Archive for February, 2014

Are camels recorded in Genesis ridiculous?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

(image courtesy, (Google, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to hear or read the secular media hacking into biblical Christianity.

Near the beginning of 2014, some of you may have been exposed to what seems like a tirade of derogatory comments in the mass media about camels recorded in the Book of Genesis; Genesis can’t be trusted, and the Bible is unreliable. This is a sample of what I’ve read:

  1. Camels had no business in Genesis‘, New York Times, 10 February 2014.
  2. Camel bones suggest error in Bible, archaeologists say‘, Fox News, 6 February 2014.
  3. Earliest Camel Bones Contradict Bible, Archaeologists Say‘, (Nature World News, 5 February 2014).
  4. Camel bones discovery suggests biblical inaccuracies‘ (Statesman, 6 February 2014).
  5. Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible‘ (The Times of Israel, 5 February 2014).
  6. ‘Will camel discovery break the Bible’s back?’(CNN, 11 February 2014)

From these articles, there are statements such as these:

clip_image002 ‘There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place’.

clip_image002[1] ‘One should be careful not to rush to the conclusion that the new archaeological findings automatically deny any historical value from the biblical stories’.

clip_image002[2] ‘Archaeologists from Israel’s top university have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the arrival of domestic camels in the Middle East — and they say the science directly contradicts the Bible’s version of events’.

clip_image002[3] ‘In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes’.

clip_image002[4] ‘Scientists say a new discovery involving camel bones is calling the accuracy of the Bible into question’.

clip_image002[5] ‘The more precise dating puts domesticated camels in Israel “centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David,” according to the researchers’.

clip_image002[6] ‘A scientific report establishing that camels, the basic mode of transportation for the biblical patriarchs, weren’t domesticated in Israel until hundreds of years after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are said to have wandered the earth’.

We could go on and on with examples trying to disprove the accuracy of the Bible. But, what’s the truth? Should we chuck out the Book of Genesis as an unreliable piece of literature that should be treated as containing myths? Or should we treat it as Jesus did? You’ll find some of Jesus’ evidence in the articles,

clip_image004Jesus, the New Testament and Genesis‘;

clip_image004[1]The use of Genesis in the New Testament‘; and

clip_image004[2]Genesis: Real, reliable, historical‘.

I recommend equipping yourself for a rebuttal of these mass media anti-Genesis views by becoming acquainted with the issues in these articles:

But there were camels in ancient Egypt

clip_image005Lita Cosner’s article, ‘Camels and the Bible‘ (Creation Ministries International, 11 February 2014) provides evidence to contradict the Israeli archaeologists. I’m grateful for those who know their Bible and the scientific literature and have material available to demonstrate the futility of the anti-Genesis charges.

Cosner wrote,

The first mention of camels in Scripture is in Genesis 12, after Pharaoh took Sarai into his palace. “He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels” (12:16). Job, widely regarded as living around the same time as Abram, had 3,000 camels at the beginning of the book, and twice as many at the end. He lived in Uz, which was in Arabia.

So the biblical evidence is that there were camels in Arabia around 2000 BC, and that Pharaoh had some too. This matches what we see from the archaeological record. A paper titled ‘The Camel in Ancient Egypt’ stated, “The proposed time of camel entry into Egypt after its domestication in Arabia was found between 2500 and 1400 BC”.[1] So not only did domesticated camels exist, they were in Egypt when Abraham was there. So this fits the biblical account perfectly.

(image courtesy Google, public domain)

clip_image005[1] See another refutation of the anti-camel stance in, ‘Camels in Genesis Prove Old Testament is ‘Very Accurate,’ Professor Claims as He Refutes Archaeologists’ Findings‘ (Christian Post, 16 February 2014). It stated:

“What these archaeologists are doing… is when they read about somebody like Abraham having camels, they’re saying, “Aha! The Bible is saying that camels were widespread in Palestine during this period of time, and there’s no archaeological evidence for that,” Dr. Andrew Steinmann of Concordia University-Chicago tells Issues, Etc., a Christian radio station….

Steinmann agrees there’s no archaeological evidence for widespread use of camels in Palestine at this time, but adds that that’s not what the Bible is saying.

Amy Hall, a staff with the Christian group Stand to Reason, has transcribed the professor’s interview on her blog.

“What it is showing is that somebody who originally came from Mesopotamia, like Abraham, he did have some camels,” she quotes the professor as saying. “And then the other mentions of camels in Genesis and in the early part of the Bible have to do with either people related to Abraham that were living in the Arabian Desert (for instance, the Ishmaelites…have camels when they come and buy Joseph and take him down to Egypt), or other peoples like that, associated with the Arabian Desert-the Amalekites…who live on the edge of the Arabian Desert are mentioned a number of times having camels. But there’s no mention of Israelites owning camels….”

Here is some more evidence in support of camels at the time of Abraham:

clip_image007Theology professor counters claim that camel bones disprove Bible, explains Abraham owning camels‘ (Global Dispatch, 17 Feb 14).

clip_image007[1]Abraham, Camels and Egypt, or, Where did Abram get his Camel from?Genesis 12:1‘ (Studylight.org).

clip_image007[2] ‘Is the Bible Wrong about Camels?’(Stand to Reason).

I pray that you will be equipping the people in your church to provide a defence of the Christian faith when this kind of opposition comes. Here I’ve attempted to provide enough links to get you started with a few opportunities for equipping. We are blessed that there are equipping ministries who have researchers and writers to deal with these issues – and provide us with ready information to pass on to our church people.

In addition, these ministries make their material freely available on the Internet.

Again, it’s the problem of [the archaeologist’s] assumptions

(Stand to Reason)

Notes:


[1] Saber, A. S., The camel in ancient Egypt, Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting for Animal Production Under Arid Conditions 1:208–215, 1998, p. 208.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 September 2016.

Gift of tongues is gibberish?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

File:Baptist-Church.jpg

Baptist Church (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

How would you respond to somebody who called the New Testament spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’ and ‘foolish’?

Baptists and speaking in tongues

A fellow asked in a Baptist directory online, ‘I know that there is considerable diversity within the Baptist movement, but I’m not sure whether this extends to multiple positions on glossolalia [speaking in tongues]’.[1]

I responded:[2]

Near where I live in the outer suburbs of Brisbane Qld, at Burpengary, there is a Baptist Church called ‘Access Church‘, that is as full-on Pentecostal-charismatic as many such churches I’ve visited.

This topic of Baptists and tongue speaking had been addressed previously (in 2012) in the Baptist directory on this forum, in the thread, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?

However, to pick up this theme (only briefly), here are some biblical basics:

a. First Corinthians 14:2, 4 refers to tongues for personal edification and not requiring interpretation — therefore it is not for use in the church. This seems to be what Paul is referring to when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Cor. 14:18). In the church, he prefers intelligibility: “I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19).

b. First Corinthians 14:14-18 contrasts speaking and singing “with the spirit” (tongues on the basis of v. 14) and praying with the mind. Therefore, throughout I Cor. 12-14, there seems to be an interchange of tongues (spiritual language or ecstatic utterance) as a language spoken to God for personal edification and tongues requiring interpretation for the edification of the church.

Therefore, my conclusion is that I Cor. 12:28, 30 are referring to both kinds of tongues, which are not given to all believers. Why? It is because ‘one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills’ (I Cor. 12:11 NASB). First Corinthians 12:14 emphasises: ‘For the body is not one member, but many’. Therefore, I do not find it surprising that tongues is restricted to some believers by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state quite a few years ago: “Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit” (Mallone 1983:90).[3]

How would you expect a sceptical Baptist about the gift of tongues to respond to the information provided above?

The gibberish encounter

One person replied:

Most of us believe it is a true gift from God. But we do not believe gibbering away is speaking in tongues we believe it is when you start speaking a real language go Earth in order to minister to others. So speaking gibberish here at a church in the middle of the United States is not speaking in tongues. So many of us believe it is a real gift from God just one that is very misused here in the US.[4]

How does one reply to such a negative assessment, even though there is some truth in what this female said? I replied:[5]

(a) Why the negative assessment?

Why are you speaking pejoratively – calling it ‘gibbering’ and ‘gibberish’ – when God speaks of the genuine gift of tongues that is for the purpose of

  • speaking to God (1 Cor 14:2);
  • for personal edification (1 Cor 14:4);
  • revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching when it is accompanied with interpretation when the church gathers (1 Cor 14:6, 12-13)?

So the Scriptures teach that there are two purposes for tongues for the believer when not in a church gathering: speaking to God and personal edification. Sadly much of this personal gift of tongues (without interpretation) makes its way into the public gathering of the church. My understanding is that this is in error, based on 1 Corinthians 14.

However, when in the midst of other people there must be the gift of interpretation of tongues for there to be a communication of revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching.

There are extremes and errors in many dimensions of theology. That does not nullify the genuine. What applies to theology such as soteriology (doctrine of salvation) also applies to glossolalia. Extremes and error do not negate the authentic.

Why tongues and not in English?

A fellow took me on with some provocative and legitimate questions:

OK. Why must you speak in tongues to speak to God? Is speaking in tongues more efficacious than speaking to God in English?

How does tongues personally edify you?
Also, when you speak in tongues for “personal edification”, who interprets that for you?…

The way it is practiced today is gibbering and gibberish. I would go further and say that it’s foolish.[6]

This does raise some important points about an unknown language and edification; there are times when tongues’ speaking sounds like human ‘gibberish’ and foolishness. But does disorder negate the orderly?
Some out-of-order practices

Here is some of my reply:[7]

Let me make it very clear. I never said and I do not support how you put it by asking why I ‘MUST … speak in tongues’. Nobody MUST speak in tongues. Of all of the gifts, the Scriptures state, ‘earnestly desire’ spiritual gifts. I desire God’s best for me – and I’ll thank him for the gifts He gives me.

How does tongues personally edify you?

God has stated that the gift of tongues does edify personally and that has been my experience. I take him at his word and that is how it happens. It enhances my relationship with the Lord for which I’m grateful.
If you read the Scriptures I gave carefully, esp. 1 Cor 14:2, 4, you would not ask this second question about the need to interpret for personal edification. The Scriptures do not state that interpretation is necessary for personal edification. I agree with what the Scriptures state.

It might sound like ‘gibbering and gibberish’ and ‘foolish’ to you, but by the kinds of comments you have made in this response to me, you seem to want to denigrate the gift of tongues. I have never experienced the gift of tongues as gibberish for personal edification but as one of God’s special gifts for my relationship with God. If God gives the gift of tongues in the church gathering, tongues must be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. That’s Bible.

I encourage you not to disparage the spiritual gifts that God has taught us about: ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy’ (I Cor 14:1 ESV).
May God encourage all of us to ‘earnestly desire’ the spiritual gifts. These are gifts of the Spirit of the Trinitarian Lord God almighty.

Further penetrating questions

Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870

This person who has been challenging me said, ‘I disparage the unbiblical use of those gifts’ and he said that I left unanswered three questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

2. How does tongues edify you?

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

I join with you in offering a biblical correction for the unbiblical use of the gifts (incl. tongues) that can be evident in some churches.[8]

Answers to those questions

Let’s turn to the Scripture so answer this fellow’s legitimate questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is not helpful without an explanation of the nature of the gift of tongues and the issue that Paul was attempting to correct:

(a)  Ch 14:11-13 tells us some of the problem Paul was trying to correct. There were tongues without interpretation at Corinth in the church gathering and this was not on. One would be a ‘foreigner’ in such an atmosphere without interpretation. So Paul’s message to the 21st century Pentecostal, charismatic, and other churches allowing expression of these gifts, would be the same as for Corinth: ‘One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13 ESV).

(b) ‘If I pray in a tongue my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful’ (14:14). So tongues are more efficacious when I’m praying with my spirit to God. God gives a place to the spirit of the human being in communication with God.

2. How does tongues edify you?

Paul tells us things that are critical when speaking about tongues:

(a) The tongues’ speaker ‘speaks not to men but to God’ (14:2). So tongues is a means of communing with God by the Holy Spirit. We know from 14:13-14, 28 that those who speak in tongues are ‘communing with God by the Spirit…. Paul understands the phenomenon basically to be prayer and praise’ (Gordon Fee’s language 1987:656).

(b) My experience in God’s prayer and praise language in the spirit/Spirit is just that. It’s a special way of communing with God that I’ve never experienced while praying in my Aussie English.

(c) So tongues edifies me in by my spirit communing with the Spirit of God in a language He has given me. I would never want to crush that understanding through Enlightenment thinking.

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

That is partly answered by #2, but there is additional communication in 1 Cor 12-14. It is important not to minimise and underestimate what Paul states in 14:5, ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues’, but even more to prophecy’. The first half of that sentence is often diminished, ignored, minimised or excised by some Christians.
The one who speaks in tongues ‘utters mysteries in the Spirit’ (14:2 ESV). That is not possible in English. These ‘mysteries’ spoken by the Holy Spirit could mean what is stated in 1 Cor 13:2, but my experience is that the gift of tongues for personal edification (thus not needing interpretation) involves an encounter with the Spirit of God that is outside my rational understanding as a speaker. It would be the same for the hearer, so there is no place for the gift of tongues in a public gathering without a God-given gift of interpretation.

How is it possible for language given by the Holy Spirit (tongues) and not understood in English to be edifying for the speaker, to be self-edifying? This is not egotistic, self-centred spiritual elitism. My experience is that this is through prayer and praise with the gift of glossolalia (tongues) as I Cor 14:14-15 indicates.
However, 1 Cor 14:14-15 tells us how we can be edified by a language we cannot understand through the gift of tongues:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also (ESV).

The Spirit of God, through the Scriptures, here tells us that there is a way to be spiritually edified without using the cortex of the brain – through the gift of tongues where the spirit prays and the mind is not playing a pivotal part – thus being ‘unfruitful’.

So the Scripture exhorts us to use both – pray and sing with the spirit/Spirit through the gift of tongues and pray and sing with the mind. Paul taught us that there are favourable things that can happen in private devotions through the gift of tongues without interpretation, but his concern in the Corinthian church (and by application to the contemporary church) is that there should be no gift of tongues in a public, group church gathering without the gift of interpretation (see 14:5, 13, 27).

First Corinthians and the contemporary church

By application, Paul’s message to the contemporary church is, ‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (14:5) but in the public gathering, ‘one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13).

But what do I find when I visit many services of Pentecostal-charismatic churches or charismatic churches in other denominations? I hear group tongues allegedly associated with ‘singing in the Spirit’, ‘speaking in tongues’ and no interpretation. This is totally out of order and is contrary to Paul’s instruction ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 1 4:40). Many Pentecostal-charismatics are violating the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14. My experience is that this is often because there is too little biblical teaching on the gifts of the Spirit in these churches.

Many people absorb the atmosphere by osmosis and are not exposed to biblical correction concerning the gifts of the Spirit.

See these samples of Pentecostal-charismatic issues:

Congreso Nacional Juvenil3.jpg

Pentecostalism (Wikipedia)

Works consulted

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

Mallone, G. 1983, Those controversial gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What is the Baptist view on Speaking/Praying in Tongues?’ ’Colfax #1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #24, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[3] I have provided more details at OzSpen #151 at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-16/ (accessed 24 February 2014).

[4] Vella Vista #18, ibid., available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-2/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #26, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[6] Ibid., South Bound #28, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[8] Ibid., South Bound #30.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Conflict over salvation

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

(courtesy Google, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Does God decree which persons should receive God’s salvation? Or, does God invite people to Christ and then let them take human responsibility in saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the offer of salvation?

These two questions have caused theological heartache from the time of the Reformation until today. Does God open the human heart for salvation? Do human beings have the opportunity to receive or reject salvation? It’s the debate over free will and salvation.

I met this challenge in the thread, ‘Acts 16:14’ on Christian Forums. It involves the regular conflict between Arminians and Calvinists over the nature of how salvation through Christ is received by human beings.

Calvinistic interpretation

  

(Terry cloth)

This fellow started the thread,

Acts 16:14


A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 NASB)

Why was it necessary for Jesus to open her heart? What was wrong with her in the first place? Did she not have the free will to choose prior to that?[1]

Others replied:

  • ‘To respond. Could she have still responded negatively?’[2]
  • ‘God caused her to respond, so the result was predetermined’ (this is a Calvinistic reply’.[3]

However, after 20 replies he as a Calvinist was not receiving the responses from the Arminian opposition that he wanted. So he wrote again:

Heck, I’m still trying to find out why it’s even necessary.
I always figure when the regular non-Calvinists avoid a thread, it must have hit a nerve.
[4]

Some Arminian opposition [5]

After 100 posts I responded.

I find it amazing that you have come to this view that ‘it must have hit a nerve’. What do you do?

You started the thread this way:

Acts 16:14

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 NASB)

Why was it necessary for Jesus to open her heart? What was wrong with her in the first place? Did she not have the free will to choose prior to that?

The ‘nerve’ for me is this: I knew this fellow’s Calvinistic agenda when he started this thread, that he has pushed over and over on this very large Christian forum. He seems to want to try to disprove Arminianism. I contemplated not responding to him as his imbalanced view is not what the Bible teaches in its totality. I knew he would be persistent in trying to corner others and me in his Calvinistic gymnastics.

Calvinistic imbalance?

The very chapter of the Bible that he used, Acts 16, provides the balance (not the contradiction) to Acts 16:14. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to what Paul preached. But what is stated in Acts 16:31? It is a command for human beings to believe: ‘And they said, “[You] Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”’.

The Lord opens the heart but he does not do it without the person believing. That is, the person has a free-will choice to believe salvation or reject it.

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, explained this balanced view in his exegesis and exposition of Acts 16:14:

We must combine the two duratives ‘she kept hearing’ and ‘to be heeding,’ for they imply that Lydia was not converted on that very first Sabbath. From the beginning, however, she heard with a heart that was opened wide (dia in the verb) by the Lord. Little did she dream that Saturday morning what a treasure she was to find in the little retreat by the riverside; but she heard the great Apostle of the Gentiles himself set forth the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ with all fervor and all conviction, and this gospel was corroborated by these three companions. She was finding the pearl of great price.

The Lord opens the heart, but the hand with which he lifts the latch and draws the door is the Word which he makes us hear, and the door opens as we heed, prosechein, keep holding your mind to what you hear. No man can open the door of his heart (kardia is the center of thought and will) himself, nor can he help the Lord to open it by himself lifting the latch and moving the door. The one thing he can do is to bolt the door, i.e., refuse to hear and to heed; and thus he can keep the door closed and bar it even more effectually than it was at first. This prevents conversion (Lenski 1934:658).

So the biblical evidence from Acts 16 (not just v. 14) is that it is the Lord who opens the heart but human beings believe (and refuse to believe). This has been God’s approach from the OT into the NT and today.

We read from the OT:

clip_image001 ‘Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live’ (Deut 30:19).

and again from the OT,

clip_image001[1] ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24:15).

The Lord opening the heart

photo of burning lit candle with flame and pink heart(public domain)

 

Why was it necessary for the Lord to open Lydia’s heart?[6] There is no salvation outside of the Lord’s working in us.

What was wrong with her? She was a sinner who needed justification, reconciliation and all that salvation can provide. She needed the application of Christ’s shed blood and resurrection.

As I’ve tried to demonstrate in this brief article, salvation is from the Lord but God demonstrates in Acts 16:31 that human beings need to respond by believing. Why? Because human beings can resist such offers of salvation.

We know from the very first sin in the Garden (Genesis 2-3) that God did not take away human beings’ free will to hear God and obey or disobey his instructions (Gen 3:2:9, 17; 3:5-13).

What kind of response do you think that might generate from the Calvinist who started this thread? Here are some samples

clip_image003 ‘If you aren’t going to address the OP [original post], I’m not sure why you even posted. Seems like a waste of time’.[7] (Note, this is a red herring logical fallacy as he refused to address the content of what I wrote above.) This is how I replied to the red herring:

Ah, exactly what I expected. I addressed the post and you didn’t like what I wrote so you give me this red herring.

When will you wake up to the fact that this kind of response is what drives people away from pursuing the Calvinism that you want to define on CF. I provided evidence to refute your view; you didn’t like it so you make it look like I didn’t address the post. I addressed the post directly and came to a conclusion different to yours.
If people continue to use logical fallacies, I disengage in conversation with them. Why?  When they use a logical fallacy, it prevents a logical discussion.[8] He further added:

clip_image003[1] ‘So until the Lord opened her heart, there was no way she could respond positively to the gospel?’[9] And again:

clip_image003[2] ‘Why did you avoid answering my question? You aren’t obligated to do so, but this dodging gets us nowhere’.[10]

How should I respond? Here it is: ‘I addressed your post directly. This is a false accusation. False accusations are called straw man fallacies. And we cannot have a logical discussion when you do this. I find that you are harassing me and this is against the rules of this forum’.[11]

clip_image003[3] ‘I have no problems with disagreements. And since you don’t, perhaps you’d like to answer this question that I posed to you. So until the Lord opened her heart, there was no way she could respond positively to the gospel?’[12]

There is further interaction between the Calvinist and me, a Reformed Arminian, in this thread.

Conclusion

So I’m not restricted to pushing a one-sided agenda when the Bible provides both sides in Acts 16. It is the Lord who opens Lydia’s heart and it is Lydia who chooses to respond to the offer of salvation and not to reject it. This is the message of 1 Timothy 2:3b-4, ‘God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV).

It has nothing to do with ‘it must have hit a nerve’ for a non-Calvinist like me. It has everything to do with being giving the balance in biblical presentation. God saves, God opened Lydia’s heart, but human beings have the free will to respond in faith to the offer of salvation. Otherwise we have God the dictator and human beings the robots. I do not find that view consistent with biblical Christianity.

For further explanations of my views see:

Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1934. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (based on Lutheran Book Concern 1934; The Wartburg Press 1944; Augsburg Publishing House 1961).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Acts 16:14’, Hammster #1, 16 February 2014. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[2] Ibid., Steeno7 #2.

[3] Ibid., abacabb #9, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[4] Ibid., Hammster #22, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-3/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #103, 20 February 2014, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-11/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[6] This is a further explanation that I made in ibid., #104.

[7] Ibid., Hammster #105. That was all he wrote – not one letter more than this.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen #109.

[9] Ibid., Hammster #107.

[10] Ibid., Hammster #114, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-12/ (Accessed 23 February 2014).

[11] Ibid., OzSpen #116.

[12] Ibid., Hammster #131, http://www.christianforums.com/t7804942-14/ (Accessed 23 February 2014). I told him that I had already answered this above and that he was continuing his harassment of me with this response, which is against the rules of this forum (ibid., OzSpen#135).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Is it possible for a Christian to commit apostasy?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Green Salvation Button

ChristArt.com

By Spencer D Gear

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Was King Solomon a godly man or not in the Old Testament era? Did he engage in gross sin and confess it? Was he once saved and then lost?[1] Did he commit apostasy?

Contrasting evidence for King Solomon

There are two sides to the Solomon story that this article investivates:

design-blue The first one is found in 1 Kings 3:3, ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places’ (ESV). Do the latter sins exclude him from entry into the kingdom? Yes, he had considerable sins that needed forgiving, but we are told he loved God and followed the (godly) statutes given by his father, David.

design-blue But the other side of Solomon is [2] in 1 Kings 11:1-14 where we find some valuable information to help deal with this difficult issue:

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom (ESV, emphasis added).

We know from 1 Kings 3:3 that ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David’.

BUT, BUT …

This same Solomon chose to love many foreign women who turned his heart away from the Lord. The God who forbade adultery (Exodus 20:14) had that commandment violated by Solomon.

AND THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES of his polygamy, etc. and 1 Kings 14 tells us what they were.
So the lesson is that a person can love the Lord and still be tempted by an adversary and foreign women as in Solomon’s case and depart from following the Lord.

When do people lose their salvation?

This is a valid question that needs answering: ‘At what point do you believe that someone loses their salvation?’[3]

clip_image002 Of course most Calvinists do not believe it is possible to lose salvation. Here are a couple of statements of such a view:

clip_image004 The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof (Chapter XVII:I-II).

J. I. Packer

J I Packer (photo courtesy InterVarsity Press)

clip_image004[1] J I Packer’s theology on the ‘perseverance of the saints’ is:

‘God is adequate as our keeper. “Nothing…can separate us from the love of God,” because the love of God holds us fast. Christians “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet 1:5), and the power of God keeps them believing as well as keeping them safe through believing. Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you’ (Packer 1973:310, emphasis in original).

clip_image002[1] The contrasting view is that of Arminianism which provides biblical evidence that salvation can be lost. A couple of examples are:

clip_image006 Stephen Ashby, a Reformed/Classical Arminian (like Jacob Arminius), concludes that ‘if one becomes an unbeliever, which is not probable but yet is possible since he or she is a personal being, then God removes that individual from the true vine, Christ Jesus (John 15:2, 5). Hence, the singular act of apostasy is irreversible (Heb. 6:4-6)’ (Ashby 2:187).

clip_image006[1] Another Arminian, John Wesley’s, view on eternal security[4] was:

The sum of all is this: If the Scriptures are true, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are branches;” those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and of the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly (John Wesley Elements of Divinity, ‘Perseverance of the saints’).

Hebrews 6 and losing salvation

The reason given in Hebrews 6:4-6 for losing salvation (‘falling away’ from the faith) is apostasy. The Greek word used confirms this: parapesontas, aorist participle of parapipto, which Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning as “fall away, commit apostasy” (1957:626). It is a point action (aorist tense) of committing the act of apostasy. This meaning is affirmed by Thayer’s Greek lexicon: “to fall away (from the true faith)” (1962:485).

So, based on this passage from Heb 6:4-6, we can say that it is possible for a true believer to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and lose his/her salvation. If that happens, it is impossible for those who commit apostasy to be restored to repentance.
What’s the evidence that Solomon committed apostasy?

Colin Brown’s examination of the New Testament evidence, based on the original Greek language, was:

Apostasy
(Gk. apostasia, rebellion, abandonment, apostasy; from apo, away, and histe4mi, stand). The deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held. An apostate is one who thus abandons Christianity. In the post-NT church apostasy, murder and adultery were regarded for a time as unpardonable sins. Later it become pardonable only after great (in some cases, lifelong) public penance (Brown 1975:51).

If you equate ‘turning their heart away from God’ with ‘deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held … one who abandons Christianity’, then I can accept that this is a definition of apostasy. However, apostasy is a deliberate abandonment of faith formerly held, in my understanding.

For a fuller discussion of the issue of whether salvation can be lost, see my article, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again?

A possible contemporary example of apostasy

Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists‘. There is evidence here that Templeton may not have been intellectually convinced of the Gospel. See this excerpt from Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996).

clip_image008

Courtesy McClelland and Stewart (publishers)

‘All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, explains Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist.

In the course of our conversation I said, ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.’

‘I don’t accept that’ Billy said. ‘And there are reputable scholars who don’t.’

‘Who are these scholars?’ I said. ‘Men in conservative Christian colleges[?]‘

‘Most of them, yes,’ he said. ‘But that is not the point. I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.’

‘But Billy,’ I protested, ‘You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.’”

‘I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me’” (Templeton 1996:7-8).

Michael Patton’s comment was:

Templeton, as his own story makes plain (p. 3), never truly reached a point where he was intellectually convicted of the truthfulness of Christianity (what the reformers called assensus). Assensus represents the conviction we have in our minds. Assent of the mind is vital to our faith. Graham, according to this testimony, had enough assensus to make a decision. He was not going to be an eternal “tire-kicker” with regard to Christianity. Sure, he could have waited, like Templeton, until every possible objection to the faith was answered, but this would amount to a failure of modernistic irrationality. We can never have all our questions answered. At some point there must be a sufficiency in probability (‘A sad tale of two evangelists’).

My sense is that Templeton may never have been a true believer in Jesus Christ and was preaching a superficial Gospel that sounded like the real thing, but it wasn’t. One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘“he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.” Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, “I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

When discussing apostasy online, a person wrote: ‘The word [for apostasy] also means “rebellion” … easier to understand. There are a number of instances when Israelites rebelled and died. Do you believe Solomon rebelled or got addicted to sin or was even deceived by sin?’[5] But …

As for Solomon?[6]

The lexicon meanings of apostasy from Arndt & Gingrich, and Thayer, are that the word used for ‘fall away’ in Heb 6:6 means falling away, apostasy. Rebellion has different connotations in English to apostasy.

We have evidence that Solomon loved God, was walking in the statutes of his father, David, and then committed gross sin with ungodly women and in serving other gods.

I do not have unequivocal evidence from the OT or NT that King Solomon committed apostasy and was damned, never to return to repentance. We have evidence that Solomon committed sin in engaging with ungodly women, serving other gods, but I don’t know Solomon’s ultimate destiny as I don’t have all of the evidence.

We do know this from a book of the Bible that states it is based on some of the proverbs of Solomon:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction

(Proverbs 1:1-7 ESV, emphasis added).

The introduction to the English Standard Version’s Book of Proverbs states that ‘because Proverbs is a collection of writings it has multiple authors, but most of the book is attributed to King Solomon. Individual proverbs date from between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C.’ (ESV 2001:634).

This I do know from Heb 6:4-6 that it is possible for people to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and can never be restored to repentance.
We see a very sad example of this with Charles Templeton. See: Charles Templeton’s “Farewell to God

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[7] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Ashby, S M 2002. A reformed Arminian view, in Pinson, J M (gen ed), Gundry, S N (series ed). Four views on eternal security, 135-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Brown, C (ed) 1975. New international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 1: A-F.[8] Exeter, Devon U.K.: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Packer, J I 1973. Knowing God. London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton.[9]

Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers).

Templeton, C 1996. Farewell to God: My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

Thayer, J H 1962. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes:


[1] What provoked this article was a thread started in Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Was Solomon saved?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7803787/ (Accessed 11 February 2014).

[2] This is part of my post at ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#38,

[4] I am using ‘perseverance of the saints’ and ‘eternal security’ as synonymous terminology.

[5] Christian Forums loc cit, Edial#61.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

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

[8] This was translated, with additions, and revisions, from an original German publication, theologisches begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, ed by L Coenen, E Beyreuther, and H Bietenhard.

[9] In the USA, it was published by InterVarsity Press in 1973. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterVarsity_Press (Accessed 21 February 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Camel capers at the time of Abraham – baloney!

Friday, February 21st, 2014

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/Camels_at_Giza.JPG/330px-Camels_at_Giza.JPG

Camels at Pyramids, Egypt (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

In February 2014, some of you may have been exposed to what seems like a tirade of derogatory comments in the mass media about camels recorded in the Book of Genesis; Genesis can’t be trusted, and the Bible is unreliable.

6pointblue Genesis 24:64 records this: ‘And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel’ (ESV).

6pointblue Leviticus 11:4 makes is clear: ‘Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you’.

Was it a camel or not? Verses like these have come under criticism by the archaeologists who are saying that

camels were first introduced to Israel around the 9th century BCE, centuries after they were depicted in the Bible as Patriarch-era pack animals, new carbon dating of the earliest known domesticated camel bones found in Israel shows.

The research, conducted by Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel-Aviv University, challenges ”the Bible’s historicity.” The discrepancy “is direct proof that the [Biblical] text was compiled well after the events it describes,” according to a statement released by the university on Monday.

The researchers examined ancient copper smelting sites in the Arava Valley, in southern Israel, and discovered that “camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later,” and that “all the sites active in the 9th century in the Arava Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them.”

(The Times of Israel, 5 February 2014)

This is a sample of the negative comments I’ve read in the mass media online:

  1. Camels had no business in Genesis‘ (New York Times, 10 February 2014).
  2. Camel bones suggest error in Bible, archaeologists say‘, Fox News (6 February 2014).
  3. Earliest Camel Bones Contradict Bible, Archaeologists Say‘, (Nature World News, 5 February 2014).
  4. Camel bones discovery suggests biblical inaccuracies‘ (Statesman, 6 February 2014).
  5. Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible‘ (The Times of Israel, 5 February 2014).
  6. Will camel discovery break the Bible’s back?(CNN, 11 February 2014)

Abram’s Journey from Ur to Canaan (József Molnár, 1850) (courtesy Wikipedia)

 

We could go on and on with examples trying to disprove the accuracy of the Bible, especially the camels at the time of Abraham. But, what’s the truth? Should we chuck out the Book of Genesis as an unreliable piece of literature that should be treated as containing myths? Or should we treat it as Jesus did? You’ll find some of Jesus’ evidence in the articles,

cubed-iron-smJesus, the New Testament and Genesis‘;

cubed-iron-smThe use of Genesis in the New Testament‘; and

cubed-iron-smGenesis: Real, reliable, historical‘.

I recommend equipping yourself for a rebuttal of these mass media anti-Genesis views by becoming acquainted with the issues in these articles:

Here’s some more evidence in support of camels at the time of Abraham:

I pray that you will be equipping the people in your church to provide a defence of the Christian faith when this kind of opposition comes. There are enough links here to get you started with a few opportunities for equipping in your church over the next few weeks. We are blessed that there are equipping ministries who have researchers and writers to deal with these issues – and provide us with ready information to pass on to our church people.

Let’s not miss the opportunity.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

A radical church gives up on church buildings

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (courtesy Wikipedia)

by Spencer D Gear

‘All a church building does is attract people from other churches’ is what a pastor told a small group I was attending. He and his church were contemplating building and were negotiating the purchase of a block of land.

Get a handle on this message, whether directly stated or implied: A church building is not to attract unbelievers and reach them for Christ. He said something similar to this as well: The church building is not intended as a means of outreach to unbelievers. It is a way to draw people from other churches.

Is that what we need in secularised, multi-cultural, non-Christian Australia?

The contemporary church in Australia is not radical enough.

Why spend mega-bucks for what?

Australian $100 polymer front.jpg

Australian specimen $100 note (courtesy Wikipedia)

Therefore, my question to you is: Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to attract people away from other churches when there is a better alternative?

I’m speaking of an organic expression of the church that would equip God’s people to be biblically-based Christians in twenty-first century Australia. Get back to how the church functioned in the first century.

What is an organism?

The American Heritage Dictionary gives this definition of ‘organism’:

  1. An individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist, or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.
  2. A system regarded as analogous in its structure or functions to a living body: the social organism.

So the human body is an organism, made up of many ‘parts that need to work together to carry on the various processes of life’. The same applies to the ‘social body’ and the body of Christ. We need to function together according to the qualities of each member of the body. In biblical terms we call these the gifts of the body of Christ.

How is the church of Jesus Christ described?

)Front view of vicera, courtesy Wikipedia)

‘You are the body of Christ’

What could be clearer than this? ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Cor 12:27 ESV). Then 1 Corinthians spends three chapters explicating on how that body is to function for optimal ministry.

In the entire Bible there could not be a better description of how that body (the organic church) ought to function than First Corinthians 12-14 (Romans 12 also can be added and Ephesians 4). This message of the church being organic – the body of Christ – is not unique to First Corinthians. See:

  • Eph 1:22-23, ‘And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’.
  • Eph 4:11-12, ‘And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’.
  • Eph 5:30, ‘because we are members of his body’.
  • Col 1:24, ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church’.

Functioning as an organism

What does this mean?

Since the church is an organic body of believers, it should be a fundamental for all Christians to function biblically by allowing their gifts to function when the church gathers, engages in outreach – and at much, much less expense. Buildings and pulpit-centred church gatherings are not an overflow from 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, and Colossian teaching.

I know that this sounds radical, but there are currently others who are going down this track. The hierarchical (pastor, elder, bishop, archbishop) model is a human invention from around the time of the Reformation. It did not come out of the New Testament or biblical Christianity from the first century church.
Have you heard of Frank Viola and his advocacy of an organic approach to church? In this online statement, he claims that there are ‘1,500 to 2,000 pastors who leave the clergy system each month in the USA. And most of them have left for the same reason: A crisis of conscience with their position and how church is “done” today‘ (emphasis in original).

AuthorFrankViola

Courtesy Frank Viola author: Biography

You might like to read a couple of Frank Viola’s posts that contain this information from February 2014, ‘5 Marks of a Spiritual Pioneer & A Famous Megachurch Pastor Steps Down‘. See another of his posts from 18 February 2014, ‘10 Reasons Why I Left the Institutional Church & Sought the Ekklesia‘.

If you want to investigate the contemporary church problem, I recommend Frank Viola and George Barna’s Pagan Christianity (2002), which is their diagnosis of the problem of the church, including the evangelical church. His follow-up book is, Reimagining Church (2008), which is his solution to the problem – a return to the organic ekklesia.

Frank Viola is radical, but I think that most thinking pastors and laity need to give him a read to shake our traditional thinking. The New Testament church also was radical in its impact on the world of the first century. Here are a few quotes from Pagan Christianity (Viola 2002):

  • the modern institutional church does not have a Biblical nor a historical right to exist!’ (2002:18, emphasis in original);
  • ‘the Protestant order of worship has about as much Biblical support as does the Roman Catholic Mass!’ (2002:38);
  • ‘At no time did Luther (or any of the other mainstream Reformers) demonstrate a desire to return to the practices of the first-century church. These men set out merely to reform the theology of the Catholic church (2002:45, emphasis in original).
  • ‘Pragmatism, not Biblicism or spirituality, governs the activities of most modern churches’ (2002:59);
  • Wayne Oates wrote: ‘The original proclamation of the Christian message was a two-way conversation…. but when the oratorical schools of the Western world laid hold of the Christian message, they made Christian preaching something vastly different. Oratory tended to take the place of conversation. The greatness of the orator took the place of the astounding event of Jesus Christ. And the dialogue between speaker and listener faded into a monologue’ (Oates in Viola 2002:83, emphasis in original).
  • ‘What do I mean by a first-century styled church? I am talking about a group of people who know how to experience Jesus Christ and express Him in a meeting without any human officiation. I am talking about a group of people who can function together as a Body when they are left on their own after the church planter leaves them. The man who plants a first-century styled church leaves that church without a pastor, elders, a music leader, a Bible facilitator or a Bible teacher. If that church is planted well, those believers will know how to touch the living, breathing Headship of Jesus Christ in a meeting. They will know how to let Him invisibly lead their gatherings. They will bring their own songs, they will write their own songs, they will minister out of what Christ has shown them – with no human leader present’[1] (2002:289).

That will sound scary to many who have been raised in a traditional, status quo church (as I have). However, I have to admit that this is how a body functions and how 1 Corinthians 12-14 articulates how the body works when it is in action. I have yet to experience such a church body in my part of the world but I am seeking and praying for such.

In the latter part of their lives, my parents (who are now in the Lord’s presence) were attending Christian Brethren assemblies that had an approach to this kind of ministry, but  women had to remain silent. That is contrary to the biblical mandate that says, ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has …’ (1 Cor 14:26 NIV).

In spite of the fact that there was some turmoil in the Corinthian church over certain women who were told to ‘keep silent’ and it was ‘shameful for a woman to speak’ (1 Cor 14:34-35 ESV), there was a reason and that was: ‘But all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40 ESV). We know that this was not an absolute teaching to silence women in church ministry because 1 Cor 11:5 speaks of ‘every wife who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’ (ESV). It is impossible to prophesy in the Corinthian church and remain silent. Those who close down women in ministry in the church have adopted – in my understanding of Scripture – an interpretation that is not consistent in context.

Many church planters or those considering building have an ideal opportunity to be this radical in getting back to first century Christianity, instead of practising a model that started well after New Testament times. But it won’t happen unless the current leadership is convinced that the current model cannot be supported by Scripture.

The current pulpit dominated, pastor-centred, program-based model of the church closes down most of God’s gifted people when the church gathers. They become an audience of non-participators. In the traditional church, an organic model of function (a Bible-based version) is abandoned for a human-invented hierarchical, seeker-sensitive, and mega-church-growth model. The latter is coming out of marketing and rhetoric and not biblical functioning.

This is the organic church model in action:

Courtesy David C Cook

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Cor 14:26 NIV).

After this pastor made the radical statement that a church building simply attracts people from other churches, I wondered why his church was going down that track and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. I thought through …

Some steps of a more radical approach:

  1. Continue meeting at the place where the church is presently hiring a facility while the current church leadership discusses and then begins to teach on how this local church can become radically organic as an ekklesia (church). Show how the institutional church is not a biblical model of function. However, deep down I have a reservation. It is challenging and even scary for a church to go down this route. I cannot imagine too many denominations supporting it as it would put paid pastors out of a job. Therefore, the most likely place to begin such a model is through an independent church plant that does not have a denominational affiliation. Let’s face it. There were no such structures as denominations in the first century church.
  2. Ask church leadership to read Pagan Christianity and then Reimagining Church by Frank Viola to discuss how to function as an organic church and equip God’s people for such.
  3. We do not need a repeat of what we can get at the Baptists, Churches of Christ, Wesleyan-Methodists, Pentecostal-charismatics, independent churches, etc. We need a return to the expression of biblical Christianity when the ecclesia gathers. We desperately need NT function and any church can have an opportunity to encourage that to happen – if it gets the biblical vision.
  4. Begin teaching some of this biblical material from the pulpit until your church officially moves to a truly organic function. But it is threatening to those raised on the status quo. Most do not know how to function as the body of Christ.
  5. Teach 1 Corinthians 12-14 with a careful exegesis and exposition so that the people of God understand that the church gathering is for the people of God to function and not for the people of God to be silent. They need to admit that what has been happening in the evangelical church (the liberal church lost the plot long ago) is a far cry from New Testament function. This does not mean the end of the function of a paid pastor, but it does mean that a large part of the pastor’s role will be to help facilitate a transition to a biblically-based organic model and then cause that model to grow in strength.
  6. One extended benefit is to prepare God’s people for possible persecution that could happen to the church in Australia.

This is a radical suggestion

Recently, the pastor who spoke with me, made a radical and practical statement that one of the primary functions of a new building will be to attract other church goers to that church. This article is designed to challenge the status quo of the hierarchical church to get back to the New Testament view of the body of Christ.

How about a radical rethink of the wisdom of building another traditional evangelical church? We need something that is radically and biblically different – an organic church.

When the body of Christ functions, God will notice the difference. This world will see the effects.

The prophetic A. W. Tozer got to the heart of this issue many decades ago:

What is needed desperately today is prophetic insight. Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present. Learning will enable a man to pass judgment on our yesterdays, but it requires a gift of clear seeing to pass sentence on our own day. One hundred years from now historians will know what was taking place religiously in this year of our Lord; but that will be too late for us. We should know right now.

If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.

We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the church, and it is my belief that the one gift we need most now is the gift of prophecy (Tozer 2013).

Works consulted

Tozer, A W 2013. The gift of prophetic insight (excerpted from Of God and men) (online). Published at Hermann, MO: Tentmaker Ministries, available at: http://www.tentmaker.org/holy-spirit/prophetic.htm (Accessed 21 February 2014).

Viola, F 2002. Pagan Christianity: The origins of our modern church practices. www.ptmin.org: Present Testimony Ministry.[2]

Viola, F 2008. Reimagining church: Pursuing the dream of organic Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Notes:


[1] Viola’s footnote was, ‘What I am describing here is not arm-chair philosophy. I have worked with churches that fit this bill’ (2002:289, n. 25).

[2] There is a 2012 revision with Frank Viola and George Barna as co-authors, the title being, Pagan Christianity: Exploring the roots of our church practices. Ventura, CA: BarnaBooks (an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:27 January 2017.

A skeptic of Noah’s flood replies

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Palais de la Decouverte Tyrannosaurus rex p1050042.jpg

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

A fossil find in a northern Brisbane suburb made the news with this heading, ‘Construction work in Brisbane suburb Geebung unearths fossils of 50-million year-old crocodiles, fish and plants’.[1]

Part of the story, according to the Courier-Mail, was that ‘bones of ancient crocodiles’ were found during construction work on a new level crossing overpass at Geebung. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Graham Quirk, said that ‘the fossils were found amongst spoil which a piling rig had brought up to the surface’. In addition to crocodiles, this ancient material included fish, freshwater shells and plant impressions. The article said the fossils were dated as 50 million years’ old. The article stated that ‘Queensland Museum Network CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said the find was a significant one for Brisbane and the state’.

I thought this find was so significant that I sent a letter off to my local freebie newspaper The Messenger, that was published under the heading,

‘Phenomenal fossils and northern Brisbane’[2]

Near our region of northern Brisbane there was a rare find in June 2013 and given news coverage in July, thanks to excavations near Geebung railway station last month. We have been told of the finding of crocodile, frog, ­fish and plant fossils. Some horrific event must have killed all these things to be buried under northern Brisbane and about 15 metres underground.

There is evidence that has been around for a long time of a worldwide flood. The most prominent report is that at the time of Noah (recorded in Genesis 6-9) that should have affected the Brisbane region. But I read not a word about that in the reports I read or hear of this fossil find.

Perhaps that’s too Christian or Jewish (in the Hebrew Bible) to be politically correct to mention.

However, there is evidence from the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks of a flood in ancient times, but not as specific, as say, giving Noah’s age as ‘in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month’ (Genesis 7:11) that the flood came. However, we do know from history that one Sumerian king provided a list from about 2100 BC that divided kings into two categories – those who were before the flood and those after it.

Jesus Christ confirmed the existence of Noah and the flood (see Matthew 24:36-39).

When will this type of information make it to our news stories about a new fossil discovery in Brisbane? ‘Fossil find and phenomenal flood’ could be an appropriate headline, but that would not be too popular with a secular media.

SG

It was predictable that an evolutionary anti-Noahic flood view would come. And it did.

   

Saltwater crocodile (Wikipedia); Sarcosuchus (extinct relative of crocodile) [photographs courtesy Wikipedia]

A skeptic replies[3]

Dear Editor,

I (sic) amazed that in this day and age anyone can truly believe that story of Noah’s ark actually happened. But I ­find it appalling that someone who does would take such a marvellous discovery like the 50 million year old fossils at Geebung and then twist the facts to suit their own particularly limited world view when the evidence clearly contradicts it.

To suggest that a wooden boat that would have been roughly half the size of an average cruise ship could fi­t 60,000 animals on it is absurd. It would be standing room only and that doesn’t factor in room for food. Which bring me to the fact that some species have quite restrictive dietary needs, koalas for example will only eat from a limited number of eucalypts and then they must be fresh. Others can only live in certain habitats that we even fi­nd difficult to replicate in our modern day zoos and would have been impossible for someone living in the Bronze Age to construct. These are only two of the many logical fallacies that make the story of Noah’s ark just that – a story.

M

I did send a reply to this letter but it was not published. Here is what I wrote:

Mockers will come[4]

Red Tear Clip Art  Water Drop Clip Art  Img Clip Art  Green Tear Clip Art

A skeptic of Noah’s flood, M (Messenger 10 Aug 2013) puts me into the class of being ‘amazed’ that ‘anyone can truly believe that story’. I am in excellent company with the Lord Jesus Christ who believed in a literal flood and used it as an antitype of what will happen at Christ’s second coming (see Matthew 24:38-39). I agree with Jesus rather than M.

I’m accused of twisting the facts re the Geebung fossils of my ‘limited world view’, but M seems to forget that his/her short-sighted world view rejects this evidence when ‘all flesh died’ except Noah’s family. M also operates from a world view.

As for Noah’s boat not being large enough to fit 60,000 animals, that’s M’s contemporary number inserted into the biblical data, which makes no mention of 60,000.

However, M raises a good point. How could ‘two of every sort’ of animals and birds fit onto the gopher wood ark, sealed with pitch inside and out, whose dimensions were 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high with lower, second and third decks (Gen 6:14-16 ESV)? A cubit is about 45 centimetres. The New Living Translation puts the measurements into the Imperial system:

Build a large boat[5] from cypress wood[6] and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. 15 Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.[7] 16 Leave an 18-inch opening[8] below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper (Gen 6:14-16 NLT).

It seems obvious that M as a skeptic does not want this to be a historically feasible ark/boat to fit two of every kind of animal and bird along with food.

A detailed technical study of this issue, along with other issues, is in John Woodmorappe’s book, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study.[9] It provides detailed data on how 8 people could have cared for approx. 16,000 animals using pre-scientific technology and provides answers for getting rid of the approx. 12 metric tons of excreta (muck) produced daily. It’s not an impossible feat to be done by Noah’s family.

The rainbow in the sky is a contemporary covenant sign to confirm Noah’s flood and that God will never destroy humanity with a flood again (see Gen. 9:13-15).

The Bible not only confirms the historically accurate deluge at the time of Noah, has Jesus Christ affirming its authenticity, and it predicts that ‘scoffers will come’ in the last days who ‘deliberately forget’ that ‘the world of that time was deluged and destroyed’. ‘By the same word [of God] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly’ (2 Peter 3:3-7).

SG, North Lakes

Unfortunately, The Messenger did not want to continue this discussion and did not print my letter of reply.

Mockers, muck and worldviews

clip_image002

(image courtesy Creation Ministries International)

What follows is more extensive information that I framed in preparation for the letter above, plus some additional details from research.

So a skeptic regarding Noah’s flood, M (Messenger 10 Aug 2014) puts me into the class of being ‘amazed’ that ‘anyone can truly believe that story’.

What I find even more amazing is that I am in mighty good company. It was the Lord Jesus Christ himself who believed in the literal history of that deluge (Genesis 6-10) when he affirmed in his Olivet Discourse: ‘In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes’ (Matthew 24:38-39). I would rather be agreeing with Jesus Christ than M.

As for the charge against me that I did ‘twist the facts’ about the Geebung fossil discovery because of my ‘limited world view’. This is a false allegation. I twisted nothing. I provided an alternate interpretation, based on the catastrophe caused by the worldwide flood in Noah’s time. To show further evidence of the geologic record’s compatibility with a worldwide flood, see Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s article, ‘The Yellowstone petrified forests: Evidence of catastrophe’.

Back to M’s letter: M has overlooked that he/she is supporting his/her skeptical world view about Noah’s flood with the statements in this letter. My understanding is that fossils around the world can be associated with the evidence left by the historical evidence of Noah’s flood when ‘all flesh died’ except Noah and his family.

This article by Steve Cardno, ‘The (second) greatest catastrophe of all time: The Titanic sinking? The Pompeii devastation? What rates as the greatest ‘disaster’ ever?’ provides a photograph of an ‘incredible fossil of an ichthyosaur, buried and fossilised while giving birth, [and] is clear evidence of its having been buried quickly by water-borne sediments. The fossil record is consistent with creatures having been buried suddenly, otherwise most creatures would either rot or be devoured by scavengers’.

So Noah’s boat was not large enough to fit 60,000 animals according to M. There is not a word in the biblical record of 60,000 animals at the time of Noah. That’s M’s contemporary insertion into the biblical data, thus making him/her a perpetrator of eisegesis.

However, M raises a good point. How could ‘two of every sort’ of animals and birds fit onto the gopher wood ark, sealed with pitch inside and out, whose dimensions were 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high with lower, second and third decks (Gen 6:14-16)? A cubit is about 45 centimetres. It seems obvious that M as a skeptic does not want this to be a historically feasible ark to fit two of every kind of animal and bird along with food.

A detailed technical study of this issue, along with other issues, is in John Woodmorappe’s book, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study. It provides detailed data on how 8 people could have cared for approx. 16,000 animals using pre-scientific technology.

Woodmorappe’s assessment was that since most of the animals were small with the median size animal about the size of the rat. Only about 15% of the animals were sheep-sized or larger. It would have been the larger animals which accounted for most of the food intake and production of excreta. Why could not juvenile animals be the ones taken onto the Ark?

As for the excreta (muck), Woodmorappe’s assessment was that approx. 12 metric tons of excreta would have been produced daily by the Ark animals and, using agricultural literature, he was able to show how it was easily possible for 8 people to deal with that much muck on a daily basis.

See also the article by Dr Jonathan D Sarfati, ‘How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?’ (Creation Ministries International) Dr Sarfati asks, ‘Was the ark large enough to hold all the required animals?’ His answer is:

The Ark measured 300x50x30 cubits (Genesis 6:15), which is about 140x23x13.5 metres or 459x75x44 feet, so its volume was 43,500 m3 (cubic metres) or 1.54 million cubic feet. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent volume of 522 standard American railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep.

If the animals were kept in cages with an average size of 50x50x30 centimetres (20x20x12 inches), that is 75,000 cm3 (cubic centimetres) or 4800 cubic inches, the 16,000 animals would only occupy 1200 m3 (42,000 cubic feet) or 14.4 stock cars. Even if a million insect species had to be on board, it would not be a problem, because they require little space. If each pair was kept in cages of 10 cm (four inches) per side, or 1000 cm3, all the insect species would occupy a total volume of only 1000 m3, or another 12 cars. This would leave room for five trains of 99 cars each for food, Noah’s family and ‘range’ for the animals. However, insects are not included in the meaning of behemah or remes in Genesis 6:19-20, so Noah probably would not have taken them on board as passengers anyway.

Tabulating the total volume is fair enough, since this shows that there would be plenty of room on the Ark for the animals with plenty left over for food, range etc. It would be possible to stack cages, with food on top or nearby (to minimize the amount of food carrying the humans had to do), to fill up more of the Ark space, while still allowing plenty of room for gaps for air circulation. We are discussing an emergency situation, not necessarily luxury accommodation. Although there is plenty of room for exercise, skeptics have overstated animals’ needs for exercise anyway.

Even if we don’t allow stacking one cage on top of another to save floor space, there would be no problem. Woodmorappe shows from standard recommended floor space requirements for animals that all of them together would have needed less than half the available floor space of the Ark’s three decks. This arrangement allows for the maximum amount of food and water storage on top of the cages close to the animals.

With every storm or other rain event around the world that is followed by a rainbow in the sky, we have a contemporary reminder of the factuality of Noah’s flood. In the Genesis record, God declared the sign of the covenant he has made with all humanity that he would never destroy all human beings with a flood. The sign of that covenant is the rainbow in the sky (see Gen 9:13-15).

M’s kind of skepticism in denying Noah’s flood and calling it a ‘story’ without historical foundation, is predicted in Scripture: ‘In the last days scoffers will come’ and they deliberately forget that ‘the world of that time was deluged and destroyed’. ‘By the same word [of God] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly’ (2 Peter 3:3-7).

Creation Ministries International (CMI) has published some further online articles dealing with this topic of Noah and the worldwide flood. However, CMI presents only one creationist view among evangelical Christians, i.e. young earth creationism. There are others such as Dr Norman Geisler who support an old earth:

An earth of millions or billions of years is biblically possible but not absolutely provable…. Given the basics of modern physics, it seems plausible that the universe is billions of years old…. There is nothing in Scripture that contradicts this (Geisler 2003:648, 650).

See CMI information about Noah’s flood and the ark:

Conclusion

While the mockers of biblical Christianity will continue until their last breath, their ultimate exposure will be reserved for God’s Day of Judgment.

Be ready to expose the weaknesses in their arguments regarding Noah and the flood by,

(1) Knowing the Scriptures, especially Genesis and its confirmation in the New Testament;

(2) Know the creationist literature that exposes the cynics of biblical Christianity and especially the arguments of those who oppose creationism,

(3) Observe how they use logical fallacies to denigrate creationism and the Scriptures. Please become familiar with theses logical fallacies. The Nizkor Project has a helpful range of definitions for such fallacies.

(4) Be prepared to expose the holes and inconsistencies in their worldviews as they will try do with yours.

Works consulted

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

Notes:


[1] Robyn Ironside, Courier-Mail [Brisbane], July 16, 2013. Available at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/construction-work-in-brisbane-suburb-geebung-unearths-fossils-of-50million-yearold-crocodiles-fish-and-plants/story-fnihsrf2-1226680059012 (Accessed 8 February 2014).

[2] The Messenger, North Lakes, letter by Spencer Gear (SG) published in the edition of 27 July 2013 regarding the fossil find at Geebung.  See: http://www.northlakesmessenger.com.au/mags/2013/July27.pdf. It is on p. 18 under ‘Your Say’ and I’m SG.

[3] ‘Response to SG’, The Messenger, Your Say, August 10 2013, p. 22, available at: http://northlakesmessenger.com.au/mags/2013/Aug10.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2013).

[4] This is my letter sent to The Messenger, North Lakes, on 23 August 2013 at: community@northlakesmessenger.com.au. It was not published.

[5] The footnote here was, ‘Traditionally rendered an ark’.

[6] The footnote here was, ‘Or gopher wood’.

[7] The footnote here was, ‘Hebrew 300 cubits [138 meters] long, 50 cubits [23 meters] wide, and 30 cubits [13.8 meters] high’.

[8] The footnote here was, ‘Hebrew an opening of 1 cubit [46 centimeters]’.

[9] Published by Institute for Creation Research, 1996.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 September 2016.

Spencer Gear’s submission against homosexual marriage to the Australian House of Representatives

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Submission: Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012

House of Representatives:

House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

E-mail: The Secretary of the Committee, SPLAmarriagebills@aph.gov.au

 

Prepared by:

Spencer Gear MA (couns. psych.)

Address, phone number & email withheld

13 March 2012

Submission was available formerly as submission no. 87 Mr Spencer Gear (PDF 344KB)

It is no longer available online.

Marriage cover photo

Courtesy Salt Shakers (Christian ministry)

Please note: My ‘Submission: Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage  Amendment Bill 2012’ to the Australian House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Committee, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, was previously located at, ‘Senate Committees, Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010, Submissions received by the Committee’ but is no longer available online.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 March 2017.

Was Jesus married?

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

By Spencer D Gear

File:Codex Alexandrinus f41v - Luke.jpg

Codex Alexandrinus: Luke (courtesy Wikipedia)

There was an inquiry on an Internet forum about Jesus’ wife. This person wrote:

I once provided the scroll where Jesus mentioned his (possibly someone else’s) wife. I was just told that the Bible doesn’t mention that. But that isn’t good enough Spencer. Why was I not given a link to a site written by a biblical archaeologist to dispute the claim? I would have loved that.[1]

My response was:

I agree that that’s not good enough and Christians should not be threatened with that information. The biblical evidence does not support this view of Jesus having a wife and it would be interesting to know the origin of such a scroll.
Please appreciate that it takes years for Christian scholars to investigate and respond to such information in peer-reviewed journals. Many of the laity who participate in online forums like this would not have access to journals that review such material. I have such through online access to my university library. Most of the people in my church wouldn’t have such access or much interest.
[2]

What are the claims about Jesus’ wife?

A stained glass depiction of Jesus as a Caucasian man with long brown hair, a beard and the characteristic Christian cross inscribed in the halo behind his head. The figure dressed in a white inner robe cover by a shorter, looser scarlet robe. Depicted as a Shepherd, he is holding a crux in his left hand and carrying a lamb in his right. Sheep are positioned to the left and right of the figure.

Jesus depicted as the Good Shepherd (Wikipedia)

arrow One report stated,

‘A highly-contentious document which allegedly proves that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalen is at the centre of a fresh dispute about its authenticity.

The fourth-century papyrus fragment is the subject of an article by Karen King, a professor from the university’s Divinity School, which was due to be published in Harvard Theological Review this month.

But [put] the piece on hold while fresh tests are carried out on the manuscript’.[3]

arrow Another contended:

‘AT an academic conference in Rome on Tuesday, Karen L. King, a church historian at Harvard Divinity School, presented a finding that, according to some reports, threatened to overturn what we know about Jesus, as well as the tradition of priestly celibacy. She identified a small fragment of fourth-century papyrus that includes the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ ” Another clause appears to say, “she will be able to be my disciple.” Some experts have concluded that the manuscript, written in Coptic, is authentic’.[4]

arrow In an article in Christianity Today, Daniel Burke of Religion News Service wrote:

A newly revealed piece of papyrus offers evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married, according to a Harvard Divinity School professor.

A fourth-century codex in Coptic quotes Jesus referring to “my wife,” Karen King, a scholar of early Christianity, said on Tuesday. It is the only extant text in which Jesus is explicitly portrayed as betrothed, according to King.

Gospel of Jesus’ wife, recto (Wikipedia)

King is calling the receipt-sized slip of papyrusThe Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” She believes it was originally written in Greek, and later translated into Coptic, an Egyptian language.

The fragment says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…,'” according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. Another segment says, “As for me, I dwell with her in order to…” The speaker is not named.

The fragment contains just 33 words spread across 14 incomplete lines—less a full-fledged gospel than an ancient crossword puzzle.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said in a statement released Tuesday by Harvard. “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.”[5]

Wife or not?

Daniel B. Wallace

Daniel B Wallace (courtesy Dallas Theological Seminary)

cubed-redmatte What are the early estimates of the worth of this MSS, considering that not a word of Jesus’ wife was mentioned in the New Testament?
Daniel Wallace is a conservative scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary. His assessment of the MSS fragment about Jesus having a wife is in, ‘Reality Check: The “Jesus’ Wife” Coptic Fragment‘ (21 September 2012). His article concluded with this view:

The Possibilities:
1. This manuscript is a fake. Dr. Christian Askeland, in attendance at the International Association of Coptic Studies conference in Rome, noted that about two thirds of those in attendance were very skeptical of its authenticity, while one third were “essentially convinced that the fragment is a fake.” Askeland said he did not meet anyone at the conference who thought it was authentic (posted at the evangelical textual criticism website on Wednesday, 19 September 2012). This presumably does not include Professor King. A number of noted coptologists have pronounced it a fake or have expressed strong reservations, including Alin Suciu of the University of Hamburg, Stephen Emmel of the University of Münster, Wolf-Peter Funk of l’Université Laval in Quebec, Hany Sadak the director general of the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Scott Carroll, Senior Scholar at the Oxford Manuscript Research Group, and David Gill of the University of Suffolk.

2. If genuine, the text is either (a) not Gnostic (since it contradicts the basic Gnostic view of the material world); (b) Gnostic though with an interpretation of marriage as other than the physical bond between a man and a woman (in the Gospel of Philip “the relationship between Jesus and Mary [Magdalene] is an allegory of the soul’s meeting with God in the bridal chamber, i.e. salvation” ; similarly, the Gospel of Mary [Simon Gathercole of Cambridge University, interviewed on the Tyndale House [Cambridge] website, on Wednesday, 19 September 2012]); (c) orthodox but metaphorically referring to the church as the wife of Jesus (a view already attested in the New Testament—implicit in Eph 5.23–27 and explicit in Rev 19.7); (d) a derivative Christian group that gave some push-back against the growing asceticism of the orthodox in the late second century, when marriage was somewhat frowned upon; or (e) parabolic or metaphorical with some other referent in mind.

3. Even Professor King did not suggest that this fragment means that Jesus had a wife (and she is not known for her conservative views!): “its possible date of composition in the second half of the second century argues against its value as evidence for the life of the historical Jesus.” If it goes back to a second-century tradition, we must keep in mind that there is a world of difference between first-century, apostolic Christianity and the various spin-off groups that rose after that early period.

Here are some scholarly reviews:

Other media reports on the popular level had these emphases:

Dr. King herself cautioned that the papyrus fragment did not constitute proof of Jesus’ marital status. But it may represent evidence of a debate among the early Christian community (say, from the second to fourth centuries) over whether Jesus was married.

What if corroborating evidence of marriage is found from an earlier date? What if scholars unearth a first-century papyrus with additional lines from, say, the Gospel of Mark, which states unequivocally that Jesus was married? Would I stop believing in Jesus, or abandon my vows of chastity?

No and no.

It wouldn’t upset me if it turned out that Jesus was married. His life, death and, most important, resurrection would still be valid. Nor would I abandon my life of chastity, which is the way I’ve found to love many people freely and deeply. If I make it to heaven and Jesus introduces me to his wife, I’ll be happy for him (and her). But then I’ll track down Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who wrote so soon after the time of Jesus, and ask them why they left out something so important.

There seems to be some serious doubt about the authenticity of this manuscript. The secularists and atheists would love to find it authentic so that they could debunk 2,000 years of Christian history – and to expose the four New Testament Gospels as being grossly negligent in not presenting this critical piece of information.

Part of Daniel Wallace’s critique is that

Although Professor King has dubbed the fragment, The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, this is intentionally provocative. There is simply not enough material here (eight lines on the recto, a few words visible on the verso) to call it a gospel at all, let alone the gospel of Jesus’ wife! It would be more accurate to call it The Fragment about Jesus’ Relations (so the anonymous comment Posted at the Tyndale House [Cambridge] website, on Wednesday, 19 September 2012), since there is no evidence that it is a gospel and at least two family members are mentioned (Jesus’ wife and Jesus’ mother)….

Does this fragment prove that Jesus was married? The answer is an emphatic no. At most, it can only tell us what one group of ‘Christians’ in the middle of the second century thought. But it says nothing about true history, about Jesus of Nazareth.[6]

cubed-redmatte I recommend the article on Bible Gateway that attempts to answer the question, ‘People are asking me if Jesus ever had a wife. I say no. But there are some who think he did. I need your advice!’ The reply is in, ‘Did Jesus Have a Wife?’ Part of this response states:

Even the word “wife” in the document can be misleading. Ben Witherington III, a professor at Asbury Seminary, told the media that Gnostic texts of the second, third and fourth centuries used “the language of intimacy to talk about spiritual relationships.”

“What we hear from the Gnostic is this practice called the sister-wife texts, where they carried around a female believer with them who cooks for them and cleans for them and does the usual domestic chores, but they have no sexual relationship whatsoever” during the strong monastic periods of the third and fourth centuries, Witherington told the Associated Press. “In other words, this is no confirmation of The Da Vinci Code or even of the idea that the Gnostics thought Jesus was married in the normal sense of the word.”

cubed-redmatte Another perspective from NBC News (September 18, 2012) was:

Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at the Asbury Theological Seminary, noted that the latest find fits King’s perspective on scriptural scholarship. “She does have a dog in this hunt,” he told me. “She’s an advocate for the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas, telling us of early Christian experiences of various kinds, particularly of the Gnostic kind.”

The fragment that King calls the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could well contribute to the study of Gnosticism in the second or fourth century, but Witherington said it’s not a game-changer for our view of the first-century Jesus. “While this fragment is interesting, if you are interested in the historical Jesus, this is much ado about not very much,” Witherington said via email.

Witherington noted that experts who have gotten a close look at the papyrus say it’s genuine,  but he cautioned that “we cannot be absolutely sure of its authenticity or origins” as long as scholars can’t track down the details surrounding how, when and where it was discovered.

Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, voiced similar caution. However, if the document proves authentic, it would represent an important advance in scriptural scholarship, he said.

“It’s certainly not reliable for saying anything about the historical Jesus,” Ehrman told me. “But what it is important for is that this would be the first time we have any Christian authority or Christian group indicating that, in their opinion, Jesus was married.” Like King, Ehrman suggested that such claims might have figured into early Christian debates over the comparative merits of marriage vs. celibacy.

Monks and ‘sister-wives’

Witherington said the text could be open to alternate interpretations. “In view of the largely ascetic character of Gnosticism, it is likely that we are dealing with the ‘sister-wife’ phenomenon, and the reference is to a strictly spiritual relationship, which is close but does not involve sexual intimacy,” Witherington said (Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News, ‘Reality check on Jesus and his “wife’).

cubed-redmatte Tim Chaffey, in his article, ‘Was Jesus married?‘ wrote:

While marriage in and of itself is not wrong—it was instituted by God in the beginning as a “very good” human relationship (Genesis 1:26–31)—the notion that Jesus, the Son of God, could have married raises numerous theological concerns. The Bible teaches that in marriage, husband and wife become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

So if Jesus, who knew no sin, married a sinful woman, would not He and His wife become one flesh as well? Think of some possible implications of such a scenario. By becoming “one flesh” with a sinner, would Jesus become tainted by sin? What type of nature would children from this union have? Jesus was sinless and had both a divine and human nature, yet His supposed wife would have had a sinful nature.

So would children of such a union be born without sin or with sin? As physical children of the Son of God, what type of relationship would they have to God the Father? The whole idea of Jesus being married introduces a vast array of confused theology.

I find this to be a valuable insight of what would happen if the perfect God-man, Jesus, married a sinful human being and had children with her.

Conclusion

Based on the above evidence, I won’t be throwing out the New Testament Gospels or changing them to agree with this new and perhaps fanciful view of Jesus’ having a wife. Jesus’ marital state is still a no-brainer when compared with the existing historical evidence.

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Why I avoid discussing life after death’, Melissa #201. Available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=201&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122769 (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., ozspen #202. I have changed a couple of words from my Forum post.

[3] ‘What IS the truth about the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? Harvard delays article intended to resolve mysteries of papyrus which “shows Christ married Mary Magdalen”’, Mail Online, 7 January 2013. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2258465/Authenticity-row-Jesuss-wife-manuscript-continues-tests.html (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[4] James Martin (a Jesuit priest), ‘Mr. & Mrs. Jesus Christ?’ The New York Times, September 19, 2012, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/opinion/mr-and-mrs-jesus-christ.html (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[5] Daniel Burke, ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”’, 19 September 2012, Christianity Today, available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/september-web-only/jesus-said-to-them-my-wife.html (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[6] Op cit, Daniel Wallace, 21 September 2012.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 September 2016.