Archive for December, 2012

Women in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

By Spencer D. Gear

I.    Introduction

J. Hudson Taylor “founded the China Inland Mission as a faith mission in 1865, and by 1890 it embraced 40 percent of the missionaries of China.” [1a] It is now called the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

 

J Hudson Taylor

Courtesy Wikipedia

“J. Hudson Taylor makes extraordinarily ample use of the services of unmarried ladies,” wrote a German missionary in 1898, adding that he thought the idea “unbecoming and repellent.”
He was not alone — many missionary societies severely criticized the idea of sending single females to the mission field. But by 1898, the tidal wave of evangelical missions was sweeping away strict gender roles. The Women’s Missionary Movement, begun in America in the early 1860s, had already given birth to 40 “female agencies” — mission societies that sponsored only single women. Barred from ordained ministry in their homeland, hundreds of women eagerly volunteered to serve abroad.

A large measure of this change can be attributed to the policy of Hudson Taylor. Women were vital to the China Inland Mission from its inception. In 1878, he took a much criticized step in permitting single female missionaries to work in teams in the interior of China. By 1882, less than 20 years after its founding, the CIM already listed 56 wives and 95 single women engaged in ministry.

Women labored sacrificially and with distinction in virtually every capacity of [Hudson] Taylor’s mission. . .  Most of the single women missionaries in the CIM worked with a female partner or on teams that included married couples. But some struck out independently. [2]

It is difficult to know how many women, married and single, are involved as missionaries around the world.  I emailed a number of agencies to try to nail down some information.  One international mission agency emailed this response: “I do not know the context from which you write. If it is Brethren, it would astonish home assemblies to know all that courageous single lady missionaries do, but then get shut out of communicating this to the male home constituency!

“Lady missionaries tend to stay longer than married couples, and also often make better church planters – they push forward nationals; men too often want to control things.  As a rule of thumb in most missions today the numbers are 1/3 married men, 1/3 married ladies and 1/3 singles, with only 10% of the singles as men.” [3]

What would happen if we withdrew all the married and single women in public ministry from the mission field?  I’m talking about withdrawing adult women who minister to adult males and adult females on the mission field.

On Sunday, 18th July 2004, I attended Birkdale Baptist Church (Redlands Shire, outer Brisbane) with my son, Paul, Angela and my two grandsons, Joseph & Daniel.  I heard one of the finest sermons I have heard in quite a while by Robyn Lanham, a female missionary with WEC International.  Such God-gifted ministry would be closed down if women were not allowed to preach and teach publicly in this church or any church.  Did God make an error when he gifted Robyn Lanham with the ministry gift of teaching?

I am convinced that the Bible teaches that God gifts men and women for public ministry to adult males and adult females.  I have to survey the entire Bible in about 40 minutes.  I’ve been asked to keep it simple.  That is difficult when having to deal with difficult Greek grammar.  However, I want you to hold me accountable.  If there is anything in what I preach that is not simple enough, please shout out, Spencer!  I will stop so that you may ask your question of clarification.  I mean this.  If you want to debate this with me, please do that at morning tea after the service.

Should women teach men?  We are getting to that, but let’s look at an example from a very prominent female preacher.

Anne Graham Lotz (Angel Ministries)

Billy Graham has called his daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, “the best preacher in the family,” [3a] yet she has experienced some shocking harassment by pastors in the evangelical community.

Anne Graham Lotz learned this lesson personally as she began her itinerant ministry 13 years ago. She was addressing a convention of 800 pastors. As she walked to the lectern, Anne was shocked to see that many of the pastors had turned their chairs around and put their backs to her. She managed to share her message but was shaken. She asked herself, “Was the inaudible voice I had heard from these men, in essence saying, ‘Anne, you don’t belong in the pulpit when men are present’ authentic or not?” Wanting to follow God’s plan for her life, Anne went home and opened her Bible. As Anne read, the Lord told her that He put the words in her mouth and that she was not responsible for the reaction of her audience. God confirmed the call in her life. “Anne, you are not accountable to your audience; you are accountable to Me.” [3b]

II.    Foundation principles in understanding the Bible

If we are to interpret the Scriptures there are three basic principles that we must not depart from:

A. First, God is the God of truth; he does not lie.

Isaiah 45:19 says, “I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD , speak the truth; I declare what is right”  (NIV).  God is the God of truth.
Hebrews 6:18, states: “It is impossible for God to lie.”

God is the God of truth.  He does not lie or speak with a forked tongue.  His word is utterly dependable.  He cannot agree with women in public ministry on the one hand, and deny women in public ministry as a universal principle in the Kingdom of God.  So, how do we deal with the passages that seem to say that women must be silent and not have a public ministry, yet there are other clear examples of women in active public ministry?

B. Second, when we interpret the Bible, we must understand it in context.

Like reading my local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail, it is important to understand verses as they relate to the verses around them, the entire book in which those verses are found, and in harmony with the entire Bible.  We must consider the context of any verses.

C. Third, we must understand the grammar of the original language, and the history & cultures of Bible times.

This takes work and most people don’t have the tools to do it, sadly.  All of us, especially preachers, must engage in historical-grammatical interpretation of the biblical text.

I Tim. 2:12 states: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (NIV).  Sounds clear on the surface, but we cannot interpret it without a knowledge of grammar (including the meaning of words, “authority” and “silent”) and a knowledge of what was going on in the Ephesian church where Timothy was.  We must understand the history and culture.

I Tim. 5:3 (ESV) reads: “Honor widows who are truly widows.”  Who are the true widows as opposed to the false widows?  We need a knowledge of grammar, history & culture.  I have noticed that the search for those who are “true widows” is not an issue in this church.  Why?  Cultural understanding.

I Cor. 11:5 reads (NIV): “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is just as though her head were shaved.”  I know that a hat on a woman’s head is an issue in Brethren assemblies, but they don’t seem to be an issue here in this church.  Why?  Culture.

I want to put a proposal to you that the teaching on the silence of women in ministry needs to be based on proper grammar and understanding of culture and history of the biblical texts. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

III.    What do the Scriptures say?


Here I will look at 4 controversial areas.

3d-red-star-small  What does the OT say?
3d-red-star-small  The New Covenant and women from the Day of Pentecost onwards.
3d-red-star-small Four controversial passages:

a. I Cor. 14:33-34: “Women must remain silent in the churches.   They are not allowed to speak” (v. 34).

b. I Tim. 2:9-15, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (v. 12).

c.  I Tim. 3:12, “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife”.

d.  Can women be apostles or elders? Rom. 16:7 states, ‘Greet Andronicus and Junias…. They are outstanding among the apostles”.

A. Women in ministry in the Old Testament

The Old Covenant had very different rules for men and women.  There were special privileges given to certain male Jews and not to male Gentiles.  Some had larger functions than others  did (e.g. the Levites).  There were women in ministry in the OT. The OT congregation had almost no function.

We have OT examples of women in active ministry:
6pointblue-small  Miriam, the prophetess (Ex. 15:20); 
6pointblue-small  Noadiah, the prophetess (Neh. 6:14);

6pointblue-small Queen Esther (Book of Esther);

6pointblue-small Deborah, a prophetess (Judges 4:4);

6pointblue-small Huldah, the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22);

6pointblue-small Isaiah’s wife was a prophetess (Isa. 8:3);

What does a prophetess do?

 

6pointblue-small Judges 4:4-6 says that Deborah, the prophetess was “judging Israel at that time. . . the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.”  To Barak she prophesied, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor…’”

6pointblue-small 2 Kings 22:15 says of Huldah, the prophetess, that “she said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord. . .”

The OT prophetess was a public person who heard the voice of God and delivered it publicly to God’s people, Israel, and to individuals.  She was a “thus says the Lord” person.

My conclusion: There were definitely women in active ministry to men in the Old Testament.

B.    The New Covenant and women

Luke 2:36 speaks of Anna the prophetess.

A limitation on female ministry seems to contradict the principle of men and women being equal before God and being able to minister.  See Paul’s epistles:

blue-arrow-small 1 Cor. 11:5, “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head”; so women had active public ministries.
blue-arrow-small  I Cor. 14:26, ” What then shall we say, brothers [and sisters]? [3c]  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”  The word, “adelphoi” means “brothers” but it also means “brothers and sisters.”  See I Cor. 11:2-16 where women are addressed (v. 5).  See also Phil. 4:1-3 where Paul addresses the believers as “brothers” (adelphoi) in v. 1, but then, in the next sentence, in vv. 2-3 Paul addresses two women.  So, the term “brother” in Paul’s writings refers to men and women.
blue-arrow-small  Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
blue-arrow-small  Eph. 5:21, ” Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

A critical dimension of understanding the Bible is that God, being the God of all knowledge, is not going to give teaching in Old and New Testaments that contradict each another.  He is the God of truth.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that God would tell us in advance what would happen with the coming of the New Covenant.  He prophesied through the prophet Joel what to expect with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant, from the Day of Pentecost onwards.  In Joel 2:28 it was prophesied: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

That change has come about because of the New Covenant?  The law of God is written on the human heart.  The Spirit indwells people who repent, believe and trust Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and non-slaves.  Special clergy classes of people are abandoned as the Spirit gifts all people for ministry, males and females.

Magnifying glass over Bible - top view

If women are to be silenced from public ministry in the church, including ministry among men, it will violate God’s New Covenant.  From the Day of Pentecost onwards, Joel 2:28-32 began to be fulfilled according to Acts 2:17, “And in the last days [beginning with Pentecost] . . . I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy”.   Here is not the place to get into what is meant by “prophecy,” except to say that you can’t engage in “prophecy” in the church gathering and be silent at the same time.  So, the New Covenant has done away with the silencing of women in public ministry among a mixed audience of males and females.

Some of Paul’s writings make the teaching ministry available to all believers, including women.  In Colossians 3:16, “teaching and admonishing” is the responsibility of “one another,” which must obviously include male and female.  If “teaching and admonishing” are restricted to males only, consistency of interpretation should require that compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bearing with, forgiveness and love (Col. 3:12-14, NIV) must be practised by males only.  Such a conclusion regarding Christian character is untenable.  See also 1 Cor. 14:26 where “each one” (male and female) in the church is encouraged to minister via a psalm,  teaching, revelation, tongue and interpretation when the church gathers.  If women are restricted from teaching, consistency of interpretation requires their silence with psalms, revelations, tongues and interpretations.  Paul affirmed the teaching ministry of women (Acts 18:26, Titus 2:3) and commended women in ministry (Rom. 16:1-15; 1 Cor. 11:5; Phil. 4:2-3.).
Does this include women in a teaching ministry of men? 

C.    The Controversial Passages

   1. I Cor. 14:33-34: “Women must remain silent in the churches.   They are not allowed to speak” (v. 34).

Remember the general principle of the New Covenant.  God has poured out his Spirit on ALL flesh, male and female.  God’s gifts of the Spirit are for BOTH men and women.
If women are excluded from a significant ministry in every church today (as they are in many evangelical churches), this will have ramifications at a deep level in the local, national and international church.  Should not this restriction have been included in the Pauline passages dealing with the churches’ teaching ministry (e.g..  Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4)?  Except for the one sentence in 1 Tim.  2:12, the gifts of the Spirit to the church have never been differentiated on the basis of sex in the entire New Testament.

How do we understand this silence of women issue in I Cor. 14?  I Cor. 11:5 says that women can pray and prophesy.  So, women allowed to speak in ch. 11 and told to be silent in ch. 14 does not make sense for the God of truth who does not lie.

Could something else be going on here?  What is happening that will help us in this church in Bundaberg in 2004?  Let’s examine this “something else” that helps our interpretation.

Take a look at the context of these verses from I Cor. 14:33ff.  We find this:

a. There was confusion in the Corinthian church as 14:33 states, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” God wanted peace instead of disorder in this church.

b. Could it be that the women had a big part in creating this confusion?  How?  By speaking and that was disrupting the church gathering.

c. We get this idea from 14:35 where the women are told  that “if they want to inquire about something” then they should “ask their own husbands at home.”  Were they seeking to learn in the church gathering and it was resulting in rowdy confusion?  Seems so.

d. If “it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church,” it cannot mean that women are forever stopped from public ministry in the church gathering as I Cor. 11:5 and 14:26 make clear.  It has to mean that it is shameful for a woman to engage in disruptive behaviour while in the church gathering and so contribute to the confusion in the church meeting.  This is a silencing of the women in “all the churches of the saints” (v. 33).  The inference is that it applied to all of the churches as women seem to have been the culprits in creating this confusion. [4]

e. This temporary silence of women in all the churches, would stop the confusion, quit the disruption, and “all things” would then “be done decently and in order” (v. 40, KJV).

While this explanation may not be acceptable to those who hold firmly to the traditionalist view of the silence of women in the church’s mixed gathering, I cannot see any other way out of it, without making God a liar or a perpetrator of contradictory messages.  Such would be blasphemy!  God can’t say on the one hand that it is OK for women to speak by praying and prophesying (11:5) and on the other hand women are to remain silent.  It surely was a local situation that was not meant to silence women for all time.  This also seems a more reasonable explanation in light of God’s views of the change, promoting women in ministry in the New Covenant, from the Day of Pentecost onwards. 

For a more extensive examination of this passage from I Corinthians, see: “Women in Ministry in I Corinthians: A brief inquiry.”

Let’s look at another challenging  passage, probably the most difficult passage.

2. I Tim. 2: 9-15, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (v. 12).

In I Tim. 1:3, Paul tells Timothy to “stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.”  Then right at the end of the book, I Tim. 6:20-21, Paul writes: ” Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge [note those words],  which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

This was a letter to Timothy about correcting false doctrine in the Ephesian church.  It was known as a Gnostic heresy (false teaching about false knowledge).

v. 11 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” (NIV).[5] In quietness a woman should learn and in full submission.

v. 12  “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (NIV).

“Authority” (v. 12) is an unusual word.  The normal Greek word for authority is exousia.  This verb is authentein, a rare word.  This is the only place it is found in the entire NT.  It means, to “have authority, domineer over someone.” [6]  It means being master over or domineering or something like that.  It’s a hard word to translate, but it is not the ordinary word for authority.  It does not have to do with authority in the church but a domineering that is going on in the Ephesian church.

A woman is permitted no teaching, no domineering over a man; she must be in quietness.  If your translation says that she must remain “silent” (as in the NIV), don’t believe it.  The word may mean silence, but there is another, clear, unambiguous word in Greek for silence that means to keep your mouth shut. [7]  It is NOT these words.  This word translated “silence” is exactly the same word in I Tim. 2:2:  We must live “quiet” lives.  I do not know why the NIV translated the very same root work, “quiet” (1 Tim. 2:2), “quietness” (1 Tim. 2:11) and “silent” (1 Tim. 2:12).  It is clear that “quiet” does not mean keep your mouth shut.  It means, not disturbing the peace, not disrupting things.  It’s the same word in 1 and 2 Thessalonians about the unruly, idle people who are sponging off others and not living in love. It does not mean women are to keep their mouths shut, but women are to stop disrupting things.  Get on with peacefulness.  Practise quietness, not domineering, not disrupting the community.

According to the remainder of Scripture, salvation is obtained by grace through faith.  But what does I Tim. 2:15 say? ” But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (NIV)  This verse links salvation to having babies.  How is this possible?  I have heard about Christian women who have died in child birth.

In trying to understand this passage, v. 15 was the toughest nut for me to crack, but when I began to understand this Gnostic heresy, it opened up for me.  For a more detailed explanation of this section of Scripture, see my paper, “Must Women Never Teach Men in the Church.”

Flower  What was the nature of this gnostic heresy?

According to I Tim. 6:20-21, those into false doctrine at Ephesus were involved in “godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis).”

Flower  What was the Purpose of 1 Timothy?

The epistle begins (1:3) and ends (6:20-21) with a concern about false teaching.  The issue of false teachers and their teaching, mentioned throughout the letter (chs. 1, 4, 5, 6), also appears in the wider context of the pastoral epistles (2 Tim. chs. 2-4 and Titus chs. 1 and 3).  The purpose, then, of 1 Timothy was to provide instructions to combat the Ephesian heresy which Timothy encountered.  Within this context, I propose that 1 Tim. 2:12, is not a universal command applied to every Christian church, but a specific direction given to Timothy to correct the Ephesian error.

Flower  What was the nature of this Ephesian false teaching?

a. Those embracing false doctrines at Ephesus were involved in “worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ (gnosis)” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).  This Gnostic heresy included …

b. Elaborate systems of intermediate beings who bridged the gap between God and man, complete with astounding genealogies and fantastic myths about these primordial beings.  Other Gnostics were considerably closer to Jewish traditions and gave exaggerated roles to Adam, Eve, Cain and Seth. [8] See 1 Tim. 1:4, 4:3, 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:18, 23, 3:6-8, 4:5, 14, Titus 3:9.

c. If you read Acts 19, you will find that the Ephesian church was pioneered in the midst of confrontations with occult and pagan practices (Acts 19:9, 13, 18-19, 27).  The apostle Paul warned of the “savage wolves” who would attack the believers (Acts 20:29-30).  He exhorted them not to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness, in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).  However, the Ephesian church reeled under the impact of various kinds of false teachings, influencing many to defect from the faith (cf. 2 Tim. 1:15, 4:14-15).


d. Some of the prime targets of the false teachers were women who listened to anybody, without coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:6-9).

However, there is every indication that women were involved in propagating this Gnostic heresy through their roles of mediatorship (suggested by 1 Tim. 2:5-9).  The city of Ephesus contained thousands of female prostitutes associated with the temples of Artemis (or Diana) and Aphrodite (Venus).  It was considered a commendable duty to be a temple prostitute.  There was a long tradition in ancient religions of female figures serving as mediators.  Women were supposed to possess a special affinity for the divine.  This “mystic-sexual principle” was evident in early Christian heresies. [9]

Some false teachers exalted and revered Eve as the mediator who brought divine enlightenment to human beings.  They said that secret gnosis was given to Eve by the serpent, making her the originator of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was even proposed that Adam received life through Eve’s instruction. [10]

A Gnostic sect, the Nicolaitans, promoted heretical views in Ephesus according to Revelation 2:6.  They revered a book which, they claimed, was the work of Noah’s wife, Noria.  Sexual immorality was exalted because of its sacred nature, they said. [11]

If the heresy of 1 Timothy involved Gnostic groups, women probably were among their teachers.  Many early Christian writers showed that “women performed all churchly roles within many Christian gnostic groups.”  It is reasonable, then, to conclude that women in Ephesus were teaching heresy. [12]

False teachers were prohibiting marriage (1 Tim. 4:3) and may have encouraged women to leave their homes and meet together (1 Tim. 5:13).

All of this concern for public reputation, model domestic life, appropriate décor, and maternal domestic roles of women, clearly implies that the opposition Paul and Timothy faced in Ephesus, constitutes an assault on marriage, and what were considered appropriate models and roles for women. [13]

Flower How was this to be corrected?

The apostle is adamant about what should be done with false teachers: “Instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3).  They “must be silenced” and reproved severely (Titus 1:11, 13).  Could it be that this is the meaning of 1 Tim. 2:12?  Since women were involved in practising and teaching errors which plagued the Ephesian church, they were forbidden from teaching, as a temporary measure, until they received adequate instruction (1 Tim. 2:11).  One view is that “evidently the ban on teaching by women had been issued as one of several emergency measures during an extremely critical period in the history of the Ephesian church.” [14]

At the core of Paul’s strategy was the elimination of all unqualified or deviant would-be teachers, both male and female, so that the church’s teaching ministry would be carried out exclusively by a small retinue of approved “faithful men” who would be able to take from Timothy the teaching he had himself received from Paul and transmit it to others (2 Tim. 2:2).  Thus, neither women nor all men could teach in Ephesus, but only a group of trained and carefully selected individuals. [15]

Mary Lee Cagle, Pioneer Preacher, Church of the Nazarene

Courtesy Encyclopedia of Alabama

 What about that difficult v. 15, “women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”?  I don’t have time to go into the details, but this verse is not an explanation of how a woman can earn eternal salvation, but a Christian response to Paul’s argument for the temporary silence of women teachers.  A female false teacher “will be restored only when individual women continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty, thereby demonstrating the maturity of faith demanded of any Christian teacher. [16]  For an in-depth treatment, see “Must Women Never Teach Men in the Church?

My conclusion is that 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is not a command to prevent all women from teaching in the church for all times.  Paul’s intention was not to place a permanent limitation on women in the ministry.  Rather, these verses were addressed to a problem situation in Ephesus where women were teaching heresy.

I agree with Mark Roberts conclusion: “So today, if women fail to continue in faith and love and holiness with modesty — like men who fail similarly — they should not teach.  Ones like these, whether female or male, need to learn in silence and to practice what they learn.  But if women have learned, if they have persevered in the Christian faith, if the Holy Spirit has gifted them for teaching, let us not quench the ministry of the Spirit through women. . .  We must encourage our sisters as they seek to serve Christ in his frighteningly patriarchal church.” [17]

3. I Tim. 3:12, “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife”

This is also the same statement for elders in 1 Tim. 3:2, that the elder must be “the husband of but one wife.”  On the surface, this verse looks as though all debate is ended. Deacons can only be men because the qualification is “the husband of but one wife.”  In context, if we look at v. 8, Paul is speaking of male deacons who “are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, . . . etc.”  That’s how it seems with a surface reading.

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

The word translated, “husband” is the Greek, aner.  Let’s check out the most authoritative Greek-English lexicon (a lexicon is a dictionary), Arndt & Gingrich, and discover the various meanings of aner. [18]  This is what we find:

Flower   Remember the story of the feeding of the 5,000 people by Jesus.  In Matthew 14:21 it reads, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men [aner], besides women [gune]and children.”  These are the words translated as “husband” and “wife” in I Tim. 3.  There is no way that we would translate Matt. 14:21 as “The number of those who ate was about five thousand [husbands], besides [wives] and children.” Aner in this context means “man in contrast to woman.” In addition to Matt. 14:21, you’ll find find “man in contrast to woman” used also in passages such as Mk. 6:44; Acts 4:4; I Cor. 12:3;
Flower  Also, aner speaks “of a woman having sexual intercourse with a man” referring to Joseph and Mary in Lk. 1:27, 34;

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

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

In the phrase, “the husband of but one wife,” the word for “wife” is the Greek, gune.  Again we go to the most authoritative Greek-English lexicon by Arndt & Gingrich [19] and this is what we find.  Gune can refer to the following:

blue-arrow-small  Remember Matt. 9:20?  It reads, “Just then a woman [gune] who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.   So, gune here refers to “any adult female.”  You’ll find a similar kind of use for gun? in Lk. 1:42; 1 Cor. 14:34ff.
blue-arrow-small  Yes, it can refer to “wife” as in Matt. 5:28; I Cor. 9:5; Col. 3:18ff.
In Luke 4:26, we read, ” Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.”  The “widow” is gune in the Greek.
blue-arrow-small  In Matt. 1:20, Mary is said to be Joseph’s bride or wife.
blue-arrow-small  In Rev. 12:1-17, gune speaks of “the woman in heaven.”

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

What then is the meaning of “the husband of one wife” in 1 Tim. 3:2, 12 as it refers to qualifications of deacons and elders?  One of the outstanding evangelical Greek scholars of today is Dr. Gordon Fee.  He writes that this “is one of the truly difficult phrases in the Pastoral Epistles.” [20] There are at least 4 options for what it means:

First, it would require that overseers & deacons should be married.  Support could be found “in the fact that the false teachers are forbidding marriage and that Paul urges marriage for the wayward widows” (see 5:14; cf. 2:15). [21] But, this would contradict what Paul says in I Cor. 7:25-38 that singleness was best for most effective ministry.  Besides, in that Roman culture, it was assumed that most people would be married.

There’s a second possible interpretation: to prohibit polygamy (having more than one wife at the same time).  This would emphasise the one wife aspect, “but polygamy was such a rare feature of pagan society.” [22] Even further, if you go to I Tim. 5:9, it states that “no widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband” (NIV).  So, warning against polygamy would have been irrelevant.

A third option: “It could be prohibiting second marriages.”  “It would fit the widows especially and all kinds of inscriptional evidence praises women (especially, although sometimes men) who were ‘married once’ and remained ‘faithful’ to that marriage after the partner died.” [23]  So, this view would mean that a widow or widower could not remarry and be a church leader, and divorce and remarriage would be prohibited for deacons and elders.  But, the scriptures give biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage in passages such as Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-9, and 1 Cor. 7:10-15.

The fourth possibility is that “it could be that it requires marital fidelity to his one wife.” [24] That’s how the New English Bible translates the phrase, as “faithful to his one wife.”  Again I quote prominent Greek scholar of today, Gordon Fee:

In this view the overseer is required to live an exemplary married life (marriage is assumed), faithful to his one wide in a culture in which marital infidelity was common, and at times assumed. . . The concern that the church’s leaders live exemplary married lives seems to fit the context best—given the apparently low view of marriage and family held by the false teachers (4:3; cf. 3:4-5). [25]

Therefore, the “husband of one wife” can also be translated as “the man of one woman.”  He was a one-woman man.  While the English Standard Version [25a] translates I Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6 as “the husband of one wife,” it gives this footnote: “Or a man of one woman.”  Today’s New International Version [25b] translates the phrase as “faithful to his wife.”  It is giving an example of the need for faithfulness in marriage relationships.  Commentator R. C. H. Lenski explains: “The emphasis is on one wife’s husband, and the sense is that he have nothing to do with any other woman.  he must be a man who cannot be taken hold of on the score of sexual promiscuity or laxity. . . To begin with, a man who is not strictly faithful to his one wife is debarred [from service as an overseer].” [25c]

It cannot restrict deacons to males only.  We know this from Rom. 16:1.  Let’s take a look into who Phoebe was.

Rom. 16:1 states, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea” (NIV).  We need to note that Phoebe, in the Greek is said to be a “diakonos.”  Paul used the Greek masculine, “diakonos,” in 1 Tim. 3:8 (cf. 3:11) to indicate male deacons.  Here in Rom. 16:1 we have clear biblical evidence that the feminine “diakonos” was used to refer to a female deaconess. [26]

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

A final controversial issue:

4. Can women be apostles or elders?  Rom. 16:7

This verse reads: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me” (that’s the ESV).  The NIV translates as: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me.  They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.”  These two different translations show some of the difficulties in translating this verse.
Literally, the Greek reads, word-for-word (English translation): “Greet Andronicus and Junia/Junias the kinsmen of me and fellow-captives of me who are notable among, in or by the apostles who also before me have been in Christ.”
The controversy surrounds:

(a)  Junia’s gender?  Male or female?

(b) The phrase, “among the apostles”, and

(c) If Junia is feminine and she is among the apostles, this makes her a female apostle.

Let’s look at this briefly.  Three quick points:

a. Firstly, let’s examine the gender of Junia.

The Greek form, jounian (from Junias), depending on the Greek accent given to it, could be either masculine or feminine.  So the person could be a man, Junianus, or a woman, Junia.  “Interpreters from the thirteenth to the middle of the twentieth century generally favored the masculine identification, but it appears that commentators before the thirteenth century were unanimous in favor of the feminine identification; and scholars have recently again inclined decisively to this same view.  And for probably good reason. . .  The Latin ‘Junia’ was a very common name.  Probably, then, ‘Junia’ was the wife of Andronicus (note the other husband and wife pairs in this list in Rom. 16: Prisca and Aquila [v. 3] and [probably], Philologus and Julia [v. 15].” [27]

b.    Second: Is Junia a female apostle?

The phrase “esteemed/notable by the apostles” is a possible Greek construction as in the ESV. [28] But it is more natural to translate as “esteemed/notable among the apostles,” as with the NIV.  Why is it more natural?  It’s a technical Greek expression that I explain in another paper on women in ministry that I will give to the deacons to consider. [29]  Andronicus and Junia were probably a husband and wife team of apostles. [30]

c.    Junia is therefore a female apostle

This means that Junia was a female apostle, not one of the Twelve, but one of the ministry gifts of Christ to the church (see Eph. 4:11).

IV.  Summary


1. In the OT there were women in public ministry: prophetesses.
2. In the NT,

a. From the Day of Pentecost, in this New Covenant, God is pouring out his Spirit on all flesh.  Spiritual gifts are for both men and women, including public ministry of preaching, teaching, other gifts of the Holy Spirit, BUT men or women who teach false doctrine must not be given the floor until they have corrected their teachings and  have returned to biblical  truth.
b. In the NT, the restrictions placed on gifts for women AND men are in local churches for correction of error or to stop confusion or bedlam in the church gathering, according to I Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2.

c. We haven’t had time to examine what Paul said in I Cor. 7:
ff. about his preference for singleness for the most effective ministry, “because of the present crisis” (I Cor. 7:26).


d. Objections to women in ministry should be on the same level as women wearing a head covering in I Cor. 11, food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8), slavery (I Tim. 6:1ff) and those who are truly widows (1 Tim. 5).  A local custom or heresy drove them.


e. What have we done to gifted women with teaching, preaching and other public ministries?  Too often we have sent them to the Sunday School to teach children (and many have done that in humility and have done it well).  But it is wrong to do that when we may have women who are gifted Bible teachers in this church and they are prevented from exercising those gifts because of the elevation of male-only ministry in the evangelical church.


f. Take these examples: The OT Tyndale Commentaries written by Joyce Baldwin, Dean of Women at Trinity College, Bristol.  She wrote the commentaries on Esther [31], I & 2 Samuel, Daniel [32], and Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers, courtesy Wikipedia

g. Dorothy Sayers (died 1957) was a British Christian who was a “novelist, playright, academic, and a Christian apologist. . .  Works like The Mind of the Maker (1941) reveal how skillful an apologist for orthodox Christian teaching she was. . .  Sayers was a prominent member of that midcentury group of English Christian writers of whom C. S. Lewis is the best known.” [33] Closing down women in public ministry among men closes down God’s gifts to the church.  I cannot support such censorship within the church.

h. I call on this church to set the women free to exercise the gifts that God has given them.  Since the Day of Pentecost, God has poured out his Spirit on all people.  The gifts of the Spirit are not discriminated on the basis of gender.  Please, Please – let the men AND women loose to exercise their God-given gifts.  Some of the worst preachers I have ever heard, who should never be let loose in any pulpit, have been men.


i. I close with I Cor. 12:4-7, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (NIV). [34]

Gold Chain Of Round Links Clip Art

 


In support of women in ministry see:
http://www.warc.ch/dp/walk/01.html
http://www.theologymatters.com/TMIssues/Janfeb00.pdf
http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/brooten.asp
http://www.ptmin.org/view.htm

For a contrary view on Junia see:
http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1163 

 

Endnotes

1a.  Cairns 1954/1981, p. 402.
2.  Tucker 1996 [22 April 2007].
3.  Patrick and Robyn Johnstone, Operation World, info@operationworld.org; [3rd  August 2004].
3a.  See: http://www.cbsnews.com/earlyshow/healthwatch/healthnews/20010913terror_spiritual.shtml [3rd August 2004].
3b.  See: http://www.cbn.com/700club/profiles/annegrahamlotz2.asp [3rd August 2004].
3c.  What does adelphoi (brothers) mean?  Is it referring to males only, or are women included?  Gordon Fee links his comments about adelphoi in 14:26 with his explanation of the vocative adelphoi in I Cor. 1:10:

“Although it means ‘brothers,’ it is clear from the evidence of this letter (11:2-16) and Phil. 4:1-3 that women were participants in the worship of the community and would have been included in the ‘brothers’ being addressed.  The latter passage is particularly telling since in v. 1 Paul uses the vocative adelphoi, and then directly addresses two women in the very next sentence.  It is therefore not pedantic, but culturally sound and biblically sensitive, for us to translate this vocative [in I Cor. 1:10] ‘brothers and sisters’” (Fee 1987, p. 52 n22).

   4.  Gordon Fee states,

“The most commonly held view is that which sees the problem as some form of disruptive speech.  Support is found in v. 35, that if the women wish to learn anything, they should ask their own husbands at home.  Various scenarios are proposed: that the setting was something like the Jewish synagogue, with women on one side and men on the other and the women shouting out disruptive questions about what was being said in a prophecy or tongue; or that they were asking questions of men other than their own husbands; or that they were simply ‘‘chattering’’ so loudly that it had a disruptive effect.
    “The biggest difficulty with this view is that it assumes a ‘church service’ of a more ‘orderly’ sort than the rest of this argument presupposes.  If the basic problem is with their ‘all speaking in tongues’ in some way, one may assume on the basis of 11:5 that this also included the women; furthermore, in such disarray how can mere ‘chatter’ have a disruptive effect?   The suggestion that the early house churches assumed a synagogue pattern is pure speculation; it seems remote at best” (Fee 1987, p. 703).

  5.  The following information on “authority” and “quiet” is based on Gordon Fee, cassette tape, “Pastoral Epistles: About Women”, preached at Waverly Christian Fellowship, Melbourne, 1997.
6.  Arndt, Gingrich & Bauer 1957, p. 120.
7.  That is, use the negative, m?, with lale? (I speak), thus meaning “I do not speak.”
8.  Kroeger 1980, p. 15.
9.  Ibid., pp. 15-16.
10.  Ibid., p. 16.
11.  Ibid.
12.  Roberts 1983, p. 19. n39
13.  Scholer (1985).]
14.  Bilezikian 1985, p. 261.
15.  Ibid., p. 182.
16.  Mark D. Roberts, “Women Shall Be Saved: A Closer Look at 1 Timothy 2:15,” The Reformed Journal, April 1983, p. 17.  Ibid.
18.  Arndt, Gingrich & Bauer, pp. 65-66.
19.  Ibid., p. 167.
20.  Fee 1988.
21.  Ibid., p. 80.
22.  Ibid.
23.  Ibid.
24.  Ibid.
25.  Ibid., pp. 80-81.
25a. 
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version [ESV].  Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a Division of Good News Publishers), 2001.
25b. 
Today’s New International Version: New Testament Preview Edition 2001, available from: http://www.tniv.info/pdf/TNIV_NewTestament.pdf [12th August 2004].
25c.  Lenski 1937, 1946, 1961, 2001, pp. 580-581.
26.  Arndt, Gingrich & Bauer 1957, pp. 183-184.
27.  Moo 1996, pp. 921-922.
28.  This is using the preposition, ev, in its instrumental sense.
29.  “With a plural object [apostles], ev often means ‘among’; and if Paul had wanted to say that Andronicus and Junia were esteemed ‘by’ the apostles, we would have expected him to use a simple dative [case] or [the preposition] hupo with the genitive [case].  The word epistemoi (‘splendid,’ ‘prominent,’ ‘outstanding’); only here in the NT in this sense [cf. also Matt. 27:16]) also favors this rendering” (Moo 1996, p. 923,
n39).
30.  Gordon Fee (1987) says that that Rom. 16:7 refers to “probably Andronicus and his wife [Junia]” (I Corinthians, n80, p. 729). Gordon Fee says that that Rom. 16:7 refers to “probably Andronicus and his wife [Junia]” (p. 729, n80).
31.  Baldwin 1984.
32.  Baldwin 1978.
33.  Pollard 1978, pp. 334-335.
34.  Today’s New International Version, available from: http://www.tniv.info/pdf/TNIV_NewTestament.pdf [5th August 2004]

References

William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich 1957, transl & adapt. of Walter Bauer (4th ed) 1952, “authenteo,”A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House.

Joyce G. Baldwin 1978 Daniel (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, gen. ed., D. J. Wiseman).  Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Joyce G. Baldwin 1984, Esther (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, gen. ed., D. J. Wiseman).  Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Gilbert Bilezikian 1985, Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Earle E. Cairns 1954, 1981, Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Noel S. Pollard, “Sayers, Dorothy Leigh,” in J. D. Douglas, gen. ed., Twentieth-Century Dictionary of Christian Biography.  Carlisle, United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 1995.

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

Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger 1980, “May Woman Teach?  Heresy in the Pastoral Epistles,” The Reformed Journal (October).

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

Douglas G. Moo 1996, The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament).  Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Noel S. Pollard 1995, “Sayers, Dorothy Leigh,” in J. D. Douglas, gen. ed., Twentieth-Century Dictionary of Christian Biography. Carlisle, United Kingdom: Paternoster Press.

Mark D. Roberts 1983, “Women Shall Be Saved: A Closer Look at 1 Timothy 2:15,” The Reformed Journal (April).
David M. Sholer 1985. “The Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry: 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” Dean of the Seminary, Professor of New Testament, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Chicago,   The address was delivered at Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia, on March 15, 1985, sponsored by Zadok Centre, Canberra, Australia, and available on cassette tape.

Ruth A. Tucker 1996, “Unbecoming Ladies: Women played a controversial but decisive new role in China missions,” Christian History (October 1), available from: http://ctlibrary.com/418 (Accessed 22 April 2007).

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (I Cor. 12:7, NIV).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.

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When an abortion goes horribly wrong

Friday, December 28th, 2012

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(image courtesy priestsforlife.org, Patrick’s face burned by saline)

  By Spencer D Gear

I was sitting in the waiting room of a hospital awaiting day surgery shortly after 6am on Thursday, 24 November 2011, when I heard the sad news on Channel 9 TV news, Australia, that an ”Aussie hospital mistakenly aborts wrong twin fetus‘. The essence of this news item was:

  • A Victorian (Australian) woman, 32-weeks pregnant, lost her twin babies in a botched abortion on Tuesday, 22 November 2011, at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital – the wrong baby was ‘terminated’. That means that he was killed.
  • Doctors had told the woman that one of the babies had a congenital heart defect requiring many operations if it lived. Obviously the woman had agreed to abort the unhealthy baby.
  • Instead of ‘terminating’ the unhealthy twin, the healthy twin was aborted when he was ‘accidentally injected’.
  • Then there was ‘an emergency Caesarian section to end the life of the sick child’.
  • The mother is traumatized.
  • The medical staff involved called it a ‘clinical accident’ and were said to be ‘inconsolable’.
  • A hospital spokeswoman apologised, said the hospital was deeply sorry for the loss suffered by patient and family.
  • A newspaper, the Herald Sun, said that the family was considering legal action.

See further details at, “Healthy foetus accidentally terminated” (ABC News Australia).

How did I respond?

Here I’ll give a brief personal reflection.

Firstly, I was in a hospital waiting room in the early hours of the morning about to undergo a much less serious procedure when I heard this message on the TV in the waiting room. Instead of thinking of the possibility of a botched procedure in my own case, my heart went out to this mother, father and family who were grieving the loss of twin boys who had already been named. I felt deeply for their loss in such tragic circumstances.

I’ve lost both of my parents through death, but I can’t imagine that this is anything like the severity of losing twin boys through an accidental medical procedure.

Secondly, my grand-daughter was born one month prematurely in July 2011 at 8-months gestation. She was the same age as these twins in their mother’s womb. I know what my grand-daughter looked like as a premature new-born child. These are the size of children that this mother in Melbourne lost. Under normal circumstances they may have been old enough and developed enough to live. I’m thinking of a mother losing two children who could have been the size of my grand-daughter at birth. But the mother did choose to abort one of the boys on doctors’ recommendations.

What are some of the ethical issues?

Is it ever right to abort, even if a child has abnormalities?

1. It should be very obvious with these twin babies that they were old enough to survive outside of the womb under normal circumstances. However, the bigger issue is that abortion always kills human life. See my article, “Abortion and life: A Christian perspective“, that demonstrates that all of life is precious, from conception to the grave. Ethically, I consider that there is only one circumstance in which abortion is an option and that is to save the life of the mother, an example being a tubal pregnancy.

2. What happened at the Melbourne hospital is an example of the medical profession playing God and it went horribly wrong. It is God’s right to give and take life. How do I know?

I am a committed evangelical Christian who takes the Bible seriously. God’s view on life is more important than mine. Hannah’s prayer was, “The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up” (1 Samuel 2:6 NLT). It is God’s responsibility to give life and to end life. Human beings want to take that responsibility from God. We must remember God’s perspective: “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT).

3. What about abortion of those with disabilities, as with the Melbourne case?

It is often claimed that abortion is a more “humane” alternative for the defective, since it will spare them the agony of “lives devoid of quality and meaning”.  I’ll let the handicapped speak for themselves, through a testimony that appeared in 1962 in the London Daily Telegraph in the midst of the thalidomide tragedy:

Sirs,
We were disabled from causes other than Thalidomide, the first of us having two useless arms and hands; the second, two useless legs; and the third, the use of neither arms nor legs.
We were fortunate . . . in having been allowed to live and we want to say with strong conviction how thankful we are that none took it upon themselves to destroy us as helpless cripples.

Here at the Delarue School of spastics [Trowbridge, Kent], one of the schools of the National Spastic Society, we have found worthwhile and happy lives and we face our future with confidence.  Despite our disability, life still has much to offer and we are more than anxious, if only metaphorically, to reach out toward the future.

This we hope will give comfort and hope to the parents of the Thalidomide babies, and at the same time serve to condemn those who would contemplate the destruction of even a limbless baby.  [Signed by Elane Duckett, Glynn Verdon, Caryl Hodges] (in Davis 1985, pp. 156-57).

4. Are foetuses in the womb human or are they medical tissue to be aborted? There are strong biblical arguments for the foetus being a fully human being (surely the abortion of a foetus at 32-weeks can be recognised as human):[1]

a. Unborn babies are called “children,” the same word used of infants and young children (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; Exodus 21:22), and sometimes even of adults (1 Kings 3:17).

b. The unborn are created by God (Psalm 139:13) just as God created Adam and Eve in his image (Genesis 1:27).

c. The life of the unborn is protected by the same punishment for injury or death (Ex. 21:22) as that of an adult (Gen. 9:6).

d. Christ was human (the God-man) from the point he was conceived in Mary’s womb (Matt. 1:20-21; Luke 1:26-27).

e. The image of God includes “male and female” (Gen. 1:27), but it is a scientific fact that maleness or femaleness (sex) is determined at the moment of conception.

f. Unborn children possess personal characteristics such as sin (Ps. 51:5) and joy that are distinctive of human beings.

g. Personal pronouns are used to describe unborn children (Jeremiah 1:5 LXX; Matt. 1:20-21) just as any other human being.

h. The unborn are said to be known intimately and personally by God as he would know any other person (Ps. 139:15-16; Jer. 1:5).

i. The unborn are even called by God before birth (Gen. 25:22-23; Judges. 13:2-7; Isaiah. 49:1, 5; Galatians 1:15).

j. Guilt from an abortion is experienced, therefore, because a person has broken the     law of God (sinned), “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13; Matt. 5:21; 19:18; Romans 13:9).  Forgiveness can be received through confession to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

“Taken as a whole, these Scripture texts leave no doubt that an unborn child is just as much a person in God’s image as a little child or an adult is.  They are created in God’s image from the very moment of conception, and their prenatal life is precious in God’s eyes and protected by his prohibition against murder” (Geisler 1989, p. 148).

5. There is another tragedy in the death of twins in the womb. There could be many couples without children in Australia who would be ready, willing an able to accept a child for adoption who has congenital heart disease and would need many operations throughout life. These people are denied this opportunity.

Adoption numbers are reducing in Australia. One report stated, “There has been a substantial decline in the number of adoptions in Australia since the early 1970s. In 1971–72 there were 9,798 adoptions, which declined to 1,052 in 1991–92, and 576 in 2005–06”. Here are figures for “Adoptions Australia: 2005-2006“.

What a tragedy that some Aussie family has not had the opportunity to adopt a child who had congenital heart disease.

For the benefits of adoption, see my wife, Desley Gear’s, testimony, “Adoption – How sweet the sound“.

Conclusion

I pray that what happened in Melbourne Royal Women’s Hospital will jolt the medical profession and Australians in general to rethink what they are doing in endorsing abortion and what the medical profession is doing in violating its own Hippocratic Oath in killing infants in the womb.

I grieve for the parents involved, but I have deep sorry for the thousands of babies who are killed in the womb in Australia every year. The Australian government states that “it is impossible to quantify accurately the total number of abortions which take place in Australia each year”. Life Network, in the article, “Abortion in Australia“, used government and other statistics to demonstrate that:

estimated 80,000 – 90,000 surgical abortions are performed in Australia each year. This equates to approximately 250 per day, or one abortion for every 2.8 live births. One in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

And this is supposed to be the Lucky Country!

Works consulted

Davis, J. J. 1985. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Geisler, N. L. 1989, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues. Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

Notes:


[1] This section in its entirety is based on Geisler (1989, p. 148).

 

Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.

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A biblical theist responds to an atheist

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

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(images courtesy Christ Art; Open Clip Art Library)

By Spencer D Gear

David, an atheist from the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc., wrote just prior to Christmas 2012:

Let us simplify the muddle in this topic, starting with a few basic facts.

All historians of any worth consider Julius Caesar actually existed.

Not all historians of note consider the New Testament Jesus existed.

A consensus of historian has concluded that the Jesus of the New Testament existed. Most of those have a religious bent and there are many arguments for and against this proposition. But let’s accept it on face value for the exercise.

The reason for the controversy on this part of history is that the evidence for the existence of the NT Jesus is very scant. If the NT Jesus existed, the highest probability is that he was ineffectual as being an ‘anybody’ when alive. If the purported miracles and wonders were real and had actually happened, contemporary historians would have recorded them. They did not. There is not one iota of credible ex-biblical evidence suggesting that the NT Jesus was divine.

He was not known in his time because he was just one of the run of the mill ‘messiahs’. Dime a dozen would be an adequate expression. There would be no way that he would have escaped the attention of the Roman authorities let alone the Jewish population. This is the biggest argument against the New Testament being a valid account of wonders and miracles.

Holy books cannot be trusted to be truthful or otherwise all holy books would have to be accepted.

Arguments for divinity or miraculous happenings based on the bible are as good as arguments base on the Koran or other holy books. They are not accepted by professional non-partisan historians.[1]

I responded:[2]

The reason for the controversy on this part of history is that the evidence for the existence of the NT Jesus is very scant. If the NT Jesus existed, the highest probability is that he was ineffectual as being an ‘anybody’ when alive. If the purported miracles and wonders were real and had actually happened, contemporary historians would have recorded them. They did not. There is not one iota of credible extra-biblical evidence suggesting that the NT Jesus was divine.[3]

These are your assertions that seem to be based on your presuppositions. You provided not one example to support your claim.

David wrote above: ‘He was not known in his time because he was just one of the run of the mill ‘messiahs’. Dime a dozen would be an adequate expression’.

This is no more than David’s assertion. Do you think that I’m going to be persuaded by that lack of evidence by you?

David: ‘Holy books cannot be trusted to be truthful or otherwise all holy books would have to be accepted’.

So says David.

David: ‘Arguments for divinity or miraculous happenings based on the bible are as good as arguments base on the Koran or other holy books. They are not accepted by professional non-partisan historians’.

Again, so says David.

You have as much chance of persuading me of your arguments as a Toyota salesman telling me of the benefits of a Ford car.

David wrote further:

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false. Why should I follow anything he says?[4]

I replied:[5]

First, since you ‘assume’, that is a presupposition and I would propose a hypothesis and test it for validation or falsification from the available historical evidence regarding Jesus.

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy[6] as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.

As to why you should follow Jesus, you will have to make that decision yourself, based on the truth of the New Testament Scriptures – which you state that you don’t believe as an atheist. But you are a long way from accepting that so I will not deal with that matter as I would be ‘casting pearls’ and I’m not about to do that.

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(image courtesy The Telegraph)

As for Antony Flew, you stated:

Firstly, most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye.[7]

That is a statement about the ignorance of the atheistic establishment, if what you state is true, because Antony Flew was a leading atheistic British philosopher who taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, Reading and York University, Toronto, Canada. The atheists’ ignorance of Antony Flew and his beliefs does not alter the fact of his prominence in the atheistic establishment before his conversion to deism. [See the YouTube video of ‘Antony Flew’s conversion to theism’]

David: ‘The divinity of Jesus is a myth (extraordinary story without evidence) which is believed by Christians’.
Not according to the historically reliable New Testament Gospels.

David, the atheist, wrote:

Again, this is a hypothetical and it means any god of any believer. Each can answer in their own manner. Strange but expected but none have. Your skirting around it is noticeable. Answer it about the god in which you believe.[8]

I’m not interested in pursuing your hypothetical concept of God as it is nothing more than trying to get conversation going with me. I’m skirting around NOTHING. The Trinitarian Lord God Almighty in whom I believe has stated this of your atheism:

blue-arrow-small ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good’ (Psalm 14:1 NIV).

The biblical worldview as described in the Scriptures fits like a hand in glove with the world around me – I see its beauty and its ugliness. I have recently retired after 34 years in family counselling, the last 17 years full-time. I see the beauty and ugliness in human beings (including myself) and God has told us that that is exactly the way it is:

blue-arrow-small ‘For you [the Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you [the Lord] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well’ (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV).

blue-arrow-small ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth’ (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV).

blue-arrow-small As for the ugliness in our world, we find the cause coming from the first two human beings who lived and had the choice to obey or disobey God. They chose to disobey and we reap the dire, sinful consequence. Read about it in Genesis 3.

blue-arrow-small But a new heaven and a new earth are coming (See Revelation 21).

blue-arrow-small Until then, all human beings have the opportunity of new life through Christ: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

Again David wrote:

I would not follow the words of Jesus if they did not tie up with the highest ethical standards unless he pointed out he would torture me for eternity if I didn’t. I would accept he is god and would no longer be an atheist, of course![9]

Humanistic answers like you have given here are a dud. I know. I tried them. Only a relationship with the God-man, Jesus Christ, changed my life. I would not trade that for all the $$$ in the world.

David again:

Repeat mode on: Even if Anthony Flew was very well known by all atheists, and he wasn’t, his words would not be accepted just because he is an atheist. You obviously have not looked at anything but religious nonsense about him.[10]

Your bigotry is showing up again. You want me to believe that your atheism has the sense for me to follow and that anybody’s relationship with Jesus Christ is ‘religious nonsense’. When will you quit using this ad hominem logical fallacy?[11] I should have stated that it was an example of an ad hominem (circumstantial) logical fallacy, which ‘is not an assault on the man’s character, but on some special circumstances surrounding him…. The attack is against other beliefs that the man holds’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:94).

David wrote: ‘This is funny. I say the divine Jesus is a myth only believed by Christians and you offer proof that he is not, from a Christian view’.[12]

That is NOT what I stated. This is what I said:

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.[13]

He is the God-man Jesus Christ. That’s the biblical evidence. He is not just God. He is God who became flesh and that makes Jesus the God-Man [see John 1:14; .

How do you think an atheist would reply?

This was David, the atheist’s reply, to what I just wrote:

Anthony Flew lost the plot and was manipulated by others to admit to there being a designer when he did not have up to date scientific information. He was suffering from senility at the time. Get your head out of religious websites and smell the roses.

You have failed to properly check this story out and you have failed to understand the unimportance of it. This is a dumb religious strawman. No one cares what Anthony Flew thought. Okay, I’m wrong there. Apparently some Christians think it is important. Let me rephrase that, most atheists are not interested in what Anthony Flew thought.

I really don’t even care if he was of sound mind and chose to believe in a designer force, a deity or a god or even the Christian God, the Islamic Allah or Bugs Bunny.

Calling my comments on this matter, bigotry is inaccurate. (to say the least)

I certainly don’t want discussion with you to go any further. What made you think I would?

A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed.

Can you answer it thanks. It will not harm you.[14]

[15]You are into logical fallacies big time as you have demonstrated here: Genetic fallacy[16], straw man fallacy[17], and red herring fallacy[18].

No, I will not answer any further as there cannot be a logical discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies like this towards my posts.

I also chose to respond[19] to David’s statement above: ‘A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed’.

Yes, they do, but you don’t want to listen to all of the reliable historical evidence that is available from Scripture. Yes, reliable historical evidence. This has been proved many times over, but you don’t want to hear about it.

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Dr. Paul Barnett

(image courtesy Anglican Church League)

Dr. Paul Barnett, a former history teacher at Macquarie University, Sydney, has written a number of publications that confirm the historical reliability of the Bible. He wrote as a historian and a Christian. His publications include:

1. Is the New Testament History (rev)? (Servant Publications 1987).
2. Jesus and the Logic of History (IVP Academic 2001);
3. Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity (IVP Academic 2002);
4. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Eerdmans 2005);
5. Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Eerdmans 2008).

He was so competent as a historian that Macquarie University hired him to teach history. He is an ‘Honorary Visiting Fellow in Ancient History (Macquarie University)’[20] and confirms the historical reliability of the New Testament.

But, ah! You, as an atheist, don’t want to hear that evidence. You write off ‘Biblical quotes’, but Dr Paul Barnett, the historian, can demonstrate the historical reliability of the New Testament. As an atheist, you have decided to exclude reliable historical records from your repertoire of historical evidence? Why? Your presuppositional bias against the Bible!

How do you think David, the atheist, would respond to this?

Looking back at some of your posts over time shows a preponderance mention of various fallacies, which you love to throw around like confetti for effect. Mostly they are not related to that which you are criticising and it is only done to show you are innocent of written wrongdoing yourself and the master describing the literary faults of others. If I had to guess, I would say that religious-method-lessons, (some religious websites promote this dishonesty and a start to investigate can be found here http://www.atheismsfallacies.com/ ) panic, desperation, run out of ideas and insecurity causes this.

And about the question, well, looks like your fear of the wrath of Yahweh is showing even though you didn’t state it just in case he found out.
Do you mean Paul William Barnett, the ex-Anglican Bishop of North Sydney? Yes, he would be unbiased as it gets. Not.

BTW, the Garden of Eden was not real, it is a bad metaphor at best and anyone using it in discussion as though it was real, should be careful of calling other people names concerning credibility. And I am not going into the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments…trust me.[21]

How does one respond to such a put down of the Christian faith and misinterpretation of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis? This was only a brief reply by me:

David: ‘Do you mean Paul William Barnett, the ex-Anglican Bishop of North Sydney? Yes, he would be unbiased as it gets. Not’.

He is such a competent historian that Macquarie University hired him. And you, an atheist, would be as unbiased as it gets. Right??

David: ‘BTW, the Garden of Eden was not real, it is a bad metaphor at best and anyone using it in discussion as though it was real, should be careful of calling other people names concerning credibility. And I am not going into the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments…trust me’.

This is David, the atheistic president of the Australian Atheist Foundation speaking. Please tell me your qualifications in biblical hermeneutics.
Here you are with your ad hominem logical fallacy again: ‘the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments’.

We cannot have a logical discussion when you resort to these kinds of tactics in your misotheism.[22]

I also replied:

David: ‘Looking back at some of your posts over time shows a preponderance mention of various fallacies, which you love to throw around like confetti for effect. Mostly they are not related to that which you are criticising and it is only done to show you are innocent of written wrongdoing yourself and the master describing the literary faults of others. If I had to guess, I would say that religious-method-lessons, (some religious websites promote this dishonesty and a start to investigate can be found here http://www.atheismsfallacies.com/) panic, desperation, run out of ideas and insecurity causes this’.

This is a false accusation. This is also another example of your use of a fallacy of relevance: An error that does not address the issues (Geisler & Brooks 1990:93-100).

When I have accused you of using this and other logical fallacies I have been accurate in my accusations. I happen to know what opponents of Christianity do and you are no exception with your use of logical fallacies.

‘If I had to guess’.

That’s exactly what you have done here.

David’s response: [23]

“He is such a competent historian that Macquarie University hired him. And you, an atheist, would be as unbiased as it gets. Right??”

Let’s get some facts straight as you are being quite disingenuous on a number of fronts. Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus. As far as I know he does not aspire to creationism.

The existence of Jesus of the New Testament is not under dispute in this thread as it is unimportant. What is of paramount significance is whether this character was divine. There is no credible ex-Biblical evidence for that As a Christian, he may hold the view that Jesus was divine on faith but that is all.

“Please tell me your qualifications in biblical hermeneutics”.

No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you. And if there was one interpretation then there would be one religion. This method of escaping the question of your creationist leanings is another example of manipulating the language.

I don’t have to be an expert as the human race is very lucky, it has the best truth finder there is, it is called science. It’s not perfect but nothing comes close to it. Science would be very pleased indeed if creationists could demonstrate another force in the universe but creationism/intelligent design has failed to produce any studies refuting evolution in accredited scientific journals where they may be investigated by peer review.

And please don’t come back with excuses that scientist have a conspiracy theory against God, are influenced by the Devil or are deluded and therefore won’t allow any studies to be published. That is nonsense.

A GAC speaker and evolutionist, Eugenie C. Scott, is the Executive Director of the National Centre for Science Education. Have a look at what she says here. Watch at 33:50 if not wanting to view the whole video. But, it is glaringly obvious that you definitely need to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lvsE_ZYcP8&list=PL7C0CA45F60FD44C7&index=14.

My response was:[24]

David: ‘Let’s get some facts straight as you are being quite disingenuous on a number of fronts. Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus. As far as I know he does not aspire to creationism’.

Here again you are using a fallacy of relevance. I was not addressing an aspect of creationism. You wanted to discredit Paul Barnett in a previous post because he was the former Anglican bishop, so what do you do now? You switch horses with a red herring fallacy. I gave you books on the demonstrated reliable history of the New Testament written by a competent historian, Dr. Paul Barnett. But you are not interested in pursuing what Dr. Barnett states about the New Testament as history. It is in the historically reliable New Testament that we have the biblical evidence for the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ. He is the God-man and not just God or just man.

David: ‘The existence of Jesus of the New Testament is not under dispute in this thread as it is unimportant. What is of paramount significance is whether this character was divine. There is no credible ex-Biblical evidence for that As a Christian, he may hold the view that Jesus was divine on faith but that is all’.

The existence of Jesus, the God-man, is under discussion in this thread, which is authenticated by the NT, and you have denigrated the historical veracity of the NT.

David: ‘No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you. And if there was one interpretation then there would be one religion. This method of escaping the question of your creationist leanings is another example of manipulating the language’.

You are demonstrating your ignorance. I happen to have a BA in biblical literature and NT Greek, which means that I have completed courses in hermeneutics. I’m currently working on a PhD in New Testament with a university. You have misrepresented me.

David was back again:[25]

The New Testament Jesus may be under discussion by you but it is irrelevant to me. I am not going to say this again. It is the divinity of Jesus that is pertinent as Jesus the man is only a man. Bugs Bunny is a rabbit and only a rabbit. He is not an actual creature.

It is a red herring that you play continually on the historical Jesus. Don’t do it.

If you have qualifications, (where did you achieved them) or if you are a young or old earth creationist and you wish to have proper discussion, those facts should be divulged. Please lay this information on the table now.

You can consider that Jesus was a God-man but there is no evidence for that. Stop manipulating the topic to make out there is. What is the ex-biblical evidence for Jesus being a God-Man? I mean universal evidence that would be accepted by all.

Oh, and by the way, the terribly hard question I posed does have a very simple answer.

Here is the question again.
David: ”I am very happy with my life and live it similarly to most reasonable people in the community.
Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false.
Why should I follow anything he says?”

Answer: Because you will go to hell if you don’t.\

The implications should be obvious.

I responded that there are a number of misguided and false statements in what you have written here.

1. David wrote: ‘The New Testament Jesus may be under discussion by you but it is irrelevant to me. I am not going to say this again. It is the divinity of Jesus that is pertinent as Jesus the man is only a man’. You might try to get away with diverting the divinity/deity of Jesus from the New Testament, but it is in that historically reliable NT that I find the teaching on the deity of Christ. Nice try, but it doesn’t work.

2. David: ‘If you have qualifications, (where did you achieved them) or if you are a young or old earth creationist and you wish to have proper discussion, those facts should be divulged. Please lay this information on the table now’. You don’t have the humility to acknowledge what you don’t know about me. But you give us another red herring fallacy.

3. In another post above, you wrote of New Testament historian and exegete, Dr. Paul Barnett: ‘Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus’. From where did you get that quote?

It is a blatantly false statement, as is demonstrated in Paul Barnett’s book, Messiah: Jesus, the evidence of history. You have proved again that you don’t know what you are talking about and have erected another straw man logical fallacy.

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This review of Barnett’s book on Messiah has the heading, ‘Messiah: Jesus, the evidence of history; Paul Barnett argues for the deity of Christ’.

Paul Barnett affirms the deity of Christ in his online article, ‘The Great Creeds’.

You are digging yourself further into the hole of ignorance with what you stated of Paul Barnett and the divinity/deity of Christ.

4. You also stated of me, ‘I think OzSpen would pull you up about arguments from authority. That is on his cute little fallacy list. Be interesting to see if he does or doesn’t’.[26] Here you are engaging in your ad hominem logical fallacy against me. Sure sounds like you don’t like being called for your use of logical fallacies when you use ‘his cute little fallacy list’ as an ad hominem against me.

I do not wish to continue this discussion further as it is impossible to engage in a logical discussion with you when you continue to use logical fallacies. Bye, and I pray that one day you’ll come to know the Jesus revealed in the historically reliable New Testament. However, perhaps you’ll have to wait for that until you breathe your last breath.

I wrote to David,

David: ‘Discussion with you is next to useless and you have mentioned Leviticus and the nature of your god. Here are some other parts of this god’s nature from Leviticus (KJV version). As you know, there are Christians promoting ‘dominionism’ as a way of governing countries. (Are you one of them?) This means following the Bible as is written. Scary stuff’.

AND

David: ‘I really don’t need or warrant your condescending remarks about me not being ready for your particular god. No, I’m not ready for any of the thousands of gods, but only because I have not surrendered my mental integrity to indoctrinated nonsense’.

These are further examples from you of red herring logical fallacies. You did not respond to the 5 points I made in two posts. You were off and running with your own agenda without addressing the content of these five points.

Discussion with you is impossible when you continuously resort to the use of logical fallacies. Nice try but no cigars![28]

David’s response was:

I don’t smoke, so no cigar for me thanks. A beer to go with the Saturnalian originated festivities of the season would be acceptable though. There are no reasons good enough that you have offered, for me to take the words in your bible seriously, so I don’t. It’s not that I won’t accept these scribbling’s from centuries ago by a superstitious race of people, it’s that they are meaningless to non-indoctrinated folk.

I do have a sadness for you but I am not responsible for you surrendering your mind to your childhood teachings, not being able to escape the instilled terror of torture forever and your incapability to be able to face death head on, but I do mind that you would just as easily lay this rubbish on the innocent minds of children who have no defence against the fears you would instil. If you wish to think in this contorted fashion although it is not your fault, so be it. Only you can undo the damage you have experienced.

Your god talk is no different than the god talk of other sects of Christianity or other religions.

It is ridiculous to ask me to respond to biblical ideas. That is just a ploy to escape answering the question I posed. Some would call this gutless on your behalf, but I rather think of it as something not of your doing.

It is obvious that the AFA [Atheist Foundation of Australia] must try harder so as not to let this kind of warped behaviour infect the thought process of new generations. But, on the other hand, the zealotry observed on this thread by religious people is a lesson enough to others that even in Australia, religion, like rust, never sleeps.

The good thing is that like rust, the material rusting eventually rots away to nothing. We are seeing this demonstrated with Christianity now. Even though the flaying around is palpable, within a couple of generations religion will be a negligible and powerless part of society.

I see there has been no answer to the biblical quotes I provided. Interesting.[29]

In another response to David, I stated:

David: ‘If you had read the sentence before the one you quoted you would not have made such a dick of yourself. Here it is: “even in Australia, religion, like rust, never sleeps”’.[30]

Please forgive me for my error. I got the context wrong.

From the Australian 2011 census, mainline denominations are declining, but the Roman Catholics grew slightly; Baptists and Pentecostals grew more quickly. See: http://blog.id.com.au/2012/australian-census-2011/2011-australian-census-christian-religions/.

This census provides these details:

  • ‘Though Christianity as a whole declined as a proportion of the population in 2011 (from 63.9% in 2006 to 61.1% in 2011), there were substantial differences between Christian groups’;
  • ‘Among the larger Christian denominations, Catholicism grew slightly, adding 310,000 people (6.1%), to remain the largest response in Australia. Many of the major protestant denominations fell, including Anglican (-38,340), Uniting Church (-69,633), Churches of Christ (-5,133) and Salvation Army (-4,044). These are somewhat affected ageing of the UK-born population, as well as the drift to no religion. The Anglican Church, long Australia’s 2nd largest religious grouping has fallen from 23.9% of the population in 1991 to 18.7% in 2011.
  • In contrast, the Charismatic churches such as Baptist (+35,757) and Pentecostal (+18,305, which includes Hillsong) continued to record increases (they were well up from 1991-2006 so this is a longer term trend)’.

From other details, we have this information:

  • For the evangelical Anglicans of the Sydney diocese, ‘based on Weekly Average Service Attendance data of all ages, Sydney Anglican congregations are growing at around 1.4% per annum’ (see: http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2011/08/why-arent-we-growing/). However, Tony Payne, who wrote this assessment of the research data, headed his article, ‘Why aren’t we growing?’ The remainder of the Anglicans declined. This is expected as theological liberalism (modernist or postmodernist) has invaded the ranks.
  • The Western Sydney Regional Organization of Councils indicated that for that region, the total number of Christians, from 2006 to 2011, had increased from 897,075 to 914,855. This is out of a total population of 1,507, 877 in 2011 (see: http://profile.id.com.au/wsroc/religion).

So, the research data here is not as ‘rusty’ as you want to paint it

Conclusions

In my discussion in On Line Opinion’s topic of ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia’, David the atheist, used some tactics that have to be challenged:

1. He is a whiz at the use of logical fallacies. I challenged him in his use of these fallacies: ad hominem (circumstantial), genetic, red herring, relevance, and straw man.

2. At times he shoots off at the mouth on subjects he does not know about. He does not know me and my qualifications or experience, but he wrote me off this way when I asked him what qualifications he had with biblical hermeneutics (interpretation): ‘No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you’. He is ignorant of my background but still wants to give his uninformed rave against me.

3. As I’ve indicated to him, the evidence for the existence of God is in both Scripture and the general revelation of the universe, including human beings. This evidence is so adequate, from God’s perspective, that God, through the Psalmist, can state: ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God”’.

4. His association of the decline of Christianity with ‘rust’ and religion will become ‘a negligible and powerless part of society’, is not matched by the evidence.

I highly recommend this Ravi Zacharias presentation on YouTube, ‘The Existence of God’.

References

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes


[1] On Line Opinion, ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc’, Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Friday, 21 December 2012 10:47:51 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=19 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[2] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 21 December 2012 6:21:56 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=21 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[3] This is what David wrote above.

[4] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:30:50 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=24 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[5] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 6:53:24 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[6] We need to understand logical fallacies so that we can learn to recognize bad logic in an argument. ‘Fallacy is a general term referring to anything that can possibly go wrong in a logical argument. It is important to know fallacies because even though they might be psychologically persuasive, they are not logically correct. They cause people to accept conclusions for inadequate reasons. By knowing fallacies, we can specify why an argument is faulty. But knowing fallacies is not only to a help in refuting error; it also protects us from criticism and gives us the ability to develop clearer expression of our thoughts’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:81).

[7] On Line Opinion, op cit., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 11:22:12 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[8] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 9:35:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=28 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] ‘ad hominem’ is Latin meaning, ‘Argument against the man’. It is an alias for ‘the fallacy of personal attack’. See: ‘Argumentum ad hominem’, available at: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[12] On Line Opinion Forum.

[13] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 6:53:24 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[14] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 1:31:31 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=29 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[15] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 23 December 2012 4:10:12 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=29 (Accessed 29 December 2012).

[16] A genetic logical fallacy is ‘a special type of reductive fallacy in which the single issue focused on is the source or origin of an idea. The argument demands, “Something (or someone) should be rejected because it (or he) comes from a bad source.” This is an attempt to belittle a position by pointing out its inauspicious beginnings’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:107). Examples of his logical fallacy by David are in these statements, ‘Get your head out of religious websites and smell the roses’; ‘This is a dumb religious strawman’; ‘A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed’.

[17]What is a straw man logical fallacy? ‘Another way to stack the deck against the opposition is to draw a false picture of the opposing argument. Then it is easy to say, “This should be rejected because this (exaggerated and distorted) picture of it is wrong.” The name of the fallacy comes from the idea that if you set up a straw man, he is easier to knock down than a real man. And that is exactly the way this fallacy works: set ‘em up and knock ‘em down. It is argument by caricature. It avoids dealing with the real issues by changing the opposition’s views’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:101). David’s examples of the use of this fallacy against me include: ‘I really don’t even care if he was of sound mind and chose to believe in a designer force, a deity or a god or even the Christian God, the Islamic Allah or Bugs Bunny’.

[18] A red herring is a ‘device for changing the subject [and] is less sneaky; it just does it! Pulling a red herring across the platform will divert attention. So will telling an irrelevant joke. A red herring argument says, “Accept this because this other subject is interesting (funny, witty, etc.).” Rather than proving the point, this fallacy simply evades the question by changing the subject, then proceeding as if the point had been made. Often the other topic bears a superficial resemblance to the one being discussed. Don’t let that fool you! If no proof is given, there is no reason to accept the argument’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:104). David the atheist changed the topic here with my raising the example of Antony Flew, an atheist who became a deist and his going off at a tangent about Antony Flew, with a statement like this: ‘most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye’. The fact is that Antony Flew moved from atheism to a belief in God known as deism. You can read about his change of belief in Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese 2007. There is no/a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. New York: HarperOne.

[19] On Line Opinion op cit., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 23 December 2012 4:49:25 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[20] See the Paul Barnett page, available at: http://paulbarnett.info/sample-page/ (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[21] On Line Opinion, Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 5:07:40 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[22] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 24 December 2012 7:38:13 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 24 December 2012). ‘Misotheism’ refers to hating God. Bernard Schweizer has written the book, Hating God: The untold story of misotheism (2011. Oxford: Oxford University Press).

[23] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 9:40:58 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[24] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 24 December 2012 10:15:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[25] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 10:45:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[26] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 12:02:18 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[27] Ibid., Posted by worldwatcher, Monday, 24 December 2012 1:40:00 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=32 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[28] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 9:24:24 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=38 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

[29] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 10:04:17 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=38 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

[30] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 9:01:13 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=39 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 June 2016.

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Evidence for the existence of God

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

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Courtesy ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia wrote:[1]

It is most unlikely that anyone will ever prove there is no god any more than the existence of fairies will be disproven. Humans will be able to live in their minds without fear of being ever exposed by such proof. But, what is happening is that many people are working out the inconsistencies with the god concept and its many religions and that the idea is adding to the suffering of humanity.

I know that many just disregard the god thing but don’t call themselves atheists. Ostensibly though, they are atheists. It’s from the Greek, ‘without a deity’. I have the feeling that calling oneself an agnostic, and I’m not saying you do that, and this wouldn’t be in all cases, but the niggling fear of a revengeful god lingers in the back ground so why take the risk.

One thing that leads folk to eventually call themselves atheist is that they tend to consider the rational universe as proof positive that a god who engineered it would not be so petty as to torture people forever because it didn’t supply enough rational evidence to prove its existence. Atheists do not consider ‘faith’ to be a virtue. Faith is a not knowing position and that can and is manipulated by the many religions to the detriment of billions of people.

This creates false dichotomies like god vs fairies; humans living in their minds vs fear of being exposed by proof; and rational universe vs proof positive of torturing people forever.

There are strong pointers to the existence of God and philosopher/theologian William Lane Craig has demonstrated these in this interview and then a university presentation:

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Reasonable Faith

What was David’s response to this challenge?[2]

This was my brief reply:[3]

David wrote:

I strongly advise you to look at information not emanating from religious sources. Some religious material is good and accurate but much of it is false and misleading intentionally or unintentionally but mainly because of bias. The problem is working that out.[4]

My reply was: Here you go with another genetic fallacy. It is a fallacious argument and we cannot have a rational conversation when you do this.

I have looked at evidence from non-Christian (including atheistic) and Christian sources over a period of 50 years. I have concluded that you, as an example of an atheist, will not look objectively at ALL of the evidence, including the New Testament. When you write off the historical reliability of the NT Gospels, you are demonstrating your bias.

I know what a fallacious Genetic Fallacy Argument is and you use it.

David wrote again:

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false. Why should I follow anything he says?[5]

My response as OzSpen was:

First, since you ‘assume’, that is a presupposition and I would propose a hypothesis and test it for validation or falsification from the available historical evidence regarding Jesus.

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.

As to why you should follow Jesus, you will have to make that decision yourself, based on the truth of the New Testament Scriptures – which you state that you don’t believe as an atheist. But you are a long way from accepting that so I will not deal with that matter as I would be ‘casting pearls’ and I’m not about to do that.

As for Antony Flew, you stated: ‘Firstly, most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye’.

That is a statement about the ignorance of the atheistic establishment, if what you state is true, because Antony Flew was a leading atheistic British philosopher who taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, Reading and York University, Toronto, Canada. The atheists’ ignorance of Antony Flew and his beliefs does not alter the fact of his prominence in the atheistic establishment before his conversion to deism.

David: “The divinity of Jesus is a myth (extraordinary story without evidence) which is believed by Christians”.

Not according to the historically reliable New Testament Gospels.

Antony Flew’s death

For a description of Antony Flew’s movement from a leading atheistic philosopher to a believer in God (a Deist), see: Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese 2007. There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Antony Flew died, at the age of 87, on 8 April 2010. See:

A response to the assault on Jesus’ historicity

I highly recommend a read of John Dickson’s article for ABC Religion and Ethics, Opinion: A fight they can’t win: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus(24 December 2012).

Notes


[1] OzSpen to David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, On Line Opinion, ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia’, Saturday, 22 December 2012 8:51:48 AM, p. 23, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=23 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[2] Posted by David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 8:53:21 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=23 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:08:14 AM.

[4] See endnote #2.

[5] Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:30:50 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=24 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Anti-fluoride advocates provide ‘all sorts of wild, weird and whacky information’

Monday, December 17th, 2012

 

Chelsea Green Publishing

By Spencer D Gear

Asking the Health Department or a dental or medical association member not to promote fluoride is like asking a Toyota service mechanic not to recommend Toyota vehicles (I drive a Toyota Camry).

Negative comments about opponents of fluoride

The Queensland Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, has had some derogatory things to say against those who oppose the use of fluoride in a town’s drinking water.

I oppose fluoride in the drinking water because of scientific reasons and not because of Mr Lawrence Springborg MP’s claims, using a genetic logical fallacy, of “way out-there people” who get “all sorts of wild, weird and wacky information” (‘Queensland health minister Lawrence Springborg slams “way-out” flouride claims’, Courier-Mail/Quest, 14 December 2012).

Part of Lawrence Springborg MP’s claim in this newspaper article (online) was:

“On the internet you can get all sorts of wild, weird and wacky information because anyone can be an author and publish things as fact on anything.”

The comments follow Moreton Bay Regional Council’s decision to ask for a report on the issue after Cr James Houghton said fluoride was “poison’’.

Morayfield state Liberal National MP Darren Grimwade said: “I don’t know the science. I can’t really answer that one. I’m not paid to be a scientist.”

He said if he had to make a decision he would consult constituents and vote according to their views.  “I’m paid to represent them.”

Pumicestone state Liberal National MP Lisa France said: “It’s been used in many other states for many, many years and doesn’t seem to have been a problem.”

Kallangur MP Trevor Ruthenberg said: “In terms of fluoride, I have no firm view. If Queensland Health says it is safe, then I trust their judgment.” Mr Ruthenberg said he had calls from his electorate supporting and opposing fluoride.

Pine Rivers MP Seath Holswich said: “I don’t know the science but I trust the professionals. But I understand that not every community feels that way, so I was pleased to see councils given the option (not to add fluoride to water supplies).”

Mr Springborg urged people to look for credible sources of information, such as Queensland Health.

I have written to each of these MPs to expose the weaknesses in their claims.

The science of fluoride

It’s time Mr Springborg read the science for the late 20th and early 21st century which tells me what fluoride can cause:

blue-arrow-small A Harvard University (hardly a dummy uni) research study, led by Dr. Elise Bassin, a dentist. In 2001, the PhD dissertation in 2001 for the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, found that “for males less than twenty years old, fluoride level in drinking water [about 1 part per million] during growth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma’ “boys who drank water with levels of fluoride considered safe by federal USA guidelines are five times more likely to have a rare bone cancer (osteosarcoma) than boys who drink unfluoridated water. This research was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Cancer Causes and Control. Bassin found that ‘young boys had a five-to-seven fold increased risk of getting osteosarcoma by the age of 20 if they drank fluoridated water during their mid-childhood growth spurt (age 6 to 8)’. See Bassin EB et al. (2006). Age-specific Fluoride Exposure in Drinking Water and Osteosarcoma (United States). Cancer Causes and Control. 17 (4): 421–28.

blue-arrow-small Research of bone cancer figures has shown a 40% elevated rate in the Republic of Ireland (fluoridated) compared to Northern Ireland (unfluoridated).

blue-arrow-small A study at the University of Toronto confirmed Dr. Limeback’s worst fears. “Residents of cities that fluoridate have double the fluoride in their hip bones vis-a-vis the balance of the population. Worse, we discovered that fluoride is actually altering the basic architecture of human bones.”

blue-arrow-small Dr Hardy Limeback, PhD, DDS is Head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, former consultant to the Canadian Dental Association, has stated, “Children under three should never use fluoridated toothpaste. Or drink fluoridated water. And baby formula must never be made up using Toronto tap water. Never. In fluoridated areas, people should never use fluoride supplements. We tried to get them banned for children but (the dentists) wouldn’t even look at the evidence we presented.”

blue-arrow-small 97% of the western European population drinks non-fluoridated water. This includes: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and approximately 90% of both the United Kingdom and Spain”. Why have these countries ceased to force fluoride on their people? In Belgium, it was stated, ““This water treatment has never been of use in Belgium and will never be (we hope so) into the future. The main reason for that is the fundamental position of the drinking water sector that it is not its task to deliver medicinal treatment to people. This is the sole responsibility of health services”. France’s position was, “Fluoride chemicals are not included in the list [of ‘chemicals for drinking water treatment’]. This is due to ethical as well as medical considerations”. Of Germany, it was declared: “The argumentation of the Federal Ministry of Health against a general permission of fluoridation of drinking water is the problematic nature of compuls[ory] medication”.

For more information on the science of why fluoride should not be added to our drinking water, see, Dr Paul Connett’s article, ‘50 reasons to oppose fluoridation’. Paul Connett PhD is a retired professor of chemistry (St. Lawrence University, NY, USA) who has been exposing the dangers of fluoride (based on the science) for some time.

Dr. Connett states that ‘Fluoridation is a bad medical practice. His first 6 points of the 50 points are:

3d-red-star-small 1) Fluoride is the only chemical added to water for the purpose of medical treatment.

3d-red-star-small 2) Fluoridation is unethical.

3d-red-star-small 3) The dose cannot be controlled.

3d-red-star-small 4) The fluoride goes to everyone regardless of age, health or vulnerability.

3d-red-star-small 5) People now receive fluoride from many other sources besides water.

3d-red-star-small 6) Fluoride is not an essential nutrient.

Dr Paul Connett

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Can Jesus’ transfiguration be designated as history?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

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By Spencer D Gear

This was the question posed on a message board on the Internet:

What are some of the main arguments or reasons that a large majority of biblical scholars today question the historicity of the transfiguration as a historical event. To many if not most biblical scholars today the story is interpreted as allegorical or symbolic. Why do so many place it in the genre of apocalyptic or epiphany literary form and not an actual historical event like the patristic up through the reformation Christians did?[1]

Excise supernaturalism

What is of note is that this poster provided not one example of what he (yes, he’s a male) was talking about. So I responded:

Theological liberalism, whether modernist or postmodernist, challenges understandings of the Bible that include the supernatural. Let’s face it. Jesus’ transfiguration was a supernatural event and that doesn’t quite fit into the Enlightenment worldview of the West.

Take supernaturalism out of Christianity and what do you have? Naturalism or a modernistic/postmodernistic deconstruction of the supernatural.

What this means is that instead of taking the Scriptures at face value, postmodernists impose their worldview on the Scriptures by doing away with the supernatural of the Transfiguration or redefining it.

If that were to happen in any other form of literature, where the content of what is written is rejected, how would it be described?
Why don’t you give a few examples (with bibliographical references) of those who reject the Transfiguration and why they reject it?[2]

Note that I asked for him to give a few examples of scholars who questioned the historicity of Jesus’ Transfiguration. What did he do? He provided not one example, but said:

I agree with you that there are those biblical scholars that could be labeled liberal that are overly skeptical regarding the historicity of many miracle stories in the bible. However there are many centrist scholars who accept miracles including the incarnation, virgin birth etc that question the transfiguration. My question regardless of their background (liberal, centrist, conservative) is what are the reasons or arguments put forth??[3]

This was my reply:

It is disappointing that you have started this thread with not one example of scholars who doubt the Transfiguration and the reasons for their doubting. In my post, I asked you:

Why don’t you give a few examples (with bibliographical references) of those who reject the Transfiguration and why they reject it?

But in your response you continue to give no examples of scholars who reject or question the Transfiguration. Why have you not provided some examples of what you are addressing? Otherwise, it’s your opinion.

I will give three examples from scholars:[4]

1. Luke Timothy Johnson wrote: ‘The Gospel narratives contain stories that flatly confound historical analysis. The synoptic transfiguration account, for example, is about a vision experienced by three of Jesus’ followers in his presence: In Luke, it is explicitly designated as an experience that took place during pray. Now, even if this happened, even if it were “real” within the experience of those three persons, how can it be described as “historical”? Visions are not subject to confirmation or disconfirmation, for their only possible evidence must, by the nature of the case, be subjective testimony about a private experience’ (Johnson 1996:110).

2. John Dominic Crossan: ‘So the transcendentally magnificent apparition from the Cross Gospel [in the Gospel of Peter] was retrojected by Mark into the earlier life of Jesus and historicized as what we call the Transfiguration [Mark 9:2-9]…. If one is willing to accept the basic idea that Mark transfigured his source as he relocated it. First, those “two men” whose accompaniment honors Jesus in Peter 10:39 become identified as “Elijah with Moses” in Mark’ (Crossan 1995:201-202).

3. ‘The three disciples who witnessed the transfiguration had a vision of the Son of Man vindicated and glorified; they saw in graphic anticipation the fulfillment of his words about the powerful advent of the kingdom of God. Matthew, strikingly, in his report of the words speaks of the Son of Man instead of the kingdom of God: “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mt 16:28 RSV). This is an interpretation of the words but a true interpretation. And Matthew follows Mark in saying that when the disciples had seen the vision, Jesus forbade them to speak about it to anyone “until the Son of man should have risen from the dead” (Mk 9:9 RSV). His rising from the dead would inaugurate the reality which they had seen in the vision on the mount of transfiguration, and would at the same time herald the coming of the kingdom “with power”‘ (Kaiser et al 1996:429-430).

The nature of the Transfiguration, the small number of witnesses, and the reliability of the Gospel tradition, could be issues in interpretation for some people. However, presuppositional bias against the supernatural could be a factor in understanding this report. What’s your view on the problem?

How many witnesses are needed to convict a person?

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Courtroom, Berne, Switzerland

In the Old Testament, we have this evidence:

The Malmesbury Bible

Wikipedia

  • ‘One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’ (Deuteronomy 19:15 NIV). This is cited in Matthew 18:16 and 2 Corinthians 13:1.
  • Numbers 35:30 states, ‘Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness’(NIV).

What about witnesses of Jesus’ Transfiguration?

How many witnesses were there on the mountain to see Jesus’ transfiguration? This is what the historical evidence in the Gospels states:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist (Matthew 17:1-13 NIV).

The first eight verses of this passage are repeated in Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36. In each of these three historical records of Jesus’ Transfiguration there were three witnesses – Peter, James and John – as was required of the Jewish law. So there were three witnesses on the mountain of Transfiguration and there are three historical records in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Although there are slight differences in the three records, we have adequate historical witnesses of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

You might say, ‘Wait a minute! These three witnesses on the mountain were friends of Jesus’. It is not good enough having friends as witnesses. Please tell that to the police who are investigating a hit-and-run accident where a person may have been injured or killed. Friends who saw the accident are valuable witnesses. We have these recent examples near where I live:

Friends and relatives can be used as witnesses to an accident in contemporary Australia. Why should a minimum of 2-3 witnesses be excluded from historical accounts of Jesus’ Transfiguration?

It was noted Tudor historian, G. R. Elton, who stated that ‘history deals with events, not states; it investigates things that happen and not things that are’. His perspective was that history’s concern is for ‘the transformation of things (people, institutions, ideas and so on) from one state into another’. His view on history was that it was about ‘those human sayings, thoughts, deeds and sufferings which occurred in the past and have left a present deposit; and it deals with them from the point of view of happening, change and the particular’ (Elton 1967:10-11, 12).

So history deals with phenomena – any observable occurrences – and attempts to make an interpretation if possible. Barnett’s statement about the historicity of Christianity was:

The phenomenon of the coming into existence of early Christianity is well attested. Its sudden emergence is as historically secure as any event in Palestine in that century. So the historian asks: what plausible explanation or explanations can be found for this event (Barnett 1997:19).

There is more than one witness to Christ’s Transfiguration and it is recorded in more than one Gospel for historicity to be affirmed. It’s historicity is as secure as the historicity of the Gospels. See Blomberg (1987) for a defense of the historicity of the Gospel records.

References

Blomberg, C 1987. The historical reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England/Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.

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

Elton, G R 1967. The practice of history. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Johnson, L T 1996. The real Jesus: The misguided quest for the historical Jesus and the truth of the traditional Gospels. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Kaiser Jr., W C; Davids, P H; Bruce, F F; and Brauch, M T 1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Bibliology & Hermeneutics, ‘Transfiguration historicity???’, pathfinder77#1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7698934/#post61893676 (Accessed 4 December 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#3.

[3] Ibid., pathfinder777#4.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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