Archive for May, 2016

Logic and Christian discussions

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you engage in logical thinking and be Christian? Some ordinary Christians think that logical thinking and spiritual thinking are an antithesis. They don’t want to allow the two.

Yet, Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) could find no conflict between reasoning (logic) and being spiritual, ‘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’. The NASB and KJV use similar language, while the NIV translates as, ‘”Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD’. However, the principle is the same. God wants to reason with people so they can settle a matter.

Based on this kind of Scripture, Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks wrote, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Geisler & Brooks 1990). Geisler said his first teacher of logic, Howard Schoof, exhorted, ‘The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic’. To this Geisler added, ‘Clean living and correct thinking make a potent combination’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:7).

1.  What is logic?

The use of logic is important in any discussions, including Christian discussions, and especially in Christian apologetics. What is the role of logic in the use of the Christian mind?[1] I’ve been particularly helped in growing in my faith and use of Christian apologetics by Geisler & Brooks book from a few years ago, Come, Let Us Reason (Geisler & Brooks 1990).
Their definitions of logic are:

(1) “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order” (p. 11), or as a more formal definition,
(2) “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal” (Geisler & Brooks 1990: 11, 12).

If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?
What’s the point of even raising logic as a necessary part of Christian apologetics?

I am reminded that the term, ‘theology’ is made up of two NT Greek words: theos = God and logos = word or logic. So we could say that theology is the study of the logic of God, or theology is a rational discourse about God (Geisler & Brooks 1990:15).

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion on this Christian Forum without the use of correct logic?

How do you see logic, reason and the supernatural God and the use of the Christian mind?

But that’s not how some people in the pews see it.

1.1  Christians leap beyond logic, says one

How do you think a Christian would respond to the above definitions and information about logic? Here is the first response:

Logic is a product of the mind.

It can be utilized at times when rightly dividing scriptures, but then again, it takes The Holy Spirit to enlighten the passages for such a thing to be known in the first place.

Additionally, Christians routinely leap beyond logic, in fact, the whole born again experience was a Spiritual experience from GOD that is not understood by the natural man. It cannot be discerned or known by him/her at all.

So no, you wouldn’t see me as an advocate of logic, it relies on the mind, and that is secondary to the Spirit.[2]

Therefore, since logic is a practice of the mind without the Spirit – according to this person – then Christians need to go beyond logic to experience God. So to this fellow, logic would not be promoted as it relies on the mind and thus is secondary to the Holy Spirit. How then does that engage with God’s view, ‘Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord’ (Isa 1:18)? This fellow is already off base with God’s view.

I’m not suggesting that there is not supernatural, spiritual intervention by God at salvation and at other times, but that is not designed to zap a Christian of the need to practice logic. Logic will always be part of the Christian armour, the spiritual armoury.

There were many more who came to the rescue of affirming the need for logic.

1.2  Christians need to use logic

(image courtesy keyword suggestions)

A person cited Charles Ryrie on basic theology, ‘Reasoning involves using the laws of logic. These include the law of non-contradiction which says that you can’t have A and not-A at the same time and in the same relationship…. The law of non-contradiction is not simply one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, rather it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory’.[3]

clip_image002[1]Another’s view was that meaningful communication was an impossibility if logic is not used. That includes formal or informal logic.[4] Predication is equally impossible without logic, making Science not even possible without it. There really is no escaping logic, though people have tried, and ever failed’.[5]

clip_image002[2]This person found it ‘funny’ in his response to the person who doesn’t advocate logic because he may not realise it but he is using logic to invalidate his statement against logic. ‘Logic is a lot like grammar, even though you may not know anything about it, none-the-less you use it everyday of life without even realizing it’. The person explained that ‘the second you start reasoning is the second you yourself are using logic’. The person provided another definition of logic, ‘Logic is the science that explains what conditions must be fulfilled in order that a proposition may be proved, if it admits proof’ (Carveth Read 1914). I had asked, ‘If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?’ This person’s response was thoughtful and appropriate: ‘It serves to define the guidelines we must follow when defending our faith. It helps us to not make the common mistakes of the “village apologists”. It also aids us in truth and in using it correctly shows us to be reasonable’.[6]

clip_image002[3]The Bible advocates the use of our minds as God created the mind with the marvellous capacity to reason. God has set in place the laws of the physical universe and these include making logic possible. ‘He urges us in the Bible to study, and time after time, particularly through the New Testament letters, he shows us how formidable a well-reasoned and logical argument or discourse can be. Jesus encouraged people to ask questions, Paul encouraged people to think through his arguments, and Peter encouraged people to be ready with an answer to those who ask them of their faith…. My mind must be convinced, and the way that happens is through logic. Fortunately, the Bible and Christianity are very logical and convincing when approached with an open and unbiased mind’.[7]

It’s a self-evident truth that logic is needed in any argument.

clip_image002[4] It is needed for maths to work and it is used in every philosophy to make sense of it. This includes Scripture I’m of the opinion that God gave me a brain, and He expects me to use it – especially in the interpretation of His Word’.

He emphasised that we all need solid reasoning in any argument to make sense and to justify an action. ‘If you do things based on pure emotions, you’re likely to do something completely ridiculous. It just doesn’t work. While humans are emotional beings, we’re also rational beings. It’s important to recognize that rationality should perform over emotion at all times (at least, ideally)’. He used Jesus in the Gospels as examples of His using clear reasoning on many occasions. ‘He didn’t randomly do or say anything; it had a point’.[8]

1.3  So use of logic is a bummer

(image courtesy moving minds)

How should I respond to the fellow who does not advocate the use of logic and places it secondary to the spiritual? I countered:[9]

Logic is a product of language that God has created.

You state, ‘It can be utilized at times’. It must be used all the time if we are to have a reasonable conversation here in English on this forum, according to the definition I gave: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:11).

God put his thoughts in order to give us the Scriptures. You put your thoughts in order for me to be able to read your statements. You used logic and I am doing that as I type these sentences.

So, you won’t advocate logic because it relies on the mind and must be secondary to the Spirit? You were an advocate of logic when you put your thoughts in order to write to me. You may not realise you are doing it, but you have to use logic to be able to communicate.

Human beings didn’t invent logic. They discovered it.

God is the author of all logic. So, technically speaking, God does not flow from logic; logic flows from God…. [There are] statements we make about him [God] that we analyze with logic. Logic simply provides a way to see if those statements are true—if they fit with the reality of who God really is…. God is not being tested by some standard outside himself. Logic flows from God. It is part of his rational nature, which has been given to us in his image. Using logic in theology is simply applying God’s test to our statements about God. It is God’s way for us to come to the truth (Geisler & Brooks 1990:17-18).

Yes, there are rationalists who try to determine truth by ‘reason, evidence, and modern secular, democratic values’.[10] However, Christians try to discover truth, using reason and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Reasonable people use logic to test the truth of their and others’ statements about God.

If we want to continue this discussion, all of us have to use logic. That’s the way God has made us. It is part of his image in us.

The come back to my analysis was:

Logic will never restore a maimed leg.

Our ability to conform to the image of His Son and do those works that Jesus did requires faith given to us, which is something in the realm of GOD, and that is certainly not logical to most, certainly not to the unbelieving.

You can make the case for logic here if you so desire, but it is a limitation to what GOD can do beyond that logic. Most likely you are not interested in that leap beyond logic, which is understandable in these times.[11]

Fortunately another person was on the ball with an appropriate response:

clip_image002[5]’Miracles are not illogical if you believe through logic that God exists. You are almost making a Hume type argument here, but that was fatally flawed once you introduce a Divine Being into the probability equation. In fact, if you watch the Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig debate you will see Ehrman make this kind of claim and then William Lane Craig go in for the kill on the rebuttal.

The fact is, what you are espousing here is logic and you don’t even realize it. You use it everyday of your life and don’t realize it. What then is the opposite of logic? It is illogic and I don’t think anyone wants to be claiming that that is what they are using when it comes to apologetics.

I think you just don’t understand how to use logic and belief together, this is where philosophy and a Christian worldview go hand in hand’.[12]

My reply to the concocted view that logic doesn’t restore a maimed leg was:[13]

We are not discussing logic as not being a means of supernatural intervention. However, when the Lord arranged for the recording of miracles in Scripture, what did he do? He used a logical order and arrangement to convey them to us. See the record of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:1-41.

Please remember the definition of logic that I gave when I started this discussion: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’. God put his thoughts in order so that we could read and understand them in all of Scripture, not just in describing the supernatural intervention.

Do you call God’s miraculous intervention ‘the leap beyond logic’? I am not a cessationist, so I believe that God can supernaturally intervene in our world and he continues to give the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t know if this is what you refer to when you speak of ‘the leap beyond logic’.

In saying that there are mysteries in understanding God (I agree), does not indicate God is not interested in logic. Communicating logically means that God puts his thoughts in order and we put thoughts in order when trying to communicate with others.

2. Distorted understanding of logic and Christianity

I was in discussion online with a few people on the role of logical thinking in Christian proclamation and reading of Scripture on another forum where there were more anti-logic promoters. These are some examples of the interactions:

clip_image004 ‘Logic is the carnal mind in action. A function of the thought process’.[14]

It was appropriate that this view was rejected by this person who wrote:

Logic is used regardless of whether or not the mind is carnal. Besides, you are here using logic (it’s unavoidable), which would mean you are thinking carnally (according to you). One would have to throw out the Bible if you were correct…. Logic has always been around. Meaningful communication is impossible without it; staying alive is impossible without it.[15]

The plot thickened:

clip_image004[1] ‘So you’re saying that logic exists independent of the carnal mind. That it just, is. As if logic (obviously) exists also in heaven and the Kingdom realm.

I don’t think that any of us know enough about the Kingdom realm to be able to make that call.

Not everything in scripture is logical. I’m pretty sure logic is carnal.[16]

The logical response has to be that given by this person: ‘Premise, logic exists because God thinks and created it and made languages. Unless you like me posting in really unreadable posts which would be, far, far more difficult to understand’.[17]

I joined this discussion:[18]

Of course, logic – in itself – is not dependent on the carnal mind. There can be carnal philosophers who engage in illogic, but to do that they must have a fundamental understanding of logic to determine it is illogical.
Please tell me if you need logic to interpret these two sentences:

  • Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
  • Jesus’ rose from the grave as an apparition. (Apparition means a vision or ghost-like appearance).

Are those two statements true? If not, why not? He did not respond to this challenge. These are examples of the law of non-contradiction. A cannot be non-A. No two contradictory statements (like the 2 above) can be both true at the same time and in the same sense. So, one cannot agree that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and that Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition. Those are contradictory statements.

You can’t read what I write in this article without following the logical rules of grammar, i.e. using logic. In what kind of language was the Bible written? It is not esoteric, spiritual, illogical, and out of the realm of reality. The Bible is written in human languages for which we need logical, grammatical rules to understand them.

So, the Bible must be interpreted according to fundamental rules of language and these include logical grammar. The Bible is not written in some super-spiritual lingo that needs the esoteric insights of Theosophy, Gnosticism, or occult practitioners.

Therefore, it is not dependent on the carnal mind. It is dependent on the God who invented logic so that we can communicate.

How do you think that person would respond to this information? Here goes!

clip_image004[2] Logic is dependant on the carnal mind, I’ll give you that. But as for the language being logical and the Bible not being able to be written without logic…

Uh, no. None of the earths (sic) languages are logical. (Ok, probably none of them.) But English (was my best subject) is seriously illogical!!

If English was logical, you’d see grammar check alongside spell check. Where is it? Lol the computer can’t make grammar check work.

Your example did not demonstrate logic effectively, but I applaud your effort. The lack of logic is apparent all over the English language, there is no hard & fast rules for our language.

Suppose you kiss your wife. Suppose you give her more than one kiss, what’s that? Kisses, right.

Suppose you have an ox. Suppose you have more than one ox, what’s that? The logical answer is oxes, but English isn’t logical, so it’s oxen. See what I mean, Brother?

And what’s up with silent letters? Either put it in there and pronounce it, or leave it out, geez.

You can demonstrate understanding in language, but not logic. For there is no logic. Where’s the word logic, in scripture? In fact, show me anything logical in scripture!

It says what is and it isn’t logical…but it’s true.[19]

3.1  A ridiculous outburst

How should I respond to such an outlandish tirade? Here goes:[20]

  • You got your first sentence wrong. I did NOT say that ‘logic is dependant on the carnal mind’. I said, ‘Logic – in itself – is NOT dependent on the carnal mind’ (emphasis added).[21]
  • ‘None of the earth’s languages are logical’. You have a strange view of logic. What does logic mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines logic as, ‘a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something’ (s v logic). Therefore, all of the earth’s languages are logical in the sense that they use language to engage in a reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.
  • You have given examples of: spell check, grammar check, kissing my wife, oxen, silent letter, nothing logical in Scripture. These examples demonstrate that you have a distorted understanding of the role of logic.
  • Whether it is oxes or oxen is a tradition that has crept into English spelling. It has NOTHING to do with whether it is logical or not. It has EVERYTHING to do with convention in spelling. And have a guess what? You need to use logic to be able to read whether your statement about oxes vs oxen is what you want to discuss. Remember that logic is a reasonable way of thinking about something. You think it should be oxes but others consider oxen is the better name. Why don’t you investigate the etymology of why oxen was chosen and not oxes. By the way, here’s a logical explanation of why it is oxen and not oxes. Are you able to use logic to read this article?
  • As for the singular kiss, I’m happy with that logic and with the plural, kisses; that’s convention. How about you investigate why the plural is not kisss?
  • Like it or not, you must use logic in language to obtain understanding. Your distortion of the meaning of logic is coming through.
  • Where’s the word logic in Scripture? Let’s try 3 examples:

6pointblue Isaiah 1:18: ‘”Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

6pointblue Isaiah 43:26: “Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right.

6pointblueMark 11:29-33: ‘And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” They began reasoning among themselves….’

  • By the way, a word doesn’t have to be used in Scripture for its teaching to be there. Try finding Trinity or Bible as words in the Scripture.

Here is another objection:

clip_image004[3] ‘I know it takes a logical mind to read and to understand the literal, but it also takes a Spiritual mind like that of Christ to understand spiritual’.[22]

Since this was directed at one of my comments, I replied:[23] To say that it takes the Spiritual mind to understand the spiritual, is to tell me I don’t have a spiritual mind. You are incorrect. I have a mind subjected to the Holy Spirit and He has provided logical statements in Scripture for me to understand. The ‘Spiritual mind’ which you are exalting seems to infer that I don’t have it and you do have it, and it is a special dynamic given to the spiritual person like yourself. Is that what you are trying to communicate?

Here’s another promotion of the illogical:

clip_image004[4] Can we truly reason the spiritual things with logic, no, for they are beyond our deductive reasoning and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26.  This is what Jesus said in John 3:12, If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Nicodemus is a great example of one trying to use logical reasoning as he did not understand that of the spiritual that Jesus was talking about in John 3:1-6.[24]

4.  Reason, spiritual things and logic

Now to a response to that kind of illogical thinking:[25]

Can I ‘reason the spiritual things with logic’? Yep! I need logic to understand the language I speak and to read what you have written here and to read the Scripture. God has invented logic so that we can understand each other when we speak or write. I’m blessed to know that God created logic so that we can communicate with each other and that He can communicate with us.

Now to John 14:26. Its context is John 14:22-29,

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe (John 14:22-29 NLT, emphasis added).

You want John 14:26 (NLT) to mean what it does not mean in context. Jesus told his disciples information while he was still with them on earth, but he was going away and the disciples would need reminding what Jesus told them. Obviously they didn’t have a perfect memory of all that he had told them. For that purpose, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate, Paraclete) would remind them what Jesus had told them. The Advocate would not be giving them new revelation through teaching (your language is ‘that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26’). Not so!

Jesus was addressing Judas (not Iscariot) and the other disciples. He was instructing them about what would happen when he left them. He was not giving information for Christians down to the 21st century to follow. This has caused leading evangelical commentator, D A Carson, to write about John 14:26 (NIV):

The promise of v. 26 has in view the Spirit’s role to the first generation of disciples, not to all subsequent Christians. John’s purpose in including this theme and this verse is not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s ministry in this respect was not to bring qualitatively new revelation, but to complete, to fill out, the revelation brought by Jesus himself (Carson 1991:505, emphasis added).

In context, John 14:26 (NLT) is teaching something quite different to what you want to promote. Careful exposition of the text is necessary, rather than cherry picking a verse to make a point that is not in the text in context.

As for John 3:12, Jesus was speaking to a respected Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who did not know the Lord. He needed his spiritual eyes to be opened. This verse is not telling information that you want it to mean. Again, cherry picking a verse aborts the meaning you are pushing.

As for John 3:1-6 (NLT) and Nicodemus, the issue had nothing to do with dumbing down ‘logical reasoning’ (your language). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, knew Jesus, the Teacher, was sent from God ‘to teach us’, but he needed his eyes opened regarding being born again (John 3:3 NLT). Then Jesus revealed the truth to Nicodemus of the need to be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5-6 NLT). This was an issue of proclamation of the Gospel (even though prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection). These 6 verses are not teaching antagonism to logical reasoning. They are teaching content – the need to be born again to enter God’s kingdom.

5.  Logical fallacies

24x36” Wall Posters(image courtesy www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com)

 

One of the areas of logic that I’ve had to give more attention to in pursuing research studies and on Christian forums has been the use of logical fallacies. Some that I have seen in various readings elsewhere and in forum threads have included:

 

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

clip_image006 Begging the question, where the conclusion is sneaked into the premises. I noted this in my analysis of Jesus Seminar fellow, John Dominic Crossan’s writings, for my PhD dissertation. Crossan also uses….

 

(image courtesy theupturnedmicroscope.com)

clip_image006[1] Special pleading – the evidence supporting only one view is cited and the other is excluded. Crossan does this with his statements like, in quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv).

Image result for straw man clipart public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

clip_image006[2] Straw man – drawing a false picture of the other person’s argument;

clip_image006[3] Red herring – evading a question by changing the subject. This is a very common one in Christian discussion. I’ve drawn it to the attention of many posters on Christian forums and one moderator told me to quit using it. He wrote: ‘Please refrain from repeatedly claiming that other members are presenting red herrings and logical fallacies. Address the position with scripture to support yours, and NOT the person whom you are responding to’.[26]

A person replied to this post with this brilliant assessment:

It is quite possible that people have no idea that they are presenting logical fallacies. Pointing out that they have done so and explaining why they are, in fact, logical fallacies, is a means of helping the person avoid such errors in the future and to be able to identify them when others use them to misrepresent reality. This is a particularly valuable tool to be able to apply in a presidential election year when politicians are spewing non-stop nonsense at us from every direction.

Therefore, explaining to someone that their thought process was illogical and how it went awry is showing the person enough respect to assist them in avoiding such errors in the future. It has the potential of providing them with the tools to more effectively deal with every aspect of life. It’s not demeaning or insulting. It’s didactic.

To properly address a position with scripture, one must avoid logical fallacies. Pointing out a fallacy is NOT addressing the person. It is actually assisting the person (by Jim Parker).

However, this post was removed super quickly by a moderator. I wonder why? Jim has provided an extremely insightful diagnosis of why it is necessary to expose people’s illogic when they use logical fallacies in conversations or on a forum like this one.

Red Herring by algotruneman (image courtesy openclipart)

clip_image006[4] Ad hominem – argument by character assassination or personal attack. I see this sometimes in flaming on Christian forums online, but fortunately the moderators are onto this very quickly. However, they are not as alert to the other fallacies being perpetrated.

clip_image006[5] Genetic fallacy – something should be rejected because it comes from a bad source. I often see this in evolution vs creationist debates where an evolutionist states evidence from the Book of Genesis should be rejected because of those fighting fundies (or conservative evangelicals) who want to interpret it literally and they know nothing about science. Genesis is mythology, anyway, they say![27]

Another expressed the problem with use of logical fallacies on Christian forums:

Goodness, I’ve surely encountered every logical fallacy known to man throughout the many years of doing apologetics on internet forums, and been guilty of committing a number of them myself.

I would have to say the most common, are probably Ad hominem, Straw man, and one form of Red herring or another (often appeals to motive, popularity, authority, etc.). Another common fallacy which sometimes grates on my nerves is the…

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

  • false dilemma – where one option which is false is being forced when there remains an unmentioned true option. For example, when discussing the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, many argue in terms of options as either free will or hard determinism, without ever considering or mentioning “compatibilist free will” or as I often call it compatibilism. Quite often I believe the reason the fallacy is committed though is just a lack of knowledge, without intentionally excluding.

Faulty generalizations can be really annoying, how many times have you read something and afterwards thought  something to the effect of “no, they’re wrong, and they’re oversimplifying the issue (whatever it might be)”?[28]

For an excellent overview of the use of some of the most prominent fallacies used in writing and speaking, see,

clip_image009

Fallacies

6.  Abuse does not excuse legitimate use[29]

What I think causes some Christians to balk at the idea of using logic in communication is what is seen in liberal theology using the historical-critical method where people promote autonomous human reason to arrive at conclusions that are contrary with Scripture.

This shows how humanistic reasoning can be abused, but it does not negate the use of logic in our communication. Those who are opposing the use of logic, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise. This is because they are using logic in the sentences they write to oppose the use of logic.

Many things in Christian exegesis, theology, apologetics, Bible study, etc., can be abused. The abuse of something does not negate its legitimacy when used for the correct purposes. One or 10 faulty Fords (motor vehicles) doesn’t make every Ford junk – I drive a Toyota Camry.

Abuse does not exclude legitimate use of a thing, theology or issue.

7.  The gifts of the Spirit and logic

Speaking of the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit, one person wrote:

But it doesn’t require our logic when it is happening….

Utterance by The Holy Spirit is Him (sic) talking through us for the edification of the Body, and it is He superseding our faculties to GOD’s glory. Such events go beyond our mind since it is His mind speaking, not ours.[30]

My reply was: When the Holy Spirit ministers in and through me, he has been doing it according to biblical mandate,[31]

clip_image011 ‘Let all things be done for building up’ (I Cor. 14:26 ESV);

clip_image011[1] ‘Let others weigh what is said (1 Cor. 14:29);

clip_image011[2] ‘But all things must be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40).

clip_image011[3] ‘Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up’ (1 Cor 14:16-17).

clip_image011[4] ‘In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (I Cor. 14:19).

Here the gifts are seen and demonstrated for intelligibility. To be intelligible, God uses the logic of organised thoughts.

You don’t seem to want to grasp that in all communication, including edification for the local church through the gifts of the Spirit, involves logical thoughts.

Doing it any other way is unintelligible. Even the gift of tongues in the church required interpretation with logical thoughts given in sentences for people to understand.

Logic in sentences and the ministry of the Holy Spirit go together as a hand in a glove.

Image result for Toronto blessing The alleged Toronto Blessing is extremism in action.

(‘Toronto blessing’ photo courtesy bibelfokus.se)

8.  Conclusion

The alleged super spiritual advocates consider that to use logic is to employ the carnal mind and one does not need logic if a person has a spiritual mind. To say that logic is an example of the carnal mind in action is to distort the basic understandings of logic.

This was challenged by those who understood the nature of logic as involving putting thoughts in order. Correct reason and dealing with valid inferences entails attending to logical fallacies, whether formal or informal. It was shown how Christians need to use logic for ordinary conversation and argumentation to take place.

It was shown that human beings did not invent logic but that God is the author of logic. Where does logic appear in Scripture? Isaiah 1:18 speaks of Lord exhorting, ‘let us reason together’. Isaiah 43:26 pursues the emphasis, ‘Let us argue our case together’, and in Mark 11:29-33 Jesus spoke to the chief priests, scribes and elders about the authority he used to perform his miraculous works and ‘they began reasoning among themselves’. These three sets of verses demonstrate that Scripture is not against logic since it encourages reasoning activities.

Examples were given of logical fallacies committed by some Christians in discussion. As for the gifts of the Spirit, they must be intelligible for the congregation to understand. Abuses in these gifts do not prohibit the proper use of the gifts.

So the Christian must use logical reasoning for legitimate conversation, preaching and presentation of Scripture to take place.

9.  Other resources

See my articles:

clip_image013 What’s the place of logic in Christian apologetics?

clip_image013[1] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image013[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

clip_image013[3]Christians and their use of logical fallacies

clip_image013[4]One writer’s illogical outburst

 

10.  Works consulted

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

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

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

Read, C 1914. Logic: Deductive and inductive (online). London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd. Available at: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/37/logic-deductive-and-inductive/456/chapter-1/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] I started this discussion in Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[2] Ibid., ARBITER01#2.

[3] Ibid., golgotha61#3.

[4] Formal logic also is called deductive logic because it moves from premises to conclusions. Informal logic also is known as inductive logic because it moves from statements of evidence to conclusions, but it can extrapolate from the evidence and generalise conclusions.

[5] ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, Apologetic Warrior#4.

[6] Ibid., secondtimearound#5.

[7] Ibid., AndieGirl#6.

[8] Ibid., Audacious#7.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[10] The Rationalist Society of Australia ‘believes religious doctrine should not override evidence-based reasoning in public policy-making. This does not mean we believe theists and theistic organisations should not participate in the political process – only that their arguments must, like anyone else’s, be based on reason, evidence and modern secular, democratic values’ (Policies: Politics and government, available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/about-us/policies/, accessed 27 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., ARBITER01#9.

[12] Ibid., secondtimearound#10.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[14] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘Scriptural fundamentalism & literal interpretation’, Edward#130. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/scriptural-fundamentalism-literal-interpretation.64665/page-7 (Accessed 25 May 2016).

[15] Ibid., Free#131.

[16] Ibid., Edward#134.

[17] Ibid., jasonc#138.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#139.

[19] Ibid., Edward#154.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#162.

[21] See ibid., OzSpen#139.

[22] Ibid., for_his-glory#141.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#143.

[24] Ibid., for_his_glory#150.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#160.

[26] Ibid., Mike#146. My response to him was, ‘I only address the issue of logical fallacies when a person has committed one of them. I do it because logical discussion is prohibited when erroneous reasoning is used. However, I will obey your command. Instead of saying that a person has, say, committed a red herring, I’ll have to say something like, ‘The issue I raised was that of John 3:3 and regeneration before salvation. Let’s get back to that topic’. Would that be a better approach? (ibid., OzSpen#148).

[27] Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#12. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[28] Ibid Apologetic Warrior#17.

[29] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[30] Ibid., ARBITER01#77.

[31] Ibid., OzSpen#79.

 

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

Heresy or not: First-born of creation

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

File:People burned as heretics.jpg

(people burned as heretics, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

15 He [God the Father’s beloved Son[1] – Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by[2] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

1. The Controversy

There’s a highly contentious and controversial phrase in this passage about the Son, Jesus Christ. He is:

3d-red-star‘the firstborn of all creation’ (v 15).

For us as English speakers, what immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word, ‘firstborn’?

3d-red-star I think of the first child born in my family. He was conceived in a sexual union between mother and father and he was then born as the first child of the family

We must get rid of that idea when we are dealing with this phrase that Jesus is ‘the firstborn of all creation’.

There was a heresy that emerged in the Christian church in the fourth century that devastated the church and part of its teaching was a wrong view of the meaning of Jesus being ‘the firstborn of all creation’.

This false teaching is known as …

2. The heresy of Arianism

Arius portré.jpg(image of Arius, courtesy Wikipedia)

What is a heresy?

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

The Oxford dictionary gives these meanings of heresy:

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

(b) ‘Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted’ (Oxford dictionaries 2016. s v heresy).[3]

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

For much of this analysis on Arianism, I’m indebted to systematic theologian, Wayne Grudem (1994:243-245).

Arianism is a heresy that was taught by Arius, a presbyter (church elder) of Alexandria in northern Africa, on the Mediterranean coast of what is Egypt today. Today it’s a bustling sea port on the left bank of the Nile River. Founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, it is understood that Christianity was brought to this city by the evangelist, Mark. In 2006, it had a population of 4.1 million people and about 80% of Egypt’s exports and imports come through it. It’s the 2nd largest city in Egypt. In the first century (based on a papyrus from AD 32), it had a population of between 500,000 and 1 million.[4]

But that’s not what made it famous in the 4th century. Church historian, Earle Cairns, stated that it unfolded like this: In about 318 or 319, the bishop of Alexandria, Alexander by name, preached to his presbyters on the topic of ‘The Great Mystery of the Trinity in Unity’. One of his presbyters and an ascetic scholar and popular preacher, Arius, attacked that sermon because he thought it failed to support a distinction between the persons in the Godhead. Arius wanted to avoid polytheism and its understanding of many gods, but in opposing Bishop Alexander, he ‘took a position that did injustice to the true deity of Christ’. The issue related to the nature of salvation. ‘Could Christ save [human beings] if He were a demigod, less than true God, and of a similar or different essence from the Father as Eusebius of Nicomedia and Arius respectively asserted? [I use ‘essence’ in the sense of the substance or being of God.] Eusebius of Nicomedia is not to be confused with the distinguished early church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea. Just what was Jesus’ relationship to the Father? (Cairns 1981:133-134).

Arius put Alexandria on the map with views that were condemned by the Council of Nicea that met in Nicea (near Istanbul, Turkey) in AD 325. Arius died in AD 336. Istanbul was formerly called Constantinople.

clip_image001(map courtesy YouTube)

Arius’s teachings included the following (based on Grudem 1994:243-244):

  • God the Son, Jesus, was at one point created by God the Father;
  • Before that creation, the Son did not exist; neither did the Holy Spirit. Only God the Father existed.
  • The Son was a created heavenly being who existed before the rest of creation and he is greater than all of the rest of creation.
  • BUT … he was not equal with God the Father in all of his attributes.
  • It could be said that he was ‘like the Father’ or even ‘similar to the Father’ in nature. But he most definitely could not be ‘of the same nature’ as the Father.
  • The Arians relied heavily on texts that stated that Christ was God’s ‘only begotten’ Son (e.g. John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). What does ‘begotten’ mean? It’s an old-fashioned adjective that means something is generated by procreation – by being fathered. So it means to father or produce an offspring.[5] To ‘beget’, according to the Oxford dictionary means ‘(Especially of a man) bring (a child) into existence by the process of reproduction’ (2016. s v beget).[6]
  • That is what got them into theological trouble. They reasoned like this: If Christ is begotten by God the Father, he is conceived by God.
  • Then they turned to a verse like Col 1:15, ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation’. Therefore, ‘first-born’ implies that the Son was brought into existence by the Father. If that were true of the Son, it was also true for the Holy Spirit as well. Both were created beings.

Arius and the Arians met a formidable foe in Athanasius, who lived from about AD 295-373. He was only a young man when he became embroiled in refuting this heretical doctrine. His name is associated with the orthodox view.

His wealthy parents had provided for his theological education in the famous catechetical school of Alexandria. His work De Incarnatione[7] presented his idea of the doctrine of Christ. At the council [of Nicea] this young man, slightly over thirty, insisted that Christ had existed from all eternity with the Father and was of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father, though He was a distinct personality. He insisted on these things because he believed that if Christ were less than he had stated Him to be, He could not be the Savior of [human beings] (Cairns 1981:134).

Athanasius contended that the question of people’s eternal salvation was dependent on the relationship between the Father and the Son. ‘He held that Christ was coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial [i.e. of the same substance] with the Father, and for these views he suffered exile five times’. However, Athanasius was promoting the orthodox biblical view (Cairns 1981:134).

2.1 Who are the modern day Arians?

They include:

gold-button Jehovah’s Witnesses;

gold-button Locally to where I live in an outer, northern Brisbane suburb, Qld., Australia, there is another active, but small, group of Arians known as the Christadelphians. The Maranatha retirement village on Anzac Ave, Kallangur, Qld 4503[8] is operated as an aged care facility by the Christadelphians.

2.1.1 Jehovah’s Witnesses

(photo of worship at a JW Kingdom Hall, courtesy Wikipedia)

This cult uses Rev. 3:14, where Jesus calls himself ‘the beginning of God’s creation’ to promote a heretical doctrine. According to their publication, Should You Believe in the Trinity?[10] they state that

the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before their creation.

Jesus, in his prehuman existence, was ‘the first-born of all creation’. (Colossians 1:15 NJB). He was ‘the beginning of God’s creation’. (Revelation 3:14, RS Catholic edition)…. Jesus was created by God as the beginning of God’s invisible creations.[11]

But Rev 3:14 does not mean that Jesus was the first being created. Why? The same word for ‘beginning’ (Gk. arche) is used by Jesus when he says that he is ‘the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). In that verse, ‘beginning’ is a synonym for “Alpha” and ‘first’.

We also have God the Father saying of himself, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). In both cases, to be ‘the Alpha’ or ‘the beginning’ means to be the one who was there before anything else existed.

The word does not state or imply that Jesus, the Son, was a created being who was begotten by God or that there was a time when he began to be. This is because both the Father and the Son have always been ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ and ‘the beginning and the end’, since they have existed eternally.

The NIV translates Rev. 3:14 with a different emphasis, ‘the ruler of God’s creation’. Remember that the NIV is a dynamic equivalence translation that gives meaning-for-meaning and not word-for-word translation. The NIV for Rev. 3:14 is an acceptable alternative for arche: see the same meaning in Luke 12:11 and Titus 3:1.

See the article by Ryan Turner, ‘Arianism and Its Influence Today’.[12]

2.2 These texts do not support the Arian position

Grudem puts it this way:

Colossians 1:15, which calls Christ “the first-born of all creation,” is better understood to mean that Christ has the rights or privileges of the “first-born”—that is, according to biblical usage and custom, the right of leadership or authority in the family for one’s generation. (Note Heb. 12:16 where Esau is said to have sold his “first-born status” or “birthright”—the Greek word protokia is cognate[13] to the term protokos, “first-born” in Col. 1:15.) So Colossians 1:15 means that Christ has the privileges of authority and rule, the privileges belonging to the “first-born,” but with respect to the whole creation. The NIV translates it helpfully, “the firstborn over all creation” (Grudem 1994:243-244).

2.2.1 Christ the ‘only begotten Son’

What about the texts that say that Christ was God’s ‘only begotten Son’? The early church was convinced that there were many texts that supported Christ as being fully and completely God so they concluded that ‘only begotten’ did not mean ‘created’ and that is how they put it in the Nicene Creed of 325. It affirmed that Christ was ‘begotten, not made’. This is what the first version of the Creed stated:

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

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousion) with the Father.[14]

This was reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381. But a phrase, ‘before all ages’ was added after ‘begotten of the Father’, so that people would understand that this ‘begetting’ was eternal. There was no point in time when Jesus’ begetting was happening. It was eternally true.

Grudem’s view was that ‘the nature of that ‘begetting’ has never been defined very clearly, other than to say that it has to do with the relationship between the Father and the Son, and that in some sense the Father has eternally had a primacy in that relationship’ (Grudem 1994:244).

3. Conclusion

The phrase ‘firstborn of all creation’ (Col 1:15 ESV) led to the heretical interpretation by the Arians that Jesus was a being created by God the Father who existed before the rest of creation, but he was not equal with God. They relied on texts which emphasised ‘firstborn’ and ‘only begotten’ to describe the origin of Jesus.

In this short exposition, it was shown that ‘firstborn of all creation’ means that Jesus has the rights or privileges of the family’s firstborn but it means that Christ has the privileges and authority of the firstborn in regard to all of creation. Thus he is ‘the firstborn over all of creation’ (NIV). However, he is not a created being but has existed eternally.

To speak of Christ as the ‘only begotten Son’ does not mean that he was begotten as a creation of the Father but that he was fully and completely God, of one substance with the Father. While ‘begetting’ has not been defined clearly from a biblical understanding of the text, it deals with the relationship of the Father and the Son, and the Father in some sense has eternally had a priority in the relationship with the Son (and the Holy Spirit).

Modern promoters of the heresy of Arianism include the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (4th ed). London: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition to Zondervan Publishing House).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] The context is vv 13-14 which identifies the Father God (v. 13) and ‘his beloved Son’ (v. 14).

[2] Footnote, ‘That is, by means of; or ini.

[3] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/heresy (Accessed 12 May 2016). Throughout this document I’ll use ‘s v’ as an acronym for the Latin ‘sub verba’, i.e. under the word. When I write ‘ s v heresy’, it means that you need to go to the reference in the resource to obtain the meaning (here it is Oxford dictionaries online) and check the word, ‘heresy’. S v is used primarily for dictionary and encyclopaedia entries.

[4] This is based on information from Catholic Encyclopedia (1907. s v Alexandria); Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Alexandria, Egypt); Wikipedia (2016. s v Alexandria).

[5] This definition is from ‘begotten’, vocabulary.com, available at: http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/begotten (Accessed 18 March 2014).

[6] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/beget (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[7] An English translation of this document is available as, ‘On the Incarnation of the Word’ at New Advent (online). Available at: http://newadvent.org/fathers/2802.htm (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[8] It is at 1582 Anzac Ave., Kallangur, Qld 4503. Details at: http://www.chomes.com.au/facilities/maranatha (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[10] Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1989, p. 14. This booklet was previously available online by the Watch Tower, but it has been removed. Another source, The Snarky Apologist INFO blog, has provided this booklet online at: http://thesnarkyapologist.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/should-you-believe-in-trinity-booklet.html (Accessed 19 March 2014). I located an abbreviated edition of the JW article at: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201308/trinity/ (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., p. 14.

[12] CARM (online). Available at: https://carm.org/arianism-and-its-influence-today (Accessed 12 May 2016).

[13] ‘Cognate’ is used in linguistics to mean, ‘(Of a word) having the same linguistic derivation as another (e.g. English father, German Vater, Latin pater)’ [Oxford dictionaries online 2016. s v cognate].

[14] In Grudem (1994:244). Grudem noted that ‘this is the original form of the Nicene Creed, but it was later modified by the Council of Constantinople in 381 and there took the form that is commonly called the “Nicene Creed” by churches today. This text is taken from Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983 reprint of 1931 edition), 1:28-29’ (Grudem 1994:244, n. 25).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 June 2016.

Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(tulip image public domain)

Image result for photo rose public domain

(rose image public domain)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In the argy bargy that goes on between Calvinists and Arminians over the nature of salvation, some important elements are minimised or rejected. If TULIP is promoted by Calvinists, what is excluded? If semi-Pelagians are identified as Arminians, what is added to Arminianism? What about the FACTS of Arminianism?

I write as a convinced Reformed/Classical Arminian who is not a semi-Pelagian in my doctrine of theology.

1. Why do some people reject salvation?

I was engaged in a discussion online about why some accept Christ while others reject him.

I confirm that I believe in salvation by grace,[1] but NOT salvation by irresistible grace and unconditional election. Why? The Bible tells me so! This is what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace:

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31 NIV)

What did Paul & Silas say to the Philippian jailer? It’s a command, ‘[You] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’. So Paul and Silas confirm that there will be no salvation unless ‘you believe’ [aorist imperative]. It does not command, ‘God will believe in the Lord Jesus for you and you will be saved’. It does not say, ‘You will be irresistibly drawn by grace to Christ for salvation and be unconditionally elected’.

So I believe in salvation by grace where the person believes. Acts 16:31 (NIV) does not teach irresistible grace. There would be no command to ‘believe’ that would have meaning to the Philippian jailer if it were not possible for him to believe or refuse to believe. Yes, ‘believe’ is an imperative in the Greek language – a command – but that does not state or imply that he must obey the command. It is not ‘you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you have no choice in the matter because God has decreed and guaranteed your election to salvation. You have no choice in the matter; you are forced to come to Christ’. That would be a gross interpolation of the command, ‘Believe’.

Ribbon Salvation ButtonEphesians 2:8-9 (NIV) provides the critical dimension from God’s perspective: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast’.

However one understands the reason for people accepting or rejecting salvation, these are the core elements of salvation:

  • It is by God’s grace.
  • It is by faith.
  • This salvation of grace through faith comes as a gift from God.
  • It cannot be obtained by good works, thus eliminating any personal bragging about the works done to earn salvation.

Salvation as a gift from God does not eliminate a person’s saying, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to salvation. The ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ provides the means while the substance, salvation, is a gift from God himself. There is a human mystery of how this takes place that salvation is a gift from God but human beings need to respond positively to the Gospel to receive it. The most obvious solution, to me, is to state that God’s gift is mediated through human receipt of that gift.

We see this on the human level. I have known of situations where a wife purchased an expensive gift to give to her husband for his birthday but when she presented it to him it was rejected. He had a number of reasons for not receiving it, some related to unresolved conflict in the marriage. So it is possible for an expensive gift to be purchased and rejected. A similar situation develops when the supreme sacrificial gift of salvation is offered to people and for various reasons they reject the offer.

2. God frees the will to believe

Image result for two ways clipart public domainI was following up a comment online that stated: ‘Those Christ died for are reconciled to God while they are enemies/unbelievers Rom 5:10! You are denying what Christ’s death done’.[2]

My response was:[3]

I know you don’t like the theology of Christ dying for ALL sinners, but as has already been pointed, that’s exactly what 1 John 2:2 (ESV) teaches: ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’. So, the sins of the whole world come in the embrace of God’s propitiation. What is propitiation? Romans 3:24-25 (ESV) states believers

are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as 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.

‘Propitiation’ here refers to ‘a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath toward us into favor’ (Grudem 1999:254). So, instead of being opposed to sinners, God is now favourable towards them, because of Christ’s propitious sacrifice.

There are other emphases that point to God freeing the will so that it is open to receiving Christ.
That God has freed the will is inferred from the number of exhortations in Scripture to:

It would be impossible to turn to God, repent or believe if God had not in some way made it possible for such to happen for rebel sinners. He does this by sending grace beforehand. Titus 2:11 (ESV) teaches this, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’.

The only way I’ve seen Calvinists squirm out of verses such as 1 John 2:2 (ESV) and Titus 2:11 (ESV) is to redefine ‘world’ to mean some people groups of the world or the world of the elect. However, we can’t do that in either of these 2 verses that make it clear that they refer to the ‘sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2 ESV) and the grace of God has appeared ‘bring salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11). This latter verse makes it clear it is ‘to all people’ and NOT ‘to all elect people’.

There is no problem with the grace of God bringing salvation to all people and not all people being saved (universalism) when one understands that God has freed the human will to respond. How do we know? I’ve demonstrated that above with the exhortations:

  • turn to God;
  • repent, and
  • believe.

None of these exhortations would have meaning if they meant,

  • turn to God and by that God means, I decree you to turn to God and you are forced to make that decision.
  • repent, but God predestines that repentance and it is irresistible;
  • believe, and you have no choice in the matter. You are unconditionally drawn to Christ.

What kind of God would coerce people to turn to Him, force them to repent, and compel them to believe? That would be an example of God, the bully, who is a monster of partiality. He decrees salvation for the elect and damnation for the unbelievers – but the unbelievers cannot choose to believe because of God’s will that they be damned forever. That is not an example of the God of grace and mercy towards the undeserving.

Another chimed in:

Why would someone not accept reconciliation? That makes no sense.

The answer is … you don’t accept reconciliation because you can’t. You’re dead in your sins and trespasses…you are not a sheep who hears Gods call … you are not chosen by God. God has decided not to have mercy and compassion on you.[4]

3. Salvation by grace, but not irresistible grace

This is a response that is typical of arrogant Calvinists I meet on Christian forums or in some Calvinistic churches:

Reconciled while being enemies!
False religionists, who reject Salvation by Grace, do also reject the Truth of God’s Grace, that those Christ has died for, had been reconciled to God, by that Death, while they were enemies Rom 5:10,
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
This reconciliation to God was without them meeting any conditions, not any requirements, in fact it occurred while they were in a state of hostility and hatred and enmity against God;
And it was while they were being so, that they were actually reconciled, that is brought into harmony and agreement with God, received into His Favor and Friendship ! Don’t be deceived by false teachers, they were reconciled to God, not potentially reconciled to God, it was not just possibly and not actually, they were reconciled to God on the bases of the Death of Christ. If it was only made possible, Christ’s Death fell far short of the Glory of God. They were all reconciled to God and put in harmony with Him, as they had been when they were in harmony with God in Adam before the fall!
The fleshly carnal mind ruled by pride cannot receive this Grace Truth, it rejects it every time![5]

That kind of comment is like pouring petrol on the fire of this Reformed Arminian, so I replied:[6]

I most certainly believe in salvation by grace, but NOT your salvation by irresistible grace. Why? The Bible tells me so!clip_image001 This is what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace:

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31 NIV)

What did Paul & Silas say to the Philippian jailer? It’s a command, ‘[You] Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’. So Paul and Silas confirm that there will be no salvation unless ‘you believe’ [aorist tense imperative]. It does not command, ‘God will believe in the Lord Jesus for you and you will be saved’. It does not say, ‘You will be irresistibly drawn by grace to Christ for salvation and be unconditionally elected’.

So I believe in salvation by grace where the person chooses to believe. Acts 16:31 (NIV) does not teach irresistible grace.

4. Objection to God who frees the will to believe

The examples I gave above of turn to God, repent, and believe, brought this response:

The contradiction is still there. Those enemies Christ died for are reconciled to God by His Death while they are enemies, which is not true for all, since some who are enemies are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18, 36.[7]

He added:

All the scripture you quoted [for turn to God, repent, and believe] I have no problem with. Yet you can not explain why some as enemies and unbelievers are reconciled to God by Christ death, and others are not, and are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18, 36.[8]

These last two quotes by this poster are conveying the same message with almost identical words. Calvinists with a fixation on TULIP cannot get past what God has done in freeing the human will of all human beings to believe or reject the Gospel. This is my attempt to explain further. It is not comprehensive and a person may pick holes in some of the points:

Do you want me to conclude that the God of Calvinism has the answer to why some receive Christ and others reject, because of unconditional election and irresistible grace – married to limited atonement?

There are simple steps to the solution to why some accept and others reject salvation. These steps are not comprehensive and some may take exception to some. I don’t expect Calvinists to endorse any action of free will in salvation:[9]

  1. Salvation is by grace through faith, without good works (Eph 2:8-9 NIV).
  2. ‘Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ’ (Rom 10:17 NIV). There is no salvation through exposure to natural revelation (e.g. Rom 1:18ff), but a person must hear or read the Gospel message.
  3. ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (John 5:39-40 ESV). Individual choice is involved. People refuse to come – for various reasons. Jesus’ words are profound, ‘Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’. They refuse to come. They have the free will to receive or reject. This is Jesus telling us part of his theology of salvation.
  4. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:44 NIV). The Father draws; he does not drag people into the kingdom through unconditional election or irresistible grace. The drawing is not forceful, to the point of giving no other alternative.
  5. We know from Titus 2:11 (ESV) that ‘the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’. This grace of God appeared with the passion-resurrection of Jesus, making salvation available to all. Yes, ALL!
  6. The fact is that people who hear the Gospel are drawn by the Father, but they have a choice to make – accept or reject the Gospel. The human will has been freed to enable human beings to make a decision for or against Christ. Human beings who are dead in sin are freed to believe by God himself.
  7. There is a godly mystery (1 Cor 2:7 NIV) involved in how God, by his Spirit, takes the message of salvation, exposes human beings to it, they are drawn (not forced) by the Father, and they have the choice to reject or ‘believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household’ (Acts 16:31 NIV).
  8. In this process, Satan’s influence cannot be under-estimated in influencing people to reject salvation. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV), ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. Satan the deceiver and devourer of all things good, including the Gospel, should not be ignored.

Leave out the free will choice – as Calvinists do – and it excludes a core element in the reception of the Gospel by people. Exclude free will and you eliminate what Jesus included: ‘You refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (John 5:40 ESV).

Salvation is all of God. He has provided it through Christ’s sacrifice, which was a propitiation, but in God’s grace He has made salvation available to people to receive or reject – with eternal consequences.

5. Begging the question fallacy

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacies

If a person starts an Internet discussion with a post that supports the premise of limited atonement and reaches the same conclusion, what has he done? This is what a fellow did on a Christian forum. He began,

Not all men are reconciled to God by Christ’s death while being enemies, and that’s simply because Christ’s death was not for everyone without exception. That’s why some are reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10 and why some are under Gods wrath and condemnation while being enemies and unbelievers Jn 3:18, 36!

There is simply only one explanation for this, Christ died for some who are enemies and unbelievers and did not die for others who are enemies and unbelievers!

The enemies and unbelievers that Christ died for are reconciled to God by it, did not perform any conditions whatsoever, because they were actively enemies and unbelievers, So Christ fulfilled all the conditions necessary for them to be reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers![10]

There was a back and forth with a number of different posters, including myself, until he came to this conclusion:

The contradiction is still there. Those enemies Christ died for are reconciled to God by His Death while they are enemies, which is not true for all, since some who are enemies are under Gods Wrath and Condemnation John 3:18,36.[11]

Notice what he did. He cited the same verses (John 3:18, 36) in this second post as with his first one. My response was:[12]

I can be the super, computer geek fixer for all the IT problems of the world – through my international agencies in every country – but not one person with a PC or laptop or IPad breakdown will receive any help from the super geek fixers until they pick up the phone, go to the Internet, or email with details of the issue.

This analogy demonstrates the truth of 1 John 2:2 (ESV), ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’. Jesus has propitiated the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world, but not one person will receive the benefits of that propitiation until he or she bows the knee in submission to Jesus Christ and accepts his offer by faith and repentance.

There is no contradiction. The issue is with your failure to see that God has ordained it that human beings must ‘pick up the phone’ and accept Jesus’ propitiation for their sins. Your problem is with the human side of accepting God’s forgiveness and responding in faith to the offer of salvation.

That’s because of your fixation on limited atonement and refusal to admit to what 1 John 2:2 (ESV) teaches in relation to propitiation for the sins of the whole world and that requires human response for redemption to happen.

This fellow’s claim is that

No one has been able to appropriately answer the points made in the op. Those Christ died for are reconciled to God while they are enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10, yet that is not the case with all men without exception John 3:18, 36.[13]

My retort was:

That’s because you engage in a begging the question logical fallacy. In this instance, you begin with this premise:[14]

Not all men are reconciled to God by Christ’s death while being enemies, and that’s simply because Christ’s death was not for everyone without exception. That’s why some are reconciled to God while being enemies and unbelievers Rom 5:10 and why some are under Gods wrath and condemnation while being enemies and unbelievers Jn 3:18, 36!

There is simply only one explanation for this, Christ died for some who are enemies and unbelievers and did not die for others who are enemies and unbelievers![15]

What’s your conclusion? ‘No one has been able to appropriately answer the points made in the op’.[16] So you conclude where you began with Calvinism’s answer, which is your premise, thus demonstrating you use a begging the question logical fallacy. This is also called circular reasoning.
You will never ever receive an answer to the questions of the original post because your premise is embedded in your conclusion. Nobody will be able to convince you that your premise is wrong when you don’t seem to be open to such a challenge. You refuse to conclude with anything other than a Calvinistic conclusion – limited atonement – which was your premise.

6. Conclusion

Calvinists promote salvation by grace through faith that is irresistible because God has unconditionally elected a person to salvation. Add to this the fact for them that Jesus did not die for all people, but only for the elect. Therefore, it is logical for them to say that human beings have no need to receive Jesus into their hearts as God has already saved them by his eternal decree.

Reformed or Classical Arminians believe salvation is by grace through faith but any person can resist this grace that God has extended to them when salvation is proclaimed. For Arminians, God has freed the will of all people so that they can respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the offer of salvation. However, salvation is always that which is provided by God himself through Christ’s sacrifice.

I conclude in favour of the Reformed Arminian theology because I understand it as providing the consistent biblical view. For a further explanation, see my articles:

clip_image003 Salvation is a work of God and human beings: More misinformation about Arminianism

clip_image003[1] Calvinist misrepresents the Reformed

clip_image003[2] Blatant misrepresentation of Arminians by Calvinists

clip_image003[3] Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

clip_image003[4] Stutters on the stairway: Arminianism vs Calvinism (eternal security)

clip_image003[5] Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image003[6] It’s amazing what some Calvinists will do

clip_image003[6] Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

7. Works consulted

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

8.  Notes

[1] This is my post at Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘No conditions to be reconciled’, OzSpen#36, 18 April 2016. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/no-conditions-to-be-reconciled.64255/page-2 (Accessed 19 April 2016). This was a reply to beloved57#12.

[2] Ibid., beloved57#19.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#37.

[4] Ibid., Cygnus#23.

[5] Ibid., beloved57#12.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#36.

[7] Ibid., beloved57#40.

[8] Ibid., beloved57#42.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#51.

[10] Ibid., beloved57#1.

[11] Ibid., beloved57#40.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[13] Ibid., beloved57#66.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#68.

[15] Ibid., beloved57#1.

[16] ‘op’ means original post,Beloved57#1.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Contemporary music in church to the lyrics of spiritual death

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Recently a fellow introduced me to this Christian song by Flame, Start Over‘. You can read its lyrics at Flame Lyrics (2000-2016).

Is this an example of the type of music being heard in your Christian church service?

Has Alistair Begg hit the mark with his assessment of contemporary Christian music (CCM)? See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&feature=youtu.be

1. Who is Alistair Begg?

Alistair Begg(photo Alistair Begg, senior pastor, courtesy Parkside Church)

 

His ministry’s homepage states:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church.

In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church.[1]

Alistair Begg is a Scotsman who has been pastor at the one church since 1983 near Cleveland, Ohio. Are you and I ready for that pointed critique of CCM in churches, by this experienced pastor, to address the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing? Three weeks ago,[2] I attended a near-by Baptist church for the first time. What kind of music was presented? The band with 6 female singers up front on the stage, led the congregation in singing contemporary songs (some were identified as from Hillsong) that I had never heard before. The melodies were unsingable for me, a very average singer. The words were available on the digital screen for the congregation to see.

My estimate was that they were meant to be performed and not for congregational singing. We had to stand for about 10-15 minutes as the band took us from one contemporary song to another. I sat down after about 7 minutes as my legs were weary. I’m no youngster.

2. Contemporary music killing theology

CCM is killing theology in song. Sound biblical teaching is rapidly on the descent. Take a read of the lyrics from this song by Jesus Culture (the music ministry from Bethel Church, Redding CA):

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

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song? See my assessment of this song in:

clip_image002 What’s wrong with these CCM songs?

I’ve addressed some of the music issues previously in these articles:

clip_image004 What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

clip_image004[1] Worldliness in church music

clip_image004[2] Entertainment versus Worship

clip_image004[3] Do words matter in worship songs in church?

I’m not discussing the style of music but the content of the words. In recently written CCM, where is the depth of words such as in these lyrics?

Charles Wesley.jpg(portrait Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

And Can It Be That I Should Gain[3]

 

by Charles Wesley

 

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

clip_image006

(music & words, courtesy openhymnal.org, public domain)

3. Crisis point

I’ve been a Christian for around 50 years. I’m considered an oldie by many, including my grandchildren, since I’ve recently reached 70 years of age. I won’t take nonsense behaviour from them and I do not tolerate theological baloney in the lyrics of CCM or older music. Much of what I hear online in the promotion of CCM and what I hear from the platform of contemporary evangelical churches lacks sound theological content. It fails to glorify God in his majesty and point to the cross and the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve presented only a few examples in this article, but it is representative of what is being pumped out by evangelical churches in Australia.

4. Sermons join the light-weight chorus

What is just as alarming is that the sermons from the pulpit are as theologically lite as the songs in the service. My son obtained an MDiv degree from a renowned evangelical theological college in Brisbane, Qld and he was told by one lecturer not to worry about reading any books that were more than 10 years old.

Do you understand what that means? God’s great teachers throughout church history, from Athanasius and Augustine to Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer and many others are irrelevant to the church of today. That’s a theologically noxious view that will poison the biblical life out of any church.

Then you encounter what I was exposed to on a Christian forum on the Internet where a Pentecostal believer told me, ‘I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’.[4] I was discussing with him the theology of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones who died in 1981.[5]

5. The here and now false teaching

I tackled this fellow’s false teaching:[6]

So you ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. Does that mean you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant (and I know you are), you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, who you claim had a ministry that is ‘out of date’. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Lk 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have lived before us – way before us! Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this fellow!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with his ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘ (my emphasis). Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’ short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. It really is pathetic that this person wanted to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.
Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). But this poster excludes them and their influence!

5.1 The here and now promoter in full flight

Here he how he responded to what I wrote immediately above:

I was saved in 1971 under the tutelage of Bob Johnson. He himself was mentored by Dr. C.M. Ward who was greatly influenced by John Wesley. If pedigree is your thing then there’s enough pedigree there for me. The point is that all these men had their Ministry at their time but the only historical characters that I am concerned with are those that are represented in the Bible. Nothing I have ever learned from reading any thing by the ECF’s [early church fathers] and all these men down through history has enlightened me one bit. What does enlighten me is my Bible. It is what has taught me that many of these men taught false Doctrine. I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before, accept as it relates to my Lord and Savior. I don’t denigrate them I just don’t deify them or put them up on a pedestal for everyone to look at. They served their purpose, but they’re dead now and God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If all you have to say is based on your knowledge of what these men taught and you have none of it yourself, then exactly what is it you do know other than what you read in books about them? It’s great that you have been able to recently secure your doctorate and I applaud you for that but that doesn’t mean is that do you need to use all these past Scholars to justify your opinions. Those opinions should be justified and corroborated by the word of God.

The thing you don’t seem to get Oz is that this is a discussion forum with live people and I can’t very well question and discuss with those who are dead and gone as to why they thought what they did. You see I know how to think for myself. Maybe you should try it?[7]

Note his language, ‘I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before’. This is Gnosticism in action. His knowledge is from living in the present, the here and now. The inference seems to be that he does not want the correction of historical teachers. He assumes that ‘many of these men taught false Doctrine’ (i.e. early church fathers), but he gave not one example in that post. Some did promote erroneous doctrine when compared with the Bible such as Origen’s allegorical preaching in which he inserted material that was not in the text. Others taught baptismal regeneration (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose). See the article, ‘Baptism and salvation’.[8] Arius was a Unitarian heretic who did not believe Trinitarian theology, but he was corrected at the Council of Nicea.[9]

However, in what way is that different from today with the teaching of error such as modern Gnosticism,[10] baptismal regeneration,[11] Unitarianism[12] and what is taught in some Contemporary Christian songs? Living in the present without knowledge of history does not preserve anyone from exposure to false doctrine.

6. Conclusion

The best antidote for exposing false doctrine is with a person’s and a church’s thorough knowledge of Scripture. To be able to recognise the false, know the truth.

Contemporary Christian music is feeding modern Christians a new diet of doctrinally light teaching. Much of it is existential, egocentric and focussed on what Jesus can do for ME. We are not being taught theology in song like we did under the songs of Charles Wesley, John Newton, Isaac Watts, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, and a trail of biblical hymnists who have preceded us.

Pastor Alistair Begg has exposed the repetitive, bland material being sung in many Christian songs in the church services of the twenty-first century. The disease the church is suffering is in the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing. Sadness surrounds the fact that many in the evangelical church accept this music as what is needed in a church that wants to reach young people.

If we ignore the content of the church music we sing, we will become theologically light-weight in our understanding of the Trinitarian Lord God and his mission in the world.

What’s happening in your church? Are you whooping it up with rap music and heading towards spiritual death in your congregation? Or, are you careful about the lyrics you sing and are making sure they conform with biblical integrity? Try raising this issue (at the appropriate time) in one of your church’s cell groups. Please understand that I’m not talking about hymns sung to an organ being superior to contemporary style music. I’m discussing the content of the songs you sing and how they match biblical faithfulness in content.

However, there are elements of insensitivity by musicians to the content of the word s. Today[13] I visited a local Baptist church where the congregation sang, ‘Be still and know that I am God’, which is a meditative chorus that emphasises the need to quieten a person’s heart and meditate on who God is. However, what did the drummer do (he was accompanied by organ, piano and rhythm guitar)? He created a loud, thumping, drumming interlude that was totally out of place for such a meditative song. He sounded more like a drummer for a rock band in a nightclub. Such insensitivity should be addressed by musical directors in a church.

clip_image007

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

Notes


[1] ‘About Alistair Begg’, Truth for Life. Available at: https://www.truthforlife.org/about/about-alistair-begg/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[2] I’m writing this on Tues, 2 May 2016.

[3] 2012 HymnsUntoGod.org (public domain USA). Available at: http://www.hymnsuntogod.org/Hymns-PD/A-Hymns/And-Can-It-Be-That-I-Should-Gain.html (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[4] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, 23 April 2016, StanJ#123. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-5 (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[5] See MLJ Trust (Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Available at: http://www.mljtrust.org/meet-mlj/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[6] Christianity Board, op cit., OzSpen#127.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#130.

[8] By Matt Slick, CARM.

[9] See James R White, ‘What really happened at Nicea?’ (CRI 2009). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/what-really-happened-at-nicea/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[10] See Dr Douglas Groothuis’s article, ‘Modern Gnosticism’ (CRI 2016). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/modern-gnosticism/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[11] The Orthodox denomination promotes baptismal regeneration. See the article, ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’, available at: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/02/17/born-experience-baptismal-regeneration/ (Accessed 8 May 2016). The Roman Catholic Church endorses baptismal regeneration. See, ‘What is baptismal regeneration?’ Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson 2016. Available at: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/416-what-is-baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[12] Key promoters of Unitarianism today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and the Unitarian Universalist denomination. See ‘Unitarian Christianity’ at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/AUCChristian.htm (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[13] This was Sunday, 8 May 2015, in the greater Brisbane area.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Was the Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew?

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Hebrew Commandements Clip Art

(Hebrew commandments, courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Since the original documents of the New Testament (known as the autographa) are no longer available to us, what evidence do we have that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Aramaic or Hebrew? How soon after Jesus’ crucifixion was it written?

This has been an issue raised by both scholars and the laity. John Wenham, in his Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke (1992) claimed that the dating of Matthew was ‘more complicated’ than for Mark and Luke. ‘The universal tradition of the early church is that Matthew “in the Hebrew dialect” was the first gospel’. For Wenham, he argued ‘with some reserve that Matthew was indeed the first gospel, and that it may possibly have been written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and that it was known to Mark’. He left open the ‘question whether Mark knew Matthew in a Semitic or a Greek form’ (Wenham 1992:xxiii). Wenham’s ‘chronological table’ of the synoptic gospels dates Matthew about AD 40, Mark about AD 45, Luke about AD 54, and the Acts of the Apostles AD 62 (Wenham 1992:xxv -xxvi). With qualifications and alternatives not stated, J A T Robinson argued for a dating of the Gospel of Matthew to about 40-60+ (Robinson1976:352).

A couple of the laity online wanted to debate this, ‘I believe Matthew to be the oldest writing of the Synoptic Gospels. The original Script was written in Hebrew for the Jew’.[1] A retort was: ‘Our Matthew was pretty clearly composed in Greek; it is not a translation. In any case, most Jews of that time read Greek rather than Hebrew; that is why the OT had been translated into Greek long before’.[2]

1. What does early history indicate?

Let’s check out the information from early Christian writers.[3]

1.1 Papias

(image of Roman Calendar ca. 60 BC, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Papias (ca 70-163), bishop of Hierapolis, Asia Minor was said to be ‘a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp’. There are five extant writings of Papias and Irenaeus claimed that these were the only writings from the pen of Papias (see ‘Writings of Papias’, Philip Schaff). Irenaeus’s words were, ‘For there were five books compiled (suntetagmena)[4] by him’ (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:3.4).

In Papias’s writings, known as Expositions of the Oracles of the Lord, it is stated by Eusebius of Caesarea, that he wrote: ‘So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able’ (in Eusebius, Church History, 3.39.16). Papias lived within 50 years after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Details of the life, ministry and writings of Papias are found in St. Papias (New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911).

1.2 Origen

(Origen, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Eusebius also wrote that Origen (ca 185-232) stated: ‘Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language’ (in Eusebius, Church History 6.25.4).

1.3  Irenaeus

About AD 180, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in Gaul, wrote:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies 3:1:1).

Information about Origen’s life and ministry are available at, Origen and Origenism (New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911).

1.4  Eusebius of Caesarea

File:Eusebius of Caesarea.jpg(Eusebius of Caesarea, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

 

This early church historian (ca 260-341), wrote himself: ‘For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue’ (Eusebius, Church History, 3.24.6).

Details of the life, writings and ministry of Eusebius are found in Eusebius of Caesarea (New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909).

2. What about the dating of Matthew?

How would you respond to this online post on a Christian forum concerning the dating of Matthew and Mark?

The date of the writing of Matthew is thought to be around 50 A.D. and Mark around 68 A.D. None of this is important to our Salvation of what book was written first, and if you are a born again believer, you should know that. Men waste more time on defending their knowledge or what they know about God instead being known by God. We all spend too much time on talking instead of listening to God. The Lord is weeping.[5]

I replied:[6] I wished he would document the sources from where he obtained the information that Matthew was written around AD 50 and Mark around AD 68. To say that it ‘is thought to be’ hardly presents convincing evidence.

Everett Harrison, in his Introduction to the New Testament (1971) gave reasons for contradicting your view and then draws this conclusion: ‘A date for Matthew sometime between 70 and 80 seems to fit the circumstances [which he has articulated] to best advantage. It may be of interest that Eusebius held that Matthew had been written after Mark and Luke’ (Harrison 1971:176). The reference that Harrison gave was to Eusebius stated:[7]

6. For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.

7. And when Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry (Eusebius, Church History, 3:24.6-7).

The person online wanted to brush aside the importance of the date of composition of Matthew with this language, ‘None of this is important to our salvation of what book was written first, and if you are a born again believer, you should know that ‘.

I beg to differ. Knowledge of salvation is obtained from the Scripture. Does the book of Matthew contain reliable information or knowledge about the Gospel? One element in determining the reliability of Matthew’s Gospel includes external evidence. This evidence includes knowledge of authorship, date of writing, and the recipients of the letter.

It may not be important to this Christian, but for me as a Bible teacher it is one piece of information that I seek – to determine the authenticity and validity of the Gospel of Matthew.

3. Conclusion

The earliest evidence we have available to us through the secondary source of Eusebius is that Papias and Origen supported Matthew’s gospel originally written in the Jews own dialect, which would be Hebrew or Aramaic. Eusebius gives his own primary evidence that Matthew preached to his own people and wrote his Gospel in his native tongue. As a Jew, Matthew would have spoken Hebrew or Aramaic as his language.

Harrison’s investigation of the dating of Matthew concluded with a possible date was about AD 70-80. However, Robinson placed it between 40 and 60. Wenham’s calculation was about AD 40.

Works consulted

Harrison, E F 1971. Introduction to the New Testament, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robinson, J A T 1976. Redating the New Testament. London: SCM Press Ltd.

Wenham J 1992. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A fresh assault on the Synoptic problem. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, The Lounge, Who checks the facts (online), Douglas Summers#52, 6 May 2016. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/who-checks-the-facts.64442/page-3#post-1197477 (Accessed 7 May 2016).

[2] Ibid., Radagast#53.

[3] This was my reply at ibid., OzSpen#54.

[4] The original Greek used was in Irenaeus’s writings and it is here transliterated because of this website’s difficulty in uploading documents with Greek characters.

[5] Ibid., Douglas Summers#55.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#56.

[7] The reference was in Harrison (1971:176, n 18).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 May 2016.

Why is eternal security such a touchy subject?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Hanging Cat

(image courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want to stir up some controversy, go to a Presbyterian church and question the eternal security of the Christian believer. To suggest that a Christian can fall away and even commit apostasy from the faith (1 Tim 1:18-20; Heb 6:4-6) is almost to have the anathema pronounced over you. I had a TULIP Presbyterian member tell me on 1 May 2016 that he would not attend a Wesleyan Methodist church in his rural community because those people ‘believe people can lose their salvation’.

1. Samples of OSAS

Try opposing once-saved-always-saved (OSAS) in some Baptist churches and you could be vigorously opposed. I’ve experienced similar animosity in opposing OSAS on Christian forums where Calvinists and Arminians hover and engage in sometimes antagonistic interaction. Some examples of this included:

bronze-arrow-small ‘Surely Satan does not want us to know that faith is the security of our salvation: “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5 NASB)
He wants every one of us who believes to stop believing, so we will no longer have access to God’s protection for our salvation through that faith’.[1]

bronze-arrow-small ‘Some teachers and preachers of the Word teach OSNAS [once saved not always saved] so that they can keep their congregation under their thumb—fearful, insecure and dependent on their leaders to know what to do to maintain or keep their salvation. (Many cults function this way.) The more sincere ones are just afraid that teaching OSAS will cause their congregations members to leave church and sin like there’s no tomorrow. This opposite is true, though’.[2]

bronze-arrow-small ‘This statement — “faith is the security of our salvation” — is also one of the reasons why there is resistance to the doctrine of eternal security. There are many Christians who believe that it is their faith and/or their good works which keeps them saved’.[3]

You can encounter similar antagonism by promoting TULIP in Wesleyan, Assemblies of God, or Free Will Baptist churches. Then if you promote Arminianism in Reformed, Presbyterian, or Reformed Baptist churches, you’ll find similar resistance.

That’s a sampling from an online Christian forum, but it could happen anywhere that there are Christians from both sides of the theological fence in a congregation – promoting Arminianism or Calvinism.

2. Eternal security: A touchy topic

Why is eternal security such a contentious subject among Christians? I encountered it again with the topic, ‘Why is there so much resistance to the eternal security of the believer?[4]

2.1 He fired away

The opening post got the discussion underway with this perspective:

The eternal security of the believer is a fundamental Bible truth (1 Jn 5:13). Yet there is considerable resistance to this doctrine in many quarters, and at the same time many believers who really don’t know the Scriptures are uncertain about something which should be absolutely certain. So why is there so much resistance? I believe there are at least two reasons, and perhaps you might find that there are several others.

The first reason in my esitmation (sic) is the opposition of the archenemy of God and of the Christian. Satan does not want anyone to know – without the shadow of a doubt – that their salvation is eternally secure.

The second reason is that Gospel Truth is not being preached and taught as it ought to be (in all its fulness), babes in Christ are not being discipled as they ought to be, and too many believers do not really understand their position in Christ. The point of this thread is to determine whether we clearly understand our position in Christ.[5]

How should I, a Christian believer who accepts perseverance of the saints but not OSAS, answer such a person’s unfortunate misinterpretation of 1 John 5:13 (ESV)? I responded:[6]

2.2 The meaning of 1 John 5:13

What does 1 John 5:13 (ESV) teach? The verse states, ‘I write [Gk aorist tense] these things to you who believe [Gk present tense] in the name of the Son of God that you may know [Gk perfect tense] that you have [Gk present tense] eternal life.

The aorist tense is point action. The present tense refers to continuing action in the present time. The perfect tense refers to an action in the past with continuing results. In Dana & Mantey’s advanced Greek text, they explain that there are ‘two fundamental ways of viewing action’ for Greek tenses. ‘It may be contemplated in single perspective, as a point, which we may call punctiliar action…; or it may be regarded as in progress, as a line, and this we may call linear action…. The perfect tense is a combination of these two ideas: it looks in perspective at the action, and regards the results of the action as continuing to exist; that is, in progress at a given point. Hence the perfect has both elements, linear and punctiliar. The aorist may be represented by a dot (clip_image001), the present by a line (————), and the perfect by the combination of the two (clip_image001[1]————-) [Dana & Mantey 1955:179].

Therefore, the meaning of 1 John 5:13 (ESV) is NOT that somebody believed in the past and thus is guaranteed eternal security for salvation, no matter what he or she does after saying ‘yes’ to Jesus. The meaning is that it is written to those ‘who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may continue to have the result of knowing that you are continuing to have eternal life’. So, perseverance of the saints is better language than eternal security OSAS, based on this verse, 1 John 5:13 (ESV). Christian believers are those who continue to believe to the end of their lives.
Why is that the case? It is because the original Greek language of the text affirms that the Christians who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God will know that they continue to have eternal life. Thus, eternal life is guaranteed to those who persevere in the faith – they continue to believe.

3. Resistance to teaching on eternal security

Another person made a perceptive observation:

What security EXACTLY is being resisted? Rom 8:38-39 (NIV) or some other issue?

1 John 5:13 (NIV), IN context, refers to EVERYTHING John wrote in this whole letter. It says nothing about ‘eternal security’.

That is a catch phrase for RT [Reformed Theology].[7]

He’s correct. First John 5:13 (NIV) reads, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’.

What is being resisted is the spiritual condition of continuing to believe (Greek present tense). For those who continue to believe, the result is that the believers will know they have eternal life.

Why is there resistance to the eternal security teaching? From my point of view, it is related to these issues:

1. It is not a biblical teaching and when this is shown to the OSAS folks, they can get defensive and resistant to hear what the Scriptures state. I’ve found nothing in Scripture that supports the view that a person can believe in Christ once, live a life in continuing, deliberate sin, and be guaranteed eternal security of salvation. See my articles:

clip_image003 Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image003[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image003[2] Where do Scriptures say Christians can be lost?

clip_image003[3] Controversies: Once saved, always saved.

clip_image003[4] What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image003[5] Did Arminius refute eternal security?

2. They may resist the doctrine of eternal security or OSAS because the biblical view is perseverance of the saints. They have not been taught this.

This doctrine is taught in passages such as John 3:36 (ESV),

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.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continue to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

Perseverance of the saints is the biblical teaching that believers who continue believing in Jesus to the end of life or the second coming of Jesus, are the ones guaranteed eternal life. They are the ones who enjoy eternal security.

3. This is a core issue: A person’s theological views are driven by presuppositions.

Concerning NT scholars, Graham Stanton wrote:

Why do the conclusions of New Testament scholars differ so widely? Anyone who begins to read books about the New Testament soon becomes aware that competent scholars defend with equal vigour and sincerity widely differing approaches to the New Testament. The variety of viewpoints often causes great perplexity both to theological students and to the church at large…. The presuppositions adopted either consciously or unconsciously by the interpreter are far more influential in New Testament scholarship than disagreements over method (Stanton 1977:60)

If it is not possible for a person to lay aside his or her presuppositions, Stanton recommends three safeguards:

(a) The interpreter who is aware of the danger of not laying aside the person’s assumptions is more likely to avoid this problem.

(b) Use the historical, critical method. This will help rule out fanciful, allegorical [and postmodern][8] interpretations.

(c) ‘The third safeguard is even more important. The interpreter must allow his own presuppositions and his own pre-understanding to be modified or even completely reshaped by the text itself. Unless this is allowed to happen, the interpreter will be unable to avoid projecting his own ideas on to the text’ (Stanton 1977:68).

While Stanton wrote for a scholarly audience, his ‘safeguards’ are just as important in Christian conversation, preaching and discussion about Calvinism and Arminianism.

Until those presuppositions change, the possibilities of changing from one view to the other is nigh impossible. The Calvinistic view of OSAS or perseverance of the saints is driven by the presuppositions of TULIP and if one accepts the content of TULI, then P is a normal and natural consequence. The Arminian theology is driven by FACTS. ‘Arminianism may be represented by the acronym FACTS’:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ (Abasciano & Glynn 2013).

See my articles in support of this latter view:

clip_image005 Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life;

clip_image005[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image005[2] Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

Now let’s look at the teachings of some leading lights in this theological debate.

3.1 Arminius and eternal security

It is sometimes said by those who oppose Arminian theology that Arminius (1560-1609)[9] did not believe in eternal security. Let’s check out some evidence:

clip_image007

Jacobus Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

It is worth quoting Arminius at some length in his teaching on ‘The Perseverance of the Saints’:

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

Thus, Arminius, whose views have been most often associated with loss of salvation and repudiation of eternal security, actually stated that the one who is ‘a true believer’ (presumably meaning that he/she continues as a true Christian), cannot either totally or finally commit apostasy and fall away from the faith. Here’s the key: Is that person continuing to trust in Jesus alone for salvation?

3.2 Calvinism and eternal security

clip_image009

John Calvin (image courtesy www.biography.com)

 

John Calvin (1509-1564)[10] was the one after whom the Calvinistic system of theology was named. He promoted the view of eternal security that the Lord’s promise declares that all who have been received by the Lord ‘in true faith have been given to him by the Father, no one of whom, since he is their guardian and shepherd, will perish [cf. I John 3:16; 6:39]’. Of Judas, Calvin claims that ‘the Lord’s assertion in another passage [John 6:70] that he was chosen by him with the apostles is made only with reference to the ministry…. That is, he had chosen him for the apostolic office. But when he speaks of election unto salvation, he banishes him far from the number of the elect’ [John 13:18] (Calvin, 1960:3.24.7 and 3.24.9, pp. 973, 975).

What was the Calvinistic view of perseverance of the saints by those after Calvin? The Synod of Dort[11] that met in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1618-1619, in response to the Remonstrants’ challenge, concluded that

for God, who is rich in mercy,[12] according to the unchangeable purpose of His election,[13] does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall.[14] Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification,[15] or commit the sin unto death[16] or the sin against the Holy Spirit[17] and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin (Synod of Dordt, Head 5, Art 6).[18]

It is not surprising that Calvinism would adopt the position of eternal security since it believes that the only ones out of all humanity who are recipients of salvation to eternal life are those who have been unconditionally elected to salvation and drawn through irresistible grace. The natural corollary is that those who are predestined unconditionally to salvation will persevere to the end. If such a person, in the Calvinistic system, were to fall from grace, then it would be a demonstration that that person had not received the effectual call of salvation. See the explanation of TULIP (the five points of Calvinism).

The Westminster Confession of Faith,[19] an eminent Calvinistic confession, in its chapter, ‘Of the Perseverance of the Saints’, states:

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

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

3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves (ch 17).[20]

Therefore, the Calvinistic position is that those who are unchangeably drawn to salvation by God through election, will not be permitted to fall away from the grace of adoption in Christ to return to eternal ruin. The perseverance of the saints depends, not on human free will, but on the immutable decree of election. However, they may be tempted by Satan, fall into severe sins and even continue committing such for a time and bring temporal judgments on themselves. However, their salvation will not be lost.

3.3 The church fathers and eternal security

What can we discern from the writings of the church fathers on this topic? It was Arminius’s view

that almost all antiquity [i.e. the teaching of the church fathers] is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish…. “Elect” and “believers” are not convertible terms according to the view of the fathers, unless perseverance be added to faith. Nor is it declared, by Christ, in Matt. xxiv,24, that the elect can not depart from Christ, but that they can not be deceived, by which is meant that though the power of deception is great, yet it is not so great as to seduce the elect (Arminius, 1977:493, emphasis in original).

 

Using Judas as an example, these church fathers reached different conclusions concerning his eternal destiny in the beginning and at the end of his life.

 

a. Concerning Judas

File:F463.highresBaiserJudas.jpg(Francais: Daiser de Judas, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Irenaeus (ca AD 125-202),[21] bishop of Lyons in Gaul about the year AD 180, wrote in Against Heresies (about AD 185), of Judas[22]

‘who was expelled from the number of the twelve, and never restored to his place…. but Judas was deprived [of his office], and cast out, while Matthias was ordained in his place….’

‘But Judas having been once for all cast away, never returns into the number of the disciples; otherwise a different person would not have been chosen to fill his place. Besides, the Lord also declared regarding him, Woe to the man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed [Matthew 26:24]; and, It were better for him if he had never been born [Mark 14:21]; and he was called the son of perdition [John 17:12] by Him’ (Against Heresies, 2.20.2, 5).

Chrysostom (ca AD 347-407),[23] was born and ministered in Antioch, Syria, and was the golden-mouthed expositor and orator. He wrote, ‘For Judas too was a child of the kingdom, and it was said to him with the disciples, you shall sit on twelve thrones [Matthew 19:28]; yet he became a child of hell’ (Homily 26 on Matthew).

Ambrose of Milan (ca AD 340-397),[24] administrator and preacher, said, ‘For both Saul and Judas were once good…. Sometimes they are at first good, who afterwards become and continue evil; and for this respect they are said to be written in the book of life, and blotted out of it’ (cited from The Works of John Fletcher, p. 137).

St Augustine of Hippo (ca AD 354-430),[25] philosopher and theologian, in his Tractate 62 (John 13:26-21) had quite a bit to say about Judas and his condition. This is but a sample:

It was after this bread, then, that Satan entered into the Lord’s betrayer, that, as now given over to his power, he might take full possession of one into whom before this he had only entered in order to lead him into error. For we are not to suppose that he was not in him when he went to the Jews and bargained about the price of betraying the Lord; for the evangelist Luke very plainly attests this when he says: Then entered Satan into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, being one of the twelve; and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests [Luke 22:3-4]. Here, you see, it is shown that Satan had already entered into Judas. His first entrance, therefore, was when he implanted in his heart the thought of betraying Christ; for in such a spirit had he already come to the supper. But now, after the bread, he entered into him, no longer to tempt one who belonged to another, but to take possession of him as his own.

But it was not then, as some thoughtless readers suppose, that Judas received the body of Christ. For we are to understand that the Lord had already dispensed to all of them the sacrament of His body and blood, when Judas also was present, as very clearly related by Saint Luke [Luke 22:19-21]; and it was after this that we come to the moment when, in accordance with John’s account, the Lord made a full disclosure of His betrayer by dipping and holding out to him the morsel of bread, and intimating perhaps by the dipping of the bread the false pretensions of the other. For the dipping of a thing does not always imply its washing; but some things are dipped in order to be dyed. But if a good meaning is to be here attached to the dipping, his ingratitude for that good was deservedly followed by damnation (Tractate 62.2-3).

What can we conclude from these church fathers about Judas’s destiny? He was once a child of the kingdom (Chrysostom) and then was damned after Satan entered him and he betrayed Jesus. Movement from being chosen as a disciple of Jesus to being a ‘son of perdition’ is a demonstration that these church fathers saw a falling away from grace.

b. Church fathers and eternal security for believers

clip_image011

Irenaeus (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012 Irenaeus (ca 125-202), bishop of Lyons, ‘was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples’. It was he who wrote in one of his most celebrated publications:

Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him…. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom (Against Heresies 4.27.2).

clip_image014

Tertullian (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012[1] Tertullian (ca 155/160-220)[26], the son of a centurion and a pagan until middle life, wrote,

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian, On Repentance, ch. 6).

clip_image012[2] St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)[27] wrote: ‘This grace He placed in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things.’ And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart’ (Augustine 1887b).

Augustine also wrote: ‘He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves’ (cited in Wesley, 1872/1978:281).[28] We note Augustine’s struggle with human free will and divine sovereignty in the following teaching from, “A Treatise on Grace and Free Will” (Augustine, 1887a):

Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, ‘Harden not your hearts;’ [Ps. 95:5] and in Ezekiel himself, ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions’ [Ezek. 18:31]…. We should remember that He says, ‘Make you a new heart and a new spirit,’ who also promises, ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.’[Ezek. 36:26] How is it, then, that He who says, ‘Make you,’ also says, ‘I will give you’? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands?…” [Ch. 31 (XV)]

It is certain that it is we that will when we will, but it is He who makes us will what is good, of whom it is said (as he has just now expressed it), ‘The will is prepared by the Lord.’ [Prov. 8:35] Of the same Lord it is said, ‘The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and his way doth He will.’ [Ps. 37:23] Of the same Lord again it is said, ‘It is God who worketh in you, even to will!’ [Phil. 2:13] It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will, who has said, ‘I will make you to walk in my statutes, and to observe my judgments, and to do them’ [Ezek. 36:27]…. [Ch. 32 (XVI), emphasis in original].

Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will…. On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” [Phil. 1:6] He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will’ [Ch. 33 [XVII]).

These church fathers taught that a person who believed in Christ could be shut out of the kingdom, thus losing salvation. However, Augustine’s view was people ‘act when we act; but it is He [God] who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will’.

4. Conclusion

There have been those throughout church history who have believed it is possible for a person to commit apostasy and fall away from the Christian faith. Others teach the opposite. This Arminian-Calvinistic divide will continue. Reasons were suggested why eternal security (OSAS) is a touchy subject and provokes such antagonism in the Christian community.

One of the dominant reasons suggested for such continuing conflict involved the presuppositions from both sides of the debate. If a person cannot lay aside his or her presuppositions, Graham Stanton suggested three safeguards: (1) Interpreters are to be aware of their own presuppositions; (2) Use the historical critical method to avoid fanciful allegorical interpretations; and (3) Most importantly, interpreters need to allow their own presuppositions to be modified by the content of the biblical text. Unless this happens, the interpreter will impose his or her own ideas onto the text (Stanton 1977:68).

5. Works consulted

Abasciano, B & Glynn, M 2013. An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online). Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Arminius, J 1977, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 3 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at CCEL, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Augustine, A 1887a. ‘On grace and free will’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series (online), vol 5. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis.  Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Augustine A 1887b. ‘On the predestination of the saints’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, first series (online), vol 5, rev by B B Warfield. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15122.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Calvin, J 1960, Institutes of the Christian religion, vols. 1-2 (McNeill, JT ed. & Battles, FL transl.), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. Also available online at CRTA, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

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

Harper, J S 2002, “A Wesleyan Arminian view,” in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Stanton, G N 1977, Presuppositions in New Testament criticism, in I H Marshall (ed), New Testament interpretation: Essays on principles and methods, 60-71. Milton Keyes, England: The Paternoster Press Ltd. This chapter is available also at: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/nt-interpretation/nti_03.pdf (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Wesley, J 1872/1978, The works of John Wesley (vol. 6), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).


Notes

[1] This is located at Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, 29 May 2015, Jethro Bodine#3. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/why-is-there-so-much-resistance-to-the-eternal-security-of-the-believer.59729/ (Accessed 3 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., DWJL511#4.

[3] Ibid., Malachi#9.

[4] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[5] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#132.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#16.

[8] Postmodern is my insertion.

[9] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Jacobus Arminius). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacobus-Arminius (Accessed 2 May 2016)

[10] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v John Calvin). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Calvin (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[11] Dort is the English spelling for Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

[12] Eph 2:4-5 (NIV).

[13] Eph 1:11 (NIV).

[14] Ps 51:13 (NIV).

[15] Gal 4:5 (NIV).

[16] 1 John 5:16-18 (NIV).

[17] Matt 12:31-32 (NIV).

[18] Canadian & American Reformed Churches 2016. ‘God will not permit his elect to be lost’. Available at: http://www.canrc.org/?page=281 (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[19] This Confession was produced by the Westminster Assembly, completed in 1646 and approved by the British parliament in June 1648 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2016. s v Westminster Confession). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Westminster-Confession (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[20] Available from The Orthodox Presbyterian Church at: http://www.opc.org/wcf.html#Chapter_17 (Accessed 18 April 2016). Scriptures to support this position are provided in Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 17, Center for Reformed Theology & Apologetics 1996-2016. Available at: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[21] Lifespan dates are from ‘St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons: Biography’, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/irenaeus (Accessed 29 December 2013).

[22] These details of Irenaeus are from Cairns (1981:110), who stated that he ‘was born in Smurna, had been influenced by Polycarp’s preaching while Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna’. Against Heresies is his ‘greatest work’ and ‘was done in the field of polemics writing against Gnosticism’ (Cairns 1981:10).

[23] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:141).

[24] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:145).

[25] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:146).

[26] Lifespan details, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Tertullian (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[27] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Saint Augustine). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[28] This quote by Augustine is from John Wesley’s Sermon LXIII, “The General Spread of the Gospel”(in Wesley, 1872/1978b, p. 277ff). However, Wesley did not footnote his bibliographical details for Augustine and Augustine’s quote was repeated in Harper (2002:251), also without bibliographical information. I have not been able to locate Augustine’s exact quote in his works on the World Wide Web.

 

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

What’s wrong with these contemporary Christian music songs?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

(image courtesy ontheroadtohealing.org.uk)

(image courtesy openhymnal.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

A supporter of Jesus Culture chimed in:

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

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

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

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

1.  Words from a Jesus Culture song

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

Here are the lyrics from a Jesus Culture song:

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

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

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

clip_image009(image courtesy poetrybydeborahann)

 

A supporter of Jesus Culture replied:

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

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

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

3.  This song fails the test

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t see this kind of prominence:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise

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

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

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

Or,

Holy, Holy, Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Beware of false teaching in songs

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

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

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

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

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

4.1  Another song from Jesus Culture

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

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

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

5.  Beware of false or misleading teaching in songs

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

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

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

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

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

6.  I consider this to be false teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Emulating worldly tactics

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

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

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

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

8.  Tunnels of fire

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

Where is the sound doctrine in this chaos?

The retort was penetrating and accurate with Scripture:

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

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

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

9.  Conclusion

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

See:

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

clip_image011[1]Look before you laugh;

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

clip_image011[3]When Bethel invades your church;

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

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

clip_image013

(image courtesy www.mp3tunes.tk)

Notes

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

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

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

[4] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#4.

[5] Ibid., AGTG#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#47.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

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

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#54.

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

[11] Christian Forums, PrettyboyAndy#63.

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

[13] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#116.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

[15] Ibid., AGTG#73.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#78.

[17] Ibid., AGTG#80.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 September 2016.