Category Archives: Philosophy

John 3:16 downgraded

How self-centredness replaced God-centredness

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

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(image courtesy 123RF)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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 This report on the research into how God-centred thinking has been replaced by another breed should be of concern to all Christians, especially evangelicals.

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

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

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

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

 

1. An assessment

 

 

clip_image003(image courtesy KissClipart)

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

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

1.1 Fake theology[3] in the article

The false teaching in this article included:

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

This is told in the journalist’s writing:

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

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

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

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

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

Fitzpatrick wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

Fitzpatrick again:

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

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

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

clip_image009 (image courtesy TeePublic)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got Questions? has defined it as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how the article describes postmodern theology in practice:

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

Bible Lens 

The YouVersion website explains Bible Lens:

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

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

clip_image015   (a) contextual biblical interpretation,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image005[4]   1.1.5 Therapeutic, self-centred identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image005[5]  1.1.6 Discard the context for therapeutic benefit

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

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

clip_image016(image, Babylonian Captivity, courtesy Pinterest)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Post-truth in action

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

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

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

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

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

3. Conclusion

Two commanding themes against Christianity dominated this article.

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

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

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

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

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

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

4.   Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Circular Reasoning: Mark 16:9-20

(courtesy Exposing PseudoAstronomy -WordPress.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Textus Receptus, on which the KJV was based, was supported by a few late MSS gathered by Erasmus. See information on Desiderius Erasmus.

These Byzantine manuscripts (MSS) contain this longer ending. The earlier Alexandrian text-type does not contain this longer ending. This is exemplified in the Codex Sinaiticus.

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Matthew 6:4-32 (Codex Sinaiticus) (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Most modern translations follow the older Alexandrian text-type and we find some comment like this from the English Standard Version after Mark 16:8, ‘[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20.]’1

1.  An issue with Mark’s long ending

I was directed to this article ‘to clarify for any who are confused [over the short vs long ending of Mark 16]. Interesting that some “scholars” muddy the waters and some clarify them. As always, careful research is needed’.

The article by James Snapp Jr is: ”Mark 16:9-20 – Sorting Out Some Common Mistakes . When I did some ‘careful research’ on Snapp Jr’s article, I discovered the following:

2.  Reasonable discussion shut down: Circular reasoning

A greater problem for me is the begging the question logical fallacy (or circular reasoning) Snapp committed.

What is a begging the question fallacy?

Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises. Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”. That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning

Logical Form:

Claim X assumes X is true.

Therefore, claim X is true (source: Logically Fallacious)

This is how he committed the begging the question fallacy:

2.1  Beginning of the article

He began the article from this perspective:

They [preachers] approached their trusted commentaries and found . . . a spectacular mess. The amount of misinformation that continues to circulate about these 12 verses is staggering. Here are 12 claims about Mark 16:9-20 that should not be taken at face value.

To support Mk 16:9-20, he spoke of those commentaries that excluded these verses that contained ‘a spectacular mess … of misinformation’. So, he wants us to understand the opponents of the long  ending as supporting this mess of misinformation. 

Therefore, I  can fill in the first part of the …

Logical Form:

Claim X is that the commentators supporting the short ending contain ‘a spectacular mess …  of misinformation’. This assumes that the long ending is true if the objections are a mess of misinformation.

2.2  Ending of the article

How does Snapp’s article end?

If we deduce (in agreement with J. Rendel Harris, T. C. Skeat, and other researchers) that Sinaiticus was made at Caesarea, and if we also notice that when Eusebius of Caesarea commented about the ending of Mark, he displayed no awareness of the Shorter Ending (even when the subject invited and even demanded mention of the Shorter Ending, if it had been known), we may conclude that the alternative text in the minds of the copyists of both.

Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, when they produced the anomalous features at the end of Mark in their manuscripts, was verses 9-20.

Here, Snapp supports the longer ending of Mark 16, as he does in the following paragraph. So the  

Logical Form:

Claim X (part 2) is: Therefore, the long ending of Mark 16 is true. 

The complete Logical Form is:

Claim X is that the commentators supporting the short ending contain ‘a spectacular mess … of misinformation’. This assumes that the long ending is true if the objections are a mess of misinformation.

Therefore, Claim X, the long ending of Mark 16, is true. Snapp began with the presupposition that Mark 16:9-20 is Scripture and represents the correct ending of the book. How did he conclude his article? Mark 16:9-20 is the truth of how Mark 16 ends.

When discussing logical fallacies, we are not dealing with the information or facts relating to the topic. We expose the erroneous reasoning used.

If I begin a message, stating that the Bible is the word of God (claim X, part 1) and conclude that the Bible says it is the word of God (claim X, part 2), I have committed a begging the question (circular reasoning) logical fallacy. I have not provided evidence to support this claim.

Logical fallacies prevent reasonable / rational conversation. Why?

3.  Logical fallacies do not deal with the issues

They divert attention from the topic being debated to some other topic for various reasons.

We see it in this example of circular reasoning. James Snapp Jr started with the presupposition that Mark 16:9-20 was the true ending of that chapter and reached the same conclusion after his research.

Whether or not Mark 16:9-20 ought to be included in Scripture is not determined by a begging the question fallacy. Fallacies sidetrack discussions by spinning the wheels on a topic or distracting to another topic the person is more comfortable in addressing.

Whether Mark 16:9-20 is true or not is determined by research into various areas of transmission of the text, called the bibliographical approach.

There are a number of matters that need investigation on any topic. Using a logical fallacy turns the topic to other content. It prevents reasonable conversation on that topic.

(courtesy Ram Pages)

Notes

1The ESV adds this footnote: ‘Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8. A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20 ‘.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 October 2018.


Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’

 
Image result for clipart easter bunny and eggs public domain   Image result for clipart Jesus woman at tomb public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article is published in On Line Opinion, ‘Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter “treat”’, 4 April 2018.

Please note in the ‘Comments’ section at the end of the article the number of posters who don’t deal with the content of the article. Instead, they pour out their vitriol against Christianity with a string of logical fallacies.

I responded as OzSpen. However, when people are engaged in the use of erroneous reasoning, it’s impossible to have a logical conversation with them.

What are logical fallacies?

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others (Purdue Online Writing Lab: Logical Fallacies, 1996-2018).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2018.

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We MUST live by the law of non-contradiction

Image result for clipart logic symbols public domain

 

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is it possible to live life with this kind of logic: Yes, the garden has weeds in it; no, the garden has no weeds in it! I’m talking about the same garden at the same time and in the same sense. If I were to reason like that, you’d have good reason to consider that I need a psychiatric assessment.

However, many people don’t understand that this is dealing with a fundamental law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. Some call it the law of contradiction or the principle of non-contradiction. No matter what one names it, it is a fundamental to dealing with contradictory statements.

A.  Christians and contradictions

I explained in an online forum that I was ‘in the midst of preparing a Christian education curriculum for Grade 7 & 8, with some easy entry info on the nature of truth and the law of non-contradiction before I launch into details on the existence of God for 13-15 year olds’.[1]

A person responded, ‘That sounds rather dogmatic, and some of the touchy-feely posters may take exception to that’.[2]

My reply was[3] that ‘touchy-feely posters’ depend on the validity of the law of non-contradiction to live their lives. It extends to all in society, not just the existentialists. Let me explain:
Regarding the law of non-contradiction, let’s check something out from Scripture:

  • ‘God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?’ (Num 23:19 ESV).
  • ‘So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us’ (Heb 6:18 ESV).

So, God cannot lie.

The law of non-contradiction is a fundamental of all logic, whether in Christian or non-Christian circles.

B.  The law of non-contradiction explained

#  Bill Pratt has stated the law of non-contradiction in this way:

What is the law of non-contradiction? There are at least three ways to state it:

1. A thing cannot both be A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense.

2. A thing cannot both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense.

3. A statement cannot both be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense.[4]

Bill Pratt explained further:

It is impossible to deny this law without invoking it in your denial, yet time and again I have heard people try do just that!

Why would I spend a blog post writing about this?  Because a person who thinks that this law is not true will become a thoroughly confused individual whose thought life is a complete mess, full of contradictions and inconsistencies.  I have met a few of these people, and they both sadden and scare me.

All of our beliefs, thoughts, and knowledge are built on top of the law of non-contradiction, so when a person tries to deny this foundation, they are bound to go way off track in their pursuit of understanding reality as it really is.

If you have any doubts about this fundamental law of rationality, try and deny it, but then write out your denial in a sentence – “The law of non-contradiction is false” – and ask whether your statement is both true and false at the same time and in the same sense.[5]

C.  God and the law of non-contradiction

Logic Bomb by utrescuFrom a biblical perspective, we cannot say that Jesus is the only way to eternal life (John 14:6 ESV) and that Jesus is one of many ways to eternal life. That statement violates the law of non-contradiction and makes God a liar. In this day of postmodern multicultural values, it is all the more important to maintain biblical integrity with the law of non-contradiction.

It’s fundamental to life. I’m expecting a fellow to deliver to my front door this morning a cartridge refill for my HP laser printer. He said: I will deliver your cartridge on Friday morning. With that statement, he did not mean, I will deliver the cartridge on Saturday or Sunday morning. That would be a lie.

In defending biblical truth, we have to stick with this fundamental of logic: God does not lie and what he says in Scripture he means. Of course we need to understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in interpretation. If the law of non-contradiction does not hold up, we are doomed as a society. Why? There will no longer be truth promoted and lived in the marketplace.

The law of non-contradiction says that something cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship.

D.  A Christian example of violation of the law of non-contradiction

#  I have read Christians who accept contradictory interpretations of Scripture and others who ‘hear’ from God with a message that violates Scripture. Here is one with which I contended with as I was writing this article.

On another forum I encountered a person who stated, ‘The Holy spirit created The Lord of Hosts, from sperm taken from The Lord God Almighty. The Holy Spirit later implanted The Lord of Hosts in Mary, as an embryo/fetus’.[6] He told us:

Have ANY of them experienced Numbers 12:6, as I have? I prayed for wisdom, knowledge, understanding and experience, for about 10 years, daily (sometimes several times per day), before He answered me. He took me through the Bible, giving me an understanding of how He feels. I spent nine years in research on the internet, prayer, visiting churches, communicating with many ministers, and so on, after receiving the vision and dream ‘in riddles’. Missing scriptures appeared while I was reading the NT scriptures, on several occasions, and after reading them, they disappeared again. None changed the basic ‘story’ of The Son of Man. They were informative, in nature.[7]

I told him that this is fantasy – his fantasy. There is not a scrap of biblical evidence to support this statement. Has he come onto this forum to plant and grow this kind of false religion?[8] In fact, the biblical evidence is:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus (Matt 1:18-25 ESV).

This fellow had violated a fundamental of life and of Scripture. Contradictory messages cannot both be true. He breached the law of non-contradiction. He contradicted Scripture.

His contradictions (violations of the law of non-contradiction) continued in a repetitive fashion:

No, this is NOT fantasy. I asked God for this understanding, and He gave it to me. Have you ever asked God for a true understanding of the scriptures? Start with the scriptures, and then ask God for a true understanding of them. Forget what the ‘blind’ ministers have taught you. They rely on college or university degrees/diplomas, and man’s ‘ordination’.

When you read the historical generations pertaining to the Israelites, in the Book of Genesis, you will find the term ‘BEGAT’ being used. This is one of the tenses of the verb ‘begit/beget’ (sic). The Lord of Hosts was ‘begotten’ of/from God. In all cases, male sperm is used. In the case of The Lord of Hosts, no female was involved, thus, an exact duplicate, is created. In the case of The Son of Man, The Lord of Hosts ‘WAS IN’ the Christ Child [‘God with us’]. The body of Mary did NOT change the physical appearance of Christ. God showed me, that there is only ONE ANSWER to how this could happen. The Holy Ghost implanted The Lord of Hosts in Mary, as a human embryo/fetus, that contained The Lord of Hosts. Remember, man is created in the image of God. ‘The Lord of Hosts/Son of Man’ is in the ‘exact image’ of The Lord God Almighty.[9]

How should I reply? This was my understanding of what he was doing.[10]

His view that ‘I asked God for this understanding, and He gave it to me’ contradicts Scripture. It violates the law of non-contradiction. God cannot tell you that ‘The Holy spirit created The Lord of Hosts, from sperm taken from The Lord God Almighty. The Holy Spirit later implanted The Lord of Hosts in Mary, as an embryo/fetus’ and yet the Scriptures tell us that the Trinitarian Lord God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – has always existed: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1 ESV). There was no such sperm from God that was used to create the embryo. No such information is given in Scripture. It is contrary to Scripture.

God does not contradict himself by telling you something about the Lord of Hosts who was created by sperm taken from the Lord God Almighty. The Lord God is spirit. He does not have the ability to have sperm within himself. ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24 ESV).

This fellow was hearing a voice that was giving him a message that is not from God. He is providing us with deceptive information in what he was posting here. It was false.

He continued his ‘God told me’ line: ‘I experienced Numbers 12:6 KJV Bible, before God began His teachings. Satan CANNOT duplicate Numbers 12:6’.[11] To this I replied that I have already shown you that you are listening to another voice that is not God’s. God cannot give contradictory messages.[12]

I’m asking: Is this fellow Christian or into hearing other voices (perhaps of the occult) that he thinks are Christian. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have this kind of anti-Christian theology in a church where he’s of the view that ‘this is what God told me when I experienced Numbers 12:6 KJV.

E.  Conclusion

# In all of our actions, whether by Christian or non-Christian, we cannot violate the law of non-contradiction without causing a massive upheaval in society, the church, and in online forums.

Could you imagine working for an organisation where you couldn’t depend on the honest words and actions of people?

We must live out the law of non-contradiction in our lives. This states that

something cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same sense. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same circumstance.

That’s a fact of life.

F.  Notes


[1] Christian forums.net 2016. The Church Father’s anthropological teaching on the psyche and passions of man, OzSpen#9. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-church-father%E2%80%99s-anthropological-teaching-on-the-psyche-and-passions-of-man.65962/#post-1229092 (Accessed 5 August 2016).

[2] Ibid., By Grace#10.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#16,

[4] Bill Pratt 2011. ‘What is the law of non-contradiction?’ Tough Questions Answered (online), 28 December. Available at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2011/12/28/what-is-the-law-of-non-contradiction/ (Accessed 5 August 2016).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Christianity Board 2016. The KJV Bible contains errors, Thorwald#2. Available at:

http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22963-the-kjv-bible-contains-errors/#entry282073 (Accessed 5 August 2016).

[7] Ibid., Thorwald #3.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#4.

[9] Ibid., Thorwald#6.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[11] Ibid., Thorwald#9.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 August 2016.

Question on religion: Australian Census 2016

Australian 2016 Census form, Question 19 [1]

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

(The above question is from the Australian paper 2016 Census Household Form)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of Australia’s online ejournals, On Line Opinion, agreed to publish my article, Is ‘no religion’ a new religion? (19 July 2016). At the time of last edit of this clip, there were 125 Comments on the article, which is a very high quantity, when compared with other articles. I’d recommend a read of this article to glean my concern over Q 19. ‘What is your religion?’ in the Australian 2016 Census to be taken on 9 August 2016. Instead of placing ‘No religion’ at the bottom of the options, as in 2010, it is now the first option.

Here are some of my own Comments (as OzSpen) to people who responded. They are organised according to topics, so will not be in chronological order:

A.  Definitions of religion

Direction

(image courtesy ChristArt)

designRed-small Space prevents my answering each one of you but I’m noticing some trends in your responses.

1. Ignoring the extended definitions I gave beyond the 1997 Macquarie Dictionary (large 3rd ed). I included information from eminent NT scholar who has taught at Oxford University, Prof N T Wright, and also by Michael Bird and James Anderson.

2. There was a range of logical fallacies committed (this is a limited number of examples):

(a) Appeal to Ridicule (‘Putting your religion on the census form just tells us that you are incapable of making sense of life and have resorted to some pre-packaged explanation for it all’, phanto Tues;

(b) Red Herring Fallacy (Plantagenet, Tues, THOR);
(c) Genetic Fallacy (Cobber the hound, Tues ‘A poor argument poorly made, well worthy of a PHD in religious studies’);
(d) Ad Hominem Fallacy (Suseonline, Tues, ‘Especially the far-right loonie-toons’). All of these involve fallacious reasoning.

3. Jardine (Tues): ‘Everything – every human action – amounts to worldview in action. If you go up the shop to buy some milk, that, according to your definition, is “religion”…. This means your theory is wrong. And useless’. For you to reach that conclusion, you didn’t carefully read the contents I gave of the meaning of religion and worldview.

4. Shadow Minister (Tues): You say that ‘most of us simply don’t believe in anything, and don’t give a crap what anyone else believes as long as they keep it to themselves’. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be making your comments here. Your argument is self-defeating.

Many of you disagree with the perspective I have presented. I didn’t expect much support or unanimity, but I thank you for engaging with the content of my article with OLO (contd).

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:25:33 AM

designRed-small This is a continuation of my observations of some of the comments you have made to my article.

1. AJ Philips (Tues), you say, ‘All the sophistry in the world won’t make atheism a religion’ and then you refused to read the rest of the article in which I defined my understanding of religion and worldview. Your refusal to read the article sounds awfully like a closed mind, yet you still interacted with others who had read the article! Andy Bannister disagrees with you. See ‘The Scandinavian Sceptic (or Why Atheism Is a Belief System)’.

2. One of the rules of OLO is ‘Do not flame’. I found several inflammatory comments: ‘I didn’t bother reading the rest of the article. When you can’t even grasp such basic definitions and concepts, or are dishonest enough to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, then there is no point in continuing’; ‘Environmentalism and the Loony Green Left are the new religion’; ‘the something from nothing brigade are certainly the most irrational believers we have today’; ‘Religion is like a penis’, and ‘Declaring synonymy between the two is blatant, self-serving balderdash’.

3. I will engage briefly with the more lengthy posts by Rational Razor, Form Designer, and Pogi later, as I have time.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:28:58 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor,

I refer to your Tues post. You are sounding more like a supporter of Hugh Harris’s promotion of secularism in schools and elsewhere.

1. Since you did not identify your source for a definition of secularism, I am left to conclude it comes out of the mind of RR. Your view differs from that of the Macquarie Dictionary (1997, 3rd ed. s v secularism), which gives the definition as ‘1. secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. 2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of the religious element’. It defines ‘secular’ as ‘1. Of or relating to the world; or to things not religious, sacred, or spiritual; temporal; worldly’. My article is contending that secularism is as religious as, say, humanism, environmentalism, consumerism, socialism, etc. The Rationalist Society of Australia’s ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ is as forthright an example of a Statement of Belief as I’ve seen in any church or denomination.

2. It is not incongruous to claim secularism is at odds with Section 116 of the Constitution if one understands secularism is as religious as Christianity. If the Rationalists want to impose a secular 10-point plan on Australia, that would violate Section 116 if secularism is considered to be religion, having a worldview and praxis (see my article).

3. Your #3 point here is trumped up. My point is that I’m raising the issue that ‘No religion’ can be very religious once one understands the dynamics of the religious categories. My article has nothing to do with making Christians look better. It has to do with honesty about the nature of religion. (continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:12:23 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor, (continuation)

4. Please provide the evidence for this point of yours (Tues post) that Australia regards religion as relating to ‘some sort of supernatural entity’. Your statement, ‘This is why ethics and philosophy cannot be taught at the same time as fundamentalist religious instruction in QLD Schools’. There is no ‘fundamentalist religious instruction in Qld schools’(I live in Qld). There is Christian religious instruction, Hindu religious instruction, Muslim religious instruction, etc. (depending on the distribution of such students – and availability of instructors). ‘Fundamentalist religious instruction’ is your pejorative imposition.

5. Of course people are entitled to say that they have ‘no religion’ on the Census of 9 August, but I’m raising the issue that it is a misnomer for many of the –isms around, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. You say, ‘Most secular people are united in wanting an end ot (sic) the conspicuous privileging of outdated and largely irrelevent (sic) Christian religious beliefs in our society’. This is an example of your promotion of a straw man fallacy against the accurate content of Christianity. I hope you live long enough to meet some people whose lives have been radically changed by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ who is not your anachronistic ‘outdated and largely irrelevant Christian religious beliefs’.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:15:40 AM

designRed-small Pogi (Wed),

Your Budget Macquarie Dictionary (3rd. ed 2000) does not agree with the citation I provided. I cited from my hard copy of the unabridged Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion) as I stated in the article. It was the first definition. I wasn’t lying. You have the audacity to quote from the Budget Macquarie Dictionary 3rd ed 2000 but you didn’t bother to check the edition from which I quoted to demonstrate I quoted the truth from Macquarie.
You have invented what I did not say by using a red herring fallacy. You go to a definition of theology, which I did not provide. That wasn’t my emphasis. I provided the definition of religion as ‘a quest for the values of the ideal life’ that involved 3 practices:

(1) The ideal life,

(2) the practices for attaining the values of the ideal, and

(3) the theology or world view relating to the quest for the environing universe (Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion). I didn’t invent any of this in the article. It was obtained directly from Macquarie. You are inventing a straw man when you try to dissociate religion from world view. This is not ‘self-serving balderdash’ (Appeal to Ridicule Fallacy) but what a dictionary designates.

It is obviously not what you like, but your analogies of things flying and things swimming do not float because I was dealing with a definition of how to pursue ‘the quest for the ideal life’ (Macquarie Dictionary). If you think things flying or swimming are a quest for the ideal life, so be it. I’m not into that kind of fantasy or speculation.

You claim, ‘We are made of the same stuff as the stars’. Are you kidding? With flesh and blood?
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:51:07 AM

B.  Census Form – redesign

The 2016 Census paper has the category, ‘No religion’, at the top of Q 19: ‘What is the person’s religion?’ See this comparison of 2011 and 2016 Census Forms (image courtesy Hugh Harris, October 31, 2015, New Matilda):

designRed-small Form Designer,

That’s a creative, alphabetical approach to the ‘What is your religion?’ question 19 on the Census form. I cannot imagine the ABS wanting to do your suggested detailed Q 19 for religion as that would require a similar approach to detail in every other question (but surely that is a reasonable request if the ABS is wanting comprehensive Census data).

If the Question remains – as it will be for Census 2016 – who do you think will be completing the ‘No religion’ category? Atheists, agnostics, secularists, environmentalists, socialists, etc.? My point is that the ‘No religion’ category is so poorly defined that the information gained would be essentially useless to decipher, as it tells nothing about those who comprise this group.

There’s the complicating factor that atheists and secularists (for example) wouldn’t like to be included in the broad definition of religion provided by the Macquarie Dictionary.

Ian Royall’s article in the Herald Sun (‘Campaign for “no-religion” census hits advertising block at major shopping centres’, 13 July 2016) admits this: ‘In the 2011 census, 4.7 million, or 22 per cent, chose the “no religion” box or wrote down atheism, agnosticism, humanism or rationalism in the “other, please specify” box’. At least some acknowledged that atheism, agnosticism, humanism and rationalism fit in the category of ‘other religion’. This is the point that I’m raising. They are religions, but are not often seen as such, but need to be exposed for what they are – religious.

The ‘no religion’ campaign for the 2016 Census is promoted by the Atheist Foundation of Australia Ltd, with campaign sponsors, Rationalist Society of Australia and Sydney Atheists (see http://censusnoreligion.org.au/).
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:43:28 AM

C.  Imposition on biblical text

designRed-small RationalRazor (Friday),

Your razor is not too sharp today with your presuppositional impositions on Christianity. This kind of statement by you is void of historical and biblical content: ‘”Accurate content of Christianity”? Please! Whatever could you mean? The unverifiable metaphysical claims? The fact that even Christians can’t agree with each other on the basic beliefs. Was Jesus born of a virgin? IS there a Hell? Which discrepant gospel is true? Does it not occur to you that the “accurate content” you speak of is founded upon unprovable assertions. As a well known physicist once said – unverifiable claims are “not even wrong.”’

Eminent Australian historian, Christian, and former teacher of history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Paul W Barnett, begs to differ with you when he investigates “Jesus and the Logic of History” (1997. Leicester, England: Apollos). His assessment is that ‘for us today and for all who have lived beyond the lifespan of Jesus, he can only be the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, that those who lived after the first Easter were people of such faith is itself not a matter of faith but a historical fact… We stand on sure grounds of sound historical method when we reply that the Christ of the early church’s faith was, without discontinuity, the truly historical figure Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barnett 1997:35). I can cite eminent scholars who provide similar historical verification for the Old Testament.

Your presuppositional rationalism and secularism seem to be standing in the way of permitting the historical method to be used to assess details about the historical Jesus.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17:48 PM

D.  Secular religion admitted

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small Dear RationalRazor (Thurs),

Thank you for identifying that you are the Hugh Harris to whom I referred. I had a hunch you were that person, based on your style of writing and the content of posts.
You don’t like the idea of secularism being identified as a religion. However, it’s way too late to try to convince me otherwise.

Back as far as the late 1930s, there were writers identifying ‘secular religion’. I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source as it is not all that reliable. However its article on ‘secular religion’ is a starter of identification of the ideology of secular religion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_religion. As World War 2 was approaching, F A Voigt, a British journalist who opposed totalitarianism, identified Marxism and National Socialism (Nazism) as promoters of ‘secular religion’.

Why? It was because of their fundamental beliefs in authoritarianism, messianic and eschatological views.

Paul Vitz has identified self-worship psychology as ‘secular religion’ (Vitz 1977:145).

Emilo Gentile wrote “Politics as Religion” (2006. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). His first chapter deals with ‘secular religion’. He stated that

the sacralization of politics was given a further impetus during the nineteenth century by various cultural and political movements, such as romanticism, idealism, positivism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and racism, which all put forward global concepts of human existence by adopting various aspects of secular religions intent upon replacing traditional religions. These religions could be defined as religions of humanity…. Any human activity from science to history or from entertainment to sport can be invested with “secular sacredness” and become the object of a secular cult, thus constituting a “secular religion”. In politics, however, the term “secular religion” is often adopted as a synonym for civil religion or political religion…. The concept of a secular religion was therefore already in use by the thirties as a definition for the forms in which totalitarian regimes created political cults (Gentile 2006:xvi, 1, 2).

Therefore, your views promoted in this thread, and consistent with the Rational Society of Australia’s ‘10 point plan for a secular Australia’, fits succinctly under the rubric of secular religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 2:09:38 PM

E.  Confusion of religion with relationship with God

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small G’day Yuyutsu (your Friday post),

You stated, ‘Secularism is not a religion because it does not help its practitioners to come closer to God’. I provided evidence to demonstrate that secularism was a religion or that there are a number of –isms that have been identified as ‘secular religions’.

Since writing my article for OLO, I have located the National Geographic’s, ‘The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion’ (April 22 2016). Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/.

This article states that

‘But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)’

My understanding, as a Christian, is that you seem to have confused religion with relationship. It was Jesus who stated, ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The way to move closer to God is to be one of his sheep so that one is able to hear his voice, know who He is, and follow Him. That’s called discipleship – based on a relationship with Jesus – and it is not defined as religion.

The Old Testament gives a similar emphasis: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24) [continued]
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:13:29 PM

designRed-smallYuyutsu (Friday, continued),

However, the Christian faith does believe in pure religion and distinguishes it from worthless religion. This is how it is described: ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:26-27).

So the pure, worthy Christian religion proceeds from a relationship with God the Father. It is behavioural and needs to tame the tongue, care for orphans and widows who are distressed, and keeps the person from worldly pollution This worldliness could include secularism, humanism, environmentalism, Communism, consumerism, unhealthy thinking, etc.

It is other-centred in behaviour and also cares about godliness in the individual.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:16:10 PM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),

You stated: <<We are all related with God, it’s impossible otherwise, but only some of us actively and consciously seek to come closer to Him. ‘Religion’ is the path that we take to approach God: if the path that we are on does not lead to God, then it cannot be called a “religion” – no matter how many dictionaries say otherwise.>>
That is not my Christian perspective that we are all related to God. We all are made in ‘the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) but we are separated from God because of our sin: ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

As for the word for ‘religion’ in James 1:26-27, I am well aware of what the Greek NT says as I read and teach NT Greek.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in Greek, we find some answers.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in secular Greek, we find some answers.

In the next verse, James 1:27, it speaks about ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God’. What is pure and undefiled? So ‘religion’ can be either worthless or worthy.
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta] – related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We find the noun in …
(continued)
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:02:13 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),
(continued)

We also find the noun in …
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta]- related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We also find the noun in …

• Acts 26:5 where Paul states that ‘according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee’ (ESV). What factors caused the Pharisees to be proud about their religion? The Pharisees were very influential at the time of Jesus and Paul. Pharisees meant ‘the separated ones, separatists’. John 9:16 helps us to see what kind of religion they were promoting, ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them’. What did they require Jesus to do on the Sabbath? ‘There were 39 prohibited groups of activities on the sabbath’ for the Pharisees and they stressed the law that ‘contained 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative’. So what kind of religion is it from Acts 26:5 that Paul used to practise? It was external religion and that is the negative kind that James is talking about. It’s religion by external appearances.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of threskeia [first e=eta] as ‘primarily fear of the gods; religious worship, especially external, that which consists in ceremonies’, while the noun, threskos [e=eta] refers to ‘fearing or worshipping God; religious (apparently from trew; to tremble; hence properly trembling, fearful)’.[3] So it is possible to perform external religious ceremonies from a correct motive. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

There’s one other verse that uses this word for ‘religion’ in the NT:
• Colossians 2:18 states, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels’. There’s that word again, threskeia [first e=eta], ‘worship’. Here, worship of angels, which is talking about worthless religion.

James 1:26-27 uses ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ (adjective and noun) from the same root. James is careful to show the difference between worthy and worthless religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:31:55 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu,

You don’t like the idea that religion is defined as ‘belief in deities’. In fact, you state it is a wrong definition.

‘Believe in’ is a legitimate way to describe what one does in relation to God or other deities. We see an example of this in the NT Book of Acts, chapter 16. The context involved the prisoners, the apostle Paul, his friend Silas and the other prisoners in Philippi. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God around midnight and the other prisoners were listening, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, the doors were opened and prisoner bonds were broken.
When the prison jailer (person in charge of the jail) woke to see this, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide. Paul shouted, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here’. The jailer’s response was to call for lights and he fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He exclaimed, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Their response was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31). ‘Believe in’ is the Greek, pisteuson peri [it should have been epi – my error], meaning, ‘believe upon/in’. It could have been pisteuson eis (i.e. believe into). The meaning of ‘to believe’ in NT terms means to put all of a person’s trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus. By this kind of trust of the inner being (the heart) of a person, he or she throws the personality into Jesus’ arms for deliverance from sin and to receive eternal salvation.

Epi, the preposition, is used to indicate this trust is to rest on Jesus. This is what the jailer had to ‘do’ to be saved.

Thus, ‘believe in’ God is a legitimate way of describing one’s commitment to God.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 1 August 2016 4:03:52 PM

F.  Use of logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday),

You claim ‘the razor is rational’ but then proceed to give a few irrational razors of responses. You suggest ‘beliefs merited by sufficient evidence’. But you violated that immediately with this statement: ‘Surely, you acknowledge that even if one accepts Jesus is a real historical figure, it doesn’t prove anything about God or Christianity? I accept that the balance of Biblical scholarship agrees there was a historical figure of Jesus, but they don’t agree on much more than his baptism and crucifixion’. You leave out a stack of evidence and then skew the evidence to try to justify your own secular, ‘rational’ reasons. They turn out to be irrational in this example.

Here you have used a faulty generalisation logical fallacy, which gives the meaning of this fallacy, ‘When a conclusion based on induction is unwarranted by the degree of relevant evidence or ignores information that warrants an exception’. So you have engaged in fallacious (erroneous) reasoning because you have not provided one scrap of evidence to demonstrate the reliability or otherwise of the OT and NT documents.

Instead, you have chosen to dump your rationalistic, secular, false views on me, by providing not one piece of evidence to show how documents are found to be historically reliable or unreliable. I have already cited Australian historian, Dr Paul W Barnett’s, views to refute your perceptions here (“Jesus and the Logic of History” 1997). Barnett has refuted your irrational reasoning regarding the NT in his other publications: ‘Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity’ (1999); ‘Is the New Testament history? (2003)’; ‘The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years’(2005); ‘Paul: Missionary of Jesus’ (2008); and ‘Finding the Historical Christ’ (2009).
(continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:23:06 PM

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday, continued),

As for the OT, the late Professor Kenneth Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, conducted research on the credibility of the OT, writing ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’ (2003 Eerdmans). He wrote: ‘We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).

You say, ‘The gospels did not form part of the earliest narrative and are wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life, mostly borrowed from ancient myth’. I agree that the Gospels do not form the earliest narratives of the NT. They belong to the Pauline epistles and historian Paul Barnett acknowledged this as the point of entry into historical assessment of the NT in ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ (1997:41ff). However, you continue with your faulty generalisation fallacies with description of the NT narrative as ‘wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life’ and ‘borrowed from ancient myth’. I grant that a Comment section in OLO is not the easiest place to engage in detailed discussion of the historical viability or otherwise for any document from history. But this is not the place for you to dump your irrational presuppositions regarding discrepant, mythical accounts. Therefore, you have demonstrated that RationalRazor can become IrrationalRazor very quickly.

‘Does hell exist?’ And you want to discuss the Trinity. One of the rules of OLO is to stay on topic, thus violating this rule. To discuss whether hell exists is for a time when you are prepared to examine the evidence for the credibility of the OT and NT documents.

‘Not only is there no evidence, there is no consensus’, you say. That’s a red herring fallacy. This is fallacious reasoning.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 3:58:27 PM

designRed-smallRationalRazor,

It is you who stated that this information came from me: ‘The historicity of Jesus proves the “accurate content of Christianity”‘. I do not believe that; I did not state that; you have invented that about my views.

You are the one being obtuse by inventing something I did not say. So you have created a straw man fallacy about my views by creating a view I do not promote.

We have no basis to continue a rational conversation when you use the fallacious reasoning of a straw man fallacy in regard to what I wrote.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 9:26:18 PM

designRed-small Pogi,

You wrote: <<I think theist motives, when logically examined, are unintentionally acknowledging that the baggage that accompanies religious faith limits resort to logic, hinders rational reasoning and thus is disadvantageous to those so encumbered. Apparently martyrdom doesn’t always satisfy.>>

You have confirmed what a Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 30 years, Phillip E Johnson, concluded: ‘One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs’ (1998).

You are sceptical of the views I wrote because of your own contrary set of beliefs.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 30 July 2016 12:14:57 PM

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

H.  Conclusion

When I raised the issue of ‘No religion’ on the 2016 Australian Census form as possibly demonstrating that this was opportunity for a ‘new religion’ in an article for On Line Opinion (19 July 2016), the anti-Christians came out of the woodwork to label me with all sorts of false tags. The use of logical fallacies was evident throughout their replies. I don’t recall even one overt Christian who replied.

However, the issue needs to be exposed and even the National Geographic wrote an article this year to expose the ‘No religion’ category that may be rising in the Western world but is decreasing in the African world.

The Scriptures are clear that there are no such people as the ‘no religion’ school who do not know of God’s existence. This is stated clearly in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV), ‘

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No human being on the planet will be able to stand before God and deny God’s existence because the truth of God’s invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) are clearly seen in creation. This leaves human beings without excuse when they stand before God.

What causes their resistance to God? Romans 1:18 states it clearly: They ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’. From God’s perspective, he does not believe in atheists (see John Blanchard 2000).

I.  Notes

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. ‘2008.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016’, released 28 August 2015 (Canberra Time). Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2008.0~2016~Main%20Features~Religious%20affiliation~111 (Accessed 23 July 2016).

J.  Works consulted

(photo The Right Rev Dr Paul Barnett, Moore College, faculty)

Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Barnett, P W 1999. Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A history of New Testament times. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Barnett, P W 2003. Is the New Testament history? 2nd rev ed. Sydney South: Aquila Press.

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P W 2008. Paul: Missionary of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Gentile, E 2006. Politics as religion. Tr. by G Staunton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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

Vitz, P C 1977. Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 July 2016.

Journalistic bias in an online newspaper

 

Newspaper-5

(image courtesy freeimages)

newspaper_nicu_buculei_01By Spencer D. Gear PhD

If a newspaper regularly published articles exposing the negative qualities of Chinese restaurants (one of my favourite foods) but not a word about other restaurants, I’d suspect the publication had a bias.

If the Brisbane Times only published material in favour of the Labor Party and gave no or little coverage to the Liberals/Nationals, there would be an outcry – as there ought to be.

When it comes to Christianity in religious instruction (RI) conducted in state schools in Queensland, it is legitimate for two writers for the Brisbane Times, Amy Remeikis and Hugh Harris, to denigrate Christianity. The purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld (as exposed in these articles) but to demonstrate the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses.

1. Bias beefed up newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01

That is what is happening with the Brisbane Times in its online attack on RI in the state schools. I first noticed it earlier this year with Amy Remeikis, ‘Should religion be part of the Queensland state school curriculum?’ (Feb 28 2016).[1] Here, Remeikis presented the anti-RI perspective. There was not one comment from anyone supporting RI, thus presenting intolerance against Christianity and the content of the RI curriculum.

Remeikis did provide some evidence of the RI requirements in another article, ‘”No plans” to change religious instruction in Queensland state schools’ (March 23 2016).[2] However, the presentation of bias in the name of opposition to RI continued by Ms Remeikis in ‘Religious instruction in state schools “soliciting” children to Christian faith’ (June 6 2016).[3]

Remeikis is at it again with ‘Race elements of religious education materials “highly offensive”: Minister’ (Remeikis 2016). Particularly note the comments in this article from Indigenous Christian users of the Connect curriculum:

“I fully endorse the Connect curriculum for Aboriginal students,” Rev Corowa said in a statement released by the QRIN [Qld Religious Instruction Network].

“I have been using it for many years across all year levels.  I love it.  No student or instructor of RI has ever expressed a problem about the material to me.  I believe that the teaching approach is culturally sensitive to the particular needs of Aboriginal students.

“In particular I agree that Aboriginal students can be most teachable when sitting outside in small groups under a tree.  And I never met any student who did not enjoy a barbecue lunch on a Friday.”

Comment was also anonymously provided from a second “Aboriginal community member and Christian leader” via the QRIN.

“I dispute any attempt to claim the Connect material is racist,” the unnamed defender said.

“…I am grateful that Connect has acknowledged the cultural differences of Aboriginal students and our unique role as first peoples of this land.  I’m also sure that all my students, of any culture, would much prefer any education and yarning take place sitting under a tree with a BBQ lunch afterwards.”

2. Controversial, biased articles

It seemed as though writers for the Brisbane Times were watching for opportunities to pounce on something in the RI curriculum to complain about in the next article. This happened in three contentious, anti-Christian articles from a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Hugh Harris:

(a) ‘Religious Instruction in Queensland schools is discriminatory’ (March 14 2016);[4]

(b) ‘The horrifying religious instruction classes planned for Qld schools (April 20 2016),[5] and

(c) ‘Connect religious instruction says vampires fake but Bible is fact’ (June 27 2016).[6]

There are issues that emerge from these articles in the Brisbane Times that include the fact that not one writer in 2016 has been published prior to 30 June 2016 who supported Christianity’s place in the RI curriculum in the state school system. This is an example of partiality in favour of writers who are antagonistic to Christianity and one who overtly supports the agenda of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

I have at least two major issues with Harris’s article of June 27: (1) He promotes a begging the question fallacy, and (2) His refusal to recognise or demonstrate that Christianity is an historical religion. I will address only the first of these.

2.1 Circular reasoning explained

Circular reasoning 4CWhat is a question begging or circular reasoning fallacy? If you start an article or discussion believing that Australian state schools ought to be secular and your conclusion is the same (schools must be secular), then you have committed the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. This also is called begging the question. Hugh Harris begins with the assumption that schools should be secular and concludes that RI should not be taught because we need secular schools.

We can explain this in a more detailed way. The Nizkor Project[7] demonstrates that this fallacy is one in which the premise includes the claim that the conclusion is true. It generally has the following form:

  1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
  2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

It is erroneous reasoning because assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) does not provide evidence to reach that conclusion. Harris’s question begging fallacy follows from his association with QPSSS (Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools) and has this pattern:

Harris: The organisation, QPSSS, does not want Christianity in the Qld state school curriculum. (Note: He provided the link to the QPSSS webpage[8] in the first sentence of his article, thus indicating his support of its position.)

QPSSS: ‘QPSSS is a movement for parents and other interested

persons who would like to see state schools become truly secular as befits a multi-cultural, multi-faith country such as Australia’ (also found on the website of Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc).[9]

Harris: Let me find stories in the Connect RI curriculum so that I can denigrate Christianity in the RI state school curriculum. This included rejecting the aspects of the Bible as history.

QPSSS: ‘Tell us what you think. What role should religion play[10] in state school education?’

Harris: ‘The gravest concern is the contest for children’s souls,[11] which is the clear and explicit focus of the Youthworks Connect RI program’.

[For a simpler explanation of how circular reasoning works, see the ‘Feedback’ section 5 below.]

Of course Harris would conclude with objections to contesting for children’s souls through the Christian Youthworks Connect RI program. Why? That is the premise on which he began his article, with a commitment to secular school education.

When he concludes with his presuppositions, he has not dealt with the issues relating to why there is Christian RI in curriculum time in Qld schools. This is question begging erroneous reasoning that the Brisbane Times should not be tolerating from its writers. To which religion did Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, swear at her coronation in 1953? She is still Australia’s sovereign.

3. Rationalist, secular worldview in action

high-voltage-warningIn addition, as a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Harris affirms the ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia[12] in which ‘all Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. His presupposition as a rationalist is for ‘a secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia’ which is promoting godlessness.

What are some of the other beliefs of the Rationalist Society of Australia?

  1. ‘All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. Why remove all references to God if God exists and belief in God needs to be supported?
  2. ‘Children not to suffer because of the religious views of their parents’.
  3. ‘Education to be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion’.[13]

Thus, Hugh Harris’s commitment to secular, atheistic thinking in his worldview influences what he promotes in opposing RI in the state school system. This most definitely is circular reasoning. He starts with the presupposition that Australia is to be a secular, pluralistic and democratic society. This manifests itself in education that is to be ‘strictly secular’ and favouring no one religion. So, it gets up his nose when he finds RI taught in the public school. So he opposes it in print and the Brisbane Times gave him space to present his biased worldview of secular atheism.

3.1 What’s the definition of secularism?

The National Society of Secularism (UK) states that ‘secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law’.[14]

Secularism is not atheism.

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Secularism simply provides a framework for a democratic society. Atheists have an obvious interest in supporting secularism, but secularism itself does not seek to challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief, neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone.

Secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.[15]

The Macquarie Dictionary (3rd ed) defines secularism as ‘secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship’ and ‘the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element’ (1997. s v secularism).[16] Christian philosophers, J P Moreland and William Lane Craig explain that secularism is ‘a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship. Its primary objective is the total elimination of all religious elements from society’ (in Got Questions? 2016)[17]

The Rationalist Society of Australia states, ‘It’s time to return Australia to its secular roots’.[18] To the contrary, Australia was founded by Christians through the chaplain on the first fleet, evangelical Anglican clergyman, Richard Johnson,[19] and our roots were affirmed by our current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who swore allegiance to the Christian faith at her coronation on 2 June 1953.[20] We have a Governor-General in Australia to represent the Queen and her support of Christianity. Australia’s roots are not secular, but Christian.

Therefore, Harris’s secularist worldview drives his presupposition that schools in Qld should be secular. What is a secular school? He does not answer this and I found its promotion on an atheism website.[21] Therefore, Australian atheists have some bonding with secularists.

Circular reasoning amounts to illogic in action. No Queenslanders should fall for Mr Harris’s erroneous thinking. He wants RI out of the state school system and suspended immediately.[22] That’s the presupposition with which he begins and that’s where he concludes. It’s fallacious question begging reasoning.

3.2 One-way street until….

What did the Brisbane Times do with Harris’s promotion of secularism and call for the elimination of religion from state schools? It gave him several opportunities to ply his rationalist, secularist wares but without opportunity for Christian representatives to respond to expose his tactics. This bias in favour of secularism is exposed in my article. They should have been seeking people from the RI network in Qld to respond to Harris’s allegations.

However, it was only on the day I was writing the first draft of this article (June 30, 2016) that I became aware that the Brisbane Times eventually gave opportunity for Paul Clark, a promoter of RI, to show some of the benefits of RI in ‘Queensland religious instruction gives parents freedom’ (Brisbane Times, June 30, 2016).[23] Clark is ‘acting chair for Queensland’s Christian Religious Instruction Network, a former, decorated teacher, a children’s author and religious instructor’. Rev Clark of Redcliffe Uniting Church, Qld., told me that he had previously submitted an article of reply to the RI antagonism to the Brisbane Times but it was rejected for publication.

4. Am I using the same fallacy?

Could this be the pot calling the kettle black for me, a Christian, when I support Christianity in the RI state school curriculum? It could be seen that way if you didn’t know the facts.

In my education and ministry over the years, I have sought to verify or falsify the tenets of the Christian faith through careful testing of hypotheses relating to Christianity. This was pursued especially in my doctoral dissertation that examined the presuppositions of an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar and I could not verify his conclusions concerning the postmodern Jesus. The Jesus of history will be pursued in another article. However as a starter, see my brief article:

clip_image001  The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Eminent Australian historian (he has been visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University)[24] and former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, Dr Paul Barnett,[25] has concluded that the ‘points of intersection between early Christianity and “secular” history establish that the history of early Christianity is, indeed, genuinely historical and not “mythical” in character’ (Barnett 1997:120).

Barnett as an ancient historian provides evidence that challenges Harris’s attempt to deride the Connect RI curriculum content which states, ‘There aren’t any vampires in the Bible because the Bible is not a made-up book’ (Brisbane Times, June 27 2016).[26] Harris took opportunity to spoof at the curriculum’s statement of the Bible being fact when compared with vampires with language such as, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[27]

5. Feedback

feedback red glossy web iconTwo online newspapers rejected this article.

5.1 Comments, but no publishing of article

I submitted it to the Brisbane Times, 30 June 2016 and was advised on 1 July 2016 that it would not be published because a piece defending RI was published on 30 June 2016. If I wanted to comment on news stories dealing with RI I could send in a comment on that story to make any point I wanted.

This is a fob off because the Brisbane Times had published 6 articles opposed to RI and only one in favour from January 1 – June 30, 2016 as far as I could see and I read that newspaper daily. The editor wants me to make ‘comments’ to RI articles but would not accept a 1200 word article addressing the anti-RI issues.

Imagine it? Encouraging me to write words of comment (generally 20-50 words) to an article and rejecting a full length article challenging Harris’s content, presuppositions and a logical fallacy he used. That’s a cute way to minimise the importance of refuting false reasoning and bias by the Brisbane Times. In taking this line, it censored an opposing view. This is not freedom of the press. It is freedom to gag those who challenge secularism.

5.2 Rejection, but helpful comments

After the rejection by the Brisbane Times, I sent the article to another online newspaper for consideration where it also was rejected and these were the reasons given.

5.3 These are some issues with the article

The editor of this online newspaper wrote:

a. Too close to issue: ‘I’m going to decline it. I think you are too close to the issue and you are not explaining yourself particularly well’.

How can I be ‘too close to the issue’ when I have no connection with RI in the schools and am on no RI board? In this article sent to this magazine (see content above) I stated that ‘the purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld but to expose the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses’. My article was not designed to address RI but the bias of journalism.
Is that not a reasonable critique of what the Brisbane Times did? Or does this online newspaper not like publishing an article that is critical of the content of another online publication?

When I sought clarification from the editor on this, he said that it meant I was not looking at the issue as a member of the general public might. My assumptions about what they might think are wrong were not persuasive. Why? It is because I’m a Christian minister and that is the problem. His view was that I need to try to walk in the public’s shoes a bit better so that I can try to explain what I’m saying in a better way.

My reply to him was that he had assumed too much about my being a Christian minister. It is 24 years since I was pastor of a church. Before my retirement in 2011, I worked 17 years straight as a counsellor and counselling manager with rebel youth and their disillusioned parents. Most of these were with secular clients. I’ve been up to my neck in dealing with out of control youth, drug addiction, severe depression, marriage and family breakdown. I know what it is to walk with the down and out.
However, I’ve spent the last 5 years writing a 488 page PhD dissertation exposing presuppositions of one of the leading postmodern, reader-response historical Jesus scholars. I didn’t tell him that that scholar was John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar.

b. Defend religious instruction in schools: ‘Rather than complaining about the Brisbane Times I think you would be much better off mounting a defence of religious instruction in schools’.

That is not my role or responsibility because I do not work in the RI network or instruct RI in schools. It is for those people to pursue.

c. A lot of Christians think it is badly done, alienating and a waste of time, and that might be worth dealing with as well as the issues raised in the Brisbane Times pieces’.

From where did he obtain that information? What are the stats to back it up? Is this based on his and others’ anecdotal evidence? It seems that more research needs to be done by this newspaper before making those kinds of presumptive statements.

His feedback to me was that he doesn’t have any stats to back up his statement about ‘a lot of Christians’. It is anecdotal evidence, and by ‘a lot’ he was not referring to the majority. His evidence is from priests, lay people and his own kids. This was not meant to be a conclusive statement.

I find this to be poor evidence from the editor of an online journal. Surely he deserves better data than anecdotal evidence. At least he was not publishing this but it was in an email to me.

d. Argument hard to follow: ‘I had some difficulty following your argument about assuming the conclusion as well. Might need to look at that again’.

He is correct that my explanation of the Hugh Harris’ use of circular reasoning was not as clear as it ought to have been. He said he had ‘some difficulty in following my argument’.

In addition, my language was too academic. It should be at the literacy level of a 15-year-old, one journalist has told me, if I want to be published in newspapers. I received similar feedback from another person to whom I sent the article. Thanks so much for drawing this to my attention. I hope this is a simpler way of explaining circular reasoning (question begging fallacy). I have created this example, using some information from Hugh Harris’s articles:

Hugh: Qld state schools need to be secular.
RI instructor: In spite of Hugh’s objections, the Qld government’s legislation provides for Christian RI in curriculum time in state schools.

Hugh: The only way to guarantee multicultural views are heard is for us to have fully functioning secular state schools.

Thus, Hugh began with the secular and he concluded with the secular, which is erroneous circular reasoning, also known as a begging the question fallacy.

e.  RI issues with curriculum in Brisbane Times.

As for the RI issues raised in the Brisbane Times, they are for RI people who are familiar with the Youthworks, Connect RI curriculum to respond. However, I plan to write an article that deals with the historical reliability of the Bible when compared with secular history, vampires and fairy tales. Is this editor interested in considering for publication? I asked this of him in my return email.

f. ‘I’m also perplexed that apparently in RI you can’t proselytise. Not sure how this is supposed to work. This is a comment on what occurs, not on your article’.

I think the editor made a valid point when he said he doesn’t know how the RI curriculum is not to proselytise. My view is that any explanation, clarification, instruction on the Christian faith (or any other topic) cannot get away from supporting the content of that topic. How can explanations on the Christian faith be excused from proselytising? However, that’s for the RI people to address.

I offered the editor two further articles:

  • ‘Comments designed as distractions’ (this is addressed to those who comment on online articles and push their own agendas. Too often these are not related to the content of the article. I see this happening with many topics in online newspapers or journals.
  • ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’

The editor is interested in my submitting further articles on, (1) The historical reliability of the Bible and, (2) ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’.

5.4  A friend’s critique

I sent the article to a friend for critique and she responded:

a. ‘I think it is a bit too intellectual and deep to be considered in a newspaper. I think the online opinion spot is a better place for it’.

b. ‘However, the points you make are valid and need to be stated.  If I were writing it for publication in a newspaper, I would keep it simple and focus on the hypocrisy/bad journalism of only covering one side of the argument, and then make a case for the historical place of Christianity and RI in our culture and the case for children to be aware of the most published book in history.  It has shaped our Judeo-Christian government and society (at least up to recent times) and from that standpoint alone is worthy of teaching’.

c. ‘My son majored in philosophy at university, so I am acquainted with the circular reasoning problem and other devices used in discussion.  However, for the “common man”, I think it’s best to use examples and points that they can relate to’.

Those are excellent points, some of which have been addressed above. She is correct that only covering one side of the argument is poor journalism. However, when I examined J D Crossan’s presuppositions in my doctoral dissertation, he is a leading postmodern, historical Jesus scholar also is interested in only one side of the argument.

He has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’. Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original).

That amounts to bias towards his mates’ views. See my articles that deal with this issue:

clip_image001[1] Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

clip_image001[2] Only read authors who agree with you?

6. Fundamental issues from this encounter

The issues to emerge from this exposure of the Brisbane Times articles and the bias against Christianity include:

  1. Harris wants to get religion out of the state schools. His is a self-defeating position because he wants Christianity out but wants his own religion of secularism in. That’s hypocritical because both are religious positions.
  2. My view is that the responsibility lies with the Brisbane Times to change to an editorial policy that says, ‘We have a responsibility of fairness and justice in our journalism. That means if we present an anti-Christianity article, we MUST allow a right of reply article’. They needed to seek a person to respond to Remeikis’s and Harris’s articles.
  3. Readers need to be alert to how writers attempt to push their own agendas by the use of illogical arguments, using logical fallacies.
  4. I have learned over many years of freelance writing, that there are more rejections of articles than there are acceptance notifications. This is par for the course for me in submitting articles to newspapers or journals. One experienced Christian scholar gave me some wise advice last year after I had submitted a journal article and it was rejected. He said that you need to take note of any feedback you received with the rejection and then submit it over and over to different journals until it is published. That has been his experience.
  5. I’ve learned that I need to modify my writing style to be more in line with the literacy of a mid teen if I want to get published. The editor of the online magazine reduced that even further by saying my writing and sermons should be at the level of a 12-year-old’s education. However, my articles also require more illustrative material for general audience interest.
  6. How should I respond when Harris was objecting, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[28] What would happen if I did not read Harris’s article with a literal understanding of the text? If he wants me to realise that he is talking about a literal RI curriculum called Connect in which there is a narrative about vampires and the Bible not being a made up book, I have to read his article literally. I can imagine some of the creative nonsense I could get up to and write as a postmodern, reader-response interpreter. If he wants me to read his article literally, he needs to give every Christian the right to read Scripture literally.
  7. Literal interpretation always allows for inclusion of symbols and figures of speech. Literal ‘means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning’ (Mickelsen 1963:33).

7. Christians to maintain the higher ground

Image result for clipart religion public domainWhat are the origins of a civilisation’s greatness and which ‘misguided beliefs’ threaten ‘to unravel its progress’? ‘The Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium, and discover how secular corruption endangers the stability and longevity of Western civilization’ (Mangalwadi 2011:rear cover).

 7.1 Secularism is a religion

Christians must not allow the secularists to control the debate on secular state schools. Secularism itself is a religion. A ‘religion’ can be defined as:

a. ‘a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects’.[29]

b. ‘the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices’.[30]

c. ‘something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience’.[31]

d. ‘A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion’.[32]

On the basis of these definitions, secularism and atheism can be labelled as religions as they contain fundamental sets of beliefs and practices that people follow with great devotion and build their ethical systems on them. Some beliefs of secularism can be found HERE, while some beliefs of atheism are HERE.

8. Conclusion

I pursued the bias and a logical fallacy of Hugh Harris, an author and member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, in his publications against RI in the Brisbane Times. I tried to demonstrate that he engaged in the use of circular reasoning, which is erroneous logic. When he uses such illogical statements, he cannot reason effectively about the content of RI in the state school system.

Secularism was defined and its influence as a religion on Hugh Harris’s worldview was noted.

I took the opportunity to critique the response from one editor who was making judgments on my article that were not consistent with my content.

The content of RI in state schools needs to be addressed by those who are RI leaders and the RI mass media liaison officers. However, I expect that the antagonists of RI will pursue their agenda to try to get it out of curriculum time in the schools (like has happened in the State of Victoria). I expect them to comb RI curricula with a fine-tooth comb to find something to grumble about that does not fit the secular, rationalist or atheistic agendas.

As long as Christians have the opportunity to present RI in the state school system, I encourage them to do and be what Jesus said:

Flower23  ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matt 5:13 NIV).

Flower23  ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matt 5:14 NIV).

9. Works consulted

Barnett, P 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester, England: Apollos.

Cable, K J 2016. Johnson, Richard (1753-1827), Australian dictionary of biography (online). Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnson-richard-2275 (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Got Questions 2016. What is secularism? (online). Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Mangalwadi, V 2011, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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

Moreland, J P & Craig, W L 2003. Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Remeikis, A 2016. ‘Race elements of religious education materials ‘highly offensive’: Minister’, Brisbane Times (online), June 20. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/race-elements-of-religious-education-materials-highly-offensive-minister-20160620-gpnpvi.html (Accessed 5 July 2016).

10.  Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/should-religion-be-part-of-the-queensland-state-school-curriculum-20160227-gn5bwb.html (Accessed 30 June 2016)

[2] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/no-plans-to-change-religious-instruction-in-queensland-state-schools-20160323-gnpv8l.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-state-schools-soliciting-children-to-christian-faith-20160606-gpcxtw.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[4] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-queensland-schools-is-discriminatory-20160311-gngjyd.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[5] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/the-horrifying-religious-instruction-classes-planned-for-qld-schools-20160420-gobbpk.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[6] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html (Accessed 20 June 2016).

[8] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/QldParentsSecularStateSchools/photos/a.1444857872442174.1073741827.1443949422533019/1651201725141120/?type=3&theater (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[9] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[10] Available at: http://pandcsqld.townhallapp.io/en/questions/457 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[11] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[12] Available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/10-point-plan-for-a-secular-australia/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Nationalist Secular Society: Challenging religious privilege, ‘What is secularism?’ Available at: http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is the same definition as that in dictionary.com (2016. s v secularism). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/secularism (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[17] This quote seems to be from Moreland & Craig (2002) but no page number was cited in the Got Questions article and I was unable to locate the page number through Internet searching.

[18] Loc cit., The Rationalist Society of Australia, ’10 point plan for a secular Australia’.

[19] See Cable (2016).

[20] See details of her commitment to the Christian faith for the Commonwealth countries she rules at: http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[21] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[22] Available at: http://rationalrazor.com/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[23] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/queensland-religious-instruction-gives-parents-freedom-20160630-gpv8o6.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[24] See Barnett, P Listings 2016. Available at: http://www.moorebooks.com.au/ap_barnett_p.html (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[25] See The Right Rev Paul Barnett. Available at: https://www.moore.edu.au/emeritus-faculty/paul-barnett (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[26] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] dictionary.com (2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Oxford dictionaries ( 2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 November 2017.

 

Sproul damns Arminianism by association with semi-Pelagianism

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg   Divine Grace and Human Agency

(photo R C Sproul Sr., courtesy Wikipedia)  (book image, Rebecca Weaver, courtesy Book Depository)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010

(Jacob Arminius image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

If you want to denigrate the theology of Arminians, associate them with some heretical or negative theology. Use a poisoning the well logical fallacy. Let’s explain this approach:

This sort of “reasoning” involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. This “argument” has the following form:

1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.

2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

This sort of “reasoning” is obviously deceptive. The person making such an attack is hoping that the unfavorable information will bias listeners or readers against the person in question and hence that they will reject any claims he/she might make. However, merely presenting unfavorable information about a person (even if it is true) hardly counts as evidence against the claims he/she might make. This is especially clear when Poisoning the Well is looked at as a form of Ad Hominem in which the attack is made prior to the person even making the claim or claims. The following example clearly shows that this sort of “reasoning” is quite poor in trying to communicate accurately (The Nizkor Project 1991-2012, Fallacy: Poisoning the Well).

1. Poisoning the well of Arminian salvation

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

 

Now apply this to Arminian theology, following this procedure:

1. Associate a person’s Arminian theology (whether true or false) with some heretical or questionable theology like Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism.

2. Therefore, the claims made by that person’s Arminian theology in relation to, say, salvation will be false.

R C Sproul Sr, an ardent and articulate Calvinistic teacher and advocate, did this when he stated:

If I am in the kingdom of God because I made the good response rather than the bad response, I have something of which to boast, namely the goodness by which I responded to the grace of God. I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion. If indeed in the final analysis the reason I’m a Christian and someone else is not is that I made the proper response to God’s offer of salvation while somebody else rejected it, then by resistless logic I have indeed made the good response, and my neighbor has made the bad response.

What Reformed theology teaches is that it is true the believer makes the right response and the non-believer makes the wrong response. But the reason the believer makes the good response is because God in His sovereign election changes the disposition of the heart of the elect to effect a good response. I can take no credit for the response that I made for Christ. God not only initiated my salvation, He not only sowed the seed, but He made sure that that seed germinated in my heart by regenerating me by the power of the Holy Ghost. That regeneration is a necessary condition for the seed to take root and to flourish (Sproul 2009, emphasis added).[1]

Thus, Sproul has used a poisoning the well logical fallacy to try to discredit a person’s Arminian theology of salvation. Logical fallacies are dangerous when used in preaching, teaching and in conversations because they engage in erroneous reasoning. They make reasonable communication difficult or impossible. What has Sproul done with his example? He has made an attack on Arminianism by associating it with semi-Pelagianism, hoping that this unfavourable association will cause listeners to the Arminian to be biased against his or her teaching. The hope is that people will reject the claims of the Arminian – particularly in relation to salvation – and accept Sproul’s Calvinism.

However, Sproul, in making this poisoning the well fallacy of associating Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism, has made a fundamental mistake. He has not dealt with the theology of salvation that the Arminian presents. Poisoning the well by Sproul is a vicious attack against an Arminian view of salvation (Soteriology), but without having to deal with the Arminian’s elements of salvation.

Before we get to explaining semi-Pelagianism, we need to ask….

2. What is Pelagianism?

(image of Pelagius courtesy Wikipedia)

A Pelagian is a follower of Pelagius (ca. AD 260-340)[2] who was a British monk and theologian, described by Jerome as ‘weighed down with the porridge of the Scots’ (in Cairns 1981:137). He went to Rome about 400 and joined with Celestius to help formulate a view on how human beings can be saved. St Augustine of Hippo (ca. AD 354-430)[3] would not participate. Pelagius reached the conclusion that he

was more willing to give the human will a place in the process of salvation. But Augustine had found his will helpless to extricate him from the morass of sin in which he found himself because of his sinful nature.

Pelagius believed that each man is created free as Adam was and that each man has the power to choose good or evil. Each soul is a separate creation of God and, therefore, uncontaminated by the sin of Adam. The universality of sin in the world is explained by the weakness of human flesh rather than by the corruption of the human will by original sin. Man does not inherit original sin from his first ancestors, although the sins of individuals of the past generation do weaken the flesh of the present generation do weaken the flesh of the present generation so that sins are committed unless the individual wills to cooperate with God in the process of salvation. The human will is free to cooperate with God in the attainment of holiness and can make use of such aids to grace as the Bible, reason, and the example of Christ. Because there is no original sin, infant baptism is not an essential element of salvation (Cairns 1981:137).[4]

It would be expected that Augustine of Hippo would oppose such a view because he saw that it had these deficiencies: (a) It denied the grace of God by which ‘regeneration is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit’; (b) it rejected the view that the sin of Adam as head of the human race bound all human beings in sin; (c) it was a refusal to acknowledge that human beings’ wills are entirely corrupted by the Fall, i.e. denial of total depravity; (d) rejection of the teaching that human beings’ wills are so corrupted by the Fall that they are unable to exercise the will in regard to salvation. Pelagius’ views were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 (Cairns 1981:137-138).

Church historian, Earle Cairns, claims that the Pelagian vs Augustinian issues have been a perennial problem for the Christian church. ‘Twentieth-century liberal thought is only a resurgence of the Pelagian idea that man can achieve salvation by cooperation with the divine will through his own efforts’ (Cairns 1981:138).

2.1 Pelagian beliefs

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010What were some of the beliefs of Pelagianism that have caused so much theological heartache throughout church history? They were exposed in Augustine’s writings, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians. These beliefs include:

(i.) Whether Adam had sinned, or had not sinned, he would have died.

(ii.) The sin of Adam was injurious to no one except to himself; and therefore,

(iii.) Little children do not contract original sin from Adam; neither will they perish from life eternal, if they depart out of the present life without the sacrament of baptism.

(iv.) Lust or concupiscence in man is a natural good; neither is there any thing in it of which man may be ashamed.

(v.) Through his free will, as per se, man is sufficient for himself, and is able to will what is good, and to fulfill or perfect that which he wills. Or even, for the merits of works, God bestows grace on every one.

(vi.) The life of the just or the righteous in this life has in it no sin whatsoever; and from these persons, the church of Christ in this state of mortality are completed, that it may be altogether without spot or wrinkle.

(vii.) Pelagius, being compelled to confess grace, says that it is a gift conferred in creation, is the preaching of the law, and the illumination of the mind, to know those things which are good and those which are evil, as well as the remission of sins if any one has sinned, excluding from this [definition of grace] love and the gift and assistance of the Holy Spirit, without which, he says, the good which is known may be performed, though he acknowledges that this grace has also been given for this purpose — that the thing may be the more easily done, which can indeed be otherwise done by the power of nature, but yet with greater difficulty (in Arminius 1977b:389).

Arminius set out to refute Pelagius and concluded:

(i.) Our opinion openly professes that sin is the only and sole meritorious cause of death, and that man would not have died, had he not sinned.

(ii.) By the commission of sin, Adam corrupted himself and all his posterity, and rendered them obnoxious to the wrath of God.

(iii.) All who are born in the ordinary way from Adam, contract from him original sin and the penalty of death eternal. Our opinion lays this down as the foundation of further explanation; for this original sin is called, in Romans 7, “the sin,” “the sin exceedingly sinful,” “the indwelling sin,” “the sin which is adjacent to a man, or present with him,” or “the evil which is present with a man and” the law in the members.”

(iv.) Our opinion openly declares that concupiscence, under which is also comprehended lust, is an evil.

(v.) The fifth of the enumerated Pelagian dogmas is professedly refuted by our opinion; for, in Romans 7, the apostle teaches, according to our opinion, that the natural man cannot will what is good, except he be under the law, and unless the legal spirit have produced this willing in him by the law; and though he wills what is good, yet it is by no means through free will, even though it be impelled and assisted by the law to be capable of performing that very thing. But it also teaches that the grace of Christ, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit and of love, is absolutely necessary for this purpose, which grace is not bestowed according to merits, (which are nothing at all,) but is purely gratuitous.

(vi.) The sixth of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is neither taught nor refuted by our opinion, because it maintains that Romans 7 does not treat about the regenerate. But, in the mean time, the patrons and advocates of our opinion do not deny that what is said respecting the imperfection of believers in the present life, is true.

(vii.) The seventh of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is refuted by our opinion; for it not only grants, that good can with difficulty be done by the man who is under the law, and who is not yet placed under grace; but it also unreservedly denies that it is possible for such a man by any means to resist sin and to perform what is good (Arminius 1977b:390-391).

So the exposure of the heretical Pelagian view, which is not that of Classical, Reformed Arminianism, leads to the question …

3. What is semi-Pelagianism?

Is a semi-Pelagian half a heretic since a Pelagian is a heretic? After all, in geometry a semi-circle is half a circle. See:

clip_image002(Fan wave spectrum mosaic, courtesy openclipart)

 

An Arminian-leaning theologian, even though he didn’t want to be identified as Arminian, Henry Thiessen, put Arminius’ interpretation of the imputation of Adam’s sin in the semi-Pelagian camp. He asserted that the Arminian theory was that human beings were sick and ‘the evil tendency in man may be called sin; but it does not involve guilt or punishment. Certainly, mankind is not accounted guilty of Adam’s sin’ until people consciously and voluntarily appropriate these evil tendencies by acts of transgression. This is a position held by the Greek and Methodist churches according to Thiessen (Thiessen 1949:261).

I would add that the Arminian position was what I was taught in Assemblies of God Bible colleges in Australia, Canada (PAOC)[5] and the USA. It was the view that was promoted at Ashland Theological Seminary (The Brethren Church), Ashland OH, when I was a student there in the early 1980s. So, Arminian theology is endorsed by other than Greek and Methodist churches.

Thiessen’s retort was that ‘according to the Scriptures, man sinned in Adam and is, therefore, guilty before he commits personal sin; that man’s sinful nature is due to his sin in Adam’ (Thiessen 1949:261). Is Thiessen correct about the Arminian imputation of Adam’s sin being semi-Pelagian? Arminian theologian, H Orton Wiley, expounded his Arminian position:

Not only are all men born under the penalty of death, as a consequence of Adam’s sin, but they are born with a depraved nature also, which in contradistinction to the legal aspect of penalty, is generally termed inbred sin or inherited depravity (Wiley 1952:98).

3.1 Theological attributes of a semi-Pelagian

Now let’s check out the nature of semi-Pelagianism beliefs. Pelagians do not believe in original sin and consider they have the natural spiritual abilities to respond to God and live fulfilled lives. This is an heretical view, as is that of semi-Pelagianism which ‘believes that humans have the ability, even in their natural or fallen state, to initiate salvation by exercising a good will toward God’ (Olson 2006:17-18). It is Olson’s view that ‘the gospel preached and the doctrine of salvation taught in most evangelical pulpits and lecterns, and believed in most evangelical pews, is not classical Arminianism but semi-Pelagianism if not outright Pelagianism’ (Olson 2006:30). When I attended a Canadian Pentecostal Bible college in the mid-1970s, one of the lecturers told the students he did not believe in original sin. That placed him in the Pelagian camp. I did not know enough about Pelagians at that time to be able to confront him gently – with knowledge of that heretical position.

Wiley accurately defines semi-Pelagianism as a mediating position between Pelagianism and Augustinianism:

It held that there was sufficient power remaining in the depraved will to initiate or set in motion the beginnings of salvation but not enough to bring it to completion. This must be done by divine grace (Wiley 1952:2.103).

In an attempt to rectify the wrong view of equating classical Arminians with semi-Pelagians, Calvinistic theologians, Robert Peterson and Michael Williams, stated:

The Arminians of the seventeenth century … held that the human will has been so corrupted by sin that a person cannot seek grace without the enablement of grace. They therefore affirmed the necessity and priority of grace in redemption. Grace must go before a person’s response to the gospel. This suggests that Arminianism is closer to Semi-Augustinianism than it is to Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism. The word Pelagian as a description of Arminians—or Roman Catholics for that matter—does them an injustice because it associates them with a theological tradition that is truly heretical (Peterson & Williams 2004:39).

4. Why the confusion of Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism?

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010Classical, Reformed Arminianism is not a version of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. Mark Ellis, a Calvinist, translated and edited ‘The Arminian Confession of 1621’. In its introduction, he wrote, ‘If one allows history to define labels, neither Arminius nor the Remonstrants were semi-Pelagian’ (Ellis 2005:vi).

Olson has identified some issues that impact on this Calvinistic association of semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism.

Why do so many Calvinists insist on identifying Arminianism as Pelagian or semi-Pelagian? This puzzles Arminians because of the great lengths they have gone to distance their theology from those heresies. Perhaps critics believe that Arminianism leads to Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism as its good and necessary consequence. But if that is the case, it should be stated clearly. Fairness and honesty demand that critics of Arminianism at least admit that classical Arminians, including Arminius himself, do not teach what Pelagius taught or what the semi-Pelagians (e.g., John Cassian) taught.

Closely connected with the charge that Arminianism is semi-Pelagian if not Pelagian is the accusation that it departs from Protestant orthodoxy by abandoning or rejecting monergism.[6] This was the line taken by Calvinist theologian and author Michael Horton in early issues of the magazine Modern Reformation, which he edits. In an infamous article attacking “evangelical Arminianism” as an oxymoron, Horton declares that “an evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic.”[7] He claims that Arminius revived semi-Pelagianism and that “Arminians denied the Reformation belief that faith was a gift and that justification was a purely forensic (legal) declaration. For them, it included a moral change in the believer’s life and faith itself, a work of humans, was the basis for God’s declaration”[8] (Olson 2006:81).

R C Sproul Sr.’s claim is that semi-Pelagianism ‘has always taught that without grace there is no salvation. But the grace that is considered in all semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories of salvation is not an efficacious grace. It is a grace that makes salvation possible, but not a grace that makes salvation certain’ (Sproul 2009). Really? That’s not what my research has discovered in examining the theology of Arminius and prevenient grace.

When R C Sproul was asked if Arminians were saved, he said, ‘Yes, barely. They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency’ (Sproul 1997:25).

(photo courtesy Baylor: George W Truett Theological Seminary)

Roger Olson, an Arminian, wrote:

Sometime late in the 1990s I heard a taped talk by R. C. Sproul where he simply used “semi-Pelagianism” as a synonym for “Arminianism.” In that talk (I don’t know where it was given) he divided evangelicals into two camps—“Augustinians” and “semi-Pelagians.” He treated semi-Pelagianism as a legitimate evangelical option (in contrast to Pelagianism) while criticizing it for minimizing the sovereignty of God. I could tell that by “semi-Pelagianism” he meant Arminianism….

In 2009 I wrote to Sproul and gently corrected his identification of Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism. I offered to send him the book[9] if he would read it. I received his reply dated July 17, 2009. He addressed me as “Dear Roger.” He wrote that “I do not identify semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism, but as you indicate in your letter, that I see it as a variety of semi-Pelagianism.… All Arminians are semi-Pelagians in the sense that we have a relationship of genus and species.” He went on to explain that what “differentiates all forms of Augustinianism from all forms of semi-Pelagianism at bottom is the question of the efficacy of prevenient grace.” According to him, Arminianism is semi-Pelagian because it denies that grace is effectual.

I sent Sproul a signed copy of my book and asked for his response. In it I argue that “semi-Pelagianism” is more than denial of the efficacy of grace for salvation; it is the affirmation of the human initiative in salvation – which Arminians deny. I did not receive a response, so I don’t even know if he read the book. (I have given it to several Calvinist acquaintances and asked them to respond. Most did not)….

But what about Sproul’s definition of semi-Pelagianism? I can say quite confidently that he is wrong. “Semi-Pelagianism” is not any denial of effectual grace (i.e., what is commonly called “irresistible grace”). Every scholar of historical theology knows that “semi-Pelagianism” is a term for a particular view of grace and free will that emerged primarily in Gallic monasticism in the fifth century in response to Augustine’s strong emphasis on grace as irresistible for the elect (Olson 2013).

In simple terms, a Pelagian pursues heretical teaching that denies original sin, elevates natural human ability to take the initiative to receive salvation and live the Christian life. Semi-Pelagianism also is an heretical doctrine that believes that fallen human beings, in their natural state, are capable of initiating salvation and exercising good will towards God. When conservative theologians declare synergism[10] to be a heresy, they should be referring to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Arminians agree with those heretical designations (Olson 2006:17-18).

Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in AD 529. A summary of the Council’s semi-Augustinian decisions is found in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol 3, § 160). Olson, in another publication, confirmed that semi-Pelagianism is heresy and he ‘wondered why a Catholic synod of bishops held so much weight for Protestants, but I agreed that semi-Pelagianism is biblically in error as well as seriously out of step with both Catholic and Protestant traditions (even if many in both folds fall into it out of ignorance)’ (Olson 2013).

By contrast, Arminius maintained the initiative in salvation was with God, so his view was contrary to Pelagian and semi-Pelagian theology. Let’s check out his views on these two heresies.

See the interview of Arminian theologian, Roger Olson, by Calvinist theologian, Michael Horton: ‘Arminian Theology: An Interview with Roger Olson’ (Modern Reformation, February 2007).

5. Arminius’s views on Pelagians and semi-Pelagians

(image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

In ‘An examination of the treatise of William Perkins’, Arminius dealt with the issues raised by Perkins and said, ‘The whole troop of Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians in the church itself do not know them’ (Arminius 1977c:289). Perkins was an English Calvinist who interacted with Arminius.

In addressing the false teaching of Pelagius, Arminius wrote of ‘the principal dogmas of the Pelagian heresy’. Of the seventh of Pelagius’ dogmas, Arminius wrote that it ‘is refuted by our opinion’. On further Pelagian theology, Arminius wrote that ‘our opinion is directly opposed to the Pelagian heresy’ (Arminius 1977b:389, 391, 397).

So it should be clear that Arminius should not be identified as a Pelagian as Arminian theology is markedly different to the heretical Pelagian doctrines because (a) All human beings are born sinful; they are born with original sin (Rom 5:12), and (b) salvation is not generated by human beings; it is from God (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:8-9) and needs God’s drawing power to experience it (John 6:44).

James Pedlar explains how Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian:

Semi-Pelagianism is a mediating position between Augustine and Pelagius which was proposed later. In Semi-Pelagianism, the initial step towards salvation is made by the unaided human free will. In other words, the human person is capable of deciding to turn to Christ in faith, without any divine assistance. After that initial step is made, the Semi-Pelagian position proposes divine grace is then poured out for the “increase of faith.” Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529.[11]

Again, any responsible account of Arminian soteriology will make it clear that Arminians are not Semi-Pelagian. Arminians do not believe that human beings decide to exercise faith in Christ by an unaided act of the will. On the contrary, they affirm that, without divine grace, the fallen human person is incapable of turning to God. Prevenient grace frees the person so that such a response is possible.

What is distinctive about the Arminian position (as opposed to monergistic Reformed accounts) is that God’s grace is resistible, meaning that we can refuse his gracious offer of salvation. However, that hardly means that our acceptance of that offer is some kind of Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian meritorious “work” (Pedlar 2012).

Pedlar, an assistant professor of Wesley Studies and Theology at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, wrote to demonstrate that Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian.

6. Arminius: Corrupt human beings need divine grace

In his brief exposition on ‘Grace and free will’, Arminius confirmed that the mind and affections of carnal human beings are obscure, dark, corrupt and unrestrained. This requires the special grace of God to enable human beings to experience God’s spiritual goodness. However, this grace must not do violence to the justice of God.

Arminius wrote:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace [praevenit] goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succor in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind [animalis] of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

I do not perceive what can be further required from me. Let it only be pointed out, and I will consent to give it, or I will shew that I ought not to give such an ascent. Therefore, neither do I perceive with what justice I can be calumniated on this point, since I have explained these my sentiments, with sufficient plainness, in the theses on free will which were publicly disputed in the university (Arminius 1997b:472-473).

Olson’s summary statement was that ‘Arminius’s synergism places all the initiative and ability in salvation on God’s side and acknowledges the human person’s complete inability to do anything whatever for salvation apart from the supernatural assisting grace of Christ’ (Olson 1999:471).

Jr-copy-for-wiki.gif(photo R C Sproul Jr., courtesy Wikipedia)

R C Sproul Sr’s son, R C Sproul Jr, wrote:

My own earthly father [i.e. R C Sproul Sr] has been known to answer this question [i.e. Do Arminians go to heaven when they die?] this way – Arminians are Christians, barely. What he is getting at, one should not be surprised, is wisdom. First, the problem. Why would we even have to ask? The difficulty is two-fold. First, we are blessed with the atoning work of Christ when we repent for our sins, and trust in His finished work on our behalf. How much of our sin must we repent for? All of it. In the Arminian scheme there remains in man a part of him that is still righteous, that part out of which comes his ability to choose the good as it is offered in the gospel. The Arminian is not, according to his theology, fully repentant. Second, we must trust in the finished work of Christ alone. In the Arminian schema, he trusts a great deal in the finished work of Christ, but trusts some in his own ability to choose the good. If a man believes that God does 99% of the saving, and man 1%, then that man is not truly saved. The Galatian heresy is dealing with just this issue….

I would suggest that heaven is full of Calvinists who affirmed with great vigor sola fide, but who in the dark recesses of their hearts, subconsciously, believed that God was pleased with them because of their fervor for sola fide, or because of their fidelity in keeping their quiet times, or their passion for honoring the Sabbath. We are all Pelagians at heart, even those of us who are dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists….

The Arminian says at the same time and in the same relationship, “It’s all Jesus” and “It’s mostly Jesus and partly me.” They are inconsistent, self-contradictory. In the end, those who most fully believe it’s all Jesus will be with Him forever. Those who more fully believe it’s Jesus and them (sic) will hear Him say, “Depart from me I never knew you.” To put it another way, we are justified by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone, not by articulating a doctrine of justification by faith alone. We too, we Calvinists that is, make it into heaven by a happy inconsistency. That is, we all have error in our thinking. And every error contradicts what is true. Were we to adjust the true things we believed to make them consistent with the false things we believe, we would all end up in damnable heresy.

We have to affirm, at the same time, that Jesus came to save sinners, but not all sinners. He will save those sinners to whom His Spirit gives the gift of faith. That will include those who don’t know where the gift came from, as long as they actually have the gift. We ought also to remember that if we are right on this issue, if Calvinism is true and Arminianism false, we are right by the grace of God, not our own wisdom. What do we have that was not first given to us? (Sproul Jr 2012, emphasis added).

Could that kind of teaching have influenced what a prominent Arminian supporter experienced in a private appointment with a student on a college campus? The student said: ‘Professor Olson, I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not a Christian’. The context was an evangelical, liberal arts college that did not have ‘an official confessional position on Arminianism or Calvinism’. The denomination that controlled the college and seminary had Calvinists and Arminians in its ranks. When Olson asked the student why this was so, the reply to this author and Arminian professor was, “Because my pastor says Arminians aren’t Christians’. Olson stated that the pastor was a well-known Calvinist who later distanced himself from that statement (Olson 2006:9).

See the YouTube video, an interview with R C Sproul, on ‘Why are Western Reformed Christians so influenced by Arminian theology?

R C Sproul Sr. again:

When I teach the doctrine of predestination I am often frustrated by those who obstinately refuse to submit to it. I want to scream, “Don’t you realize you are resisting the Word of God?” In these cases I am guilty of at least one of two possible sins. If my understanding of predestination is correct, then at best I am being impatient with people who are merely struggling as I once did, and at worst I am being arrogant and patronizing toward those who disagree with me.

If my understanding of predestination is not correct, then my sin is compounded, since I would be slandering the saints who by opposing my view are fighting for the angels. So the stakes are high for me in this matter.

The struggle about predestination is all the more confusing because the greatest minds in the history of the church have disagreed about it. Scholars and Christian leaders, past and present, have taken different stands. A brief glance at church history reveals that the debate over predestination is not between liberals and conservatives or between believers and unbelievers. It is a debate among believers, among godly and earnest Christians.

It may be helpful to see how the great teachers of the past line up on the question.

“Reformed” view Opposing views
St. Augustine

St. Thomas Aquinas

Martin Luther

John Calvin

Jonathan Edwards

Pelagius

Arminius

Philip Melanchthon

John Wesley

Charles Finney

(Sproul 2011:5-6).

Notice what Sproul Sr did? He falsely included Pelagius with the Arminian views when Arminius is a ‘Reformed’ view. In the ‘Reformed’ view he did not include the theologically liberal ‘Reformed’ scholars such as Paul Tillich (1886-1968), Karl Barth (1886-1968), Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), Bishop James Pike (1913-1969), or Sir Lloyd Geering (b. 1918). Theologically liberal Arminians could include Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766), and Henry Ware Sr (1764-1845), as well as conservative Arminians who included Adam Clarke (1760-1832), Richard Watson (1781-1833), William Pope (1822-1903), John Miley (1813-1895), and H Orton Wiley (1877–1961).

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010The fact is that Classical Arminianism is a Reformed view. To his dying day, Arminius was a Dutch Reformed minister. At death he was ‘in good standing with the Dutch Reformed Church’, a Reformed denomination.[12] Carl Bangs is a leading scholar of the life and theology of Arminius, being the author of Arminius: A study in the Dutch Reformation (Bangs 1985). Olson’s summary of Bangs’ view of the Dutch reformer was that

Arminius considered himself Reformed and in the line of the great Swiss and French Reformers Zwingli, Calvin and Bucer. He studied under Calvin’s successor Beza in Geneva and was given a letter of recommendation by him to the Reformed church of Amsterdam. It seems highly unlikely that the chief pastor of Geneva and principle (sic) of its Reformed academy would not know the theological inclinations of one of his star pupils (Olson 2006:48).

What is a Reformed Arminian in the twenty-first century? Such an Arminian follows the primary doctrines articulated by Arminius and the Remonstrance. Matthew Pinson explains:

Reformed Arminians take their cues from Arminius himself and thus diverge from the mainstream of subsequent Arminianism. They are Reformed in their understanding of sin, depravity, human inability, the nature of atonement, justification, sanctification and the Christian life.  Reformed Arminians subscribe to the penal satisfaction understanding of atonement and justification by the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer. Thus, only by departing from Christ through unbelief—a decisive act of apostasy—can a Christian lose his or her salvation. Furthermore, they argue, apostasy is an irrevocable condition. These perspectives mark Reformed Arminians off from the mainstream of Arminian thought, since most Arminians disavow Reformed understandings of atonement, justification, and sanctification (Pinson 2002:15-16).

The battering of Arminianism continued from an eminent Calvinist:

7. J I Packer’s uncomplimentary remarks about Arminians

J. I. Packer (photo courtesy InterVarsity Press)

 

These quotes are from Packer (1958):

The “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance)[13] put out by certain ‘Belgic semi-Pelagians’[14] in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified). From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal…. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The denials of an election that is conditional and of grace that is resistible are intended to safeguard the positive truth that it is God who saves. The real negations are those of Arminianism, which denies that election, redemption and calling are saving acts of God. Calvinism negates these negations order to assert the positive content of the gospel, for the positive purpose of strengthening faith and building up the church….

The Calvinist contends that the Arminian idea of election, redemption and calling as acts of God which do not save cuts at the very heart of their biblical meaning; that to say in the Arminian sense that God elects believers, and Christ died for all men, and the Spirit quickens those who receive the word, is really to say that in the biblical sense God elects nobody, and Christ died for nobody, and the Spirit quickens nobody. The matter at issue in this controversy, therefore, is the meaning to be given to these biblical terms, and to some others which are also soteriologically significant, such as the love of God, the covenant of grace, and the verb ‘save’ itself, with its synonyms. Arminians gloss them all in terms of the principle that salvation does not directly depend on any decree or act of God, but on man’s independent activity in believing. Calvinists maintain that this principle is itself unscriptural and irreligious, and that such glossing demonstrably perverts the sense of Scripture and undermines the gospel at every point where it is practiced. This, and nothing less than this, is what the Arminian controversy is about….

This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen!…

Certainly, Arminianism is ‘natural’ in one sense, in that it represents a characteristic perversion of biblical teaching by the fallen mind of man, who even in salvation cannot bear to renounce the delusion of being master of his fate and captain of his soul. This perversion appeared before in the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism of the patristic period and the later scholasticism, and has recurred since the seventeenth century both in Roman theology and, among Protestants, in various types of rationalistic liberalism and modern evangelical teaching; and no doubt it will always be with us. As long as the fallen human mind is what it is, the Arminian way of thinking will continue to be a natural type of mistake. But is not natural in any other sense. In fact, it is Calvinism that understands the Scriptures in their natural, one would have thought inescapable, meaning; Calvinism that keeps to what they actually say; Calvinism that insists on taking seriously the biblical assertions that God saves, and that he saves those whom he has chosen to save, and that he saves them by grace without works, so that no man may boast, and that Christ is given to them as a perfect Savior, and that their whole salvation flows to them from the cross, and that the work of redeeming them was finished on the cross. It is Calvinism that gives due honor to the cross….

Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate…. Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh (emphases added).

So the eminent professor, J I Packer, has fallen for the Calvinistic trick of a poisoning the well fallacy by identifying Arminianism with heretical Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, a label which he claims is ‘fully justified’. It may be a position adopted today by many who call themselves Arminians, but it is not the teaching of James Arminius, his immediate followers, and that of Classical Reformed Arminianism. It is an heretical version that has crept into churches. However, let’s be clear. What Packer calls Arminianism is not Arminian at all but it is prostituted Arminianism, a heresy that must be called semi-Pelagianism, to the exclusion of Classical Arminianism.

(image courtesy remonstrancepodcast.com)

 

The Five Articles of Remonstrance (A W Harrison translation) dealt with:

clip_image004 Conditional election

clip_image006 Unlimited atonement

clip_image008 Total depravity

clip_image010 Prevenient grace[15] [resistible grace]

clip_image012 Conditional preservation

Arminius: I can err but not be a heretic

This is a final word from Arminius himself concerning his teaching: ‘It is possible for me to err, but I am not willing to be a heretic’ (Arminius 1977b:475).

Conclusion

R C Sproul Sr associates Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism. He wrote: ‘I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion’ (Sproul 2009).

Here he used a poisoning the well fallacy by associating the doctrine of salvation of heretical semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism.

Image result for clipart semi-PelagianIn this article, I examined the doctrines of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism to show that Pelagians deny original sin and promote the view that each person has the ability to choose good or evil and thus to choose salvation. It was demonstrated how Arminius refuted the teachings of Pelagius.

Semi-Pelagians hold that human beings have sufficient human power in the depraved will to initiate salvation but divine grace is needed to bring it to completion.

Both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism were rejected by Arminius and his followers as heresy in the seventeenth century. Classical, Reformed Arminians contend that a person’s will is so corrupted by sin that it needs enabling, prevenient grace for redemption to take place. This grace comes prior to a person’s response to the Gospel. Arminianism is closer to semi-Augustinianism than semi-Pelagianism. It does an injustice to Arminians to place them in the same camp as heretical semi-Pelagians.

However, R C Sproul Sr claims the logic of semi-Pelagian Arminians means that they have made the ‘good response’ in accepting salvation in Christ. So, are Arminians Christian? Sproul Sr.’s response was, ‘Yes, barely. They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency’. His son, R C Sproul Jr went further than this conclusion: ‘In the Arminian schema, he trusts a great deal in the finished work of Christ, but trusts some in his own ability to choose the good. If a man believes that God does 99% of the saving, and man 1%, then that man is not truly saved’.

Arminius’ theology was that corrupt human beings need divine grace prior to redemption. He called this prevenient grace. See my articles to explain this grace:

clip_image013 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image013[1] Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image013[2] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image013[3] Does God only draw certain people to salvation?

J I Packer, an outstanding theologian in many areas of doctrine, was fallacious in his reasoning at this point. Similarly to the Sprouls, he used a poisoning the well fallacy by associating Arminians with semi-Pelagians when he wrote of the Remonstrance that was put out by certain ‘Belgic semi-Pelagians’. The Remonstrance manifesto by Arminians led to examination and pronouncements by Calvinists against the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) and the development of the summary TULIP doctrines of Calvinism.

Packer went further in committing a straw man fallacy by stating that Arminianism made a person’s salvation dependent ultimately on people themselves. He made the false accusation against Arminians that saving faith was ‘viewed throughout as man’s own work’. Arminius and Classical Reformed Arminians reject Packer’s caricature as false. His error is his wrong association of semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism and his failure to understand the doctrines of Classical, Reformed, Arminian soteriology.

Arminius understood that he could err but he was not a heretic. Some of the prominent Calvinists, quoted above, place Arminius in the heretical semi-Pelagian camp. The error Arminius made was that it was for later generations of theologians to examine his teaching. Sadly, some have concluded that he was an heretical semi-Pelagian. I place him in the orthodox, evangelical camp which regarded salvation as from the Lord. There was no salvation unless the Lord drew the person to salvation through prevenient grace, but that drawing could be resisted.

One of the difficulties faced in the contemporary evangelical church is that there is not enough preaching on this topic to gain clarity of understanding. So, as a result, many people in the pew seem to be semi-Pelagians in their practice of Christianity in thinking and behaviour with regard to salvation. It does raise the issue: Are these people saved if they are relying on self to initiate salvation.

I would find it encouraging and amazing to have a preacher expound these verses and their implications:

clip_image015 ‘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).

clip_image015 ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 ESV)

Works consulted

Arminius, J 1977a The writings of James Arminius, vol 1 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977b The writings of James Arminius, vol 2 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977c. The Writings of James Arminius, vol 3. Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 3 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 3 June 2016).

Bangs, C 1985. Arminius: A study in the Dutch Reformation. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ellis, M A 2005. Trams & ed, The Arminian Confession of 1621. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications (a division of Wipf and Stock Publishers).

Horton, M 1992. Evangelical Arminians? Modern Reformation 1(3), May/June. Available (with subscription) at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=issuedisplay&var1=IssRead&var2=58 (Accessed 13 March 2016).

Olson, R E 1999. The Story of Christian Theology; Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Olson, R E 2013. R. C. Sproul, Arminianism, and Semi-Pelagianism. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online), July 4. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/r-c-sproul-arminianism-and-semi-pelagianism/ (Accessed 1 November 2015). This article also is available at Patheos, February 23, 2013, at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/02/r-c-sproul-arminianism-and-semi-pelagianism/ (Accessed 13 March, 2016).

Packer, J I 1958. J. I. Packer’s introduction to a 1958 reprint of John Owen’s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. London: Banner of Truth. Available at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_intro.html (Accessed 1 November 2015).

Pedlar, J 2012. Why Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian, 10 May. Available at: https://jamespedlar.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/why-arminian-theology-is-neither-pelagian-nor-semi-pelagian/ (Accessed 2 June 2016).

Peterson, R A & Williams, M D 2004. Why I Am Not an Arminian. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Pinson, J M 2002. Introduction. In J M Pinson gen ed, Four views of eternal security, 7-20. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Sproul, R C 1997. Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Sproul, R C 2011. Chosen by God, rev & updated. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Sproul, R C 2009. Grace alone. Tabletalk magazine (online). Ligonier Ministries, June 1. Available at: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/grace-alone-sproul/ (Accessed 1 November 2015).

Sproul Jr, R C 2012. Ask RC: Do Arminians go to heaven when they die? R C Sproul Jr (online), April 13. Available at: http://rcsprouljr.com/blog/ask-rc/rc-arminians-heaven-die/ (Accessed 1 November 2015).

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

Wiley, J M 2012. Distinguishing Classical Arminianism from Semi-Pelagianism. A Blog for Theology & History (online), 16 December. Available at: https://johnmichaelwiley.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/distinguishing-classical-arminianism-from-semi-pelagianism/#_ftnref (Accessed 3 June 2016).

Wiley, H O 1952. Christian theology, vol 2. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Notes


[1] From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org.

[2] Lifespan is from Cairns (1981:137).

[3] Lifespan is from Cairns (1981:146).

[4] At this point, Cairns acknowledged the assistance of Bettenson and Kidd for obtaining this information (Cairns 1981:483 n. 11)

[5] PAOC is the acronym for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the Assemblies of God equivalent in Canada.

[6] Olson stated that ‘monergism especially means that God is the sole determining agency in salvation. There is no cooperation between God and the person being saved that is not already determined by God working in the person through, for example, regenerating grace. Monergism is larger than Calvinism’. Olson uses ‘monergism to denote God’s all-determining will and power to the exclusion of the free human cooperation or resistance’ (Olson 2006:19, emphasis in original).

[7] Here Olson is quoting Horton (1992:18).

[8] This is citing Horton (1992:16).

[9] The book is Olson (2006).

[10] Synergism refers to ‘belief in divine-human cooperation in salvation’ and Olson uses it in the sense that ‘it merely means any belief in human responsibility and the ability to freely accept or reject the grace of salvation’ (Olson 2006:13, 14).

[11] Some details of this decision are recorded in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 3, §160).

[12] Christian History (online), ‘Jacob Arminius: Irenic anti-Calvinist’. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/jacob-arminius.html (Accessed 3 June 2016). After Arminius’s death in 1609, it was a group of Dutch Reformed pastors and theologians that composed The Remonstrance (see next endnote).

[13] ‘The Remonstrance was prepared by forty-three or so (the exact number is debated) Dutch Reformed pastors and theologians after Arminius’s death in 1609. It was presented in 1610 to a conference of church and state leaders at Gouda, Holland, to explain Arminian doctrine. It focuses mainly on issues of salvation and especially predestination’ (Olson 2006:31).

[14] The footnote at this point was, ‘John Owen, Works, X:6’.

[15] The A W Harrison translation of this link was not available at the time of writing this article (3 June 2016), hence this link to the Dennis Bratcher (ed) edition of The Remonstrance.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2018.

Logic and Christian discussions

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you engage in logical thinking and be Christian? Some ordinary Christians think that logical thinking and spiritual thinking are an antithesis. They don’t want to allow the two.

Yet, Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) could find no conflict between reasoning (logic) and being spiritual, ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’. The NASB and KJV use similar language, while the NIV translates as, ‘”Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD’. However, the principle is the same. God wants to reason with people so they can settle a matter.

Based on this kind of Scripture, Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks wrote, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Geisler & Brooks 1990). Geisler said his first teacher of logic, Howard Schoof, exhorted, ‘The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic’. To this Geisler added, ‘Clean living and correct thinking make a potent combination’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:7).

1.  What is logic?

The use of logic is important in any discussions, including Christian discussions, and especially in Christian apologetics. What is the role of logic in the use of the Christian mind?[1] I’ve been particularly helped in growing in my faith and use of Christian apologetics by Geisler & Brooks book from a few years ago, Come, Let Us Reason (Geisler & Brooks 1990).
Their definitions of logic are:

(1) “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order” (p. 11), or as a more formal definition,
(2) “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal” (Geisler & Brooks 1990: 11, 12).

If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?
What’s the point of even raising logic as a necessary part of Christian apologetics?

I am reminded that the term, ‘theology’ is made up of two NT Greek words: theos = God and logos = word or logic. So we could say that theology is the study of the logic of God, or theology is a rational discourse about God (Geisler & Brooks 1990:15).

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion on this Christian Forum without the use of correct logic?

How do you see logic, reason and the supernatural God and the use of the Christian mind?

But that’s not how some people in the pews see it.

1.1  Christians leap beyond logic, says one

How do you think a Christian would respond to the above definitions and information about logic? Here is the first response:

Logic is a product of the mind.

It can be utilized at times when rightly dividing scriptures, but then again, it takes The Holy Spirit to enlighten the passages for such a thing to be known in the first place.

Additionally, Christians routinely leap beyond logic, in fact, the whole born again experience was a Spiritual experience from GOD that is not understood by the natural man. It cannot be discerned or known by him/her at all.

So no, you wouldn’t see me as an advocate of logic, it relies on the mind, and that is secondary to the Spirit.[2]

Therefore, since logic is a practice of the mind without the Spirit – according to this person – then Christians need to go beyond logic to experience God. So to this fellow, logic would not be promoted as it relies on the mind and thus is secondary to the Holy Spirit. How then does that engage with God’s view, ‘Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord’ (Isa 1:18)? This fellow is already off base with God’s view.

I’m not suggesting that there is not supernatural, spiritual intervention by God at salvation and at other times, but that is not designed to zap a Christian of the need to practice logic. Logic will always be part of the Christian armour, the spiritual armoury.

There were many more who came to the rescue of affirming the need for logic.

1.2  Christians need to use logic

(image courtesy keyword suggestions)

A person cited Charles Ryrie on basic theology, ‘Reasoning involves using the laws of logic. These include the law of non-contradiction which says that you can’t have A and not-A at the same time and in the same relationship…. The law of non-contradiction is not simply one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, rather it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory’.[3]

clip_image002[1]Another’s view was that meaningful communication was an impossibility if logic is not used. That includes formal or informal logic.[4] Predication is equally impossible without logic, making Science not even possible without it. There really is no escaping logic, though people have tried, and ever failed’.[5]

clip_image002[2]This person found it ‘funny’ in his response to the person who doesn’t advocate logic because he may not realise it but he is using logic to invalidate his statement against logic. ‘Logic is a lot like grammar, even though you may not know anything about it, none-the-less you use it everyday of life without even realizing it’. The person explained that ‘the second you start reasoning is the second you yourself are using logic’. The person provided another definition of logic, ‘Logic is the science that explains what conditions must be fulfilled in order that a proposition may be proved, if it admits proof’ (Carveth Read 1914). I had asked, ‘If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?’ This person’s response was thoughtful and appropriate: ‘It serves to define the guidelines we must follow when defending our faith. It helps us to not make the common mistakes of the “village apologists”. It also aids us in truth and in using it correctly shows us to be reasonable’.[6]

clip_image002[3]The Bible advocates the use of our minds as God created the mind with the marvellous capacity to reason. God has set in place the laws of the physical universe and these include making logic possible. ‘He urges us in the Bible to study, and time after time, particularly through the New Testament letters, he shows us how formidable a well-reasoned and logical argument or discourse can be. Jesus encouraged people to ask questions, Paul encouraged people to think through his arguments, and Peter encouraged people to be ready with an answer to those who ask them of their faith…. My mind must be convinced, and the way that happens is through logic. Fortunately, the Bible and Christianity are very logical and convincing when approached with an open and unbiased mind’.[7]

It’s a self-evident truth that logic is needed in any argument.

clip_image002[4] It is needed for maths to work and it is used in every philosophy to make sense of it. This includes Scripture I’m of the opinion that God gave me a brain, and He expects me to use it – especially in the interpretation of His Word’.

He emphasised that we all need solid reasoning in any argument to make sense and to justify an action. ‘If you do things based on pure emotions, you’re likely to do something completely ridiculous. It just doesn’t work. While humans are emotional beings, we’re also rational beings. It’s important to recognize that rationality should perform over emotion at all times (at least, ideally)’. He used Jesus in the Gospels as examples of His using clear reasoning on many occasions. ‘He didn’t randomly do or say anything; it had a point’.[8]

1.3  So use of logic is a bummer

(image courtesy moving minds)

How should I respond to the fellow who does not advocate the use of logic and places it secondary to the spiritual? I countered:[9]

Logic is a product of language that God has created.

You state, ‘It can be utilized at times’. It must be used all the time if we are to have a reasonable conversation here in English on this forum, according to the definition I gave: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:11).

God put his thoughts in order to give us the Scriptures. You put your thoughts in order for me to be able to read your statements. You used logic and I am doing that as I type these sentences.

So, you won’t advocate logic because it relies on the mind and must be secondary to the Spirit? You were an advocate of logic when you put your thoughts in order to write to me. You may not realise you are doing it, but you have to use logic to be able to communicate.

Human beings didn’t invent logic. They discovered it.

God is the author of all logic. So, technically speaking, God does not flow from logic; logic flows from God…. [There are] statements we make about him [God] that we analyze with logic. Logic simply provides a way to see if those statements are true—if they fit with the reality of who God really is…. God is not being tested by some standard outside himself. Logic flows from God. It is part of his rational nature, which has been given to us in his image. Using logic in theology is simply applying God’s test to our statements about God. It is God’s way for us to come to the truth (Geisler & Brooks 1990:17-18).

Yes, there are rationalists who try to determine truth by ‘reason, evidence, and modern secular, democratic values’.[10] However, Christians try to discover truth, using reason and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Reasonable people use logic to test the truth of their and others’ statements about God.

If we want to continue this discussion, all of us have to use logic. That’s the way God has made us. It is part of his image in us.

The come back to my analysis was:

Logic will never restore a maimed leg.

Our ability to conform to the image of His Son and do those works that Jesus did requires faith given to us, which is something in the realm of GOD, and that is certainly not logical to most, certainly not to the unbelieving.

You can make the case for logic here if you so desire, but it is a limitation to what GOD can do beyond that logic. Most likely you are not interested in that leap beyond logic, which is understandable in these times.[11]

Fortunately another person was on the ball with an appropriate response:

clip_image002[5]’Miracles are not illogical if you believe through logic that God exists. You are almost making a Hume type argument here, but that was fatally flawed once you introduce a Divine Being into the probability equation. In fact, if you watch the Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig debate you will see Ehrman make this kind of claim and then William Lane Craig go in for the kill on the rebuttal.

The fact is, what you are espousing here is logic and you don’t even realize it. You use it everyday of your life and don’t realize it. What then is the opposite of logic? It is illogic and I don’t think anyone wants to be claiming that that is what they are using when it comes to apologetics.

I think you just don’t understand how to use logic and belief together, this is where philosophy and a Christian worldview go hand in hand’.[12]

My reply to the concocted view that logic doesn’t restore a maimed leg was:[13]

We are not discussing logic as not being a means of supernatural intervention. However, when the Lord arranged for the recording of miracles in Scripture, what did he do? He used a logical order and arrangement to convey them to us. See the record of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:1-41.

Please remember the definition of logic that I gave when I started this discussion: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’. God put his thoughts in order so that we could read and understand them in all of Scripture, not just in describing the supernatural intervention.

Do you call God’s miraculous intervention ‘the leap beyond logic’? I am not a cessationist, so I believe that God can supernaturally intervene in our world and he continues to give the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t know if this is what you refer to when you speak of ‘the leap beyond logic’.

In saying that there are mysteries in understanding God (I agree), does not indicate God is not interested in logic. Communicating logically means that God puts his thoughts in order and we put thoughts in order when trying to communicate with others.

2. Distorted understanding of logic and Christianity

I was in discussion online with a few people on the role of logical thinking in Christian proclamation and reading of Scripture on another forum where there were more anti-logic promoters. These are some examples of the interactions:

clip_image004 ‘Logic is the carnal mind in action. A function of the thought process’.[14]

It was appropriate that this view was rejected by this person who wrote:

Logic is used regardless of whether or not the mind is carnal. Besides, you are here using logic (it’s unavoidable), which would mean you are thinking carnally (according to you). One would have to throw out the Bible if you were correct…. Logic has always been around. Meaningful communication is impossible without it; staying alive is impossible without it.[15]

The plot thickened:

clip_image004[1] ‘So you’re saying that logic exists independent of the carnal mind. That it just, is. As if logic (obviously) exists also in heaven and the Kingdom realm.

I don’t think that any of us know enough about the Kingdom realm to be able to make that call.

Not everything in scripture is logical. I’m pretty sure logic is carnal.[16]

The logical response has to be that given by this person: ‘Premise, logic exists because God thinks and created it and made languages. Unless you like me posting in really unreadable posts which would be, far, far more difficult to understand’.[17]

I joined this discussion:[18]

Of course, logic – in itself – is not dependent on the carnal mind. There can be carnal philosophers who engage in illogic, but to do that they must have a fundamental understanding of logic to determine it is illogical.
Please tell me if you need logic to interpret these two sentences:

  • Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
  • Jesus’ rose from the grave as an apparition. (Apparition means a vision or ghost-like appearance).

Are those two statements true? If not, why not? He did not respond to this challenge. These are examples of the law of non-contradiction. A cannot be non-A. No two contradictory statements (like the 2 above) can be both true at the same time and in the same sense. So, one cannot agree that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and that Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition. Those are contradictory statements.

You can’t read what I write in this article without following the logical rules of grammar, i.e. using logic. In what kind of language was the Bible written? It is not esoteric, spiritual, illogical, and out of the realm of reality. The Bible is written in human languages for which we need logical, grammatical rules to understand them.

So, the Bible must be interpreted according to fundamental rules of language and these include logical grammar. The Bible is not written in some super-spiritual lingo that needs the esoteric insights of Theosophy, Gnosticism, or occult practitioners.

Therefore, it is not dependent on the carnal mind. It is dependent on the God who invented logic so that we can communicate.

How do you think that person would respond to this information? Here goes!

clip_image004[2] Logic is dependant on the carnal mind, I’ll give you that. But as for the language being logical and the Bible not being able to be written without logic…

Uh, no. None of the earths (sic) languages are logical. (Ok, probably none of them.) But English (was my best subject) is seriously illogical!!

If English was logical, you’d see grammar check alongside spell check. Where is it? Lol the computer can’t make grammar check work.

Your example did not demonstrate logic effectively, but I applaud your effort. The lack of logic is apparent all over the English language, there is no hard & fast rules for our language.

Suppose you kiss your wife. Suppose you give her more than one kiss, what’s that? Kisses, right.

Suppose you have an ox. Suppose you have more than one ox, what’s that? The logical answer is oxes, but English isn’t logical, so it’s oxen. See what I mean, Brother?

And what’s up with silent letters? Either put it in there and pronounce it, or leave it out, geez.

You can demonstrate understanding in language, but not logic. For there is no logic. Where’s the word logic, in scripture? In fact, show me anything logical in scripture!

It says what is and it isn’t logical…but it’s true.[19]

3.1  A ridiculous outburst

How should I respond to such an outlandish tirade? Here goes:[20]

  • You got your first sentence wrong. I did NOT say that ‘logic is dependant on the carnal mind’. I said, ‘Logic – in itself – is NOT dependent on the carnal mind’ (emphasis added).[21]
  • ‘None of the earth’s languages are logical’. You have a strange view of logic. What does logic mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines logic as, ‘a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something’ (s v logic). Therefore, all of the earth’s languages are logical in the sense that they use language to engage in a reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.
  • You have given examples of: spell check, grammar check, kissing my wife, oxen, silent letter, nothing logical in Scripture. These examples demonstrate that you have a distorted understanding of the role of logic.
  • Whether it is oxes or oxen is a tradition that has crept into English spelling. It has NOTHING to do with whether it is logical or not. It has EVERYTHING to do with convention in spelling. And have a guess what? You need to use logic to be able to read whether your statement about oxes vs oxen is what you want to discuss. Remember that logic is a reasonable way of thinking about something. You think it should be oxes but others consider oxen is the better name. Why don’t you investigate the etymology of why oxen was chosen and not oxes. By the way, here’s a logical explanation of why it is oxen and not oxes. Are you able to use logic to read this article?
  • As for the singular kiss, I’m happy with that logic and with the plural, kisses; that’s convention. How about you investigate why the plural is not kisss?
  • Like it or not, you must use logic in language to obtain understanding. Your distortion of the meaning of logic is coming through.
  • Where’s the word logic in Scripture? Let’s try 3 examples:

6pointblue Isaiah 1:18: ‘”Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

6pointblue Isaiah 43:26: “Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right.

6pointblueMark 11:29-33: ‘And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” They began reasoning among themselves….’

  • By the way, a word doesn’t have to be used in Scripture for its teaching to be there. Try finding Trinity or Bible as words in the Scripture.

Here is another objection:

clip_image004[3] ‘I know it takes a logical mind to read and to understand the literal, but it also takes a Spiritual mind like that of Christ to understand spiritual’.[22]

Since this was directed at one of my comments, I replied:[23] To say that it takes the Spiritual mind to understand the spiritual, is to tell me I don’t have a spiritual mind. You are incorrect. I have a mind subjected to the Holy Spirit and He has provided logical statements in Scripture for me to understand. The ‘Spiritual mind’ which you are exalting seems to infer that I don’t have it and you do have it, and it is a special dynamic given to the spiritual person like yourself. Is that what you are trying to communicate?

Here’s another promotion of the illogical:

clip_image004[4] Can we truly reason the spiritual things with logic, no, for they are beyond our deductive reasoning and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26.  This is what Jesus said in John 3:12, If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Nicodemus is a great example of one trying to use logical reasoning as he did not understand that of the spiritual that Jesus was talking about in John 3:1-6.[24]

4.  Reason, spiritual things and logic

Now to a response to that kind of illogical thinking:[25]

Can I ‘reason the spiritual things with logic’? Yep! I need logic to understand the language I speak and to read what you have written here and to read the Scripture. God has invented logic so that we can understand each other when we speak or write. I’m blessed to know that God created logic so that we can communicate with each other and that He can communicate with us.

Now to John 14:26. Its context is John 14:22-29,

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe (John 14:22-29 NLT, emphasis added).

You want John 14:26 (NLT) to mean what it does not mean in context. Jesus told his disciples information while he was still with them on earth, but he was going away and the disciples would need reminding what Jesus told them. Obviously they didn’t have a perfect memory of all that he had told them. For that purpose, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate, Paraclete) would remind them what Jesus had told them. The Advocate would not be giving them new revelation through teaching (your language is ‘that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26’). Not so!

Jesus was addressing Judas (not Iscariot) and the other disciples. He was instructing them about what would happen when he left them. He was not giving information for Christians down to the 21st century to follow. This has caused leading evangelical commentator, D A Carson, to write about John 14:26 (NIV):

The promise of v. 26 has in view the Spirit’s role to the first generation of disciples, not to all subsequent Christians. John’s purpose in including this theme and this verse is not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s ministry in this respect was not to bring qualitatively new revelation, but to complete, to fill out, the revelation brought by Jesus himself (Carson 1991:505, emphasis added).

In context, John 14:26 (NLT) is teaching something quite different to what you want to promote. Careful exposition of the text is necessary, rather than cherry picking a verse to make a point that is not in the text in context.

As for John 3:12, Jesus was speaking to a respected Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who did not know the Lord. He needed his spiritual eyes to be opened. This verse is not telling information that you want it to mean. Again, cherry picking a verse aborts the meaning you are pushing.

As for John 3:1-6 (NLT) and Nicodemus, the issue had nothing to do with dumbing down ‘logical reasoning’ (your language). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, knew Jesus, the Teacher, was sent from God ‘to teach us’, but he needed his eyes opened regarding being born again (John 3:3 NLT). Then Jesus revealed the truth to Nicodemus of the need to be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5-6 NLT). This was an issue of proclamation of the Gospel (even though prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection). These 6 verses are not teaching antagonism to logical reasoning. They are teaching content – the need to be born again to enter God’s kingdom.

5.  Logical fallacies

24x36” Wall Posters(image courtesy www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com)

One of the areas of logic that I’ve had to give more attention to in pursuing research studies and on Christian forums has been the use of logical fallacies. Some that I have seen in various readings elsewhere and in forum threads have included:

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

clip_image006 Begging the question, where the conclusion is sneaked into the premises. I noted this in my analysis of Jesus Seminar fellow, John Dominic Crossan’s writings, for my PhD dissertation. Crossan also uses….

(image courtesy theupturnedmicroscope.com)

clip_image006[1] Special pleading – the evidence supporting only one view is cited and the other is excluded. Crossan does this with his statements like, in quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv).

Image result for straw man clipart public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

clip_image006[2] Straw man – drawing a false picture of the other person’s argument;

clip_image006[3] Red herring – evading a question by changing the subject. This is a very common one in Christian discussion. I’ve drawn it to the attention of many posters on Christian forums and one moderator told me to quit using it. He wrote: ‘Please refrain from repeatedly claiming that other members are presenting red herrings and logical fallacies. Address the position with scripture to support yours, and NOT the person whom you are responding to’.[26]

A person replied to this post with this brilliant assessment:

It is quite possible that people have no idea that they are presenting logical fallacies. Pointing out that they have done so and explaining why they are, in fact, logical fallacies, is a means of helping the person avoid such errors in the future and to be able to identify them when others use them to misrepresent reality. This is a particularly valuable tool to be able to apply in a presidential election year when politicians are spewing non-stop nonsense at us from every direction.

Therefore, explaining to someone that their thought process was illogical and how it went awry is showing the person enough respect to assist them in avoiding such errors in the future. It has the potential of providing them with the tools to more effectively deal with every aspect of life. It’s not demeaning or insulting. It’s didactic.

To properly address a position with scripture, one must avoid logical fallacies. Pointing out a fallacy is NOT addressing the person. It is actually assisting the person (by Jim Parker).

However, this post was removed super quickly by a moderator. I wonder why? Jim has provided an extremely insightful diagnosis of why it is necessary to expose people’s illogic when they use logical fallacies in conversations or on a forum like this one.

Red Herring by algotruneman (image courtesy openclipart)

clip_image006[4] Ad hominem – argument by character assassination or personal attack. I see this sometimes in flaming on Christian forums online, but fortunately the moderators are onto this very quickly. However, they are not as alert to the other fallacies being perpetrated.

clip_image006[5] Genetic fallacy – something should be rejected because it comes from a bad source. I often see this in evolution vs creationist debates where an evolutionist states evidence from the Book of Genesis should be rejected because of those fighting fundies (or conservative evangelicals) who want to interpret it literally and they know nothing about science. Genesis is mythology, anyway, they say![27]

Another expressed the problem with use of logical fallacies on Christian forums:

Goodness, I’ve surely encountered every logical fallacy known to man throughout the many years of doing apologetics on internet forums, and been guilty of committing a number of them myself.

I would have to say the most common, are probably Ad hominem, Straw man, and one form of Red herring or another (often appeals to motive, popularity, authority, etc.). Another common fallacy which sometimes grates on my nerves is the…

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

  • false dilemma – where one option which is false is being forced when there remains an unmentioned true option. For example, when discussing the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, many argue in terms of options as either free will or hard determinism, without ever considering or mentioning “compatibilist free will” or as I often call it compatibilism. Quite often I believe the reason the fallacy is committed though is just a lack of knowledge, without intentionally excluding.

Faulty generalizations can be really annoying, how many times have you read something and afterwards thought  something to the effect of “no, they’re wrong, and they’re oversimplifying the issue (whatever it might be)”?[28]

For an excellent overview of the use of some of the most prominent fallacies used in writing and speaking, see,

clip_image009

Fallacies

6.  Abuse does not excuse legitimate use[29]

What I think causes some Christians to balk at the idea of using logic in communication is what is seen in liberal theology using the historical-critical method where people promote autonomous human reason to arrive at conclusions that are contrary with Scripture.

This shows how humanistic reasoning can be abused, but it does not negate the use of logic in our communication. Those who are opposing the use of logic, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise. This is because they are using logic in the sentences they write to oppose the use of logic.

Many things in Christian exegesis, theology, apologetics, Bible study, etc., can be abused. The abuse of something does not negate its legitimacy when used for the correct purposes. One or 10 faulty Fords (motor vehicles) doesn’t make every Ford junk – I drive a Toyota Camry.

Abuse does not exclude legitimate use of a thing, theology or issue.

7.  The gifts of the Spirit and logic

Speaking of the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit, one person wrote:

But it doesn’t require our logic when it is happening….

Utterance by The Holy Spirit is Him (sic) talking through us for the edification of the Body, and it is He superseding our faculties to GOD’s glory. Such events go beyond our mind since it is His mind speaking, not ours.[30]

My reply was: When the Holy Spirit ministers in and through me, he has been doing it according to biblical mandate,[31]

clip_image011 ‘Let all things be done for building up’ (I Cor. 14:26 ESV);

clip_image011[1] ‘Let others weigh what is said (1 Cor. 14:29);

clip_image011[2] ‘But all things must be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40).

clip_image011[3] ‘Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up’ (1 Cor 14:16-17).

clip_image011[4] ‘In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (I Cor. 14:19).

Here the gifts are seen and demonstrated for intelligibility. To be intelligible, God uses the logic of organised thoughts.

You don’t seem to want to grasp that in all communication, including edification for the local church through the gifts of the Spirit, involves logical thoughts.

Doing it any other way is unintelligible. Even the gift of tongues in the church required interpretation with logical thoughts given in sentences for people to understand.

Logic in sentences and the ministry of the Holy Spirit go together as a hand in a glove.

Image result for Toronto blessing The alleged Toronto Blessing is extremism in action.

(‘Toronto blessing’ photo courtesy bibelfokus.se)

8.  Conclusion

The alleged super spiritual advocates consider that to use logic is to employ the carnal mind and one does not need logic if a person has a spiritual mind. To say that logic is an example of the carnal mind in action is to distort the basic understandings of logic.

This was challenged by those who understood the nature of logic as involving putting thoughts in order. Correct reason and dealing with valid inferences entails attending to logical fallacies, whether formal or informal. It was shown how Christians need to use logic for ordinary conversation and argumentation to take place.

It was shown that human beings did not invent logic but that God is the author of logic. Where does logic appear in Scripture? Isaiah 1:18 speaks of Lord exhorting, ‘let us reason together’. Isaiah 43:26 pursues the emphasis, ‘Let us argue our case together’, and in Mark 11:29-33 Jesus spoke to the chief priests, scribes and elders about the authority he used to perform his miraculous works and ‘they began reasoning among themselves’. These three sets of verses demonstrate that Scripture is not against logic since it encourages reasoning activities.

Examples were given of logical fallacies committed by some Christians in discussion. As for the gifts of the Spirit, they must be intelligible for the congregation to understand. Abuses in these gifts do not prohibit the proper use of the gifts.

So the Christian must use logical reasoning for legitimate conversation, preaching and presentation of Scripture to take place.

9.  Other resources

See my articles:

clip_image013 What’s the place of logic in Christian apologetics?

clip_image013[1] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image013[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

clip_image013[3]Christians and their use of logical fallacies

clip_image013[4]One writer’s illogical outburst

10.  Works consulted

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

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Read, C 1914. Logic: Deductive and inductive (online). London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd. Available at: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/37/logic-deductive-and-inductive/456/chapter-1/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] I started this discussion in Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[2] Ibid., ARBITER01#2.

[3] Ibid., golgotha61#3.

[4] Formal logic also is called deductive logic because it moves from premises to conclusions. Informal logic also is known as inductive logic because it moves from statements of evidence to conclusions, but it can extrapolate from the evidence and generalise conclusions.

[5] ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, Apologetic Warrior#4.

[6] Ibid., secondtimearound#5.

[7] Ibid., AndieGirl#6.

[8] Ibid., Audacious#7.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[10] The Rationalist Society of Australia ‘believes religious doctrine should not override evidence-based reasoning in public policy-making. This does not mean we believe theists and theistic organisations should not participate in the political process – only that their arguments must, like anyone else’s, be based on reason, evidence and modern secular, democratic values’ (Policies: Politics and government, available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/about-us/policies/, accessed 27 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., ARBITER01#9.

[12] Ibid., secondtimearound#10.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[14] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘Scriptural fundamentalism & literal interpretation’, Edward#130. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/scriptural-fundamentalism-literal-interpretation.64665/page-7 (Accessed 25 May 2016).

[15] Ibid., Free#131.

[16] Ibid., Edward#134.

[17] Ibid., jasonc#138.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#139.

[19] Ibid., Edward#154.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#162.

[21] See ibid., OzSpen#139.

[22] Ibid., for_his-glory#141.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#143.

[24] Ibid., for_his_glory#150.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#160.

[26] Ibid., Mike#146. My response to him was, ‘I only address the issue of logical fallacies when a person has committed one of them. I do it because logical discussion is prohibited when erroneous reasoning is used. However, I will obey your command. Instead of saying that a person has, say, committed a red herring, I’ll have to say something like, ‘The issue I raised was that of John 3:3 and regeneration before salvation. Let’s get back to that topic’. Would that be a better approach? (ibid., OzSpen#148).

[27] Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#12. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[28] Ibid Apologetic Warrior#17.

[29] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[30] Ibid., ARBITER01#77.

[31] Ibid., OzSpen#79.

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2016.

Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Simon Dewey, He Lives, painting

(Simon Dewey, ‘He Lives’, copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher)

Easter has come and gone! As expected, there were articles in the popular press about the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, it’s also the time when junk about Jesus passion-resurrection is dished up. I do not use the term ‘junk’ to disparage any person. I am using ‘junk’ to refer to the content of the writing, based on one of the Oxford dictionary’s definitions: ‘Worthless writing, talk, or ideas: I can’t write this kind of junk’ (Oxford dictionaries 1.1, 2016. s v junk, emphasis in original).

1. Can you doubt the resurrection and be Christian?

Kimberly Winston (2014) wrote a provocative and sceptical article about the resurrection of Jesus for the National Catholic Reporter (‘Can you question the Resurrection and still be Christian?’). Here are a few points Winston makes in the article:

  1. From the Nicene Creed, the words, ‘On the third day he rose again’, is ‘the foundational statement of Christian belief’. It gives a ‘glimmer’ of eternal life promised to believers and is ‘the heart of the Easter story’ in 7 words.
  2. Interpretation of the 7-word statement has caused ‘deepest rifts in Christianity’ and ‘a stumbling block’ for some Christians and sceptics.
  3. Was Jesus’ resurrection literal and bodily, according to traditionalist and conservative Christians? Or was the rising symbolic, indicating ‘a restoration of his spirit of love and compassion to the world’? This latter view is that promoted by ‘some more liberal brands of Christianity?
  4. Many Christians struggle with the literal versus metaphorical understanding of the resurrection. ‘How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian?’ Is it possible to understand the resurrection as metaphor (or perhaps reject that it happened at all) and still claim to follow Christ?
  5. Kimberly quoted the Barna research from 2010 in which it found that ‘only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith’.
  6. Fr. James Martin, in his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage [2014. HarperOne, New York Times bestseller], stated, ‘But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all’.
  7. For an opposite view, Winston obtained a comment from Professor Scott Korb of New York University, aged 37 at the time, a non-practicing Catholic, who moved from a literal to a symbolic resurrection. His concept of the resurrection is, ‘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’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’. For Korb, this change from literal to metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’. For him the metaphorical view allows people to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it.
  8. By contrast, Reg Rivett, aged 37, and a youth minister in an evangelical house church, Edmonton, Canada, said that he believed Jesus literally rose from the dead and this is central to Christian identity. But he has conflicting feelings about how the resurrection is used in some circles, especially when it is tacked on the end of Christian events and turns the sacred into the very common. This saturation makes it ordinary. Instead, Rivett believes the church should ‘build’ towards the resurrection event throughout the year in the biblical storyline (which he called saga).
  9. Winston turned to retired Episcopal, unorthodox, liberal bishop, John Shelby Spong and his ‘famously liberal interpretation of Christianity in his 1995 book, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? that ‘caused a dust-up’ with his question, ‘Does Christianity fall unless a supernatural miracle can be established?’ Spong’s answer is, ‘No’ when he rejected the physical resuscitation interpretation in favour of, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’.
  10. He agrees with Rivett that the resurrection needs to be placed in context to be understood. In Spong’s Bible studies that included 300 people, he ‘tried to help people get out of that literalism’ through laying the groundwork, people asking questions, and building on this framework.
  11. Spong said. ‘They [the people at his Bible studies] could not believe the superstitious stuff and they were brainwashed to believe that if they could not believe it literally they could not be a Christian’.
  12. So, according to Spong, a Christian ‘is one who accepts the reality of God without the requirement of a literal belief in miracles’. The resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’. For Spong, ‘I think that’s a pretty good message’.

2. Issues with Winston’s article

Now to some of the main points of critique, based on the above 12 points:

2.1 The one-sided agenda of this journalist.

It seemed to be balanced because Winston cited two people supporting each of the two sides: (a) In support of the literal and bodily resurrection of Jesus was Father James Martin, an author, and youth pastor of a house church, Reg Rivett; (b) To promote the symbolic/metaphorical resurrection there were two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and controversial retired Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong.

From this article, it is evident Winston (2014) was pushing an anti-literal resurrection agenda. How do I know? He dealt with the content of the metaphorical or symbolic resurrection by two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and John Shelby Spong, retired bishop. He mentioned 2 supporters of a literal and bodily resurrection, Fr James Martin and a house church youth pastor, but an exposition of the main points by anyone supporting a bodily resurrection was not given. What Reg Rivett said was reasonable, but it did not contain statements of why the literal, bodily resurrection is the interpretation given in the four NT Gospels.

There was not one scholar interviewed or reference made to their publications in support of a literal, bodily resurrection. I’m thinking of George Eldon Ladd (1975), Gary Habermas & Antony Flew (Miethe 1987), Wolfhart Pannenberg (1996), Davis et al (1997), Norman Geisler (1989), and the massive volume of 817 pages on the resurrection of the Son of God by N T Wright (2003). We’ll get to some issues surrounding this perspective below. Some of these scholars are no longer alive (e.g. Ladd, Flew, Pannenberg) but their publications are available. Others mentioned are alive and able to be interviewed (Habermas, Geisler, Davis et al, and Wright). Instead, what was given? There was an interview with Korb and consultation made with Spong’s publication. These are two prominent liberals who support a symbolic metaphorical resurrection and reject Jesus’ miraculous resuscitation after his death (Korb and Spong).

2.2 Resurrection details are invented

What was Korb’s interpretation of the 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’. What has this change from literal to metaphorical understanding done? It has ‘given the story more power’, says Korb.

Where does this meaning of resurrection related to the low parts of our lives and finding a way out come from? How do we know Easter is expressed in community and in compassion to others? Who determines that this metaphorical meaning gives the story more power?

According to Spong, the resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’ (Winston 2014).

I have read the Gospel stories over and over, including the passion-resurrection of Jesus for about 50 years. Not once have I read these details in the Gospel accounts in Matthew 27 and 28; Mark 15 and 16; Luke 23 and 24, and John 19 and 20. Not a word is found in these chapters, along with the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 to provide anything that looks like Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations of the resurrection. I’ll examine biblical details below.

2.3 Out of a postmodern mind

From where have Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations come? They are inventions out of postmodern minds and creative, free play interpretations. The postmodernists often use the term reader-response as the means of determining the meaning of a text. Thus, the writer of the text does not provide the meaning, according to this view. Instead, as Lois Tyson explains,

Reader-response theorists share two beliefs: 1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding of literature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented to them by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning they find in literature (Tyson 2015:162).

What is a postmodernist interpretation? It’s a slippery term and the mere task of defining postmodernism violates its own principles. This is my brief definition: Postmodernism is an outlook or perspective that is sceptical about society’s metanarratives and, therefore, attempts to deconstruct them. A metanarrative is an overall, broad view that attempts to explain the meaning of individual or local narratives. A metanarrative or grand narrative (a term used by postmodern developer, Jean-Francois Lyotard), meant an overarching theory that tried ‘to give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth or universal values’ (New World Encyclopedia 2014. s v metanarrative).

Thus if Judaism, Christianity or Islam attempts to offer a “grand” narrative of God’s dealings with the world which provides a frame of reference for understanding “local” (e.g. personal or community) stories of guilt, suffering, redemption, love, joy, folly or whatever, this falls under suspicion as an imperializing instrument for power that is in actuality no less “local” but purports to be the story of the world, an ontology[1] or an epistemology (Thiselton 2002:234).

Postmodernism, a movement since the 1960s-70s, developed amongst challenges to beliefs systems and structures in art, literature, science and other disciplines. It is antagonistic to any fixed interpretation and so promotes freedom which it defines as ‘the freedom to create one’s own values set against submission to an absolute truth, the autonomy of human beings set against obedience to a transcendent God, and the free play of interpretation set against belief in any final, authoritative meaning’ (Ingraffia 1995:6).

Postmodernism deals with stretching the boundaries on interpretations, as seen with the examples by Korb and Spong. A postmodern view is that ‘since interpretation can never be more than my interpretation or our interpretation, no purely objective stance is possible. Granted this conviction about the nature of the interpretive enterprise, philosophical pluralism infers that objective truth in most realms is impossible, and that therefore the only proper stance is that which disallows all claims to objective truth’ (Carson 1996:57).

John Dominic Crossan, a postmodern, historical Jesus scholar associated with the Jesus Seminar, defines postmodernism as an interactive approach: ‘The past and the present must interact with one another, each changing and challenging the other, and the ideal is an absolutely fair and equal reaction between one another’ (Crossan 1998:42). How does that work when applied to Jesus? Crossan’s interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection is parallel with that of Korb and Spong: ‘Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world. That life continued, as it always had, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1998:xxxi).

Korb and Spong could not have said it better than Crossan’s metaphorical-symbolic view of the resurrection.

2.4 It is deconstructing the biblical text

Korb, Spong and Crossan have deconstructed the biblical text to make it say what it does not say, but what they want it to mean. They have engaged in a core aspect of postmodernism – deconstruction – in which the reader determines the meaning and the writer does not establish the meaning of a text. The intent of the writer’s meaning is not affirmed. Crossan uses the term ‘reconstruction’ for deconstruction, by which he means that ‘something must be done over and over again in different times and different places, by different groups and different communities, and by ever generation again and again and again. The reason, of course, is that historical reconstruction is always interactive of present and past. Even our best theories and methods are still our best ones. They are all dated and doomed not just when they are wrong but especially when they are right’ (Crossan 1999:5, emphasis in original).

So Korb’s statement that Jesus’ resurrection means 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’ is none other than postmodern junk created by Korb himself and it has no relationship to the biblical text. He has invented it out of his own mind. It is a postmodern deconstruction, as is his statement that the Resurrection ‘is expressed in community, and at its best through the compassion of others’. His addition, that the metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’ is a Korb creative, free play that is in no way related to what is stated in the Gospel texts.

The same applies to Spong’s statements, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’. The key to Spong’s postmodern reconstruction perspective is in the statement, ‘I think it means….’ Of course he thinks that. It is his postmodern reconstruction and he did not get that meaning from the text of the NT Gospels.

I will be accused of being a literalist in my understanding, but that is what I am. I am a literalist in reading Scripture because that is the only way to obtain meaning for any document read. Imagine reading this statement from the Brisbane Times of 28 March 2016 in a postmodern, reader-response way. The story online states:

A light aircraft has crashed off the runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Emergency services were called at about 12.30pm to reports the two-seater plane had gone off into a ditch off the runway.

A plane lies to the side of a runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Police, fire and ambulance all attended the scene to find everyone had safely gotten out of the aircraft.

It is believed there were only two people on board and that neither passenger received any serious injuries (Brisbane Times 2016).

This means that in spite of apparent affliction, there is hope beyond the difficulties. The salvation received is designed to encourage all who are depressed and feeling down at this Easter time. Rescue the perishing is the theme and meaning of this crash.

If I gave that meaning to this story of a plane crash, only about 10km from where I live, you should take me to the nearest mental health facility for an assessment. However, that’s the type of interpretation that postmodernists like Korb, Spong, Crossan and others do with the biblical text. They deconstruct the metanarrative (failures of mechanical devices) and make them mean whatever they want in a reader-response free play. For Korb and others to interpret the biblical narratives metaphorically as they have, invites other readers like me to deconstruct Korb’s, Spong’s and Crossan’s words in the same way. To do this makes nonsense out of what a person writes. Imagine doing it to Shakespeare’s writings or Winston’s article!

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3. The resurrection in the New Testament refutes postmodernism

How do we know that the metaphorical/symbolical resurrection of Jesus is the incorrect one? We go to the Gospel texts and find in his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus:

  • Jesus met his disciples in Galilee with ‘Greetings’ (Matt 28:9);
  • They ‘took hold of his feet’ and Jesus spoke to them (Matt 28:10);
  • ‘They saw him’ and ‘worshiped him’ (Matt 28:17);
  • Two people going to the village of Emmaus urged Jesus to stay with them. ‘He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ and their eyes were opened concerning who he was (Luke 24:28-35).
  • Jesus stood among his disciples and said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).
  • ‘He showed them [the disciples] his hands and his feet’. While they still disbelieved, Jesus asked: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24: 42-43).
  • Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ and told them that ‘you are witnesses of these things’ – Jesus suffering and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45-48).
  • Jesus said to Mary [Magdalene], ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (John 20:17);
  • Jesus’ stood among his disciples (the doors were locked) and said to them, ‘”Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:19-20) and then Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
  • Doubting Thomas was told by the other disciples that ‘we have seen the Lord’ but he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’ (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples again and Jesus stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘”Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:27-29).

This string of references from the Gospels (and we haven’t included the plethora of information in 1 Corinthians 15) demonstrates that in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he demonstrated to his disciples that ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39). There is an abundance of witness here that Jesus’ resurrection was that of a bodily resurrection. His post-resurrection was a body was one that spoke, ate food and could be touched. It was a resuscitated physical body and not some metaphorical/symbolic event.

What Korb and Spong promote is a postmodern, reader-response free play invention, according to the creative imaginations of Korb and Spong. It does not relate to the truth of what is stated in the Gospels of the New Testament.

4. My postmodern reconstruction of Korb & Spong

Since both Korb and Spong rewrite the resurrection of Jesus to replace the bodily resurrection with a metaphorical perspective, what would happen if I read Korb and Spong as they read the resurrection accounts?

Let’s try my free play deconstruction of Korb. According to Winston, Korb said 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’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’ but this metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’.

What he means is that when people reach the end of the drought declared outback field, they are about to receive cash from the government as a handout to relieve this sheep-rearing family from the death throws of drought. The resurrection is into new hope for the family and the community of that outback town in Queensland. At Easter, the compassion from the government has reached that community and family. This metaphorical, postmodern, deconstructed story of what Korb said is powerful in giving that town hope for a resurrected future.

That is the meaning of what Easter means to me, as told by Scott Korb. Why should my reconstruction not be as acceptable as Korb’s? Mine is a reader-response to Korb’s statement as much as his was a personal reader-response of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

My reader-response is destructive to Korb’s intent in what he said. The truth is that what Korb stated needs to be accepted literally as from him and not distorted like I made his statements. Using the same standards, Korb’s deconstruction of the Gospel resurrection accounts destroys literal meaning. He and I would not read the local newspaper or any book that way. Neither should we approach the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in such a fashion.

Therefore, the biblical evidence confirms that Jesus’ resurrection involved the resuscitation of a dead physical body to a revived physical body.

See my articles that affirm Jesus’ bodily resurrection:

clip_image005 Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image005[1] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image005[2]Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image005[3] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image005[4] Jesus’ resurrection appearances only to believers

 

5. Is belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus necessary for salvation?

 

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(Jesus’ bodily resurrection best explains the data: factsandfaith.com )

Since I have demonstrated from the Gospels that Jesus’ resurrection appearances involved a bodily resurrection, we know this because,

5.1 People touched him with their hands.

5.2 Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

5.3 Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for ‘food’).

5.4 Take a look at the wounds in his body.

5.5 Jesus could be seen and heard.

There are three added factors that reinforce Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They are:

5.6 The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999:668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668).

5.7 Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there was no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

5.8 He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance’ or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being. These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh; he died in the flesh; he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3).

6. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus.  Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, just published by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (b. 1930), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection…. [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

7. The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

7.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Also,

7.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

7.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

7.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).  What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like. The New Living Translation provides this translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 to explain it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler Jr who provides a summary of 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].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognize the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

See my article: What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

8. Junk from the laity online

About the resurrection, one fellow on a Christian forum wrote:

Personally I believe there needs to be some Biblical criteria and guidelines on this subject before it can be discussed intelligently,… otherwise it is all just personal opinions and we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy.
Before we can discuss resurrection, life needs to be addressed, when we understand the Biblical signification of life and how God intended us to understand it, then the meaning of resurrection can be understood, without the correct understanding of life and its principles resurrection will never be understood.[2]

My response was: ‘Why don’t you start us off with some of the biblical criteria and guidelines that you had in mind? You stated: ‘we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy’. How is it that ‘we all know’? I read and have taught NT Greek and that’s not my understanding of ‘heresy’.[3] This was his reply:

The reason I say, from my rudiment (sic) understanding of Greek, the signification (sic) of heresy is opinion is taken from what Paul says to the Corinthians.

For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Cor 11:18, 19 Thayer gives the definition of heresy as, choosing, choice, that which is chosen, a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
Doesn’t that mean heresy can mean, is (sic) an opinion?
Who do we find in the NT that were sects or parties with their different opinions, was it not the Pharisees and the Sadducees?
Is not Paul saying these heresies cause divisions in the Body of Christ?
Since he says there will be heresies, how will we know which to believe, heresy or Truth, how will we know what the Truth is if we don’t examine it under the Light of the Word? Isa 8:20
Since I have tried to explain where I’m coming from in my bumbling way, may I please ask you what is your understanding of heresy?[4]

The ESV translation of 1 Cor 11:18-19 is, ‘For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schismata] among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions [haeresis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized’. The ESV rightly translates the word ‘heresies’ (KJV) as ‘factions’, which is consistent with the usage given by the Greek lexicons and the context of what was happening in the Corinthian church.

This was my understanding of this issue and I stated it this way:[5] The most authoritative NT Greek lexicon is Arndt & Gingrich and its definition of hairesis (heresy) is ‘sect, party, school (of philosophy)’; it refers to that of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17); later of an ‘heretical sect’; ‘dissension, a faction’ (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20); ‘opinion, dogma, destructive opinions (2 Pt 2:1)’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:23). Therefore, heresies in the NT refer to sects that promote doctrines and dissension attacking foundational faith of the Christian community, along with destructive opinions. General opinions by human beings in normal conversation are not regarded as heresies. The Greek word, haeresis, is referring to destructive opinions that lead to dissension, with teachings that are contrary to biblical orthodoxy.

A heresy is a teaching that attacks one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Harold O J Brown (1984) in his extensive study on Heresies assessed that

“heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ – later called “special theology” and “Christology” (Brown 1984:2-3).

So some kind of skirmish or division (schismata), whether that be over baptism, the nature of the Lord’s supper, eschatological differences, or women in ministry would not be regarded as heresy in the early church.

9. Resurrection heresies

Which heresies of the resurrection have been taught historically and on the contemporary scene? Here are a few:

9.1 The Sadducees’ heresy was that this group did not believe in any resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8);

9.2 David Strauss (1808-1874), a German, liberal Protestant theologian, wrote: ‘We may summarily reject all miracles, prophecies, narratives of angels and demons, and the like, as simply impossible and irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events’ (1848, Introduction to The Life of Jesus Critically Examined). Thus, according to Strauss, Jesus’ resurrection would be considered an impossible miracle which could not be harmonised with universal laws.

9.3 Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), German liberal Lutheran scholar, claimed the resurrection ‘is not an event of past history…. An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable’ (Bultmann, et al:1961,1.8, 39). His anti-supernatural presuppositions prevent his accepting the miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus.

9.4 It is certain that people in the first century believed in the resurrection, but ‘we can no longer take the statements about the resurrection of Jesus literally…. The tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away’. These authors called this an ‘inevitable conclusion’ because of ‘the revolution in the scientific view of the world’. Thus, all statements about Jesus’ resurrection ‘have lost their literal meaning’ (Lüdemann & Ozen 1995:134-135, emphasis in original). Who said so? This is Lüdemann & Ozen’s imposition of their naturalistic, scientific worldview on the text. It does not relate to what the texts themselves state when interpreted according to normal principles of hermeneutics for reading any document.

9.5 The rejection of Jesus’ bodily resurrection continues to the present. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims that Jesus’ resurrection ‘has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of the tomb’. It was not human flesh that was resuscitated, but ‘bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world’. ‘That life continues, as it has done for two millennia, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1999:46; 1998:xxxi). Thus, there is no physical resurrection in the flesh, but it is a metaphorical understanding of

(a) the presence of salvation in the world that
(b) is powerfully effective, in and through
(c) the community of Christian believers.

There’s plenty of controversy/heresy there to keep us discussing, debating and proclaiming our differences until kingdom come.

9.6 At Easter (25-27 March) 2016, we got this junk from journalist, Nathaneal Cooper of the Brisbane Times: ‘Churches around the region were filled to capacity as the pious mourned the death of Jesus Christ before, according to popular belief, he got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ (Cooper 2016).

I call it junk, not to ridicule the person of the journalist, but because it is biased reporting relating to Cooper’s statement, ‘according to popular belief, he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’. This is junky theology because,

  • when we compare it with the record of what actually happened according to the record in the Gospels;
  • it amounts to Cooper imposing his presuppositional bias against the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection in his writing for the Brisbane Times;
  • This is not an objective journalist reporting what happened in churches on Good Friday 2016 in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

10. Is it true that Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb?

Let’s examine the Gospel evidence to consider whether Cooper is accurate in his statement that Jesus ‘got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ than his death. Do the Gospels support his claim?

?‘Now after the Sabbath, towards the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it’ (Matt 28:1-2 ESV). Here the evidence is that of a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone. It was a supernatural action that removed the stone to Jesus’ tomb.

?This supernatural event was of such trouble to the guard of soldiers and elders in Jerusalem that they invented this story:

‘And when they [some of the guard of soldiers] had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matt 28:12-15 ESV).

? When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to Jesus’ tomb when the Sabbath had finished (after Christ’s crucifixion), they found the large stone at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away (Mark 16:1-4). On entering the tomb, a young man dressed in a white robe was sitting in the tomb. His message to the women was, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him’ (Mark 16:5-6). Information from Mark 16:9-20 is not used here as it is not considered to be part of the earliest manuscripts of the NT.[6]

Luke 24 contains a similar emphasis where the women went to the tomb on the Sunday morning (the day after the Sabbath) and they didn’t find the body of Jesus.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Luke 24:5-9 ESV).

Here is evidence that supernatural events were happening at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, but a journalist dares to state that ‘he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb’. Was this some natural event of Jesus, the dead one, ‘getting up and walking out of the tomb’? Was he not dead? What was really happening on that Easter Sunday in the first century? Acts 1:3 (ESV) records that Jesus ‘presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God’. The infallible proofs included Jesus’ bodily post-resurrection appearances recorded at the end of each of the 4 Gospels.

10.1 Who raised Jesus from the dead?

In the resurrection accounts at the end of each of the four Gospels, this is not stated clearly. However, there is evidence in other portions of Scripture that provide this information.

10.1.1 Remember what Jesus said when he was on earth concerning his own body? According to John 2:19 (NIV), ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”’. So Jesus was prophesying that he would raise his own body. So Cooper is correct in attributing Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus himself, but Cooper left out further information.

10.1.2 Then there is evidence that God raised Jesus’ body. See Romans 10:9 (NIV), ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. This is further confirmed in 1 Peter 1:21 (NIV), ‘Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God’. So here we have God (often understood as the Trinitarian God) raising Jesus from the dead.

10.1.3 There is evidence that God, the Father, resurrected Jesus. Galatians 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead’. See also Ephesians 1:17-20 (NIV) where Paul speaks of God the Father who had incomparably great power for those who believe, the power ‘he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’.

10.1.4 The third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead according to Rom 8:11 (NIV), ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’.

Therefore, the Trinitarian God raised Jesus from the dead. All three members of the Trinity were involved. Huston (n d) rightly states that ‘the act of raising Jesus from the dead was not the operation merely of one person within the Trinity but was a cooperative act done by the power of the divine substance. The fact that the Bible teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus raised Himself is yet another testament to Christ’s divinity’.[7]

11. Cooper continues his blunders

Cooper continued his inaccuracies by quoting Catholic Archbishop Coleridge, ‘All the tears of the world are gathered up on Cavalry (sic) and then when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

The correct spelling for the hill on which Jesus died is Calvary and NOT Cavalry. A cavalry is ‘the part of an army that in the past had soldiers who rode horses and that now has soldiers who ride in vehicles or helicopters’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary. S v cavalry).

This misspelling is a demonstration of a journalist’s ignorance of the Christian information about Jesus’ death on the most important day of the Christian calendar. Or, it is careless spell checking and a typographical error was included. The latter is a definite possibility as the journalist also wrongly spelled ‘from’ in the statement, ‘… raised form (sic) the dead’.

Cooper’s blunders demonstrate his wanting to rewrite the content of the Gospel narratives on Jesus’ resurrection. He seeks out others like Archbishop Coleridge to confirm his inaccuracies concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, an Archbishop has diverted attention away from the real meaning of the resurrection with his saying that ‘when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

12. Genuine hope

What is the ‘genuine hope’ of Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing could be clearer than what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT), ‘If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’. The hope that relates to Christ’s resurrection was not expressed by Archbishop Coleridge in what was cited by Cooper, ‘genuine hope that satisfies the human heart’ and not the cheap cosmetic hope. The latter was not defined. Was it a hope so? The fact is that if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is futile, worthless or useless and all human beings are still in their sins. This means there is no forgiveness and cleansing for sins and so no hope of eternal life with God. It is serious business to deny or reconstruct the resurrection. It is redefining Christianity to make it something that it is not.

First Corinthians 15 (NLT) gives at least 8 reasons why Jesus’ bodily resurrection is more than that expressed in Cooper’s (2016) article:

a. Christ’s resurrection is tied to the resurrection of believers who have died (15:12);

b. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless (15:14);

c. If no resurrection, faith is useless (15:14);

d. If Jesus was not resurrected, those who have preached the resurrection are lying about God and the resurrection (15:15);

e. No resurrection of Jesus means faith in Jesus is useless and all unbelievers are still guilty in their sins (meaning there is no forgiveness for sins) (15:17).

f. If Jesus was not raised, those who have already died are lost/have perished and there is no future resurrection for them (15:18).

g. If we have hope in this life only with no hope of future resurrection, Christians are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (15:19).

h. BUT, the truth is that Christ has been raised from the dead (not metaphorically, but bodily), and He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (15:20).

13. Golgotha or Calvary

clip_image009

(courtesy biblesnet.com, public domain)

The New Testament uses the term Golgotha (see Matt 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17) for the place where Jesus died. Golgotha is the Greek, golgotha, and is based on the Aramaic, gulgata (see Num. 1:2; 1 Chr. 23:3, 24; 2 Kings 9:35), ‘which implies a bald, round, skull-like mound or hillock’.

How did the term, Calvary, come to be identified with Golgotha? Calvary is the Latin name, Calvarius, for Golgotha and it translates the Greek word, kranion (only found in Luke 23:33). Kranion is used to interpret the Hebrew, gulgoleth, ‘the place of a skull’. The Latin name of Calvary, based on the Latin Vulgate translation, which means ‘bald skull’ enters the picture in Luke 23:33. Modern Bible versions use the translation, ‘the Skull’ (ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NLT, NAB, NJB, HCSB, NET, ISV, CEB, Darby, WEB). The Wycliffe, Tyndale, King James, and Douay-Rheims versions used ‘Calvary’. However, Golgotha and Calvary refer to the same place. There are two main explanations for the identification of the place of the Skull where Jesus was crucified:

(a) It was a place where regular executions took place and there were many skulls to be seen;

(b) It was a place that looked like a skull and could be viewed from the city (Dingman1967:317).

Where was Golgotha located? The post-apostolic tradition does not agree with the information in the Gospels. Matt 27:33 and Mark 15:22 locate it not far from the city as it required Simon of Cyrene to take the cross (he was compelled) to the place of the Skull, suggesting it was close to the city of Jerusalem. John 19:20 confirms it was close to the city. Dingman stated that it was located outside the city ‘on the public highway, which was the type of location usually chosen by the Romans for executions. Tradition locates it within the present city’ of Jerusalem (Dingman 1967:317). Hebrews 13:11-13 confirms that Jesus died ‘outside the camp’, indicating outside Jerusalem.

The exact site of Calvary is a matter of dispute. Two sites contend for acceptance, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is within the walls of the modern city; and the Green Hill, or Gordon’s Calvary, in which is Jeremiah’s Grotto, a few hundred feet NE of the Damascus Gate. The first is supported by ancient tradition, while the second was suggested for the first time in 1849, although much is to be said in its favor (Tenney, ‘Calvary’, 1967:142).

clip_image011

(Gordon’s Calvary & the garden tomb, courtesy Patheos)

If one is to accept the authority of the Scripture, as I do, then the first suggestion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the hill of Calgary is rejected because it is within the present city. However, is the present city of Jerusalem located on the same site as that of ancient Jerusalem? The evidence is that this city is

different from most cities that have witnessed great historical events over many successive centuries, Jerusalem has always remained on the same site. Specifically it is located at 31º 46’ 45” N lat., and 35º 13’ 25” long. E of Greenwich. It is situated 33 miles E. of the Mediterranean, and 14 miles W of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of 2,550 feet above sea level (Smith 1967:418).

Therefore, the biblical evidence points to a hill location outside of the city of Jerusalem, known as the Skull (Golgotha, Calvary), as the location of Jesus’ crucifixion near Jerusalem.

Golgotha and Calvary are used as synonymous terms for ‘the place of the skull’, the hill on which Jesus was crucified.

14. Evidence is compelling for Jesus’ supernatural resurrection

Andrina Hanson has summarised the evidence:

The claim by Christian apologists that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is a rational belief can be summed up as follows:

  • There is good reason to believe God exists (source);
  • If God exists, then God could have supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead;
  • The following seven (7) lines of historical evidence demonstrate to a reasonable degree that God did, in fact, raise Jesus from the dead:

I4.1 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus being seen alive in a resurrected body on at least twelve (12) separate occasions by more than 500 witnesses, including at least two skeptics (James the Just and Paul fka Saul) (source)

14.2 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus’ tomb being found empty (source)

I4.3 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of the transformation in the lives of Jesus’ disciples from fearful fleers to faithful followers who endured great persecution and became martyrs for their faith (source)

I4.4 The resurrection best explains why even Jewish leaders and skeptics converted to Christianity after Jesus was crucified, even though Christianity was foundationally centered on Jesus’ resurrection

I4.5 The resurrection best explains why there is no evidence any site was ever venerated as Jesus’ burial site even though it was common practice in that day to venerate the burial sites of religious and political leaders

I4.6 The resurrection best explains why the early Church centered its teachings and practices around a supernatural event like the resurrection instead of something less controversial like Jesus’ moral teachings

I4.7 The resurrection best explains the sudden rise and expansion of Christianity so soon after Jesus death even though Jesus had been crucified by the Romans as a political traitor and declared a religious heretic by the Jewish religious leaders

Over the last 2,000 years, skeptics have proffered various alternative theories to attempt to explain away the historical evidence of Jesus’ supernatural resurrection. However, as discussed in the above-linked articles, Christian apologists maintain none of the proposed naturalistic theories adequately explain the totality of the historical evidence and none of the theories are rationally compelling. Since there is a rational basis for believing God exists (source) and since Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is the one explanation that adequately explains the totality of the historical evidence, Christian apologists maintain there is a reasonable basis for believing God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead as reported by multiple independent sources in the New Testament (Hanson 2014).

15. Conclusion

In §5, §6 and §7 above, the bodily resurrection of Jesus was defended, in opposition to the metaphorical / symbolic view. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus defended in Scripture is his bodily resurrection. Any other view is an invention – a heresy.

Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? There have been those (as pointed out in this article) who have redefined (deconstructed) the resurrection to make it metaphorical or symbolic. Korb, Spong, Coleridge and Crossan have done that as Christian representatives. Thus they have doubted and denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Their reconstructions have caused them to engage in a reader-response invention of their own making. They have created what the resurrection means. They are meanings out of their own minds and worldviews. It is not a perspective based on a historical, grammatical, cultural interpretation of Scripture.

Reasons have been given in this article to demonstrate that a person must believe in the bodily resurrection to receive eternal life. Otherwise faith and preaching are useless; people do not have their sins forgiven, and hope is hopeless (see §7 and §12).

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor. 15:13-15, 17, 19).

The conclusion is that if Jesus has not been bodily resurrected (leading to the bodily resurrection of all who have died), faith is faithlessness because it is a useless faith. Now to answer the question of this article: Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? No! Your faith is useless or vain if you doubt or reconstruct the bodily resurrection. You may not like my conclusion, but I’ve provided the evidence above that leads to that biblical conclusion.

First Corinthians 15:12-19 links the nature of the Christian’s bodily resurrection to the nature of Jesus’ resurrection. It will be a bodily resurrection, as was that of Jesus’.

 

See my articles on the heresies promoted by retired USA Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong:

clip_image013 Spong promotes salvation viruses called ‘offensive’ and ‘anathema’

clip_image013[1] Spong’s deadly Christianity

clip_image013[2]John Shelby Spong and the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia)

clip_image013[3] The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong [1]

clip_image013[4] Spong’s swan song — at last! [1]

Bishop John Shelby Spong portrait 2006.png

(John Shelby Spong, photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

16. Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brisbane Times 2016. Two-seater aircraft crashes off the runway at Redcliffe (online), 28 March. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/twoseater-aircraft-crashes-off-the-runway-at-redcliffe-20160328-gns9e0.html (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Brown, H O J 1984. Heresies: The image of Christ in the mirror of heresy and orthodoxy from the apostles to the present. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Bultmann, R and five critics 1961. Kerygma and myth. New York: Harper & Row.

Carson, D A 1996. The gagging of God: Christianity confronts pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Cooper, N 2016. Brisbane churches packed for Good Friday services. Brisbane Times (online), 25 March. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-churches-packed-for-good-friday-services-20160325-gnr55d.html (Accessed 25 March 2016).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Davis, S; Kendall D; & O’Collins, G (eds) 1997. The resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dingman, B P 1967. Golgotha. In M C Tenney, gen ed, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 317. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The first epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N L 1989. The battle for the resurrection. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Geisler, N. L. 1999. Resurrection, Evidence for, in N L Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Green, M. 1990. Evangelism through the local Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Hanson, A 2014. Is Belief in Jesus’ Supernatural Resurrection Rational? Introduction & Summary of the Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Facts & Faith: The Blog (online), February 27. Available at: http://factsandfaith.com/is-it-rational-to-believe-in-jesus-supernatural-resurrection/ (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Huson, B n. d. Did Jesus raise Himself from the grave or did God do it? CARM (online). Available at: https://carm.org/jesus-raise-himself (Accessed 5 February 2017).

Ingraffia, B D 1996. Postmodern theory and biblical theology: Vanquishing God’s shadow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ladd, G E 1975. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lüdemann, G & Ozen, A 1995. What really happened to Jesus? A historical approach to the resurrection. Tr by J Bowden. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Miethe, T L (ed) 1987. Did Jesus rise from the dead? The resurrection debate: Gary R Habermas & Antony G N Flew. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Mohler, A 2016. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Gospel (online), March 25. Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/03/25/the-resurrection-of-jesus-christ-and-the-reality-of-the-gospel/ (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Pannenberg, W 1996. History and the reality of the resurrection. In G D’Costa (ed), Resurrection reconsidered, 62-72. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications.

Smith, W S 1967. Jerusalem. In M C G Tenney (gen ed), The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 417-427. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Tenney, M C (gen ed) 1967. Calvary. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 142. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thiselton, A C 2002. A concise encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion. Oxford: Oneworld.

Tyson, L 2015. Critical theory today: A user-friendly guide, 3rd ed. Abingdon, Oxford/New York, NY: Routledge.

Winston, K 2014. Can you question the resurrection and still be a Christian? National Catholic Reporter (from Religion News Service), April 17. Available at: http://ncronline.org/news/theology/can-you-question-resurrection-and-still-be-christian (Accessed 26 March 2016).

Wright, N T 2003. The resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

17. Notes


[1] ‘Ontology denotes the study of being, or of what is’. It is the study of things that exist. So, it appears alongside epistemology which ‘embraces a variety of theories of knowledge…. It includes issues concerning the sources, limits and nature of knowledge, and modes of knowing’ (Thiselton 2002:217-218, 76).

[2] Christian Forums.net 2015. ‘What do we believe about the resurrection?’ Karl#18. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/what-do-we-believe-about-the-resurrection.58279/ (Accessed 19 February 2015). Please excuse the way this poster expressed his views online. Grammar and manner of expression are somewhat informal and idiosyncratic.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[4] Ibid., Karl#22.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#26.

[6] After Mark 16:8, the English Standard Version states, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’. Most modern Bible versions contain a similar statement.

[7] These four points are based on the Scriptures provided in a brief article by Brad Huston (n d).

[8] 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 and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 June 2018.

 

 

Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith

(courtesy pinterest.com

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want a warmed up or heated discussion in church or online in a Christian forum, raise a passage like this one, Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV), and contend that a person can fall away from the faith – commit apostasy!

A person quoted this verse and then stated, ‘The writer of Hebrews seemed to think that it is possible for Christians to fall away’.[1]

They were never Christians

This kind of response was predictable. I’ve encountered it many times during my 50 years of Christian experience:

The scriptures you’ve quoted above are NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians , as you put it, rather the word “some” in Heb 6:4 must be qualified, and these are they who are the Tares that God allowed to grow together with the Wheat in the church environment. The Tares are the unsaved and the Wheat the saved. In every congregations of the world, without exceptions, there are saved and unsaved people who gather together in the local churches. The Tares are those that will fall away although they heard the true Gospel preached (enlightened), and have tasted of the heavenly gift (salvation), and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit (communion).

The key verse in understanding Heb 6:4-6 is found in Heb 6:9 which do not speak about a child of God or salvation, but of unbelief which is explained in Heb 3:17-19.

God is the Author of the Bible and I don’t believe He intended that it is possible for His child to fall away!

2 Pet 2:20-22 are companion scriptures to Heb 6: 4-6.[2]

The context refutes that view

I responded:[3] This is not what the verses say in context, we read Heb 5:11-6:8 (ESV):

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

6 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

The context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) is very clear that these people are those:

  • Who have become ‘dull of hearing’ (5:11).
  • By this time, for those for whom Jesus ‘became the source of eternal salvation’ (5:9), ‘ought to be teachers’ (5:12), i.e. Christian teachers, but they needed ‘someone to teach you again’ (5:12).
  • Teach what? ‘The basic principles of the oracles of God’ (5:12).
  • These Christians needed to go back to ‘milk’ and not be fed ‘solid food’ (5:12).
  • ‘Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13). So, the author is not talking about unbelievers but about those who are ‘unskilled’ in righteousness. He is not referring to those who do not know and experience righteousness.
  • He is addressing those who are children in righteousness (5:13). Nevertheless, they are Christians of righteousness, but still need milk as children of God when they should be more mature.
  • However, ‘solid food is for the mature’. These are those who have ‘powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (5:14).
  • The author’s call is that these Christians ‘leave the elementary doctrine of Christ’ (6:1) – the milk – and ‘go on to maturity’ so that the foundation of Christ – repentance – will not be laid again. This problem they were encountering was a ‘foundation’ of ‘dead works and of faith toward God’ (6:1).
  • This elementary doctrine also included ‘instruction about washings’, ‘laying on of hands’, ‘resurrection of the dead’ and ‘eternal judgment’ (6:2). Obviously these kinds of doctrines were involved in these Christians’ belief in and teachings of the ‘milk’ of being ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13).
  • Then the author launches into the warnings of apostasy contained in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), in which the teaching is that for those who apostatise from the faith by falling away, ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God’ (6:6), thus making it ‘impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).
  • Then comes the analogy of  land that has absorbed the rain that falls, produces a crop for those who cultivate it and the blessing is thus received from God (6:7).
  • But if that crop ‘bears thorns and thistles’, ‘it is worthless’ and is ‘cursed’ and ‘burned’ (6:8).

So, it is possible for Christians to feed on the milk instead of the food and be immature in their faith and then become vulnerable to the temptations to apostatise and fall away from the faith.

That’s the context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) as I understand it. It is addressing Hebrew Christians who are warned that they could apostatise BUT ‘in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation’ (6:9). Who are the ‘beloved‘? Christians, of course!

The writer of Hebrews had this longing for the believers to whom he addressed this letter: ‘We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Heb 6:11-12 ESV).

So the writer is dealing with immature Christian believers who had been feeding on milk instead of solid food. For these, the temptation to fall away from the faith was always a possibility. But for these Hebrew Christians, the writer desired better things – perseverance in the faith.

I don’t believe the context, based on this reasoning, allows us to say that these people were ‘NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians’ (the language of the person on the forum). They were immature Christians who could be tempted away from the faith and fall into apostasy.

So close, but not a Christian

Image result for cross public domain(www.clipartlord.com)

 

How do you think this person would respond to the above exposition? Here goes:

Unfortunately, the passage concerned is Hebrews 6:4-6 which speaks that there will be “some” (in a church setting), who will fall away.

I was merely responding to Barrd’s post #10 where she claimed those who will fall away are Christians, just as you do but in a different twist, by saying these who fall away are also Christians but unskilled in the doctrines of Christ. I have yet to read in the Bible that anyone lacking in the knowledge of scriptures cannot be saved!!

We are not saved because of knowledge of Scripture.

FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!

Consider these scriptures which are self explanatory:

1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Heb 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Heb 3:17-19 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

To God Be The Glory.[4]

What has he done here?

Red herring fallacy in place of evidence

Image result for clipart red herring public domainThis fellow has done what many Christians resort to. My response was that I am flabbergasted that I provided an extended examination of the context to demonstrate the nature of the salvation that the people of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) had. He refuted not a word of this, but then gave this red herring logical fallacy:

‘FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!’

Could I be wasting my time in providing this person with an exposition in context? Seems so![5]

This person is imposing his view on the text. In biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis, that is, ‘The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original’ (Exegesis v. eisegesis).

Conclusion

Hebrews 6:4-6, when examined in context, demonstrates that it is speaking about Christians who are so immature in the faith that they are still being fed on spiritual milk.

They are so weak in the faith that they do not persevere but are tempted away from the faith and may even commit apostasy.

A person who had a pre-commitment to once-saved-always-saved theology could not accept this explanation so engaged in fallacious reasoning by committing a red herring logical fallacy. It’s impossible to have a logical conversation with anyone who uses a logical fallacy and will not deal with the illogic of his or her views.

Therefore, Heb 6:4-6 teaches that it is possible for Christians living on the milk of the Word to be so immature in the faith that they can fall away from the faith. This apostasy is so serious that they cannot be restored to repentance, which means they are lost permanently because ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (Heb 6:6).

It is serious charge to make against Scripture to make it say what it does not say. To the contrary, those who promote eternal security and deny apostasy are teaching false doctrine.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The Law & The Gospel’, The Barrd#10, 8 October 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21997-the-law-the-gospel/#entry263608 (Accessed 12 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Jun2u#18.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[4] Ibid., Jun2u#20.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#22.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 February 2018.