Category Archives: False teaching

By his stripes you are healed

Is it physical healing or eternal salvation?

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image004Benny Hinn Ministries

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

This article begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image004[1]Andrew Wommack Ministries

teach,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere Wommack continues his teaching on healing:

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

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

Is that an accurate teaching of Scripture?

clip_image004[2]Joseph Prince

wrote:

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

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

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

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

1. Is physical healing taught in these Scriptures?

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

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

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

The prophecy in Isaiah 53:3-6 reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.1  In Isaiah

This verse confirms:

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

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

Verse 6 answers with a thunderous response:

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

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

1.2  First Peter chapter 2

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

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

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

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

Listen to the language from the Gospels:

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

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

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

The OT prophesied this would happen to Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This conclusion is reinforced by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. A question for you

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

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

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

I have two more issues associated with this topic.

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

Yes, there is on two accounts:

3.1 Believers do the works of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2 Heresies of Hinn, Wommack and Prince

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

What is a heresy?

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

The Lexico/Oxford dictionary gives these meanings of heresy:

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

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

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

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

4. Are these faith healers teaching heresy?

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

4.1 Benny Hinn

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

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

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

What does Exodus 15:26 teach?

This is the context:

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

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

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

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

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

This is what it teaches:

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

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  The people grumbled against Moses, wanting something to drink.

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

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

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

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

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

4.2 Andrew Wommack

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

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

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

As for Wommack’s statement,

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

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

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

4.3 Joseph Prince

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

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

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

5. Does Jesus heal today?

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

See my articles:

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  Are Miracles Valuable?

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

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

5.1 John 14:12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augustine’s last illness: A divine healing encounter

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Stewart explained his experience with the supernatural of God:

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

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

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

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

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

5.2 James 5:13-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my articles:

sync Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

sync DIVINE HEALING: IS IT FOR EVERYONE?

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

Donald Burdick summarised these verses:

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

6. Conclusion

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

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

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

7. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.   Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] It is aorist, passive, subjunctive.

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

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

[15] Hinn op. cit.

[16] Wommack op. cit.

[17] Prince op. cit.

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

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

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

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

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

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Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:

‘ACL[1] managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).

The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:

In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.

“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).

1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge

I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.

I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …

  • Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
  • A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
  • Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.

Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.

I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.

The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (
Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).

2. Christian woman disagrees

A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church[2] established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:

  • When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
  • The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
  • She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
  • She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
  • Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
  • Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
  • She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
  • Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
  • The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
  • What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
  • The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
  • Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.

3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.

Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:[3]

Izzy began:

To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6

2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018

Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.

What is the Jesus Only false teaching?

Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).

As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism,[4] Monarchianism,[5] and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).

3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology

I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:

  • “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.

This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).

Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.[6]

  •  Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’

What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.

If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration[7] and glossolalist regeneration,[8] both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.

This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.

3.2 False teaching affirmed

As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:

Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).

In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.

4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy

Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?

If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.

Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

clip_image003Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

Politipower provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[9] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.

This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.

Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.

These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.

5. Conclusion

I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.

He 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.

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(image courtesy christart.com)

6. Works consulted

Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).

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

McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).

news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

7.  Notes

[1] ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[2] Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).

[3] Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).

[4] See: Michael 2013. Is modalism biblical? Youth Apologetics Training (online), 12 June. Available at: http://youthapologeticstraining.com/modalism/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[5] See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[6] Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[7] To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[8] See the article, Tongues and baptism for salvation. Let Us Reason Ministries. Available at: http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes15.htm (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[9] The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.

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

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Fourteen Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

A Note to Dr Robyn J Whitaker

margaret Robyn J Whitaker

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

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

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(image courtesy clipartxtras)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is your faulty reasoning:

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

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

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

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

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

AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg(image courtesy wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here you have committed this fallacy:

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

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

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

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

Image result for christart Sin(image courtesy Clipart Library)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Works consulted

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

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

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

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

 

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

Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

 Headstone free tombstone clipart clipart image

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What should I say to a person who claimed this?

“Hades” which is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew term Sheol, basically refers to the grave or the abode of the dead and clearly the parable of the rich man and Lazarus describes this intermediate state as being a place of consciousness. But sheol during the Old Testament period also describes a place devoid of consciousness, for example Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalms 88:12 (NIV). In other words the intermediate state proceeding (sic)[1] the resurrection has more than one meaning.[2]

1. Hades, the place of departed souls

Those who know Hebrew and Greek disagree with him. [3]

According to OT Hebrew commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, ‘Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death’ (n d:338). As a general description, this is not referring to the grave.

Image result for hell clipart public domain One of the leading exegetical Greek word studies edited by Colin Brown states:

In the LXX [Septuagint] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered (Job 10:21f; 26:5; Ps. 6:5; 30:9 [LXX 29:9]; 115:17 [LXX 113:25]; Prov. 1:12; 27:20; Isa. 5:14) (Brown 1976:206).

So in the Septuagint (OT Greek), hades is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, sheol.

There are further explanations of hades and sheol in my articles,

On this Christian forum (online), the regular rejection of the orthodox doctrine of life-after-death and the immortality of the soul has become such a drone that a person expressed dismay over what was happening. I understand and sympathise with his perspective.

However, a biblical response is needed to this disillusionment.

2. Growing weary of correction

Jim Parker wrote:

There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Here, we seem to be on a wheel which periodically brings around OSAS,[4] faith alone without works, no eternal punishment in hell, baptism’s just for show, and a few other favorites which don’t come to mind at the moment.

I have attempted to show where people’s comments have been illogical or taken totally out of context only to find that logic and context are concepts with which many, not only do not know anything about the subject, but, often, don’t even suspect there is something to be known. I have attempted, in response to “proof-texts” to show the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say) only to have them either dismissed out of hand or completely ignored and then be assailed with another barrage of “proof-texts.”
I grow weary.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day and all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.

or

Proof-text after proof-text after proof-text drip like a leaky faucet from day to day and all the light of logic and learning offered is snuffed out by fools in darkness on their way to the next pop-theology Bible study.[5]

I encouraged him not to become weary in doing good through correcting those who proof-text out of context to modify or change what the Bible says about life-after-death issues.

3. Do good to everyone – correct false teaching in the family of faith

Doing good to everyone sounds more like good works in the community (food hampers, meeting human need) and to believers at church. However, could it have a broader application?

Let’s look at a few verses in context:

Image result for false doctrine clipart public domain6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:6-10 ESV).?

We will use this section of Gal 6 to apply to the title of this thread, ‘Contradictions and the soul of man’,[6]

  • Those taught the word (about the immortal soul) should teach this good word (immortal soul) to the teacher.
  • It is possible to be deceived in this teaching – hence the term ‘contradictions’;
  • God is not mocked because what is sown in eisegesis will reap its reward (loss, penalty or punishment) in confusion over the nature of what happens at death for believers and unbelievers.
  • The one who sows to his own fleshly understanding of what happens at death – no hell for unbelievers and no soul/spirit to enter the Intermediate State for believers – will reap corruption. In this post title, this is called ‘contradiction’.
  • The one sowing to the Spirit by obedience to Scripture regarding eternal damnation and eternal salvation will not reap corruption of understanding but will be enlightened by the Spirit’s understanding.
  • Refuting and challenging such fleshly understanding can cause some to grow weary in the good action of challenging incorrect exegesis. Those who remain true to Scripture will reap truth if they don’t give up.
  • On this Christian forum, we have the opportunity to do good to everyone by agreeing, challenging, correcting and defending the truth of what the Scriptures say about the immortal soul. There are no contradictions in Scripture, only ‘apparent human contradictions in understanding’. Instead of promoting feel-good Christianity (no eternal damnation), we have the opportunity of doing good by correction. It doesn’t feel good at the time of giving correction over and over as it can become wearying. But it is important to continue to be faithful exegetes and not base our responses on being politically correct and following Rob Bell’s view of no eternal punishment in hell.
  • Let us continue to do good on this forum and in other situations (whether in a church setting or the general community) by challenging and correcting views that are contrary to Scripture in regard to eternal life and eternal damnation (Matt 25:46 ESV).

Yes, it can be wearying but we are exhorted by Paul to the Galatians to ‘not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Gal 6:9 ESV).

Jim’s response was: ‘It still feels like trying to teach a pig to sing. All it does is annoy the pig’.[7]

I understand that it is tough going on many occasions, even on this forum. However, this is our biblical responsibility before God (see 1 John 4:1-3 ESV).[8]

The challenge to Bible teachers is that they will endure a ‘stricter judgment’ (James 3:1-2 ESV) because of the requirements placed on God’s teachers of testing the spirits to discern false prophets (and false profits) and those who do not confess Jesus as being from God. This means weeding out those who proclaim a human Jesus without the deity of Christ or a divine Jesus without the humanity of Christ (the latter being a form of Docetic Gnosticism). It applies to all other departures from biblically orthodox doctrines.

3.1 Docetic Gnosticism explained

One error that invaded the church in its first few centuries was Docetic Gnosticism. What is it? Church Historian, Earl Cairns, explained the Docetic Gnosticism threat:

Image result for clipart gnosticismGnosticism, the greatest of the philosophical threats, was at its peak of power about 150. Its roots reached back into the New Testament times. Paul seemed to have been fighting an incipient form of Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Christian tradition related the origin of Gnosticism to Simon Magus [Acts 8:9-24], whom Peter had to rebuke so severely. Gnosticism sprang from the natural human desire to create a theodicy, an explanation to the origin of evil. The Gnostics, because they associated matter with evil, sought a way to create a philosophical system in which God as spirit could be freed from association with evil and in which man could be related on the spiritual side of his nature to Deity….

To explain Christ, they adopted a doctrine known as Docetism. Because matter was evil, Christ could not be associated with a human body despite the Bible’s teaching to the contrary. Christ as absolute spiritual good could not unite with matter. Either the man Jesus was a phantom with the seeming appearance of a material body (Docetism), or Christ came upon the human body of Jesus only for a short time between the baptism of the man Jesus and the beginning of His suffering on the cross. Then Christ left the man Jesus to die on the cross. It was the task of Christ to teach a special gnosis or knowledge that would help man save himself by an intellectual process (Cairns 1981:98-99)

With the advent of the Internet there are more opportunities to sow seeds of false doctrine and water the seed into full-blown false teaching. This is happening in droves on Christian forums.

Keep watch, brother in Christ. Don’t grow weary in doing good in correcting false doctrine and proclaiming orthodox teaching.

3.2 Correctly explaining Scripture

Is it doing good to correct false teaching? In the context of exhorting Timothy to be a worker approved by God (2 Tim 2:14-26 ESV), Paul wrote, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 ESV). The New Living Translation translates this as, ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth’ (emphasis added).

What is the danger of false teaching, whether it be on life-after-death theology or any other teaching? Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is clear that he, the pastor, should be one who is ‘rightly handling the word of truth’. What is the meaning of ‘rightly handling’?

‘Rightly handling’ is the Greek, orthotomounia, present tense, active voice, infinitive. Being present tense, it refers to continual action by pastor-teachers to correctly explain God’s word of truth (the Scripture). Explaining truth means the teachers also correct errors. The Greek is a late and rare compound word (orthos and themnw) that means ‘cutting straight’ and is the only time it is used in the NT. The LXX uses it in Prov. 3:6 and 11:5 for constructing straight paths. There is a parallel verse in Heb 12:13 (ESV), ‘Make straight paths for your feet’ (Robertson 1931:619).

Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since themnw and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight (Robertson 1931:619-620).

In dealing with the false teaching of soul sleep, annihilation of the wicked at death, and no eternal punishment for unbelievers, there is need for correctly explaining the word of truth. This involves constructing straight paths of the true meaning of Scripture. To do this, often one has to cut out foreign, false teaching and provide correct exegesis by cutting straight to the heart of the text. This involves historical, grammatical, contextual understanding of all sentences in Scripture.

4. Be warned: True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus

John warned us in 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT):

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

While this addresses a threat in the early church of Gnosticism, it has broader application. Gnostics did not and do not believe Jesus had a real body of flesh. Second John 1:7 (NLT) addresses the same issue: ‘I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist’. Today there is similar opposition from people who do not believe that Jesus is God (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals, Christian Science, Armstrongism,[9] etc).

The anti-Christian website of Religious Tolerance (Ontario, Canada) claimed this as a Gnostic belief about Christ: ‘Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died’ (Robinson 1996-2007).

4.1 Application of 1 John 4:1-3

Visit Christian forums such as Christian forums.net, Christianity Board, and Christian forums.com and you’ll get some views of how people allegedly listen to the voice of God for preaching, teaching and direction in their lives.

They will claim to speak by the Holy Spirit. John warns us that:

  • We must test what these people say to discern if it comes from God. Here you need the Scriptures and spiritual insight by the Spirit to bring discernment.
  • You know they speak by the Spirit if the following happens:

clip_image002 (a) They acknowledge that Jesus had a real human body while on earth. That demonstrates the person has the Spirit of God.

clip_image002[1] (b) If they don’t acknowledge the truth about Jesus (from Scripture), they are not from God. Therefore, a person who does not view Jesus as God cannot be a true prophet or teacher of God.

clip_image002[2] (c) That person has the spirit of Antichrist, which means he/she is proclaiming teaching that is anti-Christian.

clip_image002[3] (d) Antichrist is coming into the world and already is here.

This is a serious biblical exhortation to determine how to discern false teaching in the body of Christ. Pastors and teachers in the Christian churches must not be slack with these responsibilities. I note in passing that Bible teaching has a low level of priority in the seeker-sensitive model that dominates the contemporary church.

4.1.1 Pop-psychologizing church

Dorothy Greco addressed some of this problem in her article for Christianity Today, How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation (Greco 2016). Greco makes this pointed analysis:

Many churches gradually, and perhaps unwittingly, transitioned from being appropriately sensitive to the needs of their congregants to becoming – if you’ll permit some pop-psychologizing – co-dependent with them.

What does co-dependence look like within a church? Avoiding sections of Scripture out of fear that certain power pockets will be offended. Believing that repeat attendance depends primarily upon the staff’s seamless execution of Sunday morning – rather than the manifest presence of God. Eliminating doleful songs from the worship repertoire because they might contradict the through line that “following Jesus is all gain.”

Jesus was neither a co-dependent nor a businessman. He unashamedly loved those on the margins and revealed himself to all who were searching. He seemed quite indifferent about whether or not he disappointed the power brokers. Additionally, Jesus understood that the irreducible gospel message—that we are all sinners in need of being saved—was, and always will be, offensive. No brilliant marketing campaign could ever repackage it.

4.1.2 Bill Hybels’ shocking confession

Related image

Bill Hybels

In 2007, Bob Burney provided this assessment of the seeker-sensitive movement, with quotes from Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church’s research:

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You? co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth (Burney 2007).

What a shocker of a confession that they ‘made a mistake’, got it wrong and invested millions of dollars into promoting something worldwide that does not make disciples of Christ but promotes a way to get crowds into the church.

4.1.3 Promoting nonsense, the work of Satan and of pure evil

This is the kind of response that could lead Jim Parker (cited above) to despair over what is taught on this Christian forum and want to give up participating there:

You are free to believe what you want to believe.
If a man can believe that all men were born with immortal souls and that our … senses and our awareness and our ability to reason and perceive will live forever, and at the same time also believes 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) tells us God alone is immortal, then the question I have to ask myself is what other nonsense does he believe in?
He can philosophise all he wants to reconcile these differing views to his concept of reality so that he can continue promoting and maintaining the grotesque and vile idea that God will condemn the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever, but in the end he will see what he believes is in fact nothing other than the work of Satan… or to put it another way, it is a work of pure evil.[10]

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind of assault on orthodox Christian belief of eternal damnation.

(a) Believe whatever you want

Am I free to believe what I want to believe about what happens at death for believers and unbelievers?

No I’m not![11]clip_image003

I’m only free to believe the truth about Jesus and the whole of revealed truth. 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT) provides my teaching responsibility of testing the spirits:

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

(b) Supporters of torment in hell: The work of Satan and of pure evil

This was the accusation promoted on this Christian forum that those who philosophise and promote the grotesque and vile idea of God’s condemning ‘the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever’, are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and ‘it is a work of pure evil’.

I responded:[12]

Are you accusing others on this forum and me who believe in eternal life and eternal damnation that we are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and that what we teach ‘is a work of pure evil’?

Is that what you are declaring on this forum about these people and their teaching?

He came back with a copy and paste of his post to which I had responded.[13]

I pressed him further: ‘So is what I write on this forum in support of eternal damnation for unbelievers “a work of pure evil”?’[14]

Image result for justice emblem australia public domain

5. God alone is immortal

In spite of this person’s opposition to the immortal soul, he does raise a good point. First Timothy 6:15b-16 (NIV) states: ‘God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen’. This also is affirmed in 1 Tim 1:17 (ESV) where God is described as ‘the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’.

Since God alone is immortal, how can we speak of immortal souls of human beings? Although 2 Timothy 1:10 speaks of another dimension of immortality besides that of God, here’s the context:

8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Tim 1:8-10 NLT).

God’s plan was to show us his grace through Jesus Christ and an important dimension of that grace is that the power of death has been broken and the way of life, which brings immortality to human beings, has been illuminated through the Gospel.

What does this ‘immortality’ mean in v. 10? It comes through the Gospel, so applies to Christian believers.

It transcends by far mere endless existence or even endless conscious existence. The gospel of our Savior Christ Jesus is far better than anything Plato ever excogitated.[15]

It is clear … that though even here and now the believer receives this great blessing in principle, and in heaven in further development, he does not fully receive it until the day of Christ’s re-appearance. Until that day arrives, the bodies of all believers will still be subject to the laws of decay and death. Incorruptible life, imperishable salvation, in the full sense, belongs to the new heaven and earth. It is an inheritance stored away for us (Hendriksen 1957:234)

Jim Parker stated it well on the Christian forum:

When scripture speaks of God as immortal, (1 Tim 6) the meaning is that God has no beginning or end. That is the more precise meaning of the word “immortal” in Christian theology.

When scripture speaks of man as immortal, (1 Cor 15) the meaning is that man, as a created being, does have a beginning but that, after the resurrection, he will have no end. So, in Christian theology, the word “immortal” when applied to man, is not the same as when referring to God.

That’s why 1 Co 15:53 (RSV) says: For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.

Our nature, as created by God and damaged by sin, is now perishable and mortal. At the resurrection, our nature will “put on”, as something unnatural to it, imperishability and immortality. It will put on those attributes because Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has destroyed death and perishability.[16]

The dynamic equivalence of the New Living Translation translates 1 Cor 15:53 (NLT) as, ‘For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies‘. So, Christian believers will receive their immortal bodies at the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:53.

This principle should not be difficult to understand. God alone is the only one with immortality, which means he has no beginning or end. For human beings, it is a derived immortality through the Gospel. Human beings had a beginning but their eternal life will never end, thus meaning it is immortal.

Therefore, there is another meaning of immortal. Our immortality of the soul is in a derived sense and applies to all people, believers and unbelievers. Second Timothy 1:10 (ESV) speaks of God’s purpose and grace ‘which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’.

5.1 Secular immortality through biology

The scientific community and secular media enjoy speaking of immortality on earth. Here is but one example from the Daily Mail,

‘Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy’,

While the technology remains in the realm of science fiction, experts have claimed that the ability to create immortal humans may not be all that far-fetched.

I would see immortality coming from the biological sector,’ said University of Arizona researcher Wolfgang Fink, during a recent panel discussion in California.

‘If you manage somehow to prevent cell death from happening or if you extend the life span of cells beyond their natural life span’ (Zolfagharifard 2015).

5.2 What a shock is coming!

What astonishment they have coming! The Scriptures as the God-breathed word of God could not be clearer: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NIV). There is not a chance of immortality on this earth. ALL will die or face the Lord alive if they are alive on earth when he returns to the earth.

This is what happened 2,000 years ago with Jesus:

After saying this, he [Jesus] was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT).

6. Conclusion

There is a torrent of false teaching surrounding life-after-death issues, particularly from those who oppose eternal torment for unbelievers. Correcting this false theology often becomes laborious for the astute Bible teacher. This issue of growing weary from false teaching was raised by an orthodox Bible teacher on a Christian forum.

An examination of sheol in the OT and its translation as hades in the LXX and the NT, denotes the place where departed souls of all people are gathered after death.

I suggested that doing good to everyone (Gal 6:6-10) included correcting false doctrine. One example that caused the early church a lot of strife was Docetic Gnosticism – Jesus only seemed to have a physical body but it was not so. Orthodoxy promotes that Jesus is God but at his incarnation he became a fleshly human being. True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus – he has always been God but at the first Christmas he became a human being of flesh (but did not cease to be God).

First John 4:1-3 demonstrates the responsibility of the church in correcting false prophets. Seeker-sensitive Christianity is not creating disciples according to a survey conducted at Willow Creek Community Church, the creator of seeker-sensitive services. Instead, it is generating a pop-psychologised church for the contemporary marketing generation.

A person chimed in with the statement that I can believe whatever I want to regarding life after death. No I can’t! I must conform to what the Scriptures state. This person claimed that those who promoted eternal damnation for the wicked were doing the work of Satan and my belief about damnation of the wicked is a work of pure evil.

This article affirms that what the Bible teaches is that God alone is immortal – having no beginning or end – and that human beings have a derived immortality. This means that they have a beginning at conception but have an existence that is eternal – eternal life or eternal damnation.

The secular community wants to invent immortality through biology. What a shock they have coming. Immortality is God’s provision for the damned and the saved: ‘Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NLT).

To my dying day, I will engage in the task of correcting false doctrine in the church and on the streets and Internet. I ask the same of godly teachers who check my teaching and the teaching of others (whether in a formal church setting or on the Internet) by comparing what is taught with Scripture. We need to become and function as ‘Bereans’ (see Acts 17:11).

What will you do about false teaching in the church, even YOUR church?
‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:11 NIV).7.

7.  Works consulted

Brown, C (ed) 1976. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Burney, B 2007. A shocking “confession” from Willow Creek Community Church. Townhall.com, (online) 30 October. Available at: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BobBurney/2007/10/30/a_shocking_%e2%80%9cconfession%e2%80%9d_from_willow_creek_community_church?page=full&comments=true (Accessed 2 November 2007). This is no longer available at Townhall, but I located it at Crosswalk. Available at: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/a-shocking-confession-from-willow-creek-community-church-11558438.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Greco, D 2016. How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation. Christianity Today (online). Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/august/how-seeker-sensitive-consumer-church-is-failing-generation.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Hendriksen, W 1957.[17] New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Tr by J Martin (from the German). Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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

Robinson, B A 1996-2007. Gnosticism: Beliefs and practices (beliefs and practices). Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (online). Available at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/gnostic2.htm (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Zolfagharifard, E 2015. Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy. Daily Mail (online), 23 July. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3171283/Could-Self-reality-Scientists-say-humans-someday-IMMORTAL-wealthy.html (Accessed 22 December 2016).

8.  Notes


[1] I think he means ‘preceding’.

[2] Christian Forums.net 2016. Contradictions and the soul of man (online), freewill#57. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/contradictions-and-the-soul-of-man.66925/page-4#post-1258832 (Accessed 29 October 2016).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[4] OSAS = Once-saved-always-saved.

[5] Contradictions and the soul of man, Jim Parker#68.

[6] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#71.

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#72.

[8] This is my post at ibid., OzSpen#74.

[9] This was when this cult was led by Herbert W Armstrong.

[10] Ibid., freewill#75.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#77.

[13] Ibid., freewill#75. The copy & paste is at freewill#78.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#79. At this point I reported him to the moderators for his flaming and goading.

[15] Oxford dictionaries online (2016. s v excogitate) gives the meaning of excogitate as to ‘think out, plan, or devise’.

[16] Ibid., Jim Parker#97.

[17] Hendriksen previously published The Pastorals as a single volume. It is now incorporated in this combined volume.

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 June 2018.

What’s wrong with these contemporary Christian music songs?

(image courtesy ontheroadtohealing.org.uk)

(image courtesy openhymnal.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Jesus Culture is the music ministry emanating from the extreme charismatic Bethel Church, Redding CA (associated with Bill Johnson). However, it has reached beyond Redding.[1]

I joined a discussion online about Jesus Culture.[2] The thread began with this warning: ‘I’m curious if this stuff is creeping into the Baptist churches. If so, you should warn your pastors and worship leaders. If they scoff, you may strongly reconsider being a part of such a church’.[3]

A supporter of Jesus Culture chimed in:

My Wife listens to Jesus Culture, whats (sic) wrong with the music?

It mentions scripture and it praises God in it’s (sic) lyrics.
Were (sic) not talking doctrine, denominations, gifts of the spirit (sic). – Talking about Music, specifically Jesus Culture.[4]

The person who started the thread accused the Bethel Church and affiliate ministries of ‘utilizing witchcraft to manipulate anyone who comes under their teachings or music’.[5] That got the bees humming in the back and forth of witchcraft in Bethel Church and Jesus Culture.

But we were still lacking examples of the lyrics in Jesus Culture songs for evaluation.

1.  Words from a Jesus Culture song

I asked the original poster, ‘Why don’t you find one song from “Jesus Culture” that has lyrics that are promoting false theology so that we can discuss the biblical content of this song?’[6] When it was not forthcoming, I found a song from Jesus Culture to discuss.[7]

Here are the lyrics from a Jesus Culture song:

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song?

2.  It’s praising God: It’s not against the Gospel

clip_image009(image courtesy poetrybydeborahann)

 

A supporter of Jesus Culture replied:

Are you guys serious? What’s wrong with this song? It’s Praising God. I would not let my wife listen to ANYTHING that is against the Gospel,
I am quoting TWIN 1954 here:

What separates those who are preaching another gospel and those preaching the truth is that the Gospel is according to the Scriptures as Paul laid out very clearly in 1 Cor. 15:1-4. (1Co 15:1) Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (1Co 15:2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1Co 15:3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1Co 15:4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

I asked you many times show me scripturally how these songs are against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please show me.[8]

3.  This song fails the test

What’s wrong with this song?[9] Do you mean to say you can’t see it? Can’t you see the me-centred nature of this song? It’s egocentric. Let’s look again at it and I’ll highlight in bold the self-centred (egocentric) emphasis:

Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

This is an egocentric song that wants to tell God who I am and how I feel towards Him: ‘I am Yours, I am Yours’, etc. This song misses the greatness of the Lord God whom we serve and praise. Exalt Him; laud His praise.

This song leaves me flat because the theocentric emphasis (having God as the central focus)[10] is not there. From what you say in your post, that doesn’t seem to bother you.

The Jesus Culture supporter did admit, ‘I agree also, the song is not very doctrinal (You won’t learn from the song), but I don’t believe there is anything biblically wrong with the song’.[11]

I don’t see this kind of prominence:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

[Words: Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), 1867 (Oremus Hymnal)]

Or,

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

[Words: Re­gi­nald He­ber, 1826. Heber wrote this hymn for Trin­i­ty Sun­day while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Music: Nicaea, John B. Dykes, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861 (MI­DI, score)].

4.  Beware of false teaching in songs

Songs may teach false doctrine or misleading interpretations.[12]

The Bible speaks about those who are false teachers (Gal 5:7-12; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 1:4) and false prophets (Matt 7:15; 24:24; 2 Pet 2:1) who can all be using the Bible. Nevertheless they are false teachers and prophesying falsehood.

They may sound reasonable but be false. False teaching and false prophesy can find their ways into songs we sing.

In 2013, Christianity Today ran an article, ‘Reformed Rapper Calls Out 12 Popular Pastors as “False Teachers“‘. A careful read may edify.

Have you read Sandy Simpson’s article, ‘Worship song rating‘?

4.1  Another song from Jesus Culture

A promoter of Jesus Culture provided the lyrics from another song on a Christian forum He said:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You![13]

His comment about this song was, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’.

5.  Beware of false or misleading teaching in songs

My examination of this song was very different from that of the Jesus Culture promoter:[14]

You say, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’. Let’s check out how egocentric this song really is and you seem to miss it. There is false teaching here. I’ll highlight in bold the egocentricism and the false teaching that is repeated:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [this is false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
[this is false teaching repeated]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I‘m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [false teaching repeated again]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [a repeat of false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
?

No source for this song was provided online by this person.[2] I located a version, ‘Alive In You’, that approximates these words by: Kim Walker-Smith, Skyler Smith, Jordan Frye 2015 Jesus Culture Music, Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin Capitol CMG Publishing) at Praise Charts: http://www.praisecharts.com/songs/details/27704/alive-in-you-sheet-music/ (Accessed 14 April 2016).

The egocentric emphasis, in my understanding, is streaming through the ‘I’ statements.

6.  I consider this to be false teaching

It is false teaching to sing this teaching, ‘You are strong in my brokenness‘. God is always strong, whether I’m broken or not. If the emphasis were, ‘When I’m down and broken, the Lord God is my support and his strength helps to lift my burden’, then I could accept that emphasis. But I can’t see that meaning in, ‘You are strong in my brokenness’. If that is what is meant, it is not at all clear.

The sovereign Lord Almighty is strong in his essence. ‘Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle’ (Psalm 24:8 NIV). The Lord does not need your or my brokenness to make him strong. His essence is that of might and strength. That does not change through your or my brokenness. This is confirmed further in Psalm 29:8 (NIV), ‘Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you’.

Jeremiah 50:34 (ISV) confirms the Lord God’s essence of strength:

Their Redeemer is strong,
the Lord of the Heavenly Armies is his name.
He will vigorously plead their case
in order to bring rest to the earth,
but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.?

It is false teaching to say that God the Lord is strong ‘in my brokenness’. He is strong by his very nature and is strong whether you are broken or not. This is his attribute of omnipotence. Nothing you or I can do can change that. It is an attack on God’s nature to say he is strong ‘in my brokenness’.

It is correct teaching to say that when I am broken, the Almighty God is powerful to act in the situation in which I am and to intervene according to his will. However, that power or strength is based on who the Lord Almighty is and the attribute of his omnipotence never changes. My brokenness does not cause Him to be strong.

7.  Emulating worldly tactics

Are Jesus Culture, Hillsong and other promoters of some Christian music endorsing a worldly or secular approach to marketing songs? The person who opened this thread had a penetrating summary:

The worldliness within these movements is through the roof. Watch the official videos, their image is so finely crafted you would think some big-time record label put them together to market. They make the world look uncool. They seek to draw the world into a worldly version of Christianity.

This is at work even in smaller churches who are into this movement. I had countless people on my facebook feed who emulate this culture of worldliness. There’s always a bunch of people with the finest digital HD cameras running around in these circles documenting these glorious self images. Then there’s (sic) the comments, “I love this girl!” or whatever. These movements are full of cliques based upon outward appearance, ministry connections, or your ability to be like act like the world.

It’s just plain shallow and it’s not the Christianity that Christ walked out.[15]

8.  Tunnels of fire

I asked a person: Do you support the prayer tunnels, the ‘Tunnels of Fire‘ at Bethel Church? [16]

Where is the sound doctrine in this chaos?

The retort was penetrating and accurate with Scripture:

Paul said, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” [1 Tim 5:22 NIV].

The laying on of hands is something only to be done with clear direction of the Holy Spirit, and it’s not something the Holy Spirit does willy-nilly.

I’m making a list of things this movement does that fly directly in the face of clear teachings of scripture. It’s getting longer by the day.[17]

9.  Conclusion

There is chaos taking place in some churches in the name of the Holy Spirit. One needs discernment to know that what is happening is not following 1 Cor 14:40 (ESV), ‘But all things should be done decently and in order’. Prayer tunnels and people lying on the floor screaming, barking and howling are not biblical expressions of the Holy Spirit in action.

See:

clip_image011Weeping With Wilkerson (or These Strange Manifestations Are Not the Holy Ghost);

clip_image011[1]Look before you laugh;

clip_image011[2]Does New Age Christianity Exist In House Churches?

clip_image011[3]When Bethel invades your church;

clip_image011[4]Tunnel of Fire at Bethel church, Redding, CA

clip_image011[5]Why Jesus Culture, Bethel Church, and Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry are Spiritually Dangerous (Part 1 of 3).

clip_image013

(image courtesy www.mp3tunes.tk)

Notes

[1] See: http://jesusculture.com/about/ (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Are your churches using Jesus Culture songs in praise and worship?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/are-your-churches-using-jesus-culture-songs-in-praise-and-worship.7939788/page-3 (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[3] Ibid., AGTG#1. This person made a number of posts against Jesus Culture songs.

[4] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#4.

[5] Ibid., AGTG#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#47.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[8] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#50, emphasis in original.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#54.

[10] Oxford dictionaries (2016. S v theocentric).

[11] Christian Forums, PrettyboyAndy#63.

[12] I posted these Scriptures and this emphasis in ibid., OzSpen#46.

[13] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#116.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

[15] Ibid., AGTG#73.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#78.

[17] Ibid., AGTG#80.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2018.