work’, Channel 9 Wide World of Sports, 13 May. Available at: https://wwos.nine.com.au/rugby/folau-stands-firm-after-ra-peace-offering/6f3f392f-ecf2-4375-a998-85ac54e5b1c8 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[31] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Israel Folau’s case prompts Australian religious leaders to pen letters to Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-11/israel-folau-religious-leaders-send-letter-to-shorten-morrison/11104094 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[32] Anna Patty 2019. Christian leaders challenge major parties on commitment to religious freedom. The Age (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/federal-election-2019/christian-leaders-challenge-major-parties-on-commitment-to-religious-freedom-20190508-p51lgo.html (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[33] Peter FitzSimons 2019. Six of the worst fallacies surrounding the Israel Folau case. The Age, 8 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/six-of-the-worst-fallacies-surrounding-the-israel-folau-case-20190508-p51let.html (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[34] Billy Graham 2012. Billy Graham: ‘My Heart Aches for America’, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (online), 12 July. Available at: https://billygraham.org/story/billy-graham-my-heart-aches-for-america/ (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[35] Other translations such as the KJV, LEB (the LEB has the footnote, ‘Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse’, cf Gen 4:1), NKJV, NRSV, ESV and RSV translate ‘have sex with them’ as ‘we may know them’.

[36] The NIV translates also as ‘have sex with them’, as does the ERV, NET, CEV, CSB, GNB, ISV, NABRE, and NASB (‘may have relations with them’).

[37] Rev Patrick S Cheng PhD 2011. What Was the Real Sin of Sodom? HuffPost (online), 25 May. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-was-the-real-sin-of_b_543996?guccounter=1 (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[38] John Boswell 1980. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 93, cited in Greg Koukl 2013. What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Stand to Reason (online), 8 March. Available at: https://www.str.org/articles/what-was-the-sin-of-sodom-and-gomorrah (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[39] The following points are from Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 285.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Lenski considers ‘example’ should be translated as ‘indication or sign’ (R C H Lenski 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, vol 11. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, p. 625).

[42] Joseph Henry Thayer 1886/1962. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, pp. 569-570. This is a Lexicon prepared by Carl Ludwig Wilibald Grimm, Joseph Henry Thayer, and Christian Gottlob Wilke.

[43] Koukl op cit.

[44] Georgina Robinson 2019. Folau ‘saddened’ by sacking, considering his options. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 17 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-set-to-be-sacked-by-rugby-australia-20190514-p51n2g.html (Accessed 23 May 2019).

[45] Ibid.

[46] Samantha Hutchinson, Tom Decent & Adrian Proszenko 2019. Folau turns to top silk as Rugby Australia case heads for legal stoush. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 21 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-turns-to-top-silk-as-rugby-australia-case-heads-for-legal-stoush-20190521-p51psc.html (Accessed 23 May 2019).

[47] Ibid.

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

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Any old resurrection will not do.


By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was firse published as, ‘Any old resurrection will not do in On Line Opinion (23 April 2019).

As I began this article, I read the reporting of an ABC News Rural event, From drought to flooding rains as farmers celebrate drenching in Queensland’s west’ (4 February 2019). It showed a photo of

residents in Cloncurry jump[ing] for joy after flooding rains drench the once parched area (ABC News: Krystal Gordon).

Cloncurry mayor, Greg Campbell, said: “The dam is full, Lake Julius is flowing quite high — it’s been a godsend.” See a video of Julius Dam overflowing HERE.

Water gushing over the spillway of a dam. The tops of trees can be seen in the river below.

Photo: Julius Dam, which supplies Mt Isa’s water, is spilling. (Supplied: SunWater)

 

How should I interpret this event? Did it happen in time and space to be interpreted literally? Was there literal water or were the waters rising as a symbolic indication of moving from depression to elation?

Or should I interpret these flooding events allegorically? Are they speaking about the floods of spiritual blessings for farmers and others as an Easter blessing from God?

You’d have every reason to question my mental state if I interpreted the floods that way. The same applies to another event from history (floods are recent history) – Jesus’ resurrection (ancient history).

1. We all use literal interpretation.

 

Am I being too emphatic with, ‘we all’? This article is not about historical-critical methods some scholars use to deconstruct Jesus’ passion-resurrection events.

Scholars, journalists and laity have made some confronting attacks against evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who interpret the Bible literally. Are the challengers heading down the correct path or are the evangelicals so fixated on literal interpretation that they can’t throw away the mantle of rigidity?

From primary school to university, I learned that the way to interpret any document was literally. Berkeley Mickelsen’s text on Interpreting the Bible gave this understanding:

‘Literal’ here

“means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning” (Mickelsen 1963:33).

 

The Collins Dictionary (2019. s.v. literal) provides the adjectival meaning: ‘You use literal to describe someone who uses or understands words in a plain and simple way’.

Therefore, ‘by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions‘. The contrasting meaning is that of figurative which means ‘the writer has in mind the representation of one concept in terms of another because the nature of the two things compared allows such an analogy to be drawn‘ (Mickelsen 1963:179).

So, reading the article on ABC News about the outback floods up north, Crossan’s book The Birth of Christianity, and Jesus’ resurrection in the Bible, should be read literally. It means that figures of speech are included in the literal meaning. This has been the case in reading any kind of literature down through the centuries.

Literal interpretation is not the bogeyman of fundamentalists but the tools used by all of us in reading any document when we want to understand the plain meaning of the writing.

I did it today in completing forms to renew my driver’s licence. What a joke it would be to fill in the documents as though I interpreted them symbolically.

From primary school to university, I learned there is one way to read any document – literally. If I find it is poetry, I interpret it as a poem, as I do with Homer’s epic, The Odyssey.

2. Making a meal of Jesus’ resurrection

 

These are come of the variations of resurrection meals served up in recent times:

(a) John Shelby Spong: ‘Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history’ (1998).

(b) John Dominic Crossan: ‘Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals’ (1994:160) and Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition – a ghost (Crossan 1994:160).

(c) Rudolf Bultmann asked: “But what of the resurrection? Is it not a mythical event pure and simple? Obviously it is not an event of past history” (Bultmann 1984, Kerygma and Myth, online version).

(d) An antagonist: ‘If, as you say you believe, Jesus, resurrected with a physical body about 2,000 years ago, the probability that he is still alive and well is so infinitesimal that it may be considered non-existent’.

(e) Scott Korb, a non-practicing Roman Catholic of New York University, gave this view of Jesus’ resurrection: ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’.

(f) The laity again, ‘I believe the bible is a mythical book….’

If I interpreted the floods in north Qld that way, you would have every reason to question my integrity in dealing with any text. But it’s acceptable for these scholars to make such bizarre claims.

3. What are the facts about the resurrected Jesus?

… The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.

Wolfhart Pannenberg

His body had real flesh and blood. People touched him, ate food with him, saw the crucifixion wounds in his body, and he could be seen and heard.

There’s a key aspect that clinches the bodily resurrection of Jesus and that is the Greek, soma, to refer to his body.

Whenever the Greek speaks of an individual human being as having a soma, it always means a physical body in the New Testament (NT). When the Apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s resurrected body and the future resurrected bodies of people, he used soma in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This confirms that the early Christians understood Jesus’ being raised from the dead as a bodily resurrection.

Robert Gundry’s research concluded ‘the soma denotes the physical body, roughly synonymous with “flesh” in the neutral sense. It forms that part of man in and through which he lives, acts in the world’ (Gundry 1976:50)

There is another fact to demonstrate this point that could be a bit technical: A prepositional phrase is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (see. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). This was not a ho-hum view for the Greeks.

In addition, they used a preposition, ek, concerning Jesus who was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies. Similar words were used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from the dead’ (John 12:1). There was no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. 

The same happened with Jesus! Australian ancient historian and evangelical Anglican minister, Dr Paul Barnett, made this assessment of the start of Christianity:

“It was this twin conviction, that Jesus was the Christ and that God had raised him alive from the dead, that drove and energized the first disciples and that alone accounts for the rise of Christianity as we encounter it in the historical records” (Barnett 2005:186).

From those few disciples and belief in the bodily resurrected Christ, the church worldwide today has grown to approx 2.3 billion who identify as Christians.

3.1 Reliable documents or fiction?

 

It is a view expressed by both laity and scholars that ‘it is no longer possible in retrospect to think of that passion fiction as relatively benign propaganda’ (Crossan 1995:XII). A lay antagonistic version was, ‘Many things in our modern bible are clearly invention, created to conform to a particular narrative. Rather than the plain unvarnished truth.’

Is that the truth? How does anyone determine if an historical writing, like the Bible, is a compilation (66 books) of reliable information? We use the same criteria that ancient historians use to determine the legitimacy of any document from history, whether that be the life of Aristotle, the first fleet’s coming to Australia, the Nazi Holocaust, or the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

These tests do not attempt to demonstrate that Scripture is the Word of God or that the Bible is infallible. The criteria discern if the Bible’s narrative of the major events in the life of Jesus and the young church were accurate.

These criteria include: early testimony, eyewitness testimony, multiple independent eyewitnesses; are the eyewitnesses trustworthy? Is there supporting evidence from archaeology or other writers? Is there verification from enemies? Does the evidence contain details that are embarrassing to the authors (e.g. lowly Jewish women at the empty tomb on resurrection morning) [Geisler & Turek 2004:230-31]?

The hard work of research into the trustworthiness of the NT already has been done by Blomberg (1987), F F Bruce (1960); Geisler & Turek (2004:221-93); and N T Wright (2003). See also Blomberg on The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (2016).

Blomberg’s assessment of the Gospels was: ‘Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’. However, he gave ‘a radiant endorsement of the historical reliability of the four gospels’ (1987:254).

From these trustworthy documents, we discover the resurrected Jesus had a

4. Fleshly body with a difference

 

The risen body of Jesus did some things ordinary bodies did and other actions that were extraordinary. Examples of the latter included meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus and John’s cooking breakfast by the seashore. N T Wright described this other dimension as ‘transphysicality’ (2003:477-78). Others call it a ‘transformed’ body. It did not diminish Jesus’ bodily characteristics with his wounds still visible but there were human and divine dimensions to Jesus’ post-resurrection reality.

The modern, scientific, Western world finds it hard to process the supernatural at any time, including history. However, honest historians who have access to the data report what the eyewitnesses saw and processed the historical data.

Nobody physically saw Jesus resurrected, but the data about him is based on three females (Mark 16) finding the tomb empty on Easter Sunday and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (multiple attestation in the four Gospels).

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb and found it empty (Mark 16:1-8). They were the first witnesses of Jesus’ empty tomb. In Jewish culture, female witnesses were taboo as reliable witnesses (see Josephus: Women unacceptable witnesses). This is further evidence of the embarrassment criterion of historicity used to support the integrity of the Gospel narratives.

4.1 Not any old body will do

Where will you be one minute after your last breath? The answer depends on the nature of Jesus’ resurrection.

Two fundamentals of life and death ought to clinch it for us when we take Jesus’ resurrection seriously. The resurrection matters because …

(a) Salvation and resurrection go together

The NT makes commitment to the resurrection essential to gain eternal life. ‘Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. This hope is living because Jesus Christ rose from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).

That is a fundamental of the Christian life. Without Jesus’ bodily resurrection – yes, bodily – there is no eternal life in Christ. Secondly,

(b) Jesus’ resurrection guarantees what happens after death

People will be raised from death in the future at Jesus’ second coming. How are the dead raised and what kind of body will they have? Paul said ‘these are stupid questions’ because when we plant something like wheat, it has to die in the ground before it comes alive and grows (1 Cor 15:35-38).

The new plant does not have the same ‘body’ it had before. The seed of wheat, as with a stalk of sugar cane, becomes something else. So with the resurrected body, ‘God gives it the body that he has planned for it, and he gives each kind of seed its own body’ (1 Cor 15:38).

There will be a future resurrection of both the saved and the lost; believers to the resurrection of eternal life and non-believers to the resurrection of eternal punishment (1 Cor 15:51-57).

Much is stated in the Bible about the bodies of Christians after death but I’ve found nothing about the resurrected bodies of unbelievers. We know there will be a resurrection and judgment (Heb 9:27), but Scripture does not address the nature of the bodies of the resurrection of the ungodly.

5. Conclusion

Paul was charged before governor Felix of being a troublemaker. He told Felix: ‘I believe that both the godly and the ungodly will rise from the dead’ (Acts 24:15).

As hot cross buns remind us of Easter approaching, what are we to make of Christ’s resurrection? Like any other document, from Centrelink forms to scholarly tomes, On Line Opinion articles and the Bible, all writings must be read literally to obtain accurate meaning. A literal interpretation includes the use of figures of speech.

In spite of others who reinvent, deconstruct or fictionalise the biblical events, the interpretation of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances revealed he was a real human being but with a transphysical or transformed dimension of supernatural abilities.

The NT documents are reliable historically and the bodily resurrection is important because: (1) Salvation and resurrection are a compulsory combination, and (2) The future resurrection of both believers and unbelievers depends on the nature of Jesus’ resurrection.

Dr Albert Mohler Jr summarised the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

‘The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19]’.

6.  Works consulted

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.

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

Gundry, R H 1976. Soma in biblical theology: With emphasis on Pauline anthropology. Society for New Testament Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 April 2019.

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