Category Archives: Theology

Israel Folau, Tonga and Christian conversion

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Max Wallace wrote the article, ‘Israel Folau: indoctrination and the Tongan Fakaleiti’ (On Line Opinion, 9 May 2019).[1] To me, it read like a diatribe against evangelical Christianity and vulnerability to ‘indoctrination’ because of illiteracy among the Pacific Islanders.

The chastisement of Folau by Rugby Australia (RA) for his Instagram post was used by Wallace to denigrate Folau’s brand of Christianity.

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(image courtesy RUCK.co.uk)

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For an expose of the Folau vs RA saga see: Israel Folau: When diversity means censorship.

clip_image006Let’s look at a few of Wallace’s points:

1. “The Pacific has been the target of a conversion campaign that started in the nineteenth century and continues to this day”.[2]

Is this the truth?

clip_image008(image courtesy maplets)

‘Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and an archipelago comprising 176 islands with a surface area of about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. Fifty-two of these islands are inhabited with its 103,000 people. Situated east of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific’.[3]

When did Christianity reach Tonga? According to Prepare to Serve: Tonga’s Christian History,

Mainstream Christianity arrived to Tonga in 1797 when ten London missionaries traveled to Tonga’s main island –Tongatapu. At first the missionaries had little success; however, with time Christianity began to take root in Tonga.

John Thomas and Christianity’s spread in 1826

In 1826, missionary John Thomas arrived to the islands of Tonga. Throughout his 25-year stay, John Thomas converted many Tongans to Christianity.  After John Thomas’ stay in Tonga, Christianity continued to spread. In 1882 a group of Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Tonga and helped convert the majority of Tongans to Christianity.

Here are a few reasons Christianity spread so quickly in Tonga:

  • Some Tongans believed old gods prophesied the coming of Christianity.
  • Some Tongans believed old gods prophesied the destruction of the ‘old order.’
  • Many Tongans already valued Christian ideals. Before Christian missionaries arrived, Tongans supported Sabbath observance, scripture study, honesty, and purity.[4]

Any person, no matter the nation, who is a faithful Christian, will follow Jesus’ command:

“You must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end” (Matt 28:19-20).

You may not like it, but evangelising The Pacific is part of God’s mandate to proclaim the Good News of salvation through Christ across the world.

2. Wallace makes this observation: “Islanders were persuaded to abandon their own religions and convert. Lacking literacy, with no formal education, they were vulnerable”.
The church of the first century lacked literacy skills and formal education. Oral tradition was its means of communication. Lack of literacy does not make one a non-thinker about eternal issues.

Wallace:

This is the context from which Israel Folau came to his views. Like so many of his colleagues, I suggest, he was indoctrinated when a child. His father is a pastor in his church. The family’s history is one of devotion.

Wallace seems to think a Christian family that raises its family in the teachings of Christ is engaged in indoctrination. To the contrary, such a family is being faithful to the Lord’s instruction: “Fathers, don’t make your children angry. Instead, instruct them and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them” (Eph 6:4 ERV).

So a Christian father who is pastor of a church or not a pastor is being faithful to Scripture in raising his children with instruction in the ways of the Lord. That happens in Tongan and Australian Christian families. However, your post repudiates this Scripture.
Wallace considers Folau “is one of the hundreds of thousands of targets of an indoctrination program that started two hundred years ago”.

3. No, Max! It started 2,000 years ago and has led to approximately 2.3 billion followers of Christ around the world (Hackett & McClendon 2019). It’s not indoctrination but being obedient to the teachings of the New Testament. Evangelism is the Master’s call to all true believers.

clip_image010Wallace continues: It “may not save him from the possible financial debacle that his religion has brought him to”.

Folau has stated that his relationship with Jesus is far more important than material reward. “First and foremost I live for God now“.

(image courtesy ChristArt)

4. Now Wallace drifts into a free speech discussion. The down side for Folau, he says, is that were there no contract involved, should Folau be free to parrot the ultra-conservative, centuries’ old, homophobic views of the Christianity that has brought him to this point? Yes, but the Biblical quote that Folau used was promising violent retribution, albeit indirectly, for gays, atheists and others in the future when they arrive in Hell for torture till eternity”.

His comment is a put down of Folau who is espousing Christian values, based on Scripture, supported by people around the world.

5. Wallace wrote: “It has been said in his defence that Folau was merely citing the words of the Bible, as if that lets him off the hook. Surely that is disingenuous”.
It is not disingenuous but factual and truthful. Isn’t it amazing that other wrongdoers in the list from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 have not gone public like the homosexuals. Where are the liars, idolaters and adulterers?

I have not heard Wallace or the mass media sprouting the absence of these other sinners. Homosexuals are the exclusive choice by Australian sinners, especially those in the mass media.

6. As of 5 February 2020, Folau had signed with a Super Rugby League Club, the Catalans Dragons in France. It took only 6 minutes for Folau to score his first try with the Dragons on 16 February 2020.

1.  Folau’s unorthodox Christianity

Folau’s Christianity is not that of traditional, Trinitarian orthodoxy. Instead, it belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.

See my article: Israel Folau teaches false doctrine.

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(photo courtesy PHOTOSPORT)

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(image courtesy dragons Catalans)

2.  Works consulted

Hackett, C & McClendon, D 2019. Pew Research Center (online). ‘Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe’, 5 April. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/ (Accessed 17 October 2020).

3.  Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20291 (Accessed 23 May 2019).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maplets 2014. Tonga (online), 28 May. Available at: http://www.mobilemaplets.com/showplace/11245 (Accessed 14 May 2019).

[4] Alex 2014. Prepare to Serve (online), 2 July. Available at: http://preparetoserve.com/blog/tongas-christian-history/ (Accessed 14 May 2019).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 October 2020.

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Welcome to ho-hum Christianity!

Ho Hum!

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

1. What’s the meaning of ‘ho-hum’?

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

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

2. Evangelical Christianity

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

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

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

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

2.1 Allegorical teaching

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

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

“Come,” he said.

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

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

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

2.2 The dangers of allegorical interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.1 Clement of Alexandria

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

In one of his publications that survives, he wrote:

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

2.2.2 Philo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.3 Origen

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

3. Thrash music

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

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

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

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

4. Incompetent preachers

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

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

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

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

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

5. Theological liberalism

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

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

My comment to him as OzSpen was:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Conclusion

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

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

7.  Works consulted

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

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

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

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

8.  Notes


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

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

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

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

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

Theism vs Panentheism

https://i2.wp.com/www.rivieraucc.org/files/Panenthesim.png?resize=376%2C289

(Image courtesy riveraucc)

Is this a diagram of orthodox Christian theism?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Panentheism means ‘”all in God.” It is also called process theology (since it views God as a changing Being) [Geisler 1999:576].

This is the person’s retort to my teaching at: Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Does Christianity affirm this understanding of God? This person’s responses are in red font.

1.    The Judeo-Christian God is outside the universe

The biblical teaching is that the Judeo-Christian God had to be outside the universe for him to create the universe, which is external to him.

1.1   Illogical that God is outside the universe

Regarding my statement that the God who is outside the universe created it, you stated:

This is not logical. I feel this is a lame attempt to explain how evil can exist alongside God.  What did God use then, to create the universe?  This does not resonate with me as I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.  God may be “outside” the universe, however, this does not mean that the universe is not God.  He may not be in this universe, however, this universe is in him.

Take a listen to an interview with leading Christian apologist, born in India, the late Ravi Zacharias, about the problem of evil and God:

It is perfectly logical if you take the biblical text of Genesis 1 seriously. Your response indicates to me that you haven’t done an exegesis of Genesis to arrive at an understanding of how God created the heavens and the earth. In Scripture, He tells us specifically but you don’t seem to want to accept God’s view, but instead take the line, ‘This does not resonate with me’.

That sure sounds like Frank Sinatra’s worldview, ‘I did it my way‘. I’m trying to be kind in my understanding of your analysis of the origin of the universe, but I find some contradictory and nonsensical things in what you wrote here, for example:

clip_image003‘I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.’ If I’m to take that at face value, there is nothing – including you and me – that is not God. I can assure you that I’m a sinful human being who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). I am not God. My car, house and the beautiful Australian landscape are not God. They are separate from God because they are created things and are in need of creators.

clip_image003[1] If the universe is God, then this keyboard on which I type, computer screen, PC hard drive, office chair, and my meal tonight are God. Surely you know that is nonsensical thinking.

1.2 Genesis 1-2 disagrees

It seems to me you need to do some reading and study of the first 2 chapters of the Book of Genesis. I recommend H C Leopold, Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (available online).  Genesis 1:1 (NIV), the first verse of the Bible, is teeming with meaning, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. This sentence is so full of meaning because it declares to us:

    (a)    God did several things (all stated in this verse) at once. These are …

    (b)    God is the Supreme Being who created the universe. Before the universe came into being, there was the Person, God. We know He is a person because he created personal beings, Adam & Eve.

    (c)    God exists independently of matter and sequential time. He is independent of space and time. This is possible because some of His prominent attributes are declared in this verse.

    (d)    According to this verse, before the creation of the heavens and the earth there was nothing. ‘Theologians speak of God’s immensity, infinity, and transcendence to describe this and our minds race at the thought of it, unable to take it in. All we can do is acquiesce and worship’.

1.3 God’s creation of everything in the universe

Genesis 1:1 teaches that everything that exists in the universe was created by God. There is a special Hebrew verb used in this verse which is translated ‘God created’. For this act of creation the verb b?r? is used. When this verb appears in the Old Testament, God is always the subject, stated or implied. Yes, human beings also ‘create poetry, music, literature, construction work, etc, but there is nothing to compare with God who creates. It is used in Gen 1:1, 21, 27 and Gen 2:4.

In Gen 1:21 and 27, creation does not exclude pre-existing material. However, in all of these verses, the emphasis is on the ‘achievement of something completely new’. The point of these verses is that the All-Powerful God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). Eastern creation stories from Egypt and Mesopotamia assumed their gods worked with existing materials.

Can you imagine the power of the God who created the entire universe? But there is more to the what of creation …

1.4 God and creation of darkness

Genesis 1:2 states, ‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. What does it mean that it was ‘formless and empty’? God’s initial creation out of nothing was on in its final form.

What God initially brought into being was “t?hu vab?hu,” a “formless and empty mass.” Initially, the created universe had no distinctive shape; its structure would be formed by the artistry and design of God. In this sense, we are like God. We, too, fashion and mold and make things that are often beautiful. It is, in part, what Genesis 1:26–27 means by saying that Adam was created “in the image of God.” Man, too, creates, or better, re-creates, shapes his environment in such a way as to reflect something pleasing and good. Once man fell, this capacity became as much a liability as a blessing: his capacity to fashion became a means to idolatry (Derek Thomas, Table Talk, ‘Creation Ex Nihilo‘, January 2006).

In Scripture, God doesn’t reveal Himself in anyway that resembles ‘it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God‘. Your view promotes panentheism, i.e. the world is in God; nothing is not God. To be honest, this is a self-construct, although there are many followers. See the panentheist supporter, Dr Marcus J Borg (1997). The God we never knew. He died in 2015, so now knows the truth about his view of God.

News from the Diocesan Worship Adviser - The Church of England ...

(photo of Michael W Brierley courtesy Diocese of Worster, UK)

 

Other panentheists include Michael W. Brierley, a Church of England priest in the diocese of Exeter UK  and Philip Clayton, contemporary American philosopher of religion and science, Claremont Graduate School of Theology.

Imagine having a minister of a Christian church who did not accept that God who lives outside creation, created the universe. That’s what we have with Michael Brierley, an Anglican priest in the  UK. This is a demonstration of how far the Anglican church has moved away from orthodox Christianity, to accept a leader who is a panentheist.

2.    Lucifer is part of God

In my discussion about the origin of Satan, you responded:

Once again, this does not quite sit well with me.  If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all.  There must be trillions upon trillions of different endings to this story if we have the ability to choose.  Only God knows which ending is the true ending then. How can God create what he doesn’t know?  Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?

2.1 Subjective opinion is not good enough

clip_image005‘Once again, this does not quite sit well with me‘ is a subjective response that is open to other kinds of subjective responses, e.g. The ‘7 deadly sins’ nails areas of my life where I need to be right with God. May I suggest you move to the more objective position: What does God say about these sins in Scripture? I need to be obedient to him.

clip_image005[1]    ‘If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all‘. This is your hypothesis. We know Lucifer did not create the 7 deadly sins. It is a misinterpretation to make the 7 deadly sins an indicator for your panentheistic theology. Besides, all sins are forgivable by God, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29).

clip_image005[2]    ‘How can God create what he doesn’t know?‘ He knows everything because of his attribute of omniscience, so there is nothing God doesn’t know (1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:1-4; Acts 1:24).

Your God is too small and has the wrong digestion system. I suggest you read a sound book of Christian theology on the attributes of God. I’m thinking of Norman L Geisler, Systematic Theology in one volume. I could never find your God in Scripture. God knows everything he created. How do we know? He told us so: Psalm 147:5; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:18).

Are the 7 deadly sins found in the Bible? Yes and no! In Proverbs 6:16–19 you can read of 7 things that God detests.

When God created human beings he didn’t create robots. He produced men who raise cattle and work in offices, women who raise children at home while others choose to go into many occupations in the work force. Wouldn’t it be a horrible world if you or I could not make choices of what we eat and which brand of steak is preferred?

clip_image005[3]    ‘Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?‘ Your premise is false. God had a full understanding of the negative choices people would make (see verses above), but he chose to create people with free will, knowing the consequences. Remember that the one who created everything from nothing, knew what people would do with their free will, provided a way of escape. It was redemption for sinners who respond in faith to Jesus, the one who shed his blood for our atonement (cleansing of sin).

3.    No place for evil side with God

You wrote: ‘there is no place for this evil/negative side to exist within God ‘. This causes your worldview to come crashing down in the heap of panentheism. If there is no place for evil within God, how can you justify this statement: ‘God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God ‘? If ‘God is all‘, then ‘God’s “all” includes evil and the negative side‘. Are you prepared to defend that position in the public square: Facebook, Twitter, online forums, letters to the editor that the terrorist monsters, the rapists and Hitler exist within God? Is he the holy God of justice or is he some other ‘person’ who has an image generated by panentheism?

4.    Darkness is not separate to God

clip_image007 You wrote: ‘To suggest that the darkness is separate to God would give the impression that God is up against another entity separate from him.  I can’t gel with that.

Neither does it gel with me either. Here’s why: In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told the story of the ungodly rich man and the godly beggar. When they died, the rich man went to Hades (for punishment), while the beggar went to Abraham’s Side (heaven). The rich man in Hades was experiencing ‘agony in the fire … this place of torment’ (vv 26, 28). It was conscious punishment. See also Matthew 12:36-37 and Luke 12:47-48. This article explains the biblical teaching: Is God in hell?

clip_image007[1]  ‘I haven’t read anywhere in the Bible that in the beginning there was God and the Word and darkness‘.

I can’t believe you’ve made such an uninformed statement. Take a read of these early verses from Genesis 1: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day’ (Gen 1:1-5).

There you have it right before your eyes that in the beginning there was God and darkness. Where does Scripture affirm that the Word was in the beginning? It’s in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’.

Who is ‘the Word’? ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. So, John 1:1 teaches that Jesus was the Word who was God. However, this One who is God also became a human being, the God-man who was ‘the Word [who] became flesh’ (John 1:14) and lived on earth among human beings.

The Bible contradicts your view that there was no darkness separate to God as He created darkness. May I suggest you do more careful reading of Scripture to arrive at an accurate understanding, instead of imposing your panentheistic views on Scripture.

5.    Why I will never support panentheism

Figure 2The references you have provided do not convince me that there is something that is not a part of God that can then go up against him’.

I can guarantee you that I’m not a part of God, although I have Jesus living in me, because of salvation through Christ. I don’t expect to convince you from Scripture that the almighty God is the Creator who created the universe from outside the universe. Here is why I’m not a panentheist:[1]

a. The nature of God.

The Bible teaches nothing about the panentheist God who has two poles. The biblical God is self-existent and this includes many supernatural attributes.

b.    The nature of the universe.

Instead of the universe being processed (changing), the Christian God is immutable (changeless) and the evidence he provided in the reliable Bible (using historical criteria) is that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing)..

c.    Miracles

Since your view is that the world is in God, it conflicts with the almighty God who demonstrated many miracles throughout history. He can do that because he stands outside of the universe. In your worldview, there is no need for supernatural acts and in fact they are impossible.

d.    The nature of human beings

Your worldview allows for human beings to be personal and free. But your view is that humanity was co-created with God and is of God. This is radically different to the Christian view of original sin and the need for a Saviour to cleanse us from sin through repentance and faith.

e.    Ethics

Do you believe there are absolute values? Are the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) always true or are they in process and can change?

In the words of Dr William Lane Craig, these are three reasons why I am not a panentheist:

1) Does God act as a cause outside of nature or are acts of nature acts of God without an external cause outside of nature? The Bible teaches that God on occasion acts as a cause outside nature. The effects of such actions are called miracles. The supreme example is the creation of the universe itself. We have good evidence for such a transcendent cause, e.g., evidence for the beginning of the universe and evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, which cannot be accounted for by wholly natural causes.

2) Is the universe eternal? If the universe is eternal could God be the cause of the universe’s existence? The Bible teaches that the universe is not eternal but was created by God at some time in the past, a view that is confirmed scientifically and is eminently reasonable philosophically. Setting aside philosophical arguments against the eternality of the past, there is no reason that God could not create an eternal universe. For any time t, the universe would depend for its existence upon God at t, whether or not there were moments of time earlier than t.

3) Can God be the universe and exist apart from the universe at the same time? Obviously, if God = the universe, then since the universe cannot exist apart from the universe, neither can God exist apart from the universe! But I think the more appropriate question is whether the universe could be a part of God. Biblically, that’s ruled out, and most of the traditional theistic arguments rule it out as well. God and the world are ontologically distinct (Panentheism).

f.    The nature of biblical revelation

I consider one of your greatest issues with biblical Christianity is that you will not accept Scripture at face value. When the eternal God stated he ‘created the heavens and the earth’ from outside of the universe, you reject this and impose your panentheistic interpretation on it. The presuppositions of panentheism drive your views of reality. You seem to impose them on Scripture and don’t want to admit what you do. Nowhere in Scripture have I read anything that looks like ‘the universe is in God’.

6.    God is sinful

‘Because God is all creating does not mean He is not sinless.

By this statement, are you contending that God is sinful – He is not sinless? Sadly, you don’t understand how a sinful person could cleanse the sins of all people throughout human history who have responded to Jesus in repentance and faith.

6.1 Jesus is sinless

Your view flatly denies biblical teaching on the need for a sinless Saviour who was a sacrifice to cleanse human beings of their sins. These are but a few examples:

clip_image0092 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV): ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

clip_image009[1] 1 Peter 2:22 : ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’.

clip_image009[2]Hebrews 4:15: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin’.

clip_image009[3]1 John 3:5: ‘But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin’.

So, God the Son, one person in the Trinity, was sinless.

 

6.2 What about God the Father?

clip_image011 Numbers 23:19: ‘God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind’. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?’

 

clip_image011[1]Deuteronomy 32:34: ‘I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he’.

 

clip_image011[2]1 Samuel 15:29, ‘He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind’.

 

clip_image011[3]2 Timothy 2:13: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself’.

 

clip_image011[4]Titus 1:2: ‘… in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time’.

 

clip_image011[5]Hebrews 6:18: ‘God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged’.

 

clip_image011[6]James 1:13: ‘When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone’.

 

clip_image011[7]1 John 1:5: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’.

 

I could provide additional Scripture to support the teaching on God, the Holy Spirit, who is not a sinner.

7. Theism vs Panentheism

Norman Geisler has provided this helpful summary of the differences between orthodox theism and panentheism (Geisler 1999:576):

Theism Panentheism
God is Creator. God is director.
Creation is ex nihilo. Creation is ex materia.
God is sovereign over world. God is dependent on world.
God is independent over world. God is dependent on world.
God is unchanging. God is changing.
God is absolutely prefect. God is growing more perfect.
God is mono-polar. God is bi-polar.
God is actually infinite. God is actually finite.

 

Where can panentheism be found today? It can be found in Hinduism, Sikhism, certain mystical Jewish traditions, Taoism, some Christianity where it is also called process theology (including the Eastern Orthodox Church. Unitarian Universalist Church),  some Sufi Islamic saints and thinkers had panentheistic views, and Gnosticism.

8.    Main issue

In my view, your main problem is that you choose not to accept the Scripture at face value but replace it with the irrational reasoning of panentheism that does not match reality. This is called eisegesis of any form of literature. It is based on the NT Greek preposition eis, which means ‘in/into’. So, when you read your worldview into the text, you come up with an interpretation that does not come out of the text.

9. Works consulted

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

10. Note

[1] These points were made by Geisler (1999:577-578).

Panentheism - Wikiquote

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

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Is God in hell?

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

clip_image002

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

While blogging on a Christian forum, I met a person who wrote: ‘I don’t believe God dwells in Hell. That’s what Jews believe’.[1]

Is that true or false?

1. Hades and God’s omnipresence

God’s omnipresence means

God is everywhere present at once (omni=everywhere = present). Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent [from]…. It is helpful to see what omnipresence does not mean. It does not mean that God is creation; this is pantheism…. In theism God made the world; in pantheism God is the world. Nor does omnipresence mean that God is in creat6ion, which is panentheism (Geisler 2003:169-170).

The Bible teaches God is omnipresent (Prov 15:3; 1 Kings 8:27; Jer 23:23-24; Matt 18:20; Ps 139:7-12). He is everywhere all the time and that means he will be present forever in hell as the Judge and perpetrator of punishment.

Proverbs 15:3 (NIV) supports this view: ‘The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good’. The wicked are on earth and also in Hades/Hell. The Lord is active in watching them.

2. What is Hades?

It is ‘the place of the dead’ (Eccl 9:10; Ps 55:23; Acts 2:27) or ‘the place of departed souls/spirits’ (Eccl 12:7; Isa 14:9-10, 19).

There does seem to be a contradiction in Scripture regarding God’s presence in Hades or not. Paul speaks of being ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thess 1:9 NIV).

However, Scripture also teaches in Revelation 14:20 (NIV) that anyone who receives the beast’s image

will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

How can the damned be shut out from God’s presence and still experience fury from God, in the presence of the Lamb? They seem to be conflicting statements.

These verses are best reconciled, in my view, by recognizing that judgment consists in being excluded from God’s presence as the source of all blessedness, but not from God’s omnipresent lordship (Michael Horton, Hell is not separation from God).

Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV) destroys the view that God is not in Sheol/Hades:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.


Seamless Realistic Fire Border...

3. Works consulted

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

4.  Notes

[1] Brian100 #587. Christianity Board, ‘Atheist objections to evidence for God’s existence’, 8 July 2020 (Accessed 10 July 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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Total depravity: Are all people infected by sin?

Lessons I learned from this interaction

Dialogue

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

By Spencer Gear PhD

It is acceptable to send rugby league, ice hockey and basketball players to the SIN BIN when they violate certain rules of the code. To talk about all people committing SIN and needing punishment invites hisses from opponents.

Some of the articles in ‘Truth Challenge’ are generated by my discussion of issues with people. This topic is one of them.

1. The White Australia Policy is not the solution

A person had the cheek to sing the praises of The White Australia Policy:[1] He (I think he’s male) claimed human beings were tribal and territorial. What held societies together were shared beliefs and values of what constitutes right and wrong?

Therefore, it is a ‘cultural universal’ to want to live among one’s own kind of people. The ghettoes of ‘suburban enclaves’ in Australia demonstrate that multiculturalism has failed. It never works, he stated.

What do these “multicultural” states have in common?

Lebanon, Fiji, Cyprus, Georgia, Afghanistan, Biafra, Rhodesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Liberia, Kashmir, Punjab, Sudan, Nigeria, Bougainville, East Timor, Yugoslavia, Kurdistan, New Zealand, Bhutan, Angola, Burma, Chechnya, Guadalcanal, Aden, Malaya, Oman, Congo, Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel, Czechoslovakia, Yemen, Mexico, East Timor, Thailand and recently, Ukraine.
Why do you want Australia to emulate their failed societies?

Then there was this king hit from him: ‘If Australia had kept the White Australia Policy, this country would now be a stronger, more prosperous and a safer country than it is now’.

Instead we have ‘diversity bollards’ on our streets, teachers not wanting to teach in troubled schools with Muslim and African students. He gave many other examples of how he sees multiculturalism’s failures.

He tackled another person who he claimed thought that ‘racism is bad. ‘Anything associated with racism must not even be thought about or considered in any way. Turn off brain. Bask in the reflected glory of your shining moral virtue’.

He continued to extol the virtues of the White Australia Policy, which he claimed would have made Australia ‘a stronger, more prosperous and a safer country than it is now’.

Is a return to The White Australia Policy a decent step towards progress in immigration in Australia?

2. A major error of his analysis

The problem with this assessment[2] is that it avoids a fundamental problem with the human race, including the Caucasian race.

Exalting the White Australia Policy and dumbing down on multiculturalism misses a critical factor that is present in all people.

2.1 ‘Whites’ have the same contamination

Sin (breaking God’s laws) infects all of us, no matter what the colour. I’ve addressed some of this problem in my On Line Opinion article: Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us‘.
clip_image001Here’s an example of a rugby league referee giving a “sin bin” penalty against a player, signifying the ten minutes that the offender must spend off the field (photo courtesy Wikipedia). Ice hockey calls it the ‘penalty box’. A similar action applies to other sports where the violation was not serious enough to ban for the rest of the game.

Sin is a good word to describe the corruption all of us suffer from. We have no problem sending rugby league and rugby union players to the Sin Bin when they violate rules of the game.
Many non-Christians will reject this diagnosis, but we see it all over Australia in examples from the
Sexual Abuse Royal Commission, the Banking Royal Commission, and the crime and violence we see on the nightly TV news. I know we all have to battle with lying, stealing, deceit, evil thoughts, sexual immorality, etc (and that includes me, a ‘white’ person).
You do remember Hitler & the Nazi Holocaust, Mussolini’s killing brigade, the Soviet Gulag and the European-Communist problem? Resorting to a White Australia Policy focusses on one group that is supposed to be better than other races. The truth is that ALL races are infected with the same sinful disease as the rest of humanity. Europeans and Russian people have as much contamination as people from all races with different coloured skins.

This is what this fellow’s analysis demonstrated. In my view, his conclusions are wrong but I couldn’t imagine he would recognise the problem and be open to the solution.

2.2 Claims with illogical reasoning

This person’s reply did not deal with the issues I raised by the all-encompassing influence of sin. Take a read of his comeback:

I gather from your article that you are a Christian? OK, I don’t have a problem with Christianity because it is part of western culture, and the moral code that Christianity imparted is the reason why western societies are much more peaceful and honest than cultures based upon other religions. But I reject the idea that all people are equal. Even God discriminates between those who worship him and those who do not.

Exactly what you are inferring in the rest of your reply is unclear. You seem to associate racism with sin, Hitler and genocide. Your inference seems to be, that even thinking that there might be some validity in racism is sinful and therefore unthinkable. You have set yourself an intellectual boundary that you refuse to think past, because you think it must lead to Nazism and genocide.[3]

So he considers in what I’ve written above that:

clip_image003 He ‘reject(s) the idea that all people are equal’.

clip_image003[1] He can express his worldview of God discriminating against those who don’t worship Him.

clip_image003[2] I seem to associate racism with sin, Hitler and genocide.

clip_image003[3] I think racism must lead to Nazism and genocide.

Of these points, there is only one with which I agree: Racism is sin. How do I know? The Scriptures tell me so:

clip_image005 Gal 3:28 (NIV), ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’.

clip_image005[1] James 2:5-7 (NIRV),

5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen to me. Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor in the world’s eyes to be rich in faith? Hasn’t he chosen them to receive the kingdom? Hasn’t he promised it to those who love him? 6 But you have disrespected poor people. Aren’t rich people taking advantage of you? Aren’t they dragging you into court? 7 Aren’t they speaking evil things against the worthy name of Jesus? Remember, you belong to him.

In 1993, Billy Graham wrote his message on ‘the sin of racism’. Part of what he wrote was:

Racism is a sin precisely because it keeps us from obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, and because it has its roots in pride and arrogance. Christians who harbor racism in their attitudes or actions are not following their Lord at this point, for Christ came to bring reconciliation—reconciliation between us and God, and reconciliation between each other. He came to accept us as we are, whoever we are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) [Billy Graham on Racism, 2018].

2.2.1 Nature of illogical reasoning

This was how he dished it up to me: [4]

Thinking my way was pursuing the thoughts of …

Christians who refused to consider the validity of the Earth not being the centre of the universe, or whether the earth was round, or whether evolution was a fact. Because to even think about any of these concepts meant that you were denying the holy scriptures, and therefore committing heresy.

He came down on me as one who

may even believe that the earth is the centre of the universe, that the earth is flat, and a committed “intelligent design” believer? But if you are smart enough to realise that those concepts are clearly wrong, and that believing the opposite does not mean that you are renouncing God, then for God’s sake do the same with racism.

He proceeded to goad me: If I considered that racism had some validity, it doesn’t mean I’ve resigned from the human race. He put forward two racist ideas in the western world:

clip_image007 ‘White western people are cause of all the world’s problems and they are vilest race on Earth’.

clip_image007[1] ‘The reason why some ethnicities are always successful and why some are always dysfunctional may have a lot to do with genetics’.

He asked: Which idea is correct?

What is he trying to do with this kind of response which imposes his non-Christian views about Christianity on what I wrote? Is he using a particular tactic that avoids dealing with the matters I raised? Read on!

3. The human heart is desperately wicked

Please read my post again at: OzSpen, Saturday, 6 October 2018 6:31:33 AM.[5]

At no point did I suggest any of the red herring logical fallacies you raised in your last post.

What I emphasised was your favouring the White Australia Policy when the whites are as contaminated with sin like all others – whether black, white or brindle.

The prophet Jeremiah nailed it: ‘The human heart [inner part] is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?’ (Jer 17:9).

The next verse affirms that the Lord God ‘searches all hearts and examines secret motives’. The human race has had this sinful nature problem since the beginning of time (Genesis 3).
You claim: ‘But I reject the idea that all people are equal’.
The Scriptures contradict you (and so do I). Scriptures support the equality of all human beings. When God made the first human beings, ‘God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us’’ (Genesis 1:26). Equality among all human beings is God’s design.

You stated: “Even God discriminates between those who worship him and those who do not”.

That might be how you see it, but when God says, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex 20:3), he is demonstrating who He is in the context of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and crossing the Red Sea into Canaan. Exodus 15:11 states ‘Who is like you among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?’

This is not discrimination but stating facts:
clip_image009 In the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the miracle of Yahweh allowed them to cross the water on dry land, while Pharaoh and his armies were drowned.
clip_image009[1] Israel saw God’s great power against the Egyptians in their deliverance.
clip_image009[2] Therefore, the Israelites exalted the one true God. Who is like Jehovah among the gods? No other god compares.

We see evidence all around us of human depravity – from individuals, corporations, church organisations and governments. I urge you to quit inventing things I didn’t write in my post.

4. Refusal to debate if biblical texts used

To the above, this person only had this to say:

I debate using reason and logic. If you wish to use religious texts to justify your amazing worldview, then let’s just call it a day. I will note your name and I will not address posts to you again.[6]

This assumes my quoting from the Bible (religious texts) to support my ‘amazing worldview’ is not of sufficient value to continue the discussion and he won’t address posts by me again

Let’s see if he can live up to that claim or will he be dishonest and continue to interact with me?

4.1 Is the Bible a reliable source?

When I use biblical texts,[7] I’m quoting from documents that are reliable and trustworthy, even on a purely historical basis. Take a read of this article from the secular, The Huffington Post, “2,500 Year Old Jewish Tablets Discovered in Iraq” (2015).

clip_image011(Image courtesy The Huffington Post Australia)

What does this non-Christian source conclude about this discovery? “This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text”.

See also my articles:

clip_image013 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image013[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image013[2] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image013[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

My “amazing worldview” is rooted in aletheia (truth) which means,

(a) ‘truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed’ (Rom 3:7; 15:8);

(b) ‘truth as the opposite of false’ (Mk 5:33; 1 Tim 2:7);

(c) ‘reality as opposed to mere appearance’ (Rom 2:2; Phil 1:18) [from Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:35-36].

In the future, you state you [LEGO] will avoid posts by Toni and me. Are you afraid to debate alternate views with reason, logic and truthfulness?

When addressing ‘runner’, you dumped your worldview on the readers, “Mothers of Gods, etc.” without explanation.

As for eternal life or eternal damnation, one minute after your last breath you’ll wish you had discussed this further with us, instead of resorting to your Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy of “compulsive psychological need” and “even stars die”.
Don’t you get it that human beings are not stars?

4.2 Avoiding the issues: The errors of his ways

Take a read of how LEGO replied to the above response. [8]

He wrote of ‘pseudo liberals’, left wing people who think they are intelligent, progressives who don’t denounce free speech, freedom of association, and evidence-based logic.

His claim was that leftist activists are social conservatives trying to shut up criticism of their failed ideologies of socialism and multiculturalism. The public no longer trusts the pseudo liberal media to tell the truth. (Note: He does acknowledge there is ‘truth’ but what is truth to him? Where would he fit in the above definitions?)

His next discussion was

the farcical, fake news furore over the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice in the USA. By any application of reasoned logic, it is obvious that the charges of sexual misconduct leveled at Trump’s appointee by politically partisan activists is a frame up. When the pseudo liberals demanded the FBI investigate, it did so and found nothing. No witnesses, no corroboration, and odd memory lapses and strange behaviour by the accusers. Then the pseudo liberals claimed the FBI was biased.

Those are not my words but those of LEGO, to whom I responded.

He compared the pseudo liberal media with its fake news to the Korean War Chinese propaganda where some US pilots were forced to admit the cruel capitalist masters forced them to commit inhumane germ warfare on the ‘peace loving socialist people’.

What did he do with that kind of response to what I wrote?

4.2.1 Failing to address the issues

My retort will demonstrate the errors I saw in his post.[9]

In my previous reply to him, I mentioned …

clip_image015 Your illogical use of an Appeal to Ridicule logical fallacy;

 clip_image015[1]Your failure to write a logical sentence when you misspelled ‘psuedo’;

 clip_image015[2] When I quote from the Bible, I’m referring to reliable and trustworthy texts and I gave one example.

clip_image015[3]
My Christian worldview is rooted in aletheia (NT Greek for truth);

clip_image015[4]I asked: Are you afraid to debate Toni (another poster) and OzSpen when you stated you would avoid posts by us?
You dumped your worldview on ‘runner’ (another poster).

clip_image015[6] You committed an Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy in your comment about those who seek eternal life.

 There was not one sentence in his reply that addressed the specifics of what I wrote.

He gave his rationalisation about Tony vs Toni and then called Toni he, him and his. How does he know Toni is a male?

Instead of addressing my issues with his reply post, he was off and running with his own agenda of …

• today’s left wing people;
• leftist activist class;
• new Supreme Court judge in the USA, and
• pseudo liberal media.

When he avoids the topics I raised, creating his own content, he gave us another logical fallacy, the Red Herring.

Red Herring
(also known as: beside the point, misdirection [form of], changing the subject, false emphasis,… irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, clouding the issue, ignorance of refutation)
Description: Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument (Source:
Logically Fallacious).

He doesn’t seem to understand how his claim of using logic and reason is wrecked by his use of logical fallacies, which amount to erroneous reasoning.
I urged him to address the issues I raised and give us the agenda with which he is more comfortable debating. We can’t have a rational debate when he uses irrational tactics – logical fallacies.

4.3 How logical fallacies destroy meaningful debates or discussions

Dr L Kip Wheeler, assistant professor at Carson-Newman University, Tennessee USA, provided this assessment of logical fallacies for his students in composition and literature:

Fallacies are statements that might sound reasonable or superficially true but are actually flawed or dishonest. When readers detect them, these logical fallacies backfire by making the audience think the writer is (a) unintelligent or (b) deceptive. It is important to avoid them in your own arguments, and it is also important to be able to spot them in others’ arguments so a false line of reasoning won’t fool you (Logical Fallacies Handlist).

The Future Team at the University of Auckland stated:

One reason they’re [logical fallacies] common is that they can be quite effective! But if we offer or are convinced by a fallacious argument we will not be acting as good logical and critical thinkers (Common Fallacies).

4.3.1 Lessons I’ve learned from conversation with LEGO

I have to be honest and say that I failed in my approach with him, particularly with the naming of his logical fallacies. Josh Brahm paraphrased what his friend and colleague, Trent Horn, said about identifying logical fallacies:

I would encourage people to not say ‘you committed X fallacy’ because it’s terribly presumptuous and arrogant and most people don’t appreciate talking to someone who points out every little fallacy they make. Instead you should follow Greg Koukl’s tactics and Justice For All’s training and ask, “why do you think that?” And then continue to ask follow up questions.

As Trent suggests, you could ask whether a bad person could be right about something. That’s so much better than accusing them of making an ad hominem fallacy!

Confession time: it was only a few months ago that I responded to somebody who posted a comment on my Facebook profile by telling them that it appeared they were committing the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc and included this link so they could educate themselves and not make that mistake anymore.

I’m cringing as I write this. Yeah, I really did that.

clip_image017If you’re using Latin during a debate, you probably sound like a jerk.

You know what would have been better? I could have said something like this: “I want to understand your argument, but I’m not sure I do. What it sounds like you’re saying is that because this thing happened after this other thing that the first thing caused it. Am I misunderstanding you? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.”

Do you see the difference? It’s not easy though. Easy is naming the fallacy. Hard, but better, is being able to think to yourself, “I believe he just committed the genetic fallacy,” and then thinking of questions to ask with an open heart that will help the person see the problem with their reasoning. You could ask, “I want to understand you. Can I ask a clarification question? It sounds like you’re implying that because this person is biased, their argument must be wrong. Is that what you’re saying?”

But to do that you really need to understand what the fallacies are, because that will better prepare you to ask the right kinds of questions when a fallacy is committed (The Best Way to Expose Logical Fallacies: Don’t Call Them by Name).

I have learned a big lesson from this discussion / debate with LEGO. I must ask probing questions instead of labelling his logical fallacies by name.

5. Conclusion

Throughout this interchange, I saw my blind spots concerning biblical teachings

(a) There was an acknowledgement that ‘I don’t have a problem with Christianity because it is part of western culture, and the moral code that Christianity imparted is the reason why western societies are much more peaceful and honest than cultures based upon other religions’.

However, there was a failure to pursue this to deal with the foundation of Christianity in the Judeo-Christian God with whom there is no parallel.

(b) If Christianity is so valuable, why dumb down on the nature of the biblical texts (Scripture) and treat them as unreliable or irrelevant.

(c) One of his major problems is violating the law of non-contradiction, which can be described in these ways:

Bill Pratt has explained the law of non-contradiction 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

LEGO was assuring us that he used ‘reason and logic’ and then committed illogical actions in his use of logical fallacies, which amount to erroneous reasoning. Thus, his view was: I believe in logic and not-logic (logical fallacies).

To maintain rational existence, we must live by the law of non-contradiction.

(d) He refused to respond when I called him for the logical fallacies he committed. Instead he would go into what he wanted to talk about, thus committing another logical fallacy, the Red Herring.

(e) I learned much from this encounter: I should never give the proper name to the logical fallacy, but to use questions that try to get to the heart of what I see as the fallacy committed. I’ll never name logical fallacies in further posts online or those that make it from blogs to an article on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge.

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(Image courtesy Cognitive World)

6. Works consulted

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

7. Note

[1] Comment to Spencer Gear’s article, Fake News! The Senator Fraser Anning saga, 3 October, 2018, On Line Opinion, (online). Posted by LEGO, Friday, 5 October 2018 1:53:49 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=3 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[2] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen [Spencer Gear], Saturday, 6 October 2018 6:31:33 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=4 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[3] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Saturday, 6 October 2018 9:12:43 AM, Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=5 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 6 October 2018 1:16:27 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=19972&page=5 (Accessed 8 October 2018).

[6] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Sunday, 7 October 2018 3:49:28 AM.

[7] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 7 October 2018 7:58:51 AM.

[8] Ibid., Posted by LEGO, Sunday, 7 October 2018 10:43:28 AM.

[9] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 8 October 2018 8:05:23 AM,

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

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Bible Translation Challenges

Image result for clipart KJV Bible

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What would get Christians up in arms about the best Bible translation?

Try a dialogue with the heading, ‘What is regarded as the best and most accurate version of the Bible?’ on a Christian online forum and the antagonists emerge from the pages of the Bible with Textus Receptus grins or snarls.

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(image courtesy fundamentallyreformed)

This topic led to a particular defender of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible to come forward, presenting it as the best Bible translation.

1. Difficulties for translators

As the discussion was progressing with the KJV supporter opposing those who supported modern translations such as the NIV and ESV, one of the moderators, gave this excellent example of the difficulties translators face:[1]

When a phrase is translated from one language to another, the translator has no recourse but to do so by expressing a thought. Differences in sentence structure, word meanings, context, and interpretation of the message all play a role. For example, because of the sentence structure differences between languages, to translate a phrase from French or Spanish to English in direct word-for-word form would generally result in a phrase that would not make any sense at all. This is because the order of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. are different. Furthermore, some of the French or Spanish words won’t have an English equivalent so what does one do with that? The only choice is to translate the phrase thought-for-thought along with intent-for-intent.

Here’s an example of how changing the order of just one word within a sentence written in English can completely change the meaning of the entire sentence.

Only you can have a sandwich for lunch. When I read this sentence, it is understood that I am the only one that can have a sandwich and nobody else.

You can only have a sandwich for lunch. Moving the word “only” to a different place within the same 8-word sentence and look what happens. Now, it is understood that all I can have is a sandwich for lunch and nothing else. Also, the word “you” could be either singular or plural and possibly addressing a group.

You only can have a sandwich for lunch. Look what happened now. Now, the sentence is confusing. Is this sentence saying that I can have a sandwich and nothing else or is it saying that I am the only one that can have a sandwich and nobody else?

There isn’t a Bible that has been translated into English or any language that is truly accurate. Every one of them is the result of a group of scholars agreeing on the intended meaning. Just like my sample sentence above, just repeating what another has said is really just another form of translation but how the translator understands what is said or written can impact the result.

Whenever we carry on a conversation, the intention of what is said and what is understood can be entirely different. Since we don’t have the original autographed text to work from we are left with ancient writings that had already been translated at least once or more even if within the same language. Therefore, we are stuck trying to piece it all together by combining the reference texts we have.

Even if we did have the original autographed text to work from and we could read and understand the words, we would not agree on the intended meaning of what is written. This is then when we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us, and lead us toward understanding God’s intended meaning.

I found this to be a superb example of the challenges many Bible translators face, not only for established ancient and modern English translations but also with translators who work for Wycliffe Bible Translators / SIL and other such organisations.

These latter translators work from the oral language, beginning with translators who know the language, bring it into print (a massive job in understanding grammar and syntax of the oral language). Then they translate Scripture into that language – one book of the Bible at a time. What a job!

Here SIL explains The Typical Process of Bible Translation.

2. A stubborn stickler for the KJV

That splendid response by moderator WIP was on the heels of a KJV supporter who made these kinds of claims:

clip_image004 ‘I stick with the good ole KJV that is also free, and is in the “Public Domain”, time honored at 400+ years and going strong!’[2]

He acknowledged he didn’t stick with the KJV that was 400+ years old: ‘I like the 1769 version, that’s what I use, it revised the old English into middle English’.[3]

2.1 ‘The good ole KJV’

Does being old make it a good translation?

What is the rationality in sticking with ‘the good ole KJV’ that is ‘time honored at 400+ years and still going strong’? The facts are:

clip_image006 He is not reading the KJV that is 400+ years old, but reads the KJV that is 249 years old as of 2018. He misled us with his claim.

clip_image006[1] Because a Bible translation is 400 years old, does that make it better?

2.2 Imagine using that approach with typewriters.

When was the typewriter invented?

Since the fourteenth century, when the idea of writing machines became technologically feasible, more than one hundred prototype models were created by over 50 inventors around the world. Some of the designs received patents and a few of them were even sold to the public briefly without much success. The first such patent was issued to Henry Mill, a prominent English engineer, in 1714. The first American paten for what might be called a typewriter was granted to William Austin Burt, of Detroit, in 1829.

clip_image008However, the breakthrough came in 1867 when Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee with the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule invented their first typewriter. Sholes’s prototype model, which is still preserved by the Smithsonian Institution, incorporated many if not all the ideas from the early pioneers. The machine “looked something like a cross between a small piano and kitchen table” as one historian observed (Typewriter History 2006).

clip_image009Prototype of the Sholes and Glidden typewriter, the first commercially successful typewriter, and the first with a QWERTY keyboard (1873) [Wikipedia 2018. s.v. typewriter].

Do you know of anyone who demands that the best means to type documents in the twenty-first century is to use the 1867 or 1873 models of a typewriter?

For this article, I use an MS Word 2003 word processor on a Windows 10 operating system and copied the document using WordPress and Open Live Writer to upload to my homepage. I’m encouraged more modern equipment is available in 2020.

It would be idiotic of me to demand that I use the typewriter when so much better technology is available in the 21st century.

But … I know a fellow who has a hard copy of the KJV (1611) that he takes to church every Sunday because ‘this is the best translation of the Bible that does not have verses cut out of it’ (his words to me).

2.3 There are other issues: Byzantine vs Alexandrian text-type

clip_image010I have addressed some of these in my articles:
Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

clip_image010[1]The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?

clip_image010[2]Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible

clip_image010[3]The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations

 clip_image010[4]Corn or grain? KJV or NIV in Matthew 12:1

2.4 Samples of John 3:16 translations in KJV editions

Try these two versions of this verse:

clip_image006[2] KJV (1611): ‘For God so loued þe world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life’.

Is that how English people speak and spell in the 21st century?

Why would anyone want to read in church the language of 1611 or share the Gospel with people using that kind of translation? It would reinforce the views of some secularists that the Bible is an out-dated book for an obsolete religion.

Generally, it is because there is a small band of KJV-only supporters who use this approach:

clip_image006[3] They try to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus, compiled by a Dutch Roman Catholic priest and humanist, Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) is the best translation.

clip_image006[4] KJV (1769 rev ed): ‘ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ is the version most KJV enthusiasts use, but it also is a revised version, but based on the Textus Receptus.

If a person is fixated on reading from the KJV and using the Greek Textus Receptus for the NT translation, wouldn’t this be more appropriate for the current century than 1611 language?

clip_image006[5] King James 2000 Bible: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’.

clip_image006[6] Or, the NKJV: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’.

clip_image012 ‘I like to share God’s word as found in Matthew 17:21, 18:11, Acts 8:37, Romans 16:24 [from Textus Receptus and in KJV].
Can’t use the NIV, ESV, the verses are not there’.
[4]

clip_image014 ‘The fact stands today that over 5,000 Majority reading textual family witnesses exist.

The Alexandrian textual family is roughly at 50 witnesses; this is how the 99/1 ratio is determined’.[5]

clip_image016 ‘I have clearly shown you the fact of history, the church outside of Egypt didn’t use or transmit the Alexandrian Minority Text, This Is A Fact.
Westcott & Hort in 1881 revived the Alexandrian Text and published it to the world.

St. Jerome (Jerusalem) 347-420AD maintained knowledge of the Alexandrian schools, and he didn’t use their textual readings in his (Latin Vulgate)?’[6]

Why is the Alexandrian text-type out of the city of Alexandria – a port city in northern Egypt – the supposed ‘minority text-type’? In contrast, why is the Byzantine text-type the majority text-type?

3. It is quite simple to explain according to KJV promoters.

This is one example readily available to me.

clip_image018 ‘The argument is the Majority Greek Text 99% or the Alexandrian Minority Greek Text 1% of MSS.

The 57 KJV Translators were fully aware of the 1% minority text, and they didn’t use it because of it never being used or received by the early church.
The Alexandrian 1% minority text was basically localised to Egypt, the Church never used or received this text, A historical fact’.
[7]

3.1 What are some other reasons?

Why is the Alexandrian text-type of, say, Codex Sinaiticus or Codex Vaticanus so small a representative of Greek MSS when it was closer to the original documents than the Byzantine text-type?

In light of the above objections, I find it necessary to examine some background to the Byzantine text-type, the Textus Receptus behind the KJV, and the Greek text gathered by Erasmus (died 1536).

Is the KJV a superior Bible version and have the modern versions been corrupted by Westcott & Hort’s ideology of Alexandrian text-type in gathering NT manuscripts?

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A part of page 336 of Erasmus’s Greek Testament, the first “Textus Receptus.”
Shown is a portion of John 18.
[8]

clip_image021 In my article, The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?[1], I have listed 13 sound reasons for regarding the Textus Receptus behind the NT of the King James Version as not being superior to that used by the modern Greek critical text.

4. Conclusion

I recommend you visit that article for an assessment of the Byzantine vs Alexandrian text-type. Please note that most modern translations of the Bible use the critical text of the Alexandrian text-type e.g. RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NIRV, NLT, NET, ERV, REB, HCSB, JB, NAB, and NASB. Those using the Byzantine TR include the KJV 1611, KJV 1769 (rev), NKJV, Mounce Reverse-Interlinear, and others translated around the time of the KJV – John Wycliffe Bible, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew’s, The Great Bible, Geneva Bible, and Bishops’ Bible, Later versions using the TR include Webster’s Bible, Julia E Smith’s Bible, J P Green’s Literal Translation, and the Revised Young’s Literal Translation.[9]

The Erasmus Greek text that became the Textus Receptus and had so much influence on the text used for the translation of the KJV New Testament, is based on a ‘debased form of the Greek Testament’ (Metzger’s words).[10]

Better Greek manuscripts are available in the twenty-first century and most of the new translations are based on these texts. The Greek texts gathered by Erasmus that became the Textus Receptus are not the most reliable Greek texts available for NT translation.

The manuscripts found since the time of Erasmus and the eclectic Greek text of Nestle-Aland 26, which is used in the United Bible Societies Greek NT (edition 27 is now available), provide a more reliable Greek text from which to translate. The latter Greek text is used in such English Bible translations as the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV, NASB and NLT.

However, there is no point in trying to convince a dogmatic KJV-only supporters of these details.[11] They are inflexible in considering another alternative. I wish these people well with a greeting such as, ‘We’ll need to agree to disagree. God bless and encourage you’.

To my knowledge, no major Christian doctrine is affected if one of these textual lines of transmission is preferred over the other.

5. Works consulted

Metzger, B M 1964/1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration (third, enlarged, edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc.

6. Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2018. What is regarded the best and most accurate version of the Bible? (online), WIP#99, 24 June. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/what-is-regarded-the-best-and-most-accurate-version-of-the-bible.76719/page-5#post-1469744 (Accessed 25 June 2018).

[2] Ibid., Truth7t7#64, 23 June 2018.

[3] Ibid., Truth7t7#70.

[4] Ibid., Truth7t7#74.

[5] Ibid., Truth7t7#48,

[6] Ibid., Truth7t7#52.

[7] Ibid., Truth7t7#32.

[8] Available at: http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/TR.html (Accessed 18 January 2019).

[9] With assistance from Textus Receptus Bibles 2019. Available at: http://textusreceptusbibles.com/ (Accessed 18 January 2019).

[10] Metzger (1964/1992:103).

[11] The last 3 paragraphs of the conclusion are taken from the conclusion of my article, The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations.

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

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Total depravity

Image result for clipart Total Depravity

(image courtesy David Cox)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The term, ‘total depravity’, gets people squirming as they think of all people being put into this wicked, sinful, immoral and evil class. The language used, ‘total depravity’, is enough to scare people away from considering Christianity.

Most Christians I know wouldn’t use the term when sharing Christ with unbelievers. I don’t use it in evangelism but speak of ‘we are all sinners’ who have missed the mark of God’s standard. Most people can get a handle on that type of language.

Isn’t it over the top to think that non-Christians and people of other religions are totally bad? How is it possible to say that about Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Corrie ten Boom, and those who work to relieve the poverty and deprivation of children through Compassion International?

What did it mean to Reformers such as Martin Luther, Jacob Arminius, and John Calvin?

1. Martin Luther on total depravity

In The Bondage of the Will (1976), he replied to the Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (The Netherlands), The Freedom of the Will which Luther called the ‘Diatribe on Free-Will’ (1976:13).

1.1 Who was Erasmus?

Erasmus was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar (AD 1466-1536) who translated the New Testament into Greek. His publications included ‘the Novum Instrumentum consisting of the Greek text and Erasmus’ own Latin translation of the New Testament’.[1]Textus Receptus was published by Desiderius Erasmus in his 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament: Novum Instrumentum omne’.

This is the New Testament base for the New Testaments by William Tyndale, the Bishops Bible, the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible. Although none of Erasmus’s manuscripts was older than the 10th century, it essentially agreed with the others. Erasmus made the Greek NT available to scholars across Western Europe.

It was a monumental feat and one for which the Dutch priest should be given much credit. While Erasmus Himself was not thinking in terms of Bible translations for the masses, the new Protestant movement certainly was, and this Greek text became a vital tool to that end (Wayne 2018).

1.2 Debate over Erasmus’s diatribe

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(image courtesy Peace Apostolic Ministries)

Luther wrote insensitively to Erasmus:

For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?…

Responding to Erasmus, he said that throughout Erasmus’s treatment he forgot that “that ‘free-will’ can do nothing without grace, and you prove that ‘free-will’ can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies [fail]. “For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?” (1957:149)

Luther went on to drive home the point: “Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength” (1957:202).

It seemed that Luther caught out Erasmus when Luther said that he would not want ‘free will’ nor anything eels be left in his own hands to enable him after salvation.

This is ‘not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground; but because even were there no dangers, I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success’.

He stated ‘that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him (1957:313-314).

Therefore, Luther confessed that total depravity meant there was no such thing as free-will and God had taken his salvation out of the control of his free will. Human beings cannot will to do good before God and are left in their sin – unless God intervenes.

This strict view of total depravity is similar to that of Calvin.

2. Calvinism and total depravity

The Calvinistic Synod of Dordt concluded concerning the corruption of human beings:

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto (The Canons of Dordt, Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof, Article 3).

2.1 John Calvin’s view

John Calvin wrote that concisely in expressing his view:

… our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. I, Bk. II, Chap. 1, Para. 8; J Allen transl.)

‘Concupiscence’ is an antiquated word that means ‘strong sexual desire; lust’ (lexico.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence) and ‘ardent, usually sensuous, longing’ (dictionary.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence’). It came into middle English via the old French and late Latin.

2.2 Summary of Reformation doctrine of total depravity

‘The Reformational doctrine of total depravity seen especially in Calvin can be stated summarily in these sentences:

1. Sin is the responsible choice of man to violate God’s law.
2. Sin is a depravity of the whole nature of man.
3. Sin conveys guilt before God for man’s personal and Adam’s representational sin.
4. Sin is the actively developed apostasy of man against God.
5. Sin is a full warrant for eternal punishment’ (Gregory n.d.).

3. Reformed Arminian: Total depravity

I accept a traditional Reformed Arminian approach to total depravity. Reformed Arminian is the theology of Jacob Arminius. It is not that of Wesleyan Arminianism or Semi-Pelagian Arminianism.

This means that because of the Fall into sin, no human beings are able to save themselves. Sinners are ‘dead in sin’.[2]

My understanding of total depravity or total inability is parallel with that of Jacob Arminius. Before the Fall into sin, human beings were ‘good’ in their ability to love and do the works of God.
Before the Fall, human beings were created in the image of God (
Gen 1:26-27). According to Gen 2:17, before the Fall human beings hd the ability to choose good from evil. After the Fall, for believers, they have ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:10 NIV).

3.1 Dead in sins

Ephesians 2:1-2 (NIV) are critical verses in understanding Total Depravity:

‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’.

What does it mean to be ‘dead in sins’?

They were spiritually dead in their former lives and this was their lifestyle (present participle – continual action). We note in Eph 1:7 the plurals, ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (NIV). Every trespass/sin (missing the mark) demonstrated this deadness.

?Does it mean that unbelievers cannot respond to God’s offer of salvation? We know this is not the case because of the content of Titus 2:11 (NIV). Do sinners have a total inability to respond to the offer of salvation without God’s unconditional election and irresistible grace?? See my article: How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11

?We know that Adam ad Eve, after they had sinned, could still hear the voice of God (Gen 3:8-19 NIV). Therefore, Total Depravity does not cut one off from hearing the voice of God. It is a demonstration of what has happened within human beings.?

3.2 The crunch time

The crunch is this, described as total depravity, and it is that sinful human beings cannot do what is good towards God. That’s because the free will has not only been ‘wounded, maimed, made infirm, bent, and weakened’ but also it is ‘imprisoned, destroyed, and lost’.

Its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace’. For Christ has said, “Without me you can do nothing.”?

St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man’ (Arminius 1977:525-526).?

But the great and good news is that God has provided a way to deal with this ‘dead in sin’ situation: ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11 NIV). This is the enabling grace of God available ‘to all people’ for the offering of salvation.

I believe in Total Depravity because it is a Bible teaching. It refers to comprehensive inability to do God’s good because of sins and transgressions.

3.3 Let’s explain this further

The Reformed Arminian perspective is that human beings in the beginning were created in the image of God. Adam & Eve fell from this sinless state through willful disobedience, leaving the whole human race in a state of total depravity.[3]
This means they were sinful, separated from God and sentenced to God’s condemnation (Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3). Total depravity does not mean that human beings are as bad as bad could be. But it means every part of a human being – body, soul/spirit, heart, and mind – has been infected with sin.

All human beings have a sinful nature with a natural desire/inclination to sin. So, all human beings are fundamentally corrupt throughout their entire beings (Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5; Matt 19:17; Luke 11:13).

All people are spiritually dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13) and as a result are slaves to sin (Rom 6:17-20). Could anything be clearer than the Apostle Paul’s statement, ‘For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out’ (Rom 7:13 NIV).

Paul further explains the nature of total depravity: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Rom 3:10-12; cf. Rom 1:18-32; Eph 4:17-22).

So in their natural states, people are hostile to God and they cannot submit to his Law or please him – they are totally depraved (Rom 8:7-8).

4. What it looks like in the community

As I prepared this article today, I came across this headline from yesterday’s, The Sydney Morning Herald:

All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP’

This was a headline in an Australian newspaper (online)

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(image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)[4]

Journalist Madonna King explained:

But for each good act, we’ve also seen how the fear of this disease, which is only beginning, can bring out the worst of human behaviour.

Today, that behaviour is being seen in our GP surgeries, where staff are being abused, ridiculed and told lies.

It’s that latter behaviour – where patients are lying to receptions and nurses, denying they have travelled overseas or have had contact with other COVID-19 cases, in order to see a doctor – that is particularly worrying….

Dr Glynn Kelly: ‘”They are lying. And it’s happening all over Australia,’’ he says. Some patients were filling out COVID-19 forms denying overseas travel or contact with other infected people, so they could get into see a doctor – and then would confess (King 2020).

We may well conclude that this lying is a manifestation of the environment since we are experiencing a pandemic of Coronavirus. We are tempted to place the blame on the environment from childhood to adulthood, i.e. it’s learned behaviour.

This is why we need God’s word on total depravity. Jeremiah 17:9 is but one example of the core problem: ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (NLT)

Doctors are finding out how depraved a person’s inner being is – in their consulting rooms.

5. A biblical perspective

The sinfulness of all human beings, as a result of the guilt inflicted on us by Adam’s first sin is that righteousness cannot be found in us (Rom 3:10; Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

Instead, the whole of human nature is corrupted (i.e. total depravity or original sin). See: Ps 51:5; John 3:6; Rom 3:18; 8:7-8, and Eph. 2:3.

Although the context deals with the prediction of Noah’s world-wide flood, Gen 6:5 (NET) summarises well the human condition: ‘But the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time’.

clip_image003A Sistine Chapel fresco depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden for their sin of eating from the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Image courtesy Wikipedia).

Sadly, that is the condition of all people without Christ.

After the Flood, the Lord still described human beings this way: ‘The inclination of their minds is evil from childhood’ (Gen 8:21 NET).

Could Isaiah be clearer? ‘All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf,
and our iniquities carry us away like the wind’ (Isa 64:6 HCSB).

‘It might be more accurate to say that we are totally unable to be righteous’ (Stack Exchange 2015).

The New Testament view is that all human beings are in a fallen state and are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-2). We are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and all unbelievers are ‘darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts’ (Eph 4:18 HCSB).

6. Conclusion

Human beings are wretches before God. ‘We can’t think, will, nor do anything good in and of [ourselves].[5] We are unable do anything that merits favor from God and we cannot do anything to save ourselves from the judgment and condemnation of God that we deserve for our sin’.

We cannot even believe the gospel on our own (John 6:44). If anyone is to be saved, God must take the initiative’ (see F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation: T).

All human nature is corrupt – total inability to respond to God unless he draws us to Himself.

7. Works consulted

Gregory, T M n.d. Presbyterian doctrine of total depravity (online). Available at: https://www.the-highway.com/depravity_Gregory.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

King, M 2020. The Sydney Morning Herald (online). All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP, 19 March. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/queensland/all-over-the-world-patients-are-lying-about-virus-gp-20200319-p54bob.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

Luther, M 1957. The Bondage of the Will, J I Packer & O R Johnston (eds). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.

Stack Exchange 2015. What is the biblical basis for total depravity? (online), 24 February. Available at: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/27/what-is-the-biblical-basis-for-total-depravity (Accessed 17 March 2020).

Wayne, L 2018. CARM (online). What is the Textus Receptus? Available at: https://carm.org/KJVO/what-is-the-tr (Accessed 19 March 2020).

8.  Notes

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy n.d. Desiderius Erasmus (1468?—1536). Available at: https://www.iep.utm.edu/erasmus/ (Accessed 19 March 2020).

[2] This was my post to Christianforums.net 2020. T.U.L.I.P., OzSpen#16. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/t-u-l-i-p.81940/#post-1551578 (Accessed 16 March 2020).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[4] Available at: https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=23313 (Accessed 20 March 2020).

[5] The original said, ‘themselves’.

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

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Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection

(image courtesy Wikipedia, Resurrection by Luca Giordano)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Many scholars and laity have attempted to debunk Jesus’ bodily resurrection. These are a few examples:

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

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

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

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

Are they correct, based on the texts of the Bible?

1. 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).

Check out these Scriptures:

The doctrine of the bodily resurrection is affirmed abundantly in the New Testament (see Jn. 5:28-29; 6:39-40; Mk. 12:18-27; Acts 17:32; 26:8; Rom. 8:23; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).

2. 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.

3. 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 NIV).

4. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

[Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) by Raphael, 1502, courtesy Wikipedia]

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 mid-century 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 (1930-2019), 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).

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

These are not minor reasons; they are essential to core Christianity.

5.1 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,

5.2 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:

5.3 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:

5.4 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).

(image courtesy of Heartlight)

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 translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 explains 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, recognise the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

6. Conclusion

In spite of attacks from the cynics, sceptics and liberal church, the bodily (soma) resurrection of Jesus demonstrates he rose in a real body that could be touched. Those around him communicated with him; he ate with them (see John 20:20, 26-28; Luke 24:39-43).

It was a soma (bodily) resurrection when Jesus came ek (out from) among the dead. If there is no bodily resurrection, there is no Christianity. He appeared to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive (inferring doubters could go to check with them).

Belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection are necessary for salvation (Romans 10:9). His resurrection demonstrates he is God and resurrection of believers in the future is guaranteed.

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] (Albert Mohler Jr.)

7. Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.

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. 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

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).

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.)

 

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 February 2020.

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Evidence for the afterlife

Can you trust the Bible to give accurate information on life-after-death?

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Cemetery with flowers

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was published in On Line Opinion, 24 March 2020, as ‘Evidence for the afterlife‘. There are some additions in this article, when compared with this one.

Where will you be one minute after your last breath? How can we demonstrate if there is life after death?

In this brief article, I’ll use some of the tests ancient historians use to check on whether an old document can be trusted.

Captain James Cook vs the Bible

How do we know Capt. Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia in 1770? How do we know Cook

set sail on the first of three voyages to the South Seas, he carried with him secret orders from the British Admiralty to seek ‘a Continent or Land of great extent’ and to take possession of that country ‘in the Name of the King of Great Britain’….

The maps, journals, log books and paintings from Cook’s travels are just some of the State Library’s incredible records of this exciting time’.[1]

Captain James Cook. N. Dance Pinxt. T. K. Sherwin Sculp. (courtesy State Library New South Wales)

snowflake-light-green-small How do we know those maps, journals, log books and paintings are accurate?

snowflake-light-green-small We read his documents and other historical writings, presuming they convey correct information. Are our assumptions naive?

snowflake-light-green-small How do we know those writings are reliable in content?

snowflake-light-green-small We apply the same tests (criteria) to Cook’s journals as we do to the Bible.

Tests for historical documents

John P Meier (1991:167-182) summarised these tests:

FlowerEmbarrassment: A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.

FlowerDiscontinuity: A fact or event that does not appear to have had any basis in earlier tradition is less likely to have been invented by the gospel authors than an event that may have been predicated in an earlier tradition.

FlowerMultiple Attestation: A fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.

FlowerCoherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.

FlowerRejection and Execution: A fact or event that looks as though it might provide a realistic explanation for the rejection or execution of Jesus is more likely to be true than the more tendentious explanations offered consciously by the gospel authors (e.g. divine providence, the Jews being in league with the devil etc.). (This criterion is less strong as it presumes historicity of the execution to begin with, but given that the execution of Jesus appears to satisfy each of the four previous criteria, it’s based on a fairly solid foundation so far as second-order criteria go.) [courtesy Gary, Eschaton Now 2010].

Meier gave this warning:

Our survey indicates that five suggested criteria of historicity or authenticity are really valuable and deserve to be ranked as primary criteria….

The use of the valid criteria is more an art than a science, requiring sensitivity to the individual case rather than mechanical implementation. It can never be said too many times that such an art usually yields only varying degrees of probability and not absolute certitude. But … such judgments of probability are common in any investigation of ancient history, and the quest for the historical Jesus cannot apply for a special exemption’ (Meier 1991:184).

Apply these tests to what the Bible says about the afterlife

Now we’ll apply these tests to where believers in Christ and non-believers will be one minute after their last breath. Historically, does the Bible confirm life-after-death or do we agree with many Aussies. The National Church Life Survey of 2009 of people across the community found that ‘in 1993, the proportion of people affirming a belief in heaven and in life after death was just over half. In 2009 these figures had declined by only several percent’.[2]

‘A national Essential poll shows 40% of all Australians believe in heaven.  But the crucial figure is that a staggering 51% of those aged 18-34 hold such a belief!  This compares to just 29% of the public who are over 55 years old’.[3]

matte-red-arrow-small Embarrassment: Who witnessed the empty tomb of Jesus? Two women! Women were unreliable witnesses in Jewish culture. See: Josephus: Women unacceptable witnesses. Matt 25:46 states: ‘And they [unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life’. ‘Eternal punishment (damnation)’ would be an embarrassment to the Jews.

matte-red-arrow-small Discontinuity is a test that depends on knowing details of Judaism and the early church after Jesus in the first century. Our information is limited so it must be applied with caution. However, 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NLT) states our preaching is useless unless Jesus is raised and if there is no resurrection of the dead. Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus where, after death, Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom [heaven] while the rich, ungodly man was in torment in Hades (Luke 16:22-23).

matte-red-arrow-small Multiple Attestation: A similar passage to Matt 25:46 is in Matt 7:13-14; Mark 9:44-48; John 5:29, and Acts 24:15.

matte-red-arrow-smallCoherence: What is the coherence or consistency of Matt 25:46 with John 14:1-4 and 1 Cor 15:53? The John passage confirms that for believers Jesus has prepared a place of ‘many mansions’. For believers, our mortal bodies will be transformed to be immortal at his Second Coming  (1 Cor 15:53). For unbelievers, what will happen after death and at Christ’s return? Revelation 20 explains the Great White Throne judgement of unbelievers. Rev 20:12-13 (NLT) states: ‘I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds’. No unbeliever can run and hide from God’s judgement. There is an afterlife for the godly and ungodly – with two different destinies.

matte-red-arrow-small Rejection and Execution: Matthew 26 records the Jewish plot to kill Jesus, Peter’s denial of Jesus, the high priest and others spat in Jesus’ face, and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Him. According to Matthew 27, Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Jesus was on trial before Pilate, was mocked by the soldiers, spat on, and a crown of thorns placed on his head. Rejection is written all over this trial and execution, thus affirming one of the historical criteria to demonstrate the New Testament is a reliable set of documents – including on the afterlife. This information would not be expected to be provided if it were not historically reliable.

Method used

In this short article I have attempted to show:

  1. The New Testament is a reliable document, using the 5 tests of historicity.
  2. In this reliable document it is demonstrated there is life beyond the grave for believers in Jesus and for unbelievers.
  3. Therefore, I conclude there is strong evidence to support an afterlife. It is not a leap of faith to accept life-after-death.

For further reading I recommend:

1.  Old Testament:

  • Kaiser Jr., W C 2001. The Old Testament documents: Are they reliable & relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
  • Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

2.  New Testament:

  • Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.
  • Blomberg, C 1987. The historical reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England/Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.
  • Blomberg, C 2016. The historical reliability of the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • Bruce, F F 1959. The New Testament documents: Are they reliable? Available at: http://minnehahachurch.org/Library/06Writing/NTDocuments-Reliable-Bruce.pdf.

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Works consulted

Meier, J P 1991. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 1. New York: Doubleday.

 Notes

[1] State Library New South Wales 2020. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0. Available at: https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/captain-cooks-voyages-discovery (Accessed 5 January 2020).

[2] NCLS Research: News 2011. A picture of the religious beliefs of the Australian community (online). Available at: http://www.ncls.org.au/default.aspx?sitemapid=6817 (Accessed 5 January 2020).

[3] AIM: The Australian Independent Media Network 2018. What is it with Heaven and Millennials? (online) Available at: https://theaimn.com/what-is-it-with-heaven-and-millennials/ (Accessed 5 January 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 January 2020.

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Controversies from conception to crucifixion

The Annunciation by Murillo, 1655–1660, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

(courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer Gear PhD

It is predictable that controversies will be experienced at many levels of society. In Queensland, the State government sacked the ‘entire scandal-plagued Ipswich council after fraud charges’. Similar action was taken when ‘Logan City Council [was] sacked by Queensland’s Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe’.

Remember the controversies surrounding the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975 by Governor-General Sir John Kerr?

Cameron Bancroft caught ball-tampering. Image courtesy SportsRush (24 March 2018).

 

Could anyone forget the Australian cricket team’s ball-tampering controversy in the Newlands Test, South Africa in 2018?

A very different controversy

This one involved a scandalous conception, a rejection of the child’s adult occupation by his ethnic leaders, and some contemporary church leaders perpetrating these dissensions. The baby born had an aim for life that was out of this world.

This virgin woman, Mary, in first century Israel was betrothed (engaged) to be married to Joseph, of David’s family line, when the angel Gabriel came to her with an outrageous announcement:

Greetings! The Lord is with you; you are very special to him…. You will become pregnant and have a baby boy. You will name him Jesus. He will be great. People will call him the Son of the Most High God, and the Lord God will make him king like his ancestor David. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end (Luke 1:28, 31-33).

Mary was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She became so confused she asked the angel how this could happen to a virgin. The angel’s answer was that the Spirit’s power would make sure the baby born would be holy and called the Son of God. The angel also announced her relative Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age (with John the Baptist). The assurance was that God can do anything (Luke 1:35-37).

The controversies of the conception passages regarding Jesus surround: (1) The ministry of angels, and (2) How God could cause a virgin to conceive a child without sexual intercourse?

Angels were created as, the host, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them’ (Genesis 2:1). There will be resistance to the notion of angels by those who oppose God’s description of the universe that includes the unseen ministry of these beings. Hebrews 12:22 states there are ‘myriads of angels’ – an innumerable number.

What is the job description of unseen angels? This is not from One Magic Christmas. The biblical view is that ‘all angels are spirits who serve. God sends them to serve those who will receive salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Conception controversy

Imagine a first century woman engaged (betrothed) to be married and she became pregnant without intercourse. Also, this pregnancy was not announced about a woman who would give birth in a comfortable house or in a maternity ward of a local hospital. The son of God would be born to a humble woman in a Bethlehem cow shed that was nothing like an Australian dairy farm milking shed. After birth, he was placed in ‘a box where cattle are fed’ (Luke 2:7).

What does it take to understand and believe in the virgin birth of Christ? Protestant theologian, Wayne Grudem’s, assessment was: “Certainly such a miracle is not too hard for the God who created the universe and everything in it — anyone who affirms that a virgin birth is ‘impossible’ is just confessing his [ or her] own unbelief in the God of the Bible” (1994:532).

Retired Episcopalian, theologically liberal bishop, John Shelby Spong, called ‘an aging maverick’, gave an example of Grudem’s appraisal:

There was no biologically literal virgin birth, no miraculous overcoming of barrenness in the birth of John the Baptist, no angel Gabriel who appeared to Zechariah or to Mary, no deaf muteness, no angelic chorus that peopled the heavens to announce Jesus’ birth to hillside shepherds, no journey to Bethlehem, no presentation or purification in Jerusalem, and no childhood temple story….

All that can be stated definitely is that the echoes of the status of illegitimacy appear to be far stronger in the text than the suggestion that Jesus was Mary’s child by Joseph (Spong 1992:157-158).

Spong_Lecture_DM_01.croppedJohn Shelby Spong 2018 (courtesy The Chautauqua Daily)

That is speculation, a la Spong! Out of the mind of Spong, he produced what Grudem explained — a confession of Spong’s unbelief in the God of the Bible (and the universe). He confirmed this when he wrote, ‘No recognized New Testament scholar, Catholic or Protestant, would today seriously defend the historicity of these [birth] narratives [in the Gospels]’ (Spong 1992:44-45). 

Really? It’s too bad Spong didn’t give an even-handed approach to the historicity of New Testament material and recognition of scholars outside of his liberal theological brand.  Even in Spong’s own generation today, an eminent scholar and professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, Dr.Craig Blomberg (1987) provided verification of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. I’m confident Spong would reject his scholarship because he is an evangelical.

Image result for photo Craig BlombergBlomberg (1987:255), while acknowledging his was “‘a ‘minority report’ among biblical scholars worldwide”, endorsed the historical veracity of the Gospels:

The gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said. One cannot hope to prove the accuracy of every detail on purely historical grounds alone; there is simply not enough data available for that.  But as investigation proceeds, the evidence becomes sufficient for one to declare that what can be checked is accurate, so that it is entirely proper to believe that what cannot be checked is probably accurate as well.  Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice….

It has been argued here that the gospels must be subjected to the same type of historical scrutiny given to other writings of antiquity but that they can stand up to such scrutiny admirably (1987:254-255)

This affirms C S Lewis’s explanation: ‘One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important’ (1970:51).

Extraordinary controversy

If we thought the virgin conception was controversial, it is multiplied many times over when discussing God’s prophetic statement of the nature of that conception and birth. Yes, God can, did and does prophesy events. This happened with the virgin conception. In the Old Testament (OT), prophecy referred to a prophet who received divine revelations, as with Moses and Elijah.

I walked into my local pharmacy to deliver scripts a few days ago when I noticed decorations at the entrance, ‘Joy to the World. I commended the pharmacist for supporting the celebration of the birth of Jesus rather than Santa. What has that to do with predictions?

The prophetic controversies

OT Scriptures have created heated discussions over the centuries relating to Jesus’ birth. One of the most prominent is from:

Isaiah 7:14

The controversies are seen in the comparison of two eminent, contemporary Bible translations, the ESVA and the NRSVA:

Flower8‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (ESVA).

Flower8‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel’ (NRSVA).

There is a Christmas world of a difference between these two translations. Was this prophesied child, who would be called, Immanuel, born to a ‘young woman’ or ‘a virgin’? The difference has considerable implications. If she were a young woman, it does not guarantee that she was a virgin.

What are the problems with the prophetic passage from Isa. 7:14, which is quoted in Matthew 1:22-23 that has caused so much angst among Bible translators and commentators?

1folder There are two different ways to translate the Hebrew almah – virgin or young woman.

2folder ‘Almah’ does not actually indicate virginity. Don’t jump to conclusions about my statement, as there are other ramifications.

3folder The Matt. 1:22-25 passage is clear from the context that Mary was a virgin: ‘Joseph did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And he named him Jesus’ (v. 25).

4folder ‘Almah’ is not precisely equivalent to virgin or young woman. Congruent with many OT passages, many prefer the translation, ‘young woman of marriageable age’. Most, but not all, OT references to ‘almah’ indicate a virgin (Carson 1984:77).

5folder In about 250 BC, the Hebrews completed the translation of the Hebrew OT into Greek, known as the Septuagint (LXX). The translators, for the Hebrew almah, used the Greek word, parthenos, which is used in Matt. 1:23 and Luke 1:27 for Mary the ‘virgin’. However the LXX translation is about 300 years earlier than the gospel writings. Had the meaning, therefore, changed during these three centuries? An additional OT problem is:

Genesis 34:4 indicates that Dinah is a parthenos (LXX). However, the previous verse affirms that she is not a virgin. Why, then, would one want to translate parthenos in Matthew and Luke as virgin instead of young woman? Virgin is the preferred translation in the Gospels because ‘the overwhelming majority of the occurrences of “parthenos” in both biblical and profane Greek require the rendering ‘virgin’” (Carson 1984:78).

6folder To deal honestly with Isaiah 7:14, we need to examine Isaiah 7:1-9:7 as a unit. In context there is a double fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, with God’s judgement against Judah and Ephraim by the Assyrian armies. The second fulfillment is the coming of the promised Immanuel (God with us) to the virgin Mary.

Controversies from religious leaders in Jesus’ lifetime

These are only three examples of the religious who objected to Jesus’ actions.

Image result for clipart Hebrew signJesus’ actions caused anger among the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus and healed a demon-possessed man and the crowds questioned if he was the Messiah: ‘But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart’ (Matt 212:24-25 NLT).

Don Stewart commented:

The miracle was undeniable, for the man was blind and mute as well as demon-possessed. Rather than believe Jesus to be the Messiah, these religious rulers attributed Jesus’ power to the devil. Thus their “official” explanation was that Jesus’ power came from Satan. This was another cause for which they wanted Him dead (Why did the religious leaders want to kill Jesus?)

Image result for clipart Hebrew signThe Jewish religious leaders had corrupted the observance of the Sabbath. Jesus asked his critics, ‘“Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!’ (Mark 3:4-5 NLT).

Jesus’ enemies were in the synagogue and wanted to see if they could accuse him of doing work on the Sabbath. There was a man with a deformed hand there. The man was healed and ‘At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus’ (Mark 3:6 NLT). These religious leaders were persuaded that these actions demonstrated Jesus was not a genuine Messiah because such a person would not violate the Jewish Law this way.

What did Jesus’ enemies now decide to do? ‘At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus’ (Mark 3:6 NLT).

Wherever Jesus went he did much good through his many works, including miracles. However, there were many who opposed him

Image result for clipart Hebrew signOne more example what happened as the time for Jesus’ death approached. Who killed Jesus? This question has been asked over and over for the last 2,000 years. Two groups of people were involved:

  • According to Matt 26:57-67 (NLT), the Jewish leaders called for Jesus’ death. Matt 27:20-26, 31-44 confirms the Jews called for Jesus’ death.
  • However, Matt 27:27-38 states the Romans committed the physical act of capital punishment by crucifixion of Jesus.

This was done so that Romans 5:8 (NLT) could be accomplished, ‘But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners’.

What’s the big deal for Aussies at Christmas 2019?

Doubters are out there in droves among ordinary people and scholars. Who wants to be associated with a mob of literalists like me, who allegedly concoct a story about a miraculous birth and have perpetrated it for thousands of years?

John Dominic Crossan (1994:17), fellow of the infamous Jesus Seminar, deconstructed the meaning of the virgin birth. This was his reasoning:

The prophecy in Isaiah [7:14] says nothing whatsoever about a virginal conception. It speaks in Hebrew of an almah, a virgin just married but not yet pregnant with her first child. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures the term almah was translated as parthenos, which in that context meant exactly the same thing — namely a newly married virgin (emphasis in original).

If it doesn’t refer to the virgin birth, to what does it refer? Crossan stated:

I understand the virginal conception of Jesus to be a confessional statement about Jesus’ status and not a biological statement about Mary’s body. It is later faith in Jesus as an adult retrojected mythologically onto Jesus as an infant…. He is not necessarily the firstborn child of Joseph and Mary. He could just as easily be their youngest (1994:23).

Crossan’s theology is radically removed from that of biblical Christianity. He vanquishes anything that reads like a literal interpretation. However, I wouldn’t dare read his many publications (which I’ve read) the way he interprets the Bible. Christianity is in freefall in the writings of Dom Crossan.

The truth of the Christ child matters because the one who came as a sinless baby (not impregnated by sinful Joseph) was here to live and to shed his life’s blood to provide cleansing for sin. Remember he was a Jew who followed the Jewish law for forgiveness of sin – shedding of blood.

The Jesus’ difference

One born through sexual intercourse between a sinful man and a sinful woman produced sinful offspring. Jesus Christ ‘didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us’ (2 Cor 5:21).

The Bible expressly declares that Jesus was sinless. As a high priest he is able to intercede with God on behalf of people because ‘he is holy, pure and without blame. He isn’t like other people. He does not sin. He is lifted high above the heavens’ (Hebrews 7:26).

At the birth of Jesus, Mary was assured by the angel, ‘The holy one that is born will be called the Son of God’. ‘Holy’ means to be separate and cut off from all that is sinful. God, the Son, cannot tolerate sin but he came to earth as a baby who grew into an adult and was crucified for the sins of the world.

Why should that interest us in Australia for Christmas 2019? Why should the Santa and the reindeer be replaced by a manger scene at Christmas? He brought ‘Joy to the World’ if people are open to receive it.

For Christmas we again celebrate, ‘Oh Holy Night’.

 

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

Image result for clip art nativity lines Mantle clip art christmas mantle with nativity scene image

 

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