Category Archives: Theology

Hope for a Hopeless Australia

Salvation gives you hope that is out of this world (1 Peter 1:13)

Image result for Clipart Hope Christ's second coming

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In today’s values, this verse could be mutilated to say something like: “Don’t let your feelings be judged by anybody. In your thoughts and actions, be open-minded. You do whatever brings you pleasure right now. Set your sights on your self-esteem and go for it with gusto.”

I’m using ‘hopeless’ as an adjective for the wrong direction in which Australians, as a nation, are seeking hope. We seek it in:

blue-arrow-small Consumerism. We are a materialistic society seeking pleasure in things. ‘Australians spent up to $2.4 billion at the Boxing Day sales [2017]’.

blue-arrow-small False ethical standards. Ethical values by government and individuals – in the main – are decided by personal or government choice. There is no overall absolute standard by which moral decisions are made (e.g. Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount). We see this with the legalisation of prostitution, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, exaltation of same-sex relationships, transgenderism, and defacto relationships. Every one of those ethical values is refuted by the Christian Scriptures but relativism dominates ethical decisions at both national and personal levels.

All About Philosophy provides this explanation:

What is ethical relativism? Relativism is the position that all points of view are equally valid and the individual determines what is true and relative for them (sic). Relativism theorizes that truth is different for different people, not simply that different people believe different things to be true. While there are relativists in science and mathematics, ethical relativism is the most common variety of relativism. Almost everyone has heard a relativist slogan:

  •  What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me.
  •  What’s right for my culture won’t necessarily be what’s right for your culture.
  •  No moral principles are true for all people at all times and in all places.

Ethical relativism represents the position that there are no moral absolutes, no moral right or wrong. This position would assert that our morals evolve and change with social norms over a period of time.

The problems with relativism are:

3d-gold-star (1) In allowing all people to choose their own values, there is no value that can be prohibited because ethics are left up to personal choice. Why should murder be wrong if a person is allowed to choose his or her own values? From where do those standards come?

3d-gold-star (2) The logical consequences of relativism are that it gives licence to all kinds of extreme behaviour such as paedophilia, DV, Hitler’s holocaust, the mass shootings in Christchurch NZ and Sri Lanka, murders, lying, stealing, adultery and all kinds of immoral acts (by God’s standards).

They are some of the problems when there are no absolute standards. All nations need absolutes to make legislation and apprehend criminals.

· Australia’s Christian foundation is demonstrated each day when the President of the House reads a Christian prayer. Christian values brought to Australia by the First Fleet and enshrined in the Australian Constitution: ‘Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

God’s view is radically different.

1. God’s view of hope

God commands Peter’s readers, you and me to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 13). These persecuted believers of the first century “were to set their hope completely, with finality, on the grace being brought to them in connection with Jesus Christ’s revelation” (Blum 1981: 52).

When the going gets tough and you are persecuted for your faith, your salvation means that you place your hope completely on the future grace that you will receive when Christ is revealed. When will Christ be revealed again?

We know he was revealed at his birth, death and resurrection. But these believers are told that they must place their hope on the grace “that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV). It was future for the first century church and it is still future for us.

It undoubtedly refers to Christ’s Second Coming (the Parousia). We read about it in I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Or, 1 Cor. 1:7, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Also 2 Thess. 1:7, “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

During these tough times, you will need one another especially. That’s why Scripture teaches:

We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer. (Heb 10:25 ERV).

2. What is hope?

Our hope is NOT based on the temporal, but on the future revelation of the Lord Jesus. It is sometimes said of Christians that “they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Folks, the true Christian is one who is not half-heartedly, but completely and fully, setting his/her hope on the Christ who is to come.

Stephen Spencer states that:

Hope is waiting in confident expectation for God’s promises in Christ, summed up in the gospel. Hope is fundamental because the gospel concerns God’s culmination of his redemptive work, “the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed” (1 Pet 1:13 NRSV), the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Most of what for which we trust in Christ remains yet future (Rom 8:24b)….

Christians hope “by faith” (Gal 5:5). Faith trusts in God’s promises, while hope expects what is to come….

Christians’ most cherished hope is Christ’s personal, bodily return in judgment and blessing[1]

We are of great earthly good, because our hope is set on Him and his coming to rule and reign forever. If you set your hope on anything in this world, you are on a sinking ship. Chuck Colson’s view is that “the culture in which we live is nearly lost” (Colson 1994, p. x). What a tragedy that so many Christians have their hope on the sinking ship.

If you set your hope on who will win the election, you’re on board the Titanic – a sunken ship.

In order to “set your hope completely” on God’s grace at Christ’s second coming, Peter tells his persecuted readers that you must do two things:

Flower11 First, you are “preparing your minds for action” and

Flower11 Second, “exercise self-control” (1 Pet 1:13 NLT).

3. Simply stated

Hope is not a hope so, maybe, perhaps, it could be, or possibly!

It means you look forward, with anticipation, to Jesus’ second coming, the end of this wretched world, and ‘we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. Godliness will live there. All this is in keeping with God’s promise’ (2 Pet 3:13 NIRV).

It is not a hope-so but the guarantee of God’s grace coming to believers at the Second Coming of Christ with the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, what are Christians to do? See 1 Pet 1:13:

Foward  Prepare your minds for action, and

Foward Exercise personal and church self-control.

4. Notes

[1] Stephen R Spencer 2005. Hope. In Kevin J Vanhoozer (gen ed), Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 305-307.

5. Works consulted

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

Hope Butterfly Clip Art

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 April 2019.

Image result for clipart lines

Controversies over John 10:28 and once saved always saved (OSAS)

Image result for clipart Once Saved Always Saved

(courtesy Delight in Truth)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want to get into a controversial discussion in evangelical Christian circles, raise the topic of once saved always saved or eternal security.

clip_image004A well-known and respected ministry on the Internet, Got Questions Ministries, stated that once a person is saved that person has come to know Christ as Saviour. This is more than saying a prayer of ‘making a decision’.

Because of this relationship, this ‘guarantees their salvation as eternally secure…. ‘Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner is washed, renewed, and born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Titus 3:5)….

‘Remember the same God who saved you is the same God who will keep you. Once we are saved, we are always saved. Our salvation is most definitely eternally secure!’(Is once saved, always saved biblical?’ Got Questions)

clip_image004[1]One of the points of the Statement of Faith of the Society of Evangelical Arminians’ relating to OSAS is, ‘We believe that God’s saving grace is resistible, that election unto salvation is conditional on faith in Christ, and that persevering in faith is necessary for final salvation’ (point #7).

So, for these Arminians, a person who believes once and does not continue in faith does not inherit final salvation.

clip_image004[2] Eminent Calvinistic leader, the late Dr R C Sproul, asked about those who fall away from the Christian faith finally. ‘Were they ever truly believers in the first place?’

His answer was based on 1 John 2:19, ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us’ (NIV).

They ‘did not really belong to us’, which Sproul understands to mean they were not part of the church. Therefore, Sproul’s answer to the question of falling away was:

First John 2:19 speaks of the false teachers who went out from the church as never having truly been part of the church. John describes the apostasy of people who had made a profession of faith but who never really were converted. Moreover, we know that God glorifies all whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30). If a person has true saving faith and is justified, God will preserve that person (Can a Christian Lose Their (sic) Salvation? Sproul, 1 April 2014).

So his conclusion that those who finally fall away were not a part of the church, i.e. those who are truly saved, God will preserve tot the end.

clip_image004[3]Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), the founder of Arminianism, believed not in OSAS or eternal security, but in perseverance of the saints. He wrote:

Portrait of Jacobus ArminiusJacobus Arminius (1620) by David Bailly (painting courtesy Wikipedia)

I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration (Arminius 1977:254, emphasis in original).

Thus, Arminius taught that those who continue to live as true believers can never finally apostatise from the faith. He did see other verses that could promote the divergent teaching of unconditional perseverance.

clip_image004[4]John MacArthur’s ministry, ‘Grace to You’, wrote an article on ‘The Security of Salvation, Part 1’ in which it was stated:

If anyone attacks the security of the believer, first of all he is attacking God and claiming He changed His verdict.  Second, he is attacking Christ and claiming His work on the cross was inadequate and that His high-priestly work can’t maintain us.  Finally, he is attacking the Holy Spirit and claiming He is inadequate to help the believer persevere.  A discrediting of the Trinity is wrapped up in a denial of the security of salvation.

That should put the guilt trip on anyone claiming the Bible teaches it’s possible for a true believer to fall away from the faith.

In light of the Calvinistic teaching above, it is not surprising that a lay person clip_image006could pursue such teaching from a pastor, elder or TV preacher. There is a breed of ‘New Calvinists’ that is causing some concern in a number of evangelical churches. Pastor Tim Keller is one example.

(Photo Pastor Tim J Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City, courtesy Wikipedia.)

 clip_image004[5]In the ‘Articles of Faith’ of the Church of the Nazarene, it states:

‘We believe that all persons, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost’.[1]

clip_image004[6]I’ve encountered much of this debate on Internet Christian forums where I blog. Some of the laity are prepared to engage in inflexible debate from both sides of the Calvinistic / Arminian divide.

This one blog had the topic heading, ‘Iron Clad example proving OSAS from John 10:28’.[2] This verse states: ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (ESV).

The OSAS promoter’s argument was:

While this seems quite straight forward, many simply do not see anything about eternal security in what Jesus said….

The point is that the conditon (sic) for NEVER PERISHING is to RECEIVE eternal life. Not whatever is REQUIRED after that, as the conditional security crowd always adds.
So, the point of John 10:28 is that what Jesus does AT THE BEGINNING OF one’s faith will result in that person NEVER PERISHING.
The conditional security crowd simply misses this extremely important point….

Eternal life is received on the basis of believing the gospel. There are no further conditions to be met to avoid perishing.[3]

1. Who are those who will never perish and receive eternal life?

An immediate response was: Who is them (which is incorrect grammar)? I should have asked: You refer to ‘them’. Who are they? Everyone in the world?

If this were the only verse in the Bible then I would be on the OSAS bandwagon.

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

Here is the condition to being one of “His sheep”. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
Those that follow for a while, then become lost, are likened to sinners who are lost and need to repent.

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:4-7).[4]

2. Who has eternal life?

This promoter of OSAS came back with,

Those who have believed. They are the one (sic) who receive eternal life. Jesus said so in John 5:24 – “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Notice the present tense “HAS” regarding eternal life.
[5]

He continued:

What I’ve shown from John 10:28 is that from Jesus’ own mouth, there are NO OTHER REQUIREMENTS OR CONDITIONS to be met in order to NEVER PERISH.

So, to “never perish” ONLY requires one to receive the gift of eternal life. There is nothing else to do in order to “never perish”[6]….

The very FACT that one receives eternal life is the ONLY condition for NEVER PERISHING. Which parallels what Paul taught in Romans, where he noted that eternal life is a gift of God in 6:23 and that God’s gifts are irrevocable in 11:29.[7]

3. Greek tenses different to English tenses

I entered the fray:[8] What does tense mean for the NT Greek verbs? What does the present tense, ‘has’, mean? It seems clear, doesn’t it? Yes, it does – from an English understanding of tenses of verbs.

Also, what are the meanings of the tenses in this verse: ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life’ (John 10:27-28a ESV)?
The Greek tenses have different emphases to the English tenses, except in the future tense.

The OSAS promoter came back with,

It means “currently” from the perspective of the writer.
Surely you’re familiar with the English tenses, right? The present tense in the English is equivalent to the present tense in the Greek.
So, John 5:24 means that when one believes, they possess (have) eternal life. That’s when it is received….

This link will answer your questions:
http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/inter-tense.htm….

The present tenses are equivalent in Greek and English.[9]

John 10:28 No One Will Snatch Them Out Of My Hand (red)

(image courtesy Knowing Jesus)

4. That lit a fire under me

He didn’t know what he was talking about. I happen to have taught NT Greek at the college level[10] and some of what he stated was flagrantly false. In English, the tenses primarily relate to the time of action – past, present, and future. We add extra words to indicate the kind of action. We could say, ‘I go’, but to indicate progressive action, we say, ‘I am going’.

In NT Greek (except for the future tense), the tenses refer primarily to the kind of action.

4.1 Greek and English present tenses are NOT the same.

The English present tense refers to action in the present time. The Greek present tense refers to continual/continuous action. The time factor is of minor importance.

NT Greek grammarians, Dana & Mantey, stated this important difference when compared with English tenses:

The distinctive function of the verb is to express action. Action as presented in the expression of a verbal idea involves two elements, time of action and kind of action. That is, the action may be described as occurring at a certain time, and must be described, if intelligible, as performed in a certain manner. Tense deals with these two aspects of verbal expression, kind of action being the chief idea involved, for time is but a minor consideration in the Greek tenses…. The important element of tense in Greek is kind of action (Dana & Mantey 1955:177, 178 )?

What is the meaning of the present tense in Greek? The aorist tense may be represented by a dot (•). It happened. The present tense by a line (_______________), and the perfect tense by a combination of the two (•_________________) [Dana & Mantey 1955:179].

The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of progress. It is the linear tense. This is not, however, its exclusive significance. It is a mistake to suppose “that the durative meaning monopolises the present stem” (M. 119). Since there is no aorist tense for present time, the present tense, as used in the indicative [mood], must do service for both linear and punctiliar action. But it is to be borne in mind that the idea of present time is secondary in force of the tense. The time element belongs to the indicative [mood], where the present tense is really the “imperfect of present time,” while what we know as the imperfect tense is the “imperfect of past time.” The progressive [i.e. continual/repeated action] force of the present tense should always be considered as primary, especially with reference to the potential moods, which in the nature of the case do not need any “present punctiliar” tense (Dana & Mantey 1955:181, emphasis in original).?

We can apply this understanding of the Greek present tense to John 5:24 (ESV): ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears [present tense] my word and believes [present tense] him who sent me has [present tense] eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life’.

Therefore the verse means that those who hear Jesus’ word and continue to believe him continue to have eternal life. The verse does not teach that a person who once believed and no longer believes has eternal life. Eternal life is for those who continue to believe. That’s what the Greek teaches because the Greek present tense is not equivalent to the English present tense.

John 5:24 is in harmony with Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV),

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (emphasis added).

5. The rave continued

He promoted his ignorance of the present tense in NT Greek:

It means “currently” from the perspective of the writer.

Surely you’re familiar with the English tenses, right? The present tense in the English is equivalent to the present tense in the Greek.
So,
John 5:24 means that when one believes, they possess (have) eternal life. That’s when it is received.
This link will answer your questions:
http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/inter-tense.htm
The present tenses are equivalent in Greek and English….

And Jesus promise in John 10:28 for NEVER PERISHING is simply receiving the gift of eternal life that He alone gives. Therefore, to NEVER PERISH, the only requirement is to receive eternal life….[11]

Your understanding of John 5:24 does not and cannot refute the clear meaning of John 10:28.[12]

I responded: This is what happens when you reject the Greek grammar of John 5:24 (ESV) and John 10:28 (ESV) and don’t consider the content of verses like 1 Tim 1:18-20 (ESV):

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

These verses confirm it is possible to shipwreck one’s faith, be handed over to Satan and blaspheme against God in the process. That’s Bible!’[13]

The OSAS promoter wrote: ‘It has ONLY to do with receiving the gift. That’s the ONLY BASIS for NEVER PERISHING’.[14]

Another person opposed this OSAS doctrine with these Scriptures and emphases:

JN 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 IF ANYONE DOES NOT REMAIN IN ME, HE IS LIKE A BRANCH THAT IS THROWN AWAY AND WITHERS; SUCH BRANCHES ARE PICKED UP, THROWN INTO THE FIRE AND BURNED.

ROM 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For IF GOD DID NOT SPARE THE NATURAL BRANCHES, HE WILL NOT SPARE YOU EITHER. 22 CONSIDER THEREFORE THE KINDNESS AND STERNNESS OF GOD: STERNNESS TO THOSE WHO FELL, BUT KINDNESS TO YOU, PROVIDED THAT YOU CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS. OTHERWISE, YOU ALSO WILL BE CUT OFF.

1 COR 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

COL 1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now HE HAS RECONCILED YOU BY CHRIST’S PHYSICAL BODY THROUGH DEATH TO PRESENT YOU HOLY IN HIS SIGHT, WITHOUT BLEMISH AND FREE FROM ACCUSATION– 23 IFYOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

2 PET 2: 20 IF THEY HAVE ESCAPED THE CORRUPTION OF THE WORLD BY KNOWING OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND ARE AGAIN ENTANGLED IN IT AND OVERCOME, THEY ARE WORSE OFF AT THE END THAN THEY WERE AT THE BEGINNING. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.[15]

Other verses he included that opposed OSAS were:  1 Cor 9:27; Phil 3:7-14; Heb 3:12-14; 6:4-6; 2 Pet 1:5; Ezek 18:24.

6. A shipwrecked faith

I had emphasised 1 Tim 1:18-20 and Hymenaeus and Alexander who shipwrecked their faith.

This is the Maheno shipwreck on the beach at Fraser Island off the coast of Hervey Bay, Qld (4 hours north of where I live in Brisbane):

Maheno shipwreck, clip_image008(photo courtesy Pinterest)


See a picture below of this working ship as it used to look (courtesy
Wikipedia).


The shipwrecked Maheno is useless as a boat. It used to be a usable steam ship but it is nothing more than a rusted hull that is wasting away on the foreshores of the Pacific Ocean side of Fraser Is, Qld., Australia.

Thus, a shipwrecked faith is one that used to be functional but is now a useless faith – it has been ruined, abandoned, given up, and torn down.

The Bible teaches it can be done and I know it happens. Two fellows who were vibrant Christians in my first theological college abandoned their faith and have not returned. Heb 6:6 (NLT) states of them, ‘It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame’.

The OSAS promoter responded to this explanation and example:

James made the same point about a useless faith. It is barren, fruitless.
But where in all this is one justified to make the HUGE leap from a useless faith (meaning fruitless) to loss of salvation?
No one seems able to provide any explanation for that….

You know I’m no Calvinist, as proven by our being shoulder to shoulder against their doctrine of limited atonement some years ago.
I fully understand that believers can abandon their faith, cease to believe. Jesus even made that exact point in the 2nd soil.
But where is the justification that such action results in loss of salvation. If it did, then what Jesus said in John 10:28 is untrue.
Since you noted you teach NT Greek, please provide your expanded translation of what Jesus said in that verse.
[16]

I’ve shown[17] from 1 Tim 1:18-20 (ESV) that a shipwrecked faith is one that used to be functional but is now a useless faith – it has been ruined, abandoned, given up, torn down.

Below is what that working ship, the Maheno, used to look like:
clip_image010
(Hand-coloured postcard of the SS Maheno,courtesy Wikipedia)

I asked this person online:

Do you understand the irony in your Statement?

I fully understand that believers can abandon their faith, cease to believe. Jesus even made that exact point in the 2nd soil.
But where is the justification that such action results in loss of salvation. If it did, then what Jesus said in John 10:28 is untrue.?
[18]

You state that believers ‘can abandon their faith, cease to believe’ and then you ask, ‘where is the justification that such action results in loss of salvation?’ Your doctrine creates the conflict that you stated so well here: ‘cease to believe’ = no ‘loss of salvation’. That’s an oxymoron![19]

7. The meaning of John 10:28

The OSAS supporter wanted to know the meaning of John 10:28. The context provides the answer:

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him (John 10:25-31 ESV).?

Who is Jesus talking about in v 28? Verse 27 gives the answer, ‘My sheep’. What do his sheep do?

1folder They ‘hear my voice’;

2folder ‘I know them’;

3folder‘They follow me’.

Let’s exegete these statements:

1folder ‘Hear’ is present tense, i.e. they continuously hear Jesus’ voice.

2folder ‘Know’ is present tense, i.e. Jesus continuously knows them.

3folder ‘Follow’ is present tense, i.e. they continuously follow Jesus.

THEREFORE, what is the result? ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28 ESV). By the way, ‘give’ in this verse is present tense in Greek, so it means Jesus ‘continuously gives’ eternal life.

I give 100% support to the content of John 10:28 (ESV) because John 10:27 (ESV) in the Greek text makes it crystal clear that those who continuously enjoy eternal life, will never perish and nobody will snatch them out of Jesus’ hands. These are those who continuously hear, continuously know, and continuously follow Jesus.

John 10:28 does not apply to those who once believed or believed for a short or slightly longer period of time, and then stopped believing.

John 10:28 (ESV) is a dynamic verse that supports perseverance of the saints and not OSAS.

I hope that lays to rest the whole idea that John 10:28 (ESV) is an ‘iron clad’ verse in support of OSAS. It is not. The Greek grammar refutes such a view.

8. Do you understand Greek grammar?

I asked this pro-OSAS supporter, ‘Do you read and parse Greek grammar yourself?’[20] His reply was:

If I’m so wrong, then please just explain how the present tense is so different from what I explained. And please explain why Jesus used the present tense in Luke 8:13 for believing when the 2nd soil only “believed (sic) for a while”. Hardly continuous belief.[21]

This is an excellent response, but a poor example.

It is correct that ‘believe’ is present tense in the Greek in ‘believe for a while’. However, ‘for a while’ provides the boundary put around the continuity of believing. Those who are not snatched out of the father’s hands are those who continue believing until the end of life.

When we examine the context of Lk 8:13 in Lk 8:12, we find that Luke used pisteuw,

thereby showing that the message of Jesus must be heard with faith; the aorist participle [pisteusantes, v 12] indicates the initial acts of faith, and the present tense [pisteuousin] in 8:13 indicates a continuing attitude is meant (Marshall 1978:325).

Greek exegete, R C H Lenski, explained Lk 8:13,

The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel 1-11 (image courtesy Best Commentaries)

“These do not have root,” and what that means is now stated literally. They are the ones “who for a season go on believing” (durative present); they are only transient, temporary believers. As he does so often, Jesus adds the adversative thought with kai: “and in a season of temptation they stand away.” They cannot endure anything like a test of their adherence to the Word. The fact that “temptation” in some form or other is bound to come to every believer is here regarded as a matter of course. When a season, a short while of this kind arrives, “they stand away,” i. e., from the Word. The hidden hardness of the heart which the Word cannot penetrate, into which no root of faith can sink, proves fatal in a short time. So these, too, are not saved by the Word in spite of all the saving power it contains and end by being lost more surely than if they had never heard the Word (Lenski 1946:450).

Lenski translates aphistantai as ‘they stand away’. These Bible translations render it as ‘they fall away’ (NIV, ESV, NLT, NAB, NASB, KJV, NKJV, LEB, RSV, NRSV, NET). This present tense, middle voice, third person plural word is based on the verb, aphistemi.

Kittel’s extensive word study concluded that it acquired the meaning in ‘the emphatic sense of religious apostasy; (Acts 5:37; 15:38; 19:9), ‘religious decline from God’ (Heb 3:12).

The apostasy entails an unbelief which abandons hope. According to 1 Tm. 4:1 apostasy implies capitulation to the false beliefs of heretics. This apostasy is an eschatological phenomenon…. The same view is found in Lk. 8:13, where aphistasthai is used absolutely (Schlier in Kittel 1964, vol 1, p. 513)

See I Howard Marshall’s article, ‘The problem of apostasy in the New Testament theology’ (Perspectives in Religious Studies).

9. Conclusion

Evangelical Christian leaders around the world have come down on both sides of the Arminianism vs Calvinism salvation conclusion.

I pursued the person’s statement that John 10:28 is an ‘iron clad example proving OSAS’.

Greek and English present tenses do not mean the same. The English present tense refers to the present time while the Greek present tense indicates the kind of action, i.e. continuous or continual.

I provided these exegetical details for John 10:28: ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28 ESV). ‘Give’ in this verse is present tense in Greek, so it means Jesus ‘continuously gives’ eternal life.

Therefore, I fully support the content of John 10:28 (ESV) because John 10:27 (ESV) in the Greek text makes it clear that those who continuously enjoy eternal life, will never perish and nobody will snatch them out of Jesus’ hands. These are those who continuously hear, continuously know, and continuously follow Jesus.

John 10:28 does not apply to those who once believed or believed for a short and then quit believing. It does not address eternal security after a small or medium time of believing.

John 10:28 (ESV) is a dynamic verse that supports perseverance of the saints and not OSAS.

Related image

(courtesy Allan Turner)

10. Works consulted

Arminius J 1977. The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, also available at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.iv.i.html (Accessed 29 March 2019).

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Lenski, R C H 1946/1961/2001. The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Commentary on the New Testament). Columbus OH: The Wartburg Press (assigned in 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House; second printing 2001, Hendrickson Publishers Inc.).

Marshall, I H 1978. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Schlier, H 1964. aphistemi. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1, pp 512-513. G Kittel (ed), G W Bromiley (trans & ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

11.  Notes

[1] This is Article 7: Prevenient Grace.

[2] Christian Forums.net 2017. ‘Iron Clad example proving OSAS from John 10:28’, 13 February, FreeGrace#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/iron-clad-example-proving-osas-from-john-10-28.68442/ (Accessed 17 February 2017).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., JLB#2.

[5] Ibid., FreeGrace#3.

[6] Ibid., FreeGrace#15.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace#24.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#30.

[9] Ibid., FreeGrace#33.

[10] My response at ibid., OzSpen#67.

[11] Ibid., FreeGrace#81.

[12] Ibid., FreeGrace#83.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#93.

[14] Ibid., FreeGrace#83.

[15] Ibid., Jim Parker#95.

[16] Ibid., FreeGrace#117.

[17] This information is from ibid#141.

[18] Ibid., chessman#97.

[19] Ibid., OzSpen#140.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#91.

[21] Ibid., FreeGrace#114.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 March 2019.

Image result for clipart lines public domain

Can people choose to reject salvation?

Do all people have free will?

Image result for clipart Free Will

(image courtesy Breaking the Free Will Illusion)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This brief article was prompted by an email from Christian friends. They wrote:

With regard to the [church we attend], the doctrinal issue we are sad about is that they teach “free will” as entrance to salvation.  We strongly disagree as we believe that the unregenerate man/woman is incapable of choosing God, as our wills are enslaved to sin and death through the first fall.  We believe it is only by God’s Grace alone, through Faith, and believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and this Faith is only by revelation of the Holy Ghost. (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added)

We believe there are two types of religion in this world  –  religion of human achievement, and the true religion of Grace alone and Faith alone by God the Father alone through His Son Jesus Christ alone, and His Spirit alone..[1]

1. People are incapable of choosing God

Is it a biblical teaching that an unregenerate person, dead in sin, is incapable of choosing to serve God?

As to the issue of free will in relation to salvation, how do you define free will?

I define it as the ability to decide between alternatives. Adam and Eve had this free will ability given by God at the beginning of the world. Adam is our representative, ‘Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned’ (Rom 5:12).

This definition is not original with me. Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks explained:

There are several points on which there is confusion about what is meant by free will. Some have said that it refers to the ability to desire. But a better definition is that it is the ability to decide between alternatives. Desire is a passion, an emotion; but will is a choice between two or more desires. Also, some think that to be free means that there can be no limitation of alternatives—one must be able to do whatever he wants. But the opposite of freedom is not fewer alternatives, it is being forced to choose one thing and not another. Freedom is not in unlimited options, but in unfettered choice between whatever options there are. As long as the choosing comes from the individual rather than an outside force, the decision is made freely. Free will means the ability to make an unforced decision between two or more alternatives (Geisler & Brooks 1990:63).

1.1   Adam and Eve had free will before and after sin entered the world.

God gave Adam and Eve the capability to choose between two alternatives:

‘In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of he knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die”’ (Gen 2:9, 15-17 NLT).

So from the beginning of time, Adam was given the choice between alternatives (free will). What happened when Eve came along?

2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied [to the serpent [Satan]. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness (Gen 3:2-7 NLT).

Both Adam and Eve had free will that God gave to them. Eve was deceived and was joined by Adam, the ‘sucker’.

2.    Free will after sin entered the world

What about free will after this sin entered the world? Do all human beings, dead in sin (Col 2:13), have the ability to choose among alternatives, including evil over good?

2.1   Meaning of ‘dead in sin’

Here are four translations of the phrase (Eph 2:1; Col 2:13) that should shed some insight on Col 2:13.

GNT: ‘spiritually dead because of your sins’;

NLT: ‘were dead because of your sins’;

ERV:[2] ‘you were spiritually dead because of your sins’;

NIRV:[3] ‘You were living in your sins and lawless ways. But in fact you were dead’.

Regarding Eph 2:1 and ‘dead in sin’:

The word for dead in Greek is nekros, which literally means a corpse or dead body. Since we know Paul is talking about a spiritual state (not a physical state), we must understand this deadness refers to our spiritual life. The Ephesians were alive physically but dead spiritually. Paul chose this comparison because it accurately describes not only the nature of an unbeliever but also the impossibility of an unbeliever recognizing and correcting his own condition. Just as a corpse cannot revive itself to life, neither can an unbeliever revive his own spirit into new life (Verse by Verse Ministry international 2018).

2.2   Biblical examples of free will from the Old Testament

clip_image002Exodus 19:3-8 (NLT):

3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

7 So Moses returned from the mountain and called together the elders of the people and told them everything the Lord had commanded him. 8 And all the people responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the Lord.

The Lord, through Moses, gave the ‘family of Jacob’ this choice: ‘obey me and keep my covenant‘ and you will receive ‘special treasure’. However, he reminded ‘the descendants of Israel of what God ‘did to the Egyptians’. They had the choice to be like the Egyptians or to obey God’s covenant. What was the free will choice: ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded’.

That was an example of the group free will of the 12 tribes of Israel to make a choice.

clip_image002[1]   Deuteronomy 5

This is the chapter where the Ten Commandments are repeated. These 3 verses provide a solid foundation built on the free will they could choose to be idolaters or serve God:

8 ‘You must not make any idols. Don’t make any statues or pictures of anything up in the sky or of anything on the earth or of anything down in the water. 9 Don’t worship or serve idols of any kind, because I am the Lord your God. I hate for my people to worship other gods. People who sin against me become my enemies. And I will punish them, and their children, their grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren. 10 But I will be very kind to people who love me and obey my commands. I will be kind to their families for thousands of generations! (Deut 5:8-10 ERV)

This chapter has many commands to obey God’s laws, but also has warnings about disobeying:

blue-corrosion-arrow-small In vv 8-9, the command was against idolatry ‘because I am the Lord your God’. That’s the positive command.

blue-corrosion-arrow-small However, if the Israelites chose to serve other gods (they are able to sin against God), they then become His enemies and He punishes them, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

blue-corrosion-arrow-small God will be very kind to the obedient people and their families for thousands of generations (v. 10).

If it was impossible for the Israelites to choose to disobey God, there would be no point in issuing this warning. The teaching here is that the Israelites had the power of alternative choices – idols or the one true God. This defines free will.

clip_image002[1] Deut 11:27-28 (NLT):

27 You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 28 But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the clip_image004Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.

The Israelites could choose between 2 alternatives: (1) obey the Lord’s commands and be blessed, or (2) Reject the Lord’s commands, worship other gods, and they will be cursed. This is free will in action in God’s old covenant.

clip_image005Joshua 24:11-15 (NLT):

11 “When you crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them. 12 And I sent terror[c] ahead of you to drive out the two kings of the Amorites. It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. 13 I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them.

14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord”.

It is clear what Joshua laid before the Israelites who were sinners: Choose whom you will serve – the gods of your ancestors and the Amorites – OR serve the Lord. God’s chosen people had a free will choice between 2 alternatives.

For further exposition on Josh 24:15, see: Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15.

3.    Free will and salvation

What do we find in the NT when the Gospel of salvation is offered to all people? Can they accept or reject it? Or are they unconditionally elected and are irresistibly drawn to Jesus because He died only for the elect?

I have taken these points from my article, What is the nature of human free will?

When we ask, ‘What is the nature of free will or free choice?’ we may be asking: How long is a piece of string in theological terms? If we are going to answer this question with biblical accuracy, we will need to ask further questions about:

Image result for clipart choose Christ(image courtesy ChristArt)

  1. Free will / free choice and the power of God (see Isa 45:11-13; 46:4; Jer 32:16-44; Acts 4:24-31);
  2. Free choice and the decrees of God (Rom 8:28; Eph 1:9, 11; 3:11);
  3. Free choice and the salvation of human beings (Tit 2:11; Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; Matt 18:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 16:31; 17:30; Phil 1:39; 1 Jn 3:23);
  4. Free choice as it is related to God’s providence (Jas 4:2);
  5. Free choice and God’s foreknowledge (Rom 8:29-30; 2 Cor 6:1-2; 1 Pt 1:1-2);
  6. Free choice and a human being’s moral nature (Jn 1:12-13; 7:17; Rom 3:26; Heb 3:7-8, 15; 4);
  7. Free choice and Adam’s original sin (the origin of the sin of the human race) [Gen 3:1-8; Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:21-22; 1 Tim 2:13-14];
  8. Free choice and human depravity (Deut 6:4-5; Matt 22:35-38; Rom 2:14; 7:18; 8:14; 2 Tim 3:4);
  9. Free choice and eternal security/perseverance of the saints (Jer 3:12, 14, 22; Hos 14:4; Mt 24:13; Mk 4:16-17; 7:21-23; Jn 6:66-67; 13:10-11; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 2 Pt 2:20-22; 1 Jn 2:19)[listed in  Thiessen 1949:524].

In relation to salvation, I consider that the Bible teaches …
clip_image002[2]All salvation is provided by God himself. It is a gift from God. As Eph 2:8-9 (NLT) puts it,

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

clip_image006God elects / predestines people to salvation:

According to Arminianism, election is that act of God whereby he foreordains to eternal life those whom he foresees will respond in faith to the gospel. According to Calvinism, election is that act of God whereby he foreordains to eternal life those who, because of sin, cannot and will not respond in faith to the gospel. Which of these two views is the one the Bible teaches? Or is there a third, mediating option? (Storms 2018).

This is supported by verses such as 1 Peter 1:1 (NIV),

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

God in his foreknowledge, elected people to salvation. Was this an unconditional election (Calvinism), or was it conditional election (Arminianism) or based on some other factor. That other element is:

clip_image002[3]People choose (because of their free will) between alternatives: to respond in faith and repentance to the Gospel OR to reject the Gospel. An example is found with the Philippian jailer and Paul and Silas when released from prison:

Image result for clipart Philippian jailer(image of Philippian jailer courtesy Garden of Praise)

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

31 They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (Acts 16:25-31 NIV).

This jailer, dead in trespasses and sin, responded to the proclamation made by Paul and Silas in prison, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Paul and Silas did not say, ‘Do nothing. God has done it all for you. You are unconditionally elected and are in the Kingdom’.
Instead, Paul & Silas commanded: ‘[You] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household’.

There cannot be a Gospel response to receive salvation without human responsibility of the choice between Yes or No to the Gospel. Otherwise it is God’s authoritarian dictatorship that does away with certain biblical emphases.
How can this be? It’s because God’s grace has been extended to everyone and they respond in faith or reject the Gospel. We have this partially explained in Titus 2:11 (NIV), ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’.

Salvation is offered to all but not all respond in faith. That’s not because of irresistible grace because ‘the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’.
For further explanations, see my articles:

There may be many questions that come from my response. In my understanding of free will, I’m a leaky, Reformed Arminian. To his dying day, Jacob Arminius was a Dutch Reformed minister who taught in the Reformed University of Leiden. I’m a ‘leaky’ one because I do not believe in Arminian infant baptism. Baptism is for believers in my biblical understanding. (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 8:36, 38).

See my article, Believer’s baptism or infant baptism?

4. Conclusion

From the beginning of time (with Adam and Eve) right through to salvation, God’s view is that human beings have free-will choice to accept or reject him. All people can choose to follow other gods or God Himself (Joshua 24:14-15).

They can choose to accept or reject evidence for the existence of God (Romans 1:18-22) or choose to believe in Jesus (Acts 16:31) or reject his offer of salvation (John 3:19-21).

In this article, I use ‘choose’ and ‘free will’ to mean the ability to decide between alternatives. Yes, people are drawn to salvation by God the Father (John 6:44) but Scripture assures us that all people are drawn since Jesus since Jesus death and resurrection when he was ‘lifted up (John 12:32).

5. Works consulted

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. When skeptics ask. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books.

Storms, S 2018. The Arminian concept of election. Sam Storms: Enjoying God (online). Available at: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/the-arminian-concept-of-election (Accessed 16 August 2018).

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

Verse by Verse Ministry international 2018. Could you explain the connection between our spiritual “deadness” and God’s grace, as presented in Ephesians 2:1-10? (online). Available at: https://www.versebyverseministry.org/bible-answers/could-you-explain-ephesians-21-10 (Accessed 16 August 2018).

6.   Notes


[1] I received this email on 1 May 2018.

[2] The ERV is the Easy-to-Read Version. This version also is for a lower literacy level.

[3] The NIRV is the New International Reader’s Version. This is for a lower literacy level than the NIV.

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

Flourish pattern with butterflies vector clip art

The Rapture in the early church fathers

1 Thessalonians 4:17 on the Rapture

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think anyone in the Christian church could be so audacious to make this kind of statement about eschatology (end times)? ‘The Rapture doctrine is only taught in America. Hardly anyone outside the US believes in such things’.[1]

1. Misinformation re rapture teaching

I found this statement not only overconfident but also ignorant of what is going to happen at the time of Christ’s second coming that will end world history.

Therefore, my response was:[2]

Come across the Tasman from NZ (Angelina lives in NZ) and you’ll find lots of people in Australia who also teach the Rapture, especially in Dispensational circles. I was taught it in an Assemblies of God Bible College in Brisbane in the 1970s. You’ll find it among Baptists, Wesleyan Methodists, especially Christian Brethren (Gospel Hall), and other evangelicals. There is a large Open Brethren assembly 15 minutes from where I live that teaches the Rapture.

2. Who will teach the Rapture?

clip_image004Any promoters of premillennial, pre-, mid- or post-tribulation eschatology, will promote the Rapture. See some examples in this publication (image on left) that deals with three views of the rapture.

Anyone who accepts one of these eschatological views will promote a Rapture of the saints. Here we have Three Views of the Rapture (Gundry et al 1996) that could be taught in any country around the world.

If you read the beliefs of Northside Baptist Church, Perth WA, Australia, you’ll see the doctrine of the Rapture taught. Here’s a list of Christian Brethren assemblies in your own country of New Zealand that teach the Rapture doctrine.

The Rapture is certainly not a doctrine restricted to North America. One of the leading verses used by Bible teachers to proclaim the Rapture is …

2.1    Interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Therefore, how do we understand 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (ESV), ‘Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord’?

What does ‘caught up together’ mean? The catching/snatching up is into the clouds to meet the Lord. Should this be taken literally or is there some symbolic view here that shoots down literal interpretation?

Is the Rapture bunkum doctrine promoted for ecstatic, futuristic reasons? Is this an over-the-top brand of exuberant pre-mill, pre-trib fundamentalism that is designed to get a following of those looking for a way out of this wicked world?

This is the context of verse 17 in 1 Thess 4:13-17 (NABRE):[3]

13 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers [and sisters], about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together[4] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.

To what is verse 17 referring? This is my:

2.1.1   Textual outline of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

clip_image006(photo courtesy Rapture bombs’: Clothes at the end)

a. Be aware of the destiny of those who have died (fallen asleep) (v. 13).

b. Don’t grieve like those who have no hope (after death) (v. 13).

c. Belief in Jesus’ death & resurrection at death puts you in the group coming with Jesus when he returns (v. 14).

d. The Lord’s word is: Those alive when Jesus’ returns will not precede [rising before] those who have died (v. 15).

e. The Lord’s shout / trumpet will be blasted as he returns and the dead in Christ rise first (v. 16).

f. Those sill alive will be caught up (raptured) with the Lord and others in the air (v. 17).

g. Then all believers will be with the Lord always (v. 17).

Another on that Christian forum spoke up:

I have been to [a] couple of countries where protestant denominations teach Rapture. They did that even long before Iron Curtain came down and Americans got there.

The reason why Rapture was not taught until just a couple of centuries ago is because Christian doctrine was controlled by Catholic/Orthodox churches. In some countries Bibles in native languages were not even available until 18th century and few people were literate enough to read them.[5]

2.1.2  Exegesis of 1 Thess 4:17

The contentious verse 17 in the Greek can be read at SBLNT.

The key word causing controversy against the Rapture doctrine is harpagesometha. I need to get a little technical to parse this word and seek its meaning in lexicons and word studies. It is first person plural (i.e. ‘we’), future, passive, indicative of harpazw (will be caught up).

Harpazw means ‘I snatch or take away … in such a way that no resistance is offered’. Paul was ‘caught up to the third heaven’ (2 Cor 12:2). First Thess 4:17 is associated with this meaning of being snatched away with no way to resist (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:108).

The church being ‘caught up’ or raptured was taught long before J N Darby (1800-1882).[6] Darby was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren denomination in the UK who promoted his dispensational theories, beginning in the Anglican church but he found no satisfaction there (see Graves 2007).

clip_image008(image courtesy Daily Mail)

In his word study of harpazw, Foerster (1964:472) gave the meaning as ‘to take something forcefully (firmly, quickly, or rapaciously)’.[7] It can mean ‘to steal’ (Josephus) and in the NT is is ‘used in parables to speak of conflict between the kingdom of God and that of Satan… It occurs at 2 Cor:12:2, 4 (vision); 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 12:5 (“to catch up or away”); Acts 8:39 – always expressing a mighty operation of God’.

A T Robertson’s assessment was that harpazw was an ‘old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin rapio…. This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul’s argument of consolation’ (Robertson 1931:32). Vincent’s word studies (1887/1946:43) gives the meaning of ‘shall be caught up’ to include ‘by a swift, resistless, divine energy’ (cf. 2 Cor 12:2, 4; Acts 8:39).

Therefore, the meaning of ‘caught up’ in 1 Thess 4:17 is to be caught up or taken away forcefully by a mighty operation of God, called the Rapture.

The message of the Rapture in 1 Thess 4:17 harmonises with Jesus’ statements about his Second Coming in Matthew 24:36-44 (NLT):

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[k] Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Christians don’t know the time of the Second Coming of Jesus and the Rapture of the church. Only God the Father knows that. However, those who love the Lord live in glorious expectation of meeting our Master and Saviour.

3. If you don’t know the information, use a logical fallacy

His reply was this sarcasm: ‘It is your opinion only. One of millions in at least a dozen of variations of beliefs on this topic. Go ahead and start a million first pre-post-mid-none trib topic’.[8] My rejoinder was, ‘It was NOT my opinion. I provided you with evidence from a church father to refute your view, but that’s not good enough’.[9]

Notice what he did. I provided the evidence so he erected a straw man logical fallacy. This happened when Skitnik ignored the evidence I presented and created his own distorted misrepresentation of what I stated. I provided evidence from Irenaeus that the rapture teaching was taught long before the last 2 centuries. His comeback was that it was my opinion. No, I provided the evidence that his statement was incorrect but he refused to accept that.

4.   Evidence from other early church fathers or literature

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The Shepherd of Hermas (ca. 150):[10]

You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then you prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and you spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly (Hermas, vision 4, ch 2, emphasis added).

Irenaeus (ca AD 130-202) wrote in his famous treatise, Against Heresies (5.29.1)

Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance — in fact, as nothing;” (1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” (2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption (emphasis added).

The church being ‘suddenly caught up’ is parallel with the language of 1 Thess 4:17.

Cyprian (ca. 200-258)[11] wrote in Treatise 7:

And this, as it ought always to be done by God’s servants, much more ought to be done now— now that the world is collapsing and is oppressed with the tempests of mischievous ills; in order that we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. If in your dwelling the walls were shaking with age, the roofs above you were trembling, and the house, now worn out and wearied, were threatening an immediate destruction to its structure crumbling with age, would you not with all speed depart? If, when you were on a voyage, an angry and raging tempest, by the waves violently aroused, foretold the coming shipwreck, would you not quickly seek the harbour? Lo, the world is changing and passing away, and witnesses to its ruin not now by its age, but by the end of things. And do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an earlier departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? (Cyprian 7.25)

Ephraim (AD 306 – 373) was made a deacon in the church in Syria in 338 and later became the bishop of Nisibis. Although he was made a “saint” in the Roman Catholic Church, he was not involved in Catholicism and did not even live in the Roman Empire until the final years of his life. The book Pseudo Ephraim is one of his still existing works. It was called “Pseudo” because of later dispute over authorship. However the book’s one reference to the rapture is very compelling.

In his work, On The Last Times 2, he wrote:

We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated), and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brother, because the coming (advent) of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very last time.

Or do you not believe unless you see with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!” For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. And so, brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of the world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the Lord. And we think that the earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and incursions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed, although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!’

With a sense of urgency and strong warning, Ephraim writes that the end times are upon this world and could start at any moment. This text very clearly states the saints and elect of God, all born again believers in The Lord Jesus Christ, will be “taken to the Lord” before the Great Tribulation. Ephraim also identifies the Old Testament Day of The Lord and the end times Great tribulation as the same event (in line with the teachings of the Beginning and End Rapture Series). Ephraim quotes Amos 5:18 which says: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light” (source).

5.   John Gill on the Rapture [12]

(image courtesy Pinterest)

clip_image012Dr. John Gill, a famous eighteenth-century Baptist theologian, published his commentary on the New Testament in 1748. He is considered a serious Calvinistic scholar who wrote many volumes on theology. In his commentary on I Thessalonians 4:15-17, Gill pointed out that Paul is teaching a doctrine that is ‘something new and extraordinary’. Gill calls the imminent translation of the saints ‘the rapture’ and calls for watchfulness because ‘it will be sudden, and unknown before-hand, and when least thought of and expected’. This is a clear, detailed 1748 teaching on the imminent pre-tribulation rapture (80 years prior to John Darby in 1830).

To summarise Dr. Gill’s 1748 pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching about the sequence of prophetic events it is vital to note that he declared: to all.

1. The Lord will descend in the air.
2. The saints will be raptured in the air to meet Him.
3. Here Christ will stop in the air and will be visible.
4. As yet, He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him.
5. He’ll take up the saints with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over.
6. He will preserve them from it.
7. And then shall all the elect of God descend from heaven to earth with Christ.

Gill then summarised the sequence:

1) They shall be with Him, wherever He is; first in the air, where they shall meet Him, then Him; then
2) In the third heaven, where they shall go up with
3) On earth, where they shall descend and reign with Him a thousand years.

6.   Philip Schaff: The Earliest Church Fathers Were Premillennial[13]

Without question, premillennialism was the earliest and most widely held view by leading teachers in the earliest centuries of the church. The dean of church historians, Philip Schaff wrote, ‘The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene Age [A.D. 100-325] is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism,… a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papia, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius’ (Schaff 1884:2.614).

German historian Adolph Harnack wrote,

First in point of time came the faith in the nearness of Christ’s second advent and the establishing of His reign of glory on the earth. Indeed it appears so early that it might be questioned as an essential part of the Christian religion…. It must be admitted that this expectation was a prominent feature in the earliest proclamation of the gospel, and materially contributed to its success. If the primitive churches had been under the necessity of framing a “Confession of Faith,” it would certainly have embraced those pictures by means of which the near future was distinctly realized.[14]

7. The Rapture – Not Historic Christian Teaching?

clip_image014This (to the left) is Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris’s caricature of a raptured person[15]

His theology is:

In this brief article, Fr. Anthony expresses with clarity the truth of the false teaching known as the “Rapture” and how much it distorts the teachings of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures.

As I was driving one day I encountered a bumper sticker admonishing me:

“WARNING! In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.”

The strange belief in the Rapture teaches that some day (sooner rather than later), without warning, born-again Christians will begin to float up from the freeway, abandoned vehicles careening wildly. There will be airliners in the sky suddenly with no one at the controls! Presumably, God is removing these favored ones from earth to spare them the tribulation of the Anti-Christ which the rest of us will have to endure.

Unfortunately the Rapture has been promoted widely by the Left Behind series of books that have sold over 70 million copies.

The Rapture represents a radical misinterpretation of Scripture. I remember watching “Sixty Minutes”a year ago and was appalled to hear the announcer say that “the Rapture is an unmistakenly Christian doctrine”. It is not!

It is a serious distortion of Scripture.

It is astonishing that a belief so contrary to Scripture and the tradition of the Church could be propagated by so-called “Christians”.[16]

That was Father Coniaris’s view. It is not mine. As long as 1 Thess 4:16 is in the Bible, it will announce that there will be no secret Rapture:

‘For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first’ (NABRE).

8. No secret Rapture

Confusion enters this discussion when pre-tribulation promoters claim that Christians will be whisked away before the tribulation. It will be a secret rapture of the saints, they claim. Erickson (1985:1187) notes the biblical emphasis: ‘While the fact of the second coming is very emphatically and clearly asserted in Scripture, the time is not. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that we do not know and cannot ascertain the exact time when Jesus will return’. See Mark 13:32-33, 35 (ESV) where ti states,

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come…. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning.

Norman Geisler summarised the Pretribulationism of Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord & Dwight Pentecost:

Pretribulationism holds that the Rapture of the church occurs before the Tribulation, during which the church, Christ’s bride, will be in heaven, standing before His judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10) and preparing for His return to earth. Pretribulationism holds that Christ’s coming for His saints will be in the air and before the Tribulation; after the Tribulation, Christ will come with His saints and to earth to reign for a thousand years (Geisler 2005:612).

To address further aspects of this eschatology, see my articles,

clip_image016 Is the rapture of the church hogwash?
clip_image016[1] A pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding

clip_image016[2] What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

9.   Conclusion

If people take the Scriptures seriously, they will confirm a Rapture according to 1 Thess 4:17. However, there is no unanimity on when it will happen. It could be pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation.

To deny the Rapture is to deny the Scripture and the content of 1 Thess 4:17. I find it best to conclude with Norman Geisler: ‘Only believers who have received the power of the Holy Spirit are in Christ’s body (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:13), so only those who have this power will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:16-17)’ [Geisler 2005:548].

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

10. Works consulted

Bauer, W (transl, 4th rev, & aug ed), Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W, 1957, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, trans. & adapt. of Bauer, W, The University of Chicago Press (limited edition, Zondervan Publishing House), Chicago.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Coniaris, A M n.d. The Rapture – not historic Christian teaching. Orthocath (online). Available at: https://orthocath.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/the-rapture-not-historic-christian-teaching/ (Accessed 15 September 2016).

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Foester, W 1964. harpazw, in Kittel, G (ed) Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1, 372-373. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 2005. Systematic theology: Church, last things, vol 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Graves, D 2007. John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Christian History (online), April. Available at: https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/john-darby-of-the-plymouth-brethren-11630602.html (Accessed 28 February 2019).

Gundry, S N; Archer Jr., G L; Feinberg, P D; Moo, D J & Reiter, R R 1984,1996. Three views on the rapture: pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Harnack, A 1883. Millennium. The Encyclopedia Britannica, XVI, 9th ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Jeffrey, G n.d. Three fascinating discoveries! Rapture Ready (online). Available at: http://www.raptureme.com/terry/james27.html (Accessed 6 June 2016).

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Schaff, P 1884. History of the Christian church, vol 2. New York: Scribner.

Showers, R E 1990. There really is a difference! A comparison of covenant and dispensational theology. Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.

Vincent, M R 1887/1946. Word Studies in the New Testament, vol 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

11.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board, Intense dreams, I need answers (online), Angelina#3. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22150-intense-dreams-i-need-answers/#entry276105 (Accessed 2 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[3] This translation is the New American Bible (Revised edition), which is not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible. The NABRE is a Roman Catholic version.

[4] The footnote here in the NABRE was: ‘Literally, snatched up, carried off; cf. 2 Cor 12:2; Rev 12:5. From the Latin verb here used, rapiemur, has come the idea of “the rapture,” when believers will be transported away from the woes of the world; this construction combines this verse with Mt 24:40–41 (see note there) // Lk 17:34–35 and passages from Revelation in a scheme of millennial dispensationalism.

[5] Christianity Board op. cit., Skitnik#8.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#10. Darby’s lifespan dates are from Christian History: John Nelson Darby. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-nelson-darby.html (Accessed 1 November 2016).

[7] Oxford Living Dictionaries (online) gives the meaning of ‘rapacious’ as: ‘Aggressively greedy or grasping’ (2019. s.v. rapacious).

[8] Christianity Board op cit., Skitnik#12.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[10] Date is from Cairns (1981:76).

[11] Lifespan from Cairns (1981:113).

[12] I gleaned this information about John Gill from Grant Jeffrey (n d).

[13] See: http://biblocality.com/forums/showthread.php?5663-The-Earliest-Church-Fathers-Were-Premillennial&s=a101604c8cc517077ef721ad4f042da4

[14] Adolph Harnack (1883:XVI, 314-315, in Showers (1990:117).

[15] Coniaris (n.d.).

[16] Ibid.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 March 2019.

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Can human beings know good from bad?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is it possible for human beings to discern good versus evil moral actions? What is the standard by which a person or nation decides if behaviour is pleasing or evil?

The Christian is clear as to what is evil because Scripture declares it:

‘If there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character”’ (I Cor 15:32-33 NLT).

They know the deeper problem: ‘

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

“I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds (Jer 17:9-10 NLT).

As for the godless, secularist, I’d like you to meet Allan. This is my online interchange with him. He pursued a few different topics.

Allan: He agreed with Dan: ‘We [human beings] are indeed fallen angels’.[1]

Spencer: Instead of believing Dan, why don’t you obtain your understanding from Scripture? We are human beings, created in the image of God. Adam corrupted that and we would have done the same (Gen 1-3; Rom 5).[2]

See: What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? [Got Questions Ministries]

Allan: ‘Personally, I believe it [heaven] is some sort of reunification with a larger whole that is one unified field of energy, but still many individual conscious self-aware personalities. Experiencing unbelievable all consuming euphoria and overwhelming pure love’.

Spencer: When you invent ‘I believe’ personally, you are off into presupposition land.

Allan: ‘Heaven, therefore, is probably not a place, but rather a state of being?’

Spencer:

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Even though your statement ends with a question mark, there is no need to hypothesise like this. Jesus was clear: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NIV). Heaven is definitely a place, so says the Messiah.

Allan: ‘But instead, quote chapter and verse to justify any position however awful, inherently evil, depraved indefensible or untenable?’

Spencer: I agree Allan that some horrible things have been done with a label of Christianity or Christ. I do not endorse any of these. I’m thinking of the slaughter during the Crusades, and sexual abuse in churches and church institutions.

The apostle Paul could call himself ‘the worst of sinners’. In spite of the sinful actions of many within the church, this I know; ‘”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I (the apostle Paul) am the worst of them all’ (1 Tim 1:15). I apply Paul’s description to me, the chief of sinners, but God’s grace reaches beyond our sin through repentance, forgiveness and faith.

Allan: ‘Even as Herr Goebbels and co turned up at their church each Sunday morning and sang Christian hymns and recited Christian prayers from a Christian prayer book.
‘Without question, they were hypocrites pure and simple as are those who protect, forgive and succour paedophilia and paedophiles’.
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(photo Joseph Goebbels, Chancellor of Germany, propaganda minister, World War 2, courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer: We can point fingers at Hitler, Goebbels, church child abuse, etc (and we should), but when God examines me, His conclusion is, ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve’ (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
We are all not fallen angels but wicked human beings, from the inside out. That’s God’s assessment, not my invention.

Allan: ‘I think we know good from evil if never ever having read a bible or holy scripture’.

Spencer: Without God’s moral absolutes in Scripture (e.g. 10 commandments, the Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5-7), each person does what he/she believes is right. Lenin chose the Gulag, Hitler’s Holocaust wiped out about 6 million Jews – 1 million being children – some men rape women and children, others commit terrorist acts, while some in the banking industry cheat customers.

Allan: ‘Good as we know and understand it has its foundations on love’.

Spencer: Yep, sexual love of children, erotic love of porn and prostitution, promiscuous love of many leading to HIV (AIDS), syphilis, gonorrhoea and other STDs. ‘Love’, however it has been defined, has led to much damage and illness children and adults.

Allan: ‘The Christian Bible and the lessons as espoused by the Rabbi Jesus, was very-very different from the one reinvented, revised and massively edited by the cronies of Constantine … at the first synod, around 350 AD?’

Spencer: Are you an historical theologian and professor of Bibliology (the doctrine of the written Word) who knows the development of the Bible to write that kind of postmodern deconstruction?

Allan: ‘And relied on mainly four, non-eyewitness, plagiarised and systematically embellished gospels, for its Alleged authority?’

Spencer: Are you talking about the 4 Gospels? Luke’s Gospel differs from your deconstruction where he obtained his information from those who handed down eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1-4).

You don’t like the idea of the sacramental confessional. Neither do I. However, Jesus’ exhorted us to seek Him for forgiveness: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’ (Matt 6:11). This is not an appeal to father confessor but to Jesus himself.

Allan: ‘Then do something real inside your political organisations to clean out the evil at its very heart. The time for covering it up/excusing/justifying it? Is well and truly over!’

Spencer: Do you really mean that? It was you who stated: ‘Evil produced at all levels by similar if converse levels of hate?’

What is your cure for getting rid of the evil in the human person, political establishment and terrorists?

Notes

[1] The following quotes by Allan B are from his comments to the article by Peter Sellick, ‘The knowledge of good and evil’, On Line Opinion (online), 13 November 2018. Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 13 November 2018 10:42:41 AM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20027&page=1 (Accessed 14 November 2018).

[2] The following is from ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 2:12:51 PM.

 

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(pinterest)

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 November 2018.

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Fourteen Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

A Note to Dr Robyn J Whitaker

margaret Robyn J Whitaker

Rev. Dr. Margaret Court (photo courtesy| Dr Robyn J Whitaker (photo

Victory Life International, Perth, WA) | courtesy University of Divinity)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A shorter edition of this article was published in On Line Opinion, 7 November 2018, Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

What would cause many in the tennis community, mass media and social media to get up in arms about world champion tennis player, Margaret Court’s, support for heterosexuality. She has boycotted flying with Qantas because it supports homosexual marriage. Some in the Christian community oppose Dr Court’s stand against homosexual marriage.

This is one example of a Christian who took Dr Margaret Court AO MBE to task. It is my response to ‘Note to Margaret Court: the Bible isn’t meant to be read that literally’, by Robyn J Whitaker, Trinity College, 2 June 2017 (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld)

What are the holes in Whitaker’s arguments against Court and Court’s support for heterosexual marriage over Whitaker’s backing of modern Christian families that include gay couples? Here is what I found (In some places, I’ll address Dr Whitaker as ‘you’ and ‘your’).

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 1: It starts with Whitaker’s title that the Bible is not meant to be understood as literally as Margaret Court reads it.

Then she does exactly what she told Margaret not to do. She literally accept the fact that there are 66 books in the Bible; Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife.

Her literal interpretation continued: She accepted that David and Solomon had entire palaces full of wives and concubines and that polygamy was common.  Slaves were used for concubines. There was no hint in her article that these were supposed to be interpreted metaphorically or symbolically.

Whitaker made self-defeating statements with her examples. She failed to meet her own standard of the Bible being read too literally. The article cannot live up to the criteria she set in the title.

So her self-refuting statements are of necessity false. She violated the law of non-contradiction. This states that A and non-A cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. This promoted a contradiction when she accused Margaret Court of reading the Bible “that literally” when she did exactly the same with your reading of the Bible.

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 2: What is literal interpretation? She assumed we knew. When I was in high school in Qld, I learned that to understand a document literally meant to accept the plain meaning of the text. This includes the use of figures of speech and symbols.

My seminary text for biblical interpretation was Berkeley Mickelsen’s , Interpreting the Bible. He wrote that “literal” means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this evident meaning is included in the literal interpretation.

Therefore, “by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions” (Mickelsen 1963:17). So when I read Whitaker’s article online, I assumed that figures of speech were included in the literal meaning. That’s how I understood her  statement that David’s and Solomon’s wives and concubines “served as symbols of their power and status”.

The Cambridge Dictionary (2018. s.v. literal) states the adjectival meaning of literal is, ‘having exactly the same meaning as the basic or original meaning of a word or expression’. e.g. a literal interpretation of the Australian Constitution.

Iain Provan summarised his view of ‘literal’. It harmonises with The Cambridge Dictionary definition: Literally means that Scripture is read with “its apparent communicative intentions as a collection of texts from the past, whether in respect to smaller or larger sections of text”.

This means readers “take full account of the nature of the language in which these intentions are embedded and revealed as components of Scripture’s unfolding covenantal Story – doing justice to such realities as literary convention, idiom, metaphor, and typology or figuration”.

To read Scripture (or any literature) literally is to try to understand “what Scripture is saying to us in just the ways in which we seek to understand what other people are saying to us – taking into account … their age, culture, customs, and language, as well as the verbal context within which individuals words and sentences are located. This is what it means to read “literally,” in pursuit of the communicative intent of God – in search of what to believe, how to live, and what to hope for” (Provan 2017:105).

I would be in strife if I didn’t read Whitaker’s “Note to Margaret Court” literally. Or, should I put a postmodern or allegorical spin on it and make it mean whatever I, the reader, determine?

Related image Hole 3: You claim that Margaret Court was wrong in her open letter to Qantas and on Channel Ten’s “The Project” because she stated that the Bible confirms that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.

Which standard did you use to judge that Mrs Court’s analysis was wrong and yours was correct? Your article concluded that the Bible describes family life that is ancient, different, reflecting patriarchal structures or arranged marriages in early Christianity and is not for today.

In addition, you seem to have brought into your new concept of marriage something that you oppose – “culturally bound ideology”. For you, it includes gay couples and “Christian values of love, justice and inclusion found throughout the Bible and is why so many Christians support marriage equality”.

It is you who has promoted that last statement in your politically correct support of homosexual marriage. Again you make a self-defeating statement. You oppose the “culturally bound ideology” of the Bible’s structure of family life, but you promote your own culturally bound contemporary ideology of marriage equality and modern Christian families including gay couples.

If you were to agree with the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, you would have the same opinion as he had regarding marriage: “’A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

Jesus was an enthusiastic supporter of heterosexual marriage. He did not state that a man should leave his parents and be joined with his male partner and become one flesh with him.

Margaret Court’s conclusion agrees with that of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t harmonise with your belief that progressives do not offend contemporary political sensibilities, including sexual orientation.

Therefore, your view is contrary to that of Jesus. Margaret Court’s stance on marriage agrees with that of the Saviour and yours is the one at odds with the Bible and the Master.

Related imageHole 4: You have committed an historian’s fallacy in your claims against Margaret Court. This is how you promoted this fallacy:

1. Mrs Court claimed that in the Bible in the past, marriage was a union between a man and a woman.

2. Mrs Court, who makes this claim, did not take into consideration marriage equality that was not taught in biblical times.

3. Therefore, Margaret Court is wrong to claim that the Bible supports heterosexual marriage.

One of the problems with this erroneous reasoning is that it does not deal with the issues at hand, issues such as these:

  • The foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview is based on Old and New Testament Scriptures.
  • God decided who should be joined together in the beginning of time: ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Heterosexuality was God’s design.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed this position (Matthew 19:5),
  • As did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31).

Your support of marriage equality over heterosexual marriage is a politically correct line of reasoning and is fallacious because it doesn’t deal with a range of issues biblically, including the Scripture’s perspective on homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and the Bible’s support of heterosexual marriage in both Old and New Testaments. It also has been called a political correctness fallacy.

Related image Hole 5: Margaret Court “is even more wrong” to suggest she is being persecuted for her views, you stated. The situation is more serious. She has been bullied. To bully is to “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something” (Oxford Dictionary online 2017. s v bully). Mrs Court has been bullied and intimidated by the threat of tennis players to boycott Margaret Court Arena at the 2018 Australian Open Grand Slam tournament.

Girls Being Mean ClipartShe has been bullied by the threat that the arena named in her honour at Melbourne Park should be changed for the 2018 Australian Open.

(image courtesy clipartxtras)

Then there was the ridicule by tennis super-brat and now commentator, John McEnroe, after Mrs Court’s statement that “tennis is full of lesbians”. McEnroe fired back, “This is true and who gives a f***? This is not true and who should give a f***? This is half true and should we really give a f***?” (AAP 2017)

Open lesbian and tennis great, Martina Navratilova, engaged in emotional abuse of Mrs Court in her “open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena” when she stated:

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.

“And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK. This is in fact sick and it is dangerous. Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatising of our LGBT community” (Navratilova 2017).

Navratilova supported the change of name of Margaret Court Arena: “I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it”. Would you endorse this?

Etihad Stadium crop.jpg(photo Etihad Stadium, courtesy Wikipedia)

Does Whitaker consider the former Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, should have had a name change between 2009-2018? It was sponsored by Etihad Airways, the national airline of the Islamic country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is now known as Docklands’ Stadium.

Was she an advocate to change name of Etihad Stadium during its sponsorship of the stadium?

What is the Islamic view on homosexuality? The Muslim commentary on the Quran, Hadith, states in al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152: [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver”. Another statement from the Hadith is: “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done’ (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4447).

Thus, Islam requires capital punishment for both the perpetrator and recipient of what the people of Sodom did.

What did the “people of Lot” do? Lot’s (Lut in Arabic) life is explained in Genesis, chapters 11-14, and 19. He lived in Sodom, a city of open homosexuality (see Genesis 19:4-9). What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Greg Koukl examined the options in depth and concluded:

We know the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were homosexual, “both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (19:4), to the point of disregarding available women (19:5-8). After they were struck sightless they still persisted (19:11). These men were totally given over to an overwhelming passion that did not abate even when they were supernaturally blinded by angels.

Homosexuality fits the biblical details. It was the sin that epitomized the gross wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—the “grave,” “ungodly,” “lawless,” “sensual conduct of unprincipled men” that tormented Lot as he “saw and heard” it “day after day,” the “corrupt desire” of those that went after “strange flesh.”

Islam’s punishment for homosexuality is an extreme treatment compared with what Margaret Court advocated.

Homosexuality may be punishable by imprisonment or death in the UAE. Why didn’t Dr Whitaker support the cancellation of the sponsorship of Etihad Stadium for the sake of the LGBTIQ+ community when Islam is opposed to homosexuality?

It seems inconsistent to me that she wanted to downgrade Mrs Court’s persecution and abuse for her statements on homosexuality but avoid dealing with a Muslim country’s airline’s sponsorship of Etihad Stadium in Australia.

Margaret Court has put up with persecution, abuse and ridicule from the tennis community, mass media, and now pro-LGBTIQ+ bias from Dr Whitaker, a woman representing the Christian community.

Related image Hole 6: You cherry pick a Bible verse without bringing contextual understanding to try to oppose Mrs Court’s teaching ministry as a woman at Victory Life Centre, Perth.

You claim that if the literalism that Mrs Court applied to Genesis on marriage were applied to 1 Timothy 2:12, she would be in hot water because it forbids women to teach or have authority over men.

The facts are that “I am not permitting a woman to teach” focussed especially on the church where Timothy was located at Ephesus. However, in other churches women could prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5), give a teaching on occasions (1 Corinthians 14:26). Women were not excluded from teaching in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct one another wisely’ (NIRV), and the older women were to be good teachers of the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). One of the spiritual gifts is that of teachers (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Nothing in these verses indicates the teaching gift is exclusively for men to minister to a mixed gathering.

As a female teacher of males in a church college and university at which you work, and your affiliation with the Uniting Church, you should know that literal interpretation includes examining the use of plain language, figures of speech, literary context, and the cultural context. It is hypocritical, in my view, for you to challenge Margaret Court’s teaching as a minister while you are involved in a related kind of ministry as a female teacher.

Therefore, Margaret Court is not out of order by being a Christian teacher. Interpreting the Bible literally and in context does not lead to your conclusion of Mrs Court being in “hot water” as a female teacher. Rather, she is in the hot seat of being one of God’s gifts to the church and stating publicly exactly what Jesus taught in support of heterosexual marriage and thus rejecting homosexual relationships.

God’s grace as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection extends to all sinners as Paul illustrated, “Some of you used to do those things. But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). What they “used to do” included those who “practised homosexuality” and other sins.

Through Christ’s salvation there is hope for change among those who used to practise homosexuality and other sins.

Please be consistent with your biblical interpretation. You were the one who quoted Galatians 3:28 to affirm that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female because “all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. That teaching is profoundly troublesome for your statement against Mrs Court as a Christian teacher.

Related image Hole 7: There are holey Bible arguments in what you excluded as much as what you included. Your claim is that polygamy was common in the Old Testament (which is true) and that you don’t hear anyone advocating this as a “biblical view” of marriage.

That is only partially true. A cult group such as the Mormons historically practised polygamy. You fail to mention that this polygamy in the Old Testament was between a man and women and not male to male. It was heterosexual polygamy.

However, are you not aware of a website such as, http://www.christianpolygamy.com/? Polygamy is not only advocated by the Mormons but also, “Idaho evangelical Christian polygamists use the Internet to meet potential spouses”. Christian polygamy also is promoted in: http://www.truthbearer.org/polygamy/.

It is a significant issue in African churches where polygamists are converted to Christ.

Related image Hole 8: What was God’s view of polygamy? His original plan was one man for one woman from the beginning with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25).

That changed when sin entered the human race (Genesis 3) and Lamech had wives (Genesis 4:23). The Law of Moses was clear for the Israelites: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). In that same chapter, there is a warning of the consequences of polygamy:

The Lord had warned Israel about women from other nations. He had said, ‘You must not marry them. If you do, you can be sure they will turn your hearts toward their gods.’ But Solomon continued to love them anyway. He wouldn’t give them up (1 Kings 11:2).

Related image Hole 9: You declare the traditional nuclear family can be found in the Bible if we look for it, but it’s not the dominant model. The information given above makes it clear that the nuclear family (with aberrations such as polygamy) was found in the Bible in both New and Old Testaments.

You stated that the Bible doesn’t condemn “what we understand to be loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”. This is an imposition on the biblical text which states,

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, emphasis added).

Another translation of “men who have sex with men” is “male prostitutes, sodomites”.

Those who practise homosexuality are prevented from entering the kingdom of God – along with wrongdoers, deceivers, the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.

The New Testament does not allow or stress homosexual relationships. Its statement is clear nonetheless: “Since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). It’s a serious violation of Scripture when you want to harmonise a verse like this with ”loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”.

clip_image024 Hole 10: You make a case for faith being what makes a person a Christian and not family structures or sexuality. That is not what Jesus taught: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). By the fruit of homosexual relationships, will you recognize Christians? The biblical evidence says, “No”.

Yes, faith in Christ alone for salvation is the primary requisite. However, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declares the people with certain kinds of behaviour will not enter God’s kingdom. Homosexuality is one such activity. Faith needs to be demonstrated through God’s kind of works, not works defined by political correctness (see James 2).

clip_image026 Hole 11: You stated that Mrs Court’s “culturally bound ideology” is rejected by “biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches”. Here you have committed the Appeal to Common Belief fallacy.

When you claim that a particular group of people – biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches – accept the anti-literal interpretation as true, you have not presented evidence for the claim. It is erroneous reasoning.

This is careless thinking and is a dangerous way to accept information.

This is your faulty reasoning:

  • Many people (scholars and mainstream Church people) believe in a non-literal interpretation of what Margaret Court accepts literally.
  • Therefore, the non-literal interpretation is correct.

clip_image028 Hole 12: Your statement that “in the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce” is a diversion.

There was no need for Jesus to affirm same-sex relationships because his definition of marriage excluded them. He was not silent but defined the marriage union as between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5).

clip_image030 Hole 13: Your assertion that many Christians are not represented by the views of Margaret Court or the “so-called Australian Christian Lobby”. This commits a Hasty Generalisation fallacy, also known as argument from small numbers. Ask  Australian rugby union star, Israel Folau, about that!

You have drawn a conclusion from a small sample size (your estimate of “many Christians”), rather than examining statistics that are in line with the average situation. Your debunking of Mrs Court’s view and that of the Australian Christian Lobby because they do not line up with your “many Christians” of another view is deceptive reasoning.

AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg(image courtesy wikipedia)

A better solution would be to examine the statistics for the mainline churches versus the evangelical churches, including Pentecostal churches.

USA church growth expert, Ed Stetzer, has a particular interest in what is happening in the Australian church. He has analysed the Australian church scene and reported in the Bible Society Live Light, (12 May 2015) that too many churches are stagnant.

His observation of the Western world, including the Australian outlook, is that “mainline Protestantism” in the USA and its counterparts in the rest of the English speaking world are “rapidly declining”. He used the Uniting Church of Australia as a representative example, but this could be applied to other members of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCC). He expects this trend of progressive Protestant decline to continue.

By contrast, evangelicalism (represented by Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby) is growing in Australia. His view is that some of this may be partly related to those moving from NCC churches.

Stetzer said that the majority of Protestant Australians who attend church go to a conservative church. It may not call itself evangelical but is influenced by that movement.

A survey of 1,015 adults at Easter 2015 found that “just over half (52%) of Australian’s believe that God exists as the creator of the universe and Supreme Being. These findings have yielded similar results to the same question asked of the Australian public 6 years ago” (McCrindle Research).

According to the 2016 National Church Life Survey, the Pentecostals have overtaken Anglicans as Australia’s second largest religious group by attendance, behind the Catholic Church (https://wwrn.org/articles/46227/).

This should account for Stetzer’s comment that the large numbers of Protestant Australians attending church are conservative. He considered this represented the majority of Australian Protestants. I consider that a better assessment would be to state that a significant number of Protestant Australians attend conservative churches.

Therefore, Dr Whitaker, to dumb down the views of Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby on homosexuality as “not representative” of “many Christians” is to commit the Appeal to Popularity fallacy. This fallacy invokes the popularity of a proposition to provide evidence of its truthfulness.

Here you have committed this fallacy:

  • Many Christians promote modern Christian families that include gay couples and are not represented by Mrs Court’s or the Australian Christian Lobby’s views.
  • Therefore, the truth is that the modern Christian family includes gay couples.

This is invalid reasoning because it does not engage with a contextual interpretation of the biblical texts and the statistical divide between mainline Protestants and evangelical churches.

clip_image032 Hole 14: It is acceptable to send a player of rugby league, rugby union, ice hockey and basketball to the “sin bin” for certain offences against the rules of the games.

One of the largest holes in your agenda, Dr Whitaker, is your avoidance of the key factor – yes, the key factor – that has screwed up our worldviews. This is the problem of sin that has infiltrated every human being and our culture. “God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

Image result for christart Sin(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12) but this sin not only screwed up human beings and their relationships, it also contaminated the universe.

God told Adam that because he listened to his wife (not his male partner) and ate from the tree from which God commanded him not to eat, then, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17).

However, you have been negligent in eliminating the problem of sin and its influence in Old Testament polygamy and other aberrations of marriage, including homosexual marriage, heterosexual adultery, and promiscuity (sleeping around).

The teaching on sin is central to Christianity. Sin consists of acts of offence against God and breaking his laws. “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12).

However, the contamination of sin in relationships was missing from your article. There is no point in Jesus’ death and resurrection for redemption if there is no need to be liberated from the guilt of sin. Jesus Christ “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

There was no need to be freed from the sin of homosexuality or polygamy in your presentation. The sin problem left a big hole in your argument.

Conclusion

There’s a huge gap between Dr Margaret Court’s holy Bible and Dr Robyn Whitaker’s holey Bible on the authority of Scripture that contains teaching on homosexuality, gay couples, marriage equality, polygamy, heterosexuality and sexual purity..

I found 14 holes in Dr Whitaker’s case against Dr Court. There are possibly more. It is a serious situation when Whitaker castigates Court’s views when heterosexual and not homosexual relationships are supported by Jesus Himself.

You have bought into the contemporary, pro-homosexual, politically correct agenda that receives vast mass media coverage. Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby have promoted the biblical mandate of heterosexual marriage, which was supported by Jesus, the apostle Paul and has been the norm since the beginning of time.

I recommend that you make an apology to Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby for promoting your own views over those endorsed by Scripture – all in the name of your being a representative of Christianity.

Works consulted

AAP 2017. John McEnroe makes light of Margaret Court same-sex marriage saga. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 5 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/john-mcenroe-makes-light-of-margaret-court-samesex-marriage-saga-20170604-gwjyxa.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

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

Navratilova, M 2017. An open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena. The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/an-open-letter-from-martina-navratilova-to-margaret-court-arena-20170601-gwhuyx.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Provan, I 2017. The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press.

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2018.

C H Spurgeon’s conflicting views on the gifts of the Spirit

Compiled by Spencer D Gear PhD

A cessationist has the theological view that the gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture was completed. Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London (where Spurgeon preached for 38 years) states:

We believe … that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is very plainly taught in God’s Word, so plainly, in fact, that the opposite view has only seriously appeared in the last 100 years or so.1

A continuationist is a person who is convinced from Scripture that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, as in 1 Cor 12-14, continue into the twenty-first century. Sam Storms explained:

All the gifts of the Spirit, whether tongues or teaching, prophecy or mercy, healing or helping, were given (among other reasons) for the edification, building up, encouraging, instructing, consoling, and sanctifying of the body of Christ .2

C Peter Wagner’s definition of a spiritual gift is …

a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the body.3

1. Spurgeon the cessationist

Spurgeon preached:

“I have little confidence in those persons who speak of having received direct revelations from the Lord, as though He appeared otherwise than by and through the Gospel. His Word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh Revelation to you or me is quite needless. To do so would be to put a dishonor upon the perfection of that Word”.4

C. H. Spurgeon the prominent 19th century Baptist preacher and pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, for 38 years, wrote that …

those gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which are departed from us.… As you would certainly inquire whether you had the gifts of healing and miracle-working, if such gifts were now given to believers, much more should you inquire whether you have those more permanent gifts of the Spirit which are this day open to you all, by the which you shall work no physical miracle, but shall achieve spiritual wonders of the grander sort.5

In my preparation of an article on my homepage, Truth Challenge – ‘Cessationists through Church History’,6 I engaged in email discussion with my friend, the late Philip Powell of Christian Witness Ministries.7

2. Spurgeon the contuationist

Philip alerted me to several incidents in the life of Spurgeon which indicate he was not a consistent cessationist. Spurgeon provided these descriptions and an explanation, as supplied by Philip Powell (I have located the following quotes from other sources):

Spurgeon (1834-92) was the prominent Baptist preacher in England during the 19th century, who spoke of a “sermon at Exeter Hall in which he suddenly broke off from his subject and pointed in a certain direction. This incident is told in C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography (1856-1878), vol 3, compiled by his wife and private secretary:

“At the Monday evening prayer-meeting … Mr. Spurgeon related [an]

Incident [from] the sermon at Exeter Hall, in which he suddenly broke off from his subject, and, pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for; you have stolen them from you,’ employer.” At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Mr.Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” The preacher had drawn the bow at a venture, but the arrow struck the target for which God intended it, and the startled hearer was, in that singular way, probably saved from committing a greater crime’.8

“I remember quite well, and the subject of the story is most probably present in this congregation, that a very singular conversion was wrought at New Park Street Chapel. A man, who had been accustomed to go to a gin-palace to fetch in gin for his Sunday evening’s drinking, saw a crowd round the door of the chapel, he looked in, and forced his way to the top of the gallery stairs. Just then, I looked in the direction in which he stood,—I do not know why I did so, but I remarked that there might be a man in the gallery who had come in there with no very good motive, for even then he had a gin-bottle in his pocket. The singularity of the expression struck the man, and being startled because the preacher so exactly described him, he listened attentively to the warnings which followed; the Word reached his heart, the grace of God met with him, he became converted, and he is walking humbly in the fear of God.”

Spurgeon gave further examples of his word of knowledge ministry:

“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, `There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for four pence!’

“A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, `Do you know Mr Spurgeon?’ `Yes,’ replied the man `I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place: Mr Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir.

“I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul’”.9

2.1 How does Spurgeon explain this revelatory ministry?

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, `Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, `The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.’”10

3. Conclusion

How are we to conclude concerning C H Spurgeon’s ministry in London in the 19th century? Was he a cessationist (he makes statements to confirm this view) or a continuationist – his experience supports the latter view.

Sam Storms makes a helpful conclusion:

My opinion is that this is a not uncommon example of what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Spurgeon exercised the gift of prophecy (or some might say the word of knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8). He did not label it as such, but that does not alter the reality of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. This information could not be found by Spurgeon from reading the Scripture. But surely we do not undermine the latter’s sufficiency by acknowledging that it was God who “revealed” this insight to him. If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise! 11

 

See Sam Storms (2014); Why I Am a Continuationist. (The Gospel Coalition).

For an opposing view, see Thomas Schreiner (2014), Why I Am a Cessationist (The Gospel Coalition).

4.   Notes

1The Sword & Trowel 2011, issue 2. Cessationism — Proving Charismatic Gifts have Ceased (online). Available at: http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Christian-Article/Cessationism-Proving-Charismatic-Gifts-have-Ceased-Sword-and-Trowel-Magazine (Accessed 21 August 2018).

2 Sam Storms 2014. Why I Am a Continuationist. The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-am-a-continuationist/ (Accessed 21 August 2018).

3 C Peter Wagner 2017. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (rev ed). Bloomington, Minnesota: Chosen Books, ch 2.

4 Spurgeon from sermon No. 3336, ‘Beauty for Ashes’, published 9 January 1913, delivered by C H Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington UK). It also is available in C H Spurgeon, The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 59: Sermons 3335-3386.

5 “Receiving the Holy Ghost”, sermon no.1790, vol. 30, Year 1884, p. 386, available at: http://adrianwarnock.com/2004/05/what-would-c-h-spurgeon-have-made-of-charismatics/ (Accessed 20 June 2010).

6 Spencer D Gear 2010, Truth Challenge (online), Cessationists through Church History, 20 June. Available at: https://spencer.gear.dyndns.org/2010/06/20/cessationism-through-church-history/ (Accessed 29 July 2018).

7.  72759 Logan Road Eight Mile Plains, Brisbane, QLD 4113, Australia. See: https://www.cwmf.org.au/about-us (Accessed 21 August 2018).

8 C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol 3, Chapter 60, p. 59, Prince of Preachers (online). Available at: http://www.princeofpreachers.org/uploads/4/8/6/5/48652749/chs_autobiography_vol_3.pdf#page=4&zoom=auto,-37,552. (Accessed 29 July 2018).

9  C H Spurgeon 1899, The Autobiography, vol. 2, pp226-227.

10  Charles H. Spurgeon 1973. Autobiography: The Full Harvest , 1860-1892, vol 2. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p. 60.

11  Sam Storms 2013. When a Cessationist Prophesies, or, What are We to Make of Charles Spurgeon? (online), 25 October. Available at: https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/when-a-cessationist-prophesies–or–what-are-we-to-make-of-charles-spurgeon (Accessed 21 August 2018).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2018

Husband of one wife (for deacons and elders): Have churches distorted the meaning for centuries?

 

I Tim. 3:12 states, ‘Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well’ (ESV).

 

Image result for photo promiscuity public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 

It doesn’t matter whether we go to the laity support of men-only in public church teaching/pastoring ministry or seek explanations from the anti-brigade of pastors and scholars, this group has a resounding message:

Women must not exercise their teaching gifts over men in the context of the church.

Leading California pastor, John MacArthur, uses 1 Tim 2:8-15 as his foundation for this conclusion:

Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men in the context of the church. That is true not because women are spiritually inferior to men but because God’s law commands it. He has ordained order in His creation—an order that reflects His own nature and therefore should be reflected in His church. Anyone ignoring or rejecting God’s order, then, weakens the church and dishonors Him (MacArthur 2013).

It was a common thing for women to be teaching women and children. One member of the laity owned up to attending a ‘very traditional Baptist church’ where women sang, had exclusive Bible studies among women and were engaged in activities that pertained to children. ‘But when it comes to the main sanctuary, it is only men at the pulpit’. Why? ‘Everyone knows’ that is what the Bible teaches, or more specifically, ‘it is what Paul teaches’ [1].

This statement  from 1 Tim 3:12 also is a qualification for a church elder, according to 1 Tim. 3:2, ‘an elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, stable, sensible, respectable, hospitable to strangers, and teachable’ (ISV; also NLT). Some translations use ‘overseer’ for ‘elder’ (ASV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NET, NIV, NJB, LEB, TPT, YLT), Others translate as ‘bishop’ (DRA, KJV, NAB, NKJV, RSV, NRSV [2]).

The word, ‘episkopos’ in 1 Tim 3:2, translated as overseer, elder or bishop, means ‘superintendent, guardian, bishop’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:299). It is significant to note that in 1 Pet 2:25, Jesus Christ is called episkopos, ‘the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (ESV).

On the surface, this verse looks as though all debate is ended. Deacons can only be men because the qualification is “the husband of but one wife.”  In context, if we look at v. 8, Paul is speaking of male deacons who “are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, . . . etc.”  That’s how it seems with a surface reading.

Let’s observe something about the phrase “husband of but one wife” (NIV).

1.   Must deacons and elders be male?

The word translated, “husband” is the Greek, aner.  This Greek-English lexicon (a lexicon is a dictionary) by Arndt & Gingrich gives the meaning of aner (1957:65-66): 

Flower Also, aner speaks “of a woman having sexual intercourse with a man” referring to Joseph and Mary in Lk. 1:27, 34;

Flower Yes, it can be translated as “husband” See Mt. 1:16; Acts 5:9ff;
Flower It also means a “man in contrast with a boy” (I Cor. 13:11);
Flower It refers to a “full-grown man” (Eph. 4:13);
Flower Aner is also used as equivalent to “someone/some people” in Lk. 9:38; John 1:30; Acts 6:11.

Flower  Remember the story of the feeding of the 5,000 people by Jesus.  In Matthew 14:21 it reads, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men [aner], besides women [gune]and children.”  These are the words translated as “husband” and “wife” in I Tim. 3.  There is no way that we would translate Matt. 14:21 as “The number of those who ate was about five thousand [husbands], besides [wives] and children.” Aner in this context means “man in contrast to woman.” In addition to Matt. 14:21, you’ll find find “man in contrast to woman” used also in passages such as Mk. 6:44; Acts 4:4; I Cor. 12:3;

So, there is no reason why aner should be translated only as “husband.”  It is just as valid to translate as “a man, a mature man, or a person.”    

2.  What about one wife?    

Is the ministry of being deacons and elders restricted to those who are married?

In the phrase, “the husband of but one wife,” the word for “wife” is the Greek, gune.  Arndt & Gingrich (1957:167) state that gune can refer to the following:

blue-arrow-small Remember Matt. 9:20? It reads, “Just then a woman [gune] who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. So, gune here refers to “any adult female.” You’ll find a similar kind of use for gune in Lk. 1:42; 1 Cor. 14:34ff.


blue-arrow-small It can refer to “wife” as in Matt. 5:28; I Cor. 9:5; Col. 3:18ff.
In Luke 4:26, we read, ” Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” The “widow” is gune in the Greek.

blue-arrow-small In Matt. 1:20, Mary is said to be Joseph’s bride or wife.

blue-arrow-small In Rev. 12:1-17, gune speaks of “the woman in heaven.”

So, gune can mean an adult woman, wife, or widow.

What then is the meaning of “the husband of one wife” in 1 Tim. 3:2, 12 as it refers to qualifications of deacons and elders?  Greek exegete, Dr. Gordon Fee, wrote that this ‘is one of the truly difficult phrases in the Pastoral Epistles’ (Fee 1988:80) Fee considers there are at least four options for what it means:

First, it would require that overseers & deacons should be married.  Support could be found ‘in the fact that the false teachers are forbidding marriage and that Paul urges marriage for the wayward widows’ (see 5:14; cf. 2:15) [Fee 1988:80]] But, this would contradict what Paul says in I Cor. 7:25-38 that singleness was best for most effective ministry.  Besides, in the Roman culture, it was assumed that most people would be married.

There’s a second possible interpretation: to prohibit polygamy (having more than one wife at the same time).  This would emphasise the one wife aspect, ‘but polygamy was such a rare feature of pagan society’ (Fee 1988:80). Even further, if you go to I Tim. 5:9, it states that ’no widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband’ (NIV).  So, warning against polygamy would have been irrelevant.

A third possibility: ‘It could be prohibiting second marriages…. It would fit the widows especially and all kinds of inscriptional evidence praises women (especially, although sometimes men) who were ‘married once’ and remained ‘faithful’ to that marriage after the partner died.” (Fee 1988:80)  So, this view would mean that a widow or widower could not remarry and be a church leader, and divorce and remarriage would be prohibited for deacons and elders. But, the scriptures give biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage in passages such as Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-9, and 1 Cor. 7:10-15.

The fourth alternative explanation is that ‘it could be that it requires marital fidelity to his one wife’ (Fee 1988:80). That’s how the New English Bible translates the phrase, as ‘faithful to his one wife’.  Again I quote Fee:

In this view the overseer is required to live an exemplary married life (marriage is assumed), faithful to his one wife in a culture in which marital infidelity was common, and at times assumed…. The concern that the church’s leaders live exemplary married lives seems to fit the context best—given the apparently low view of marriage and family held by the false teachers (4:3; cf. 3:4-5) [Fee 1988:80-81].

Therefore, the ‘husband of one wife’ can also be translated as’“the man of one woman’.  He was a one-woman man.  While the English Standard Version  translates I Tim. 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 as ‘the husband of one wife’, it gives this footnote: “Or a man of one woman.”  The New International Version translates as ‘faithful to his wife’.  It is giving an example of the need for faithfulness in marriage relationships.  Commentator R. C. H. Lenski explains:

The emphasis is on one wife’s husband, and the sense is that he have nothing to do with any other woman.  He must be a man who cannot be taken hold of on the score of sexual promiscuity or laxity… Paul had a reason for beginning with “one wife’s husband.” In those days mature men were chosen for the eldership, who, as a rule, were married and had families; there were no seminary graduates who were awaiting calls. The bulk of the membership from which the elders had to be chosen had come from paganism. What this means as to sexual vices is written large in the New Testament and in the moral records of the day. Even the early apostolic conference in Jerusalem warns against “fornication” and uses this wide term to cover all the prevalent pagan sexual excesses (Acts 15:29). The epistles fairly din the word into their readers’ ears. There was the regular institution of the hierodouloi, pagan temple prostitutes; the common custom of having hetaerae (“companions,” see Liddell and Scott ???????), girls from non-citizen families who were used by unmarried and by-married men; and thus, besides these standard practices, all the rest of the vileness that formed the soil from which these grew. Converts to the gospel did not at once step into perfect sexual purity. Hence this proviso regarding the “overseers”: to begin with, a man who is not strictly faithful to his one wife is debarred. [from service as an overseer] (Lenski 2001:580-581).

3.  Females are included as deacons

The biblical record cannot restrict deacons to males.  We know this from Rom. 16:1, which states, ‘I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchre’ (NIV).  We need to note that Phoebe, in the Greek is said to be a “diakonos.”  Paul used the Greek masculine, “diakonos,” in 1 Tim. 3:8 (cf. 3:11) to indicate male deacons.  Here in Rom. 16:1 we have clear biblical evidence that the feminine “diakonos” was used to refer to a female deaconess (Arndt & Gingrich 1957: 183-184).

You will miss this in some English translation. The NIV: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [footnote: “or deaconess”] of the church in Cenchrea.”  The NASB, ESV, KJV and NKJV, all refer to Phoebe, “the servant.”  The New Living Translation and NRSV read: “Our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church.”  The RSV translates as “our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church.”  Phoebe was a female deacon, i.e. a deaconess.

In the first four centuries of the NT era, archaeology has found grave sites that have confirmed there were women presbyters (elders, bishops). ‘One tombstone reads, (don’t remember the names in order) ___ the daughter of Lois the presbyter [3] He stated that in many areas around the Mediterranean Sea, there have been discovered paintings of women in leadership positions and inscriptions in churches and on tombstones. These women are named and their positions are that of bishops and deacons. His view was that ‘archaeology demands that we reconcile what we have from Paul with the evidence’. [4]

(image courtesy Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome)

4.  Female elders / presbyters

What is the evidence from archaeology? ‘As far as the statement that there is no tradition of women priests, there’s good evidence from archaeology and iconography, in areas of what is now the former Yugoslavia, and southern Italy, that there were women presbyters, leaders of Christian communities in those places, in the early centuries. And a presbyter is what we would call a priest today’ (Johnson 2010:98).

Madigan and Osiek’s research discovered that ‘while synods and councils, both East and West, repeatedly condemned the practice of women presbyters, the epigraphical [5] and literary evidence suggests their ongoing existence, even if in small numbers’ (Madigan & Osiek 2005:163).

5.  Conclusion

The most likely explanation of a deacon or elder being the husband of one wife is that in the promiscuous society of the first century (and the twenty-first century), the person must be one who is ‘faithful to his wife’ (NEB, NIV). We know that females can be deacons (see Rom 16:1) and that apostles can be females (Junia in Rom 16:7).

Kenneth Berding of Biola University also accepts this interpretation:

I believe that the weight of the arguments move in the direction [that] Paul wants a potential overseer to be one who is above reproach in his commitment to his wife (if he is married).  He should demonstrate both marital and sexual fidelity in relationship to his wife (Berding 2011).

For too long, women have been closed down in public ministry, especially in teaching men and women in the church. In my understanding, this situation is based on a rigid, literalistic interpretation of certain biblical texts. On this website, Truth Challenge, you will read several articles challenging this traditionalist perspective. See ‘Women in Ministry’.

Blue Golden ButtonFor an exposition of the place of female apostles in the church, see: : Are there apostles in the 21st century?

For further exposition, see my articles,

Blue Golden ButtonWomen in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages.

Blue Golden ButtonThe heresy of women preachers?

6.  Works consulted

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

Berding, K 2011. What is the meaning of “husband of one wife” (mias yunaikos andra) in 1 Timothy 3:2? The Good Book Blog, Talbot Theological Seminary, Biola University (online), 1 November. Available at: https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2011/what-is-the-meaning-of-husband-of-one-wife-in-1-timothy-3-2 (Accessed 13 August 2018).

Fee, G D 1988, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (W. Ward Gasque, New Testement ed., New International Biblical Commentary). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Kroeger, C C 2000 Women in Greco-Roman world and Judaism, in C A Evans & S E Porter (eds), Dictionary of New Testament Background, 1276-1280. Downers Grove, Illinois / Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.

Lenski, R C H 1937, 1946, 1961, 2001, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

MacArthur, J 2013. Can Women Exercise Authority in the Church? Grace to You (online), 29 August. Available at: http://www.gty.org/blog/B130829/can-women-exercise-authority-in-the-church (Accessed 13 August 2018).

Madigan, K & Osiek, C 2005. Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.

7.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.com, Christian Communities, Baptists, ‘Female deacons’, August 26, 2015. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/female-deacons.7904366/ (Accessed 13 August 2018). See, Crowns&Laurels#9.

[2] The footnote states, ‘or, an overseer’.

[3] I have not located this statement in an online search.

[4] Christian Forums, op cit, Hank77#23.

[5] Epigraphy is ‘the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions’ (Oxford Dictionaries online 2018. s.v. epigraphy).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 August 2018

Image result for decorative single lines public domain

Perpetual virginity of Mary promoted by false document

File:Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

(Blessed Virgin Mary, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Did Mary, the mother of Jesus, remain a virgin all of her life?[1] That’s the meaning of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary as promoted by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches today, some early church fathers, and some Protestants in the early Reformation period.

A Roman Catholic explanation is:

When Catholics call Mary the “Blessed Virgin,” they mean she remained a virgin throughout her life. When Protestants refer to Mary as “virgin,” they mean she was a virgin only until Jesus’ birth. They believe that she and Joseph later had children whom Scripture refers to as “the brethren of the Lord.” The disagreement arises over biblical verses that use the terms “brethren,” “brother,” and “sister.”
There are about ten instances in the New Testament where “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord are mentioned (Matt. 12:46; Matt. 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12, 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5).[2]

Here is how some Roman Catholics argue:

1. Roman Catholic support for The Protoevangelium of James

A person online wrote:

Are we to ignore The Protoevangelium of James written in 150 AD? I know you will because it doesn’t fit your theory 1900 years later. The Origin of Alexandria’s commentary on Matthew 10:17 written in 249 AD? He is wrong because______________????? I could go on and on throughout history and quote some of the greatest Christian theologians/teachers of the Christian Church to rebut your theory but you have decided you are right and everyone else is wrong.

So, once again, what makes your interpretation right(?) and the historical writings and interpretations of The Protoevangelium of James, Origin of Alexandria, Wycliffe and Calvin (who you love to quote on your website when they agree with your personal doctrine) wrong??[3]

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. Early writers used this tactic to try to gain credibility for what they wrote. And Tom used it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Tom has created a straw man argument of my view. I do not support the use of a false document to augment the case for Mary’s perpetual virginity.

2. Some of the early reformers supported perpetual virginity of Mary

Surely it’s a killer blow for the Protestant rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary for a RC person to isolate the Reformers and their support of the perpetual virginity. This is how one of them did it:

The Reformers on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary:[4]

Martin Luther

It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. … Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)

John Calvin

(On the Heretic Helvidius) Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s “brothers” are sometimes mentioned. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called “first-born”; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word “brethren” the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3])

John Wesley

‘I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin’ (‘Letter to a Roman Catholic’, The Works of Rev. John Wesley, vol 10, p. 81).

3. Was it plagiarised information about the Protestant details?

I asked:[5] Did you obtain your information here from https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc2.htm? You seem to have done that. Why don’t you acknowledge your sources?  If you have not read these actual documents to get these quotes and have obtained them from another source you have not acknowledged, then you have plagiarised from that source. If you obtained your citations from this website, it is a global RC television network. It comes with a decided agenda to promote RC theology.

See the article on ‘Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and the assessment of statements by Luther, Martin. The article begins: ‘Luther’s opinions on Our Lady are not wholly consistent, not altogether free from tension. They are abundant and it would be possible to select a series of extracts that would make him look like a Catholic’.

Of course you can find statements from Luther that would make him look like a RCC adherent. After all, that was the system he had left and his theology was in transition. There will be examples of contradiction in this process at various stages of his movement away from the RCC. I know that when I moved from being a cessationist to being a supporter of the charismatic gifts, there were (and could still be) contradictions in my statements. That’s called growth and change.

Pulling out some pro-RCC statements from Luther is a questionable tactic when he was a man in process of transitioning from one theological system to another.

As for John Calvin and John Wycliffe, they should have known better because of the biblical evidence that contradicts their positions. Scripture states that Jesus had siblings. Matt 13:55-56 (NLT) states, ‘Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?”’

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a misnomer perpetrated by the RCC.

She was a privileged lady but not in such a prominent position that causes schools in my electorate to be named in this kind of way to exalt her: Our Lady of the Way Catholic Primary School, Petrie, Qld, Australia.

The exalted Mary, mother of Jesus, cannot show the way to eternal life. That’s for Jesus alone (John 3:16 NLT; Acts 4:11 NLT). The Scriptures describe Mary: ‘Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”’ (Luke 1:28 NLT)

4. Logical fallacies and promotion of perpetual virginity

(The Vladimir Eleusa icon of the Ever Virgin Mary. The Aeiparthenos (Ever Virgin) title is widely used in Eastern Orthodox liturgy. Courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Example 1

I wrote: Some of the RCC doctrines that are contrary to biblical Christianity have been exposed over and over. See: https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Biblical.html.[6]

This was one person’s RC reply:[7]

Gotquestions.org is a website run by Protestant,  evangelical, fundamental, and non-denominational people. Of course they are going to be anti-Catholic. It comes with a decided agenda to refute RC theology!!

Why aren’t Protestant beliefs or your beliefs that you promote on your website contrary to biblical Christianity that have been exposed over and over?

Here Tom55 has committed a genetic logical fallacy.[8] His genetic fallacy, a fallacy of reasoning, is based on what Tom sees as a defect in the origin of a claim, i.e. GotQuestions.org is a Protestant, evangelical, fundamental, non-denominational website. What he did in perpetrating this fallacy is:

  1. The origin of a claim about the perpetual virginity of Mary is from a Protestant, evangelical source;
  2. The claim is wrong because of that source.

This sort of reasoning is erroneous because blaming the source does not deal with the evidence for the issue. In the link I gave above it gave the example of, ‘Bill claims that 1+1=2. However, my parents brought me up to believe that 1+1=254, so Bill must be wrong’.

Of course there are examples where the origin of a claim is more relevant to its being true or false when, for example, a reliable expert in a field is more likely to be correct than a person with little expertise. I have had 5 open heart (valve replacement) surgeries. I would trust my cardiac surgeon’s knowledge on the need for a valve replacement than the knowledge of a lay person because of his expertise in these matters.

However, to claim that denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary is wrong because it comes from a Protestant, evangelical site, avoids the issue of the evidence. Tom committed a genetic logical fallacy. We cannot have a rational conversation when Tom does this.

Example 2

It was stated, ‘PS – when a poster starts complaining about the formatting style of his opponent, it usually means that his argument has run OUT of steam’.[9]

My response was: [10] When I complain about your shouting on an internet forum, it has zero to do with conceding defeat but bringing to your attention the need for etiquette when we speak to one another online. This was a red herring logical fallacy that did not deal with the fact that he was using capital letters, bold and enlarged font. He would not agree that he was wrong with his etiquette on a forum.

Example 3

Can you show me one single verse of Scripture that states that Scripture is our final authority??
I can show you verses that make this claim about the Church – but not about Scripture . . .

Matt 16:18-19 – Jesus told Peter that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

Matt. 18:15-18 – Jesus told Apostles that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

2 Thess 2:15 – Paul tells his readers to stand firm in the TRADITIONS they taught – WHETHER by oral statement OR by letter.

Luke 10:16 – Jesus tells hid disciples that whoever listens to THEM or rejects THEM – listens to HIM or rejects HIM and the ONE who sent Him.

Eph. 1:22-23 – Paul refers to the Church the FULLNESS of Christ.

Scripture is the written Word of God and is Authoritative – but NOWHERE does it claim to be our SOLE Authority.[11]

Notice what he continues to do! He screams at me with capitals, bold font and underlining.

Now to his rejection of the sole biblical authority.

Are you so blind[12] that you cannot see that ‘all Scripture’ that comes with the authority of being breathed out by the perfect Lord God who has absolute, sovereign authority of the universe has less authority than the early church fathers and popes?

N T Wright wrote an article, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?[13] In his conclusion, Wright wrote an excellent summary of scriptural authority:

I have argued that the notion of the ‘authority of scripture’ is a shorthand expression for God’s authority, exercised somehow through scripture; that scripture must be allowed to be itself in exercising its authority, and not be turned into something else which might fit better into what the church, or the world, might have thought its ‘authority’ should look like; that it is therefore the meaning of ‘authority’ itself, not that of scripture, that is the unknown in the equation, and that when this unknown is discovered it challenges head on the various notions and practices of authority endemic in the world and, alas, in the church also.

Seems to me that your push for the authority of the church violates God’s authority that is exercised through Scripture.

See the article, ‘What is sola scriptura?

Example 4

Tom55 wrote on the forum: ‘Once again. You love to quote the Church Fathers on your website when they agree with you but avoid them when they prove you wrong…. How dishonest and sad’.[14]

I couldn’t let him get away with that one:[15] You have responded with a straw man fallacy. It is erroneous reasoning that falsely presents my view!

I use the church fathers when they agree with the Bible. When they invent something opposed to the Bible, as with the Evangelium of James (pseudepigrapha – fake stuff), I expose it. That’s what any sound exegete of Scripture should do. Seems as though you don’t want to venture into that realm of where the church fathers promote doctrines contrary to Scripture, but you reject the church fathers’ views in favour of the RCC’s position…. I have a brain that I use in reasoning. You are misrepresenting me with your erroneous reasoning.

5. What is the origin of perpetual virginity?

First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos)(copy of Apocrypha, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

It is understood[16] that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary originated with The Protoevangelium of James (dated about AD 150) which also is known as The Infancy Gospel of James. What is the nature of this writing? Is it from the pen of James?

Gregory Elder’s assessment of this document is:

It was almost certainly not written by the James, the “brother” or “kinsman” of Jesus mentioned in the Bible. The earliest reference to the book appears in a third-century document and it was probably written in the middle of the second century A.D.

No Christian church today regards it as scriptural, and it is agreed to be apocryphal. That said, it is relatively early as Christian documents go, and it has some very interesting stuff in it.

The relatively short document is written in Greek, and it apparently was quite interesting to the early church communities, as more than 130 copies of it have survived, suggesting a wide readership for a day when handwriting was the only way to disseminate texts (Professing Faith: The Protoevangelium is noncanonical but influenced Christian beliefs 2014).

Here is a table of some contradictions between The Protoevangelium of James and the Bible (from, Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?)

 

Protoevangelium of James The Bible
1 Gabriel is called an archangel (Chapter 9:22), which was a common designation for Gabriel in apocryphal literature written after the first century. (For example, see Revelation of Paul, The Book of John Concerning the Falling Asleep of Mary, and The Apocalypse of the Holy Mother of God.) The Bible never identifies Gabriel as an archangel, but Michael is described as an archangel in Jude 1:9. The idea of Gabriel as an archangel seems to be a misconception that began in the second century.
2 Mary’s response to the angel is different than what is recorded in Scripture. “What! Shall I conceive by the living God, and bring forth as all other women do?” (Chapter 9:12). Luke 1:34 states, “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’”
3 Elizabeth fled the Bethlehem region with her son John (the Baptist) to the mountains because of Herod’s wrath when he decided to kill all the baby boys around and in Bethlehem (Chapter 16:3). Concerning John the Baptist, Luke 1:80 states, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” It was Joseph, Mary, and Jesus who fled from Bethlehem because of Herod (Matthew 2:13–15).
4 Jesus was born in a cave outside the city of Bethlehem (Chapters 12:11–14:31). Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David, according to Luke 2:4, 11 and Matthew 2:1.
5 The angel of the Lord, when speaking to Joseph in a dream, said to take Mary but does not mention having her as a wife. The priest chastised Joseph and accused him for taking Mary as a wife secretly by the priest. Joseph takes her home but is reluctant to call her his wife when they go to Bethlehem (Chapters 10:17–18, 11:14, 12:2–3). Matthew 1:19 reveals that Joseph was already Mary’s husband (they were betrothed) before the angel visited him in a dream. Matthew 1:24 points out that after the angel visited Joseph, he kept her as his wife.
6 Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and hid him in a manger at the inn to keep him from the massacre by Herod’s men (Chapter 16:2). Mary and Joseph were warned of Herod’s plot by an angel, and they fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–14).
7 Wise men came to Bethlehem and inquired of Herod where the Child was born (Chapter 21:1–2). Wise men came to Jerusalem to inquire where the child king was (Matthew 2:1).

 

This comparison should lay to rest any support of the pseudo ‘Infancy Gospel’ of James as a genuine document to be followed in its support of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. And this RC promoter dares to use it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

6. Evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters

Matthew 13:55-56 (ESV) states,[17] ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’

Here is the scriptural support for the other children, brothers and sisters, of Jesus. The brothers (adelphoi) are named as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, but the sisters (adelphe) are not named. The origin of his brothers (whether by Joseph and Mary after Jesus’ birth; step brothers of Jesus, etc), in my view, has not been determined in any definitive way.

Some commentators consider them to be sons and daughters to Joseph and Mary, born later than Jesus’ birth. Others think of these brothers and sisters as from a previous marriage by Joseph. We know from a verse such as Mark 6:3 (ESV) that Jesus is called ‘the son of Mary’, but this verse again states that Jesus is the ‘brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon’.

Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe summarised the biblical evidence in a more than adequate way when they examined MATTHEW 13:55-56. Was Mary a perpetual virgin, or did she have other children after Jesus’ virgin birth?

PROBLEM: Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that is, that she never had sexual intercourse, even after Jesus was virgin born. Is it true that when the Bible refers to Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Matt. 13:56) it means cousins or close relatives?

SOLUTION: It is true that the words for brother and sister can mean close relative. This must be determined by the context and from other Scriptures. And in the case of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, the context indicates they were his real half brothers and sisters.

First, nowhere does the Bible affirm the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Like the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness (see comments on Luke 1:46), there is no statement anywhere in the Bible that supports this teaching.

Second, when “brothers and sisters” are used in connection with father or mother, then it does not mean cousins, but actual blood brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 14:26). Such is the case with Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Matthew 13:55 says, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (cf. Mark 6:3)

Third, there are other references in the Bible to Jesus’ “brothers.” John informs us that “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). And Paul speaks of “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). On another occasion Mark refers to “His [Jesus’] brothers and His mother” (Mark 3:31). John spoke of “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples” (John 2:12). Luke mentions “Mary the mother of Jesus, with His brothers” being in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14) [Geisler & Howe 1992:346].

I find nothing in Scripture to confirm the perpetual virginity of Mary.

When examining this issue, we need to deal with biblical evidence and not tradition, whether RC or Protestant.

7. Roman Catholic and other commentaries affirming perpetual virginity

One RC person online wrote:

Mary’s perpetual virginity bears witness to the uniqueness and Christ and to the divinity of Christ.

Denying the perpetual virginity of Mary subtly denies the divinity of Christ in the womb.[18]

There is not a word in Scripture that supports such a view. It’s a doctrine invented and perpetrated by the RCC. Even Roman Catholic priest, Fr Angelo Mary Geiger, associates the perpetual virginity of Mary with Jesus’ divinity in this statement:

The essential truth of the Virgin Birth, as taught continually by the Fathers and defined by the Church, does not concern the presence or absence of pain during Jesus’ birth. The central truth of the Virgin Birth is that Christ was born of Mary miraculously, as a sign and confirmation of His divinity (Geiger 2007).

Johannes Quasten wrote: ‘The principal aim of the whole writing [Protoevangelium of James] is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ’ (Patrology 1:120–121, cited in ‘Mary: Ever Virgin’, Catholic Answers 1996-2017).[19]

St Augustine wrote of Mary: ‘A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?’ (Sermon 186.1).[20]

See the interaction on Catholic Answers, ‘Was Mary a perpetual virgin?’ (February 24, 2016).

Mark Lambert (2012) concluded that

from a modern perspective this doctrine [of Mary’s perpetual virginity] may to many seem fantastic. Without the theology it may seem unnecessary, with an anachronistic perspective it may seem misogynist, with a scientific perspective it might seem impossible. Yet with the information handed down to us from the early Church, we have to ask ourselves why would they make it up? If it wasn’t true, isn’t it just too complicated to make up? And for what purpose? Would it really bother anyone if it wasn’t the case? Logically, it seems that once one can accept the possibility of the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the necessity of that fact for the reality of the Incarnation, the historical evidence to support the claim is more than adequate (Lambert 2012).

The idea that because early church fathers affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity, this means that it is true, commits the appeal to tradition logical fallacy.

8. Assessment by a few Protestant commentators

How do these Protestant commentators conclude with the evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Are they siblings, half-brothers and sisters, cousins, or in some other relation to Mary and Jesus?

8.1   William Hendriksen

He wrote of Matt 1:24-25 about ‘the case against Mary’s perpetual virginity ’ and stated that

a. According to both the Old and the New Testament sexual intercourse for married couples is divinely approved (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 24:60; Prov. 5:18; Ps. 127:3; 1 Cor. 7:5, 9). Of course, even there, as in all things, self-control should be exercised. Incontinence is definitely condemned (1 Cor. 7:5; Gal. 5:22, 23). But no special sanctity attaches to total abstention or celibacy. b. We are definitely told that Jesus had brothers and sisters, evidently together with him members of one family (Matt. 12:46, 47; Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3; Luke 8:19, 20; John 2:12; 7:2, 5, 10; Acts 1:14). c. Luke 2:7 informs us that Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn” (Hendriksen 1973:144).

Taken together, these three arguments provide ‘the evidence [that] becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

An RC response by Fr. Geiger is:

The virginity of Our Lady after the birth of Jesus concerns the fact that Mary never had marital relations with St. Joseph and therefore, of course, conceived no other children. Her whole life was that of consecrated virginity. Most Protestants do not hold this position. They argue that the brethren of the Lord referred to in the Gospel are the other children of Mary. The short answer to this problem is that the brethren in these passages refer to relatives such as cousins, and not siblings born from the same mother (Geiger 2007).

8.2   R C H Lenski

In his commentary on Matthew 12:46, he wrote:

Who “his brothers” are, in the writer’s opinion has not been determined. Modern commentators answer: the sons of Joseph and Mary who were born later than Jesus. But here and elsewhere they act as though they were older than he. Others think of sons of Joseph by a former marriage. In Mark 6:3 Jesus is called “the son of Mary” in a marked way (compare John 19:26) and is kept distinct from the brothers and the sisters. In Acts 1:14 Luke writes: “Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers” – not “her sons.” Still others, for instance, the Latin Church since Jerome and older Protestant theologians and some interpreters of our day, think of the sons of Clopas, a brother or a brother-in-law of Joseph. Thus these brothers would be first cousins of Jesus (Lenski 1943/1961:502).

8.3   D A Carson

Commenting on Matthew 12:46-47, he wrote:

The most natural way to understand “brothers” (v. 46) is that the term refers to sons of Mary and Joseph and thus to brothers of Jesus on his mother’s side. To support the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a notion foreign to the NT and to the earliest church fathers. Roman Catholic scholars have suggested that “brothers” refers either to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage or to sons of Mary’s sister, who had the same name…. Certainly “brothers” can have a wider meaning than male relatives (Acts 22;1). Yet it is very doubtful whether such a meaning is valid here for it raises insuperable problems. For instance, if “brothers” refers to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage, not Jesus but Joseph’s firstborn would have been legal heir to David’s throne. The second theory – that “brothers” refers to sons of a sister of Mary also named “Mary” – faces the unlikelihood of two sisters having the same name. All things considered, the attempts to extend the meaning of “brothers” in this pericope, despite McHugh’s best efforts, are nothing less than farfetched exegesis in support of a dogma that originated much later than the NT (Carson 1984:299).

While Lenski doesn’t know who the brothers and sisters of Jesus have as parents, Hendriksen and Carson acknowledge them as children of the one family of Joseph and Mary.

None of these commentators supports the perpetual virginity of Mary. The RC opposition would say: Of course you would expect that. They are Protestants who do not respect the tradition of the universal church from the time of Jesus. My response is: Each of these commentators and Geisler and Howe examine the exegetical evidence in Scripture to arrive at their decisions. If the evidence led to perpetual virginity, they would, in all honesty, accept such a view. However, Hendriksen’s statement reaches a profound conclusion that is substantiated by the evidence:

9. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary

Image result for image perpetual virginity public domain(courtesy Creed 101)

 

‘The evidence becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

The RCC has not demonstrated that Joseph and Mary did not enter into the marriage relationship and have children after the birth of Jesus.

Mary’s virginity at the time of Jesus’ conception assures us that Jesus was not infected by sin and is uniquely God’s Son. However, it is not related to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

It is a straw man fallacy that the denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity denies Christ’s divinity in the womb. Christ’s divinity is guaranteed by the divine manifestation and confirmation by God himself that Jesus is the unique Son and Messiah. This happened at Jesus’ baptism: ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’ (Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

This is God from heaven proclaiming Jesus as his Son and with Jesus, God is ‘well pleased’. Do you remember who declared Jesus’ divinity? It was not linked to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

According to Luke 3:21-22, it is God, out of heaven proclaiming Jesus as His Son, the Son of the Most High God, as Gabriel had said He was, Immanuel, God with us.  And the Father is also proclaiming His perfection saying He is well pleased with everything about Him.

Concerning the birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:22-23 (ESV) states,

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

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

(which means, God with us).

This is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah 7:14 and is fulfilled in Jesus’ virgin birth where he was called Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’. Thus, Jesus’ divinity is not related to any perpetual virginity of Mary but to a declaration by God Himself and biblical teaching that Jesus is eternally the Son.

See my articles in defence of the virgin conception and birth:

Flower16 The virgin birth of Christ

Flower16 The Virgin Birth: Fact, Fiction, or Something Else?

Was Jesus God prior to his virgin birth? See the content of the article,

Flower16What is the doctrine of eternal Sonship and is it biblical?’ (Got Questions Ministries).

Flower16 I commend to you the excellent summary of the biblical material in context that does not support Mary’s perpetual virginity, ‘Did Jesus have brothers and sisters (siblings)?’ [Compelling Truth]

10. Works consulted

Carson, D A 1984. Matthew, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 8, 3-500. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Geiger, F M 2007. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a dogma of faith, in Michael: A journal of Catholic patriots for the Social Credit monetary reform (online), 01 January. Available at: http://www.michaeljournal.org/articles/roman-catholic-church/item/the-virgin-birth-of-jesus-is-a-dogma-of-faith (Accessed 24 April 2017).

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lambert, M 2012. The perpetual virginity of Mary. De Omnibus Debitandum Est (blog). Available at: http://marklambert.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/the-perpetual-virginity-of-mary.html (Accessed 27 February 2017).

Lenski, R C H 1943/1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Minneapolis MN: The Wartburg Press/Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).


Notes

[1] Much of the information in this article is based on my interaction on the Christian forum, Christianity Board 2016-2017. ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23002-when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal/page-24 (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[2] ‘Brethren of the Lord’ 1996-2017. Catholic Answers (online). Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/brethren-of-the-lord (Accessed 9 April 2017).

[3] ChristianityBoard.com, ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), Tom55#726.

[4] Ibid., BreadOfLife#707.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#711.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#692.

[7] Ibid., tom55#715.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#722.

[9] Ibid., BreadOfLife#729.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#730.

[11] Ibid., BreadOfLife#731.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#733.

[13] NTWrightPage 1991. How can the Bible be authoritative? Vox Evangelica, 21, 7-32. Available at: http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/how-can-the-bible-be-authoritative/ (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[14] ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), tom55#744.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#745, #746.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#742.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#724.

[18] Christianity Board 2017. ‘It’s not in the bible … sola scriptura’ (online), Mungo#6. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23615-it-is-not-in-the-biblesola-scripture/ (Accessed 24 April 2017).

[19] Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/mary-ever-virgin (Accessed 27 February 2017).

[20] See also: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/mary-and-the-saints/mary-ever-virgin/ (Accessed 27 February 2017).

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 April 2017.

Christians do not sin!

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do Christians sin after they become believers in Christ? Of course they do! They commit some sinful actions. However, occasionally I meet a person – generally online – who uses the KJV to try to prove that Christians don’t sin.

I met another one of these and I tried to respond biblically to him/her.[1]

a. Christ made us sinless?

Let’s try somebody else on another Christian forum. He made the comment: ‘all theology is flawed’,[2] to which I responded, ‘That’s because you and I are flawed, imperfect, ineffective and sinful’.[3] His comeback was to cite 1 John 3:9 in the KJV and added:

We are joint heirs in the body of Christ by his Blood.

God cannot look upon sin ,therefore we through Christ have been redeemed from the flawed sin nature into the perfection of the body of Christ.
All men have sinned, but Christ has made us sinless by his Blood.[4]

This is false theology that ‘Christ has made us sinless by his Blood’, so I responded: ‘Christ has not made us sinless by his blood sacrifice. This sacrifice means I am justified by faith – declared righteous. It’s a legal position before God’.[5] Then I proceeded to provide the following exegesis for him.

1 John 3:9 in the King James Version of the Bible states: ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God’.

Some have interpreted this to mean that Christians do not sin. I was responding to this statement:

I believe the issue is now, a matter of the fear that if/when we do presently sin, then how can we claim to have Christ? Or to rephrase, the problem is how is it that we could sin if Christ is in us? Wouldn’t we then never sin? If so, then none of us would need confess our sins and be cleansed. 1 John 1:9. James 5:16.[6]

b. Christians don’t sin continuously

Image result for clipart sinThe translators of the NIV have tried to convey the meaning of the Greek tenses in this verse, 1 John 3:9 (NIV): ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God’.

The issues from 1 John 3:9 (NIV) are:

  1. We are talking about those who are born again (favourite language of John), those who are ‘born of God’. We are talking about Christians who have been changed from the inside by God.
  2. These Christians will not continue to sin as a lifestyle. They cannot go on sinning in that way. The Greek present tense verb indicates continuous action, so the NIV presents a good  translation. The thought in this verse is NOT that Christians will never commit acts of sin. It is not saying that born again believers will not sin but that they will not persist in sin.
  3. So, the born again believer cannot live in habitual sin.
  4. BUT, there is the possibility of committing occasional acts of sin – as I can testify in my own life. If we commit those acts of sin, 1 John 1:9 (NIV) tells us what we are to do: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’.

That’s my understanding of 1 John 3:9 and the Greek verb used. Also, it makes practical sense. We know from the preceding verse, 1 John 3:8 (ESV) that ‘whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil’. In other words, they have not been born of God.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Notes


[1] This was my reply on Christian Forums.net 2015. 1 John 3:9 What does it mean? OzSpen#201, August 30. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/1john-3-9-what-does-it-mean.59658/page-11 (Accessed 31 August 2015).

[2] Christian forums.com 2017. Bible translations (online), now faith#146, 23 March. Available at: https://www.christianforums.com/threads/bible-translations.7978355/page-8#post-71032433 (Accessed 25 March 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#149.

[4] Ibid., now faith#152.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#154.

[6] Christian forums.net 2015. 1 John 3:9: What does it mean? childeye#200.

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 January 2018.