Archive for December, 2015

The battle for apologetics in Christian thinking

Friday, December 25th, 2015

(The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why would a group of Christians want apologetics and theology be seen as parallel disciplines. I challenged this combination of ‘Apologetics & Theology’ on Christian Forums.net (CFnet). They are in some ways related but in other primary ways are different disciplines? The following enumerates how I pursued this encounter with the moderators of this forum.

What is ‘apologetics’? William Lane Craig defines apologetics as ‘a theoretical discipline that tries to answer the question, What rational defense can be given for the Christian faith? Therefore, most of our time must be spent in trying to answer this question…. The use of apologetics in practice ought rather to be an integral part of courses and books on evangelism’ (Craig 1994:xi).

Edward John Carnell integrates apologetics with theology: ‘Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which answers the question, Is Christianity rationally defensible?’ (Carnell 1948:7, emphasis in original). Norman Geisler, an active apologist, exegete and theologian, provided this definition: ‘Apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith’ (Geisler 1999:37, emphasis in original).

How is ‘theology’ defined? Theologian Henry Thiessen considers that ‘theology is used in the narrow sense of ‘the doctrine of God’ and ‘the broad and more usual sense …, all Christian doctrines, not only the specific doctrine of God, but also all the doctrines that deal with the relations God sustains to the universe’ (Thiessen 1949:24).

A more recent theologian stated that ‘systematic theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?” about any given topic’ (Grudem 1999:17, emphasis in original). Millard Erickson defines theology as ‘that discipline which strives to give a coherent statement of the doctrines of the Christian faith, based primarily upon the Scriptures, placed in the context of culture in general, worded in a contemporary idiom, and related to issues of life’ (Erickson 1985:21).

I suggested to one of the moderators of CFnet that ‘Apologetics’ should become a separate discipline to ‘Theology’ on that forum and he suggested discussing it in an open forum of ‘Questions & Suggestions for CFnet Staff’. Therefore, I began a topic, ‘Separate apologetics from theology’.

That really got the juices flowing after I began the topic with this entry:[1]

No need to quote Scriptures in apologetics

Since I’m an active Christian apologist in the Australian secular world, I would like to ask a few questions about the ‘Apologetics & Theology’ directory in which Scriptures are to be given in responses, to follow CFnet guidelines. This is not possible in the apologetic world in which I engage people because these sceptical Aussies do not want Scripture quoted as many of them don’t believe the Bible. They want engagement at a different level because of the nature of their questions or comments:

  1. ‘Your Bible is nonsense; it’s nothing more than a fairytale, myth from the Iron Age’ – quoting Scripture will not answer this issue. I need to engage with them on how to determine the accuracy and dependability of any document from history. Quoting Scripture doesn’t help them on this part of the journey.
  2. ‘It’s foolishness trying to convince me of your god when there are so many gods in the world, including Allah, Buddha and thousands of other deities. Promoting your one God is nothing more than giving me your indoctrination’. This means I have to begin this discussion way before reaching the Bible.
  3. The occasional more informed person raises issues such as: ‘Your Reformation hero John Calvin agreed to the slaughter of the Geneva Reformer Michael Servetus who was burned to death for heresy. One of your leaders is as guilty as the ISIL terrorists in killing those who oppose them’. Therefore, this is not the point to begin by quoting Scripture. I have to begin way back before I can come to Scripture.

I would like to encourage CFnet to separate apologetics from theology and not to require the quoting of Scriptures for every post that starts or continues an apologetic topic. Even in theology there are topics that may encourage starting or continuing with a discussion that doesn’t directly cite Scripture at the beginning. I’m thinking of the way that postmodernism is influencing theology. A refutation of postmodern theology (which Millard Erickson has done magnificently in the latest edition of his Christian Theology) may not involve the quoting of Scripture in various aspects as responses.

I urge you to broaden your view of Apologetics so that you can equip believers to engage with the secularist who is raising strategic issues that need to be addressed by the Christian community. A requirement to quote Scripture is not always the best starting point when we are finding common ground. If we do this, CFnet can be more actively involved in equipping apologists for the challenges of the secular world.

I do hope you will give positive consideration to these matters I’m raising here.

Here is a sample of responses:

Change it to ‘Christian apologetics’

One of the administrators wrote:[2]

We have actually discussed this a bit among ourselves. One thought has been that maybe we should change the title of the forum to “Christian Apologetics and Theology” rather than “Apologetics and Theology.” Adding “Christian” to the title might be more accurate because the rules here at CFnet do not allow non-Christians to attempt to undermine our beliefs therefore, using the Bible as the source of our defense is appropriate. Very few non-Christians debate in this forum and I suspect this is partly why.

Mars Hill as an example

(Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul‘s Areopagus sermon, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Another quoted from the gotquestions.org website:[3]

The biblical significance of Mars Hill is that it is the location of one of Paul’s most important gospel presentations at the time of his visit to Athens during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:16–34). It was where he addressed the religious idolatry of the Greeks who even had an altar to the “Unknown God.” It was this altar and their religious idolatry that Paul used as a starting point in proclaiming to them the one true God and how they could be reconciled to Him. Paul’s sermon is a classic example of a gospel presentation that begins where the listeners are and then presents the gospel message in a logical and biblical fashion. In many ways it is a classic example of apologetics in action. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them.[4]

This is well said.[5] We can expect that what Paul said on the Areopagus to the people of Athens is not detailed in full in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV), however there is enough here to indicate that he started with common ground:

  • He ‘observed the objects of your worship’ (v 23);
  • ‘I found also an altar with this inscription, “To the unknown god”‘ (v 23);
  • Then he moved to the known ‘God who made the world and everything in it’, etc.

This is the kind of passage with emphases what we face in post-Christian societies where we have to deal with non-Christian issues that people use as blocks to consider Christ. I am convinced that we need to clear the debris before we get to the Gospel presentation. Paul did that on the Areopagus.

Please don’t remove the Scriptures

Another moderator:[6]

One thing I wouldn’t want to see is any removal of the scripture requirement from the guidelines of the forum that we have now. Even though this has created a lot of editing work and drawn terrible fire from some members against the mods (yours truly in particular lately! clip_image001), it has also done a lot to stop the horrible fighting and verbal abuse that had been taking place there at one time. To me it’s worth the time and effort, so perhaps there are some ways we can make it even better now.

For me, the issue is not that of removing the Scripture in a discussion. It is a matter of separating the topics of two separate disciplines. At times on this forum,[7] I do not see the rules facilitating the ministry of apologetics when there is a mix and mash with theology. We can have people squabbling over Arminian vs Calvinistic views of election and another thread dealing with the existence of God – all in the same directory.
I’m of the view that having a separate apologetics directory would allow specifics of apologetic topics to be pursued with vigor and focus. Then the controversy of Arminianism vs Calvinism could be placed in another directory that has nothing to do with apologetic topics – a theology directory.

What is apologetics?

Steven B Cowan is the general editor of Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Publishing House 2000). In his introduction to this book, he wrote on ‘the nature of apologetics’:

‘Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity. Indeed, the very word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, which means “defense.” It was a term used in the courts of law in the ancient world. Socrates, for example, gave his famous “apology,” or defense, before the court of Athens. And the apostle Paul defended himself (apologeomai) before the Roman officials (Acts 24:10; 25:8). As it concerns the Christian faith, then, apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct way s. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. This apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purposes is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter, called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these. Of course, some apologists, as we will see, contend that such arguments are unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to Christian faith. These apologists focus primarily on the negative task and downplay the role of positive apologetics. Nevertheless, most, if not all, would agree that the apologetic task includes the giving of some positive reasons for faith’ (Cowan 2000:8).

That is an especially useful format for a book on apologetics. It provides expositions on 5 different methods:

  1. The Classical Method, William Lane Craig;
  2. The Evidential Method, Gary R Habermas;
  3. The Cumulative Case Method, Paul D. Feinberg;
  4. The Presuppositional Method, John M. Frame; and
  5. The Reformed Epistemological Method, Kelly James Clark.

I enjoy this format because following the exposition of each method, the other 4 apologists provide their responses.

Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler have edited a very practical volume to address issues at the local church level, Is Your Church Ready? Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life (Zacharias & Geisler 2003).

Apologetics for reaching non-Christians

One moderator was onside with me in this kind of comment:

Since apologetics is mainly for reaching non-Christians and is quite different than mere theological discussion, it makes sense to have the two as separate forums. Even Other Religions and the Science forums could be grouped under an Apologetics forum. The point being that while apologetics does make use of theology, it also makes extensive use of philosophy and other disciplines to make a good and proper defense of the Christian faith. As such, not all of it can necessarily be directly supported by Scripture.[8]

This moderator explained further that, even though apologetics is grounded in Scripture, there are apologetic arguments that use philosophy and extrapolations from Scripture. For this kind of defense, using direct statements from Scripture is not necessary or advantageous. When unbelievers dismiss the Bible outright – not caring what Scripture says – we can appeal to their reason to demonstrate how their arguments are weak and don’t work. This is designed to gain their ears. With other discussions there may be situations where we use Scripture extensively. This is especially so with those from other faiths and the cults. He reinforced my view that with theology, it is generally a discussion among Christians where it is necessary to use Scripture. His view was that apologetics defends our theology but goes beyond it because of apologetics’ outward focus.[9]

My issue[10] relates to the discipline of apologetics and how one interacts with non-Christians who ask penetrating questions for which the initial point of contact is not for an answer from Scripture. I have a very high doctrine of Scripture, so the issue is the nature of apologetics. People ask me these kinds of questions or assert these kinds of things:

  • Who created God?
  • Why your God and not Allah?
  • That Bible of yours is from the Iron Age and is nothing more than a fairytale.

For these kinds of questions, I do not start with the Scripture, but I eventually get to the Scriptures and their reliability.

My challenge to one of the forum moderators was: Please help me to understand how you will use an apologetic response, with your requirement for quoting Scripture, to answer the statement from a non-believer, ‘Your Bible is junk. It’s from the Iron Ages and is a fairytale. You can’t rely on anything in the Bible’.[11]

Here is one of the issues in a secular society:[12] I invite you to come Down Under and begin discussions on biblical topics on one of the commons in the centre of the city or go to any university campus and you’ll find that there are many non-believers who are biblically naive and ignorant of the Scriptures, but they have significant antagonism towards religion and especially the Christian faith.

Apologetics is not theology

(Acropolis of Athens view from Areopagus hill, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

The issue I raised on this forum[13] was the difference between apologetics and theology. They are two separate disciplines. Apologia is Greek for a defense; in this circumstance it is a defence of the Christian faith. However, many people in Australia and other parts of the world are a long way from discussing Scripture and as a proactive apologist in my country, I find I have to start way before citing Scripture – like Paul did on the Areopagus, recorded in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV). But CFnet in its current format won’t allow me to do that because of the requirement to quote Scripture.

I also have a very high view of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I’m not debating the authority of Scripture. My discussion surrounds the differences between the ministry of apologetics and the ministry of theological explanation. I’m suggesting that Apologetics becomes a separate directory from Theology and that there not be a requirement placed on those in the Apologetics directory to cite Scripture always.

I asked a moderator: How would you answer the question, ‘Who made God?’, when discussing with a non-Christian who raises this topic.

I understand the Lord is affirming an approach that seems to be foreign with verses such as:[14]

  • Isa 1:18 (ESV): ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’.
  • Eph 4:23 (ESV): ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds‘.

However, my experience with evangelicals through over 50 years as an evangelical Christian is that reason seems to be forbidden fruit with some evangelicals.

I expect[15] that apologetic questions should go in an Apologetics forum and not in ‘Questions for Christians‘. The issue could be easily addressed with a separate Apologetics forum, but with strict requirements for posting (flaming/goading is prohibited), but there is no requirement to quote Scripture. If I were to interact in an Apologetics forum, I would eventually get to Scripture because I’m convinced that the Christian world and life view fits like a hand in glove with reality.

Therefore, I’m suggesting establishing:

  1. A separate Apologetics forum;
  2. That deals only with apologetics topics and not inclusive of theological topics;
  3. A separate Theology forum;
  4. Maintain strict requirements for manners and etiquette in how people interact. I would not use the word ‘guidelines’ but would make them ‘requirements’.

I would expect that ‘Questions for Christians’ could include some apologetic type questions, but its breadth of questions would be much wider than apologetics.

Rules and legalism are not Christian

In the above kind of discussion, it wasn’t long before this kind of comment arrived: ‘More rules, more legalism, less Christianity. Doesn’t sound like a Christian forum to me’.[16] That is not what I’ve been advocating but it is how he is interpreting the moderators’ responses.

I replied:[17]

All conversations need rules. It’s not legalism, but a requirement for healthy dialogue. I can’t and wouldn’t use bullying tactics of swearing at a fellow employee on the job. I have boundaries for conversation at work and at church. On this forum, it should be no different.

Imagine what it would be like if there were not fundamental rules for the playing of football, tennis, cricket and baseball. I have to abide by the rules of driving on Australian roads, for obtaining a driver’s license and then the speed and boundaries of driving on the road.

‘More rules’ do not necessarily lead to ‘more legalism’. Rules are at the core of Christianity. John 14:6 (ESV) and Acts 4:12 (ESV) could be defined as ‘more rules, more legalism’ but it is core Christianity. There are some very definite rules in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).

It is most definitely a Christian forum if rules are required because boundaries (rules) are necessary for disciplined Christian living, an example being, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless’ (James 1:26 ESV). So the legalism of bridling the tongue is a demonstration of religion that is worthwhile before God.

His retort was: ‘You might find yourself in a forum all by yourself’.[18] He has obviously missed the point of my discussion in raising and continuing with this topic.

So, apologetics is really evangelism?

This is how one person viewed this topic of apologetics:

Perhaps I’m incorrect here, but Apologetics, imo, is believers defending their beliefs and differing ideas in a theological discussion using the Bible to “prove” their point.
Evangelism is what comes to mind for me when I read the OP [original post], this is dealing with non believers, witnessing to them and talking to them about our faith. Instead of changing A&T [Apologetics & Theology], perhaps an Evangelism section would be better suited, this way we all learn how to approach those non-believers when they ask questions similar to those presented in the OP.[19]

My response was:[20] Since I live in a very secular, post-Christian country, I find that sharing the Gospel will lead almost immediately into non-Christian challenges that can be quite inflammatory at times, like:

  • ‘That’s garbage (and followed by a string of expletives)’;
  • Myth! Trash! Nonsense!
  • Science has proven your creation myth to be to be just that – myth – that is found in many of the stories of mythology.

If you were here, I wonder what kind of response you would get by using the Bible to prove your points. These antagonists do not believe the Bible and my experience tells me that quoting it won’t engage them in conversation.

This afternoon I travel by train to the inner city Town Hall for a meeting of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll engage the person beside me on the train in conversation and I’ll try to get onto a Christian topic, but I don’t plan on engaging that person by quoting the Bible. They are way back further than that in initial contact.

No need for quoting Scripture in apologetics

Bible Open To Psalm 118One administrator was persistent: ‘So if I understand you correctly, by applying the guidelines the way we have, you are saying we have eliminated apologetics from the A&T [Apologetics & Theology] forum to the point that it is now just a theology thread’.[21]

How should I respond?[22] That is the case, generally, where I live. By requiring me to address apologetics topics on CFnet by insisting on the quoting of Scripture, we have moved into theology when I would like to deal with apologetics with resistant or antagonistic people. You and I know that it will take a compulsory ministry of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s heart.

I agree with the application of rules but it is the requirement or guideline to use Scripture that I find unnecessary in finding common ground with post-Christian secularists.

For example, some non-Christians and even Christians on CFnet use logical fallacies in their responses. I find it necessary to show what the fallacy is and how they use it by linking to a logical fallacies’ site, but to do this does not need a Scripture reference.

Another moderator who said she did not have much education and was intimidated by members who were smarter than she was,[23] told us how fed up she was: ‘I really do not understand why there are 4 pages here of some one trying every avenue possible to not want to use scripture in a Christian forum…in the only forum on the site that requires them’.[24]

This was like a red rag to a bull to me.[25] You have misread what I’ve written. I am NOT promoting the view NOT to use Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m addressing the ministry of apologetics which deals with objections to the Christian faith. To begin or continue an apologetic discussion with somebody objecting to some dimension of Christianity, it often is not helpful to begin with a ‘thus says the Bible’ answer. I’ve given a good number of examples in this thread to demonstrate that some objections to the faith do not require us to start with the Bible. Please go back through this thread to see the specific examples I have given.

I do not appreciate it when you misrepresent what I said. I am most definitely NOT advocating the elimination of Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m advocating that Apologetics is a separate discipline to Theology and that Apologetics needs to be more open. It does not need a requirement or suggestion to always use Scripture.

By the way, I have a very high view of Scripture and quote Scripture often in the forums on which I participate on CFnet. The issue is Apologetics and not needing to always quote Scripture.

Apologetics and theology differ

At least one moderator got the emphasis I was trying to convey. However, he lives in Canada, a country with a similar secular environment to Australia. He wrote:

The two main issues are these, as have been stated several times in this thread:

1. Apologetics and theology are two different subjects, and both are fairly large subjects at that. They should never really have been made into one forum in the first place. Having a separate Apologetics forum would allow for arguments to defend the faith to be gathered in one place, and therefore be effective in helping train those who are interested in defending the faith.

2. Not all apologetic arguments rely directly on Scripture. Defending traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life can be based on both arguments from Scripture and arguments not at all based on Scripture; the problem of evil is largely argued without Scripture; some of the arguments for the existence of God are not base[d] on Scripture; etc. Not to mention the fact that many non-Christians dismiss the Bible and won’t listen if one only tries to argue from Scripture. That’s just a fact of the world we live in. One of the main points of apologetics is to get people to a point where they will be willing to listen to Scripture. More often than not apologetics is a necessary component of evangelism these days. It would be of great service to the Christian community to have a place where Christians can learn and get trained.[26]

Conclusion

This discussion among Christians, especially by moderators who want Scripture to be quoted every time on an apologetic topic, was pointless – apart from the assessment by the last moderator quoted. He was able to conclude that apologetics is designed to answer people’s objections with the hope of bringing them to consider the message of Scripture.

As for the others, I was simply spinning the wheels and going nowhere. They are so fixed in the view that the topics of apologetics and theology on this Christian forum require that Scriptures be quoted. In 86 posts, there was no movement by the overall tone of the moderators to move the goal posts to separate apologetics from theology. One was on side with me.

My view is that a Christian is to find common ground with a non-Christian and begin where that person is, to answer questions applicable to that unbeliever. Most often that does not start with the Scriptures here in Australia.

See my other articles relating to this topic:

clip_image003 Why is apologetics in such low demand in the church?

clip_image003[1] Christians stuck for answers

clip_image003[2] When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy

clip_image003[3] Did God create evil?

clip_image003[4] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image003[5] Secular assaults on the Bible: The inerrant Bible battles

clip_image003[6] Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

Works consulted

Carnell, E J 1948. An introduction to Christian apologetics: A philosophic defense of the trinitarian-theistic faith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Cowan, S B (gen ed). Five views of apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Craig, W L 1994. Reasonable Faith: Christian truth and apologetics. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.[27]

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Zacharias, R & Geisler, N (gen eds) 2003. Is your church ready? Motivating leaders to live an apologetic life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2015. Questions & suggestions for CFnew staff, ‘Separate apologetics from theology‘, 21 July, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/separate-apologetics-from-theology.60500/ (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[2] Ibid., WIP#2.

[3] Ibid., Deborah#3.

[4] GotQuestions?org ‘What happened at Mars Hill in the Bible?’ Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/Mars-Hill.html#ixzz3gXRpbHQ8 (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[5] CFnet, ibid., OzSpen#32.

[6] Ibid., Obadiah#4.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#34.

[8] Ibid., Free#11.

[9] Ibid., Free#17.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#40.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#41.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#43.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[16] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#59.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[18] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#64.

[19] Ibid., Abigain123#65.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[21] Ibid., WIP#72.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#73.

[23] Ibid., Reba#74, Reba#76.

[24] Ibid., Reba#76.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#80.

[26] Ibid., Free#79.

[27] This is a revised edition of the original edition published in 1984 by Moody Press.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 November 2015.

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Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

 clip_image002

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you respond to this assessment? ‘Where are the words “loss of salvation” or “loss of eternal life” found ANYWHERE in the Bible?????’[1]

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The exact word, ‘Trinity’, is not found in the Bible, but the teaching on the Trinity is there.[2] The exact words, ‘Jesus is God’, are not in Scripture, but the teaching on Jesus’ deity is there.

In the same way, ‘loss of salvation’ or ‘loss of eternal life’ is not the exact language used, but the teaching on loss of salvation is there. We find it in this kind of language:

A. Those who commit apostasy, cannot be restored to repentance

‘For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (Heb 6:4-6 ESV, emphasis added).?

clip_image006(image courtesy twoedgegraphics.com)

‘Have fallen away’ is from the Greek verb, parapiptw, which Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in Heb 6:6 as ‘fall away, commit apostasy’ (A&G 1957:626). Thayer’s Greek lexicon provides the meaning of parapiptw as ‘in Scriptures, to fall away (from the true faith): from the worship of Jehovah, Ezek. 14:13; 15:8…; from Christianity, Heb 6:6‘ (Thayer 1885/1962:485).

Leading Greek exegete from the 20th century, A T Robertson, in commenting on the seriousness of the consequences of this apostasy in Heb 6:6 stated, ‘It is a terrible picture and cannot be toned down…. This is why renewal for such apostates is impossible. They crucify Christ. And put him to an open shame….In a bad sense to expose to disgrace’ (Robertson 1932:375-376).

Thus, in the Greek, whether LXX or NT, parapiptw means that it is possible to commit apostasy and fall away from the true faith in Christ. In English, apostasy means ‘The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v apostasy). That’s what it meant in the LXX and NT as well.

B. It is possible to shipwreck one’s faith

For a more comprehensive response to what it means to shipwreck one’s faith, see my article, What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

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(Willy Stöwer [Public domain], image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

That is a painting of the Titanic going down after it was shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Was this boat of any use after its shipwreck? Of course not!

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(image courtesy titanicexpo.co.za)

‘The wreck of the RMS Titanic was located about 370 miles (600 km) south-southeast of the coast of Newfoundland, lying at a depth of about 12,500 feet (3,800 m)’. The liner hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage in 1912 from Southampton UK to New York NY (Wikipedia 2015, Wreck of the RMS Titanic).

Take a look at the present condition of the wreck of the Titanic:

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(Titanic wreck 2003, image courtesy Wikipedia)

How does this analogy relate to shipwreck of a person’s faith?

We have this verse that speaks of ‘holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.’ (1 Tim 1:19 ESV, emphasis added). So, in their shipwrecked faith they were blaspheming. Whom were they blaspheming? It seems obvious in context that the blasphemy is against God and so Paul hands them over to Satan for Satan’s consequences against them.

In this verse, the verb, ‘have made shipwreck’ is nauagew which means literally in ancient Greek ‘to suffer shipwreck’ and is the word used for Paul’s physical shipwreck in 2 Cor 11:25 (ESV). It is used metaphorically with respect to shipwreck of one’s faith (1 Tim 1:19 ESV) (Thayer 1885/1962:423). Arndt & Gingrich (1957:536) affirm the same meaning as Thayer, literally and metaphorically, ‘they have suffered shipwreck in their faith’ (1 Tim 1:19).

Note the emphasis that this has applied to ‘some’ Christians who were supposed to be ‘holding faith and a good conscience’ have rejected this faith and so have shipwrecked their faith (1 Tim 1:19 ESV). It is important to note that in the NT, the same word used for a literal shipwreck is used for a metaphorical shipwreck of one’s faith. Shipwrecks wreck ships, thus making them unusable for the purpose for which they were created. Shipwrecks of faith make faith unusable for the purpose for which faith is engendered – for salvation. So, to shipwreck one’s faith is parallel to committing apostasy.

C. Avoidance of issues

How do you think a person, who supports eternal security, would respond to the above exegesis? As happens so often in person and on Christian forums, people are known to engage in the use of logical fallacies when their favourite doctrines are refuted. I long for the day when someone says, ‘I have never considered that before. I’ll need to re-evaluate my support of eternal security’. However, I also need to be open to the possibility that I could be wrong in my support of perseverance of the saints (as opposed to once-saved-always-saved). Up to this point in my Christian journey, I’ve not found a consistent case for eternal security as a doctrine of Soteriology. There are too many warning passages to make an absolutely tight case for eternal security.

Back to the Christian forum! This is what he did when he stated:

My point is that there is no clear teaching on loss of salvation in the Bible. It’s all just assumption of verses that are not specifically clear about it. And there are clear verses on eternal security.

In fact, the verses on eternal security are as clear as the verses on unlimited atonement.[3]

What has he done with those kinds of statements?

1. Logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

In discussing with me, this fellow used a red herring logical fallacy. Here he has introduced an irrelevant topic ‘no clear teaching on loss of salvation’ to divert attention from the exegesis I provided on Heb 6:4-6 and 1 Tim 1:19 that do provide evidence on loss of salvation. When this tactic is used, the view is to try to win an argument by introducing another topic. It is deceptive because it is changing topic to what he wants to say and is not dealing with the arguments I presented. He is not refuting the claims I have made. The Nizkor Project illustrates this sort of illogical reasoning:

(1) Topic A is under discussion.

(2) Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

(3) Topic A is abandoned (1991-2012. S v Fallacy: Red Herring).

This sort of “reasoning” is erroneous because merely changing the topic of discussion, even though here it looks to be close to the original topic, does not present an argument against a claim. He has not challenged the content of what I stated.

As to what I stated about apostasy in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), he continued his diversionary tactic:

But there is a very logical and reasonable explanation for this passage that doesn’t involve loss of salvation.
How does “restored to repentance” even relate to the status of loss of salvation. Repentance isn’t a one time thing. We need to turn from sin every time we do sin. This isn’t the basis of maintaining our salvation.?[4]

This is inserting his own opinion. Note the language from Heb 6:4-6, ‘It is impossible … to restore them again to repentance’. His argument was that repentance was needed every time we sin. I agree with that, but he used a detour tactic to take the discussion where he wants it to go – in support of his once-saved-always-saved position. These 3 verses from Hebrews demonstrate that there is no possibility of repentance from any sin for a person who has committed apostasy. But this fellow didn’t deal with that. He was off and running with his own emphasis – repentance is needed every time we sin. However, that is not related to the issue I raised from Heb 6:4-6. It can become very frustrating trying to interact with people who use logical fallacies. In fact, ‘

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

I urge you to watch for these digressions that are used in discussions to avoid dealing with the matters you and I raise. My experience is that Christians online and in person frequently use logical fallacies. I was speaking with a person recently about Australian cricket’s opening batsman, David Warner and his good looking wife, Candice. His response was, ‘My wife also is good looking’. That was a red herring fallacy. I was not talking about his wife, but about David Warner’s wife.

2. Inventing a definition

Notice how he does it: ‘Yes, apostasy is very serious, but does not lead to loss of salvation, no matter how much it may offend and disgust people’.[5]

I reminded him:[6] From where did you obtain that definition of apostasy? I do wish you would document your sources. Nothing was documented in your reply. If you are going to continue to do this, we have no grounds for a reasonable discussion. See the definitions above from the Greek NT and Oxford dictionaries of the definition of apostasy. They are far removed from this person’s agenda. He is pushing a theological barrow. No matter what biblical evidence is provided, he is so blinded by his theological ‘cataracts’ that he cannot see the evidence of what apostasy is and its dangers.

3. Distorting the biblical material

If one can’t use the Greek exegesis to refute parapiptw in Heb 6:6 in the Greek NT, what does one do? Here is his approach.

There is nothing in the word for “apostasy” that means loss of salvation.
Here is the word for “fall away” in Heb 6:6 – parapiptw
1) to fall beside a person or thing
2) to slip aside
2a) to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander
2b) to error
2c) to fall away (from the true faith): from worship of Jehovah

Nothing here about loss of salvation.

Further, Paul described God’s gifts as justification (Rom 3:24 and 5:15,16,17) and eternal life (Rom 6:23) and then wrote that God’s gifts are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). That should end all debate on eternal life.

These gifts of God are “unrepented of” or irrevocable.

Further, when one believes they are sealed with the Holy Spirit, a promise and guarantee FOR the day of redemption.
Eph 1:13,14, 4:30, 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5.

Heb 10:14 – because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Those “who are being made holy” is a reference to believers, and God “has made (them) perfect FOREVER”.

Having been made perfect forever precludes the loss of salvation.

These are not “cherry-picked” verses, but verses that clearly speak of eternal security.[7]

This is a detour into irrelevance. He’s going off at tangents, which indicates he does not deal with the specifics I raised. I chose to correct his erroneous statements.

So, ‘There is nothing in the word for “apostasy” that means loss of salvation’. Who said so? He has given us his opinion – a red herring. In section A above, I provided the definitions of ‘apostasy’ to refute this person’s statement. Evidence is better than personal assertions in any situation. When a person comes up with this kind of lack of evidence, I urge you to challenge him or her to provide the proof to confirm what he/she is avowing.

4. Correcting erroneous statements

I did obtain this person’s information online about the meaning of parapiptw from Strong’s Concordance (online) at:[8]  http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G3895/parapipto.htm. Here it stated that Thayer’s Greek lexicon gave the meaning of this word for ‘fall away/apostasy’ as:

Thayer
1) to fall beside a person or thing
2) to slip aside
2a) to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander
2b) to error
2c) to fall away (from the true faith): from worship of Jehovah
Part of Speech: verb
Citing in TDNT: 6:170, 846?

I have Thayer’s lexicon in hard copy. What this abbreviated version at that website has failed to state was that 1), 2), 2a) used ‘to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander’ and that related to the meaning of 2) ‘to slip aside’. Number 2b) should be the infinitive ‘to err’. All of these meanings are from classical Greek authors Polybius and Xenophon and were NOT from the Bible. They were the meanings in those ancient Classical Greek authors.

What his abbreviated edition failed to mention was that 2c) was the only meaning that was from the Bible and it means ‘to fall away (from the true faith); from the worship of Jehovah’ (Ezek 14:13; 15:8 in the LXX) and ‘from Christianity’ (Heb 6:6) (Thayer 1885/1962:485). This is the meaning of apostasy as Arndt & Gingrich’s lexicon confirms (as I’ve already provided above).

I know that this kind of definition is outside of this persons theological philosophy of eternal security, but I want to be honest with the Greek exegesis of the text. It is possible to commit apostasy (fall away from the faith) in such a bad way that ‘it is impossible’ to restore their faith again through repentance. The language of Heb 6:6 (ESV) is accurate that it is impossible ‘to restore them again to repentance’, i.e. the apostasy has caused them to reach a stage where repentance to obtain true faith is needed, but it is impossible for that to happen.

That’s what Heb 6:6 (ESV) states. It’s a challenging thing before God to want to minimise this serious situation. I was in Bible College with two students who became Christian ministers and they have now committed apostasy. They have repudiated Christ and their Christian faith. They are now secular pagans in their thinking and actions.

See Carl Wieland’s, ‘Death of an apostate’ (i.e. Charles Templeton). Templeton in the 1940s was a colleague of Billy Graham in Youth for Christ.

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(Image courtesy Worldcat)?

Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’.

5. Irrelevance again

Image result for clipart signs public domainIf you want to continue to divert a topic to your own agenda, throw in another red herring. That’s what this person did again: ‘My position is based on what the Bible says clearly. And the verses I provided are clear about eternal security’.[9]

Notice the tactic! It sounds so reasonable, but the ploy he used was contrary to the information I supplied. I provided verses that demonstrated that apostasy could be committed (I defined apostasy) and how one could shipwreck one’s faith. He didn’t want to deal with this information to refute it, so he goes off into a statement about his favourite topic, eternal security – based on the Bible. Why is he refusing to answer the issues I raise about eternal security? Could it have something to do with his fixation on his version of the doctrine and not wanting to deal with the problems I raise that oppose that position? Seems like it.

What he doesn’t know is that I support the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and not once-saved-always-saved. See my other articles on this topic:

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Do I have a fixation in support of Arminianism? I have searched my heart on this topic. I don’t think so. I have seen so much misrepresentation of the Arminian position in 54 years as a Christian, in this latter stage of my life, I’m attempting to bring correction of that misinformation. Roger Olson’s book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Olson 2006) challenges some of these misconceptions regarding Arminianism.

6. A postmodern approach to Bible verses

What is postmodern interpretation? Ben Witherington explained:

[Stanley Fish, a postmodernist interpreter] does not really believe texts have meanings. He believes that active readers give texts their meaning.
I was always taught to call this eisegesis– the inappropriate reading into the text of something that is not there. He is not at all interested in arguments about “the intention of the author”. He thinks those intentions, whatever they were can’t be known and don’t matter. Meaning happens– its not encoded in texts, and the issue of authorial intent is a moot point. The funny thing about this is that when some people have misread his own work on John Milton, and totally misrepresented what he said— he objects “but that is not what I said or meant.” But he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He gave up claims about objective meanings in texts and authorial intent. As for me, I would much rather listen to Kevin Van Hoozer on these subjects (see his “Is There a Meaning in This Text?“) or more remotely E.D. Hirsch’s classic study “Validity in Interpretation” (Witherington 2006).

Paul Noble described Fish’s hermeneutics as engaging in ‘radical reinterpration’. Noble maintained that ‘the text has an independent existence over against the interpreter, and offers very significant resistance to the reader’s interpretative strategies, in ways that contradict Fish’s central principles…. In spite of his denials, Fish’s theory entails a radical form of solipsism’. Oxford dictionaries defined solipsism as ‘the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v solipsism). It is Noble’s view that biblical studies should not move in a more Fishian direction (Noble 1995:1, emphasis in original).

In reply to another poster, this person on the Christian forum wrote:

One of the other of God’s gifts that is irrevocable is justification: Rom 3:24, 5:15,16,17.

Paul noted 2 of God’s gifts and then wrote that they are irrevocable.

Since he didn’t describe any other things as gifts of God, when he wrote Rom 11:29 we must go to where he DID describe gifts of God. And they are irrevocable.[10]

What are the difficulties with this post?[11]

Those verses from Rom 3 and Rom 5 teach justification but they do not teach justification that is irrevocable. You are imposing on these verses to get your ‘irrevocable’ emphasis.

Romans 11:29 (ESV) in the context of Rom 9-11 (ESV) is not talking about irrevocable or unrepented gifts in isolation. The Greek preposition gar (for) at the beginning of this verse (11:29) links it back to what has preceded it. The gifts of God, as the context makes clear, are not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. See Rom 9:4-5 (ESV); Rom 11:1 (ESV); Rom 11:11-24 (ESV).

It is so important to interpret in context and not as a remote verse. The meaning of Rom 11:29 (ESV) is tied up with the Gospel going to the Jews (who often rejected it) and the Gentiles.

This person seems to want Rom 11:29 (ESV) to mean something that it doesn’t mean in context.

D. Make verses conform

Part of his response was: ‘The definition of the Greek word found in Heb 6:6 is from Strong’s…. Are you suggesting that the Bible re-defines some words?? Where would I find that teaching in the Bible?… But where in the Bible is the teaching that if one falls away, they lose their salvation?’[12] There were other parts to this response, but I found them to be meanderings that were not attempting to solve the differences between supporters and opponents of eternal security.

My reply to him was that when I wrote (above) that Thayer gave the meanings from classical Greek authors Polybius and Xenophon in his definitions of papapiptw, I was showing that authors outside of the Bible – and ancient authors – did use papapiptw in a different way to the LXX and NT.
Yes, the Bible does use words with a slightly or even considerably different meaning from ancient secular sources. Where do I find that in the Bible? I won’t, just as I won’t find the fact that Captain James Cook circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770 and then sailed up the east coast of Australia. I’m grateful for scholars who have compared the ancient sources with the LXX and NT in our Greek lexicons and publications such as Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is hard work reading and analysing the etymology of words in ancient writers in the original languages to arrive at meanings.

I’m grateful for scholars who have compared the ancient Greek, secular sources with the LXX and NT in our Greek lexicons and publications such as Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is hard work reading and analysing the etymology of words in ancient writers in the original languages to arrive at meanings.

Where in the Bible is the teaching of losing salvation? I’ve already provided the evidence from Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) and 1 Tim 1:19 (ESV) but you don’t want to receive that information. This latter verse talks of shipwreck of one’s faith.

Take a look at the present condition of the wreck of the Titanic:
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(Titanic wreck 2003, photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Apostasy speaks of repudiating salvation; a shipwrecked faith indicates a useless faith for what it was designed (salvation).
I don’t believe in eternal security or once-saved-always-salved but I do believe the Bible teaches perseverance of the saints, i.e. believers will persevere to the end of life. This is taught in John 3:36,

‘Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him’.?

The meaning of the Greek present tenses [that I have put in square brackets], confirms this biblical theology that the saints will persevere and not commit apostasy or have their faith shipwrecked.
Matt 24:13 (ESV) also verifies this: ‘The one who endures to the end will be saved’.

E. Conclusion

The challenge from a proponent of the eternal security of salvation was, where are the words or the message, ‘loss of salvation’, found in the Bible?

The answer is that the exact words, ‘loss of salvation’, are not found. However, having the identical words is not necessary. As demonstrated, it has been shown that the Scriptures do use language that it is possible for a Christian to,

clip_image015 commit apostasy, which means to renounce the Christian faith;

clip_image015[1] shipwreck the faith, so that the faith is useless in action. It has been demolished or shattered so that it is worthless for its purpose of achieving salvation.

clip_image015[2] some promoters of eternal security will avoid the biblical issues of apostasy. They seem blinded by their theological cataracts.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[13] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Noble, P R 1995. Hermeneutics and postmodernism: Can we have a radical reader-response theory? Part 2. Religious Studies, 31(1), 1-22, March.

Olson, R E 2006, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Robertson, A T 1932. Word pictures in the New Testament: The fourth Gospel, the epistle to the Hebrews, vol 5. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Witherington, B 2006. Thoroughly post-modern biblical interpretation. Ben Witherington Blogspot (online), October 3. Available at: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com.au/2006/10/thoroughly-post-modern-biblical.html (Accessed 23 December 2015).

Notes


[1] ChristianForums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘If I ask someone for a gift, did I earn it, or work for it when I got it handed to me?’ FreeGrace #703, 20 December 2015. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/if-i-ask-someone-for-a-gift-did-i-earn-it-or-work-for-it-when-i-got-it-handed-to-me.61200/page-36 (Accessed 21 December 2015).

[2] This is my response to FreeGrace at ibid., OzSpen#714.

[3] Ibid., FreeGrace#718.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#728.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace#718.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#728.

[9] Ibid., FreeGrace#726.

[10] Ibid., FreeGrace#735.

[11] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#745.

[12] Ibid., FreeGrace#732.

[13] 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).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 December 2015.

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Righteousness and justice for the Christian

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

(courtesy clipartbest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Christian can be trapped into thinking that when ‘righteousness’ is used in Scripture it has an English flavour in its meaning. Oxford dictionaries give the meaning as ‘the quality of being morally right or justifiable’. It is the opposite of wickedness or sinfulness (2015. S v righteousness). Or, it has the meaning of being ‘morally good: following religious or moral laws’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015. S v righteousness).

Is that the meaning of the word in Bible verses such as Rom 3:21-26 (ESV)?

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Meaning of righteousness in Scripture

Richard Strauss has summarised the biblical material well, in my understanding of Scripture,[1]

While the most common Old Testament word for just means ‘straight,’ and the New Testament word means ‘equal,’ in a moral sense they both mean ‘right.’ When we say that God is just, we are saying that He always does what is right, what should be done, and that He does it consistently, without partiality or prejudice. The word just and the word righteous are identical in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Sometimes the translators render the original word ‘just’ and other times ‘righteous’ with no apparent reason (cf. Nehemiah 9:8 and 9:33 where the same word is used). But whichever word they use, it means essentially the same thing. It has to do with God’s actions. They are always right and fair.

God’s righteousness (or justice) is the natural expression of His holiness. If He is infinitely pure, then He must be opposed to all sin, and that opposition to sin must be demonstrated in His treatment of His creatures. When we read that God is righteous or just, we are being assured that His actions toward us are in perfect agreement with His holy nature (Strauss 1984:140).?

I was alerted to that quote in Bob Deffinbaugh’s article, ‘The Righteousness of God‘.

1. Justice and righteousness[2]

Image result for clipart justice public domainIn English, righteousness and justice are 2 different words but in the Hebrew OT and Greek NT that is not so as there is only one word root behind both ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’.

The word for righteousness, dikaiosune,[3] means ‘uprightness, justice as of a judge’. Examples include ‘enforce justice’ (Heb 11:33), ‘judge justly’ (Acts 17:31; Rev 19:11); ‘righteousness, uprightness as the compelling motive for the conduct of one’s whole life: hunger and thirst for uprightness’ (Matt 5:6) [Arndt & Gingrich 1957:195, emphasis in original].

So the meaning of this word is that God always does what is correct/right and God determines the standard of what is right.
These verses teach us this meaning of righteous/justice (emphasis added):

  • Gen 18:25 (ESV), ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’
  • Deut 32:4 (ESV), ‘all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he’.
  • Isa 45:19 (ESV), ‘I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right‘.
  • Paul tells us that God’s sending Christ as a sacrifice for the punishment for sins in Rom 3:25-26 (ESV), it ‘was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’.

This is reason for us to praise God that in everything he does; all his ways are righteous. They are just; there is no injustice in Him. Question: How does God’s justice harmonise with the killing of all the inhabitants of Ai (Joshua 8:24 ESV)?

When we examine a text such as Genesis 15:16, [4] we see what God warned Abraham what would happen: ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete’ (ESV). The promise was that the time of the iniquity of the Amorites ‘was not yet complete’ after the Israelites left the nation of Egypt. The implication of that Scripture is that when the wickedness of the Canaanites had reached God’s limit of guilt or restraint, God would remove them from the land.

That is what he did to Jericho and Ai (Joshua 8:18-26). He did it with Makkedah (Josh 10:28), Lachish (Josh 10:32); Eglon (Josh 10:34-35); Debir (Josh 10:38-39), and the cities of the Negev and the Shepheliah (Josh 10:40). You can read about God’s punishment of Hazor, Madon, Shimron and Achspaph (Josh 11:10-14). It happened previously to Sodom & Gomorrah. You can read about what God did with his punishment of other cities according to Judges 19 and Judges 20.

When we engage in the plain reading of Scripture, we cannot get past the fact that when degenerate idolatry and brazen moral depravity developed in nations, God had to remove them so that the theocratic kingdom of Israel could settle in those regions.

I do not like the deplorable loss of life and atrocities that happened in these nations, but it would be much worse if these depraved activities were allowed to continue among God’s people.

How does God’s justice harmonise with this carnage? God warns about the consequences of sin. If people and nations continue to act against God’s instructions, he will so what is right and bring punishment. He warns before he does it. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ (Gen 18:25). The lesson is this: Anyone can live this life as he/she wishes, but there are consequences – God’s consequences – when we give God the shaft and follow Frank Sinatra’s dictum, ‘I did it my way‘.

See John MacArthur, ‘The lover of righteousness’ (in MacArthur 1993: December 15).

How does righteousness fit with ‘holiness’?

2. Holiness

Psalm 99:9 (ESV) states, ‘The Lord our God is holy‘. God is called the ‘Holy One of Israel’ (Ps Pss 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa 1:4; 5:19, 24; etc). When God says he is holy, it means he is separate from sin.

However, using his own holiness as an example, God commands, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’ (Lev 19:2 ESV). We find a similar message in 1 Peter 1:16 (ESV), ‘since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”’. Also, in the New Covenant, ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Heb 12:14 NIV). Hebrews 12:10 (ESV) reminds us that God ‘disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness’.

Free photo of a red rose bud

What is the meaning of holiness to be experienced by the Christian believer? Heb 12:14 is a parallel verse to 1 Thess 4:7 (NIV), ‘For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life’. Hagiasmos (holiness) in Heb 12:14 (NIV) presupposes that a person is reconciled with Christ through justification. ‘The word denotes a process by which we become separated unto God in our entire life and conduct. We, who are already hagioi [holy] by faith, are ever to continue in pursuit of hagiasmos, a life that is more and more sanctified to God’ (Lenski 1966:443). The author of Hebrews was writing to people in a pagan culture who had recently become Christians. They knew what it was to be embroiled in a culture that was very unlike that of God’s requirements. Unless this changed life of growing to be more like the holy God was evident, these people would not see God. Why? It was because they were not Christians and were incapable of separating from worldly things.

So, God disciplines us so that we may share his separateness from sin. As we grow to be more like Jesus, we will more and more be separate from sin – not performing acts of sin. This is related to sanctification. That is how Lenski translates Heb 12:14, ‘Peace continue to pursue with all, and the sanctification without which no one shall see the Lord’ (Lenski 1966:442).

It does raise the question: How can any believer be separate from sin in a world that is contaminated by sin?

How does this sanctifying holiness relate to purity?

3. Purity

Do you remember the problems that Paul had with moral impurity in churches? See the church of Galatia (Gal 1:6-9; 3:1-5) and the church of Corinth (1 Cor 3:1-4; 4:18-21; 5:1-2, 6; 6:1-8; 11:17-22; 14:20-23; 15:2; 2 Cor 1:23-2:11; 11:3-5, 12-15; 12:19-21).

Second Cor 12:21 (ESV) states, ‘I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practised’.

Pure EvidenceLet’s look at the opposite word first. The word translated ‘impurity’ relates to ‘those who sinned’. It is the Greek, akatharsia, that is translated as ‘impurity’ (ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, HCSB, ISV, NET, NRSV, NAB, NJB), ‘uncleanness’ (KJV, Douay-Rheims, NKJV). Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon (1957:28) gives the meaning as referring literally to ‘refuse’ (Matt 23:27) and in a moral sense of people who commit ‘immorality, viciousness, especially of sexual sins’ (2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Col 3:5; Eph 5:3) and is the opposite of hagiasmos (or hagismos) in 1 Thess 4:7 and Rom 6:19.

Thayer’s lexicon gives the meaning of hagiasmos as consecration and the effect of consecration (which is sanctification of heart and life) as in 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 4:7; Rom 6:19, 22; 1 Tim 2:15; Heb 12:14. It is produced by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2), so it is opposed to lust (as in 1 Thess 4:7) (Thayer 1885/1962:6).

Impurity will separate the sinner from worship of God and involvement with God’s people. Paul could be referring to the libertines of Corinth who could state, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ (1 Cor 6:13 NIV). A follow on to this philosophy could be that other physical satisfactions were also permitted – including impurity.

So, purity, being the opposite of impurity, can have this meaning: Wayne Grudem provides this definition, ‘The purity of the church is its degree of freedom from wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church‘ (Grudem 1999:371, emphasis in original).

Purity in Christian conduct thus deals with acceptance and practice of God’s standard of doctrine and behaviour. It is caused by the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us and clean-up of our lives.

How does this relate to God’s call for the Christian to be perfect? Or, is ‘perfect’ the wrong word in English translations.

4. Perfection

A person asked: I see a Christian is imperfect or incomplete and is without purity. She thinks perfection ‘describes only God’.[5] This cannot be correct because Matt 5:48 (ESV) states, ‘You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. So believers need to be perfect in some way that is parallel to that of the heavenly Father’s perfection.[6]

I need to dig deeper. Does ‘perfect’ here have the meaning in English, ‘Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be’ or ‘free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless’? Does it mean ideal, flawless or exemplary? (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v perfect).

So, what then is the meaning of ‘perfect’ in Matt 5:48 (ESV) if ‘you therefore must be perfect’?[7] How can you and I be or become perfect in the English sense of faultless?

Image result for clipart goal public domainThe word used in the Greek of Matt 5:48, teleioi, is from telos, which means end, goal or limit. So, the standard to which we are called – the goal – is the Heavenly Father’s standard. The word is also used for a relative perfection of adults when compared with children.

The parallel verse is with Deut 18:13 (ESV), ‘You shall be blameless [upright, sincere] before the Lord your God’. So God is perfect in the sense of being true and upright in how he deals with us. That is the model we have to follow. In the Hebrew of Deut 18:13 (ESV), the word sham is used for ‘blameless’ and has the sense of being complete like a whole number, the full time, an animal without blemish or deformity.

In Matt 5:48 (ESV), it is the English understanding of ‘perfect’ as sinless that causes us to miss the meaning. We know that sinlessness is not the meaning of ‘prefect’ because in Matt 5:6 (ESV), the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples (and us) that ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’.

It is unfortunate that the English does not seem to have a single word that conveys the idea of the Greek of aiming for the goal. Yes, that goal should include loving our enemies and friends but this love will have blemishes in it as we reach for the goal.

So to become perfect is not referring to perfection – in the English sense of the word. That will never be possible in this life. It is referring to reaching for the goal of becoming like our Father. He is infinite in his attributes. We are finite. Becoming more like Jesus in our thinking and actions should be our aim. This is called progressive sanctification; becoming progressively more like Jesus is our goal.

This will include renewing of the mind. See my article: Are unthinking Christians normal for Christianity?

Conclusion

Four aspects of the Christian’s new life in Christ were investigated: righteousness, holiness, purity and being perfect.

It was found that righteousness and justice are synonymous terms, from God’s perspective. God’s expectation of believers is that they do what is right (practise justice) with God’s law as the standard.

Holiness is the call to be separate from the actions of sin in a sinful world. This involves progressive sanctification, a process by which we become separated to God in our entire life and conduct.

This is parallel with purity, which means acceptance and practice of God’s standard of doctrine and behaviour, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

To be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect does not involve what the word for ‘perfect’ means in English. It refers to the call of all believers to reach for the goal of becoming more like the Father.

All of these words cover various areas of growth in sanctification for the believer. My observation is that this is not an area of emphasis in many evangelical churches in my part of the world.

(courtesy pinterest.com)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Grudem, W 1999. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press (by special arrangement with Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House).

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (limited edition licensed by special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

MacArthur, Jr., J F 1993. Drawing Near. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Strauss, R L 1984. The Joy of Knowing God. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers.

Thayer, J. H. 1885, 1962, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti). Tr, rev & enl by J H Thayer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.  (Note: The first Zondervan printing of this edition was in 1962, but Thayer’s preface in the lexicon was first written in 1885.) A Cornell University edition is available online at: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924021607704;view=1up;seq=13;size=125 (Accessed 18 December 2015).

Notes


[1] I posted this material in Christian Forums.net, ‘Righteousness, Holiness, Purity, etc’, OzSpen#2. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/righteousness-holiness-purity-etc.62455/ (Accessed 18 December 2015).

[2] I posted the following material in ibid., OzSpen#7.

[3] The last Greek letter in dikaiosune is eta, seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, which is transliterated into English as ‘e’ with an ellipse. However, the html of this website converts letters with an ellipse into question marks. Therefore, I have used ‘e’ as the transliteration, but that is also the transliteration of the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, epsilon. That is confusing but I am left with no alternative. Since ‘o’ with an ellipse is the transliteration of omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, I have chosen to use a transliteration of ‘w’, which was used by some earlier Greek NT scholars. Wikibooks states, ‘Sometimes unofficially it is rendered as w (inspired by the shape of the small letter)’ (2014. S v Modern Greek / Lession 4x).

[4] This response is based on Christian Forums.com [as opposed to Christian Forums.net], Christian Apologetics, ‘Contradictions in the Bible’, December 10, 2015, OzSpen#165. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/contradictions-in-the-bible.7918 (Accessed 18 December 2015).

[5] Christian Forums.net, ibid., Classik#10.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#12.

[7] Most of this information was shared in ibid., OzSpen#14.

[8] 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).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 December 2015.

Do Christians continue to sin?

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

 

Carrying Sins

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 Do you want to get a rise out of Christians? Then, start talking about whether they sin or not after becoming believers.

How would you define sin? One fellow provided this explanation on a Christian forum on the Internet:

Sin, by definition, is “missing the mark.” Paul renders it, falling short of the glory of God. The attaining and maintaining of the Glory of God is our “mark,” our “target.” We have been given God’s glory (John 17:22) and we are to reveal that glory to the world. (Mat 5:16) When we fail to do so by acting contrary to God’s will, we fall short of our goal of revealing God glory by our obedience to God’s good and perfect will for us. That is what sin is.
When we ask someone for forgiveness we must confess our sin against him. To be sincere that request must include sorrow for our sin and repentance. Those conditions fulfill God’s requirements for forgiveness: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jo 1:9) And if we forgive, God forgives. (Mat 6:14).[1]

How would you respond if a person asked you: Do you sin and is it on purpose? Can this sinning involve breaking the rule of those over you, including speeding – as an example?[2] This person backed up this statement by applying Romans 13:2 (KJV), ‘Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation’ (emphasis in his original).

Then came the cynicism:

Oh no??? What would happen if you were speeding, had an accident and died prior to confessing? Worse yet, have you ever got angry at others when driving; maybe even your brethren in Christ without knowing them, and ended up breaking the greatest of Jesus’ commands of all; Rom 13:9 . . .it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.[3]

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, provided this definition: ‘Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature’ (Grudem 1999:210, emphasis in original). However, this is a rather restricted definition when the diversity of NT words for sin is considered.

Many Greek New Testament words for sin

clip_image001(Richard C Trench, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, courtesy Wikipedia) Trench was Archbishop from 1864-1884 and he died in 1886 at the age of 78.

Richard C Trench in his Synonyms of the New Testament (Trench 1880) lists 8 different words used for sin.[4] They include these meanings:

 

blue-arrow-small  agnoema signifies error, i.e. ignorance of what one should have known. The only incidence of this word in the NT is in Heb 9:7. However, the related word, agnoia is in Ps 25:7 and the verb, agnoein, is in Ps 25:7 and Heb 5:2. ‘Sin is designated as an agnoema when it is desired to make excuses for it, as far as there is room for such, to regard it in the mildest possible light (see Acts 3:17)’. Trench observes that ‘there is always an element of ignorance in every human transgression…. Compare the words of the Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), and those of St. Paul, “I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). Thus, ‘No sin of man, except perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost, which may for this reason be irremissible [unpardonable] (Matt 12:32), is committed with a full and perfect recognition of the evil which is chosen as evil, and of the good which is forsaken as good’ (Trench 1880:247).

blue-arrow-small anomia or paranomia and anomema mean unrighteousness or lawlessness; anomema is not in the NT but is in 1 Sam 25:28 and Ezek 16:49 in the LXX. Trench’s assessment was that

we have generally translated anomia “iniquity” (Matt 7:23; Rom  6:19; Heb 10:17); once “unrighteousness” (2 Cor 6:14), and once “transgression of the law” (1 Jn 3:4). It is set over against dikaiosune (2 Cor 6:14)[5]…; joined with anarchia … with antilogia (Ps 55:10). While anomos is once at least in the N.T. used negatively of a person without law, or to whom a law has not been given (1 Cor 9:21)…; though elsewhere of the greatest enemy of all law, the Man of Sin, the lawless one (2 Thess 2:8); anomia is never there the condition of one living without law but always the condition or deed of one who acts contrary to law: and so, of course, paranomia, found only at 2 Pet 2:16; cf. Prov 10:29, and with paranomein, Acts 23:3. It will follow that where there is no law (Rom 5:13), there may be hamartia, adikia [i.e. injustice, unrighteousness] but not anomia, being as Oecumenius defines it “the error against the adopted law”[6] or as Fritzsche stated, “the contempt for the law or the permissiveness of morals by which the law is violated.”[7] Thus the Gentiles, not having a law (Rom 2:14) might be charged with sin; but they, sinning without law (anomos = chwris nomou, Rom 2:12; 3:21), could not be charged with anomia. It is true, indeed, that, behind that law of Moses, which they never had is another law, the original law and revelation of the righteousness of God that is written on the hearts of all (Rom 2:14-15); and, as this in no human heart is obliterated quite, all sin, even that of the darkest and most ignorant savage, must still in a secondary sense remain as anomia, a violation of this older, though partially obscured, law (Trench 1880:243-244).

blue-arrow-small hamartia or hamartema, which means missing of a mark or aim, is the meaning most frequently used to describe sin. Examples of the use of hamartia include (this is not an extensive list) Jn 8:21; Rom 3:9; 5:12; 6:2, 6; 7:7; 8:2-3; 2 Cor 5:21; Jas 1:15; etc. Hamartema occurs only in Mark 3:28; 4:12; Rom 3:25; 1 Cor 6:18. This word is never used as meaning ‘sinfulness, or as the act of sinning, but only sin contemplated in its separate outcomings and deeds of disobedience to a divine law’. The difference between hamartia and hamartema is that hamartia ‘is sin in the abstract as well as the concrete’ (Trench 1880:241).

blue-arrow-small hettema refers to failure – reducing what should have been provided in full. It does not occur in Classical Greek, appears once in the LXX at Isa 31:8 and is only used twice in the NT at Rom 11:12 and 1 Cor 6:7, having ‘an ethical sense’ in the latter Scripture, meaning ‘coming short of duty, a fault’ (Trench 1880:248).

blue-arrow-small parabasis means transgressing of a line. ‘There must be something to transgress, before there can be a transgression…. With law came for the first time the possibility of the transgression of the law’ (Rom 4:15). ‘In the constant language of St. Paul this parabasis, as the transgression of a commandment distinctly given, is more serious than hamartia (Rom 2:23; 1 Tim 2:14; cf. Heb 2:2; 9:15). See also the use of both hamartia and parabasis in Rom 5:14 (Trench 1880:244-245).

blue-arrow-small parakoe refers to disobeying a voice. It appears 3 times in the NT at Rom 5:19; 2 Cor 10:6; Heb 2:2, and this noun is never in the LXX. However, the verb, parakouw (I refuse to hear) is used in Matt 18:17 and also in Esth 3:3, 8 and Isa 65:12. ‘Parakoe is in its strictest sense a failing to hear, or a hearing amiss; the notion of active disobedience, which follows on this inattentive or careless hearing, being superinduced upon the word; or, it may be, the sin being regarded as already committed in the failing to listen when God is speaking’ (Trench 1880:242-243).

blue-arrow-small paraptwma denotes trespass or fault – falling where someone should have stood upright. Paraptwma occurs only in later Greek and then rarely. Both paraptwma and hamartia are found together in Eph 2:1 which speaks of being ‘dead in the trespasses and the sins’. ‘The former are sins suggested to the mind and partially entertained and welcomed there, and the latter the same embodied in actual deeds’ (Trench 1880:245-246). However,

blue-arrow-smallparaptwma is sometimes used when it is intended to designate sins that are not of the deepest dye [of the most extreme] and the worst enormity. One may trace this very clearly in Gal 6:1, our Translators [KJV] no doubt meaning to indicate as much when they rendered it by “fault,” and not obscurely, as it seems to me in Rom 5:15, 17, 18. Paraptwma is used in the same way, as an error, a mistake in judgment, a blunder, by Polybius (9.10.6) (Trench 1880:246).

The milder form of paraptwma is not always associated with its use. It is a mortal sin (Ezek 18:26) and in Heb 6:6, the parapesein [parapiptw] has an emphasis similar to that of other words for ‘sin’ in Heb 10:26 (‘sinning deliberately’) and Heb 3:12 (‘to fall away from the living God’). ‘In the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in which he distinctly calls it paraptwma, when a man, having reached an acknowledged pitch of godliness and virtue, falls back from, and out of this; “he was lifted up to the height of heaven, and is fallen down to the deep of hell’ (Trench 1880:246-247).

blue-arrow-small plemmeleia refers to a discord in the harmonies of God’s universe. This word occurs frequently in the LXX (see Lev 5:15; Num 18:9) but it doesn’t occur in the NT. It is found in Greek church fathers such as Clement of Rome (First Clement 41). ‘It is properly a discord or disharmony’ (Trench 1880:248-249).

The born again Christians don’t sin??

https://i0.wp.com/www.christart.com/IMAGES-art9ab/clipart/thumb/color/2400/img_2467_2c.png?resize=175%2C175Then came the double whammy[8] when the person said, ‘I read in 1 Jn 5:18 (KJV), “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God (Jesus) keepeth himself (Me and you), and that wicked one (Satan) toucheth him not”.[9]

Is this true or not? I have not met a Christian who affirms that he/she does not sin. How can the content of 1 John 5:18 be true when it doesn’t match the reality of Christian behaviour? What is causing a person to promote the KJV translation of 1 Jn 5:18? Does this translation convey accurately what that verse states in the Greek language?

If we confess our sins….

How do you think the person accused would respond? He countered:

And I read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1Jo 1:8) and: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo 1:9)

Do you know someone or have you heard of someone who ever lived other than Jesus who was without sin?[10]

How would you respond to this kind of expose? It did not go down very well with the person claiming those who are born of God don’t sin.[11] His claim was that this response did not answer his question because the person had said, ‘We fall short of our goal of revealing God (sic) glory by our obedience to God’s good and perfect will for us. That is what sin is’. He posed the question: ‘Are you in fact saying you fall short of God’s will for you because you sin on purpose? Maybe my question should have been; why would you want to do that?’ Then he cherry picked two verses in the KJV:

1 Jn 3:6 (KJV), ‘Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him’. Then he had the audacity to ask: ‘Are we reading of someone besides us here?’ That’s a way of avoiding the issue. What does 1 Jn 3:6 mean? The NIV of 1 Jn 3:6 accurately translates the tenses in the Greek, ‘No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him’. The KJV is a bad translation that misses the nuance of the Greek present tense.

1Jn 5:18 (KJV) ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not’. Again, the NIV accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek present tense, ‘We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them’. This person continued:

Are we not born of God? Does our Father somehow see us in Christ and His sacrifice covering our nakedness as He saw Adam after providing the blood offering for him?

Then once again, would you go to hell for unrepentant sin if you died for speeding before you confessed for doing so? Thanks, and brother I do hope you realize I’m messing with you; I sure don’t believe this for me. I believe we are kept by God, and sealed unto the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit. (Eph 4:30).[12]

Believers who continuously sin

Washing MachineI jumped in at this point.[13] Here there is a link to an Interlinear Greek-English translation of 1 John 5:18. The important thing to note is that hamartanei is present tense, singular number, indicative mood. Present tense has the meaning of continuous or continual action. So it means that all of those who are born again of God will not live a life of continual sin. It does not mean they will not commit acts of sin from time to time. If that happens, they seek forgiveness from God (1 John 1:9) and, where necessary, from the person against whom they committed the sin (Col 3:13).

The person asked a valid question: ‘Why would anyone want to sin in the first place; would you agree that one sins on purpose, and what is the consequence of a sin not confessed?’[14] My response was[15] that our sinful nature has not been eradicated. We still have it.

Rom 6:18 (ESV) states, ‘and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness’. HOWEVER, there is our continuing battle, ‘Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me’ (Rom 7:20 ESV).
Something powerful is still at work in the believer that leads to the committing of sin. It is called the sin nature or original sin. While admitting that Adam’s sin was the original sin of the human race, evangelical theologian Henry Thiessen stated that

it still does not show how the sinful disposition found a place in Adam’s nature. We can be sure that God did not put motives before man that led him to sin. That would make God responsible and absolve man from guilt. Nor did God remove from him His sustaining grace, in which case He would likewise bear the responsibility. Nor is it sufficient to say that the power of choice with which God had endowed Adam was bound to lead to this result, for as [Augustus] Strong says, ‘The mere power of choice does not explain the fact of an unholy choice’[16]…. We cannot tell how the first unholy emotion arose in the soul of a holy being, but we know the fact that it did. The only satisfactory explanation is that man fell by a free act of revolt from God (Thiessen 1949:247-248).

All sin entered the world as a result of this disobedient action by Adam and Eve.

How do you think this person would respond to some of that information?

But we are more than over-comers

This was glib Christianese.[17] His comeback was that in spite of the carnal nature, Christians are more than over comers or conquerors in Christ and in spite of what Paul stated in Romans 7, he went on to proclaim that there ‘is NO condemnation’, using these Scriptures.

Rom 8:35, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?’
Rom 8:36, ‘As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’.
Rom 8:37, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us’.
I bring this forth at different times, and what do you think of Moses who committed a sin unto death as it were (Deut 32:50) (Num 20:12) for not believing God. Is he in hell? Not quite, but he was denied certain things he could have had. I contend that it is God keeping us, and not our faithfulness. Our purpose in this is to attain into being a joint-heir with Christ as His bride.[18]

How does one reply to moving past Romans 7 and onto the content of Romans 8? I replied:[19] Romans 8 does not negate the influence of this: ‘Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me’ (Rom 7:20 ESV) is still part of living and growing as a Christian.
As for Moses, that was for a particular time and person in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. Christians are under a New Covenant. According to Heb 8:8-13 (ESV), we know:

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’,
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.?

I do not know why you are harking back to Deut 32:50 (KJV ) and Num 20:12 (KJV) when that arrangement is now obsolete. It has vanished and has been replaced by the New Covenant. There is no need for continual sacrifices under the Old Covenant system: Hebrews 10 (ESV) provides the perfect exposition of Christ’s once for all sacrifice that has replaced the repeated sacrifices of the OT. So, Deut 32:50 (KJV) and Num 20:12 (KJV) do not have a place since the passion-resurrection of Christ.

His response was[20] that his view was that the old covenants were of importance, otherwise God would not have written about them:

1 Cor 10:11, ‘Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come’.
The point I attempted to make is that Moses was not condemned even though he suffered loss.

1 Cor 3:15, ‘If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire’.
This present covenant shows Jesus entering the Holy place one time and purchased us with eternal redemption in Heb 8:12. Even now we read in Rom 6:14, For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. To me this shows no condemnation

However, what is the place of the OT covenant in relation to the New Covenant?

Old Covenant shadows

I contended[21] that the Old Covenant provided shadows. The New Covenant provided the substance – Christ:
Colossians 2:16-17 (ESV) affirms this, ‘Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ’.
Heb 8:4-5 (ESV), ‘Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain”’.
Heb 8:10 (ESV) explains the fulfillment of the ‘shadow’:
‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people’.

Then there was this twist:

Christians seen as sinless

clip_image003What?

Then this brother in Christ moved to his own rhetoric:[22]

Would it be correct to say that in Christ we are seen as sinless; our new nature does not sin for we are kept by our Savior. Our carnal nature, or old man walking after the flesh instead of after the Spirit may be guilty of even a sin unto death.
1 Jn 5:18 (KJV again), ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God (This is Jesus keeping us) keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not’.

It was here that I jumped in. In Christ, we are declared righteous forensically. It is a legal standing before God: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1 ESV).[23] Of his repeated use of the KJV on 1 John 5:18, I stated: I do not know why you continue to use this bad KJV translation. I have exegeted this verse for you (see above and below) to demonstrate that the meaning is as in the NIV where ‘sinneth not’ uses the verb which means continuous or continual action, ‘We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them’ (1 Jn 5:18 NIV). That’s the meaning of the Greek, which is contrary to the KJV translation.

His rejoinder was, ‘And so you think, and/or know that you don’t continue to sin. How does that agree with 1 Jn 1:8 (KJV)? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’. You state that you don’t commit continuous sin; is this what some call sins of commission? How does someone that is born of God not continue to sin while sinning?’[24]

Christians not engaged in continuous sin

  

(courtesy ChristArt)

Let’s note the difference between continuous and continual in English. According to Oxford Dictionaries, ‘continuous’ means ‘forming an unbroken whole; without interruption (2015. S v continuous) and ‘continual’ means ‘forming a sequence in which the same action or event is repeated frequently’ (2015. S v continual).

Now what does the NT Greek present tense mean? John Wenham’s introductory Greek text states that ‘the Greek Present corresponds more closely in meaning to the English Present Continuous than to the Present Simple’ (Wenham 1965:29, emphasis in original).

Advanced NT Greek text by Dana & Mantey states that ‘the important element of tense in Greek is kind of action. This is its fundamental significance’ and ‘action as continuous’ and ‘here the principal tense is the present, which in the indicative [mood] is used primarily of present time’ (Dana & Mantey 1955:178, emphasis in original). Three dimensions of the present tense are given by Dana & Mantey:

6pointblue-small  The Progressive Present that is earest the root idea of the present. It signifies action in progress, or state in persistence, and may be represented by the graph of a continuous line (without a break in it of any kind. Examples include Matt 25:8, ‘Our lamps are going out’. See also Matt 8:25 and Jn 5:7 (Dana & Mantey 1955:182)

6pointblue-small The Customary (Gnomic) Present in which the tense denotes ‘that which habitually occurs, or may be reasonably expected to occur’. An example would be Heb 3:4, ‘For every house is built by someone’ (ESV). See also Matt 7:17; 2 Cor 9:7 (Dana & Mantey 1955:183).

6pointblue-small The Iterative Present which describes ‘that which recurs at successive intervals, or is conceived of in successive periods. It is sometimes called the present of repeated action’. Such an example is 1 Cor 15:31, ‘I die every day’. Other examples include Rom 8:36 and 1 Cor 11:21.

Therefore, the Greek present tense[25] means continuous or continual action. First John 5:18 (NIV) deals with the fact that Christians do not live a lifestyle of sin.
So what does 1 John 1:8 (ESV) mean? ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 Jn 1:8 ESV).

  • ‘If we say’. In Greek this is a third class condition with ean. ‘Say’ is aorist tense, referring to point action; it happened.
  • ‘We have no sin’ = hamartian ouk echomen, i.e. sin not have. ‘That is, we have no personal guilt, no principle of sin. This some of the Gnostics held, since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh, a thin delusion with which so-called Christian scientists delude themselves today’ (Robertson 1933:208).
  • ‘We deceive ourselves’. Deceive is present tense active voice, meaning ‘to lead astray’ as continual action.
  • If this happens, ‘the truth is not in us’. Again continual action of the present tense.

R C H Lenski, in his commentary, wrote of this verse:

Verse 8 speaks of sin. The claim that we do not have “sin” means “such a thing as sin,” and not having such a thing means that nothing of the nature of sin clings to us to stain us as filth or to blacken us as guilt so that we need cleansing or removal. It is debated as to whether John includes original sin or speaks only of actual sin as though actual sins were ever committed by us except as outgrowths of the depravity that is inherent in us (Lenski 1966:391)

Therefore, this verse is not teaching what this fellow was saying. It is providing this practical instruction: If we say (once for all action) that we do not have a sinful nature (a sin principle), as the Gnostics were teaching (John’s epistles are especially addressed to correct the errors of Gnosticism), then we are continually deceiving ourselves – leading ourselves astray. If that kind of denial of the sinful nature takes place, the truth of the nature of human beings cannot be in us continually.

Conclusion

To answer the question posed as the title of this article, ‘Do Christians continue to sin?’ the reply, based on Scripture, is that Christians will sin because their sinful nature has not been eradicated. However, they will not keep on sinning as a lifestyle.

They have the power of God by his Holy Spirit within them to be able to control the actions of sinful behaviour. If they sin, they confess their sins to God and he forgives (1 John 1:9). Jesus said we ought to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins [or debts], as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us’ (Matt 6:12 ISV). There is a need to confess to those we have sinned against: ‘Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16 ISV).

Do you remember the one who said, ‘Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly’ (source)?

See my other articles:

Flower18 How could very good human beings commit the first sin?

Flower18 Sinful nature or sinful environment?

Flower18  What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

 

Works consulted

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.[26]

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press. Also available online HERE.

Strong, A 1907. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1. Philadelphia: The Judson Press.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Trench, R C 1880. Synonyms of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.[27] Trench’s Synonyms(1880. S v Sin), is available at StudyLight.org, http://www.studylight.org/lexicons/tsn/view.cgi?n=84 (Accessed 15 March 2015).

Wenham, J W 1965. The Elements of New Testament Greek (based on the earlier work by H P V Nunn). London / New York NY: Cambridge University Press.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, ‘Is God a “TRINITY”? Jim Parker#96. 12 December 2015. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/is-god-a-trinity.62213/page-5 (Accessed 15 December 2015).

[2] Ibid., Eugene#105.

[3] Ibid., his emphasis.

[4] This entire section of various words, meanings and references to sin is based on Trench (1880:239-249). This publication is now in the public domain.

[5] The Greek dikaiosune means righteousness.

[6] This is a translation of the Greek by StudyLight.org.

[7] This is a translation of the Latin by StudyLight.org.

[8] A double whammy is ‘a situation that is bad in two different ways: a situation in which two bad conditions exist at the same time or two bad things happen one after the other’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015. S v double whammy).

[9] Christian Forums.net, ibid., Eugene#105.

[10] Ibid., Jim Parker#106.

[11] Ibid., Eugene#107.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#108.

[14] Ibid., Eugene#110.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#111.

[16] This citation is from Strong (1907:585).

[17] Wikipedia defines Christianese (or Christianeze) as referring, ‘to the contained terms and jargon used within many of the branches and denominations of Christianity as a functional system of religious terminology’ (Wikipedia 2015. S v Christianese). Take a read of a more detailed definition of Christianese by Tim at Dictionary of Christianese (2012. S v Definition of Christianese).

[18] Christian Forums.net. ibid., Eugene#112.

[19] Ibid., OzSpen#114.

[20] Ibid., Eugene#115.

[21] Ibid., OzSpen#116.

[22] Ibid., Eugene#123.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#124.

[24] Ibid., Eugene#126.

[25] This section is based on ibid., OzSpen#127.

[26] This is a limited edition printing in 2001, licensed by special permission from Augsburg Fortress of the 1966 edition by Augsburg Publishing House.

[27] This is the eighth printing in May 1975 and is a reproduction of the ninth edition published in London in 1880.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 December 2015.

Andover Newton Seminary goes down the tube

Monday, December 7th, 2015

File:Dabney Hall, Andover Newton Theological School - IMG 0354.JPG

(Dabney Hall, Andover Newton Theological Hall, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why is a formerly leading USA theological seminary (the first ever USA seminary) now scaling down operations, with a plan to relocate? Could it be going down the tubes? Is it heading for oblivion? The Andover website tells of the foundation of the seminary:

The seed for Andover Newton can be traced back to 1778, when Phillips Academy was founded for “the promotion of true piety and virtue” in Andover, MA. In 1807, New England Congregationalists, concerned about “unitarian” trends at Harvard College, instituted a separate department of divinity and raised money for the Samuel Abbot Professor of Theology at Phillips Academy. This was the first seminary professorship in North America (History of Andover Newton 2015).

Now what is happening? Andover Newton is doing the very thing that it found repugnant at its founding – joining with Unitarianism.

This problem of decline has been covered in a Boston Globe article, ‘Newton seminary plans to scale down operations, relocate’ (Schworm 2015).[1]

Schworm stated:

Beyond relocating, the seminary plans to offer fewer programs to fewer students. Under a new model, it would focus more narrowly on preparing students for the Christian and Unitarian Universalist ministry “in lieu of the broad range of programs and options available today.”

The faculty and staff would be substantially smaller, school leaders wrote. Even so, “it is not yet clear that this model would bring us to financial sustainability.”

The seminary has also had preliminary discussions to join Yale Divinity School as a “school within a school.” It would relocate to New Haven but retain some independence.

I wonder how much of the downturn can be explained by this information: ‘The seminary is primarily composed of students with backgrounds in the United Church of Christ, Baptist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations’ (Schworm 2015)?

Let’s briefly examine the nature of these 3 denominations associated with Andover Newton Seminary.[2]

United Church of Christ

See ‘What we believe’ (United Church of Christ) at: http://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe

What is its version of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture?

Note the decline of congregations and members at: http://uccfiles.com/pdf/2014-UCC-Statistical-Profile.pdf

In this document it is stated, ‘Similar to other Protestant denominations, the UCC has experienced a decline in the numbers of congregations and members in recent decades. From 2000 to 2010 alone, the UCC encountered a net loss of 696 congregations and 318,897 members’.

This is a theologically liberal denomination that is losing people wholesale because it has redefined the Gospel in modernistic terms that make sense to a secular social worker but not to a Bible believer.

American Baptist Churches (ABC)

This is a separate denomination to the Southern Baptists, General Baptists, Particular Baptists and other evangelical Baptists. Andover Newton Seminary trains American Baptist Churches (as a denomination). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andover_Newton_Theological_School

ABC are also in decline, associated with a similar modernist trend, but the decline in white congregations and members has been offset by growth in other areas. See: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-are-all-christian-denominations-in-decline

In 1967, the ABC/USA had 1,335,342 members. In 2012, the membership was 1,308,054, a decline of 2 percent.

(Note: The ABC/USA has been able to stem its decline among white congregants by replacing them with African American and Hispanic members.)

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)

Take a read of ‘What we believe’ of this denomination (UUA) at: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe

It is non-Trinitarian and universalist, i.e. believing all people will be ‘saved’.

How is it possible for such a denomination to train ministers with 2 Protestant denominations (who in theory are Trinitarian). It means that Gospel-centred, Trinitarian theology does not permeate that Seminary. It must be denied to accommodate Unitarian Universalists. All 3 denominations are modernist/postmodernist in theology and emphases.

The impossibility of this kind of ecumenism

ANTSseal.png(courtesy Wikipedia)

Oxford dictionaries states that ecumenism involves ‘the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world’s Christian Churches’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. s v ecumenism).

Why would people bother going to such ecumenical churches when there are service clubs they can join that would achieve the same aim and without the gloss of Christianity?

I’m of the view that the Andover Newton Seminary demise and its association with United Church of Christ, American Baptist denomination, and Unitarian Universalist Association demonstrates the problem – arsenic in the bread of life. When denominations quit a Bible-based Gospel and an authoritative Scripture and replace it with a liberal, historical-critical, modernist or postmodernist theology, expect fewer people to be attracted. Why attend a good works’ oriented social club in the name of church?

Are all USA churches losing members

Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition begins his article, ‘FactChecker: Are all Christian denominations in decline’, with this quote from Rachel Held Evans:

Just about every denomination in the American church — including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates (in Carter 2015).

Mainliners may try to comfort themselves by claiming that every denomination is in decline, but it’s simply not true. While conservative churches aren’t growing as quickly as they once were, mainline churches are on a path toward extinction. The mainline churches are finding that as they move further away from Biblical Christianity, the closer they get to their inevitable demise.

(Campus view, courtesy Wikipedia)

 How liberal Christianity kills churches

I have covered this in some of my previous articles,

designRed-smallChurch growth or decline in the United Kingdom

designRed-small  Damning evidence against theological liberalism

designRed-small How to destroy a Christian denomination

designRed-small  Is liberal theology heresy?

designRed-small The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong

What’s the truth about the death of theism? Wherever theological liberalism has taken hold, church numbers have declined. Frank Pastore put it this way: ‘We’ve all witnessed the plummeting attendance of liberal mainline denominations for decades’ (‘The National Council of Churches should have died’).

When Trinitarian and Unitarian denominations try to work together to homogenise theological training in an ecumenical arrangement, how is it ever possible to be authentic with Scripture and the Gospel? Such an amalgam is impossible. Death and or decline are the natural outcome and that seems to be what is happening at Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

Works consulted

Carter, J 2015. FactChecker: Are All Christian Denominations in Decline? The Gospel Coalition (online), March 17. Available at: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-are-all-christian-denominations-in-decline (Accessed 18 November 2015).

Schworm, P 2015. Newton seminary plans to scale down operations, relocate.

Boston Globe (online), November 12. Available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/12/divinity/uQkHvCP4wt0ilyFX10aaKN/story.html (Accessed 18 November 2015).

Notes


[1] I began a thread on this topic on a UK Christian forum, Staying in Touch, under the title, ‘Why would a seminary be scaling down?’, Dougie#1. Available at: http://www.stayingintouch.uk/healing/why-would-a-seminary-be-scaling-down/msg2363/#msg2363 (Accessed 18 November 2015).

[2] I included much of the following in ibid., Dougie#8.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 April 2016.

clip_image002

What is literal interpretation?

Monday, December 7th, 2015

(St Anthony of Padua reading a book, image courtesy publicdomainvectors.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

You wouldn’t believe the confusion some Christians can get into with their distorted views of the meaning of ‘literal’ interpretation. Let’s pick up a few examples that I gathered from a forum on the Internet.

  • The discussion was on, ‘Can you trust the Muslims?’[1] One fellow asked, ‘Which Muslims? Are they all the same?’[2] A reply was, ‘If they all take that book of theirs literally yes’.[3]
  • A retort was, ‘Your answer is not clear. You said “IF they all take it literally”. I doubt that ALL of them (100%) take it literally so that would be a “no” answer, but I’m not sure that’s what you meant’.[4]

Moderate Muslims and literal interpretation

The above examples provided an opportunity for me to investigate how to consider ‘moderate’ Muslims and their interpretations of the Quran.[5]

Recep Tayyip Erdogan.PNG (Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 12th president of Turkey, photo courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Let’s check on a supposed ‘moderate’ Muslim country such as Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the former Prime Minister and from 2014 he has been the President of Turkey for the AKP Party (source). When he was mayor of Istanbul in the late 1990s, he stated, ‘Thank God, I am for Sharia’ and ‘one cannot be a secularist and a Muslim at the same time’. He added, ‘For us, democracy is a means to an end’ (cited in Yavuz 2009). BBC News reported of Erdogan in 2002:

‘His pro-Islamist sympathies earned him a conviction in 1998 for inciting religious hatred.

He had publicly read an Islamic poem including the lines: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”

He was sentenced to 10 months in jail, but was freed after four’ (BBC News 2002).?

For Erdogan, democracy was like a streetcar which you ride ‘until you arrive at your destination, then you step off’ (Yavuz 2009:100, n. 40). Concerning ‘moderate’ Islam, Erdogan, a Muslim, does not believe there is such a thing. His view was that ‘these descriptions are very ugly. It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it’ (cited in Carol 2015). Or, is Erdogan a voice for the extremist Muslim, even the terrorists?

See the ‘Answering-Islam’ Christian website and the article, ‘Moderate Muslims & Moderate Islam’ by Jacob Thomas.

So where do you think the ‘moderate’ Muslims are heading with their present approach of not taking the Quran seriously or literally? Are they like Erdogan and are on the streetcar of democracy until its time is right to get off and implement Sharia?

Troubles over ‘literal’ continue

Obtaining an understanding of the meaning of ‘literal interpretation’ seems to elude some Christians. These are further examples:

  • ‘If they [Muslims] take their book 100% literally the way i take Gods word 100% literally, is that better?’[6]
  • This kind of response could be expected to that last comment: ‘Not really. I do not know how you “take God’s word 100% literally.” I would hope you recognize that the Bible contains metaphors, parables, and every other literary device which are definitely NOT to be taken literally. It also contains apocalyptic literature which is, essentially, the best effort of the writer to put into human language the astonishing and often incomprehensible visions he has seen’.[7]

A way forward with literal interpretation

The Malmesbury Bible (Bible, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

How does one clear up the meaning of literal hermeneutics? I began to explain:[8]

When I was in seminary way back when, we used A Berkeley Mickelsen’s text on hermeneutics, Interpreting the Bible (1963 Eerdmans). There he stated that for the School of Antioch, it used historical interpretation as not referring to wooden literalism as this included the full use of typology:

“Literal” here means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning (Mickelsen 1963:33).?

Therefore, ‘by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions‘. The contrasting meaning is that of figurative: ‘By figurative meaning the writer has in mind the representation of one concept in terms of another because the nature of the two things compared allows such an analogy to be drawn‘ (Mickelsen 1963:179, emphasis in original).

So when I read my local newspaper online, I assume that metaphors and similies are included in the literal meaning. This has been the case throughout my life. However, this is changing with postmodern, reader-response impositions on texts. Literal meaning of a text has often been thrown out the window by preachers who engage in allegorical preaching – thus destroying the literal meaning of a text. Allegorical preachers are close to the postmodern preachers of today who make a text mean whatever they want it to mean – and the more spiritual sounding the better.

This thoughtful response came to the above information:

There are a variety of ways to understand what is meant by the word “literally” as you have pointed out.

Unfortunately, many people who imagine themselves to be competent to interpret scripture tend to impose what they think is a literal meaning on a passage when, in fact, they are forcing the meaning of a modern English word into the Jacobean translation of an ancient Koine Greek, Hebrew or Chaldean word. Along with their modern English word they insert the modern English context of of a western, scientific, culture. So the go to their Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and assume it is a great source for understanding what Isiah had in mind. (sigh)

By rights they should be taken out and hung for the cold blooded murder of the English Tongue.” (Rex Harrison as Prof. Higgins in the screen version of Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, “My Fair Lady.)[9]

Tough theological nuts to crack

I’m not talking about a person’s mental state. Some folks are hard heads with their lack of responsiveness to additional information. They are tough nuts to crack with getting beyond their limited understanding of the meaning of literal understanding. Here is an unusual response from a tough nut:

Jim, i for one will tell you I take the scriptures literally, period. I can say that and be serious about it because in the Parables there are very literal lessons. Most of us here, that were here before you arrived, agree with the statement I just made. This community is built on faith and because it is we do trust God to mean what He has said and we will not quetion (sic) it,, even and especially if it sounds or seems foolish to men.[10]

So the deal is: I take the Scriptures literally, no question, full stop, period. In parables there are ‘literal lessons’. What on earth has that to do with literal interpretation of a parable? In addition, Bill and others came to the forum before Jim, so they have the high ground on biblical interpretation and we/they will agree with Bill’s analysis. This elitist view of ‘our community is built on faith, trust in God, and we know what he means literally and we will not question God’s view’ is nothing more than attempt at Christian snobbery.

Problems with elitism and biblical interpretation

That’s a red herring logical fallacy.[11] The issue of whether who was on this forum first, second or later is irrelevant to deciding on the meaning of literal interpretation.

I see that you have modified the meaning of parables to arrive at ‘very literal lessons’ from them. That does not get around the fact that the nature of parables is that they are similitudes, i.e. extended similies.
Some examples may help to understand the differences.[12]

3d-red-star-small A simile: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth’ (Acts 8:32 ESV, emphasis added). The eunuch is quoting from Isa 53:7 (ESV) but it is a figure of speech known as a simile.

3d-red-star-small A metaphor: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29 ESV, emphasis added).

3d-red-star-smallWe have an example of a similitude, i.e. parable, in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 (ESV), ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?’ (Luke 15:4 ESV) In this same context of Luke 15 (ESV) Luke tells us the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32 ESV).

3d-red-star-small There is an example of an allegory of the door for the sheep and the good shepherd in John 10:1-16 (ESV). ‘I am the door of the sheep…. I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:7 ESV; John 10:11 ESV).

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

I take the Scriptures literally but this does not exempt me from understanding the use of figures of speech in that literal language – figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, similitude/parable and allegory.

This is why it is so important to explain what ‘literal interpretation’ means. From the examples I’ve given here, it does not mean an acceptance of dead letterism that does not include figures of speech. Letterism ‘is a wooden, thin interpretation that fails to go beyond the standard meanings of words and expressions … or to discern the manner in which an author attends to these meanings…. Hence literalism short-circuits the literal sense insofar as it fails to appreciate the author’s intention to give his or her utterance a certain kind of force’ (Vanhoozer 1998:311).

This is probably not what this person wanted to hear, but I’ve gained these examples directly from Scripture. Scripture supports the use of figures of speech in literal hermeneutics.

Extreme literalism and Mormonism

The Mormon view of God is that ‘we are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has a body that looks like ours, but God’s body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory that words can’t describe’. Matthew Lino added, ‘He has a body of flesh and bone. We were created in His image, therefore, he clearly is not simply a Spirit’ (What do Mormons believe about the nature of God? mormons.org.au).

This is a view that is contrary to the Scriptures which state, ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24 ESV).

So what does Gen 1:27 mean, ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (ESV)? See my explanation under the heading, ‘Responding to God having a body’, in my article Does God have a physical body?

Three verses clarify this:

  •  John 1:18 (NIV) states: ‘No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known’.
  • Scripture tells us in John 4:24: ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’.
  • Jesus, after his resurrection, is recorded as saying in Luke 24:39, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’. (ESV).

Mormons are not the only ones who believe God has a body. I struck it with a fellow in the thread, ‘God’s likeness’, on Christianity Board.[13]

Conclusion

There was confusion over literal interpretation meaning letterism among some on a Christian forum. It was shown by others that literal interpretation includes the use of figures of speech, including simile, metaphor, parable and allegory.

Examples of extreme literalism were seen among the Mormons and those who claim that God has a literal, physical body of flesh and blood.

This is a call for all Christians to be careful interprets of Scripture, taking into consideration the grammar, linguistics, context and culture.

Works consulted

BBC News 2002. Turkey’s charismatic pro-Islamic leader. World edition (online), 4 November. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2270642.stm (Accessed 26 November 2015).

Carol, S 2015. Understanding the Volatile and Dangerous Middle East: A Comprehensive Analysis. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.

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

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

Yavuz, M H 2009. Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey. Cambridge Middle East Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (introduction available online at: http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/88783/excerpt/9780521888783_excerpt.pdf (Accessed 26 November 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, 2015. ‘Can you trust the Muslims?’ Gnostic#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/can-we-trust-the-muslims.62206/ (Accessed 6 November 2015).

[2] Ibid., Jim Parker#5.

[3] Ibid., turnorburn#6.

[4] Ibid., Jim Parker#10.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#16. This was a piece I copied from my article, Is Islam a religion of peace at its core?

[6] Christian Forums.net, ibid., turnorburn#21.

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#27.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#33.

[9] Ibid., Jim Parker#35.

[10] Ibid., th1.taylor#42.

[11] This is my response at ibid., OzSpen#44.

[12] These examples are taken from Mickelsen (1963:212-213).

[13] The promoter of God’s having a body was ewq1938. I interact on this forum as OzSpen.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 May 2016.

Is polygamy promoted in the Bible?

Monday, December 7th, 2015

(Courtesy Premier Christian Radio)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you respond to this comment? ‘I’ve never heard of any Christian teacher teaching people it’s just perfectly fine to go on sinning all you want. Everyone teaches repentance. And I’ve never met anyone, much less a Christian, who was a thief or an adulterer and didn’t know it was wrong’.[1]

My comeback was: What about this story from Ohio reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail (1 December 2015), ‘Pastor, 60, marries his pregnant teenage girlfriend — and his wife doesn’t mind‘? This article told how pastor

Thom Miller, 60, is now building a massive home for his two brides — 44-year-old Belinda Miller and 19-year-old Reba Kerfootruba — in the US state of Ohio.

Thom splits his time between the women, although the trio plans to raise Thom and Reba’s child together as a family.

“I don’t preach about polygamy but I feel it is a very Christian lifestyle,” Thom told Barcroft TV. “I have no problem with homosexuals but I think it’s wrong that their marriage is now recognised by the state, but my second marriage is not. I’m going to try and fight the bigotry of that. This is America and my wives and I have the right to live anyway we please, providing we’re not hurting anybody.”

Bigamy by pastor in Mansfield, Ohio

Another article in the British newspaper, The Independent, stated, ‘Having discussed polygamy after Mrs Miller suggested finding another woman to be part of the family, the pair from Mansfield, Ohio, decided to welcome 19-year-old Reba Kerfootruba into their relationship’ (Henderson 2015).

The Mansfield News Journal in Ohio reported that

Miller is a licensed minister with United Christian Ministries International at 840 Koogle Road in Mansfield, according to records from the Ohio Secretary of State. He also is affiliated with Special Visit Ministry, which lists its address at 287 N. Diamond St. He told the News Journal earlier this year he is affiliated with Hope Ohio, which he called an outreach of the Restoration Network.

Richland County Probate Court records show Thomas Nicholas Miller is married to 44-year-old, Belinda Miller, but the records neither confirm nor disprove his marriage to 19-year-old Reba Kerfoot, who the video states is pregnant with Miller’s child….

Though polygamy is illegal in Ohio and Richland County has not issued a marriage license to Thom Miller and Kerfoot, probate court staff say it is possible the pair were issued a marriage license by another county or in another state.

Miller did not respond to calls from the News Journal Monday and Tuesday (Day 2015).

What kind of denomination is United Christian Ministries International? Premier Christian Radio reported that

the 60-year-old pastor at United Christian Ministries International has married Reba, 19, but he says his congregation do not support his decision.

He runs a ministry which visits prisons and also has his own church in Mansfield.

Revd Miller admits that he does not have the full support of his congregation in Mansfield, but makes no secret of his alternative lifestyle….

The pair married at his church seven years after Thom married Belinda.

The pastor is now fighting for the state to acknowledge his marriage.

The trio have decided to raise the baby as a three (Tooley 2015).

I emailed the Pastor of the United Christian Ministries International, Rev. Kwasi Alex Adu-Boffour, at the email address on the website, message@unitedchristianministries.org, but it timed out over a few days, so I was unable to contact him by email. Since I live overseas I was unable to complete the online form at its website as it would not accept my phone number. Therefore, I was unable to receive an explanation of the acceptance of a bigamist pastor by that denomination. This is what I wrote to Pastor Adu-Boffour:

I’m an Australian living in Brisbane, Qld., and I write to you out of deep concern over what your minister in Mansfield, OH, Thom Miller, has done to darken the name of Jesus and the reputation of Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity with the story that was published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, ‘Pastor, 60, marries his pregnant teenage girlfriend — and his wife doesn’t mind‘, December 1.
This story has gone around the world. See also:

I have read your Statement of Faith online, with which I agree. I find it impossible to harmonise what Pastor Thom Miller has done in Mansfield OH with orthodox, charismatic Christianity. His witness is a blight on the name of Christ and I’m embarrassed that he is allowed to continue as a bigamist with your denomination.

Would you please let me know what you are doing to deal with the sin of Pastor Thom and what he has done? ‘Alternative lifestyle’ is not an example, in this case, of biblical Christianity.

Sincerely in Christ.

Rev Spencer Gear
Brisbane, Qld.

How is it possible for a man to be married to two women in the USA when none of the 50 USA states allows polygamy/bigamy? Lawyers.com explained:

Polygamy and bigamy are illegal in the US, but as the Utah “sister wives” show, it goes on anyway. Essentially they mean the same thing – someone has more than one spouse. More often than not, it’s when a man has more than one wife. In some states, the law uses the terms interchangeably. There are some legal differences, though:

  • Bigamy is when someone legally marries more than one person. That means they go through the hoops set out by state law, such as getting a marriage license, etc. It may happen on purpose, or by mistake, like not having a proper, legal divorce before getting remarried
  • Polygamy is when someone has one legal spouse and one or more co-spouses he married through some sort of spiritual marriage that’s not legally recognized by the state….

Often, polygamists are left alone by the police, and the few states that have anti-cohabitation laws generally don’t enforce them. There are a few reasons for this, such as the respect for freedom of choice – the freedom to choose your own lifestyle. Freedom of religion also plays a role. Polygamy is acceptable in some religions, from the mainstream, like Islam, to the not-so-mainstream, like certain cults. (‘I do, I do, I do: Is polygamy legal?’ Lawyers.com, 2015, emphasis in original).

Theology of The United Christian Ministries International

The denomination’s headquarters are in Bronx, NY and its Statement of Faith is orthodox Pentecostal-charismatic with a high view of the Trinitarian God and the Scriptures. Its ministries include:

We are the church that thrives to reach out to the dying world with the full gospel of our Lord Jesus to minister to the needs of our community, individuals and the family. Our ministries in the church are tailored to educate our members and the community to develop strong relationships with the Lord Jesus (About Us).

clip_image003The founder and international director of the denomination is Rev. Kwasi Alex Adu-Boffour. In discussing ‘our pastor’, the homepage stated: ‘He has endured many trials in his life and has come out victorious by the power of God. He has an incredible testimony of the dynamic redeeming work of Jesus Christ. He believe and teaches that regardless of a person’s background or past mistakes, God can restore them to the right place and can help and lead them to enjoying every day life’.

What is this denomination going to do to deal with a pastor who commits adultery in his bigamy? It does not matter if he has his wife’s permission. Fornication or adultery is sin. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV).

Why didn’t Scripture condemn polygamy/bigamy?

In response to my post with the link to this 60-year-old pastor committing bigamy, there was this comeback on the Christian Forum. Part of it read:

If he is guilty of adultery or bigamy in God’s eyes, why in scripture didn’t God condemn people of the Bible who did the same thing, but in fact supported those people as if they were doing nothing wrong? I know there is a lot of speculation as to why this is true. But what are the cold facts from in context scripture to prove these people of the Bible were committing adultery and/or bigamy?

And just to be clear, I’m not supporting or recommending things like polygamy, but I’m trying to point out how different people from different backgrounds can have different ideas of what scripture says is sin and doesn’t say is sin.[2]

This is a tough issue because there are a number of instances in the OT where leading men of God had multiple marriages and partners/concubines.[3] Was God putting his stamp of approval on polygamy and so endorsing what Pastor Thom Miller has done in Mansfield, Ohio?

There is some clear biblical evidence that we must not ignore.

God did not approve of polygamy

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e6/The_old_wife_and_the_new_one.jpg/330px-The_old_wife_and_the_new_one.jpg?ssl=1[Azim Azimzade painting criticizing polygyny in Muslim communities. (Old wife and a new one in 1935). Wikipedia 2015. S v Polygyny in Islam]

How do I respond to this challenge? For an excellent exposition, see William Luck Sr’s article, ‘On the Morality of Biblical Polygyny‘.

blue-arrow-small Bigamy refers to having two spouses;

blue-arrow-small polygamy is having multiple marriages;

blue-arrow-small polygny is having multiple wives;

blue-arrow-small polyandry means to have more than one husband;

blue-arrow-small polyamory is the practice where a ‘committed’ couple openly engage in dating and having a sexual relationship with others.

How do we deal with some of these dimensions? Is it a widespread opinion that God approved polygamy in the OT? This is not the case. We know that ‘the Bible does speak strongly against polygamy in both the Old and New Testaments’ (Geisler 1989:281). We know this from direct statements in Scripture and precedent in the OT. These are some examples:[4]

clip_image005 Adam had only one wife, thus this was a pattern for the entire human race (Gen 2:7, 20-24).

clip_image005[1] In the moral law taught in Ex 20:17, we are told, ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife’, where ‘wife’ is singular. This is suggestive of monogamy but not definitive because in context, the verse continues, ‘Or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s’. One could not assume that the neighbour only has one servant, ox, donkey or anything else. One unit is given as an example, but it may not be absolutely one in all of these examples.

clip_image005[2] In the laws concerning each of Israel’s kings, Deut 17:17 states, ‘And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away’ (ESV).

clip_image005[3] If we look at the proportion of women vs. men in the world’s population, they are approximately equal in numbers. If polygamy was God’s design for marriage, there should be many more women than men in a population. According to the World Bank figures for 2011-2015, the percentage of females in each of the countries listed hovers around 50% (deviating from, say, 46.3% in Bhutan to 53.5% in Belarus). In my home country of Australia it is 50% female population. Notice the countries with lower female population: (1) Oman 34.2%; (2) United Arab Emirates 26.3%; (3) Saudi Arabia 43.4%; (4) Bahrain 37.9%; (5) Kuwait 43.8%; (6) Qatar 26.8% (World Bank, Population, female (% of total), 2015).

(Prince Manga Bell and favorite wives, courtesy Wikipedia). Prince Manga Bell (1873-1941)was a Duala king and resistance leader in the African nation of Cameroon when it was a German colony. He was hanged for alleged high treason in 1914 (Wikipedia 2015. S v Rudolf Duala Manga Bell).

clip_image005[4] China is a clear example of what happens when a nation tries to manipulate the male vs female balance with its forced one-child policy. In 2015, it was reported that this will change to a 2-child policy from 2016.

The reason China is doing this right now is because they have too many men, too many old people, and too few young people. They have this huge crushing demographic crisis as a result of the one-child policy. And if people don’t start having more children, they’re going to have a vastly diminished workforce to support a huge aging population. Right now the ratio is about five working adults supporting one retiree. That’s why they have ended a policy that should actually never have been started in the first place….

One of the results of the policy is that there is a dramatic gender imbalance with millions of men predicted to never find wives…. The lack of women in rural China resurrected the old, feudal practice of a bride price, or cai li. In the ’90s, cai li prices shot up to the point where it was the equivalent of a decade’s worth of farming income. If a man wanted to marry someone, his whole family had to beg and borrow from all the relatives. And that created a whole scam market (Worrall 2015).

These verses from the Book of Proverbs seem to be driven by a presupposition of monogamy:

clip_image007 Proverbs 5:15-20 (ESV),

Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19  a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated[5] always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?[6]

Here the evidence states she is the wife, singular, of his youth. One should not be ‘intoxicated’ with a forbidden woman or embrace an adulteress. So, the statement is that another woman’s embrace is that of an adulteress.

clip_image007[1] Proverbs 18:22 (ESV), ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord’.

It is important to understand that this teaches that the one (a man) who finds a wife (singular) obtains the Lord’s favour. This is not an endorsement of polygamy or polyandry.

clip_image007[2] Proverbs 31:10-31 (ESV):

An[7] excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself[8] with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.[9]
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

Throughout this proverb, the emphasis is on the one (singular) wife and her one husband (singular). Note especially, ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’ (v. 29). This one wife is compared to the rest of the excellent women but she goes beyond all of the others. She is a woman, a singular wife, who fears the Lord. There is no hint of polygamy here.

Dr Norman Geisler has provided this summary evidence of God’s view of polygamy:

There is ample evidence, even within the Old Testament, that polygamy was not God’s ideal for man. That monogamy was His ideal for man is obvious from several perspectives.

(1) God made only one wife for Adam, thus setting the ideal precedent for the race.

(2) Polygamy is first mentioned as part of the wicked Cainite civilization (Gen. 4:23).

(3) God clearly forbade the kings of Israel (leaders were the persons who became polygamists) saying, ‘And he shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away again’ (Deut. 17:17).

(4) The saints who became polygamists paid for their sins. 1 Kings 11:1, 3 says, ‘Now King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . and his wives turned away his heart’….

(5) Polygamy is usually situated in the context of sin in the O.T. Abraham’s marriage of Hagar was clearly a carnal act of unbelief (Gen. 16:1-16). David was not at a spiritual peak when he added Abigail and Ahinoam as his wives (1 Sam. 25:42-43), nor was Jacob when he married Leah and Rachel (Gen. 29:23, 28).

(6) The polygamous relation was less than ideal. It was one of jealousy among wives. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen. 29:31). Elkanah’s one wife was considered a ‘rival’ or adversary by the other, who ‘used to provoke her sorely, to irritate her….’ (1 Sam. 1:6).

(7) When polygamy is referred to, the conditional, not the imperative, is used. ‘If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights’ (Ex. 21:10). ‘Polygamy is not the moral ideal, but the polygamist must be moral’ (Geisler 1971:204-205).?

In another edition of this publication, Geisler gave this perceptive insight: ‘The fact that God permitted polygamy no more proves he prescribed it than the fact God permitted divorce indicates that he desired it. What Jesus said of divorce is true also of polygamy; it was “permitted … because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning”’ (Matt. 19:8)’ (Geisler 1989:281).

Polygamy allowed but within boundaries

While monogamy was God’s best arrangement for marriage and the family, polygamy was permitted as an inferior option in a sinful world. We see this:[10]

1. When men took concubines who had fewer rights than a wife, concubines were treated as little better than slaves. See Exodus 21:7-11.

2. Some of the Hebrew leaders who practised polygamy included: Jacob (Gen 29); David (2 Sam 5:13-16); Solomon (1 Kings 11), and Rehoboam (2 Chron 11:21).

It is of note that some of the above biblical emphases have influenced the contemporary organisation, BiblicalPolygamy.com, which has the slogan: ‘Polygamy really is Biblical’. On this website it provides links to polygamists in the Bible (by direct statement or inference). Copyright restrictions prevent my incorporating the table of biblical polygamists. You can locate the table HERE.

Peter Toon observed that

Deuteronomy 21:10-14[11] protects the rights of a female captive in war who is taken as wife (second wife?), and the inheritance law (vv. 15-17) recognizes that the primary moral criticism of bigamy is that one man cannot love two women equally. Hence this law protects an unloved wife and her son. The story of Elkanah and his wives is a comment on the moral dangers of polygamy (1 Sam. 1) (Toon 1987:314).

Those Mormon promoters of polygamy

clip_image009

(Brigham Young’s 12 widows lament. Caricature in a newspaper about Mormon polygamy. Text:” In memoriam Brigham Young. And the place which knew him once shall know him no more”. It references the apocryphal “long bed” story (and illustration) found in chapter 15 of Mark Twain‘s 1872 book Roughing It, courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

 

John Turner,[12] as Brigham Young’s biographer, discovered that Young, who was Joseph Smith’s successor as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had ‘55 well-documented marriages’.

“He married – was sealed to, in Mormon parlance – young (Clarissa Decker, 15) and old (Hannah Tapfield King, 65). He married single women and widows. Perhaps most unusually, he was sealed to his first two mothers-in-law. Perhaps most controversially, he married women who were already married, some to Mormon men in good standing’ (Turner 2012).

Why did Young pursue polygamy? Turner discovered that ‘Young sought a second wife because Joseph Smith instructed him that plural marriage was a divine commandment that would bring a select number of righteous men tremendous blessings for eternity’ (Turner 2012).

However, plural marriages ceased in late nineteenth century Mormonism. lds.org explains that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach monogamy as God’s standard, ‘except at specific periods when He has declared otherwise’.[13] This online document affirms that plural marriages came through a revelation to Joseph Smith recorded in Doctrine and Covenants (Section 132) and was instituted among the LDS people in the early 1840s and only the Church President could authorise the performing of new plural marriages.

In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church. In this statement, known as the Manifesto, President Woodruff declared his intention to abide by U.S. law forbidding plural marriage and to use his influence to convince members of the Church to do likewise.3

After the Manifesto, monogamy was advocated in the Church both over the pulpit and through the press. On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years. In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages. Today, any person who practices plural marriage cannot become or remain a member of the Church (‘Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah’, lds.org 2015).

File:Mormon Family (Russell's Polygamy in Low Life).jpg

(Mormon family – Russell’s polygamy in low life, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Christian missionaries and converted polygamists

What does a church leader or missionary do when a polygamist in a polygamous-friendly nation becomes a Christian? Some of us have read of sad stories like that raised in this Christianity Today article:

Earlier Western missionaries felt a need to confront polygamy at the point of conversion. During colonial days in mission churches, Christians in good standing would give up the status symbol and send away all but one wife…. Such a painful decision often meant that men would choose family or social standing over church. Medical missionary David Livingstone’s single convert abandoned the faith to return to polygamy.

Many African church leaders regret zero-tolerance policies for polygamous families of converts, saying that treating those marriages as invalid raises a number of problems. Besides absolving fathers of their responsibilities and leaving many economically dependent women out in the cold, it’s theologically questionable to force new converts to divorce, said Sunday Agang, an ethics professor at Jos ecwa Theological Seminary in Nigeria and a John Stott Ministries scholar (Wunderink 2009).

It is my considered view that, since polygamy is in a similar league to divorce (Matt 19:8) in terms of biblical understanding (because of the hardness of people’s hearts), it needs to be allowed to continue when a polygamous man or woman comes to know Christ in a polygamous-friendly nation. He should not be forced to renounce polygamy. Instead, he should be supported in maintaining his present situation with husband, wives and family. The husband should not be encouraged to get rid of all his wives except one, as that leaves the other wives with negative consequences financially, socially and in the family.

In a polygamous culture, such as in many nations in Africa, it should be taught that a Christian should not seek to become a polygamist. However, the convert who is already in a polygamous relationship at the time of conversion should choose the lesser evil – continue as a polygamist, supporting the wives, and he should not be sending away the wives and children. Way too much heartache has been caused by well-meaning missionaries with a narrow view of dealing with existing polygamous relationships. It could be that missionaries will be church planting in areas where there will be a number of polygamous families, newly converted, in the congregation.

For church leaders in a polygamous society, the standards are higher than for general membership in a congregation. This is the biblical standard, whether an elder/overseer is in Australia, Kenya, Germany or Qatar : ‘Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[14] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach’ (1 Tim 3:2 ESV, emphasis added). The same standard applies to deacons (see 1 Tim 3:12 ESV).

Which countries accept or have legalised polygamy? Oliver Wheaton for Metro.co.uk, 22 June 2015, ‘Where exactly is polygamy legal?’ has provided a helpful diagram to explain this on an international basis:

Where exactly is polygamy legal?

Conclusion

Pastor Thom Miller’s bigamous situation in Mansfield OH has hit the news headlines around the world. This has caused me to examine the biblical position on polygamy and other multiple marriage situations. I have discovered that:

1. The theology of the denomination of which Thom Miller is a bigamist and pastor does not support polygamy.

2. From the beginning of creation, God’s design has been monogamy. However, with the introduction of sin into the world, there are examples of leaders in the OT who committed the sin of polygamy and concubinage . God had stated that he did not approve of polygamy and there were dangers inherent in this sinful practice. For those OT leaders, their wives sometimes turned their hearts away from following the Lord.

3. God did place parameters around the practice of polygamy for the protection of the polygamists, particularly the wives. It was suggested that polygamy is like divorce; God permitted it because of the hardness of people’s hearts.

4. One unashamed example of the promotion of polygamy was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), that originated through a ‘revelation’ to Joseph Smith in the early 1940s. It was practised by Brigham Young and others until the Manifesto to cease it in 1890. Mormons today forbid the practice of polygamy.

5. Some recent and contemporary Christian missionaries have created additional problems on the mission fields when they have required polygamists who became Christians to put away all wives except one. It was suggested by me that this is an unwise strategy and that polygamist relationships should be allowed to continue in the church – but not in leadership positions as elders and deacons.

6. How is a person like Thom Miller and his two wives allowed to practise bigamy in the USA which forbids polygamy? Lawyers have indicated that this is allowed because legal authorities turn a blind eye to it.

7. To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article: Is polygamy promoted by the Bible? No, it isn’t. Examples are given of its practice, even by leaders of Israel and Judah, but God’s design is monogamy. Polygamy is an example of sinful practice which God allowed and did not promote. Because of the hardness of people’s hearts, God permitted it, but did not endorse or promote it.

Works consulted

Day, C 2015. Reports: Mansfield pastor claims he’s polygamous. Mansfield News Journal (online), 1 December. Available at: http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/news/local/2015/12/01/media-outlets-mansfield-pastor-polygamous/76620202/ (Accessed 3 December 2015).

Geisler, N L 1971. Ethics: Alternatives and Issues. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

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

Henderson, E 2015. Thom Miller: Pastor marries pregnant girlfriend with consent of his wife. The Independent (online), 2 December. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/thom-miller-the-man-who-married-his-pregnant-girlfriend-with-the-consent-of-his-wife-ohio-america-a6755536.html (Accessed 3 December 2015).

Tooley, H 2015. Former mafia pastor marries girlfriend with blessing of wife. Premier Christian Radio, 2 December. Available at: https://www.premierchristianradio.com/News/World/Former-mafia-pastor-marries-girlfriend-with-blessing-of-wife (Accessed 3 December 2015).

Toon, P 1987. Polygamy. In R K Harrison (gen ed), Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, 314. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Turner, J G 2012. Polygamy, Brigham Young and His 55 Wives. Huffington Post Australia (online), 27 August. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-g-turner/brigham-young-and-polygamy_b_1792555.html?ir=Australia (Accessed 4 December 2015).

Worrall, S 2015. How China’s One-Child Policy Backfired Disastrously. National Geographic (online), 30 October. Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/151030-china-one-child-policy-mei-fong/ (Accessed 4 December 2015).

Wunderink, S 2009. What to Do about Unbiblical Unions. Christianity Today (online), 25 June. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/july/12.17.html (Accessed 4 December 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, Christian Talk & Advice, ‘Can a homosexual go to heaven?’, Obadiah#114. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/can-a-homosexual-go-to-heaven.62014/page-6http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/can-a-homosexual-go-to-heaven.62014/page-6 (Accessed 3 December 2015).

[2] Christian Forums.net, ibid., Obadiah#163.

[3] Concubinage is ‘the enduring state or practice of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman not bound to each other by legitimate marriage’ (encyclopedia.com 2015. S v concubinage). There are many examples of concubinage in the OT Scriptures.

[4] The following dot points were suggested by Geisler (1989:281).

[5] Here the ESV footnote stated, ‘Hebrew be led astray; also verse 20’.

[6] The ESV footnote at this point stated, ‘Hebrew a foreign woman’.

[7] The ESV footnote here was, ‘Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet’.

[8] The ESV footnote is, ‘Hebrew She girds her loins’.

[9] The ESV footnote stated, ‘Or in double thickness’.

[10] Some of these emphases were suggested by Toon (1987:314).

[11] For an Islamic response to Deut 21:10-14, see the article, ‘Biblical Law Permits Rape of Female Captives’, Answering-Christianity. Available at: http://www.answering-christianity.com/karim/Karim_-_articles_islamic_answers_-_part_3/Biblical%20law%20permits%20rape%20of%20female%20captives.pdf (Accessed 4 December 2015).

[12] John G Turner is the author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. Cambridge, MA / London: Harvard University Press, 2012.

[13] The footnote at this point was, ‘Jacob 2:27, 30. For instances of plural marriage in the Bible, see Genesis 16:3; 25:1; 29:21-30; 30:3-4, 9. See also D&C 132:34-35’.

[14] The NIV UK version translates this phrase as ‘faithful to his wife’ (1 Tim 3:2 NIVUK, and NLT). The NRSV translates it as ‘married only once’.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 December 2015.

clip_image013

Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

 

(image courtesy Christianity 201)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It’s interesting to note how tricky people can be in avoiding declaring that they do not believe in the fundamental Christian doctrine of the Trinity of God. This is how one fellow was elusive on a Christian forum. He wrote that there is no Scripture which refers to the Triune God:

An anti-trinitarian in action

1 Corinthians 8:6, ‘But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him’.

Ephesians 4:5-6King James Version (KJV), ‘5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’.

There is no scripture saying Triune God…the scripture says continue in the Father and the Son

1 John 2:22-24 King James Version (KJV), ‘22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father’.[1]

So, according to this person, Scripture does not say Triune God. He[2] continued:

  • ‘by your own admission ….if the HS [Holy Spirit] is God’s Spirit… then the HS is God and therefore not a third person…which means there is no trinity.’[3]
  • ‘The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God… Do you not believe the scripture??? Ephesians 4:5-6 (KJV) ‘5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’.[4]
  • ‘‘The Spirit of God is God… and NOT something other than God…and thereore (sic) NOT another person or entity. John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. John 14:23, ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’[5]
  •  The scripture does not teach…..the Holy Ghost is  a person of a Trinity….scripture teaches the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God… Paul said   “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30 KJV)’[6]
  • ‘You have not been reading scripture …have you?…scripture sats (sic) nothing about a triune nature….it says God is ONE……what are the three natures you are talking about??? show scripture saying there are three natures… Jesus said I and my Father are one….Jesus and  the Father makes their abode with us….One  Spirit’. [7]
  • ‘OK here is the person…..: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”  who was HE that the disciples Knew???….who was he that dwelleth with the disciples???…and who was the HE that shall be in us????’[8]
  • ‘where does scripture say one God in three persons….???? you have no scripture to back up that claim.’[9]
  • ‘none of those say or imply in any way…”one God in three persons.”….. you are reading that into the scripture friend’.[10]

The challenge

After seeing this kind of back and forth from a non-Trinitarian person, I asked him directly, ‘Don’t you believe in the Trinity?’[11] His response was predictably, ‘Where does the scripture command anyone to believe in the trinitarian God???’[12] I replied, ‘You are not answering my question. I asked: Do you believe in the Trinitarian God or not?’[13]

He eventually confessed: ‘I do not believe in the trinitarian god… it is a false doctrine… can you now answer my question??… where does the scripture command anyone to believe in the trinitarian god???[14]

It was at this point I provided him with….

A beginning answer[15]

Please note that I do not deal here with the unity of God, that there is one God.

Where does the Scripture command us to believe in the Trinitarian God?

Let’s answer the first question. Where does Scripture command us to believe in God? There are many Scriptures we could choose. Let’s deal with just a couple:

a. ‘And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’ (Heb 11:6 ESV). ‘And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever’ (1 Chron 28:9 ESV). We could go to other verses as well to affirm the need to believe in God.

b. The second question is: What is the nature of this God? Is he Trinitarian or non-trinitarian? Let’s investigate further.

In a response, this is what happens when a person only gives the biblical verses that support the anti-trinitarian view of god, which is a heretical view of God as was declared at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015). See the Nicene Creed below. Why? Because he has chosen to exclude the verses that demonstrate that God consists of three persons who are deity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The definition of the Trinity which has biblical support is: ‘God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God’ (Grudem 1999:104).

What’s the evidence that God, the Father, is fully God? It is progressively revealed throughout Scripture. As early as Genesis 1:26 (ESV), God is revealed as a plurality: ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’. Here we have the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ used. Are they plurals of majesty or do they indicate that there is plurality in the Godhead? ‘In Old Testament Hebrew there are no other examples of a monarch using plural verbs or plural pronouns of himself in such a “plural of majesty,” so this suggestion has no evidence to support it’ (Grudem 1999:104). The God who is plurality made a human being (man) in their (plural) image.

The persons and deity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The more complete revelation is in the New Testament where we find that

bronze-arrow God, the Father, is regarded as God. ‘For on him God the Father has set his seal’ (Jn 6:27 ESV); ‘God our Father’ (Rm 1:7 ESV); ‘God the Father’ and ‘God the Father’ (Gal 1:1, 3). Isn’t that clear enough? The Father is God.

bronze-arrow God, the Son, is regarded as God. He has the attributes of deity: (1) Eternity (Jn 1:15; 8:58; 17:5, 24); (2) Omniscience (Jn 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17); (3) Omnipresence (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 3:13); (4) Omnipotence. ‘I am the Almighty’ (Rev 1:8; Heb 1:3; Mt 28:18); (5) Immutable (Heb 1:12; 13:8); (6) He does the actions of deity: creator (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:10; Col 1:16); holds things together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3); forgives sin (Mt 9:2, 6); raises the dead (Jn 6:39-40, 54; 11:25; 20:25, 28); he will be the Judge (Jn 5:22) of believers (2 Cor 5:10), of Antichrist and his followers (Rev 19:15), the nations (Ac 17:31), Satan (Gen 3:15) and the living and the dead (Ac 10:42).

bronze-arrowGod, the Holy Spirit, is regarded as God. The Holy Spirit is a person. Take John 16:13 as an example. the neuter substantive pneuma [Spirit] is referred to by the masculine pronoun ekeinos [he], thus recognising the Holy Spirit not as a neuter ‘it’ but as a person, ‘he’. He is the Comforter/Helper (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). No ‘it’ can do this. The Holy Spirit has the attributes of Deity. He is eternal (Heb 9:14), omniscient (1 Cor 2:10-11; Jn 14:26; 16:12-13), omnipotent (Lk 1:35), omnipresent (Ps 139:7-10). And have a guess what? He does the works of deity in creation (Ps 104:30), regeneration (Jn 3:5), giving us Scripture (2 Pt 1:21; and raising the dead (Rm 8:11).

In preparing these Scriptures I have been assisted by Henry Thiessen (1949:134-146). Thiessen notes that ‘the doctrine of the tripersonality of God is not in conflict with the doctrine of the unity of God. There are three persons in the one essence…. These distinctions are eternal. This is evident from the passages which imply Christ’s existence with the Father from eternity (John 1:1, 2; Phil. 2:6; John 17:5, 24) and from those which assert or imply the eternity of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Heb. 9:14)’ (Thiessen 1949:145).

Although the words Trinity, Triunity or tripersonality do not appear in Scripture, the teachings do, as I’ve attempted to show. Exact wording should not put us off. Try finding these words in the Bible: Rapture, inerrancy, infallibility, the word Bible, literal interpretation, Sunday, Christmas, Easter; the exact words, ‘Jesus is God’; etc. However, all these teachings can be demonstrated from the Bible.

This person is a Unitarian

I need to label this heresy taught on a Christian forum for what it is. It is Unitarianism that is supported by, yes, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphians.

The United Pentecostal Church and ‘Jesus Only’ Pentecostals (Oneness Pentecostals) are modalists, which is a heresy from the early church. For a refutation of Oneness Pentecostalism, see Jason Barker of Watchman Fellowship’s Profile article, ‘Oneness Pentecostalism’. See also Christian Defense’s article, ‘Modalism and Church History’. These articles expose the dangerous heresy of modalism whose early form was Sabellianism and whose modern manifestation is Oneness Pentecostalism or Jesus Only Pentecostalism.

See these other articles

clip_image001Sue Bohlin, ‘Jesus claims to be God’;

clip_image001[1]Norman Geisler, ‘The uniqueness of Jesus Christ’;

clip_image001[2]Spencer Gear: Is Jesus a God and not the God?

clip_image001[3]Spencer Gear, ‘Was Jesus omniscient while on earth?

clip_image001[4]Spencer Gear, Is the Holy Spirit God?

clip_image001[5]Spencer Gear, Is the God of Islam the same God as Elohim of the Christian Scriptures?

 Appendix

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Works consulted

Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015. Council of Nicaea. Available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/413817/Council-of-Nicaea (Accessed 31 May 2015).

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, ‘Prove practise of worship of the Holy Spirit is biblical’, newbirth#27. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21183-prove-practise-of-worship-of-the-holy-spirit-is-biblical/ (Accessed 31 May 2015).

[2] I will use ‘he’ but this person will not reveal his/her sex.

[3] Ibid., newbirth#28.

[4] Ibid., newbirth#30.

[5] Ibid., newbirth#32.

[6] Ibid., newbirth#33.

[7] Ibid., newbirth#35.

[8] Ibid., newbirth#38.

[9] Ibid., newbirth#45.

[10] Ibid., newbirth#47.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#52.

[12] Ibid., newbirth#62.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[14] Ibid., newbirth#66.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#69.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 August 2016.

Please do not support same-sex marriage

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Close Up Of Happy Lesbian Coup...
(courtesy dreamstime)
Young Couple In The Park
(courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In 2014-2015, Senator David Leyonhjelm in the Australian federal Senate has been promoting a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage (with support from other politicians). It was reported: ‘Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm introduces same-sex marriage bill’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, November 26, 2014). The Sydney Morning Herald also provided information on ‘the surprise visitor [Senator Cory Bernardi] at David Leyonhjelm’s gay marriage press conference’ (SMH March 19, 2015). What has happened to the Bill? Leyonhjelm told Sky News that he expected the Bill to be debated in federal parliament in 2016. See, ‘Gay marriage vote in 2016 says Leyonhjelm’ (Sky News, 2 June 2015).

I wrote to the Queensland Senators to provide evidence why they should not support homosexual marriage. I wrote as a Queensland elector, one who has been a counsellor and/or counselling manager for 34 years, and someone who isnot a homophobe.

Reasons not to support homosexual marriage

I urged the Senators not to support or promote this legislation for these reasons:

1. While there have been widows and single parents since the beginning of time, the marriage of a man and woman has been the norm to have the potential to produce children naturally. To change this is to change a necessary fundamental of society.

2. To go down the road of same-sex marriage would be a potentially dangerous social experiment in Australia for the following reasons:

One of those is the impact on children born to surrogates and then parented by a same-sex couple. Too often, the man who donated the sperm or the woman who donated the ovum is not known to the child. Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states: ‘The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents’. All children, wherever possible, have the right to know and they need both mother and father. Such is not possible with many homosexual couples where there are children.

3. All is not well with children from some homosexual parents. On 19 March 2015, The Courier-Mail published the article, ‘Heather Barwick, the daughter of lesbians, against gay marriage, defends Dolce & Gabbana’. Part of what she wrote was:

“I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think. It’s not because you’re gay. I love you, so much. It’s because of the nature of the same-sex relationship itself,” she said. “Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mum’s partner, but another mum could never have replaced the father I lost.”

‘Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognise the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me,” she said. “It’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting”.

(Male same-sex couple with a child, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

A new study of children raised by homosexual parents by sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin reverses the conventional academic understanding that such children are not at a disadvantage when compared to children raised by a married mother and father. The article in the journal, Social Science Research, has found that ‘the children of homosexuals did worse (or, in the case of their own sexual orientation, were more likely to deviate from the societal norm) on 77 out of 80 outcome measures. (The only exceptions: children of “gay fathers” were more likely to vote; children of lesbians used alcohol less frequently; and children of “gay fathers” used alcohol at the same rate as those in intact biological families)’.[1]

This newer study contradicts earlier research which was reported in, ‘Children of same-sex couples thriving: study’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, April 6, 2013).

Therefore, the same-sex relationship, even in marriage, does not have the same dynamics as those for the man-woman relationship and may have detrimental consequences on children and our society as the following points illustrate.

4. The rectum is not designed for sexual penetration; the vagina is. Anal sex is a high risk sexual activity. One of the many hazards is the vulnerability of the tissues to tearing and bleeding. Damage can be done to the sphincter muscles that may lead to incontinence and rectal prolapse. There is a high level of organisms that may cause disease in the rectum. Do you want these medical issues to be added to the already overloaded Medicare system?

5. Some research has shown that the risk for transmission of HIV is higher for anal sex than for vaginal sex. This report from 2008, “Inequitable Impact: The HIV/AIDS epidemic among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men in Massachusetts“, demonstrates the increased HIV rate among MSM (men having sex with men) in Massachusetts

6. Please read this assessment by Brian Camenker in 2008 of “What same-sex marriage has done to Massachusetts: It’s far worse than most people realize“. Examine the impact in Massachusetts on education in schools right down to the primary school level. Observe how it influences public health, increased domestic violence, business, the legal profession, adoption of children, Government mandates, the public square and the mass media.

Diagram showing stage 1 anal cancer CRUK 189.svg(diagram anal cancer, stage 1, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

7. The anal cancer problem. ‘For HIV-positive Gay Men, the risk is even further elevated. In a recent meta-analysis of all studies describing anal cancer incidence in Gay Men living with HIV, it was reported that anal cancer incidence increased to 78-100 per 100,000 per year in reports published after 1996. These data demonstrate that the incidence of anal cancer is increasing in HIV-positive men, despite the improved general health associated with effective HIV therapies.

The incidence of anal cancer in men and women who identify as heterosexual and have HIV is about 20 per 100,000’ (Submission, June 2014, ‘Anal Cancer-Diagnosis, Monitoring and Management in Sydney and South East Sydney Local Health Districts’, Positive Life NSW).

So, the occurrence in anal cancer for homosexual men is 4-5 times higher than for heterosexual men and women. Marriage is not likely to stop this incidence in the homosexual population, but Senators should be promoting the message in Parliament and to the mass media that the homosexual lifestyle has some deleterious medical consequences.

Another report on anal cancer indicated that ‘in the general population, anal cancer is a rare disease…. Among men who have sex with men (MSM), the incidence of anal cancer is significantly more prevalent and increasing annually’ (National lgbt Cancer Network, ‘Anal Cancer, HIV and Gay/Bisexual Men’, 2013).

8. The foundation of Australia’s healthy democracy and laws has been built on a Christian worldview that promotes heterosexual marriage for the health of the nation, which states that ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Jesus Christ affirmed heterosexuality for the norm of society when he repeated the Genesis mandate, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). If Australia moves away from this foundational law for a just and fair family, it will be violating a fundamental of Australia’s national cultural health.

In light of these details, I urge all politicians not to vote for any Bill that legalises homosexual marriage.

Notes:


[1] Mark Regnerus 2012, ‘How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study’, Social Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4, July, pp. 752-770. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610 (Accessed 21 March 2015, emphasis in original).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 2015.

Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

(courtesy pinterest.com

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want a warmed up or heated discussion in church or online in a Christian forum, raise a passage like this one, Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV), and contend that a person can fall away from the faith – commit apostasy!

A person quoted this verse and then stated, ‘The writer of Hebrews seemed to think that it is possible for Christians to fall away’.[1]

They were never Christians

This kind of response was predictable. I’ve encountered it many times during my 50 years of Christian experience:

The scriptures you’ve quoted above are NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians , as you put it, rather the word “some” in Heb 6:4 must be qualified, and these are they who are the Tares that God allowed to grow together with the Wheat in the church environment. The Tares are the unsaved and the Wheat the saved. In every congregations of the world, without exceptions, there are saved and unsaved people who gather together in the local churches. The Tares are those that will fall away although they heard the true Gospel preached (enlightened), and have tasted of the heavenly gift (salvation), and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit (communion).

The key verse in understanding Heb 6:4-6 is found in Heb 6:9 which do not speak about a child of God or salvation, but of unbelief which is explained in Heb 3:17-19.

God is the Author of the Bible and I don’t believe He intended that it is possible for His child to fall away!

2 Pet 2:20-22 are companion scriptures to Heb 6: 4-6.[2]

The context refutes that view

I responded:[3] This is not what the verses say in context, we read Heb 5:11-6:8 (ESV):

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

6 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

The context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) is very clear that these people are those:

  • Who have become ‘dull of hearing’ (5:11).
  • By this time, for those for whom Jesus ‘became the source of eternal salvation’ (5:9), ‘ought to be teachers’ (5:12), i.e. Christian teachers, but they needed ‘someone to teach you again’ (5:12).
  • Teach what? ‘The basic principles of the oracles of God’ (5:12).
  • These Christians needed to go back to ‘milk’ and not be fed ‘solid food’ (5:12).
  • ‘Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13). So, the author is not talking about unbelievers but about those who are ‘unskilled’ in righteousness. He is not referring to those who do not know and experience righteousness.
  • He is addressing those who are children in righteousness (5:13). Nevertheless, they are Christians of righteousness, but still need milk as children of God when they should be more mature.
  • However, ‘solid food is for the mature’. These are those who have ‘powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (5:14).
  • The author’s call is that these Christians ‘leave the elementary doctrine of Christ’ (6:1) – the milk – and ‘go on to maturity’ so that the foundation of Christ – repentance – will not be laid again. This problem they were encountering was a ‘foundation’ of ‘dead works and of faith toward God’ (6:1).
  • This elementary doctrine also included ‘instruction about washings’, ‘laying on of hands’, ‘resurrection of the dead’ and ‘eternal judgment’ (6:2). Obviously these kinds of doctrines were involved in these Christians’ belief in and teachings of the ‘milk’ of being ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13).
  • Then the author launches into the warnings of apostasy contained in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), in which the teaching is that for those who apostatise from the faith by falling away, ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God’ (6:6), thus making it ‘impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).
  • Then comes the analogy of  land that has absorbed the rain that falls, produces a crop for those who cultivate it and the blessing is thus received from God (6:7).
  • But if that crop ‘bears thorns and thistles’, ‘it is worthless’ and is ‘cursed’ and ‘burned’ (6:8).

So, it is possible for Christians to feed on the milk instead of the food and be immature in their faith and then become vulnerable to the temptations to apostatise and fall away from the faith.

That’s the context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) as I understand it. It is addressing Hebrew Christians who are warned that they could apostatise BUT ‘in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation’ (6:9). Who are the ‘beloved‘? Christians, of course!

The writer of Hebrews had this longing for the believers to whom he addressed this letter: ‘We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Heb 6:11-12 ESV).

So the writer is dealing with immature Christian believers who had been feeding on milk instead of solid food. For these, the temptation to fall away from the faith was always a possibility. But for these Hebrew Christians, the writer desired better things – perseverance in the faith.

I don’t believe the context, based on this reasoning, allows us to say that these people were ‘NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians’ (the language of the person on the forum). They were immature Christians who could be tempted away from the faith and fall into apostasy.

So close, but not a Christian

Image result for cross public domain(www.clipartlord.com)

 

How do you think this person would respond to the above exposition? Here goes:

Unfortunately, the passage concerned is Hebrews 6:4-6 which speaks that there will be “some” (in a church setting), who will fall away.

I was merely responding to Barrd’s post #10 where she claimed those who will fall away are Christians, just as you do but in a different twist, by saying these who fall away are also Christians but unskilled in the doctrines of Christ. I have yet to read in the Bible that anyone lacking in the knowledge of scriptures cannot be saved!!

We are not saved because of knowledge of Scripture.

FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!

Consider these scriptures which are self explanatory:

1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Heb 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Heb 3:17-19 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

To God Be The Glory.[4]

What has he done here?

Red herring fallacy in place of evidence

Red Herring Clipart(courtesy clipartsheep.com)

 

This fellow has done what many Christians resort to. My response was that I am flabbergasted that I provided an extended examination of the context to demonstrate the nature of the salvation that the people of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) had. He refuted not a word of this, but then gave this red herring logical fallacy:

‘FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!’

Could I be wasting my time in providing this person with an exposition in context? Seems so![5]

This person is imposing his view on the text. In biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis, that is, ‘The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original’ (Exegesis v. eisegesis).

Conclusion

Hebrews 6:4-6, when examined in context, demonstrates that it is speaking about Christians who are so immature in the faith that they are still being fed on spiritual milk.

They are so weak in the faith that they do not persevere but are tempted away from the faith and may even commit apostasy.

A person who had a pre-commitment to once-saved-always-saved theology could not accept this explanation so engaged in fallacious reasoning by committing a red herring logical fallacy. It’s impossible to have a logical conversation with anyone who uses a logical fallacy and will not deal with the illogic of his or her views.

Therefore, Heb 6:4-6 teaches that it is possible for Christians living on the milk of the Word to be so immature in the faith that they can fall away from the faith. This apostasy is so serious that they cannot be restored to repentance, which means they are lost permanently because ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (Heb 6:6).

It is serious charge to make against Scripture to make it say what it does not say. To the contrary, those who promote eternal security and deny apostasy are teaching false doctrine.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The Law & The Gospel’, The Barrd#10, 8 October 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21997-the-law-the-gospel/#entry263608 (Accessed 12 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Jun2u#18.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[4] Ibid., Jun2u#20.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#22.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 2015.