Category Archives: Theology

What is wrong with allegorical interpretation?

clip_image002

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this understanding make sense when you read the newspaper online, view the TV news, and read the Bible?

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.[1]

1. What is an allegory?

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of “allegory” is that it is “a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics.”[2] Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of the spiritual journey through life. St Augustine’s City of God is “an allegory of the triumph of Good over Evil.”[3] What we must remember is that for an allegory, there must be specific characters and events that are used to represent symbols. Biblical examples include: rock (Deut 32:4; 2 Sam 22:3); lamb (Gen 22:8; Ex 12:7); the cross (as in “The old rugged cross”), and

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/ICTHUS.gif = ICHTHYS | Christian symbols, Greek words and meanings, Christian fish

The Christian hymn (written by George Bennard in 1913), “The Old Rugged Cross,” was abounding in allegories:[4]

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame
    ;
    And I love that
    old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain
    .

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see
    ,
    For ’twas on that
    old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me
    .
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    There His glory forever I’ll share (allegories highlighted)

I led a Bible study in 2018 and the pastor of the church was present. We had just finished singing  “The Old Rugged Cross” when he declared there was false doctrine in the hymn. He said we don’t worship a cross. I jumped in: “Pastor, what do the first 2 lines teach? An old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame’. As I’ve highlighted above, allegories are found throughout this hymn. We don’t worship the cross but it reminds us of the one who suffered and experienced shame for sinners.”

2. Are there allegories in the Bible?

See examples in my article, What is literal interpretation?

Of course there are biblical examples of allegories. See illustrations in other sources:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K “Does the Bible contain allegory?” (Got Questions)

2tn_.jpg 1.0K  Allegory Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary

2tn_.jpg 1.0KAllegory” (Oxford Biblical Studies Online)

Let’s move from allegories in the Bible to allegorical interpretation. What’s the difference? Surely there is a need to understand biblical allegories. How can that be at variance with allegorical interpretation?

3. What is allegorical interpretation?

You will find some of my exposition on allegorical interpretation in this article: What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

There are many articles online explaining allegorical interpretation. I see no reason to repeat their content. I refer you to these articles:

Basically, when you interpret Scripture allegorically, you don’t allow the text to speak for itself in exegesis (obtaining meaning out of the text) but choose to impose another “deeper meaning” on the text – which we call eisegesis (reading something into the text).

3.1 Problems with allegorical preaching

David E Reid told of a sermon he heard from Genesis 24:63-64. It was supposed to be a “revival” sermon from the first book of the Bible. These verses state: “One evening he [Isaac] went out to the field to think.[5] He looked up and saw the camels coming from far away. Rebekah also looked and saw Isaac. Then she jumped down from the camel” (ERV).

Here is the crunch line of interpretation for this preacher:

Without elaborating on his interpretation, the preacher explained that Isaac symbolized Christ; Rebekah, the church; and the camel, whose physical characteristics would be the focus of his message, represented the grace of God. Then he delivered a seven-point exposition based on an allegorical interpretation as classic as any I’ve ever heard.

The camel’s nose, he said, can detect water from far away and lead its rider to drink. The spiritual lesson, he added, is that God’s grace can lead us to spiritual water. He similarly interpreted and applied six more of the camel’s characteristics, none of which was mentioned in the text….

As the preacher’s message illustrates, allegorical interpretation seeks some implicit, symbolic meaning hidden in the explicit, literal meaning of Scripture.

Allegorists consider this perceived “deeper” or “spiritual” meaning to be more profound and therefore more desirable than a text’s literal interpretation.[6]

David Reid gave his reasons for rejecting allegorical interpretation (and I endorse them):

clip_image008“Fundamentally, there is no reason to believe God regularly invests Scripture with more than one meaning.[7]

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.

For instance, nothing in Genesis 24 indicates Isaac, Rebekah or the camels represent anything other than themselves, so the narrative should be taken literally. On the other hand, in John 15:1, Jesus clearly was speaking metaphorically when He said, “I am the true vine …” and His words should be interpreted as such.

It is true that in Galatians 4:21ff. the Apostle Paul interpreted the Genesis account of Sarah and Hagar allegorically even though the Old Testament text nowhere indicates that story is allegorical. But Paul received his interpretation from the Holy Spirit as he wrote a New Testament letter. We don’t have his inspired prerogative.

Since the Bible never suggests it regularly has more than one meaning, additional interpretations should not be assumed.

clip_image008[1]The allegorical method obscures the true meaning and legitimate application of Scripture.

Allegorists generally see the literal meaning of a text only as a tool for unlocking the perceived allegory. Their pursuit of an illusion, then, causes them to ignore the truth which is there.

When interpreted literally, the Song of Solomon exalts the joy of sexual love in a marital relationship. However, generations of Christian allegorists have interpreted it as symbolic of the relationship of Christ to His bride, the church.

Embarrassed by the sexual nature of the text, they have obscured its meaning, even though nothing in the Song indicates an allegory. Their inhibitions have caused them to conceal what God and the author meant to praise.[8]

clip_image008[2]Allegorical interpretation is open to almost unlimited subjectivity.
The allegorist can make Scripture say whatever he wishes. Although his interpretation may seem reasonable and be consistent with what Scripture teaches elsewhere, who can know if it is the right one for a given passage?
[9]

3.2   St Augustine’s strange allegorical interpretation

Take this example from the eminent church father, St Augustine (354-430). Robert Kinney[10] made these observations for Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

In Augustine’s rendering, there is a man (Adam) traveling a road. Having been stripped (of immortality) and beaten (or persuaded to sin) by robbers (the devil), he is ignored by a priest (the Law) and a Levite (the Prophets) before being attended to by a Samaritan (Jesus Christ). The Samaritan takes him to the inn (or the Church) where two denarii (the promises of this life and the life to come) are paid to the innkeeper (the Apostle Paul), to take care of the man.[11]

It’s an intriguing example of allegorical interpretation. Yet for those committed to biblical exposition, this kind of interpretation is deeply problematic.[12]

Expositional preaching should be constrained by the biblical or any other author’s intent—and neither Jesus in his telling nor Luke in his recording could have meant much of what Augustine suggests.[13]

This is a longer version of Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 13-14; slightly abridged).

Another one of the “villains” promoting allegorical preaching was an early church father, the Alexandrian of northern Africa, Origen (185-254), known as the father of allegorical interpretation. Other church leaders preceded and followed him.

Take a read of his articles online and you’ll see how he does it. See HERE. This is one example of how he abandoned literal interpretation to impose his own view on Scripture:

Origen, in his Treatise on First Principles, recommended that the Old and New Testaments be interpreted allegorically at three levels, the first being the “flesh,” the second the “soul,” and the third the “spirit.” Many of the events recounted in the Scriptures, interpreted in the literal or fleshly sense, Origen claims, are impossible. Many of the laws, when interpreted literally, are impossible or nonsensical. To get at the meaning of these passages, it is necessary to interpret them allegorically. Some connected passages will contain parts that are literally true and parts that are literally impossible.

In this case, says Origen,

For as man is said to consist of body, and soul, and spirit, so also does sacred Scripture, which has been granted by the divine bounty for the salva­tion of man…. The reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all” (Bk 4, para 11, 20).

Clement of Alexandria - Wikipedia

(Clement of Alexandria – ca. 150 –215 –  Image courtesy Wikipedia)

The individual ought, then, to portray the ideas of holy Scripture in a threefold manner upon his own soul; in order that the simple man may be edified by the ‘flesh,’ as it were, of the Scripture. For so we name the obvious sense. While he who has ascended a certain way may be edified by the ‘soul,’ as it were. The perfect man, again, … may receive edification from the spiritual law…. For as man consists of body, and soul, and spirit, so in the same way does Scripture.

Origen’s predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, also supported the need for allegorical interpretation:

For many reasons, then, the Scriptures hide the sense. First, that we may become inquisitive, and be ever on the watch for the discovery of the words of salvation. Then it was not suitable for all to understand, so that they might not receive harm in consequence of taking in another sense the things declared for salvation by the Holy Spirit. Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in the parables— preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic (The Stromata – Miscellanies 6.15.para 15).

The fundamental error with allegorical interpretation is its adding to the text what is not there.

4. What is literal interpretation?

On 19 December 2020 in Australia, I watched test cricket on TV where Australia convincingly won the test by bowling out India for India’s lowest test score on record of 36 – their worst ever performance at test level. Did that happen? Is the plain meaning that it was literal cricket, a literal test match between Australia and India played at the Adelaide Oval, and there was a literal winner and a literal loser? Australia won by 8 wickets. Was that a literal fact or not?

Some symbolic language was used to describe this diabolical performance, “’Carnage… unbelievable… wait, what happened?‘” So symbolic language was used by a journalist to describe a literal event.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline of 19 December 2020 was, “COVID-19 concerns for inner-city; northern beaches in lockdown.” Was this an actual outbreak of Covid-19 or should we seek for a deeper meaning as we read the news?

You know that would be ridiculous but when it comes to the Bible there have been all kinds of reasons given, generally by liberal interpreters, to reject literal interpretation. These are but a few examples:

clip_image010John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims, “Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.”[14]

clip_image010[1]Crossan again: “The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is made to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong.”[15]

clip_image010[2]“The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul.”[16]

There are other biblical scholars who have ridiculed literal interpretation. German theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, was one of them. This is how he attacked the Christian faith:

People cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the case of illness, take advantage of modern medical and clinical means, and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the new testament. and whoever intends to do so must be aware that they can profess this as the attitude of christian faith only by making the christian proclamation unintelligible and impossible for the present.[17]

clip_image012

(Image courtesy Quotefancy)

clip_image010[3]This anti-supernaturalism continues with:

John Shelby Spong who had a stroke in 2016 and had 90% completed his last book. He can’t write now, so his wife transcribed the last 10%. In the book he stated:

The Incarnation, the virgin birth, resuscitation as the meaning of resurrection and the concept of the Holy Trinity—all are explanations that will never last. People hear the experience of Christ being challenged when it is only the explanation that is at stake. I wanted to make sure that people could understand that explanations have to die, but the experience remains eternal.[18]

clip_image014 There was a public forum at St Francis (Anglican) Theological College, Milton, Brisbane, on December 9, 1998, involving Dr Greg Jenks of the Jesus Seminar (of the Drayton Anglican parish, Toowoomba, Qld., Australia), and Dr Paul Barnett, Anglican bishop of North Sydney, defending the orthodox view. The Seminar was titled, “Behind and Beyond the Jesus Seminar: Implications for Christian Discipleship.”  Dr Paul Barnett[19] is author revised, Is the New Testament History?[20] As of 2012, Dr. Jenks was on the faculty of St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, but as of December 2020, he was: Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton NSW; Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University; Executive Director, History; Coin Curator, Bethsaida Excavations Project, Israel; Fellow, Westar Institute, Willamette University, Salem, OR.[21]

Please understand this anti-supernaturalism is associated with their naturalistic world-view. Naturalism dominates their presuppositions. There is no place in their theology for the supernatural Lord God almighty. People like Greg Jenks, John Dominic Cross, John Shelby Spong and others of similar belief are threats to those who don’t know their Bible.

4.1 Literal interpretation includes figures of speech[22]

Thomas Horne, British theologian and researcher (AD 1780–1862) wrote:

The Literal Sense of any place of Scripture is that which the words signify, or require, in their natural and proper acceptation, without any trope [a figure of speech], metaphor, or figure, and abstracted from mystic meaning…. The literal sense has been called the Historical Sense, as conveying the meaning of the words and phrases used by the writer at a certain time….

Interpreters now speak of the true sense of a passage, by calling it the Grammatico-Historical Sense…. The object in using this compound name is, to show that both grammatical and historical considerations are employed in making out the sense of a word or passage.[23]

When I was an MA student at Ashland Theological Seminary, I used A Berkeley Mickelsen’s (1963) text in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Mickelsen provided this definition:

Literal … means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of ‘door’ in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning.[24]

The nature of parables is that they are similitudes, i.e. extended similies.
Some examples may help to understand the differences.
[25]

clip_image016 A simile: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth’ (Acts 8:32 ESV, emphasis added). The eunuch is quoting from Isa 53:7 (ESV) but it is a figure of speech known as a simile.

clip_image016[1] A metaphor: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29 ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image016[2]We have an example of a similitude, i.e. parable, in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 (ESV), ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?’ (Luke 15:4 ESV) In this same context of Luke 15 (ESV) Luke tells us the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32 ESV).

clip_image016[3]There is an example of an allegory of the door for the sheep and the good shepherd in John 10:1-16 (ESV). ‘I am the door of the sheep…. I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:7 ESV; John 10:11 ESV). Like the sheep need a fence with a door to keep them safe and from wandering, Jesus is the door into the Kingdom of God.

All of these are examples of the literal sheep, lamb or shepherd but different figures of speech are used.

I take the Scriptures literally but this does not exempt understanding the use of figures of speech in that literal language. I speak of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, similitude/parable and allegory. When Jesus said, “I am the door” he used a metaphor and did not refer to a wooden door when speaking of himself. When he told Christians, “You are the salt of the earth” he did not refer to literal salt but to the metaphor of how Christians should penetrate the world’s systems with their world views and pervade the secular culture like salt permeates a prepared meal.

This is why it is important to explain what “literal interpretation” means. From the examples I’ve given here, it does not mean an acceptance of dead letterism that does not include figures of speech. Letterism

is a wooden, thin interpretation that fails to go beyond the standard meanings of words and expressions … or to discern the manner in which an author attends to these meanings…. Hence literalism short-circuits the literal sense insofar as it fails to appreciate the author’s intention to give his or her utterance a certain kind of force.[26]

Can you imagine reading your local newspaper or any information online with an allegorical interpretation? How would you ever know if the 9/11 disaster was real or only an allegory? How about Nero’s slaughter of people in the Roman Empire in the first century? Do we have to abandon literal interpretation for the alleged “deeper meaning”? How is my “deeper meaning” of a passage more legitimate than yours? If we use a diversity of meanings of the text it will create chaos in interpretation.

I urge you not to interpret this article using allegorical interpretation. This writing is meant to be read literally.

4.2 I do not use allegorical interpretation because:

clip_image018It destroys the meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It invalidates the plain meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It promotes eisegesis rather than exegesis of the text. It reads into the text an alleged “deeper meaning” that is not in the text. I wouldn’t do that when I read the daily newspaper and I don’t do it when reading Origen, Bultmann, Spong or Crossan. Promoters of allegorical interpretation wouldn’t dare ask us to use that methodology when reading their writings.

clip_image019[1]It is parallel to a contemporary postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation. See my article that explains the similarity: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

What does a postmodern deconstructionist hermeneutic do to the text? I had an interesting email discussion with New Zealand researcher, Dr Jeremy Koay, who supports the reader-response model because:

(1) Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience. He rejects the theory that meaning resides exclusively in the text. Why?

Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text.[27]

(2) We need to view reading “on an efferent-aesthetic continuum.” Efferent refers to the information taken away after reading, but aesthetic focusses on the readers’ thoughts and feelings during the reading. Both foci are needed, according to reader-response.[28]

I’m sure happy a judge doesn’t use that method of interpretation when making a judgment on the guilt or otherwise of someone who breaks into my house and steals valuables. I’ve had 5 open-heart, valve replacement surgeries. They left me with emotional and physical scars but I can’t deny the facts of where and when I had those surgeries.

I have no problem accepting that emotions can be stirred when reading some narratives. That happens with me, especially when I read of the persecution and martyrdom happening today through Voice of the Martyrs newsletters. No matter how much my emotions are stirred and I’m provoked to pray more for these persecuted saints, we cannot overlook the fact that these facts don’t go away:

  • IRAN: Imprisoned Christian Dangerously Depressed;
  • INDIA: Christian Pastor Beaten and Left to Die;
  • EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation;
  • PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih;

Is this an either/or situation when we read books, news, etc? No! However, we don’t act on the emotions, the aesthetics.

Here you’ll read some of the interaction I had with Dr Koay. While he emailed me, he refused to print my article on the website of Edumaxi. This is my article as a response: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Are the death and resurrection facts of history or feelings of aesthetic beauty?

4.3 Compare allegorical interpretation with postmodern reconstruction

See 4.2 (2) above.

Allegorical interpretation is another version of contemporary, reader-response deconstruction of a text: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts.

I consider that I would be cheating John Milton in Paradise Lost to use my culture, experience and world view to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical world view to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from Yahoo News, or to the Bible.

This is done by listening to the “plain meaning” of a text. I don’t use the language of “pure literal meaning,” so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing “pure literal meaning” when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

clip_image020HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland
by Samuel Atkins c. 1794 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison being elected by his cabinet as the new Prime Minister of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated “This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text.” Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation of the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or reading the Bible.

This is the major problem with allegorical interpretation and a postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response method of interpretation. I find it best to describe with an image. It wrecks the text of its plain meaning.

clip_image021

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

5. Conclusion

The major problems with allegorical interpretation and postmodern, reader-response interpretations is that they fly along parallel tracks of biblical interpretation. They add to what the text states. This is taboo and should be rejected outright.

While allegorical interpretation adds to the text, it must not be confused with application of a text. I don’t have to follow St Augustine’s interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 ERV). But the application to people in this century is:

  • Whenever we see a person in need and are able to help, act like the Good Samaritan and go out of your way to meet the practical need.
  • Be the one who helps your neighbour and other people in need.
  • A friend of mine works in aged care. She said many of the older folks are never visited by relatives. Could you check with a local retirement village to see if you can visit people in the village? Make sure you follow the Covid-19 safe procedures.

There are many practical reasons for Christian pastors to abandon allegorical interpretation and stick with the plain meaning of the text. Faithful Bible expositors remain with the text to try to discern what the intent of the author was for the original listeners. They don’t search for “deeper meanings” they invent behind the text.

6.  Works consulted

Barnett, Paul 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

Bultmann, Rudolf. “Theologie des Neuen Testaments.” ET: Theology of the New Testament.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Horne, T H 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son. This citation is available as part of a Google Book HERE  (Accessed 19 December 2020).

Koay, Jeremy 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

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

Reid, David E 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Spong, J S 2018. Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. New York NY: HarperOne.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes


[1] David E Reid 2019. Preaching.com, “The problem with allegory in preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[2] Collins Dictionary (2020. s.v. allegory).

[3] Ibid.

[4] From Timeless Truths: Free Online Library, public domain. Available at: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Old_Rugged_Cross/ (Accessed 19 December2020).

[5] Or, “to go for a walk” (ERV footnote).

[6] David E Reid 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[7] David R Reid, “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Robert Kinney 2020. 9Marks.com, “Allegorical Interpretation: Finding the Line Before You Cross It”, 31 March. Available at: https://www.9marks.org/article/allegorical-interpretation-finding-the-line-before-you-cross-it/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[11] Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 118, 121 and 125, De Doctrina Christiana 1.30.31ff, Sermo 299.

[12] Without naming Augustine, John Calvin responds to this kind of interpretation in characteristically blunt fashion:

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation… I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.” See Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Gospels, Vol. 3 (trans. W. Pringle and J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 49. While Calvin’s comments indicate that he is strongly opposed to this kind of allegorical interpretation, he ironically engages in it with a striking frequency. For example, in his commentary on Exodus 28:X, he notes that the garments made for Aaron and his sons are meant to ‘conceal their faults’ and, instead, display virtue and, indeed, the ‘wondrous glory of Christ.’ The text, in Exod 28:2, simply states the garments are to be made “for glory and for beauty.” See Calvin’s commentary on Exodus 28:2 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Law, Vol. 2 (trans. J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 103.

[13] Mark Dever defines expositional preaching as

preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 44. David R. Helm defines it similarly as “empowered preaching that rightfully sub­mits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” David R. Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (Wheaton, Crossway, 2014), 13. D.A. Carson defines it similarly as “the unpacking of what is there.” He goes on to add: “it is unpacking what the biblical text or texts actually say. If we expect God to re-reveal himself by his own words, then our expositions must reflect as faithfully as possible what God actually said when the words were given to us in Scripture.” D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit” in Preach the Word: Essays in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (ed., L. Ryken, T. Wilson; Wheaton: Crossway: 2008), 176-177. Finally, Bryan Chapell offers this definition: “An expository sermon takes its topic, main points, and subpoints from a text.2 In an expository message, a preacher makes a commitment to explain what a particular text means by using the spiritual principles it supports as the points of the message.”Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 131.

[14] J D Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 184.

[15] Ibid., 180.

[16] Ibid., 208.

[17] Rudolf Bultmann, “neues testament und Mythologie,” 18.

[18] From J S Spong Unbelievable, in Insights magazine 2018, “Controversial Author Releases Final Book”, 19 January. Available at: https://www.insights.uca.org.au/controversial-author-releases-final-book/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[19] Paul Barnett 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Information available at Greg Jenks’ homepage: https://gregoryjenks.com/about/ (Accessed

21 December 2020).

[22] Some of the following material is taken from my article, What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

[23] T H Horne 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son, 357. This citation is available as part of a Google Book here.

[24] A B Mickelsen 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 33.

[25] These examples are taken from Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, 212-213.

[26] K J Vanhoozer 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press), 311.

[27] Jeremy Koay 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[28] Koay, “What is reader-response theory?”

 

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

Was Jesus the Son of God or only the son of a woman?[1]

Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

(Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

Close-up street portrait of Dawid Samoszul, probably taken in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland, between 1936 and 1938. Dawid was killed in the Treblinka killing center at the age of 9. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Abe Samelson, View Archival Details)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Whenever I write a Christian-based article for On Line Opinion, it is guaranteed to receive a rant of abuse – mainly through the use of logical fallacies. These were some of the responses to my article, Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God?

1. Reactions from anti-Christians

One fellow who is known for his hostility wrote:

Jesus never claimed any more than the son of man. He’s on the record as allegedly saying, with regard to the miracles, it is not I who does these things, but the Father in me.
Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman. . . .

They also claim that Jesus was God (a false premise) and believe that confers some authority! And just risible rubbish, given they never ever had such authority! Never![2]

2. Was Jesus the Son of God?

It is too bad Alan B didn’t acquire accurate biblical knowledge to counter the ignorant statements like this. What he said here is blatantly false.
God, the Son, is regarded as God. He has the attributes of deity:

(1) Eternity (Jn 1:15; 8:58; 17:5, 24);

(2) Omniscience (Jn 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17);

(3) Omnipresence (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 3:13);

(4) Omnipotence. ‘I am the Almighty’ (Rev 1:8; Heb 1:3; Mt 28:18);

(5) Immutable (Heb 1:12; 13:8);

(6) He does the actions of deity:

  • creator (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:10; Col 1:16);
  • holds things together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3);
  • forgives sin (Mt 9:2, 6);
  • raises the dead (Jn 6:39-40, 54; 11:25; 20:25, 28);
  • he will be the Judge (Jn 5:22) of believers (2 Cor 5:10), of Antichrist and his followers (Rev 19:15), the nations (Ac 17:31), Satan (Gen 3:15) and the living and the dead (Ac 10:42).

Only Alan B’s bigotry against biblical content has caused him to reach his erroneous conclusion.[3]

3. A fundamentalist fanatic’s response[4]

“Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman.”

Yes, mate, evangelical believers like me, who take the Scriptures seriously, know that you are dumping your presuppositions on us.

You don’t know the Bible, do you? Why don’t you own up to the logical fallacies you use whenever articles on this forum clash with your worldview, particularly Christian-related topics?

Let’s check the Scriptures: ‘Jesus answered, “The fact is, before Abraham was born, I Am.” When he said this, they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus hid, and then he left the Temple area” (John 8:58-59).

We know from John chapter 5 that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. This did not please the Jewish leaders as they questioned Jesus about his violation of the Jewish law. Jesus claimed authority over the Sabbath.

Those Jews began trying to make Jesus stop these actions on the Sabbath. ‘But he said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I work too.” This made them even more determined to kill him. They thought it was bad enough that he was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. And now he was saying that God is his Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD’ (John 5:16-18).

Have you ever read this in Scripture? Peter called Jesus, “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? Did Jesus support your view and emphatically deny he was the Son of God? Not at all! Jesus’ response was: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt 16:17).

Jesus emphatically affirmed he was the Son of God and not just the son of man. The Bible contradicts your view. I suggest you obtain a REAL theological education by taking the Bible seriously and examining its claims.

4. An atheistic perspective

An atheist could not resist this jibe: “Here we go again, arguing over who has the correct sky fairy”.[5] My reply was just as pointed, “I hear the wind blowing; the thunder and lightning are flashing and clapping; the cyclone is blowing our way from your ‘sky fairy’ fantasy.”[6]

5. Questioning my orthodox view over liberalism

Diver Dan took a different line:

I take you to task on your confessed orthodoxy. You may be an orthodox Christian in these times, but Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.
Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.

The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process. Explaining away the Christian God head from the orthodox stance as you do, relies on the belief of the infallibility of the biblical text as it now stands.
The Liberal view is Academic. It is more inclined to see the evolution of the Christian faith in term of history.

I see a danger in both views. The extreme of the liberal view is effectively disbelief in the creed, which I see as created by an overly questioning study for which it’s (sic) reward is lack of faith, followed by agnosticism; because the text through the years has been inconsistent and often tied into current historical events.
I think all orthodoxies should be questioned without risking loss of faith. You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.

Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.[7]

6. My response to “shifting sands” of Christian orthodoxy

“Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.”

Then you gave not one example of these “shifting sands”, so you built a straw man fallacy.[8]

“Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.”

Have you read EVERYTHING of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries to conclude about the “lack of consistency”? Or is this a fallacy of hasty generalization that springs forth from your worldview?

“The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process.”

False again! The trinitarian teaching is orthodox from the “us” of Genesis 1 to the full blown articulation in the New Testament. Ray Pritchard asked: “What is the Trinity? Christians in every land unite in proclaiming that our God eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who deny that truth place themselves outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy. Having said that, I admit that no one fully understands it. It is a mystery and a paradox. Yet I believe it is true”, http://www.christianity.com/god/trinity/god-in-three-persons-a-doctrine-we-barely-understand-11634405.html.

The Trinity is not an “evolving” doctrine but one that is seen more clearly with progressive revelation in moving from Old Testament to New Testament.

“The Liberal view is Academic.”

No, the Liberal view changes what the Bible states. There are sound, evangelical, academic views of the orthodox Trinity.

“You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.”

I said my views were “evangelical”. You have inserted “orthodox” and “fundamentalist.” I do not shy away from labelling my theological views as containing fundamental theology at its core – including the inerrancy of Scripture in the original documents, Christ’s atoning blood sacrifice, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Christ’s second coming. However, the language of “fundamentalist” comes with too much baggage, as seen in your linking me to Jim Jones and his fanatical group.

“Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.”

This is an ad hominem (guilt by association) fallacy. Here you have a negative view of my beliefs because of its supposed association with Jim Jones, that you view negatively. We cannot have a rational conversation when you engage in this kind of fallacious reasoning.

7. “Who is Christ?” has many answers

Diver dan had this comeback. How accurate was he?

One of the problems dealing with people on this site, is accommodating their hypersensitive natures.

I’m not about to trade scriptural references towards proving a theory I put forward to you, based on my observations over a lifetime on this subject.

But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ” has as many answers as history has to any other subject.

So the difficulty with the answer is, the difficulty of who debates the question, and the biases that are natural in the mix. And historically, the question of who is Christ, has shifted through the years; that’s the point I make.
On another point you raised, which I noticed in your article, which was the differing opinions adding a different emphasis on scripture, between Liberals and evangelicals.

Unless there is consistency, then there are dangers in both views.
Jimmy Jones began his ministry with good intentions, but he lost the plot and strayed from tradition. Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.
[9]

How should I reply as his response contained some fundamental errors?

8. Who are Hitler, James Cook and Aristotle?

“But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ“ has as many answers as history has to any other subject.”

American soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. [LCID: 09807](US soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. Buchenwald, Germany, after April 11, 1945. Photo courtesy Holocaust Encyclopedia)

 

If I want to know about “who is Hitler?”; “Who is Captain James Cook?”; “Who is Aristotle?”, I go to the historical sources that deal with this historical information.
Since I want to know who Jesus Christ is, I go to the primary documents of the Gospels that deal with this information. I don’t go to the pseudepigraphical Gospel of Peter and the “Cross Gospel” which John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar promotes.

“Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.”

To the contrary, the Anglican tradition is with the formulators of the 39 Articles, which provide a very evangelical statement of beliefs in The Articles of Religion 1562.
They are not Liberal Anglicanism but support evangelical, Bible-believing Anglicans. I suggest you get your facts straight on this topic.

The heart of the Anglican doctrines is evangelical and does not synthesise with the teaching of John Shelby Spong or Peter Sellick. See HERE.

9. Conclusion

Notice what most of these comments contain:

(1) They avoid dealing with the primary content of the article. This means they choose to,

(2) dump their presuppositions on the reader.

(3) They allow their ignorance about a topic to be exposed, and

(4) It is a common trait of these anti-Christian antagonists to use logical fallacies to divert attention away from the main topic.

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

10. Notes


[1] This topic began as a blog on one of my ejournal articles with On Line Opinion, 3 December 2020. I blog as OzSpen.

[2] Posted by Alan B., Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:03:22 AM.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:53:35 AM

[4] This was a response to Alan B, posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:56 PM.

[5] Posted by TheAtheist, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:28:41 PM.

[6] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:40:50 PM.

[7] Posted by diver dan, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:15 PM.

[8] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 4 December 2020 12:50:38 PM.

[9] Posted by diver dan, Saturday, 5 December 2020 7:31:15 AM.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 December 2020.

Colored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored lines

Does Postmillennialism fit with Scripture and what’s happening in the world?

(Nero’s Torches, by Henryk Siemiradzki (1882, National Museum, Kraków) Christians are burned alive for the entertainment of Nero, as related by Tacitus, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In the 20th to 21st centuries, we have lived in a world of wars, the Holocaust, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, slaughter of people in Syria (and the Middle East), terrorism by extremist groups, crime and violence around the world.

However, there are Christians who promote the view that with the Gospel’s progress, the proportion of the world’s population will become more Christian and function according to biblical standards.

Is that consistent with God’s Word and do we see it in practice in our society?

1. What is the millennium?

The word, ‘millennium’, means ‘one thousand years’ and is found in the Book of Revelation 20:1-10 (ERV):

I saw an angel coming down out of heaven. The angel had the key to the bottomless pit. The angel also held a large chain in his hand. 2 The angel grabbed the dragon, that old snake, also known as the devil or Satan. The angel tied the dragon with the chain for 1000 years. 3 Then the angel threw the dragon into the bottomless pit and closed it. The angel locked it over the dragon. The angel did this so that the dragon could not trick the people of the earth until the 1000 years were ended. After 1000 years the dragon must be made free for a short time.

4 Then I saw some thrones and people sitting on them. These were the ones who had been given the power to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to the truth of Jesus and the message from God. They did not worship the beast or its idol. They did not receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads or on their hands. They came back to life and ruled with Christ for 1000 years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not live again until the 1000 years were ended.)

This is the first resurrection. 6 Great blessings belong to those who share in this first resurrection. They are God’s holy people. The second death has no power over them. They will be priests for God and for Christ. They will rule with him for 1000 years.

The Defeat of Satan

7 When the 1000 years are ended, Satan will be made free from his prison. 8 He will go out to trick the nations in all the earth, the nations known as Gog and Magog. Satan will gather the people for battle. There will be more people than anyone can count, like sand on the seashore.

9 I saw Satan’s army march across the earth and gather around the camp of God’s people and the city that God loves. But fire came down from heaven and destroyed Satan’s army. 10 And he (the one who tricked these people) was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur with the beast and the false prophet. There they would be tortured day and night forever and ever.

Theologians have debated for centuries over whether the 1,000 years is literal or symbolic. Those who support a figurative view often appeal to 2 Peter 3:8 (ERV), ‘To the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day’.[1] That’s a possible interpretation, but I consider there’s a better alternative of literal interpretation because Rev 20:1-7 articulates the 1,000 year period on 4 occasions. The literal, exact time of the millennial kingdom seems to be preferred over the symbolic view.

There are biblical references in support of the Messiah being the ruling king in Jerusalem on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33) to fulfil God’s covenant to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). The OT prophets spoke of the millennial kingdom of peace, joy, prosperity and comfort (Micah 4:2-4; Isa 40:1-2; 61:7; Amos 9:13-15; Zech 8:3).

These prophecies regarding the future Messiah’s reign all require a period of time in order to find a literal fulfillment. The only alternatives would be to dismiss the many specific prophecies regarding the Messiah’s future reign or to accept an allegorical interpretation of numerous passages that appear to be presented as literal predictions. Based on these options, the most likely scenario is that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus Christ will reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

2. Postmillennialism

I have two friends who are new Christians. They told me of attending their Presbyterian Bible study where two people were promoting three comings of Jesus: as a baby, to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70, and at the end of the world – known as postmillennialism. Is this true to Scripture and experience?

Theologian Wayne Grudem gave this helpful summary of the postmillennial view:[2]

“Postmillennialism” teaches that the progress of the church will gradually increase until a larger proportion of the world’s population becomes Christian. As a result, the Christian influence on society will gradually turn into a “millennial age” of peace. At the end of that period, Christ will return, all the dead will be resurrected, and judgment will happen.

clip_image002

Figure 55.2: Postmillennialism from Systematic Theology, p. 1110.

2.1 Arguments for Postmillennialism

  • The Great Commission leads us to expect the gospel will go forth in power and result in a largely Christian world since Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19).
  • Parables of the gradual growth of the kingdom indicate it will grow until it fills the earth. See Matthew 13:31-32.
  • The “millennium” of postmillennialism is an indeterminate period of time where Christian influence increases until Jesus returns requiring a symbolic understanding of Revelation 20:1-6.

2.2 Holes in Postmillennialism

clip_image004Postmillennialism is easily accepted and promoted during times of prosperity and revival.

clip_image004[1]Try selling that doctrine to Christians in the Middle East in the 21st century and other parts of the world who have and are suffering horrific persecution. The Gospel proclamation often leads to death. That’s what happened to John Wycliffe whose teachings were regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical and he died of a stroke. Early Christian martyrs included: James, son of Zebedee, apostle and brother of John, the apostle; Philip the apostle; the apostle Matthew; James the Just who was Jesus’ brother; the apostle Andrew; the apostle Thomas;

In Mosul, Iraq, the terrorist group, ISIS, has marked every known Christian house with the Arabic ‘N’ for Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).

clip_image006

Christians Facing Islamic Extremists: ISIS

I urge those who promote postmillennialism to go to the Christians of Iraq and preach the message that their society is getting better and better through the Gospel, and then Jesus will return. They’ll be whistling in the anti-biblical wind.

clip_image008

clip_image004[2]Postmillennialists should obtain the regular newsletters from Voice of the Martyrs, the Barnabas Fund, and Open Doors to see that our world is not heading towards utopia for Christians and the rest of the world. Christians are being persecuted in Nigeria, the Sudan, the Middle East, India, and in other countries. Society is not improving in these countries.

Neither is it heading for the best in the Western world, where materialism and secularism reign.

3. Their biggest problem is anti-biblical content

What does the Bible say will happen towards the end of the world and Christ’s return?

3.1 Matthew 24

What could be clearer than Matt 24:3-44 (ERV)? (Also in Mark 13 and Luke 21)

3 Later, Jesus was sitting at a place on the Mount of Olives. The followers came to be alone with him. They said, “Tell us when these things will happen. And what will happen to prepare us for your coming and the end of time?”

4 Jesus answered, “Be careful! Don’t let anyone fool you. 5 Many people will come and use my name. They will say, ‘I am the Messiah.’ And they will fool many people. 6 You will hear about wars that are being fought. And you will hear stories about other wars beginning. But don’t be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. 7 Nations will fight against other nations. Kingdoms will fight against other kingdoms. There will be times when there is no food for people to eat. And there will be earthquakes in different places. 8 These things are only the beginning of troubles, like the first pains of a woman giving birth.

9 “Then you will be arrested and handed over to be punished and killed. People all over the world will hate you because you believe in me. 10 During that time many believers will lose their faith. They will turn against each other and hate each other. 11 Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe things that are wrong. 12 There will be so much more evil in the world that the love of most believers will grow cold. 13 But the one who remains faithful to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News I have shared about God’s kingdom will be told throughout the world. It will be spread to every nation. Then the end will come.

15 “Daniel the prophet spoke about ‘the terrible thing that causes destruction.’ You will see this terrible thing standing in the holy place.” (You who read this should understand what it means.) 16 “The people in Judea at that time should run away to the mountains. 17 They should run away without wasting time to stop for anything. If they are on the roof of their house, they must not go down to get anything out of the house. 18 If they are in the field, they must not go back to get a coat.

19 “During that time it will be hard for women who are pregnant or have small babies! 20 Pray that it will not be winter or a Sabbath day when these things happen and you have to run away, 21 because it will be a time of great trouble. There will be more trouble than has ever happened since the beginning of the world. And nothing as bad as that will ever happen again.

22 “But God has decided to make that terrible time short. If it were not made short, no one would continue living. But God will make that time short to help the people he has chosen.

23 “Someone might say to you at that time, ‘Look, there is the Messiah!’ Or someone else might say, ‘There he is!’ But don’t believe them. 24 False messiahs and false prophets will come and do great miracles and wonders, trying to fool the people God has chosen, if that is possible. 25 Now I have warned you about this before it happens.

26 “Someone might tell you, ‘The Messiah is there in the desert!’ But don’t go into the desert to look for him. Someone else might say, ‘There is the Messiah in that room!’ But don’t believe it. 27 When the Son of Man comes, everyone will see him. It will be like lightning flashing in the sky that can be seen everywhere. 28 It’s like looking for a dead body: You will find it where the vultures are gathering above.

29 “Right after the trouble of those days, this will happen:

‘The sun will become dark,
and the moon will not give light.
The stars will fall from the sky,
and everything in the sky will be changed.’

30 “Then there will be something in the sky that shows the Son of Man is coming. All the people of the world will cry. Everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in the sky. He will come with power and great glory. 31 He will use a loud trumpet to send his angels all around the earth. They will gather his chosen people from every part of the earth.

32 “The fig tree teaches us a lesson: When its branches become green and soft, and new leaves begin to grow, then you know that summer is very near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time is very near, already present. 34 I assure you that all these things will happen while some of the people of this time are still living. 35 The whole world, earth and sky, will be destroyed, but my words will last forever.

Only God Knows When the Time Will Be

36 “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when it will be. Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man comes, it will be the same as what happened during Noah’s time. 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving their children to be married right up to the day Noah entered the boat. 39 They knew nothing about what was happening until the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. 40 Two men will be working together in the field. One will be taken and the other will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain with a mill. One will be taken and the other will be left.

42 “So always be ready. You don’t know the day your Lord will come. 43 What would a homeowner do if he knew when a thief was coming? You know he would be ready and not let the thief break in. 44 So you also must be ready. The Son of Man will come at a time when you don’t expect him.

That reads nothing like love and peace coming across the world before Jesus returns. Instead, the world will be afflicted by:

clip_image010 False Messiahs;

clip_image010[1] Wars & rumours of war;

clip_image010[2]Nations fighting each other;

clip_image010[3] So much evil in the world that the love of most Christians will grow cold;

clip_image010[4] Earthquakes, etc, but they are only the beginning of worse trials.

clip_image010[5] Famines, believers arrested – but there is worse to come.

clip_image010[6] Christians handed over to be punished and killed by authorities,

clip_image010[7] Christians hated all over the world,

clip_image010[8] Many believers will lose their faith,

clip_image010[9] Such evil in the world believers’ love will grow cold,

clip_image010[10] The ones faithful to the end will be saved,

clip_image010[11] The Gospel preached all over the world,

clip_image010[12] You will see what Daniel prophesied, the destruction called desolation,

clip_image010[13] It would seem postmillennialists get their understanding of Jesus’ second coming at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem from vv. 16-20. However, the alleged 2nd coming at the Fall of Jerusalem is opposed by this language in v. 21, ‘It will be a time of great trouble. There will be more trouble than has ever happened since the beginning of the world. And nothing as bad as that will ever happen again‘. The ESV translation of Matt 24:21 is, ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be’.

There have been many wars, etc in history that are worse than the fall of Jerusalem – Hitler’s slaughter of the Jews, World War I, World War II, Stalin’s Gestapo in the USSR, Mao’s Chinese extermination, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc. Postmillennialists need to talk to the families of Christians being annihilated in the Northern Sudan of Africa.

clip_image010[14] Back to Matt 24: The terrible time will be short (v. 22).

clip_image010[15] After those horrific troubles, there will be signs in the sky of the Son of Man’s coming. Everyone (alive) will see Him.

clip_image010[16] When you see the above horrors/incidents taking place, ‘you will know that the time is very near, already present’ (v. 33).

clip_image010[17] All of these things will happen when some people are still living.

clip_image010[18] ‘The whole world, earth and sky, will be destroyed, but my words will last forever’ (v. 35). That did not happen at the fall of Jerusalem.

clip_image010[19] Jesus and the angels don’t know when his second coming will be, but the signs are that it will be like the days of Noah (vv. 37-39).

3.2 So, always be ready (vv. 42-44).

clip_image012

There are other biblical passages that teach us to expect terrible, extreme times before Jesus’ Second Coming.

These include:[3]

3.2.1 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ESV)

7 We have this treasure from God, but we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure. This is to show that the amazing power we have is from God, not from us. 8 We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up. 9 We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 10 So we constantly experience the death of Jesus in our own bodies, but this is so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death, so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. 12 So death is working in us, but the result is that life is working in you.

To expect God to make conditions better and better for Christians deprives us of suffering with and being persecuted for Christ. Richard Gaffin wrote: ‘Any outlook that tends to remove or obscure the (constitutive) dimension of suffering for the Gospel from the present triumph of the church is an illusion’ (in Storms).

3.2.2 Jesus could return at any time

This refers to the imminent return of Jesus – I’m waiting for him now. That’s the biblical expectation in Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Js. 5:8; 1 Pt. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:3; and 22:20. But postmillennialism ends that because it expects a golden age for Christianity and the university when the world is currently in a mess.

3.2.3 The ‘golden age’: The New Heavens and the New Earth

This will happen only after the millennium of Rev. 20 (Rev. 21-22).

3.3.4 Fewer people saved

The biblical indicators don’t confirm the utopian vision of a multitude of saved people by the time Jesus returns. See: Mt. 7:13-14; Lk. 18:8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5,12-13; 4:3-4.

Note particularly the words of Matt 7:13-14 (ERV):

You can enter true life only through the narrow gate. The gate to hell is very wide, and there is plenty of room on the road that leads there. Many people go that way. 14 But the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it’ (emphasis added).

3.3.5 Sam Storms summary

Storms (2020) excellent summary point was:

Scripture (esp. the NT) nowhere explicitly teaches the progressive and eventual wholesale reconstruction of society (arts, economics, politics, courts, education, etc.) according to Christian principles prior to Christ’s return. Of course, there may be relative success in this regard in isolated instances.

4. Conclusion

There are two main problems with postmillennialism: (1) Scripture refutes it, and (2) What is happening in countries around the world, with deterioration in society and culture, demonstrates postmillennialism should be avoided – giving reasons for taking that position, especially from Matthew 24.

clip_image015

5. Works consulted

Storms, S 2020. ‘The Postmillennial View of the Kingdom of God’, Sam Storms: Enjoying God (online). Available at: https://www.samstorms.org/all-articles/post/the-postmillennial-view-of-the-kingdom-of-god (Accessed 9 November 2020).

6.  Notes


[1] A number of these points came from Got Questions Ministries, ‘What is postmillennialism?’ (Accessed 9 November 2020).

[2] From Brandon Clay 2020. ‘The Millennium – Chapter 55’, Theolocast (online), 11 July. Available at: https://theolocast.org/blog/the-millennium-chapter-55/ (Accessed 9 November 2020).

[3] These points are made by Sam Storms (2020).

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

Israel Folau, Tonga and Christian conversion

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

clip_image002

(image courtesy RUCK.co.uk)

clip_image004

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

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

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

Is this the truth?

clip_image008(image courtesy maplets)

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

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

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

John Thomas and Christianity’s spread in 1826

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(image courtesy ChristArt)

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Folau’s unorthodox Christianity

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

See my article: Israel Folau teaches false doctrine.

clip_image012

(photo courtesy PHOTOSPORT)

clip_image014

(image courtesy dragons Catalans)

2.  Works consulted

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

3.  Notes


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

[2] Ibid.

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

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

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

Vector image of decoration element with tree branch in colorVector image of decoration element with tree branch in colorVector image of decoration element with tree branch in colorVector image of decoration element with tree branch in color

Welcome to ho-hum Christianity!

Ho Hum!

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

1. What’s the meaning of ‘ho-hum’?

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

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

2. Evangelical Christianity

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

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

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

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

2.1 Allegorical teaching

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

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

“Come,” he said.

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

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

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

2.2 The dangers of allegorical interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.1 Clement of Alexandria

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

In one of his publications that survives, he wrote:

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

2.2.2 Philo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.3 Origen

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

3. Thrash music

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

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

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

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

4. Incompetent preachers

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

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

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

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

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

5. Theological liberalism

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

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

My comment to him as OzSpen was:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Conclusion

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

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

7.  Works consulted

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

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

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

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

8.  Notes


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

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

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

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

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

Theism vs Panentheism

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

(Image courtesy riveraucc)

Is this a diagram of orthodox Christian theism?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

1.    The Judeo-Christian God is outside the universe

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

1.1   Illogical that God is outside the universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.2 Genesis 1-2 disagrees

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

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

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

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

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

1.3 God’s creation of everything in the universe

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

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

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

1.4 God and creation of darkness

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

2.    Lucifer is part of God

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

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

2.1 Subjective opinion is not good enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.    No place for evil side with God

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

4.    Darkness is not separate to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.    Why I will never support panentheism

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

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

a. The nature of God.

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

b.    The nature of the universe.

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

c.    Miracles

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

d.    The nature of human beings

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

e.    Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

f.    The nature of biblical revelation

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

6.    God is sinful

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

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

6.1 Jesus is sinless

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6.2 What about God the Father?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

7. Theism vs Panentheism

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

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

 

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

8.    Main issue

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

9. Works consulted

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

10. Note

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

Panentheism - Wikiquote

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

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

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

Is God in hell?

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

clip_image002

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

Is that true or false?

1. Hades and God’s omnipresence

God’s omnipresence means

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

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

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

2. What is Hades?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Seamless Realistic Fire Border...

3. Works consulted

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

4.  Notes

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

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

kerf.jpg 5.1K

Total depravity: Are all people infected by sin?

Lessons I learned from this interaction

Dialogue

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

By Spencer Gear PhD

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

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

1. The White Australia Policy is not the solution

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

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

What do these “multicultural” states have in common?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. A major error of his analysis

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

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

2.1 ‘Whites’ have the same contamination

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

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

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

2.2 Claims with illogical reasoning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.1 Nature of illogical reasoning

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

Thinking my way was pursuing the thoughts of …

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

He came down on me as one who

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

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

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

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

He asked: Which idea is correct?

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

3. The human heart is desperately wicked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Refusal to debate if biblical texts used

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

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

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

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

4.1 Is the Bible a reliable source?

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

clip_image011(Image courtesy The Huffington Post Australia)

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

See also my articles:

clip_image013 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.2 Avoiding the issues: The errors of his ways

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

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

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

His next discussion was

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

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

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

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

4.2.1 Failing to address the issues

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

In my previous reply to him, I mentioned …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.3 How logical fallacies destroy meaningful debates or discussions

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

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

The Future Team at the University of Auckland stated:

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

4.3.1 Lessons I’ve learned from conversation with LEGO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Pratt has explained the law of non-contradiction this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image019

(Image courtesy Cognitive World)

6. Works consulted

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

7. Note

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

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

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image021 clip_image022 clip_image023 clip_image022[1] clip_image024 clip_image025

Bible Translation Challenges

Image result for clipart KJV Bible

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

clip_image002

(image courtesy fundamentallyreformed)

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

1. Difficulties for translators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here SIL explains The Typical Process of Bible Translation.

2. A stubborn stickler for the KJV

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

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

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

2.1 ‘The good ole KJV’

Does being old make it a good translation?

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

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

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

2.2 Imagine using that approach with typewriters.

When was the typewriter invented?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.4 Samples of John 3:16 translations in KJV editions

Try these two versions of this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is one example readily available to me.

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

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

3.1 What are some other reasons?

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

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

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

clip_image020
A part of page 336 of Erasmus’s Greek Testament, the first “Textus Receptus.”
Shown is a portion of John 18.
[8]

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

4. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Works consulted

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

6. Notes

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

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

[3] Ibid., Truth7t7#70.

[4] Ibid., Truth7t7#74.

[5] Ibid., Truth7t7#48,

[6] Ibid., Truth7t7#52.

[7] Ibid., Truth7t7#32.

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for photos Greek New Testament textImage result for photos Greek New Testament textImage result for photos Greek New Testament textImage result for photos Greek New Testament textImage result for photos Greek New Testament text

Total depravity

Image result for clipart Total Depravity

(image courtesy David Cox)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

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

1. Martin Luther on total depravity

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

1.1 Who was Erasmus?

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

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

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

1.2 Debate over Erasmus’s diatribe

Image result for image total depravity

(image courtesy Peace Apostolic Ministries)

Luther wrote insensitively to Erasmus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Calvinism and total depravity

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

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

2.1 John Calvin’s view

John Calvin wrote that concisely in expressing his view:

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

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

2.2 Summary of Reformation doctrine of total depravity

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

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

3. Reformed Arminian: Total depravity

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

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

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

3.1 Dead in sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2 The crunch time

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

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

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

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

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

3.3 Let’s explain this further

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

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

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

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

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

4. What it looks like in the community

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

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

This was a headline in an Australian newspaper (online)

clip_image002

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

Journalist Madonna King explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. A biblical perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Conclusion

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

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

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

7. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

8.  Notes

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

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

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

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

[5] The original said, ‘themselves’.

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

Image result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored lineImage result for clipart horizontal colored line