Perpetual virginity of Mary promoted by false document

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April 24th, 2017 Perpetual virginity of Mary, Roman Catholicism, Virgin birth

File:Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

(Blessed Virgin Mary, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

A Roman Catholic explanation is:

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

Here is how some Roman Catholics argue:

1. Roman Catholic support for The Protoevangelium of James

A person online wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther

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

John Calvin

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

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

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

John Wesley

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

3. Was it plagiarised information about the Protestant details?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Logical fallacies and promotion of perpetual virginity

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

 

Example 1

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

This was one person’s RC reply:[7]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 2

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

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

Example 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now to his rejection of the sole biblical authority.

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

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

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

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

See the article, ‘What is sola scriptura?

Example 4

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

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

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

5. What is the origin of perpetual virginity?

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

 

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

Gregory Elder’s assessment of this document is:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

6. Evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Roman Catholic and other commentaries affirming perpetual virginity

One RC person online wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Lambert (2012) concluded that

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

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

8. Assessment by a few Protestant commentators

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

8.1   William Hendriksen

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

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

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

An RC response by Fr. Geiger is:

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

8.2   R C H Lenski

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

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

8.3   D A Carson

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

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

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

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

9. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(which means, God with us).

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

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

Flower16 The virgin birth of Christ

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

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

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

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

10. Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

[4] Ibid., BreadOfLife#707.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#711.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#692.

[7] Ibid., tom55#715.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#722.

[9] Ibid., BreadOfLife#729.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#730.

[11] Ibid., BreadOfLife#731.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#733.

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

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

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

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#742.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#724.

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

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

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

 

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

Christians do not sin!

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March 25th, 2017 John's Epistles, Sin

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

a. Christ made us sinless?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Christians don’t sin continuously

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

There is a similar message to this in 1 John 3:6 (NIV), ‘No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him’.
The issues from 1 John 3:9 (NIV) are:

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

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

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

Notes


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

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

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#149.

[4] Ibid., now faith#152.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#154.

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

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 March 2017.

Learn how to screw up your worldview

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February 21st, 2017 Agnosticism, Cultural Apologetics, Logic, Presuppositions, Truth, Worldview

Green Shiny True Button And Red Shiny False Button With Text And

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A doubter about the existence of God and other things religious wrote that part of his problem,

is that I have a passing academic interest in religion, so pulling things out of that context causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. Theologically I’m very liberal–I know it’s a slippery slope, but it is what it is. I see cultural context everywhere, I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity, I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better, and I’m aware of how diverse early Christianity was. I won’t claim that the version that survived wasn’t the true one, but I definitely see other factors at play in its success. One of those actually may have been divine intervention–it’s intriguing that there are visions associated with both of the people who transformed it (Paul and Constantine), but this is definitely a tangled knot of problems that aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. So I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all the important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion.[1]

This is only part of a post he made to a Christian forum (you can read a continuation of it at footnote #1, but it unveils a considerable amount of information about his perspective. Let’s see if we can unpack some of the issues that are driving his agenda.

A. A liberal resistance to God

What I observe about his perspective, associated with his ‘cognitive dissonance’, i.e. disharmony in his thought processes, is that his …

1. Presuppositions cover up issues

I addressed him directly:[2] I’ve been looking at this paragraph that you wrote and it seems to be overcome with your presuppositions that are preventing your examining the biblical material at face value. Let me pick up a few of them and I’d appreciate it if you would correct me if I’m wrong:

Your passing academic interest in religion and pulling out of context causes cognitive dissonance. I’m unsure if this ‘context’ is the academic interest or context in Scripture or something else. I’m unclear on your content. If your context is ‘academic interest in religion’, then I’ll have to know whether that is a university, seminary, college or Christian setting (and whether it’s a liberal setting) to be able to try to uncover your presuppositions.

2. We know where the slippery slope leads

Image result for clipart slippery slopeFrom where did you get your ‘very liberal’ theological position? Was it from the evidence from Scripture or from ‘very liberal’ sources who/that dumbed down other views, especially those of Bible-believing Christians? You’ve admitted that it is ‘a slippery slope’. This means that that position is doomed to destroy faith and cause disillusionment with people and decline of churches. We know this from the decline in theologically liberal denominations worldwide. Take a look at the Anglican Church here in Australia (outside of the Sydney diocese), Anglican Church in UK, Church of Scotland, United Church of Canada, Episcopal Church (USA), United Methodist Church (USA), Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist, etc. See the article, Liberal churches in decline while orthodox ones grow, says study of Protestants in Canada‘.

3. Stuck in a rut

‘It is what it is’ is an unhealthy way of examining or correcting one’s views. I find the better approach is to investigate the evidence from Scripture without imposition of previous beliefs. Are you a postmodern deconstructionist when it comes to your reading of Scripture?

4. Historicity of the Gospels

You say, ‘ I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity’. That seems to be your presuppositional imposition on the Gospels. What primary investigation have you done into the nature of historicity of any document and applying those criteria to the Gospels? Other researchers have gone before you who have already done that and they have come to a positive position on the historicity of the Gospels and the NT. I’m thinking of leading researcher at the University of Manchester, the late F F Bruce: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (available online). Right beside me on my desk is Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP 2007). What causes you to refuse to accept the historical evidence provided by these scholars?

4.1 John’s Gospel and mysticism

‘I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better’, he wrote. That statement is loaded with your presuppositional agenda. You would have to give me lots of other information for me to understand why you regard John as mysticism. By the way, it’s a very different kind of Gospel to the Synoptics because it was written for a different purpose, ‘The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name’ (John 30 30-32 NLT).

Then you give the thumbs down to Paul (presumably referring to his letters and the history about him in the Book of Acts). Without your telling us why you make that statement, I wouldn’t try to guess what leads you to that kind of view.

5. Leap of faith and unthinking Christianity

You say, ‘I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion’. To the contrary, Christianity does not require you to put your brain/mind in neutral and resort to a ‘leap of faith’ to accept it. All of the historical basis of Christianity can be subjected to the same tests of historicity that you give to any other historical document about Nero, Martin Luther, George Washington, Captain James Cook or the September 11, 2001 disaster in New York City. However, there is the strong dimension of faith, but that is in the person of Jesus Christ for salvation, the Jesus who is revealed in Scripture. If you don’t know who Jesus is (because of theological liberal presuppositions), that leap of faith will be into darkness rather than into the light.

B. His responses to my challenge

In the following I deal with his responses to what I have written above. These are some of his emphases:

1. Liberal bias that opposes one-way religion

Image result for clipart one way Christianity

He wrote:

No formal training, I’ve just accumulated knowledge here and there–mostly of a liberal bias, yes. Not specifically Christianity but religion in general. It’s uncomfortable for me to switch from viewing something as interesting in the greater scheme of world religion to zeroing in on one and saying, “Maybe this one actually is true.” It’s getting less strange with time, but it’s definitely still jarring.[3]

How should I reply? Here goes![4]

I was raised in a religiously liberal home and it wasn’t until my parents were converted from liberalism to biblical Christianity that I was even open to other evidence. I did not pursue the evidence wherever it led until that time of conversion for my parents.

What has caused you to consider that the liberal bias of accumulated knowledge is correct? This indicates that you have censored some important areas for consideration. Why have you done that? Have you ever considered how your ‘liberal bias’ lines up with reality – the truth? Why liberal and not conservative? What attracts you to liberal religion?

You don’t like going from the general (greater scheme of world religion) to the specific of one religion being true. Surely this should not be a difficult thing for you to do because you are forced to do it in everyday life, even with much lesser products. Do you use a mobile phone? If so, surely you have examined a range of mobile phones before concluding a certain one was the best for you. That’s what I had to do recently.

You do this in a whole range of activities. What causes you and me to take medicine prescribed by the Dr and not swallow ‘RoundUp Poison Ivy’:
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The purpose of the product influences that choice.
When it comes to the choosing which religion is the truth, it takes care in comparing that religion with reality, facts/truth. What is truth when you examine religion?
Have you found a better search engine on the www than Google? Why does Google seem to be the preferred product over, say, Bing or Yahoo?
Another analogy would be when something happens to the motor of your automobile. Do you choose to take it to a motor mechanic instead of a painter or cabinet maker? You can be narrow in your choices.
When it comes to dealing with the worldviews of any religion, I challenge you to examine which of those worldviews fits reality. See the difficulties with:

 

You face a major hurdle before you can even begin to investigate worldviews, religion and God. You start at the wrong end of your inquiry, by excluding certain evidence. When you start with a liberal bias, you will see liberal views in a much more favourable way and anti-liberal views negatively. This is not a beneficial way to examine evidence.

I hope you realise the self-defeating nature of your view with a ‘liberal bias’. You don’t like one-way religion but you have chosen that view yourself, i.e. religion with a liberal bias. That’s every bit as one-way as biblical Christianity. Do you realise how self-defeating your argument is?
May I suggest a better approach: Pursue the evidence, wherever it leads.

2. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.

2.1 Presupposition favours evolution

He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. Go to the science section of this forum to discuss this further if you want. However, to allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that has added to Scripture. It’s your presuppositional agenda. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture, but I won’t discuss further.

See my articles:

2.2 Starting with allegorical interpretation.

Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic), because there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism’.

You provide not one piece of documentation for this. It is your assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. If you want to interpret Genesis as allegory, then start a thread and raise the issues. Do you want the first man and woman to be an allegory? Are you going to treat Noah and the flood as an allegory? How about Abraham? Is God’s promise to Abraham, ‘I will make of you a great nation’, an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel?

Image result for clipart interpretation public domainHow do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this morning’s article from the Brisbane Times (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.[6]

The article began: ‘New York: President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night (Saturday AEDT). Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports’.?

What would stop you from making this an allegory where you force your own meaning onto it to make it say what you want? That’s what allegorical interpretation does. It imposes a meaning from outside of what the text states. It is far too easy for you to say, ‘there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism. I didn’t know that this stuff could be read in layers when I was seven, but I certainly know it now’.
So you are already accepting the ‘layers’ of allegorical interpretation without investigating whether that is the case and the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.

For further explanations of the meaning of allegorical interpretation and the damage it does, see my other articles:

clip_image004 Is the Bible to be interpreted as literal or metaphorical?

clip_image004[1] What is literal interpretation?

clip_image004[2] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image004[3] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image004[4] The wedding at Cana led to divorce

See also:

clip_image006 The danger of allegorical Bible interpretation (Danny Coleman);

clip_image006[1] Sins of Interpretation #1: Allegorical method (Kruse Kronicle/Kenneth

Bailey);

clip_image006[2] Historical implications of allegorical interpretation (Thomas D Ice)

clip_image006[3] The Bible: How should we interpret it? (John Ankerberg interviews Norman Geisler)

2.3 Resurrection, the Bible and truth

He continued: ‘If I decide the Resurrection happened, I can then start working on the question of how much of the rest is true, but that seems a bit backwards as a starting point.’ But you have already told us about your ‘liberal bias’. How will you ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria you will be using to examine the evidence?

See my articles:

clip_image008 Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

clip_image008[1] Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image008[2] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image008[3] Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image008[4] Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

clip_image008[5] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image008[6] Easter and the end of death

 

2.4 Garden of Eden promotes misogyny[7]

You say, ‘Can you be conservative and read the Garden of Eden metaphorically? I find it a very powerful statement when viewed symbolically, but when taken literally, I think it’s blatantly misogynistic. My liberal bias very clearly lines up to the reality that Eve has been used as an excuse to justify the oppression of women throughout all of Judeo-Christian history’.

You can’t be a legitimate biblical interpreter and make the Scriptures mean what you want them to mean. When you impose a metaphorical hermeneutic on the Garden of Eden, you introduce your own story into the narrative. That’s called a red herring fallacy because it takes us away from what the narrative states. There is no indicator in the text of Gen 1-3 (ESV) that tells us the Garden of Eden narrative is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ imposition.

You have nailed what drives your agenda: ‘I lean towards the liberal view that the Word of God was filtered through a patriarchal culture and picked up some of its bias’. Again, that’s imposition on the text. It’s eisegesis (putting your meaning into the text) instead of exegesis (getting the meaning out of the text). Unless you put your presuppositions up for examination and follow the evidence wherever it leads, you are going to have difficulty in pursuing this investigation. I see your foggy worldview of liberalism blinding you to the reality of what the text states.

When you pick and choose what you want to make allegory, you are the postmodern deconstructionist[8] who is deconstructing the text to your own worldview. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).

C. Further responses: Distorted reasoning

This person replied and I’ve incorporated his reply in my response.

It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence–I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer! But if you want evidence, I know Clement of Alexandria and Origen interpreted things allegorically, and in Judaism, there’s the Remez approach to interpretation, which appears to be allegorical. There was also apparently a medieval rabbi called Saadia Gaon who said that a passage should not be interpreted literally if that made it contrary to the senses or reason. I am not making any of this up; it is quite ancient and literally biblical. We can go straight to Galatians 4:24, since apparently Paul himself interpreted things allegorically: “Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants.” If Paul wasn’t orthodox, I have no idea what orthodoxy is, haha.[9]

1. Confusion of allegorical interpretation with allegory

You seem to confuse two things:[10] (1) Allegorical interpretation, and (2) A narrative that says something is described as an allegory.
Do you want me to interpret your above information allegorically, by which I make your statements say what I want them to say and not what you have intended them to mean? Let me try one example:

  • ‘It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence—I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer!’
  • By this, Silmarien means that God’s lack of evidence (for Jesus) is merely God’s way of getting through to Silmarien that God has superior knowledge to Silmarien’s beginning inquiries into spiritual things.
  • If I invented allegorical interpretation of everything you wrote, you would have every right to call it baloney or bunkum. Why? Because allegorical interpretation is an illegitimate method of interpretation because it forces into a text what is not there.
  • When Paul states in Gal 4:24 that he was dealing with an allegory. That was a literal interpretation by Paul to confirm the existence of allegory.

2. Genesis and literalism

You wrote:

A critical examination of the Old Testament is very much the problem, though. God creates animals first and humans second in Genesis 1, but in Genesis 2, Adam is created before the animals. Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere and then goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet. I’m sure there are ways to get around all the continuity issues, but for me, it kind of feels like trying to trap God within the pages of a book. Because my problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold.[11]

To the contrary,[12] a careful examination of the OT is not a problem. Every one of the issues you raise here from Gen 1 and 2 has been successfully resolved. The differences in the order of creation are quite easily explained.

  • Gen 1 gives the order of events:
  • Chronological order
  • Outline
  • Creating animals

Then,

  • Gen 2 goes into more detail on the content about what was in ch. 1:
  • There is no contradiction, since ch 1 doesn’t affirm when God made the animals. Ch 2 gives:
  • Topical order
  • Details, and the
  • Naming of animals, not creating animals.

Therefore, Gen 1 and 2 provide a harmonious statement that gives a more complete picture of the events of creation (with help from Geisler & Howe 1992:35).

Determining the source of Cain’s wife is an old chestnut. It is easily solved. Your claim is that ‘Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere’. Were there no women for Cain to marry as there were only Adam, Eve (Gen 4:1) and his dead brother Abel (Gen 5:4)?

Cain probably married his sister or niece because we are told that Adam ‘fathered other sons and daughters ‘ (Gen 5:4 HCSB). Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5:5 ESV) so he had stacks of time to have a pile of children. Was Cain committing incest if he married his sister/cousin? At the beginning of the human race there would have been no genetic imperfections. Genetic defects would have emerged following the Fall into sin. Since only a pair (Adam & Eve) began the human race, Cain had nobody else to marry except a close female relative.

You state that Cain ‘goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet’. It’s time that you read Genesis 5 more carefully. ‘Supposedly nobody to live in it’ is bunk, when you read the text.

You say, ‘My problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold’. Your problems with this statement include:

3. Old Testament reliability

His denigration of Scripture continued:

Regarding historical evidence, I accept logical arguments that take the formula “if not P, then not Q. Q is true, therefore P is true.” Could be applied to the disciples’ transformation, as well as Paul’s conversion. There are plenty of facts that are debatable, but these two are not. I’m also intrigued by extra-biblical evidence in general–Constantine’s vision, Genesis 1 continuing to match up to the Big Bang Theory, but evidence for the Old Testament is probably a bit premature.[13]

Do you affirm the Law of Noncontradiction[14] that ‘A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship’?
Evidence for the reliability of the OT is not premature. Your knowledge seems to have a gap here. Take a read of archaeologist, Egyptologist and historian, Dr Kenneth A Kitchen 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

4. Belief and postmodern deconstruction

This isn’t really an investigation, though, since I actually do believe. Experimentation with prayer has been… pretty conclusive. A lot of it could be attributed to brain chemicals, but when a prayer of “Hey Jesus, if you’re real, can you please help me not be crazy over Calvinism?” results in immediately calming down… well, it can’t be the placebo effect when you don’t actually have faith. The problem is that I already have deconstructed everything–it’s too late to not be a postmodernist when you’ve already torn everything to pieces. I guess all I can do now is try to put it back together in a way that’s reasonably orthodox. I did just order Simply Christian, so hopefully that will help. C.S. Lewis offered some food for thought, but not really on a theological level.[15]

Image result for clipart postmodern deconstructionYou say you actually do believe.[16] What do you believe in? What is the nature of your belief? I’m reminded of a verse that James taught, ‘You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!’ (James 2:19 ESV).

Your claim is that you have deconstructed everything and it’s too late not to be a postmodernist. That fact is not true. What you have written in your post is not postmodern deconstruction. For the benefit of those who don’t understand that language, we should define ‘postmodern deconstruction’.

It means that words and sentences have no inherent meaning in themselves. People who read anything construct their own meaning, which is shaped by culture and life’s experiences. So the author’s intention in the writing is deconstructed, i.e. altered by the reader. The reader determines what the author means. Postmodern deconstruction turns an author’s meaning on its head. The reader determines the meaning.

Silmarien, in your post here, I didn’t read anything that told me I must read it as postmodern deconstruction. I observe how close postmodern deconstruction is to allegorical interpretation. Postmodern deconstruction tears the heart out of any document. You cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get your driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

Therefore, it makes no sense to interpret the Bible, your writing on Christian Forums.net, or your local newspaper using postmodern deconstruction. It’s a great way for any reader to make a writing say anything he/she wants it to say. The fact remains that the true meaning of a text or spoken word is based on what the writer or speaker intended for it to mean. Anything else is an imposition on the text.

So, you do not engage in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’. You are selective in what you deconstruct. That’s your liberal bias coming into play and that bias needs to be exposed if you are going to read the Bible objectively and not impose your deconstructed message on it.

D. More examples of liberal bias intruding

All of us need to be aware of how our presuppositions can interfere with our interpretations of documents.

1. Presuppositions meet a brick wall of liberal bias

He wrote:

I would say that everyone has presuppositions when it comes to reading anything–biblical inerrancy is as much a presupposition as historical criticism, and an equally modern take. I can’t ignore things like Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism or Platonic elements in Christian theology, so my options are 1) abandon all religion as inherently manmade, or 2) accept that cultural influences don’t negate the truth value of a religion as a whole. I’m actually an existentialist with my reading of Scripture–Paul Tillich right now, a bit of Kierkegaard. But when it comes to actual evidence, I do start deconstructing things into meaninglessness. That part is a problem, but the existentialism is kind of necessary for me.[17]

I agree that all of us have presuppositions,[18] but the key to unpacking them is to compare those presuppositions with the evidence from reality.

  • What you’ve done in announcing biblical inerrancy as a presupposition and a modern take, it that this is a throw away line. Why? You provided not one example for us to examine. Norman Geisler’s edited book, Inerrancy (Zondervan 1979), presents biblical and historical evidence to counter your presupposition. Chapter 12 (by Robert Preus) of this book is, ‘The view of the Bible held by the church: The early church through Luther’, in which Irenaeus is cited from his writing, Against Heresies, ‘We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit’ (Against Heresies 2.28.2). Therefore, you are incorrect to state that biblical inerrancy is a ‘modern take’ (‘Scriptures are indeed perfect’, Irenaeus). Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, lived ca. 125-202. That is hardly a modern take in support of inerrancy – the Scriptures are perfect. Chapter 12 of Inerrancy provides other examples from the church fathers in support of inerrancy. Seems like you have a fair amount of research to do to come up with a correct understanding of what the early church fathers believed about the Bible’s perfection in the original documents.
  • Then you provide the unsupported statement of Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism and Platonic influence on Christian theology. That may be so, but you are yet to prove your case. Your assertions merely state your opinions. They don’t provide evidence.
  • Your support of Paul Tillich’s existentialism (I have his Systematic Theology) comes with the critiques of existentialism that don’t make it a worldview to live by. The review, ‘Tillich: An Impossible Struggle’, raises some insuperable difficulties with Tillich’s worldview.
  • Deconstructing into nothingness will lead you to nothingness.
  • Starting with existentialism as being ‘necessary for me’ is a brick wall approach to understanding any world view. You are stuck in a rut of experience that won’t allow you to pursue the evidence wherever it leads because … of your necessity for existentialism. Try existentialism if you are caught speeding and the policeman issues you with a fine. Existentialism is not a world view of reality that leads to payment of the fine.

2. Mysticism’s failures

This inquirer (or stirrer) wrote:

The view of the Gospel of John as a work of mysticism is ancient. It’s only a problem in that it puts me on a different page than most people here–mysticism is one of the major reasons I’m not an atheist. I don’t discount the claims because I think it’s mysticism; I actually take them more seriously. I’m very much on the mystical side, that’s a large part of why taking things at face value does nothing for me. As for Paul… suffice to say that I have no love for 1 Timothy. Apparently there are serious doubts as to its authorship, so that’s one less problem, but there’s still plenty of stuff I’m skeptical about, including his claim to authority when he was never there in the first place. Actually, if you know of any good material on him, I’d definitely appreciate it.[19]

You say,[20] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I acknowledge that the Gospel of John has some different emphases to the Synoptics, but a mystical interpretation, I find, is an imposition on the text. You seem to be engaged in a begging the question logical fallacy. When you start with John’s Gospel as mysticism and conclude with mysticism, you have achieved nothing. It is fallacious reasoning that doesn’t deal with differences between John and the Synoptics.

There are dangers in mysticism. I recommend a read of ‘What is contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous?’ (John Caddock 1997).

You say ‘taking things at face value does nothing for me’. I wish you luck in trying that approach with buying groceries, abiding by the road rules, reading your local newspaper, or appearing in court to face the evidence?

Concerning the pastoral epistles, I recommend Gordon D Fee’s commentary, ‘New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988). A later edition gives details HERE. Fee has a considerable amount of exposition on the authenticity of the pastoral epistles. See his index on ‘authenticity’. R C H Lenski’s Introduction to the pastoral letters, in my view, more than adequately covers the authorship controversy. See Lenski (1961:473-484).

3. Christian existentialism

Now he launches into a brief statement in support of …

Christian existentialism. 😉 I’m all about faith as the ultimate act of courage. It’s what cured me of my atheism, so when I talk about leaps of faith, shutting off your brain is not remotely what I’m thinking of.

I mention that I’m pretty liberal so that people know what they’re dealing with. I don’t know where to start with conservative scholarship and definitely do want to take a look at the other side of the story. I know there’s a lot of bad blood between the groups, but please leave me out of it, haha. The infighting is part of what’s stressing me out.[21]

What is Christian existentialism?[22] Would you conclude that this is a reasonable summary of Christian existentialism? It may be defined as

a philosophy of its own that is not compatible with either secular existentialism, nor traditional Christianity. There is a wide variety of forms of existential religion with differing doctrinal beliefs. Kierkegaard and later Karl Barth are sited for attempting to make theology, particularly the Christian faith, compatible with existentialism.

Its premise is that a person must submit themselves totally to God without reasoning — that is, true absolute faith must be void of philosophy or intellect. Religious existentialism then states such things as:

  • A person is autonomous and is fully free to make choices and fully responsible for them
  • Rational grounds for theology and divine revelation do not exist
  • True faith transcends rationalism and God’s commandments
  • The true God is not the God of philosophers or of rationalism
  • The destruction of wars throughout human history proves there cannot be rational understanding of God or humanity
  • A Christian must personally resolve within self the content of faith from being a myth or mystery to being realty or truth before they will allow an understanding and acceptance of salvation
  • It is impossible to discover personal Being and faith through rational reasoning (All About Philosophy: Christian existentialism).

If faith is ‘the ultimate act of courage’ for you, I have to ask, ‘Faith in what? The god of Zoroastrianism; the Jesus who was not raised bodily from the grave; a liberal Jesus who loves people but excludes damnation?

Where to start with conservative scholarship is what I’ve stated: Follow the evidence wherever it leads. However, if you are going to impose your liberal bias, mysticism and existentialism onto the biblical text or an author’s views, you will invent your own god and jesus and won’t allow the conservative scholars to present their cases . You’ll come out with a godhead that looks like the very one with which you began.

For an examination of the conservative side of the resurrection of Jesus, I’d recommend:

(1) The debate between Gary Habermas (Christian) and Antony Flew (atheist who became deist). It’s available in: Gary R Habermas and Antony G N Flew 1987. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. San Francisco: Harper & Row. In this book, there is a response to the debate by Wolfhart Pannenberg (pp. 125-135). Pannenberg is the European scholar on the resurrection that I mentioned previously to you.

(2) Norman L Geisler 1989. The Battle for the Resurrection. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

(3) James L Snyder 1991: In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.

Yes, there is considerable controversy between liberal and evangelical Protestants. I encourage you not to become involved in slinging matches but to examine the evidence, based on the claims themselves. This will require for both sides to: (a) Examine their presuppositions in the light of reality; (b) Do not impose one’s worldview on the text. (c) Refrain from the use of logical fallacies in challenging an opponent.

Speaking of logical fallacies, do you remember your statement: ‘His [Norman Geisler’s] endorsement of Donald Trump. clip_image009 In all seriousness, I disapprove immensely of the politicization of religion. He seems to mix the two a fair amount, and that makes me believe that I’m not his intended audience’ (Silmarien #29).

Here you have committed a genetic logical fallacy. Any Christian apologist worth his or her salt should be assessing politicians and their policies. You obviously don’t like Trump, but when you dump Geisler’s views because of his support for Trump, you have not engaged in debate of the issues that Geisler raised. Instead, you have wiped his views because of his assessment of Trump’s views. This is erroneous reasoning.

4. Presuppositions about presuppositions

Image result for clipart false teaching public domainHis ducking and weaving among challenges continued, this time with a red herring fallacy,

Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions! I’m comfortable with the idea of miracles, just disinclined to look at them as evidence when I think such claims would have ended up in the stories regardless of whether or not they happened. Just as I think that if prophecies were not fulfilled, the disciples would have started forcing prophecies to fit events (or events to fit prophecies) one way or the other. I don’t accept these things as evidence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the possibility that they’re true.[23]

You say,[24] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I think you need to ask: ‘What is the truth about reality, especially concerning the person of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, and second coming?’ The answer to that question, along with, ‘What are the attributes of God?’ will unlock a gold mine that will take you into eternity, with the beloved or the lost.

‘What happens one second after your last breath?’ is a dynamite question for which you need answers.
Your posts do read to me like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

Without Christ changing your life, you will not be able to live up to the high moral standards of Christianity. It’s wishful thinking trying to make it on your own.

5. His struggles

In response to what I wrote above, he admitted his struggles. These are his conflicts within:[25]

  • The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for him);
  • Annihilation doesn’t sound bad;
  • Damnation means everyone is in trouble;
  • You can’t magically not struggle with doubt;
  • Why would you take the Bible at face value?
  • ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’.
  • The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect.
  • You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’.
  • · You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in this statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalise away ‘everything’.
  • ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’.

I replied to him this way:[26]

clip_image011 The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for you). This is an example where you are kicking against the pricks – against God’s revelation to you eternally. This is what I’m talking about: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). You may not understand this revelation of eternity, but you need to recognize eternity is right there in your innermost being. I urge you not to resist the wooing of the Holy Spirit in revealing what is there already. An understanding of it is in everyone’s heart – eternity.

clip_image011[1] Annihilation doesn’t sound bad, he wrote. Of course zapping people out of existence at death sounds better than eternal torment in hell/Hades. However, what’s the truth? You’ll read about it in Scripture and not in your or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[2] Damnation means everyone is in trouble, according to his view. This is not so. Biblical facts determine that only unbelievers experience damnation. See: Matthew 25:46 NIV; John 3:36 ESV. I’m sticking with Scripture and not Silmarien’s or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[3] You can’t magically not struggle with doubt is what he stated. Agreed! Thomas doubted (John 20:24-29), but when evidence is provided to counter the doubt, doubt should subside to the point of being pacified or removed. I encouraged him to meditate on Psalm 77:11-15 (NRSV) to help him with his doubt?

clip_image011[4] Why would you take the Bible at face value? That’s because it’s a book of history and should be interpreted like any other historical book. Try taking the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Richard Nixon’s presidency at other than face value! For the same reason, we take Jesus’ death and resurrection at face value.

clip_image011[5] ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’. I think you’ve missed the meaning. It means loving the Lord with your entire being. I hope you and I are more than mystical beings involved in mystical activities.

clip_image011[6] The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect is your perspective. That’s one view. I suggest to you that Christianity involves communicating with your inner being with God and that includes the mind.

clip_image011[7] You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’. That’s the human propensity to doubt the historical and supernatural in Christian experience.

clip_image011[8] You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in that statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalize away ‘everything’.

clip_image011[9] ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’. I found that statement confusing, that you are worshipping a god of Zoroastrianism but you are open to teaching on the bodily resurrection and damnation. Are you wanting to worship a God/god of syncretism?

I thanked him for engaging with me in this challenging discussion. I pray that the Lord will guide him into all truth.

‘But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [Paraclete] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment’ (John 16:7-8 NLT).?

He seems to be a seeker but his filter of liberal bias is acting as a blockage.

clip_image012

(image courtesy Pinterest)

E. Conclusion

This person with a self-proclaimed liberal bias came onto an evangelical Christian forum with an agenda of a ‘couple of questions’. That’s shorthand for a number of questions that were filtered through his theological liberal worldview.

I have attempted to expose his presuppositions, many of which do not harmonise with reality and especially with a literal reading of the biblical text. He confused the use of allegorical interpretation with a literal hermeneutic stating that a section of Scripture is allegory. At least he admitted that liberal presuppositions can lead to a slippery slope, by which he meant that the liberal bias descends into something worse – he gave an example of nothingness as one alternative.

He is stuck in a rut, not able to understand or accept the historicity of the Gospels. His leap of faith takes him into mysticism and existentialism. He does not want to understand the Book of Genesis literally but pursues allegorical interpretation.

He did admit that he engages in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’, to which I responded that he did not state he wanted me to read his posts that way. Postmodern deconstruction falls flat with any document. He cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get his driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

I agreed with him that his posts do look like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

One of the major problems with his liberal bias of a worldview is that it colours all of his investigation of life and the Bible. It is way too easy for him to commit a begging the question logical fallacy, by which he starts with a liberal bias in examining anything and concludes with a liberal bias. That gets him nowhere.

The final section on his struggles demonstrates the inconsistencies in his world view. His liberal presupposition overwhelm his ability to consider the claims of Scripture at face value.

F. Works consulted

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

Lenski, R C H 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (earlier published by Lutheran Book Concern 1937; The Wartburg Press 1946; Augsburg Publishing House 1961; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc edn 2001).

Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US. Brisbane Times, 29 January 2017. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170128-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).

G.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2017. Questions for Christians (Q&A), Silmarien#8. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/#post-1292985 (Accessed 21 January 2017).

[2] The following points are in ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[5] This is my reply at ibid., OzSpen#52, #53.

[6] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

[7] Misogyny means ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2017. s v misogyny).

[8] Deconstruction means ‘detailed examination of a text in order to show there is no fixed meaning but that it can be understood in a different way by each reader’ (Cambridge dictionary 2017. s v deconstruction).

[9] Christian Forums.net 2017. Silmarien#54.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[11] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[13] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[15] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[17] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[19] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#71.

[21] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#72.

[23] Ibid., Silmarien#69.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[25] Ibid., Silmarien#76.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#87.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 February 2017.

Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

Comments Off on Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?
February 5th, 2017 Resurrection, Salvation

Garden Tomb

Todd Bolen, “Garden Tomb

By Spencer D Gear

The apostle Paul was awaiting execution in a Roman prison when he wrote his final letter to Timothy in about AD 64-68 (intro in ESV).   What do you think would be the last words from one of the greatest church leaders of all time – just before he was killed as a martyr for the faith?  Listen carefully to 2 Tim. 4:1-4:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when [people] [1a] will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (NIV).

A.    What happened in the years immediately after the death of the apostles?

Was Paul’s warning to Timothy fulfilled?   Was sound doctrine compromised?  Were there listeners with “itching ears” who “turn[ed] their ears away from the truth and turn[ed] aside to myths”?  Yes, there were and here we will describe some of the teachings.

We need to understand that these church leaders were defending the faith against one of the most destructive heresies concerning Christ that developed towards the end of the first century.  A similar kind of heresy is with us today.  Back in the first and second centuries, this false teaching was called Docetism (a form of Gnosticism).

Docetism is based on the Greek verb, dokew, which means, “I seem.”  This heresy taught that:

designQuilt Jesus only seemed to be human; he was not really human;
designQuiltHis human body was a ghost;
designQuiltChrist’s suffering and death were only appearances of suffering & death;
designQuiltThey denied his humanity, so there was no bodily resurrection of Christ.  But they affirmed Christ’s deity.
designQuiltWe see possibly an early stage of  Docetism being addressed in I John 4:2, when John wrote, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”  In 2 John 7, we read, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

This is why early church theologians and writers after the death of the apostles had to preach against this heresy.  I’ll mention a few examples of this correction, particularly as it applies to the resurrection of Christ.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-107) [2]

He taught: “For I know and believe that [Jesus] was in the flesh even after the resurrection. And when He came to Peter and those who were with him, He said to them, ‘Take, handle me and see that I am not a spirit without body’” (written about the year AD 110) [Ignatius n.d., 6.3].

2.    Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165)

Justin wrote:

“Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, ‘Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;’ and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily” (Martyr, J., n.d., ch. 9).

This letter was written about AD 110.  Why did he have to teach that Jesus rose from the dead in a body of flesh?  Because there was false doctrine around in the early second century.  He went straight to the Bible to get the proof.  We have to do the same with new challenges to Christ’s bodily resurrection.

3.    Tertullian (ca. 160-225)

Tertullian wrote a book titled, “On the Resurrection of the Flesh,” in which he asked and responded:

How then did Christ rise again? In the flesh, or not? No doubt, since you are told that He ‘died according to the Scriptures,’ and ‘that He was buried according to the Scriptures,’ no otherwise than in the flesh, you will also allow that it was in the flesh that He was raised from the dead.

For the very same body which fell in death, and which lay in the sepulchre, did also rise again (Tertullian n.d., ch. 48).

4.    Irenaeus (ca. 130-200)

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

(This image courtesy of Wikipedia)

This church father wrote a book titled, Against Heresies, in which he stated:

“In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh, and pointed out to His disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in His side (now these are the tokens of that flesh which rose from the dead)” (Irenaeus n.d., 5.7.1).

5.  Origen (ca. 185-254)

In Contra Celsus, Origen refuted Celsus’s charge that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were those of a ghost.  He asked:

“How is it possible that a phantom which, as he describes it, flew past to deceive the beholders, could produce such effects after it had passed away, and could so turn the hearts of men as to lead them to regulate their actions according to the will of God” (Origen n.d., 7.35).

Docetism was one of the major destructive heresies of the church in the first-to-third centuries and these defenders and teachers of the faith had to teach against the false doctrine of a spiritual or phantom resurrection of Christ.  Paul warned that “destructive heresies” would come and that people would have “itching ears” to receive and promote such false teaching.

B. What do we have today?

I hope you don’t get angry with me for mentioning names of people who teach false doctrine.  I am following the example of the apostle Paul who, in Galatians 2:11ff, condemned the apostle Peter — and named him.  Peter had been eating with the Gentiles, but when certain Jews came from James, Peter drew back and separated from the Gentiles.  Paul named Peter as a hypocrite and we have had it in writing for 2000 years.  

Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”  We have had this also on record for 2,000 years.

When people are preaching false doctrine in the church or anywhere, when people are harming the church and God’s people, we need to name them, correct them, and proclaim the accurate biblical message.

In regard to the bodily resurrection of Christ, what false teaching do we have today?

1.    New Zealand Presbyterian minister, Lloyd Geering

Lloyd Geering, 2011.jpg

(Sir Lloyd Geering, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

He defended what “Gregor Smith had said in [a book called] Secular Christianity . . . that the Christian is free to say that the bones of Jesus lie somewhere in Palestine, and until the Christian feels free to say that, he hasn’t understood what the Resurrection is about” (in Kohn 2001).

Geering continues, “The Resurrection was not a resuscitation, it was not a return to this life of a physical body. It was in fact something quite different. It was in fact the rise of Easter faith in the disciples, more or less as Bultmann had been explaining for some time” (in Kohn 2001).

In other words, the resurrection of Jesus was not a risen body in the flesh, but it was a spiritual experience for Christ’s disciples.

You possibly won’t read Lloyd Geering and some of these other false teachers today, but do you know the people who do read them?  Those in the mass media who want to create doubt or a controversial perspective, readily seek comments from these doubters.  When it comes to Easter and Christmas times, they won’t call on you and me, but these false teachings and their heretical teachers will hit the headlines.

2.    Edward Schillebeeckx

A Dutch Roman Catholic, he wrote, “Jesus’ resurrection is not a return to life as in the story of Lazarus… it is certainly not a miracle of intervention in natural laws to raise a corpse to heavenly life” (from Schillebeeckx, God Among Us, p. 134, cited in Mann 1993).

3.    The German Protestant Lutheran, Rudolph Bultmann

Bultmann wrote that “the resurrection itself is not an event of past history” (from Kerygma and Myth, p.39, cited in Mann 1993).

4.    Protestant theologian Karl Barth

“Christians do not believe in the empty tomb but in the living Christ. Is the empty tomb just a legend? What matter? It cannot but demand assent, even as legend.” (from Church Dogmatics III, 2, p.454).

5.   Former Episcopalian bishop of Newark, NJ, John Shelby Spong:

“The probable fate of the crucified Jesus was to be thrown with other victims into a common, unmarked grave. The general consensus of New Testament scholars is that whatever the Easter experience was, it dawned first in the minds of the disciples who had fled to Galilee for safety, driving us to the conclusion that the burial story in the gospels is both legendary and was developed directly from the words of II Isaiah” (Spong 2004).

6. John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic, of the Jesus Seminar

Crossan speaks of “the apparitions of the risen Jesus.”  What’s an apparition?  A phantom, a ghost.  Jesus’ resurrected body was not real flesh.   He says that “the resurrection is a matter of Christian faith” (1995, p. 189).  So, for him, the resurrection of Christ is really a spiritual resurrection among believers – whatever that means.

So, what happened to the body of Jesus?  Crossan wrote: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals” (Crossan 1994, p. 160).

Let’s come closer to my home in Queensland – in my hometown of Bundaberg, Qld., Australia.

7.    Rev. David Kidd, Bundaberg Uniting Church

At Easter time 1999, David Kidd wrote an article in The Bugle, a local freebie newspaper that was titled, “The Resurrection of Jesus” (Kidd 1999, p. 19). I lived in Bundaberg at the time.  In it, he stated: “The resurrection of Jesus.[3] It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible.’”[4]

 

C. What does the Bible say?

It is very easy to show from the Scriptures that Christ rose from the dead in a physical body.  Let’s look at the evidence (based on Geisler 1999, pp. 667-668):

1. People touched him with their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to Thomas in John 20:27 was: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  How did Thomas respond, “My Lord and My God” (20:28).

Jesus said to Mary as she grasped him, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.”  Matthew 28:9 tells us that the women “clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, what did Jesus say?  Luke 24:39, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a [spirit ] {5} does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Do we need any further evidence that Jesus had real human flesh after his resurrection?

2. Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

The verse that we have just looked at gives some of the most powerful evidence of his bodily resurrection: “Touch me and see; a [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39) and to prove that he really did have a real body of flesh and bones, what did he do?  According to Luke 24:41-42, Jesus “asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”  Folks, spirits or spiritual bodies do not eat fish.

Third piece of evidence in support of the bodily resurrection of Christ:

3. Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for “food”).

As we’ve just seen, they gave him “broiled fish” to eat.  He ate real food on at least 3 occasions, eating both bread and fish, (Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12-13).  Acts 10:41 states that Jesus met with witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

That sounds clear to me.  Jesus ate food after his resurrection.  People in real bodies eat real food.

A fourth proof that Jesus was raised in his physical body:

4. Take a look at the wounds in his body.

This is proof beyond reasonable doubt.  He still had the wounds in his body from when he was killed.  John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

When Jesus ascended, after his resurrection, the Bible records, “This same Jesus [ie this divine-human Jesus], who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
There’s a fifth confirmation of his bodily resurrection:

5. Jesus could be seen and heard.

Yes, Jesus’ body could be touched and handled.  But there is more! 

Matthew 28:17 says that “when they saw [horaw] him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” On the road to Emmaus, of the disciples who were eating together, Luke 24:31 states, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”  The Greek term “to recognize” [epiginoskw] means “to know, to understand, or to recognize”  These are the normal Greek words “for ‘seeing’ (horaw, theorew) and ‘recognizing’ (epiginoskw) physical objects” (Geisler 1999, pp 667-668).

Because Jesus could be seen and heard as one sees and recognises physical objects, we have further proof that Jesus rose bodily.

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

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

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

There’s a 7th piece of evidence in support of bodily resurrection:

7. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

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

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

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

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

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

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

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

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

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

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

D. We need to look briefly at a few objections to bodily resurrection

One of the objections sometimes raised is that Christ’s body after the resurrection had some unusual supernatural features and that this means it was not a real physical body.  One objection is that

1. Christ would just appear and disappear

Take a verse like Luke 24:34, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then go to Acts 9:17, “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”

In these two examples the word “appeared” is used.  One of Jesus and the other of Jesus appearing to Paul, many years after Christ’s ascension.  Both of these are in the passive voice (Greek) , so it means that Christ “let himself be seen. . .  Jesus took the initiative to make himself visible at his resurrection appearances” (Geisler 1999, p. 659).  “Appeared” means that “he could be seen by human eyes, the appearances were not just visions” (Rienecker in Geisler 1999, p. 659).

The NT speaks of sudden appearances by Jesus, like to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  It is stated: “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).  This could have been a miraculous act of power, a sign that he was both human and divine.  We must get this one correct, as Norman Geisler puts it:

The text nowhere states that Jesus became nonphysical when the disciples could no longer see him.  Just because he was out of their sight does not mean he was out of his physical body.  God has the power to miraculously transport persons in their pre-resurrection physical bodies from one place to another (1999, p. 659).

Remember when Philip the evangelist was with the Ethiopian eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).    Here was Philip, a real human being, whisked away by the Spirit of God.

So for both Jesus and Philip, the text does not say that either one became non-physical beings.

A second objection:

2.    Jesus didn’t die but swooned in the grave

H. J. Schonfield made this popular in his book, The Passover Plot (1965).  But this view is as old as Celsus in the 2nd century.  The view was that Mary Magdalene nursed Jesus back to health.  “Forty days later his wounds bot the better of him, and he died and was buried secretly” (Green 1990, p. 186).

This is fairy story stuff.  There is not one bit of evidence to support it and it doesn’t understand “the brutal Roman method of execution” (Green 1990, p. 186).  I found Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” terribly brutal but it did give a realistic picture of how final Roman execution really was.

3.    The disciples stole the body

If the Jews and Romans wanted to silence the facts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, all they would have had to do was to produce the body of Jesus.  They didn’t.

Get this.  It does not make sense to claim that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, went forth proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then

They were willing to be imprisoned for this faith, torn limb from limb, thrown to the lions, or turned into human torches in the Emperor Nero’s gardens for this conviction that Jesus was alive.  Would they have endured all that for a claim they knew was [a fake] (Green 1990, p. 190)

Why did some of the Bible teachers after the death of the apostles teach Docetism,  that Jesus did not have a physical body and could not have risen with a physical body?  They could be the same reasons for such teaching today:

6pointColored-small  They don’t believe the authoritative Bible is the infallible Word of God.  OR

6pointColored-smallThey don’t believe in the supernatural.  They are naturalists who believe that “the ‘natural’ universe, the universe of matter and energy, is all that there really is.  This rules out God, so naturalism is atheistic” (MacDonald 1984, p. 750).  This is like David Kidd, formerly of the Bundaberg Uniting Church, who said that the resurrection of Christ is “impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible” (Kidd 1999, p. 19).  That’s naturalism.

Naturalism is the belief that everything in nature originates from natural causes. There cannot be any supernatural or spiritual explanations. They are either excluded for relegated to some discounted position.
6pointColored-smallEven though deniers of Christ’s bodily resurrection may be in the church, according to Rom. 1:18, they still “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  They are rebels against God and don’t want to understand the resurrection of Jesus as God told us.  They are engaged in ungodly activities and can’t see the light of the Gospel.  In reality, they are atheistic concerning the supernatural God of the Bible.

6pointColored-smallPaul warned that these false teachers would attract people “to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:4 ESV). 

6pointColored-smallSatan, the enemy of our souls, loves to dress up false doctrine to make it look like the real thing.

E. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

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

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

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

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion.

British evangelist, Michael Green, summarises the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

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

The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

1. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is necessary for salvation

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

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

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

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

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

2. Christ’s resurrection proves that Jesus is God

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

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

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

3. Life after death is guaranteed!

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

There a fourth reason:

 

4. Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection.  I Cor. 6:14, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, Paul states that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20).  What are “firstfruits”?  It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection.

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection.

F. Those supporting the bodily resurrection

Eminent British New Testament Scholar and former Anglican Bishop of Durham, Dr. N. T. Wright, said:

I simply cannot explain why Christianity began without it [i.e. without the resurrection of Christ]…. If Jesus had died and stayed dead, [his disciples] would either have given up the movement or they would have found another messiah.  Something extraordinary happened which convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah (Jennings 2000, p. 51).

N. T. Wright has since written these 817 pages to support the bodily resurrection and refute those throughout church history, including current scholars who deny the literal resurrection of Jesus.  Wright concludes: “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity” (Wright 2003, p. 718).

G. What’s the remedy for this church and every church today when the bodily resurrection of Christ is denied?

It is the same for us as Paul’s last words to Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). I have great concern that the churches in Australia today are becoming suckers to rampant false teaching.  Why?

6pointColored-small We don’t take seriously Paul’s command to “preach the Word.”  Preaching about the Word, preaching my own ideas, is NOT preaching the Word.  I do not know how to preach the Word other than to systematically preach through the Bible, or to focus on certain biblical topics as I am doing today.
6pointColored-small   When should we do this?  When it’s appropriate and when it seems inappropriate.  Paul’s words were: “Be prepared in season and out of season.”

6pointColored-small  This preaching of the Word must include correction, rebuking and encouragement.  My task today has been to correct false doctrine, based on the Scriptures.  I don’t believe we take seriously the command: “Preach the Word.”
6pointColored-small  It is not too late to make a change.  False doctrine will increase and the need for correction, rebuking and encouragement will be urgently needed.  Paul says that we must do this “with great patience and careful instruction.”  But I’m not sure that we care about false teaching.

6pointColored-small  Will this church take seriously this command from Paul, so that we will not become a victim of false teachings?  All of us must be vigilant.  We cannot know what is false without knowing the truth of the Word.  We must preach the Word.

Appendix:

1.    Theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler, wrote: “Those who try to get around the resurrection walk against the gale-force winds of the full evidence.  The facts are that Jesus of Nazareth really died . . . and actually came back from the dead in the same physical body” (1999, p. 656).
2.    Wayne Grudem wrote, concerning Jesus’ resurrection body, that “the texts . . . show that Jesus clearly had a physical body with ‘flesh and bones’ (Luke 24:39), which could eat and drink, break bread, prepare breakfast and be touched. . .  These texts are not capable of an alternative explanation that denies Jesus’ physical body. . . Jesus was clearly teaching  them that his resurrection body was a physical body” (1994, p. 612).

See my other articles on the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Notes:

1a. The original read, “Men,” but the ESV translates as “people.”
2.  Earle E. Cairns considers that his “seven letters must have been written about 110” (1981, p. 74).
3. “The Resurrection of Jesus” was the title of the article and the first sentence began with, “It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies . .
. ,” so I am left to conclude that the article’s title was the introduction to the first sentence.
4. The original article had closing inverted commas here, but there were no introductory inverted commas.
5. The NIV reads, “ghost,” but the ESV translates as “spirit.”  The Greek is pneuma = spirit.

References:

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

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

Crossan, J. D. 1995, Who Killed Jesus? HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Resurrection, Evidence for’, in Norman L. Geisler 1999, Baker Encyclopedia of  Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, Grand Rapid, Michigan.

Green, M. 1990, Evangelism through the local Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Ignatius n.d., ‘The Epistle to the Smyrnaeans’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/smyrnaeans.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Irenaeus n.d., ‘Against Heresies’, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, available from:
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-63.htm#P8967_2580595 [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Jennings P. 2000, ‘Peter Jennings Reporting’, ABC television (USA), aired on Monday, June 26 2000. This quote is from Christian Research Institute 2000, “Point-by-point Response to ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus,’ available from: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ036.pdf [Accessed 31 May 2005].

Kidd, D. 1999, Bundaberg Uniting Church, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” The Bugle (Bundaberg), March 19, 1999, p. 19.

Kohn, R. 2001, The Spirit of Things (radio program), ‘Tomorrow’s God, with Lloyd Geering’,  Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 4 March 2001, available from: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s253975.htm [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Mann, J. 1993, ‘Justification’, available from: http://www.fountain.btinternet.co.uk/theology/justific.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

MacDonald, M. H. 1984, ‘Naturalism’, in W. A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 750-751.

Martyr, J. n.d., ‘Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-resurrection.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Origen n.d., ‘Contra Celsus’, Early Christian Writings, available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen167.html [19 July 2005].

Schonfield, H. J. 1965, The Passover Plot, Bantam Books, New York.

Spong, J. S. 2004, Review, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ — Mel Gibson’s Film and Biblical Scholarship – Part 4, available from Arianna Online Forum at: http://www.ariannaonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1025 [Accessed19 July 2005].

Tertullian n.d., ‘On the Resurrection of the Flesh’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian16.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Wright, N. T. 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

 

Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:20 February 2017.

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Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

Comments Off on Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching
January 2nd, 2017 False teaching, Hell, Life after Death

 Image result for clipart grave

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]

5. God alone is immortal

Justice emblemIn 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. 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: 2 January 2017.

No torment forever and ever (Revelation 14:11)??

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October 30th, 2016 Hell, Hell & Eternal Punishment, Life after Death

Image result for clip art flames public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The destiny of unbelievers at death continues to bother some Christians. Some believe that the Bible confirms eternal punishment (meaning punishing with torment forever after death) for unbelievers. Others consider that this eternal damnation is false teaching.

There was a back and forth between people who believe in eternal damnation of unbelievers and those who reject this doctrine on an Internet Christian forum.

One fellow said:

Those verses [Mat 25:46 and Rev 14:11] say that their punishment/torment goes on, continues, for ever.

In order for the punishment/torment to continue forever the person being punished/tormented also must "go on forever."

A person who is reduced to a pile of ashes can no longer be punished or tormented.

I don’t understand why that is so hard for you to grasp.[1]

This person supported the eternal torment for unrepentant unbelievers after death.

1. Torment of unbelievers does not continue forever

Another had been defending no eternal punishment for the wicked on a Christian forum. He wrote:

Rev 14:11 doesn’t say their torment continues forever. It clearly says the smoke of their (Beast worshippers) torment rises forever. And furthermore this occurs in the presence of the Lamb, not in Hell or the Lake of Fire. Is it your view that the Lamb will be in Hell tormenting the lost forever?

Revelation 14:10 he himself also will drink of the wine of the anger of God that has been mixed full strength in the cup of his wrath, and will be tortured with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. ?

The Bible doesn’t say that the lost’s eternal punishment is torment forever. It clearly teaches that death (a second death) is the punishment called for.[2]

2. Proof-texts lead to wrong conclusions

Image result for proof-texts clip art

My response was:[3]

This is what happens when you pluck one verse (Rev 14:11 ESV) out of context and make it a proof-text. Let’s look at the context:

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:6-13 ESV).

3. The teaching of Rev 14:6-13 (ESV) is that

clip_image002 John in his revelation saw angels who had an eternal gospel to proclaim to people on the earth from every nation, tribe, language and people (v. 6).

clip_image002[1] That message was to fear God and give him glory because …

clip_image002[2] An hour of judgment has come (v. 7).

clip_image002[3] Another angel proclaimed that message of the fallen Babylon the great who made nations drink the wine of the passion of sexual immorality (v. 8)

clip_image002[4] Another angel, with others following, announced in a loud voice that anyone who worships the beast and its image and receives the mark of the beast will drink of the wine of God’s wrath and will experience the full strength of the cup of God’s anger, being tormented with fire and sulphur (vv. 9-10).

clip_image002[5] This experience of God’s wrath and anger will be in the presence of holy angels and the Lamb (v. 10).

clip_image002[6] smoke%20clipartThe smoke of this torment goes up for eis aiwnas aiwnwn, i.e. for aeons of aeons. The meaning is that ‘smoke’ (a symbol) of this torment is for ‘many eons, each of vast duration, are multiplied by many more, which we imitate by "forever and ever." Human language is able to use only temporal terms to express what is altogether beyond time and is timeless. The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural’ (Lenski 1943/1963:48, 438).

clip_image002[7] ‘Smoke’ is parallel to ‘fire and brimstone’ and is human language to convey what is experienced in the place where the worshippers of the Beast experience torment that continues for multiplied aeons. This is hell with eternal torment, using symbolic language (v. 11).

clip_image002[8] If one wants to water down the ‘aeons’ to make it less than forever and ever, John makes that impossible in v. 11 because he adds, ‘they have no rest, day or night’. There is no rest 24/7 for the unbelieving worshippers of the Beast.

clip_image002[9] It is not surprising, therefore, that John – in light of the horrific eternal experiences of the unbelievers – calls on the saints to endure and keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (v. 12).

clip_image002[10] In contrast to those serving the Beast, those who die in the Lord are blessed from now on. They rest from their labours (again this contrasts with the horrible experience of those drinking God’s wrath and the cup of his anger) – v. 13.

3.1 The damned experience torment forever after death

There are excellent, contextual reasons to demonstrate that Rev 14:11 (ESV) refers to the damned who experience torment for aeons multiplied by aeons – forever and ever. The verse reads, ‘And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name’.

They receive no rest day and night from this. It’s in the presence of the Lord because it is the Lord’s wrath they experience.

Coffman’s Commentary on Revelation 14:11 is:

Verse 11

and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

The doctrine of the New Testament is so strong and emphatic with regard to the eternal punishment of the wicked, that we are simply not allowed to set it aside as, "sub-Christian, or to interpret it in such a way as to remove the abrasive truth of eternal punishment."[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] Jesus spoke of this at greater length than did any of his apostles. After we have made every allowance for the figurative nature of the apocalyptic language, there still remains, "the terrifying reality of divine wrath,"[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] to be poured out upon those who persist in following the devil. It is no light matter to abandon the holy teachings of the sacred New Testament, and to substitute the easy rules of man-made, man-controlled, and man-centered religion.

3.2 The torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb

Therefore, the context of Rev 14:11 (ESV) demonstrates that those who are serving the Beast, the unbelieving damned, will experience the torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb for aeons upon aeons – forever and ever Amen!
That’s clear Bible teaching and one has to do a lot of squirming to make it say that unbelievers do not experience eternal torment. It’s called eisegesis to impose another reading on it.

See my other articles on this topic:

clip_image003Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image003[1]Is hell fair?

clip_image003[2]Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image003[3]2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction

clip_image003[4]Hell in the Bible

clip_image003[5]Paul on eternal punishment

clip_image003[6]Hell and judgment

clip_image003[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die

4. Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1943/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).

 

5.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘The soul of man’, Jim Parker#117. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-soul-of-man.66737/page-6#post-1252053 (Accessed 13 October 2016).

[2] Ibid., chessman#119.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

 

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

No need to list Old Testament books in New Testament

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October 28th, 2016 Apocrypha, Bibliology, Canonicity, New Testament, Old Testament

 

{\mathfrak {P}}46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the epistles written by Paul in the new Testament (courtesy ‘biblical manuscript’, Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This was an audacious request on a Christian forum that did not seem to indicate too much thought about the question: ‘Where in scripture does it tell us which books of the bible are to be included in the bible? (table of contents)’[1]

How should I respond?

1. No need to inform first century Christians

There was no need to tell the Christians of the first century.[2] They knew which books were included in the OT canon. That’s why Paul could say to the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 (ESV): ‘Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so’. Which Scriptures?

Isn’t that amazing that the Book of Acts does not need to articulate a list of the Books of the OT so that the Berean Christians would know which books were in the OT and which were out of it? Paul did not have to list them and say, ‘Here is a list of the books contained in Scripture that you should use to check the authenticity and validity of my teaching’. They knew which books were in the OT canon.

And they did not include the Apocrypha in the Hebrew OT (Wayne Grudem).

In the four NT Gospels, I do not read that there was any dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over the extent of the OT canon.

2. Persistence: No list of books in the canon

The forum fellow persisted in another thread: ‘Scripture does not give us a list of books that are to be in the Bible. How do we know we have the right books in the Bible? Scripture is silent about it’.[3]

My response was:[4]

Because the OT and NT do not give a list of books that are inspired of God to be included in the Bible does not mean that what we have is illegitimate. In fact, the word, Bible, appears nowhere in the Bible (that I’m aware of), so why are you supporting the use of the term, Bible?

However, God gave teachers to the church (1 Cor 12:28 ESV; Eph 4:11 ESV) who guide us through that process. These teachers themselves are not perfect in their understanding as Paul told the Bereans (Acts 17:11 ESV) that they were to check his teaching against the Scripture. Which Scripture? The OT. Paul didn’t say in Acts 17, here’s a list of the OT books that you need to use to check my teaching. They knew what they were as affirmed by the Jews.

3. Pseudo-gospels readily available

In the first century and beyond, there were plenty of fake gospels available. Do you want the pseudo-gospel of Peter (GPet) to be in the NT? It was rejected by the early church fathers because of its heretical teachings. It was found with the Qumran documents. It was mentioned by early church historian, Eusebius in his Church History (3.3.1-4; 3.25.6; and 6.12.3-6).

Why not also the Gospel of Thomas (written about mid to late second century)?[5]  If you read the Gospel of Thomas and compare it with each of the 4 Gospels in the NT, you will notice the marked difference in content.  I’d suggest a read of Nicholas Perrin’s, Thomas, the Other Gospel (Perrin 2007).  Perrin concludes his book with this comment:

Is this the Other Gospel we have been waiting for? Somehow, I suspect, we have heard this message before. Somehow we have met this Jesus before. The Gospel of Thomas invites us to imagine a Jesus who says, ‘I am not your saviour, but the one who can put you in touch with your true self. Free yourself from your gender, your body, and any concerns you might have for the outside world. Work for it and self-realization, salvation, will be yours – in this life.’ Imagine such a Jesus? One need hardly work very hard. This is precisely the Jesus we know too well, the existential Jesus that so many western evangelical and liberal churches already preach.

If the Gospel of Thomas is good news for anybody, it is good news to those who are either intent on escaping the world or are already quite content with the way things are (Perrin 2007:139).

This Gospel of Thomas is a different Gospel, “a Christianized self-help philosophy” (Perrin 2007:139). See my article of assessment: Is the Gospel of Thomas genuine or heretical?

4. The walking, talking cross of Gospel of Peter

(walking, talking cross: image courtesy NT Blog, Mark Goodacre)

 

As for the Gospel of Peter [GPet], please read this assessment by C L Quarles (2006).  Here are a few grabs from Quarles’ critique of GPet:

 

Such compositional projection and retrojection [of GPet] are absent from the canonical Gospels. This suggests that the authors of the canonical Gospels were constrained to preserve faithfully the traditions about Christ, but that the author of GP felt free to exercise his imagination in creative historiography. The compositional strategy of projection suggests that the GP shares a common milieu with second-century pseudepigraphical works and casts doubt on [John Dominic] Crossan’s claim that the GP antedates the canonical Gospels….

Compositional strategies that were popular in the second century can readily explain how the author of the GP produced his narrative from the canonical Gospels….

The GP is more a product of the author’s creative literary imagination than a reflection of eyewitness accounts of actual events (Quarles 2006:116, 119).

Charles Quarles has an online assessment of GPet HERE.

Of the Gospel of Judas, the National Geographic reported:

Stephen Emmel, professor of Coptic studies at Germany’s University of Munster, analyzed the Gospel of Judas and submitted the following assessment.

“The kind of writing reminds me very much of the Nag Hammadi codices,” he wrote, referring to a famed collection of ancient manuscripts.

“It’s not identical script with any of them. But it’s a similar type of script, and since we date the Nag ‘Hammadi codices to roughly the second half of the fourth century or the first part of the fifth century, my immediate inclination would be to say that the Gospel of Judas was written by a scribe in that same period, let’s say around the year 400.”

Here is another assessment of the ‘other gospels’ in an article on ‘the historical reliability of the Gospels’ by James Arlandson. He wrote:

The Gnostic authors often borrowed the names of Jesus’ disciples to attach to their texts, such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of Judas has been discovered, restored, and published most recently. Using the disciples’ names or other Biblical names gives the appearance of authority, but it is deceptive. The original disciples or Bible characters had nothing to do with these writings. The teaching of Jesus, the names of his disciples, and the four Gospels traveled well. Gnostics capitalized on this fame.

All of these (late) Gnostic documents would not be a concern to anyone but a few specialists. Yet some scholars, who have access to the national media and who write their books for the general public, imply that Gnostic texts should be accepted as equally valid and authoritative as the four canonical Gospels, or stand a step or two behind the Biblical Gospels. At least the Gnostic scriptures, so these scholars say today, could have potentially been elevated to the canon, but were instead suppressed by orthodox church leaders. (Orthodox literally means “correct or straight thinking,” and here it means the early church of Irenaeus and Athanasius, to cite only these examples).

This series challenges the claim that the Gnostic texts should be canonical or even a step or two behind the four Biblical Gospels. The Gnostic texts were considered heretical for good reason.

5. Reasons to reject ‘other gospels’

There are scholarly and practical reasons why the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter (GPet), the Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel of Marcion, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary and other pseudo-gospels were not chosen over the four NT Gospels.

I examined why some of the content of these pseudo-gospels are not included in the NT in my doctoral dissertation. Take a read of the Gospel of Peter (online) and it should become evident why such fanciful imagination is not included in the NT. This section of GPet states:

35 Now in the night whereon the Lord’s day dawned, as the soldiers were keeping guard two by two in every watch, 36 there came a great sound in the heaven, and they saw the heavens opened and two men descend thence, shining with (lit. having) a great light, and drawing near unto the sepulchre. 37 And that stone which had been set on the door rolled away of itself and went back to the side, and the sepulchre was

X. 38 opened and both of the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw that, they waked up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping 39 watch); and while they were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw again three men come out of the sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other (lit. the 40 one), and a cross following, after them. And of the two they saw that their heads reached unto heaven, but of him that 41 was led by them that it overpassed the heavens. And they 42 heard a voice out of the heavens saying: Hast thou (or Thou hast) preached unto them that sleep? And an answer was heard from the cross, saying: Yea.

Here we have a walking and talking cross that came out of the sepulchre – fanciful nonsense! One does not have to be very astute to reject this kind of extra ‘gospel’, yet John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar believes GPet is the original Cross Gospel from which the other Gospels derived this information (Crossan 1994:154-155).

6. Questions about formation of the NT canon

I still have some questions about the formation of the NT canon that remain unanswered at this time. Historically, there was a partial list available, known as the Muratorian Canon (ca. AD 170-200).[6] My questions surround the process of formation of the canon that included the procedure used to determine if a book was theopneustos (breathed out by God – 2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV). I had questions about two church councils in the late third century that finally affirmed the NT canon.

Historical details include the following:

The first historical reference listing the exact 27 writings in the orthodox New Testament is in the Easter Letter of Athanasius in 367 AD. His reference states that these are the only recognized writings to be read in a church service. The first time a church council ruled on the list of “inspired” writings allowed to be read in church was at the Synod of Hippo in 393 AD. No document survived from this council – we only know of this decision because it was referenced at the third Synod of Carthage in 397 AD. Even this historical reference from Carthage, Canon 24, does not “list” every single document. For example, it reads, “the gospels, four books…” The only reason for this list is to confirm which writings are “sacred” and should be read in a church service. There is no comment as to why and how this list was agreed upon (Baker 2008).

Church historian, Earle Cairns, answers some of these issues with this assessment of the development of the list of books that became known as the NT:

People often err by thinking that the canon was set by church councils. Such was not the case, for the various church councils that pronounced upon the subject of the canon of the New Testament were merely stating publicly … what had been widely accepted by the consciousness of the church for some time. The development of the canon was a slow process substantially completed by A.D. 175 except for a few books whose authorship was disputed (Cairns 1981:118).

Cairns explained further why there was a delay in accepting certain NT books as canonical:

Apparently the Epistles of Paul were first collected by leaders in the church of Ephesus. This collection was followed by the collection of the Gospels sometime after the beginning of the second century. The so-called Muratorian Canon, discovered by Lodovico A. Muratori (1672-1750) in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, was dated about 180. Twenty-two books of the New Testament were looked upon as canonical. Eusebius about 324 thought that at least twenty books of the New Testament were acceptable on the same level as the books of the Old Testament. James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation were among the books whose place in the canon was still under consideration.[7] The delay in placing these was caused primarily by an uncertainty concerning questions of authorship. Athanasius, however, in his Easter letter of 367 to the churches under his jurisdiction as the bishop of Alexandria, listed as canonical the same twenty-seven books that we now have in the New Testament. Later councils, such as that at Carthage in 397, merely approved and gave uniform expression to what was already an accomplished fact generally accepted by the church over a long period of time. The slowness with which the church accepted Hebrews and Revelation as canonical is indicative of the care and devotion with which it dealt with this question (Cairns 1981:118-119).

Eusebius (ca. AD 265-330)[8] wrote this of the disputed and rejected NT writings:

3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books (Eusebius 1890, 3.25.3-4).

7. An eminent church historian’s assessment

Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church is considered one of the most comprehensive expositions of church history by a near-contemporary scholar. He wrote:

The Jewish canon, or the Hebrew Bible, was universally received, while the Apocrypha added to the Greek version of the Septuagint were only in a general way accounted as books suitable for church reading, and thus as a middle class between canonical and strictly apocryphal (pseudonymous) writings. And justly; for those books, while they have great historical value, and fill the gap between the Old Testament and the New, all originated after the cessation of prophecy, and they cannot therefore be regarded as inspired, nor are they ever cited by Christ or the apostles.[9] (Schaff n.d., vol 3, § 118. Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition).

8. Which books were confirmed in the Hebrew OT?

Image result for picture Hebrew Bible public domain

Page from an 11th-century Aramaic Targum manuscript of the Hebrew Bible (Wikipedia)

 

Which books were included by the Jews in the Hebrew Bible?

I reject the inclusion of the Apocrypha (Deutero-Canonical books) in the OT. This is the position adopted by Roman Catholic authority, Jerome (ca. 347-420),[10] who, in his preface to the Vulgate version of the Apocrypha’s Book of Solomon stated that the church reads the apocryphal books ‘for example and instruction of manners’ but not to ‘apply them to establish any doctrine’. In fact, Jerome rejected Augustine’s unjustified acceptance of the Apocrypha.[11]

The Jewish scholars who met at Jamnia, ca. AD 90, did not accept the Apocrypha in the inspired Jewish canon of Scripture. The Apocrypha was not contained in the Hebrew Bible and Jerome knew it. In his preface to the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible, he rejected the apocryphal additions to Daniel, i.e. Bel and the Dragon, and Susanna.[12] Jerome wrote:

The stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew…. For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew…. After all, both Origen, Eusebius and Appolinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that … these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture ” (in Geisler 2002:527, emphasis added).

The Protestant canon of 39 OT books, excluding the Apocrypha, coincides with the Hebrew 22 books of the OT.

There are many other reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha. Any reasonable person, who reads Tobit, and Bel and the Dragon, knows how fanciful they become when compared with the God-breathed Scripture.

Here are “Some reasons why the Deutero-Canonical material does not belong in the Bible“. Here are examples of theological and historical “Errors in the Deutero-Canonical” books. It was Jerome who introduced the change from calling these books the Apocrypha to Deutero-Canonical.

See my article, Should the Apocrypha be in the Bible?, that gives reasons why the Apocrypha should not be included in the Bible as Scripture.

9. Conclusion

There was no need for the apostles to provide the people of the first century with a list of the OT Books contained in Scripture. It was a given as Paul, the redeemed Pharisee, made evident with his comment to the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 (ESV). In addition, the Jewish OT canon did not include the Deuterocanonical Books (the Apocrypha).

The Hebrew scholars who met at Jamnia about AD 90 confirmed the 22 OT books in the Hebrew canon of Scripture (which are 39 books in the Protestant canon).

There are good reasons why Gnostic and other gospels were not included by the teachers of the early Christian church in establishing the NT canon. A reading of the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Judas, and other pseudo-gospels makes evident that fanciful, speculative, creative content was evidence that these ‘other gospels’ were not the genuine product to include in the NT.

At least 22-23 of the 27 NT books had been affirmed as authoritative for the canon by the late second century. The remainder were questioned because of uncertainty of authorship. However, by the end of the third century, all of the NT canonical books had been gathered and affirmed by church use.

10. Works consulted

Baker, R A 2008. How the New Testament canon was formed. Early Church History – CH101. Available at: http://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/New-Testament-Canon.pdf (Accessed 25 October 2016).

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Eusebius 1890. Church history. Tr by A C McGiffert. Ed by P Schaff & H Wace, from Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, 2nd series, vol 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm (Accessed 28 October 2016).

Geisler, N 2002, Systematic theology: Introduction, Bible, vol. 1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Kirby, P 2016. The Muratorian canon. Early Christian Writings (online), 28 October. Available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/muratorian.html.

Perrin, N 2007. Thomas, the other gospel. London: SPCK.

Quarles, C. L. 2006, The Gospel of Peter: Does it contain a precanonical resurrection narrative? in R B Stewart (ed), The resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in dialogue, 106-120. Minneapolis: Fortress Press,

Schaff, P n.d. History of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, A.D. 311-600, vol 3. Available at: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc3 (Accessed 25 October 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2016. When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal? (online), tom55#231. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23002-when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal/page-8#entry286284 (Accessed 10 October 2016).

[2] Ibid. This was my response as OzSpen#232.

[3] Christianity Board 2016. What Do You Think Would Have Happened If… (online), tom55#16. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23066-what-do-you-think-would-have-happened-if/#entry286329 (Accessed 10 October 2016).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[5] Perrin (2007:viii).

[6] Kirby (2016).

[7] Eusebius (1890, 3.25).

[8] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:143).

[9] Heb. xi. 35 ff. probably alludes, indeed, to 2 Macc. vi. ff.; but between a historical allusion and a corroborative citation with the solemn he graphe legei there is a wide difference.

[10] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:144).

[11] This information is from Geisler (2002:526).

[12] From Geisler (2002:527).

 

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

Blatant promotion of assisted suicide by ABC TV

Comments Off on Blatant promotion of assisted suicide by ABC TV
October 25th, 2016 Ethics, Euthanasia, Suicide

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to euthanise someone with a drug or provide a drug for self-administered suicide, which drug would you recommend?

Pentobarbital (trade name Nembutal) is the lethal drug recommended and made available through Australia’s Dr Philip Nitschke of Exit International for euthanasia or assisted suicide.[1] Nitschke is a former medical doctor who also has a PhD in laser physics.[2]

clip_image002
(image courtesy The Guardian)[3]Image result for image of Nembutal public domain
(image courtesy OAK, public domain)

What would you do if your national TV network, funded by tax payers’ dollars to the tune of approximately $1 billion Australian annually,[4] deliberately promoted only one side of a highly emotional contemporary issue? ABC TV’s 7.30 programme in Australia did just that on Thursday, 20 October 2016, with its advocacy for assisted suicide. How could one possibly describe it other than pursuing the role of an activist promoter?

What did it do? It provided video of euthanasia advocate, Max Bromson’s, giving himself a lethal dose of Nembutal, obtained from Philip Nitschke’s Exit International, to end his life. This was from video that the family filmed of his taking this lethal dose and then released to the ABC and the public.

The ABC gave only one side of the euthanasia controversy (with a small exception). It was grossly imbalanced in its coverage.

Therefore, I considered the place to begin was to …

1. Lodged a complaint with the ABC

This was my online complaint sent on 21 October 2016:

clip_image004(image courtesy Wikipedia)[5]

 

I viewed your story in support of euthanasia on the 7.30 programme, Thursday 20 October 2016. The story is titled, Family releases video of euthanasia advocate’s final moments, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2016/s4560443.htm. It includes video and transcript. This shows the dark side of what Philip Nitschke will do illegally.

I protest at the way 7.30 did not provide balance in this story. As a $1 billion tax payer-funded broadcaster, we deserve balance in programming. That is not what I viewed last night.

In this entire story, the only words against euthanasia were from South Australian Labor MP, Tom Kenyon:

TOM KENYON, SA LABOR MP: Some of us are Christians in this Parliament and we have views that are formed and informed by our Christian upbringing and our faith.

There’s nothing wrong with that….

TOM KENYON: The idea that the state should assist in the deaths of people, to contribute financially through resources, the allocation of resources to the deaths of people, is not something I’m prepared to counter [the video said ‘countenance’].

This was an emotionally charged story to support euthanasia, even though it is illegal in Australia. There was not a word on issues such as:

clip_image006 These are the possible deleterious consequences for a nation that legalises the killing of people under any circumstances and assists in their suicides.

clip_image006[1] All human beings have a right to life and palliative care during their painful sicknesses and dying years.

clip_image006[2] The medical profession’s role is to help control the pain and not organise the death or killing.

clip_image006[3] Reasons why killing of human beings should not be legislated.

clip_image006[4] What a death culture of euthanasia and assisted suicide will do to the culture of the nation.

I am not writing as a theoretician. My wife is dying of leukaemia. I have two severe disabilities.

I refer you to retired Australian anaesthetist, Dr Brian Pollard’s, assessment of the dangers of euthanasia: ‘Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth‘ (published in Quadrant 2011).

What will you do to bring balance to the 7.30 programme’s advocacy for euthanasia that was evident last night?

Yours sincerely,

Spencer Gear PhD

I asked for a response via email but my experience with the ABC in the past is not to be hopeful of any lasting change in journalistic policy in obtaining balance in reporting. Unless the government demands such balance for funding and signs a contract with the ABC and SBS to that effect, it will not happen.

2. The mass media jumped on board with this story

clip_image007
Herald Sun front page 12 December 2005, reporting on the 2005 Cronulla riots (image courtesy Wikipedia).[6]

 

Especially the News Corp media took the opportunity to challenge the content of this story. The Herald Sun on 21 October 2016 published, ‘ABC criticised for showing final moments of euthanasia advocate Max Bromson’s life[7]. The article stated that its original edition was published as ‘ABC accused of “death voyeurism”’. ‘Death voyeurism’ was a term used by former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in responding to the ABC story.

This Herald Sun article made these points:

clip_image009 Immigration Minister Peter Dutton accused the ABC of being “taken over” by political activists.

clip_image009[1] Tony Abbott: ‘Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there have to be standards of reporting. This is death voyeurism, not journalism’.

clip_image009[2] Neil Mitchell: ‘I strongly support voluntary euthanasia, but this was a blatant and irresponsible piece of attention-seeking by the ABC,’ the 3AW Mornings host said. He also called it ‘self-serving, self-indulgent journalism’.

clip_image011(photo Philip Nitschke 2016, courtesy Wikipedia)[8]

clip_image009[3] Bromson, a passionate and outspoken supporter of voluntary euthanasia, wanted to end his life his own way so he went to Philip Nitschke’s euthanasia advocacy group, Exit International, and secretly obtained the illegal euthanasia drug, Nembutal. Then at his chosen time when his bone cancer was severe, he asked family to take him to a motel room where he took the dose of Nembutal while his family filmed his last moments.

clip_image009[4] There are two bills before the South Australian parliament seeking to introduce voluntary euthanasia. This kind of political manoeuvring has been going on for two decades.

clip_image009[5] ‘The latest bid for change was launched on Thursday with the 15th bill since 1995 put before the lower house by advocate and Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge…. Dr McFetridge said his Choices and Dignity at the End of Life bill had embraced previous concerns from many MPs, making voluntary euthanasia only available to people with a terminal illness whose suffering had become intolerable’.

McFetridge claimed of his euthanasia legislation that ‘it also provided for seven clear steps before voluntary euthanasia would become available and barred people with a disability or mental illness from seeking euthanasia on those grounds’.

‘This is a choice that is wanted by those few people for whom palliative care does not work,’ Dr McFetridge said.

The Sun Herald article continued: ‘Let’s give those people the democratic right to make the decision about how they leave this life’.

‘Labor MP Steph Key, who introduced the 14th bill [into the South Australian parliament] in February, said the new measures had tightened the eligibility and assessment processes. “We have continued to consult widely on the proposed voluntary euthanasia laws and this new Bill will encompass all the checks and safeguards sought by our colleagues,” she said’.

3. Responding to secular arguments favouring euthanasia

clip_image012 The Herald Sun’s article included a poll, ‘Should the ABC have shown footage of a euthanasia advocate ending their own life?’[9] Here it provided opportunity for comments. Two supporters of euthanasia responded:

3.1 Human beings compared with animals

This person compared euthanasia of human beings with what the RSPCA would do with animals that were suffering in a similar way. She[10] compared animals found in poor state with people being prosecuted for euthanasia. However, we allow human beings to suffer, she said.

Those offended by the ABC 7.30 video should understand that ‘YOUR level of discomfort is nothing compared to what they are inflicting on these poor people. We need to stop and think for a minute about this. Making assisted suicide legal is different to making it compulsory! If YOU find the thought unpalatable, FINE don’t do it’.

She went down the standard line that ‘you do not have the right to impose your beliefs onto another human being. Making it legal will NOT result in more people dying, it will just help them die with dignity. We, collectively, as a society need to get OUR bloody noses out of other people’s business.[11]

Another replied:

3.2 Pray to your mythical god

This fellow was in agreement with the animal comparison by Pat but he took the opportunity to give God a secular slam in the religious gut:

I agree with Pat. If Max was a animal his carers would be prosecuted. As for the Liberal Senator Knoll, you can pray to your mythical god and suffer if he wishes you to me. I will die with dignity at my own hand where I want and when I want.[12]

3.3  I chose not to be silent

clip_image013This support for euthanasia and assistance in suicide, comparing with animals, needs a response. This is how I countered:[13]

The difference is that we are not animals. We are human beings. Promoting the killing of anyone is endorsing a mighty cultural shift.

There are important issues that need to be addressed before becoming gung-ho advocates of killing and assisted killing:

clip_image014 What are the possible deleterious consequences for a nation that legalises the killing of people under any circumstances and assists in their suicides?
clip_image014[1] All human beings have a right to life and palliative care during their painful sicknesses and dying years.
clip_image014[2] The medical profession’s role is to help control the pain and not organise the death.
clip_image014[3] We need much more detailed discussion on the reasons why killing of human beings should not be legalised.
clip_image014[4] What would a death culture of euthanasia and assisted suicide do to the culture of Australia, especially for those who are vulnerable?

I do not write as a theoretician. My wife is dying of leukaemia and I have 2 severe disabilities. I would never ever place my wife and me in the category of being animals that are so diseased and need to be put down. Life is given by God and he determines when our end should be.

clip_image016Job 1:21 (NLT) reminds us: ‘He (Job) said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”’ Psalm 139:16 (NIV) confirms that ‘Your (God’s) eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’.

Ronald, in shaking your fist at God and declaring that ‘you can pray to your mythical god’ you have committed an appeal to ridicule logical fallacy. We cannot have a logical discussion on such an important topic as end of life issues when you resort to this fallacious reasoning.

3.4 We choose what is right for each other

It was interesting to see how a non-Christian, relativist and secularist would respond to my challenge. She came back with a predictable promotion of autonomous reason:

clip_image018 She understood ‘exactly’ what I said. Her point was ‘that your choices are right for you under your circumstances’. However, living in our ‘wonderful democracy’ means I have the right to make my choice and others have the right not to share my ideals and beliefs.

clip_image018[1] They have as much right to an opinion and choice as I do.

clip_image018[2] There is ‘a difference between making something legal and making it compulsory’.

clip_image018[3] If I’m opposed to assisted suicide, she was confident that ‘nothing will change if it is made legal’.

clip_image018[4] She is not optimistic about the level of palliative care in hour health care for pensioners, veterans and terminally ill.

clip_image018[5] Who’s at fault? The politicians drop the ball as there are not enough votes in them. We can’t rely on good care being available for these people.

clip_image018[6] She wished me well in dealing with the personal tribulations of my wife and me.

clip_image018[7] In spite of my opposition, she will remain steadfast in her beliefs as stated.[14]

4. Logical consequences of ‘it’s right for you and not right for me’

What are the consequences of accepting Pat’s worldview and its values on euthanasia? This was my assessment of her use of autonomous reason in our democracy.[15]

I also understand what Pat says and the values driving her statements. It means that since we live in this wonderful Australian democracy we can make choices that are right for you and right for me. What’s the logical conclusion of this worldview driven by autonomous reason?

clip_image020Why stop with Pat choosing euthanasia and my opposing it because of choices in our democracy? There is no reason you can stop people making the right decision for them to break into your property and flog whatever they want. I don’t share that value, but who am I to stop them in a democratic society that allows choices?

Let’s press her worldview to another logical conclusion: Who am I to say that people should not murder human beings and lie about what they did when they are the choices they make? You may disagree in a democracy but neither of us should be forced to agree that stealing and murder are wrong if democratic values are maintained. Neither of us would have to agree that paedophilia and the rape of children is wrong. If it’s good for him to do that, who are we to oppose that value.

However, why are murder, theft, lying and rape illegal as absolute values in Australia? It’s because they are wrong, based on God’s transcendent standards in, say, the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17 NIV; Matthew 5-7 NIV). There are those who disagree and break the law in our democracy but they suffer just consequences.

She said, ‘If you are opposed to the concept of assisted suicide, then nothing will change if it is made legal.’ This is a false premise. Introducing voluntary killing of another person into our culture will change the very fabric of our society. There will be fear for the elderly, severely injured and others to enter hospital.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at what is happening in the Netherlands right now following legalisation in 2002. It started with Drs who could euthanise patients if they were competent, conscious, repeatedly asked for euthanasia, and were suffering unbearably as a result of an incurable disorder. What are they up to now? According to Reuters’ news agency of 12 October 2016, the Dutch government is drafting legislation to legalise assisted suicide for people who sense they have ‘completed life’ (the elderly) [Sterling 2016].

I refer you to retired Australian anaesthetist, Dr Brian Pollard’s, assessment of the dangers of euthanasia: Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth (Quadrant 2011).

I agree that more money needs to be spent on palliative care. That is one value on which Pat and I agree. However, autonomous reason in a democracy leads to chaos because no reigns can be placed on any moral values. It’s the natural outcome of relativism in action.

What is relativism? ‘The term “ethical relativism” encompasses a number of different beliefs, but they all agree that there are no universal, permanent criteria to determine what may or may not be an ethical act. God granted no divine command, and human nature displays no common law. Consequences have no bearing because each person or society may interpret the “rightness” of each consequence differently. Ethical relativism teaches that a society’s ethics evolve over time and change to fit circumstances’ (Got Questions 2002-2016).

We need absolute standards of right and wrong: It is wrong to steal, kill and tell lies. God provides those standards in Scripture (see Ex 20:1-17; Matt 5-7). Without God’s unchanging standards, there is no way to objectively determine if murder is anything different to euthanasia. The Canadian Law Reform Commission got it right in 1983 when it concluded that mercy killing (euthanasia) should not be made a separate category to homicide (reference below).

5. Other issues from the secularists’ responses

The secular responses from Pat and Don raise some other disturbing concerns about euthanasia.

5.1 Dying with dignity at my own hand

clip_image022Don stated: ‘I will die with dignity at my own hand where I want and when I want’.

As retired anaesthetist, Dr. Brian Pollard indicates, (see below), safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. That Don wants to die with dignity at his own hand when he wants is a pleasing objective for a person using his or her autonomous reason. However, I have some questions:

(a) How does he know he will have a disease that will allow him to die with dignity at the end of life?

(b) History demonstrates that not all Drs can be trusted to implement the wishes of the patient.

(c) We know from the history of humanity that laws against murder, theft, rape and lying do not prevent those crimes from being committed. Therefore, to die with dignity could fall into the category of the Drs who lie about maintaining the law to euthanise human beings who voluntarily decide when they do it, without permission.

(d) A greater issue than the human side of dying is what lies beyond death. God has told us what that will be: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27 NIV).

Don as a secularist wants to give God a kick out of his life by assigning him to this place of imagination: ‘You can pray to your mythical god’. One minute after his last breath he will know he is dead wrong. How do I know? Truth is that which matches reality. I take Scripture and examine its description of what is happening in our contemporary world and I see an exact description of reality. Truth is that which matches reality. God’s truth in Scripture lines up with the reality of human experience in our contemporary world.

It demonstrates why doctors and human beings in general want to violate God’s way of life. Romans 1:18 (NLT) states it clearly: ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’. In practical terms in the euthanasia discussion, God will show his anger towards all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth about whose responsibility it is to take life. They suppress this truth because of their practices of wickedness – sinful actions that violate God’s truthful rule in people’s lives and in our society.

I recommend to Don that he deals with something more serious than ‘dying with dignity’ and choosing the time, place and manner of his own death.

My article: “Will you be ready when death comes“, should give him food for thought.

5.2 What I’m inflicting on the suffering

Pat wrote some of the most provocative comments in her/his support of euthanasia. Here is another one:

Pat: ‘Anyone who took offense at the video should realize that YOUR level of discomfort is nothing compared to what they are inflicting on these poor people’.

Let’s get something clear. My opposition to euthanasia and my offense at the ABC 7.30 programme’s support of euthanasia with the film of Max Bromson’s death by assisted suicide, has zero to do with inflicting suffering on poor people in their distress.

My opposition to euthanasia is spelled out in detail in my article, based on my debate with Michael Moore MLA, Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a Compassionate Solution to Those in Pain?

My views are informed by:

  • Who gives and takes life – God – and that role should not be usurped by autonomous people who reason that killing or assistance in the killing of people is appropriate for a democratic culture. ‘The LORD gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up’ (1 Sam 2:6 NLT).
  • Many doctors cannot be trusted with obeying the euthanasia law (see below).
clip_image024

5.3 You don’t have right to impose your beliefs

Pat: ‘But you do not have the right to impose your beliefs onto another human being. Making it legal will NOT result in more people dying, it will just help them die with dignity’.

Notice the hypocrisy in this statement. I don’t have the right to impose my pro-life beliefs on another human being. What is she doing? She is imposing her pro-euthanasia views on Australian society and I am included. It is paradoxical that someone doesn’t want my values but is brazen enough to push her values on me without seeing the hypocrisy.

I have as much right to oppose euthanasia in this democracy as I have to oppose murder, theft, rape and lying. I have every right to uphold God’s absolute standards of justice for a just society. For the Old Testament people of Israel, moral standards were contained in the Ten  Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 (NIV). Since the time of Christ, they have been the commandments of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 NIV). I have every right to promote the Sermon on the Mount as God’s absolutes for a society that brings justice.

It is a furphy (untrue or absurd) statement to say that I don’t have the right to ‘impose’ beliefs. A better way to put it would be: In this democracy, I have the right to demonstrate that adhering to God’s absolute laws of right and wrong leads to a society where justice is practised.

There is a further dimension: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people’ (Proverbs 14:34 NIV). For the Hebrews, ‘righteousness’ was synonymous for ‘justice’. God’s justice will exalt Australia and breaking God’s law by sinning against his righteous standards will condemn Australia to chaos and destruction. If Australia legislates in favour of euthanasia, it will be promoting injustice and condemning the country to God’s punishments.

Pat’s view was that making euthanasia ‘legal will NOT result in more people dying; it will just help them die with dignity’. This has been demonstrated to be false in the Netherlands. Will that also happen in Canada which also legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016?[16]

5.4 Keep OUR bloody noses out of another person’s business

clip_image026Pat: ‘We, collectively, as a society need to get OUR bloody noses out of other people’s business’.

She writes with some anger with his capitalisation of OUR. There are many good reasons why people should have their noses in other people’s businesses. That’s the responsibility of living in a caring, compassionate society. If my neighbour’s house is on fire, I’ll stick my nose into his business and call 000. If a thief breaks into the house, I’ll go to help him and do the best I can to catch the thief and hold him down.

To my dying day I’ll violate Pat’s command. Why? It IS my business if somebody is being murdered, raped, assaulted, or theft is taking place on anyone’s property that I know about. I have a duty of care and love for my neighbour, based on my Christian worldview: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31 NIV). Therefore, rejecting the deliberate killing or assistance in killing of another person through euthanasia for assisted suicide IS my business. I’ll stand up for life and not for murder. The right to life is one of God’s absolutes. It is His responsibility to take like when He is ready and not when autonomous reason says so.

Counselling people has been my business for 34 years (until retirement). I will not change my language from, ‘I’ll be available to help you with your depression or suicidal ideation’ to ‘I’ll be here to assist you to know that life is not worth living and I’ll refer you to a euthanasia doctor’. That changes the ethics of a caring professional. I will not buy into butchering ethics in that manner.

The Canadians got it correct in their 1983 Law Reform Commission on euthanasia. It concluded, following an inquiry, that ‘the Commission recommends that mercy killing not be made an offence separate from homicide and that there be no formal provision for special modes of sentencing for this type of homicide other than what is already provided for homicide’ (Parliament of Canada 1995, emphasis added).

5.5 Lack of good palliative care

Pat: ‘As for your reference to palliative care, I, sadly, do not share your optimistic view. In a perfect world, we would have excellent health care for our pensioners, veterans and terminally ill. The sad reality of it is, we do not. Our politicians continually drop the ball on these issues, guess there just aren’t many votes in it for them, so we cannot rely on the fact that good care will be readily available’.

This is one area where I agree with Pat. If politicians continue to oppose euthanasia (and I pray that they will), I ask them to pump more medical dollars into better palliative care and hospices for the suffering and dying.

6. We cannot trust all doctors to obey euthanasia laws

If we cannot accept that Australians will abide by laws against murder, lies and theft, why should we expect doctors to obey the parameters of euthanasia in any legislation that is passed into law?

See my article, An Aussie Way of Death: Euthanasia.[17]

I do not reject euthanasia because of the results it is likely to cause. We have international evidence that doctors cannot be trusted to abide by a euthanasia law.

clip_image027Steven Pleiter is the director of the Levenseindekliniek – End of Life clinic – in The Hague, The Netherlands. Angela Neustatter (2015) reported for The Guardian that in spite of his Christian upbringing, he wished he could have helped his mother his mother to die after she suffered a stroke. He’s aware of the arguments that people need to be protected from the chance they may improve in the future. However, he those who are really suffering and want help to die. He considers it morally right to give help in that situation.

Where does this lead? Neustatter (2015) reported that this kind of thinking extends to anyone over the age of 18 who fits the criteria. Pleiter told of a 22-year-old male who was paralysed from the neck down in a sporting accident and considered life unbearable as he began to go blind. ‘At this point, he was adamant he did not want to go on. We agreed to help and his parents were utterly supportive’. However, it was more controversial when a 47-year-old woman with incurable tinnitus (like train brakes constantly shrieking in her head) who convinced the clinic ‘her suffering was unbearable’.

The Levenseindekliniek clinic does not charge because it receives funding from the Holland government’s health system. Pleiter acknowledged that ‘we go to the borders of the law, but never outside. We are a professional organisation but one that believes you look at the fact that some people want to die as enabling them to accept responsibility for their choice. It is about using compassion to give them the dignity to go when they wish’ (Neustatter 2015).

An assessment of what is happening in Belgium was published in 2015 by the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open, ‘Euthanasia requests, procedures and outcomes for 100 Belgian patients suffering from psychiatric disorders: a retrospective, descriptive study’. It does not have an outcome that is optimistic for the legalisation of euthanasia.

Luke Gormally, director of London’s Linacre Bio-Ethics Centre (now called Anscombe Bioethics Centre), when in Australia warned of the message sent to youth with legalisation of euthanasia:

Legalizing euthanasia in Australia would send a ‘wholly negative message’ to young people and might even encourage teenagers to consider suicide, a British bioethics expert warned. Luke Gormally, director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in London, told a Sydney news conference Friday night that new research has shown that lobbying to legalize euthanasia generally occurs during economic slumps. The government of Northern Territory has already legalized euthanasia, and Australian philosophers Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse have called for the legalization of so-called mercy killing. Gormally said Singer and Kuhse had ‘no coherent concept of justice,’ and said the underlying philosophical reason for legalizing euthanasia is the judgment that certain lives were not worthwhile. ‘Not only is that concept subversive of the foundations of justice in society, but it would be an educational message of the kind Australian society just does not need,’ he said. He said legalizing euthanasia would send young people the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems. ‘Now it seems to me that a society that, through the law, is underwriting the notion that certain lives are not worthwhile is positively validating a perception that young people can lapse into at critical moments in their lives,’ he said. ‘It’s sending a wholly negative message about human life and human worth,’ Gormally said. He added, ‘I gather that the rate of teenage suicide in Australia is rather high,’ although he did not provide statistics. Gormally, in Australia to give public lectures in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, said a study by U.S. researchers had shown that calls to legalize euthanasia increase during times of economic depression (Anderson 1995).

See Gormally’s article, ‘Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalized’ (CAN).

The British Medical Association’s report against legalising euthanasia has been reviewed by Luke Gormally. These are the main points he makes (Gormally n d):[18]

clip_image029 Euthanasia must not be supported because of the value of the individual;

clip_image029[1] It is important to have an unambiguous rule against euthanasia’s killing in order to maintain the true character of the doctor’s commitment to patient care.

clip_image029[1]  The insensitivity of euthanasia needs to be acknowledged.

clip_image029[1]  Which human beings are of `inestimable value’ and why are they?

clip_image029[1] What counts as intentional killing?

clip_image029[1] It creates limits of the duty to treat.

We know that when we support voluntary euthanasia, it can go beyond the person’s choice. Holland is the most evident, contemporary example for which we have clear evidence. That country has permitted voluntary, active euthanasia as far back as 1973 and made it legal in 2002.

Dutch medical doctor, Dr. Karel Gunning, on his 1992 visit to Australia said: ‘Holland has indeed become a very dangerous country, as patients may have their lives ended without their request and without knowledge of the authorities. The doctor thus has become a powerful man, able to decide on life or death’. Dr Gunning wrote that ‘whatever our own position, we have to admit that euthanasia in the Netherlands is completely out of control. If you define euthanasia, as the Dutch Physicians’ League does, as “Consciously causing a patient’s death,” then it occurred in some 20,000 cases in the Netherlands in one year. Of a total annual mortality of 129,000, this amounts to over 15 percent of all deaths’ (Gunning n.d.).

clip_image030

[Photograph of 91-one-year old, Nel Bolten, showing her tattoo on her chest that says: ‘Do not reanimate, I am 91+’. It was taken on Nov. 15, 2014 in The Hague, The Netherlands (Ross 2015)].[19]

 

At a special presentation, Dr Gunning stated:

The government-installed Remmelink Committee, which issued a report on the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands in the year 1991, speaks of 2,300 cases of euthanasia, that is 1.8 percent of all deaths! They used another definition of euthanasia, to wit “life-ending treatment at the patient’s explicit request.”

Using our own definition we have to include, besides the 2,300 cases called euthanasia by the Committee, the 400 cases of assisted suicide and the 1,000 cases of ending a patient’s life without his request, also mentioned in the report. That makes together nearly 4,000 cases. But the report speaks also of cases where high doses of medicine for pain and symptom control were given or where treatment was omitted with the implied or explicit intention to hasten the patient’s death. And these cases are called “normal medical practice”. That is most frightening. Refraining from treatment which burdens the patient and cannot prevent his death is, of course, very good medical practice. But if it is done with the intention to end life, then it is not medical practice at all, but consciously causing a patient’s death, which we call euthanasia. On the basis of the numbers given in the Remmelink report the Dutch Physicians’ League had estimated the number of these cases at 16,000. Together, the League estimated the number of cases where the doctor had the intention (implied or explicit) to end the patient’s life at nearly 20,000 per year, that is over 15 percent of all deaths. These are huge numbers.

Now these conclusions and estimates of the Physicians’ League have been hotly contested. But in a recent letter to the editor of Medisch Contact (MC, April 29,1994), the official organ of the Royal Dutch Medical Association, the investigators of the Remmelink Committee themselves say that abstaining from treatment was done with the explicit intention to hasten the end of life in 11,000 cases. And high doses for pain and symptom control were given with the implied or explicit intention to hasten the end of a patient’s life in 6,500 cases. So, according to their estimates there must have been over 21,000 cases where the doctor had the intention (implied or explicit) to end the patient’s life, which is over 16.4 percent of all deaths, even more than the estimates of the Physicians’ League.

I mention these facts as a warning, because they show that we have no reason at all to tell the world to follow our example. They show how rapidly the Netherlands has slipped down the slippery slope. They show that, once you accept killing as a solution for one problem, you soon find a hundred problems for which killing can be regarded as a solution. First you kill at the patient’s request, then without request, a comatose patient or a handicapped newborn baby, then you help a healthy but depressed person to commit suicide, etc. (Gunning n.d.).

Dr K F Gunning is president of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life; Board Nederlands Artsenverbond – Dutch Physicians’ League (Gunning n.d.).

Of Holland, ‘We have no reason at all to tell the world to follow our example. They show how rapidly the Netherlands has slipped down the slippery slope’.

The New Scientist magazine (20 June 1992)[20] confirmed this alarming situation in an article titled, ‘The Dutch way of death’ (Rachel Nowak).[21] It stated that ‘doctors and nurses in the Netherlands can practise euthanasia if they stick to certain guidelines. Yet many patients receive lethal injections without giving their consent’. It went on to say:

In some hospitals, doctors routinely approach patients who are terminally ill, offering to inject them with lethal doses of barbiturates and curare. But Dutch euthanasia has its sinister side, too. Involuntary euthanasia of sick and elderly people is commonplace in the Netherlands, and that when patients do opt for euthanasia, it is frequently out of fear of being a nuisance rather than to avoid unnecessary physical suffering.

The details are alarming. At least a third of the 5000 or so Dutch patients who each year receive lethal doses of drugs from their doctors do not give their unequivocal consent. About 400 of these patients never even raise the issue of euthanasia with their doctors. Moreover, of those who willingly opt for euthanasia, only about 5 per cent do so solely because of unbearable pain.

New Scientist concluded that ‘these revelations strike a blow at the two central canons of the worldwide euthanasia lobby: that euthanasia should be used only as a means to end pointless physical suffering, and that the patient alone should make the decision’. As one Dutch doctor put it: ‘Everywhere doctors are terminating lives. The only difference in Holland is that here we talk about it’.

6.1 Latest news out of Europe

As I was writing this article on 22 October 2016, , I was alerted to an article in The Washington Post of 19 October 2016 (Lane 2016). Its title was, ‘Europe’s morality crisis: Euthanizing the mentally ill’, and contained this disturbing information:

Once prohibited — indeed, unthinkable — the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.

This profoundly troubling fact of modern European life is confirmed by the latest biennial report from Belgium’s Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, presented to Parliament on Oct. 7.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for patients suffering “unbearably” from any “untreatable” medical condition, terminal or non-terminal, including psychiatric ones.

In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a “mental and behavioral disorder,” four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium’s population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.

The figure represents 3.1 percent of all 2014-2015 euthanasia cases — and a remarkable 20.8 percent of the (also remarkable) 594 non-terminal patients to whom Belgian doctors administered lethal injections in that period.

What’s a bit different about this Belgian report, however, is that it’s the first to appear since journalists and psychiatric professionals, inside Belgium and outside, began to take notice of what’s going on — and to raise questions about it.

Recent newspaper articles and documentaries focused on cases in which psychiatrists euthanized or offered to euthanize people with mental illnesses, some still in their 20s or 30s, under dubious circumstances.

In December, 65 Belgian mental-health professionals, ethicists and physicians published a call to ban euthanasia of the mentally ill.

Seemingly stung by these criticisms, the commission spends two of its report’s pages defending the system, explaining that all is well and that no one is being euthanized except in strict accordance with the law (Lane 2016).

This article again confirms the slippery slop with euthanasia legislation and how voluntary eventually becomes involuntary with euthanasia – even to killing young people with mental illnesses.

7. Why voluntary euthanasia cannot be controlled: Dr Brian Pollard speaks

Dr Brian Pollard is a retired Australian anaesthetist and palliative care physician, who founded and directed the first full-time palliative care service in a teaching hospital in Sydney at Concord Hospital in 1982 and directed it for five years. He is author of The Challenge of Euthanasia (Pollard 1994).[22] In this article, Pollard demonstrates why ‘every law to permit euthanasia will be inherently and unavoidably unsafe’ (Pollard 2011). These are some of his reasons:

clip_image032 ‘I believe that MPs, who have sole responsibility for making safe laws, should direct their attention to ensuring that draft euthanasia bills cannot imperil the lives of innocent people who do not wish to die’

clip_image032[1] ‘A common feature of those who advocate euthanasia bills is their touching faith that certain things will happen, just because the draft prescribes them. If that were true, no crime would ever be committed because all crime is currently forbidden by some law’.

clip_image032[2] He cited Yale Kamisar, an American professor of law in this field, who wrote a ‘seminal paper’ in 1958 in which ‘he listed these basic difficulties [with euthanasia laws]: ensuring that the person’s choice was free and adequately informed; physician error or abuse; difficult relationships between patients and their families and between doctors and their patients; difficulty in quarantining voluntary euthanasia from non-voluntary; and risks resulting from this overt breach of the traditional universal law protecting all innocent human life’.

Pollard observed that all of these problems ‘still exist and others have been added, such as the critical role of depression in decision-making and the evolution in the moral basis for requesting death from the relief of severe suffering in the terminally ill to reliance on respect for personal autonomy’.

clip_image032[3] Pollard observed that definitions are often vague or at odds with ordinary meanings. What about pain and suffering? He rightly pointed out that ‘both highly subjective experiences; neither can be measured or compared between persons’. He added that according to draft euthanasia bills, they ‘have to be simply accepted as the person describes them, even when this may raise serious doubt. And, as most now allow, if the symptoms are said to make life “intolerable”, even though it is recognised that what one person finds intolerable others can bear’,

There are many other factors he raises that need to be taken on board by legislators.

Voluntary euthanasia cannot be practised with integrity (my word) because:

clip_image032[4] ‘Wherever voluntary euthanasia is practised, legally or not, non-voluntary is also found, including in Australia. Many find this difficult to credit because, whatever their failings, doctors surely would not take life without any request. In fact, they do it because it seems logical’.

See also Dr Pollard’s interview with Robyn Williams on ABC’s Radio National, ‘Safe legalised euthanasia is a myth‘ (4 April 2004).

This happened in Holland. See my comments now on the Dutch Remmelink Report of 1991.

8. Doctors killing without explicit request in Holland: The Remmelink Report

What has been happening in The Netherlands where euthanasia has been practised since 1973 but only legal since 2002?

By eliminating the prosecutorial review of all cases, the government hopes to lessen doctors’ fears of possible prosecutions and encourage more doctors to actually report induced deaths. Reporting noncompliance is a major problem for the government. A Dutch study, published in 1996, found that the majority of Dutch doctors (59%) do not report voluntary euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths, and cases of involuntary euthanasia (without patients’ knowledge or consent) are rarely if ever reported. [van der Wal et al., “Evaluation of the Notification Procedure for Physician-Assisted Death in the Netherlands,” New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 11/28/96:1706-1707]….

In a more recent Dutch study, researchers found that 55% of the Dutch doctors interviewed in 1995 indicated that “they had ended a patient’s life without his or her explicit request” or “they had never done so but that they could conceive of a situation in which they would.” [van der Maas et al., “Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, and Other Medical Practices Involving the End of Life in the Netherlands, 1990-1995,” NEJM, 11/28/96:1701] (Patients Rights Council 2013).

An earlier official Dutch Government report (The Remmelink Report, 1991) gave conclusive evidence of abuse. The report showed clearly that doctors are killing without the explicit request of the patient. Doctors have violated the ‘strict medical guidelines’ provided by the Dutch courts (in Fleming 1992). See also Fleming (2003), ‘Euthanasia by omission in Australia: What the parliament does not allow, the courts allow’.

 

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8.1 EUTHANASIA IN HOLLAND: CRITERIA LAID DOWN BY THE COURTS

(Although officially illegal at the time of the Remmelink Report in 1991), the courts provided these criteria:

1. The request for euthanasia must come only from the patient and must be entirely free and voluntary.

2. The patient’s request must be well considered, durable and persistent.

3. The patient must be experiencing intolerable (not necessarily physical) suffering, with no prospect of improvement.

4. Euthanasia must be a last resort. Other alternatives to alleviate the patient’s situation must have been considered and found wanting.

5. Euthanasia must be performed by a physician.

6. The physician must consult with an independent physician colleague who has experience in the field.[23]

8.2 BUT WHAT WERE THE RESULTS IN HOLLAND?

The Dutch report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, stated that ‘in cases of euthanasia the physician often declares that the patient died a natural death” (p. 669). This report indicated that 0.8% of the 38.0% of all deaths involving euthanasia were ‘life-terminating acts without explicit and persistent request’ (p. 670) [van der Maas, et al 1991:669). The abstract of this article stated that it:

presents the first results of the Dutch nationwide study on euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life (MDEL). The study was done at the request of the Dutch government in preparation for a discussion about legislation on euthanasia. Three studies were undertaken: detailed interviews with 405 physicians, the mailing of questionnaires to the physicians of a sample of 7000 deceased persons, and the collecting of information about 2250 deaths by a prospective survey among the respondents to the interviews. The alleviation of pain and symptoms with such high dosages of opioids that the patient’s life might be shortened was the most important MDEL in 17·5% of all deaths. In another 17·5% a non-treatment decision was the most important MDEL. Euthanasia by administering lethal drugs at the patient’s request seems to have been done in 1 ·8% of all deaths. Since MDEL were taken in 38% of all deaths (and in 54% of all non-acute deaths) we conclude that these decisions are common medical practice and should get more attention in research, teaching, and public debate (van der Maas et al 1991:669).

This means that the deaths of about 1,000 Dutch people in a single year were caused by a doctor who hastened the death of a patient without the patient’s explicit request and consent.

But there is more. Another assessment is that the real number of physician assisted deaths, estimated by the Remmelink Committee Report is, in reality 25,306 which is made up of (they’re on the overhead projector for you to see):

  • 2,300 euthanasia on request (Remmelink Report, 13),
  • 400 assisted suicide (ibid.15),
  • 1,000 life-ending treatments without explicit request (ibid.),
  • 4,756 died after request for non-treatment or the cessation of treatment with the intention to accelerate the end of life. cf, ibid, 15; there were 5,800 such cases but only 82% (i.e. 4,756) of these patients actually died. (cf Dutch Euthanasia Survey Report, 63ff).
  • 8,750 life prolonging treatment was withdrawn or withheld without the request of the patient either with the implicit intention (4,750) or with the explicit intention (4,000) to terminate life.[ibid., 69; There were 25,000 such cases but only 35% (i.e. 8,750) were done with the intention to terminate life. Cf ibid., 72; cf also Remmelink Report, 16).
  • 8,100 morphine overdose with the implicit intention (6,750) or explicit intention (1,350) to terminate life. Of these, 61% were carried out without consultation with the patient, i.e. non-voluntary euthanasia.
  • There were 22,500 patients who received overdoses of morphine, [cf Remmelink Report, 16. 36% were done with the intention to terminate life, cf Dutch Euthanasia Survey Report, 58. See ibid., 61, Tabel 7.7 (“Besluit niet besproken”)].

8.3 THIS TOTAL OF 25,306 PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED DEATHS AMOUNTED TO 19.61% OF TOTAL DEATHS [129,000] IN THE NETHERLANDS IN 1990.

‘To this should be added the unspecified numbers of handicapped newborns, sick children, psychiatric patients, and patients with AIDS whose lives were terminated by doctors according to the Remmelink Report’ (pp. 17-19).[24]

9. What about euthanising infants?

clip_image036

(close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility, Nazi regime).

 

The Dutch programme of euthanasia has moved quickly to go beyond the adult parameters of the law and legalisation. In fact, while there was no legislation but legal protocol for adult euthanasia, killing of children was happening.

This demonstrates that, like with laws against murder, theft, lying and rape, no legislation can curtail the boundaries when autonomous human reason, freedom, and sinful human beings are involved in determining the values of a culture.

‘For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard’ (Rom 3:23 NLT). What is sin? ‘Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God’’ (1 John 3:4 NLT). So anyone who breaks God’s law, ‘You shall not murder’ (Ex 20:13: Matt 5:21 NIV) is sinning. This latter verse states, ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’’’. God’s view is that anyone who commits murder through euthanasia is violating His law and also will be subject to God’s judgment. We are not told explicitly in this verse what that will be but warning about judgment from God should be given to everyone promoting euthanasia. They may not believe in God but will come under his judgment whether they accept it or not, just as a person will face judgment in Australia for breaking the law against perjury.[25]

The following is an example of euthanasia of infants in Holland. It was done at what was formerly the Academic Hospital, Groningen, but is now associated with The University Medical Center, Groningen:[26] The Weekly Standard report stated:

IN 2004, Groningen University Medical Center [The Netherlands] made international headlines when it admitted to permitting pediatric euthanasia and published the “Groningen Protocol,” infanticide guidelines the hospital followed when killing 22 disabled newborns between 1997 and 2004. The media reacted as if killing disabled babies in the Netherlands was something new. But Dutch doctors have engaged in infanticide for more than 15 years. (A Dutch government-supported documentary justifying infant euthanasia played on PBS [Public Broadcasting System USA] in 1993. Moreover, a study published in 1997 in the Lancet determined that in 1995, about 8 percent of all infants who died in the Netherlands—some 80 babies—were euthanized by doctors, and not all with parental consent; this figure was reproduced in a subsequent study covering the year 2001.)

As far back as 1990, the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) published a report intended to govern “life-terminating actions” taken against incompetent patients, including severely disabled newborns. The KNMG approved of pediatric euthanasia if the baby is deemed to have an “unlivable life,” a concept disturbingly close to Binding and Hoche’s “life unworthy of life”[27] (Smith 2006).

clip_image037In 1984 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled voluntary euthanasia was acceptable, provided doctors followed strict guidelines. But, under Dutch criminal law, physicians could still face prosecution.

In 2002, the Dutch parliament voted to formally legalise the practice, making the Netherlands the first nation in the world to do so.[28] Belgium did it in that year as well. However, examine what has happened in the Netherlands:

 

clip_image039 Originally when The Netherlands legalised euthanasia [2002], it was for adults. Doctors could kill a patient if that person ‘was competent and conscious, had repeatedly asked for euthanasia, and was suffering unbearably as a result of an incurable disorder’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image041 Although Belgium had legalised euthanasia in 2002,[29] ‘in 2014, the Belgian parliament passed a bill that allows the euthanizing of children, no matter how young, so long as they are terminally ill. In Holland, the lower age limit for euthanasia is currently twelve with parental consent, though euthanasia advocates are pushing to eliminate any age limit’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image043 ‘In Holland today, it is accepted that people who are suffering unbearably from mental illness may be killed’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image045 On October 12, 2016, Reuters newsagency reported: ‘The Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalize assisted suicide for people who feel they have “completed life,” but are not necessarily terminally ill, it said on Wednesday (12 October 2016)…. Health Minister Edith Schippers wrote in the letter that “because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly, the new system will be limited to” them. She did not define a threshold age’ (Sterling 2016).

The slippery slope has happened in Holland. Euthanasia and assisted suicide cannot be contained.

10. Case studies of euthanasia

A Belgian physician and euthanasia activist, Wim Distelmans,[30] has released details of what he has done in Belgium:

In September [2013], the 60-year-old physician gave a lethal injection to Nathan Verhelst, 44, depressed over a failed sex-change operation. Last year [2012], he oversaw the double euthanasia of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf twins who chose to die after learning they would lose their eyesight. Also last year [2012], he euthanized a despondent Godelieva De Troyer, 64, whose children learned of her death after the fact. And he acknowledges there are many more “borderline” cases that the public never hears about.

To some, Dr. Distelmans has come to embody the dangers of legalized euthanasia. “What is he? Is he God or something?” Ms. De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, asked in a recent interview (Hamilton 2013).

Charles Lane reported another case by Dr. Distelmans:

Frank van den Bleeken, imprisoned for 30 years for rape and murder, sought euthanasia from Distelmans, citing his incurable violent impulses and the misery of life behind bars. Belgian officials and Distelmans initially agreed; a lethal injection the murderer might have gotten as punishment in the United States would be supplied as therapy in anti-death penalty Europe.

In January, however, Distelmans backed out just before the scheduled procedure — there was still hope for van den Bleeken to get treatment at a facility in the Netherlands, he said (Lane 2016).

Dr Karel Gunning was a medical doctor in Holland. He gave examples of how doctors violated the Dutch euthanasia law:

An internist, called to see a lady with lung cancer who breathed with great distress, told her that he could help her, but that he would prefer to admit her to his hospital. The patient refused, as she feared to be euthanized. But the doctor told her that he would be on duty during the weekend and would admit her himself. She did go on Saturday. On Sunday night, she was breathing normally. On Monday morning the doctor was off duty. In the afternoon, he came back to the hospital but the patient was dead. A colleague had come in that morning and said, “We need that bed for another case. It makes no difference for her whether she dies today or after a fortnight!   So, the patient was euthanized against her explicit will.

I, myself, had a discussion with a colleague about administering morphine. I maintained that large [doses] are needed to kill a patient. At first he denied this, but suddenly said, “You are right. I remember a case of an old man who could die any day. His son came to see me. He was booked for a holiday and did not want to come home for his father’s funeral. He wanted the funeral to be over with before he left. So I went to see the old man and gave him a huge dose of morphine. In the evening I came back to declare death, but the patient was happily sitting on the edge of his bed. At last, he had gotten enough morphine to kill his pain.” My colleague told this story as if it were the most normal thing to do: to kill a patient in order to please the family (Gunning n.d.).

These examples from people in the medical profession demonstrate that some doctors cannot be trusted to obey the law, whether that relates to laws enacted by parliament or by court decisions. Voluntary, active euthanasia becomes involuntary killing of people who have not agreed to this killing.

Gunning (n.d.) rightly pointed out that two kinds of ethics are being promoted in the medical fraternity:

10.1 Humanitarian ethic

This ethic adheres to the universal principle in the Hippocratic Oath (formulated by Hippocrates in 400 BC). He was not a Christian but believed that doctors were powerful people who could decide on life and death issues for humanity. By this ethic, medical doctors swear that they will not use their knowledge or expertise to kill a person, before or after birth, not even with the patient’s own request. With the humanitarian ethic, the well being of the individual person is central (Gunning n d).

The classic version of the Hippocratic Oath contains this affirmation: ‘I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art’ (MedicineNet.com 2016).

The Christian-informed humanitarian ethic is practised by doctors and others who are opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide and promote palliative care instead. They love their neighbour as themselves – as human beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7).

10.2 Utilitarian ethic

Act and rule utilitarianism is one of the best known and most influential moral theories. It deals with the consequences of actions,

Its core idea is that whether actions are morally right or wrong depends on their effects….

Utilitarians believe that the purpose of morality is to make life better by increasing the amount of good things (such as pleasure and happiness) in the world and decreasing the amount of bad things (such as pain and unhappiness). They reject moral codes or systems that consist of commands or taboos that are based on customs, traditions, or orders given by leaders or supernatural beings. Instead, utilitarians think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human (and perhaps non-human) beings (Nathanson n.d.)

Apply this to the euthanasia and assisted suicide debate and what do we get? It does not commit to the patient’s well being but to the well being (consequences) of others. Who judges whether the patient’s life is going to be a burden or of benefit to society? The doctor does!

Dr Gunning explained how this was captured in an article in California Medicine (September 1970, ‘New Ethic for Medicine and Society, pp, 67-68) which showed that historically the lives of all human beings had equal value. That cannot be maintained now with over population and people were no longer accepting the quality of life ethic (humanitarianism) for all people. Doctors were now making medical evaluations. Intentional killing of adults was too abhorrent so they started with abortion and have now moved to voluntary euthanasia. Gunning’s assessment was that ‘in the end, we would have death control as well as birth control, and we doctors should prepare ourselves for this new task’ (Gunning n.d.).

That’s the utilitarian ethic in action, all in the name of voluntary euthanasia that has moved to involuntary euthanasia or assisted suicide in a number of countries.

11. Where is euthanasia legal?

BBC News (Lewis 2015) reported that these were the countries and USA states that have legalised assisted dying:

  • The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg permit euthanasia and assisted suicide
  • Switzerland permits assisted suicide if the person assisting acts unselfishly
  • Colombia permits euthanasia
  • California has just joined the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana in permitting assisted dying
  • Canada permits euthanasia and assisted suicide from February 2016 (slightly earlier in the province of Quebec)

At the time of writing this article in October 2016, euthanasia and assisted suicide were illegal in Australia. However, there is advocacy by groups involved in university departments such as Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Australian Centre for Health Law Research. See its activist site, End of Life Law in Australia, at: https://end-of-life.qut.edu.au/. Within the next month, I hope to prepare a review of this site and note its ideological emphases. However, a brief overview seems to indicate that it is pushing for the reform of Australian law to accommodate euthanasia and assisted suicide. There also are activist groups such as Dying with Dignity Queensland[31] (my home state). Its theme is, ‘My life, my voice, my choice’. I have critiqued that worldview of autonomous reason above and its harmful consequences.

This also was indicated by this Law School’s invitation to Canadian Professor Jocelyn Downie to deliver the lecture, ‘The legalisation of medical assistance in dying – Lessons from Canada’ at the Gardens Theatre, QUT Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane, 19 October 2016, 6pm. I attended this lecture. This was an enthusiastic promotion of the Canadian law that has legalised euthanasia and to recommend a similar procedure in Australia. Professor Downie is Professor of Law at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.[32]

She was not a neutral person on the euthanasia issue at this lecture. Some Canadians have described her as a ‘pro-euthanasia prof’ and a ‘long-time advocate for the legalization of euthanasia’ (LifeSite News 2015). After the lecture, I spoke with one of the QUT professors, Professor Ben White, who promoted this lecture. I challenged the QUT censorship of the opposing view in this public presentation. He brushed the objection aside and considered the opposing view was covered adequately at Q&A at the end of the lecture and they have had other panel presentations that included a pro-life person. The Q&A at the lecture on 19 October 2016 was not an opportune forum to present a counter proposal, as there was not opportunity to challenge Downie’s responses and there were few who opposed Downie. It is an unfair imbalance to have a Professor of Law make a public presentation (with PPTs) in support of euthanasia in Canada and expect people in the audience to present the alternate view in the Q&A. That is destined to lead to an unfair exposure for euthanasia at the expense of the anti-euthanasia view.

At the lecture, I heard Prof. Downie state that ‘the feared slippery slope didn’t eventuate [in Canada]’. At Q&A after the lecture, I challenged her on this, providing evidence from Holland and Belgium. She resorted to denying this and using a genetic logical fallacy with her sprouting the superiority of peer-reviewed journals to my information from mass media sources. I had no right of reply to challenge her genetic fallacy. I hope I’ve presented enough information in this article from Dutch, Belgium and other medical sources to demonstrate that there definitely has been a slippery slope in euthanasia legislation in Holland from the legal system prior to 2002 and in legislation from 2002 to 2016.

12. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) on end of life care

clip_image047

The AMA’s ‘Position Statement on the Role of the Medical Practitioner in End of Life Care 2007 (amended 2014)’ states that ‘The AMA believes that while medical practitioners have an ethical obligation to preserve life, death should be allowed to occur with dignity and comfort when death is inevitable and when treatment that might prolong life will not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or will impose an unacceptable burden on the patient’ (10.1).[33]

In section 10.5 of this Position Statement, it is stated: ‘The AMA recognises that there are divergent views regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.[34] The AMA believes that medical practitioners should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life. This does not include the discontinuation of futile treatment’.[35]

What should an Australian doctor do if euthanasia or assisted suicide is requested by a patient? The AMA’s Position Statement is:

Patient requests for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be fully explored by the medical practitioner in order to determine the basis for such a request. Such requests may be associated with conditions such as a depressive or other mental disorder, dementia, reduced decision-making capacity, and/or poorly controlled clinical symptoms such as pain. Understanding and addressing the reasons for such a request will allow the medical practitioner to adjust the patient’s clinical management accordingly or seek specialist assistance (10.6).[36]

Therefore, the Australian Medical Association’s current policy is against the practice of medical doctors’ involvement in euthanasia and assisted suicide, with the view of ending a person’s life. However, as of 06 October 2015, the AMA was engaged in a ‘Review of AMA Policy on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide’. This is ‘part of a five year position statement review cycle’.[37]

13. Conclusion

Two of Australia’s major institutions are actively promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide, even though it is illegal. They are: (a) ABC TV’s 7.30 programme, and (b) Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Health Law Research. However, other mass media (e.g. the Herald Sun) exposed the ABC’s ‘death voyeurism’ by showing film of the assisted suicide of a client.

In responding to secular arguments favouring euthanasia, it was shown that human beings are not animals and to choose what’s right for me must allow me to allow you to choose what’s right for you in the breadth of ethical issues, including murder, theft, lying, rape and euthanasia. One person’s assault on the Christian’s ‘mythical god’ was an appeal to ridicule fallacy. Pushing these secularists to the logical conclusions of their ethical relativism demonstrates the chaos that results when God’s ethical absolutes are abandoned

If I don’t have the right to impose my Christian beliefs, why are they imposing their secularist values? It’s a hypocritical value system that wants to censor Christian beliefs while promoting secular beliefs. If I’m to keep my nose out of another person’s business, then it will tear the fork out of altruistic values of caring for one another in a democratic society.

Illustrations were given of how medical doctors violate euthanasia laws when euthanasia is illegal or legal. Some doctors cannot be trusted to obey the law and voluntary euthanasia becomes involuntary euthanasia for unfortunate individuals who are killed without their permission. Retired Australian anaesthetist and palliative care specialist, Dr Brian Pollard, has provided evidence to demonstrate that any effort to achieve safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. Euthanising infants is already taking place, outside of the law.

Several case studies were provided to demonstrate that euthanasia cannot be controlled by legislation or the legal profession. Dr Karel Gunning, a Dutch medical doctor, showed how this demonstrated two contrasting ethics in action: (a) The humanitarian ethic of caring for patients and valuing life, and (b) A utilitarian ethic where the end justifies the means.

The Australian Medical Association has affirmed that it does not support euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, it is examining this policy in light of its customary 5-year review.

The position demonstrated and advocated in this paper is that God gives life and it is his responsibility to end life in His time. It is not for autonomous human beings to decide when time is up and to murder them or assist in their committing suicide. This is how it is with God and human life: ‘You [God] saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed’ (Psalm 139:16 NLT).

There are sound biblical, practical and philosophical reasons for demonstrating that the relativistic, utilitarian ethic of euthanasia and assisted suicide is wrong for individuals and societies. Australia will be exalted as long as it promotes God’s absolutes of justice in its ethics. As soon as it promotes the sinful evil of euthanasia and assisted suicide it will bring disgrace and God’s judgment on Australia.

‘Justice exalts a nation, but sin is a people’s disgrace’ (Proverbs 14:34 NAB).

14. Works consulted

Anderson, T 1995. Euthanasia sends young ‘negative’ message. UPI (online), 10 November. Available at: http://www.upi.com/Archives/1995/11/10/Euthanasia-sends-young-negative-message/3926815979600/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Binding, K & Hoche, A n.d. Allowing the destruction of life unworthy of life. Athanatos Christian Ministries (online). Available at: http://lifeunworthyoflife.com/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Breen, J 2015. Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke sets medical certificate alight, rejects Medical Board’s conditions. ABC News, Brisbane Qld (online), 27 November. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-27/philip-nitschke-sets-medical-certificate-alight/6981522 (Accessed 23 October 2016).

Fleming, J 1992. Euthanasia, The Netherlands, and the slippery slopes. Bioethics Research Notes Occasional Paper No.1, June. Published by the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, PO Box 206, Plympton SA 5038, Australia. It is now associated with the Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture at: http://www.bioethics.org.au/index.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Fleming, J I 2003. Euthanasia by omission in Australia: What the parliament does not allow, the courts allow. Bioethics Research Notes 15(2), Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, Adelaide, South Australia . Available at: http://www.bioethics.org.au/Resources/Online%20Articles/Opinion%20Pieces/1502%20Euthanasia%20by%20omission%20in%20Australia.pdf (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Got Questions 2002-2016. What is ethical relativism? Available at: https://gotquestions.org/ethical-relativism.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Gunning, K F n.d. Practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands. CHN (Compassionate Healthcare Network). Available at: http://www.chninternational.com/Gunning%202006.html (Accessed 23 October 2016).

Hamilton, G 2013. Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will. National Post (Canada), 22 November. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/death-by-doctor-controversial-physician-has-made-his-name-delivering-euthanasia-when-no-one-else-will (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Lane, C 2016. Europe’s morality crisis: Euthanizing the mentally ill. The Washington Post, 19 October. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/europes-morality-crisis-euthanizing-the-mentally-ill/2016/10/19/c75faaca-961c-11e6-bc79-af1cd3d2984b_story.html?utm_term=.bf3082d3e044 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Lewis, P 2015. Assisted dying: What does the law in different countries say? BBC News, 6 October. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-34445715 (Accessed 24 October 2016).

LifeSite News 2015. Pro-euthanasia prof: Supreme Court ruling allows doctors to do lethal injections (online), 5 March. Available at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-euthanasia-prof-supreme-court-ruling-allows-doctors-to-do-lethal-inject (Accessed 24 October 2016).

MedicineNet.com 2016. Definition of Hippocratic Oath, 13 May. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20909 (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Murray, D 2016. Grim Reaper, M.D. National Review.(online), 25 April. Available at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434446/euthanasia-belgium-netherlands-slippery-slope (Accessed 19 October 2016).

Nathanson, S n.d. Act and rule utilitarianism. Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Available at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Neustatter, A 2015. Assisted dying: how does it work in a Dutch end-of-life clinic? The Guardian (online), 12 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/11/assisted-dying-dutch-end-of-life-netherlands-unbearable-suffering (Accessed 24 October 2016.

Nicholl, D 2011. Lundbeck and pentobarbital: pharma takes a stand. The Guardian (online), 1 July. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/01/pentobarbital-lundbeck-execution-drug (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Nitschke, P & Stewart, F 2006. The peaceful pill handbook. Lake Tahov NV: Exodus International US Ltd.

Normally, L n.d. The BMA Report on Euthanasia and the Case Against Legalization (1994): A review of the Report by Luke Gormally. Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford UK. Available at: http://www.bioethics.org.uk/view_article.php?view=View&type=0&article_title=The%252BBMA%252BReport%252Bon%252BEuthanasia

%252Band%252Bthe%252BCase%252BAgainst%252BLegalization%252

B%25281994%2529 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Parliament of Canada 1995. Special Senate committee on euthanasia and assisted suicide: Of Life and Death – Final Report, Appendix D, June. Available at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/351/euth/rep/lad-a2-e.htm (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Patients Rights Council 2013. Dutch Parliament votes to legalize euthanasia. Update 022: Volume 14, Number 3 (2000) [online]. Available at: http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/update022/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Pollard, B 1989. Euthanasia: Should we kill the dying? Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Little Hills Press.

Pollard, B 1994. The Challenge of euthanasia. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Little Hills Press.

Pollard, B 2011. Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. Quadrant, January-February. Available at: https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2011/01-02/why-safe-voluntary-euthanasia-is-a-myth/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Ross, W 2015. Dying Dutch: Euthanasia Spreads Across Europe. Newsweek, 12 February. Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/20/choosing-die-netherlands-euthanasia-debate-306223.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Smith, W J 2006. Killing babies, compassionately. The Weekly Standard (online), 26 March. Available at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/killing-babies-compassionately/article/13146 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Sterling, T 2016. Dutch may allow assisted suicide for those who feel life is over. Reuters (Amsterdam), 12 October. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-euthanasia-idUSKCN12C2JL (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Van der Maas, P J; Delden, J J M; Pijnenborg, L & Loom, C W N 1991. ‘Euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life’, The Lancet, September 14. Abstract available at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PII0140-6736(91)91241-L/abstract (Accessed 22 October 2016).

15.  Notes


[1] See Nitschke & Stewart (2006:137).

[2] Exit International n.d. Philip Nitschke. Available at: https://exitinternational.net/about-exit/dr-philip-nitschke/ (Accessed 25 October 2016).

[3] Nicholl (2011).

[4] The 2016-17 budget for the ABC (post-efficiencies) is $1.009 billion. Then add the SBS budget (post-efficiencies) for the same year of $274.5 million and we see that approx. $1.27 billion is given to the ABC/SBS consortium by tax payers to present a one-sided euthanasia story (as an example). For these budgetary figures see, Malcolm Turnbull MP, ‘FAQs on the ABC and SBS’, 19 December 2014. Available at: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/faqs-on-the-abc-and-sbs#budget (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[5] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_(Australian_TV_channel) (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[6] Wikipedia 2016. Herald Sun, 23 October. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herald_Sun (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/television/abc-criticised-for-showing-final-moments-of-euthanasia-advocate-max-bromsons-life/news-story/c395200bcdc98bace24044e148f20f51 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[8] Wikipedia 2016. Philip Nitschke, 23 October. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Nitschke (Accessed 23 October 2016). Nitschke set fire to his medical certificate, rejecting the Medical Board of Australia’s conditions placed on him. ABC News Brisbane, Qld., reported Nitschke’s statement: ‘Today, and with considerable sadness, I announce the end of [my] medical career,’ he said. He maintained that ‘the conditions the board has sought to impose on me … amount to a heavy handed and clumsy attempt to restrict the free flow of information on end-of-life choice’ (Breen 2015).

[9] Poll results as of 22 October 2016, 6.18am Qld time. Available at: https://polldaddy.com/poll/9557482/?view=results (Accessed 22 October 2016). The poll is at Herald Sun, 21 October 2016 at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/television/abc-criticised-for-showing-final-moments-of-euthanasia-advocate-max-bromsons-life/news-story/c395200bcdc98bace24044e148f20f51 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[10] Her name was Pat and I’m unsure if this person was female but her writing style seemed to fit more for a female than a male in the caring way she responded to me, but that is only a ‘seemed so’ as my subjective interpretation.

[11] Pat, 21 October 2016. Available at: https://polldaddy.com/poll/9557482/?view=results (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[12] Ibid., Ronald Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[13] Ibid., Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[14] Ibid., Pat, 21 October 2016.

[15] Ibid., Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[16] Canada drafts law to allow euthanasia 2016. SBS News, 15 April. Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/04/15/canada-drafts-law-allow-euthanasia (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[17] The following information is taken from that article.

[18] Even no date was given for this review, it had to be in 1994 or shortly thereafter.

[19] This photograph is courtesy Pinterest at: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/389631805241360807/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[20] New Scientist, June 20; 1992. vol 134 (1826): 28-30.

[21] Accessed 2 January 2010. However, on 22 October 2016 this article was available only by subscription.

[22] These biographical details are from Pollard (2011).

[23] Summarised by Mrs. Borst-Eilers, Vice-President of the Health Council (a body which provides scientific advice to the Dutch government on health issues). In I.J. Keown, “The Law and Practice of Euthanasia in The Netherlands”, The Law Quarterly Review, Vol. 108, January 1992, p. 56.

[24] Source: Dutch-speaking Dr. Daniel Ch Overduin, Vita, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 1992, pp. 2-3].

[25] Perjury is ‘The offence of wilfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2016. s v perjury).

[26] Information gained from: https://www.umcg.nl/EN/corporate/The_University_Medical_Center/Paginas/default.aspx (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[27] See Binding & Hoche (n.d.). This relates to the ideology of two non-Nazi academics that led to the Nazi Holocaust and its practice of involuntary euthanasia of those with ‘life unworthy of life’.

[28] David Johnson 2000-2016. Legalized euthanasia. Infoplease. Available at: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/euthanasia1.html (Accessed 19 October 2016).

[29] ProCon.org 2016. Euthanasia & Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) around the World. Available at: http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000136 (Accessed 19 October 2016).

[30] This article states that Distelmans is ‘a cancer specialist, professor in palliative care and the president of the Belgian federal euthanasia commission poses in Wemmel, Belgium’ (Hamilton 2013).

[31] See: http://dwdq.org.au/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[32] See: https://www.dal.ca/faculty/law/faculty-staff/our-faculty/jocelyn-downie.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[33] Australian Medical Association, Position Statement, available at: https://ama.com.au/sites/default/files/documents/ps_on_the_role_of_the_medical_practitioner_in_end_of_life_care_2007_amended_2014_0.pdf (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[34] At this point in this ‘AMA Position Statement’, there was the footnote, ‘Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient for the purpose of ending intolerable pain and/or suffering. Physician assisted suicide is where the assistance of the medical practitioner is intentionally directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life’.

[35] AMA Position Statement, loc cit.

[36] AMA Position Statement, loc. cit.

[37] See Australian Medical Association, Australian Medicine 2016. Available at: https://ama.com.au/ausmed/review-ama-policy-euthanasia-and-physician-assisted-suicide (Accessed 24 October 2016). This statement on the Review of euthanasia and assisted suicide policy is made ‘by Dr Michael Gannon, Chair of the AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee’.

 

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

Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15

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October 8th, 2016 Calvinism, Exegesis, Free will

Image result for clipart Choice public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this verse mean choice for or against God or gods?

‘And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 ESV).

A. When choose does not mean choice

I was sitting in the congregation of North Pine Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 11 September 2016, when the minister, Rev Paul Cornford, preached on Joshua 24. The title of his message was ‘The Covenant at Shechem’. When he got to Joshua 24:15, he stated, ‘“Choose this day” is a choice between false gods…. It is not a case of coming to the best God’.[1]

So ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ does not mean a choice as to which god/God you will choose to worship. It only applies to choosing among false gods, according to Rev Cornford. Below we will check to examine whether this preacher accurately engaged in correct exegesis of this Scripture in context.

After the service, I challenged the preacher over his failure to exegete the verse in context. He engaged in eisegesis, imposing his Calvinistic meaning on the text.

What is exegesis?  ”Exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture” (Grudem 1994:109).  The problem any interpreter of the Bible faces is that “everyone who interprets a passage of the Bible stands in a present time while he examines a document that comes from a past time.  He must discover what each statement meant to the original speaker or writer and to the original hearers or readers, in their own present time” (Mickelsen 1963:55).  This is the process of exegesis.  It is critical for the understanding of any text written in the past.

What is eisegesis? See Exegesis v. Eisegesis. Here is a quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis, which indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow God’s voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

James White is a Calvinist and among the chief proponents of eisegesis are Calvinists who impose their Reformed Calvinistic meaning on a text with doctrinaire repetition.

If one wants to convey this message to a contemporary audience, the speaker engages in the discipline of exposition, but exegesis precedes exposition: “He must see what meaning these statements had in the past, but he must also show what is their meaning for himself and for those to whom he conveys these ideas” (Mickelsen 1963:55).

B. Calvinism and no choice in choosing God

Image result for Calvinism public domainTo understand why Rev. Cornford takes this line, it is consistent with his 5-point Calvinist theology. You can listen to his sermons on TULIP Calvinism on the church’s website.

However, this article is not designed to respond to the following teaching of Calvinism, but to examine Joshua 24:15 in context. What does it teach regarding a person’s ability or inability to choose to serve God?

What does Calvinism believe about choice in salvation and/or serving God? These are only a few examples from leading Calvinists:

clip_image002 ‘In order for one who is dead to the things of God to come alive to God, something must be done to him and for him. Dead men cannot make themselves come alive’ (Sproul 1986:114). Norman Geisler describes this comment as an example of ‘the extreme Calvinists’ view’ (Geisler 1999:57).

I have responded to the extreme Calvinistic position in:

clip_image004 Who can be reconciled to God?

clip_image002[1] Loraine Boettner, a leading Calvinist of the past, could not state the Calvinistic position clearer:

Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him?…

We read that that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. 2:14. We are at a loss to understand how any one can take a plain common sense view of this passage of Scripture and yet contend for the doctrine of human ability’ (Boettner 1932:62, 63).

These articles of mine cover some of this opposition to ‘whosoever will may come’ (John 3:16).

clip_image004[1] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image004[2] Does regeneration precede faith?

clip_image002[2] In this one paragraph, John Calvin emphasised double-predestination twice:

‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’….

‘Each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5, emphasis added).

My replies to this view are in,

clip_image004[3] Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image004[4] God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

Based on this kind of Calvinistic theology, there could be no way that any human being would be able to choose to follow God. That’s because of Calvinism’s bias against it with its unusual understandings of,

  • The meaning of ‘dead in trespasses and sin’;
  • Regeneration precedes faith;
  • Total depravity;
  • Unbelievers are all predestined to damnation (not all Calvinists accept this view that is endorsed by John Calvin himself).

C. What does Joshua 24:15 teach?

Let’s develop a textual outline of Joshua 24:14-28 so that we obtain some context. The heading for this section in the English Standard Version is ‘Choose Whom You Will Serve’. When I prepare to preach an expository sermon (which is my normal approach to preaching from any biblical section), I begin by preparing a textual outline,

1. Textual outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is based on the ESV text:

1. (A command to the Israelites) fear the Lord and serve him (v. 14);

2. (Command to) put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River (v. 14);

3. (Command to) serve the Lord (v. 14);

Vector drawing of the God Ganesha4. If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve (v 15)

5. Choose the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites (v 15);

6. But as for me [i.e. Joshua] and my house, we will serve the Lord (v 15).

7. The people’s answer was: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods’ (v 16);

8. The Lord our God brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of slavery, and who performed the great signs in our sight and preserved us (v 17);

9. The Lord drove out all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God (v. 18);

10. Joshua said: You are not able to serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins (v. 19).

11. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good (v. 20);

12. The people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord’ (v. 21).

13. Joshua said: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him’. The Israelites agreed: ‘We are witnesses’ (v. 22).

14. Joshua said: ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel’ (v. 23);

15. The people said to Joshua: ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey’ (v. 24);

16. Joshua made a covenant with the Israelite people that day at Shechem to put in place statutes and rules (v. 25);

17. Joshua wrote words in the Book of the Law of God and set it up with a stone (v. 26);

18. Joshua said to all the people that the stone would be a witness against us/you lest you deal falsely with your God (v. 27).

19. Joshua sent the people away to their own inheritance (v.28).

2. Homiletical outline: Joshua 24:14-28

This is designed to summarise what the text is saying and grab the attention of the congregation or readers with relevant information that comes directly out of the text. This is the outline for a sermon that I will preach (not prepared yet) on this text. It may take 2 sermons of 30 minutes each to cover this material.

a. God does not deceive you: A command means you can do it (v. 14)

  • Fear the Lord
  • Serve him
  • Put away the other gods.

God would not be commanding you to do it if you were incapable of acting on the instruction.

b. Honest! You can choose today which God or gods you will serve (v. 15)

  • The choice is yours: Choose gods or THE GOD

c. They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18)

d. You are not able to serve the Lord (v 19)

  • Is this a contradiction? (You can choose the Lord, v. 15; you can’t serve the Lord, v. 19? You have chosen the Lord, v. 22)
  • Why this inability? (v. 19)
  • Why it happens – when you forsake the Lord (v. 20)

e. We will serve the Lord (v. 21)

f. KEY VERSE FOR INTERPRETATION: You have chosen the Lord (v. 22)

g. You can put away the foreign gods and serve the Lord (vv. 23-24)

h. Signing the covenant to serve the Lord (vv. 25-28)

D. Choosing God or gods

Image result for picture of Canaanite gods public domain(El, the Canaanite creator god, courtesy wikimedia.commons)

 

What does this outline demonstrate regarding the ability to choose God or other gods?

1.   The command to fear the Lord, serve Him and put away the other gods infers that people are able to choose to do it (v. 14).

2.   You can choose to serve other gods or the Lord (v. 15).

John Calvin’s commentary on Joshua 24:15 is:

By giving them the option to serve God or not, just as they choose, he loosens the reins, and gives them license to rush audaciously into sin. What follows is still more absurd, when he tells them that they cannot serve the Lord, as if he were actually desirous of set purpose to impel them to shake off the yoke. But there is no doubt that his tongue was guided by the inspiration of the Spirit, in stirring up and disclosing their feelings. For when the Lord brings men under his authority, they are usually willing enough to profess zeal for piety, though they instantly fall away from it. Thus they build without a foundation (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24, Bible Hub).

Calvin gives them the ‘option’ to serve God or not – as they choose – but he considers this one where Joshua ‘loosens the reins’, giving them the opportunity to rush into sin.

3.   They chose the Lord (vv. 15-18).

4.   After the previous and following verses, verse 19 seems like a contradiction, ‘You are not able to serve the Lord’. This is especially a paradox in light of verse 22, ‘You have chosen the Lord’. Verse 19 is an irony with Joshua 24:31 (ESV) in view, ‘Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel’. Keil & Delitzsch (n d, vol 2:231) consider that ‘“ye cannot serve Jehovah” … in the state of mind in which ye are at present, or “by your own resolution only, and without the assistance of divine grace, without solid and serious conversion from all idols, and without true repentance and faith” (J. H. Michaelis)’. What also is puzzling is the statement, ‘He will not forgive your transgressions’, because there are many affirmations in the OT that God is a forgiving God. See Exodus 34:6-7a where the Lord revealed to Moses, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty….’ Surely this is meant to be hyperbole to demonstrate that God will not deal lightly with sin.[2]

5.   Verse 22 gets to the crux of interpretation for this passage. It leaves no doubt as to what the meaning is in context: ‘You have chosen the Lord’. No matter what the opposition from the Calvinistic camp, anybody anywhere can choose to serve pagan gods or the Lord God.

However,

  • since Christ’s death on Golgotha for the sins of the world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), people need to be drawn by God the Father:
  • ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44 ESV).
  • How many will be drawn and how many will be forsaken? Jesus was clear about that: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 ESV).

So, since Christ’s death and resurrection, all people are drawn to Jesus but many reject his offer of salvation. Why?

  • ‘So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?’ (Heb 2:3 NLT).
  • Romans 1:18 (NLT) gives us further insight into why people reject God’s evidence: ‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’.

How did John Calvin understand Joshua 24:22. In his commentary on this verse he stated:

We now understand what the object was at which Joshua had hitherto aimed. It was not to terrify the people and make them fall away from their religion, but to make the obligation more sacred by their having of their own accord chosen his government, and betaken themselves to his guidance, that they might live under his protection. They acknowledge, therefore, that their own conscience will accuse them, and hold them guilty of perfidy [i.e. deceitfulness], if they prove unfaithful…. But although they were not insincere in declaring that they would be witnesses to their own condemnation, still how easily the remembrance of this promise faded away, is obvious from the Book of Judges. For when the more aged among them had died, they quickly turned aside to various superstitions. By this example we are taught how multifarious are the fallacies which occupy the senses of men, and how tortuous the recesses in which they hide their hypocrisy and folly, while they deceive themselves by vain confidence (Calvin’s Commentaries: Joshua 24:22, Bible Hub).

He did not deny that the Israelites were in a situation of ‘having of their own accord chosen his [God’s] government’.

6.   The Israelites could choose to put away the foreign gods in their midst and serve the Lord. This they did and signed a covenant of commitment (Josh 24:23-28).

D. Conclusion

A doctrinaire, Calvinistic, presuppositional view of no choice in salvation is what drove Rev Paul Cornford, an evangelical Presbyterian, to reject the clear teaching of Joshua 24:15 in context. ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ means that the Israelites could choose to serve other gods or the Lord God.

Joshua 24:22 drives the interpretation home, ‘You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (ESV). Other translations are as affirmative:

clip_image006 ‘You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NLT);

clip_image006[1] ‘Ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him’ (KJV);

clip_image006[2] ‘You have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him’ (NASB);

clip_image006[3]’You have chosen the Lord, to serve him’ (NRSV);

clip_image006[4]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (NIV);

clip_image006[5]’You have chosen the Lord for yourselves’ (NKJV);

clip_image006[6]’You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (ISV).

Image result for clipart salvationExegesis and exposition are clear for Joshua 24:15 and its context. Norman Geisler reached a consistent position on this verse and related verses:

God desires that all unsaved people will change their mind (i.e., repent), for “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Like the alternatives of life and death that Moses gave to Israel, God says, ‘Choose life’ (cf. Deut. 30:19). Joshua said to his people: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). God sets morally and spiritually responsible alternatives before human beings, leaving the choice and responsibility to them. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day: “If you do not believe that I am … you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24), which implies they could have and should have believed.

Over and over, “belief” is declared to be something we are accountable to embrace: “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69); “Who is he sir? … Tell me so that I may believe in him” (John 9:36); “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe, ‘ and he worshiped him” (John 9:38); “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you but you do not believe’” (John 10:25). This is why Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18) [Geisler 2004:130, emphasis in original].

E.   Works consulted

Boettner, L 1932. The reformed doctrine of predestination. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Delitzsch, F. n.d., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon in C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (vol. 6). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William E. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W. 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, two vols in 1, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Madvig, D H 1992. Joshua, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 239-371. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

F.   Notes


[1] I take notes in an exercise book for sermons I hear and these comments are based on the notes I took for the sermon on 11 September 2016, 9.00am service, North Pine Presbyterian Church, 55 Old Dayboro Rd., Petrie Qld. 4502, Australia. My wife and I have attended this church for 5 years at the time of writing this article (8 October 2016).

[2] This was the interpretation by Madvig (1992:369).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 October 2016.

Tongues and the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit

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September 15th, 2016 Baptism with the Holy Spirit, Tongues

Image result for free clipart fire public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is an important doctrine of leading Pentecostal denominations that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. You will encounter it in the Assemblies of God (USA), which is now called the Australian Christian Churches in Australia, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (5.6.3), the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa (Confession of Faith), Elim Pentecostal Church (UK), and other Pentecostal denominations.

The Australian Christian Churches statement is (4.13 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit):

We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the bestowing of the believer with power to be an effective witness for Christ. This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the new birth; is received by faith, and is accompanied by the manifestation of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, as the initial evidence (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4; 8:15-19; 11:14-17; 19:1-7).

A. Promotion of tongues and Holy Spirit baptism

A Pentecostal believer and advocate online wrote of ‘those who have actually received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as depicted in Scriptures’ and he placed himself in that category.[1]

I have not reached that conclusion in my study of Scripture, so I responded as follows:[2]

I expect that there could be people on this forum (and I’m one of them) who would not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. Your view is thus encouraging at least two types of Christians: Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, but the Pentecostals have the superior biblical experience of the Holy Spirit.

I have addressed some of these issues in my articles:

clip_image002 Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image002[1] Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

His reply to this was:

There is no doubt that there are people here who do not believe that speaking in tongues and see initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I for one used to be one of those, even though I experienced the contrary. It took me years and studying this to arrive at my current point of view. If you read Acts and all the events of the baptism of the Holy Spirit you will note that all but one of them mention that the receivers spoke in tongues. The one that doesn’t explicitly state that does state that, “when they saw they had received the Holy Spirit”, implies that there was and outward sign. As tongues of fire was only ever recounted in Acts 2:4, we must assume that the outward sign was the speaking in tongues. I’ll leave it up to you to do the reading.[3]

This is a fairly standard response from Pentecostals. My rejoinder was:[4]

I have presented my evidence to refute your view of tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in, Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The evidence from Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:2-7 demonstrates the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early church (with tongues) was fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. The Pentecostal requirement of everyone since Acts 2:4 to speak in tongues as initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not consistent with what the Scriptures teach.

According to Acts 8:14-24 in Samaria, when the believers received the Holy Spirit, Simon the sorcerer ‘saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money’ (Acts 8:18). This states he ‘saw’ something that accompanied the receipt of the Spirit. One can infer that it may have been tongues that he heard, but there is no definitive statement that says such in this context.

B. Is tongues the initial physical evidence taught in 1 Corinthians?

Image result for free clipart fire public domainFor me, the definitive moment in my understanding of the interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ which is confirmed by the NASB translation: ‘All do not speak with tongues, do they?’

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all. One may argue that in 1 Cor 12-14, the gifts were being discussed and that tongues required the accompanying gift of interpretation (see 1 Cor 14:5, 9-13). The issue still remains: ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ The Greek expects a ‘no’ answer (1 Cor 12:29-30).

Believers in the Christian assembly must strive to edify the other believers (1 Cor 14:3-5). If one speaks in tongues and there is no interpretation, people ‘will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’ (1 Cor 14:11).

C. Tongues not a reasonable requirement

Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect that all people should speak in tongues as the initial physical evidence of a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic church leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: ‘Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit’ (Mallone 1983:90).

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones was no novice in seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit or dealing with Pentecostal-charismatics. He wrote: ‘If the suggestion is made that all who have the baptism of the Spirit must speak in tongues and this is repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues. But the question then arises as to what they are doing…. But all I am concerned about at the moment is that we should never forget the power of suggestion’. In the same exposition, Prove All Things, he also wrote that ‘it is possible for a man to be baptized with the Holy Spirit without ever speaking in tongues, and, indeed, without having some of these other gifts’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:101, 146).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image004(photo of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, courtesy Wikipedia)

One of the greatest biblical expositors of the 20th century who had a profound knowledge of the Word was the late D Martyn Lloyd-Jones.[5] In 2016, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of his home-call (he died on 1 March 1981). Lloyd-Jones had a very different view to you of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. See, ‘Lloyd-Jones on Baptism with the Holy Spirit‘.

It was Lloyd-Jones who stated,

The evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts…. There are people today who say that the baptism with the Spirit is always accompanied by certain particular gifts. It seems to me that the answer of the Scripture is that that is not the case, that you may have a baptism with the Spirit, and a mighty baptism with the Spirit at that, with none of the gifts of tongues, miracles, or various other gifts. No one can dispute the baptism with the Spirit in the case of men like the brothers Wesley and Whitefield and many others, but none of these things happened in connection with them (Lloyd-Jones1985:53).

So am I to cast out Lloyd-Jones’ biblical teaching in favour of your Pentecostal view? Lloyd Jones provides considerable biblical evidence to support his view in Lloyd-Jones (1985).

The Pentecostal with whom I was discussing this theology online was resistant to Lloyd-Jones views, saying:

I don’t agree with Lloyd-Jones conclusions so you can do with him whatever you want. I gave you my perspective in the previous post. You see I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date. This is not a new issue within Pentecostalism. There are indeed two sides to the fence but in Canada and in the U.S. the two major Pentecostal denominations accept and believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism/infilling of the Holy Spirit. To me, that’s enough to know that it is a consensus opinion, and as it is what I see evidence in the scripture I can only concur.[6]

You wouldn’t expect me to let him get away with this misrepresentation, would you? He misrepresented the meaning of ‘consensus opinion’. So, here goes with a refutation, brief though it will be:

E. The Pentecostal consensus opinion

It is NOT a consensus opinion.[7] It is a Pentecostal opinion supported by the Pentecostal denominations such as, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Assemblies of God (A/G), Apostolic Faith Mission South Africa, Elim churches, etc.

There are major Christian denominations around the world that do not accept that view. These include Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites), etc. When you can use ‘consensus opinion’ for 2 denominations, you have redefined consensus. There is NO consensus opinion among the major denominations around the world to make tongues the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

F. Don’t use authors who are ‘way out of date’

Image result for tongues of fire public domainSo this fellow will ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. So do you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant, you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, whose ministry is ‘out of date’ from your perspective. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Luke 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any assembly/church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ – today and down through church history. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have gone before. Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this man’s view!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with this fellow’s ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘. Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’, short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. This really is pathetic that he wants to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His own ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.

Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). This poster excluded them and their influence!

I found his response to be incoherent and making many assumptions that need far more biblical justification than he gave.[8]

G. Conclusion

I found it nigh impossible to have a logical conversation with a Pentecostal, tongues-speaking individual online because of:

# His insistence on a Pentecostal interpretation. It seemed as though he had been indoctrinated into this view. Lloyd-Jones states that when a doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is ‘repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues’ and he likened this to ‘the power of suggestion’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:201).

# He refused to listen to the teaching of people from Christian history. He lives in the here and now and wants nothing to do with Christian authors who are ‘way out of date’. He has no concept of God’s gift of teachers to the church in the past and present.

# I could not have a rational conversation with this person who refused to deal with some of the issues I presented to him. He engaged in several red herring fallacies and then went into his own spin, ignoring my emphases. This is typical of a person who reverts to using a red herring.

# He made ‘consensus opinion’ of tongues as the physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit sound like he was referring to all churches but he confirmed he was only dealing with Pentecostal denominations. As I pointed out, it is not a consensus theology that applies across most denominations.

H. Works consulted

Lloyd-Jones, D M 1985. Prove All Things: The Sovereign Work of the Holy Spirit. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic Church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, StanJ#111, 23 January 2016. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-4 (Accessed 24 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#113.

[3] Ibid., StanJ#122.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#126.

[5] I included this information at ibid., OzSpen#114.

[6] Ibid., StanJ#123.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#127.

[8] See his response at ibid., StanJ#129 & #130.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.