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Learn how to screw up your worldview

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

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

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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

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

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

A. A liberal resistance to God

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

1. Presuppositions cover up issues

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

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

2. We know where the slippery slope leads

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

3. Stuck in a rut

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

4. Historicity of the Gospels

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

4.1 John’s Gospel and mysticism

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

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

5. Leap of faith and unthinking Christianity

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

B. His responses to my challenge

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

1. Liberal bias that opposes one-way religion

Image result for clipart one way Christianity

He wrote:

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

How should I reply? Here goes![4]

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

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

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

You do this in a whole range of activities. What causes you and me to take medicine prescribed by the Dr and not swallow ‘RoundUp Poison Ivy’:
clip_image002
The purpose of the product influences that choice.
When it comes to the choosing which religion is the truth, it takes care in comparing that religion with reality, facts/truth. What is truth when you examine religion?
Have you found a better search engine on the www than Google? Why does Google seem to be the preferred product over, say, Bing or Yahoo?
Another analogy would be when something happens to the motor of your automobile. Do you choose to take it to a motor mechanic instead of a painter or cabinet maker? You can be narrow in your choices.
When it comes to dealing with the worldviews of any religion, I challenge you to examine which of those worldviews fits reality. See the difficulties with:

 

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

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

2. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

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

2.1 Presupposition favours evolution

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

See my articles:

2.2 Starting with allegorical interpretation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image004[1] What is literal interpretation?

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

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

clip_image004[4] The wedding at Cana led to divorce

See also:

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

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

Bailey);

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

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

2.3 Resurrection, the Bible and truth

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

See my articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image008[6] Easter and the end of death

 

2.4 Garden of Eden promotes misogyny[7]

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

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

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

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

C. Further responses: Distorted reasoning

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

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

1. Confusion of allegorical interpretation with allegory

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

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

2. Genesis and literalism

You wrote:

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

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

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

Then,

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Old Testament reliability

His denigration of Scripture continued:

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

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

4. Belief and postmodern deconstruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. More examples of liberal bias intruding

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

1. Presuppositions meet a brick wall of liberal bias

He wrote:

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

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

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

2. Mysticism’s failures

This inquirer (or stirrer) wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Christian existentialism

Now he launches into a brief statement in support of …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Presuppositions about presuppositions

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. His struggles

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

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

I replied to him this way:[26]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clip_image012

(image courtesy Pinterest)

E. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F. Works consulted

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

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

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

G.  Notes

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

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

[3] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

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

[6] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

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

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

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

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[11] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[13] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[15] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[17] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[19] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#71.

[21] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#72.

[23] Ibid., Silmarien#69.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[25] Ibid., Silmarien#76.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#87.

 

 

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

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.

Did St Augustine say this to a prostitute?

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Augustinus 1.jpg

By Spencer D Gear

 

Augustine of Hippo (image courtesy Wikipedia)

This is a story floating around the Internet about St. Augustine, his former sinful life and what a prostitute said to him after he became a changed man through Christ. This story has been repeated by some conservative evangelical preachers.

‘Grace to You’ cited it

John MacArthur’s organisation, Grace to You, is one such group telling this story:

Augustine, great saint of God had lived with a prostitute before his conversion.  After he was wonderfully saved, he was walking down the street and this prostitute saw him.  She shouted his name and he kept walking.  He saw her, but kept his eyes straightforward and walked. She continued crying after him and ran after him.  And finally, she said, Augustine, it is I.  To which he replied, I know, but it is no longer I (Grace to You, ‘Whose fault is our temptation?‘)

Spurgeon also used it

C H Spurgeon’s sermon quotes a view that is now espoused on the Internet in Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘The way to honor‘:

This was the teaching of our baptism. When we were baptized we were buried in the water. The teaching was that we were henceforth to be dead and buried to the world and alive alone for Jesus. It was the crossing of the Rubicon—the drawing of the sword and the flinging away of the scabbard. If the world should call us we now reply, “We are dead to thee, O world!” One of the early saints, I think it was Augustine, had indulged in great sins in his younger days. After his conversion he met with a woman who had been the sharer of his wicked follies; she approached him winningly and said to him, “Augustine,” but he ran away from her with all speed. She called after him and said, “Augustine, it is I,” mentioning her name; but he then turned round and said, “But it is not I; the old Augustine is dead and I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” That—to Madam Bubble and to Madam Wanton, to the world, the flesh, and the devil—should be the answer of every true servant of Christ: “I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. Thou art the same, O fair false world— thou art the same, but not I. I have passed from death unto life, from darkness into light. Thy siren charms can fascinate me no more. A nobler music is in my ear and I am drawn forward by a more sovereign spell towards other than yours. My bark shall cut her way through all seas and waves till it reaches the fair haven and I see my Savior face to face.” ‘Tis irretrievable, then, this step which we have taken, the absolute surrender of our whole nature to the sway of the Prince of peace. We are the Lord’s. We are his for ever and for ever. We cannot draw back, and blessed be his name, his grace will not suffer us to do so. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Searching for the truth

I’ve searched quite a bit on the Internet, including an electronic search through all of the 13 chapters of Augustine’s Confessions, but couldn’t find any mention of this story. I did find this comment by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild who wrote:

Sources: Using Google I tried in 2005 to locate the St. Augustine quote (first taken from a sermon illustration journal many years ago) but could not find it. It seems that online at least, ours is the oldest citation of what may be an apocryphal reference?

It is said that St. Augustine was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress some time after he had become a Christian. When he saw her he turned and walked the other way. Surprised, the woman called out, “Augustine, it is I”. Augustine as he kept going the other way, answered her, “Yes, but it is not I.”

Did Augustine say it or not?

Seems like it was fiction

This is on a website by Timothy Kauffman, ‘Speaking the love in love‘, in which he exposes this story about Augustine as fiction:

In the process of this self-revelation, Brown[1] instead reveals how woefully uninformed he actually is about Church history. His first example is of Augustine’s encounter with his mistress in the streets of Milan. Brown tells his listeners that if they have not read Augustine’s Confessions as he has, “you’ve missed one of the great books of western civilization.” (12:05). Then he continues with the story:

“And there’s a wonderful story about the time that his mistress saw him down town and he saw her and turned and started running. And she said, ‘Augustine, Augustine, it is I.’ And Augustine looked back over his shoulder and said ‘Yes, but it is not I!’” (12:30 – 12:50).

This sort of creative historical revisionism makes for great sermon illustrations, especially when the preacher does not, as Brown does not, care about truth. What Brown relates as a key point in Augustine’s life was, as Ambrose clearly stated, a fable that had nothing to do with Augustine at all:

Let the man deny himself and be wholly changed, as in the fable they relate of a certain youth, who left his home because of his love for a harlot, and, having subdued his love, returned; then one day meeting his old favourite and not speaking to her, she, being surprised and supposing that he had not recognized her, said, when they met again, “It is I”. “But,” was his answer, “I am not the former I”. (Ambrose, Concerning Repentance, Book II, Ch 10.96)

This story floating around the Internet and in sermons has no relation to Augustine at all and certainly is not to be found anywhere in Augustine’s Confessions. It was, as Ambrose said, a ‘fable’. But Kauffman goes on with “the rest of the story”:

I’ve told that story for years. Let me tell you the rest of the story. She wasn’t looking for sex, she was looking for food. They had a son together and she wanted him to acknowledge their son and give them something to eat. What’s with that? When he did his Confessions, he confessed to stealing apples when he wasn’t hungry, but he {Brown pauses here, getting choked up} … he never mentioned his son. I love Augustine. Augustine R Us. (12:50 – 13:30)

Yet “the rest of the story” is as much a fabrication as the beginning. We believe Brown has probably read Augustine’s Confessions, but the passage of time seems to have dimmed his memory, for in his Confessions Augustine explicitly acknowledges his illegitimate son by name. He not only confesses his great sin, but also thanks God for giving the son to him, and acknowledges that he even took custody of the boy:

“Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied. My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 6, Chapter 15.25)

“When the time arrived for me to give in my name, we left the country and returned to Milan.  … We took with us the boy Adeodatus, my son after the flesh, the offspring of my sin. Thou hadst made of him a noble lad.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 9, Chapter 6.14)

Clearly Augustine acknowledges his son in his Confessions, but Steve Brown’s point is moot because the fabled encounter with Augustine’s former mistress or prostitute never occurred in the first place. Whence, therefore, the fabrication? Surely Brown has a source for this story but it was not mentioned.

All we can conclude is that the beautiful and emotionally charged story about Augustine and the prostitute is a heart-throb of fabrication that has no relation to fact.

Notes


[1] Kauffman is referring to ‘Steve Brown [who] is a radio show host, author, seminary professor, PCA [Presbyterian Church of America] pastor and occasional “shock jock.”’. Available at: http://www.whitehorseblog.com/2014/08/10/speaking-the-love-in-love/ (Accessed 17 November 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Old wives’ tale, artificial sweeteners and cancer

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

clip_image002 clip_image004 clip_image005 clip_image007 clip_image008

(courtesy Wikipedia and Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

I have had people visit with my wife and me and when we took a cold can of diet Coke from the refrigerator for my consumption, the person would say something like: ‘Surely you are not drinking that stuff with artificial sweeteners. It’s dangerous’. Then a discussion pursued about the link between aspartame (and other artificial sweeteners) and cancer.

Then there are online statements such as, ‘Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today’.

There’s a fair amount of information sweeping around the Internet and in personal conversation about how it has been shown that if one uses artificial sweeteners there is a risk of getting cancer.

Is it fact or fiction that consumption of artificial sweeteners leads to developing cancer? Could it be classified as an old wives’ tale, which is ‘a belief, usually superstitious or erroneous, passed on by word of mouth as a piece of traditional wisdom’? (The free dictionary)

Is it true?

Risk Factor

public domain

You might be interested in this article from the National Cancer Institute, ‘Artificial sweeteners and cancer‘. One of its conclusions about research in this area is contrary to popular opinion: ‘There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans’. Why don’t you read this summary of research to demonstrate this fact.
For other versions of this research, see:

Conclusion

That information should put the cat amongst the pigeons or lay some falsehoods to rest.

The National Cancer Institute in the USA concluded:

Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer arose when early studies showed that cyclamate in combination with saccharin caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. However, results from subsequent carcinogenicity studies (studies that examine whether a substance can cause cancer) of these sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans. Similarly, studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.

So the conclusion that consumption of artificial sweeteners is linked to cancer is a fable. It is nothing more than an old wives’ tale.

3d Cancer Cure Crossword On...

public domain

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Choice or determinism in salvation

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Joshua 24:15: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’

Spencer D Gear

Path Pick

ChristArt

It is common in online forums for Calvinists to push the line that people do not have the choice to choose to serve the Lord God or Jesus, or to reject him. This happened in one thread where I contribute.

There was this statement by a noted Calvinist on the forum: ‘Israel didn’t choose to be chosen by God. God took it upon himself to choose them’.[1]

My brief response was:[2]

You seem to be overlooking Joshua 24:14-15,

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (ESV)

Israel has a choice as to which God/gods they would serve. That’s Bible!clip_image001

The reply was: ‘What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?’[3]

I replied: [4]

What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?

The text is clear. Please read it: Choose…

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘whom you will serve’;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods your fathers served’, OR

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods of the Amorites;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).

The ability of contrary choice is given by God to all people. And it started in the garden with Adam in choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil OR not to choose such.

Why do you find this so difficult to understand when the Scriptures are crystal clear? Well, they are crystal clear in my hermeneutical understanding.

This fellow came back:

Joshua told them to choose from between their false gods. He never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God.

He didn’t say "choose this day whom you will server, whether the gods of the Amorites, or the gods your fathers served, or the Lord".

thus, you are using that verse out of context. you are using it in application for something it doesn’t even support.[5]

Is there real choice for unbelievers and Christians in things of God?

Life Voyage

ChristArt

I responded to the above person:[6]

That is not what it says in context. Joshua 24:14-17 reads:

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed (ESV, emphasis added)

Note the points in context:

  1. ‘Fear the Lord and serve him’ (v 14). This is a command to fear the Lord God.
  2. ‘Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord’ (v 14). So their fathers served foreign ‘gods’ and they were commanded to fear the Lord God and to put away foreign Gods. The choice was between the Lord God and false gods. Your charge against me is thus shown to be false.
  3. The v. 15 makes the choice clear: Serve the Lord OR the gods your fathers served OR the gods of the Amorites. They were told that they had a choice to make. That’s what this verse states. It’s a similar choice to what Adam had in the garden to choose between the tree of knowledge of good or evil. He chose the evil and we’ve had to struggle with sinful vs godly choices ever since. That’s Bible.
  4. The people chose to not forsake the Lord and serve other gods (v 16). They had a choice. The ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ was as real for them as it is for us today.
  5. Then evidence is given for the nature of the actions of the Lord God and how he had acted on their behalf in the past. Interesting, isn’t it?, of God providing evidence of his actions on their behalf.

I find this person’s charge that Joshua ‘never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God’, to be false – based on the biblical evidence from Joshua 24.

Spin doctors

Image:Bowl Leg Spin Step 1.jpg

Leg spin cricket grip (WikiHow)

There are various other grips in leg spin bowling in cricket (wrong-un, flipper, stock ball) that are designed to deceive the batsman. When people speak spin, they use terminology and description designed to deceive the listener in some way. In my country of Australia it is standard to hear politicians being interviewed and no matter what the question, the standard or populist party line is promoted. When politicians do this kind of thing in interviews, some commentators call it ‘spin’.

Andrew Bolt’s articles often call politicians for the ‘spin’ they use to try to deceive listeners. See:

16tn_.jpg 0.9KRudd’s spin just cooks that goose worse’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMaking Indonesia spin Labor’s lines’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMundine slams Rudd’s “political negative spin”’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

See the articles:

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin undermines democracy (Sydney Morning Herald);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin: politicians, journalists and spin doctors (BBC interview);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Spin doctor exodus as political wheel turns (The Australian);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin checklist (ABC, The Drum).

Spin doctors in Christianity

This is the kind of thing that some Christians can get up to when promoting a certain theological perspective. And that’s what it is because, no matter what the interviewer asks, the person interviewed gives the same old, pre-programmed answer that the party line requires. It is an unthoughtful response that does not answer the question asked by the interviewed. It simply goes onto the party line and avoids dealing with the issues raised. See:

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Christian spin doctors (Know it’s true);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Debunking The ‘War On Christianity’: The Dangers Of Out-Of-Control Spin (Americans United);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K A postmodern spin on religion: Pagan Christianity (Albert Mohler, MP3);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Mortification of Spin is the "best Christian Podcast ever" – Frank Turk, blogger and speaker (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);

Some can get quite brazen in what they call ‘spin’ in association with Christianity. One fellow who calls himself, SinfulSaint, wrote: ‘Apologetics is the art of reframing a belief so that it becomes believable; it’s spin doctoring for religion. I hate to inform you good folks but you all are tools of the spin doctors’ (Topix, ‘Christian Spin Doctors’, SinfulSaint#1).  An immediate response was, ‘Careful, your ignorance is showing:-) I’d verture a guess you are not a member of your local Tea Party:-)’ [BarnsWeb]. SinfulSaint’s reply was:

According to the Bible, the sun revolves around the Earth.(Job 9:7 and Joshua 10:12-13, Psalms 93:1, Psalms 96:10, 2 Samuel 22:16) I’m sorry to disappoint you folks; the sun does not revolve around the earth.

Per the Bible, the Earth is flat (Job 28:24, Matthew 4:8, Daniel 4:10-11). The last time I looked, it was round.

Per the Bible, the Earth has pillars (Job 9:6, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 26:11, Psalms 75:3). Pillars? No comment needed; speaks for itself.

“And the hare, because he cheweth the cud he is unclean unto you.”(Lev. 11:6). Okay, maybe Rabbits evolved a bit since then. Rabbits do not chew their cud. They "re’chew" partially digested droppings in the early morning hours to get more nutrients out of them (SinfulSaint#4).

If you read these verses in, say, the English Standard Version, you’ll find that they do not say what SinfulSaint claims. So SinfulSaint is really using a straw man logical fallacy.

However, I find Calvinists and Arminians can use ‘spin’ on Christian forums. They can give the pre-programmed position of their theological positions to put on an acceptable face for the reader, without engaging in a reasoned response. Thoughtful Christians requires Christians to be renewed in their minds so that they can think Christianly. This also means giving a fair and reasonable interpretation of the biblical text. This is best done when the interpreter has a knowledge of the original languages of Hebrew and Aramaic for the OT and koine Greek for the NT. However, a comparison of excellent modern translations can help to gain the possible differences of interpretation from the original text. I recommend:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K English Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Revised Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New American Standard Bible;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New King James Version (unfortunately it uses the Textus Receptus for the Greek text);

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New International Version; and

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Living Translation.

Thoughtful Christianity

Think

ChristArt

Christians not only have a new spiritual heart because of their regeneration in Christ, but also they are called upon to have a renewed mind. Here is a sample of NT and OT verses from the ESV to encourage us to ‘think about these things’:

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Romans 12:1-2, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Psalm 119:11, ‘I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Ephesians 4:23, ‘And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’,

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K1 Peter 1:13, ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K John 8:32, ‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (emphases added in the above verses).

Thoughtful Christianity, including an increasing and growing renewing of the mind, is required for all Christians who want to mature in the faith. I find it helpful to have a person with whom I can be accountable to cause me to think about my faith. But be warned! They are as scarce as hens’ teeth. Most of time I have to rely on solid evangelical apologists, theologians and exegetes to help me with the renewing of my mind! My experience is that thinking Christianity that learns to articulate the faith as it relates to issues in our world, is in short supply.

For me, these Christian scholars who have been of considerable help include: Paul Barnett (history), N T Wright (historical Jesus), D A Carson (exegesis, postmodernism), R C H Lenski (NT exegesis), Ravi Zacharias (apologist), Henry C Thiessen (theologian), William Lane Craig (apologist), Norman Geisler(theologian, apologist), Anthony Thiselton (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Kevin Vanhoozer (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Ben Witherington (historical Jesus), Craig Evans (historical Jesus), Gordon Lewis & Bruce Demarest (integrative theology), and other thoughtful evangelicals.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, Skala#65, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-7/ (Accessed 30 September 2013).

[2] OzSpen#67, ibid.

[3] Skala#76, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[5] Skala#83, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#99, ibid.

 

Copyright (c)  2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2013.

Is liberal theology heresy?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

(image public domain, courtesy Google)

By Spencer D Gear

It has been asked if anyone can prove from Scripture that liberal theology is not heresy?[1] I consider that a better question would be, “Could you please demonstrate from Scripture that liberal theology is heresy?”

However, this begs the question….

What is liberal theology?

One of the seminal critiques of theological liberalism was that by J. Gresham Machen in 1923, Christianity & Liberalism. This is Machen’s (1923:2) understanding of what amounts to theological liberalism:

The present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “modernism” or “liberalism.” Both names are unsatisfactory; the latter in particular, is question-begging. The movement designated as “liberalism” is regarded as “liberal” only by its friends; to its opponents it seems to involve a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts. And indeed the movement is so varied in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears. the root of the movement is rooted in naturalism – that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity (emphasis added).

Then Machen proceeded to see how this movement that is “rooted in naturalism” affected core Christian doctrines. He has chapters on the liberal infiltration in these areas of theology: the nature of doctrine, the nature of God and man (human beings), the nature of the Bible, the nature of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of the church.
In this brief article, I don’t show the many faces of theological liberalism that have moved away from orthodox Christianity in their attacks on core Christian teaching.

Dr. Norman Geisler (2002:350f) in his chapter on “liberalism on the Bible”demonstrates how the rise of modern anti-supernatural liberalism had its roots as far back as Thomas Hobbes and Benedict Spinoza in the 17th century. He demonstrates how liberalism’s view of Scripture included:

  • An anti-supernatural basis of the liberal view of Scripture;
  • Cultural accommodation is necessary;
  • Negative criticism of Scripture;
  • The Bible is not the Word of God;
  • The Bible is fallible and errant;
  • The origin of Scripture is not by divine inspiration;
  • Sola Scriptura (the Bible is the only written and infallible authority for faith) is rejected;
  • So the Bible contains contradictions, including scientific errors;
  • There is immorality in the OT;
  • Human reason is prominent in interpreting the Bible;
  • There is a strong emphasis on human experience.

While theological liberalism is broad in definition, it also can accommodate the postmodern, reader-response ideologies, etc. of the Jesus Seminar.

What is heresy?

We do see “heresy” in the NT. In NT Greek, the term from which we get “heresy” is hairesis. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon (1957:23) states that hairesis means ‘sect, party, school’. It was used of the Sadduccees 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).

The article on hairesis in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1964:182f) states that its “usage in Acts corresponds exactly to that of Josephus and the earlier Rabbis” but the development of the Christian sense of heresy does not parallel this Rabbinic use.

When the NT ekklesia (church) came into being, there was no place for hairesis. They were opposed to each other. This author states that “the greater seriousness consists in the fact that hairesis affect the foundation of the church in doctrine (2 Pt. 2:1), and that they do so in such a fundamental way as to give rise to a new society alongside the ekklesia” (Kittel 1964:183).

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

J D Crossan, a theological , postmodern liberal

As an example of how liberalism affects the Jesus Seminar scholars, John Dominic Crossan states:

For Christians the New Testament texts and the gospel accounts are inspired by God. But divine inspiration necessarily comes through a human heart and a mortal mind, through personal prejudice and communal interpretation, through fear, dislike, and hate as well as through faith, hope, and charity. It can also come as inspired propaganda and inspiration does not make it any the less propaganda. In its origins and first moments that Christian propaganda was fairly innocent. Those first Christians were relatively powerless Jews and compared to them the Jewish authorities represented serious and threatening power. As long as Christians were the marginalized and disenfranchised ones, such passion fiction about Jewish responsibility and Roman innocence did nobody much harm. But, once the Roman Empire became Christian, that fiction turned lethal. In the light of later Christian anti-Judaism and eventually of genocidal anti-Semitism, it is no longer possible in retrospect to think of that passion fiction as relatively benign propaganda. However explicable its origins, defensible its invectives, and understandable its motives among Christians fighting for survival, its repetition has now become the longest lie and, for our own integrity, we Christians must at last name it as such (1995:XI-XII).

For Crossan, Joseph of Arimathea did not exist and his involvement at the passion of Christ did not happen. It was a creation by Mark (1995:172). Concerning Christ’s passion and resurrection, his view is:

My working hypothesis is that the original stratum [the creation of the Gospel text from AD 30-60] or Cross Gospel in [the Gospel of] Peter had only the guards at the tomb and nothing whatsoever about the women at the tomb. It was Mark himself who created the empty tomb story and its failed anointing as a fitting climax to the literary and theological motifs of his gospel (1995:185).

For a critique of Crossan and the Jesus Seminar see:

Rudolf Bultmann, a theological liberal[2]

clip_image004

Bultmann (AD 1884-1976) applied the philosopher, Martin Heidegger’s, existentialism to the New Testament through his demythology of subjectivism. Bultmann built his case along several lines,

  • There is a three-storied universe with the earth at the centre, the heaven above (where God and angels are), and the underworld beneath (1954:2);
  • The supernatural forces in the NT must be stripped of this “mythological structure”. The mythical view of the world (the supernatural) is obsolete and a blind acceptance of the supernatural in the NT would sacrifice our intelligence (1954:3-4); so
  • The Bible’s picture of miracles is impossible for modern human beings for “man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world–in fact there is hardly anyone who does…. An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable” (1954:38-39).
  • What are his reasons for his anti-supernatural view? He speaks of the incredibility of believing in a mythical event like the resuscitation of a corpse; difficulty in establishing the objective historicity of the resurrection of Christ; the resurrection is an article of faith for which there cannot be miraculous proof; there are other such events that have parallels in mythology (1954:39-40).

How do we respond to Bultmann demythologization of Scripture? This view is built on two unproven presuppositions (assumptions), says Geisler:

  1. His view is that miracles are less than historical because they are more than historical;
  2. There can be no miracles in the world without being of this world.

Both of these presuppositions are wrong, says Geisler, because:

  • Miracles can be more than historical without sacrificing their historical nature;
  • Miracles can be from beyond the world but still be acts/manifestations in the world.

Bultmann has no evidential basis for his mythological events being unverifiable. Also, his view is contrary to the biblical data because there is substantial evidence for the authenticity and reliability of NT documents – in spite of liberals who want to doubt and challenge the reliability of the NT. I recommend Craig Blomberg’s compilation of the evidence in The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (1987); Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are they Reliable & Relevant? (2001); and K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2003).

For assessments of Bultmann’s theology, see:

This is some of the flavour of the broad description of theological liberalism and how to assess some of it. The picture is very bleak. This is what happens when those paid by the church give up believing the church’s core of orthodoxy that has been taught for almost 2,000 years. Why do church leaders and pastors who promote theological liberalism continue to remain in the church and be paid by the church? It like  letting loose in our trade training schools, mechanics who no longer believe in engines. Talk about hypocrisy and contradictions!

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).

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

Bultmann, R 1954. Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate. Hans Werner Bartsch (ed), trans by R H Fuller. London: Billing & Sons.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N 2002. Systematic Theology, vol. 1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Kaiser Jr., W C 2001. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kittel, G (ed) 1964. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol 1), tr. by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Machen, J G 1923. Christianity & Liberalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, “Liberal theology via scripture” #1, 8 October 2011, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7598446/ (Accessed 11 October 2011). This person included the theologians of the Jesus Seminar, the universalists, and those supporting abortion and gay marriage, as among those who promote liberal theology.

[2] I am indebted to Norman Geisler (2002: 343-347) for much of the following analysis.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at 15 March 2016.

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Is theology important?

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Courtesy ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Does it matter what we believe? Is it true that loving people and doing good are more important than theology? This is an example of one who believes that theology is not important: “God is more concerned with what we ‘do’ in, through, Jesus Christ, concerning our daily walk, than our theology”.[1] Another put it this way: ‘Theology is not important. Jesus commanded us to love God and love others and I don’t need to know about the hypostatic union in order to do that.  I just want to love people and meet their needs’.[2]

Dr. Richard Krejcir warns:

Many Christians today are proclaiming that theology is not important or needed; all we need to do is to love Jesus. We have a big problem in the church today as doctrine disappears from the pulpit and the airways, and is replaced by what “feels good” or what we feel is needed. When theology disappears from the church and its leaders, we will have a “free for all” of what we think is truth. All that will accomplish is dishonesty, and an erosion of His conviction. The situation will be created where God takes a backseat to the god of the self as the central focus of our faith, and that will carve a road to hell. We as a church, or as a single practicing Christian, will be unable to think wisely about our culture, who we are in Christ, or who He is and what He did. Instead, we will take in what feels good, leaving God and His ways behind us. We will be reveling in the irrational, while Christ stands at the door and knocks Because of the noise of our Will, we will not open the door![3]

Fuzzy thinking about theology is not new. One hundred years ago, James Orr wrote: Every one must be aware that there is at the present time a great prejudice against doctrine—or, as it is often called “dogma”—in religion; a great distrust and dislike of clear and systematic thinking about divine things (Orr 1909:3).

If that was the state of affairs in 1909, it is even more so today than it was in Orr’s day. As we’ll see below, the problem with doctrine is not only 100 years old. It was a problem in the infant church 2,000 years ago.

Over the years, I’ve heard my share of statements such as these:

  • “Doctrine is not important because doctrine divides”.
  • “All Christians need to do it love one another and love others”.
  • “It is more important to experience Jesus than have teaching about him”.
  • “It doesn’t matter what anyone believes; what matters is that he/she is sincere”.
  • “It is not politically correct to speak of doctrine from the pulpit. Young people will leave”.
  • “Theology is for the intellectuals; I’m just an ordinary Christian and I don’t need that”.
  • “The Bible is out of date, inaccurate and over-rated. People in the 21st century are way too smart for that”.[4]
  • Or, as John K. Williams put it, ‘An evangelist who preaches the “old-time religion” is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a “big ask” but an outrageous ask’.[5]
  • The psychological, feel-good society has infiltrated the church.

Liberal Christianity has a long track record of downgrading or being opposed to sound doctrine. Dr. John K. Williams, a liberal Uniting Church (Australia) minister, wrote in the The Age (a Melbourne newspaper):

Let me lay my cards on the table. I am, unapologetically, a “religious person”. For me, the stories and symbols that best point me to, and enable me to stutter about, the sacred, about the holy, about “God” are the stories and symbols and images defining the Christian faith. I am a bloodied but unbowed liberal Christian.[6]

Father Stanley Jaki stated, “Liberalism is a habit of mind, a point of view, a way of looking at things, rather than a fixed and unchanging body of doctrine. Like all creeds it is a spirit not a formula”.[7] One of the seminal critiques of theological liberalism was J. Gresham Machen’s, Christianity & Liberalism (1923). He wrote of Paul, that the apostle’s,

primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions, but at its centre. If Christianity is to be made independent of doctrine, then Paulinism must be removed from Christianity root and branch (1923:26).

To love people, do good, and forget about theology are not among the teachings of Scripture. What do the Scriptures say?

Wait a minute: What is theology?

When I was a student in Bible College in the 1970s, I used Henry Thiessen’s text, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology (1949). He wrote of theology in two senses – the narrow sense and the broader sense. Its narrow sense is the doctrine of God (based on the two Greek words, theos, meaning God and, logos, meaning discourse). The broader sense is the one that is in common use by the populace and that refers to ‘all Christian doctrines … that deal with the relations God sustains to the universe’. This leads to a definition of ‘theology as the science of God and His relations to the universe’ (1949:24).

So, theology will include teachings from Scripture of subjects such as the doctrines of the Word of God (Scripture), of God, of man (meaning human beings), of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of redemption, the church, and of the future.[8]

What’s the difference between theology (the broad definition) and “doctrine”? In the contemporary church, theology and doctrine are treated as synonymous terms. Alister McGrath (2005:177) explains that one of the core tasks of Christian theology is to intertwine the threads of the biblical witness into a coherent account of the Christian version of reality. Thus, ‘”doctrine” is the term generally given to the body of teachings that result from the sustained engagement with Scripture’.

So, why is doctrine falling on hard times, even in evangelical churches? These are my current observations after 50 years of being a Christian.

1. The current emphasis on seeker-sensitive church services has led to the dumbing down of theology, in an attempt to draw unbelievers into the church. Bill Hybels, one of the gurus of the seeker-sensitive approach, has stated, “Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for…. We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own”.[9]

2. The stress by the charismatic movement on “hearing from God” has led to an existential experience of God gaining prominence over theology. My observation is that this sometimes manifests itself in mysticism that is generally expressed in small groups. I have seen this in charismatic groups and in some house churches I have visited. I inquired of a house church leader in Brisbane and he told me that the church was interested in the centrality of Christ and ‘hearing from him through the Holy Spirit’ when the church gathered. He said that Bible teaching was not a prominent part of what his house church did when the group gathered. Building community and hearing from God prominent, which Bible teaching belonged to the old ‘traditional church’.

3. The influence of theological liberalism has extended its tentacles into the mainline churches such as Anglicanism (with the exception of the Sydney diocese and some of the Melbourne diocese), Roman Catholicism and the Uniting Church in Australia.

4. Some preachers who teach theology from the pulpit can be boring in their presentation. See my article, “It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s Word“.

What do the Scriptures say?

What place does the Bible give to the split between Christian practice and doctrine? We see from the Scriptures that we are to pay attention to both our lives and theology. We know this from 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV). Life and theology (doctrine) are united. The way we live will be based on what we believe about God.
Second Timothy 4:1-4 states:

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (NIV).

Teaching sound doctrine is core to Christian living. We know that life and theology (doctrine) have an essential link. First Timothy 6:2-4 states:

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing (NIV).

Sound doctrine, instruction and theology are essential for Christian living. Paul to Titus showed that a bishop must have a union of good living and sound doctrine:

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:7-9 NIV).

Titus 2:1 states, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound [or healthy] doctrine” (ESV)

It is false to place a dichotomy between Christian living and sound theology. God is concerned about teaching the truth – sound doctrine. It is married to right living. We live what we believe. The Jewish people at Berea knew this. It is said of them that “these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11 ESV). Examining the Scriptures daily is an important dimension of the Christian’s daily living. How can we know how God expects us to live if we don’t have an understanding of what the Scriptures state? Doctrine undergirds Christian living.

Bibliography

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Machen, J G 1923. Christianity & Liberalism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

McGrath, A E 2005. Doctrine. In K J Vanhoozer (gen ed), Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible, 177-180. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic/London: SPCK.

Orr, J 1909. Sidelights on Christian Doctrine. New York: A. C. Armstrong and Sons.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Understanding Calvinism’, #441, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7591264-45/ (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[2] Cited in Daniel Attaway, ‘”Theology isn’t important” and other ridiculous things Christians say’, available at: http://westernthm.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/theology-isnt-important-and-other-ridiculous-things-christians-say/ (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[3] Discipleship Tools, ‘Is theology important?”, available at: http://www.discipleshiptools.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=47360&columnid=4192 (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[4] Coffeehouse Theology, available at: http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/bible-inaccurate-over-rated/ (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[5] “It’s not good enough for us”, The Age, 19 January 2004, available at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/18/1074360629928.html (Accessed 30 January 2004). Also available at Online Opinion, 23 January 2011, available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=1468 (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Liberalism and theology”, Eternal Word Television Network, available at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/FR94402.htm (Accessed 10 October 2011).

[8] As an example of systematic theology, see Wayne Grudem (1994).

[9] Cited in Bob Burney ‘A shocking “confession” from Willow Creek Community Church’, available at: Townhall.com at: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BobBurney/2007/10/30/a_shocking_%e2%80%9cconfession%e2%80%9d_from_willow_creek_community_church?page=full&comments=true (Accessed 2 November 2007). This is no longer available at Townhall, but I located it at Crosswalk, http://www.crosswalk.com/news/a-shocking-confession-from-willow-creek-community-church-11558438.html (Accessed 18 July 2011).

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 October 2015.

God says atheists are fools

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Lady on a Donkey Backwards by j4p4n

openclipart

By Spencer D Gear

This is an expected and sensible question: Why does the Bible say “A fool has said in his heart there is no God”?[1]

The reason that God can state through David (Psalm 14:1; 53:1) that a person who says in his/her heart, “There is no God”, is a fool is because: GOD DOES NOT BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS[2] for these reasons:

1. Creation provides evidence for the existence of God.

Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (ESV);

Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (ESV).

In what God has made in creation, we may not see the full demonstration of all of the attributes of God, but God says that there is enough information in the world of His creation to say that the person who denies this intricate design as a pointer to God’s existence is a fool if he/she says that there is no God.

2. God’s existence is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

According to John 14:9, Jesus stated, ‘Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?”‘ (ESV).

John 1:14 makes it clear: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

If we want an example of God’s existence, take a look at who Jesus is and what he demonstrated when on earth. However, those who have not heard of Jesus Christ through the Gospel proclamation and the Christian Scriptures are also without excuse because….

3. ALL people know of God internally and resist that knowledge.

Romans 1:21 states, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

Rom. 1:18 says that people “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth”.

So God provides the evidence in the conscience, this truth is suppressed and people have “foolish” hearts that are darkened and they do evil deeds.

So, God does not believe in atheists because God’s truth of His existence is within every human being and they suppress this truth so that they can continue to do all kinds of evil things. So all pagan people who have never heard the Gospel have the truth of God’s existence within them but they suppress it and deny it. When they stand before God at judgment, they will not be able to say, “We did not know of Your existence”. God will not take that as an honest answer because of the evidence of His existence that God has provided to all people.

God’s reply will be, “You are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Because of this evidence, of those who reject it, God declares through Scripture: ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”‘.

Endnotes:


[1] Granturissimus #1, Christian Forums, Theology (Christians Only), Christian Apologetics, “Why does the Bible say “A fool has said in his heart there is no God”, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7575781/ (Accessed 10 July 2011).

[2] See John Blanchard’s highly recommended book, Does God Believe in Atheists? Faverdale North, Darlington:Evangelical Press, 2000.

 

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

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Whytehouse designs

Content of the Gospel and Discipleship[1]

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Ticket to Heaven
(courtesy ChristArt)

Compiled by Spencer D Gear [1a]

Some people ask me questions such as these:

  • What must I accept and do in order to become a Christian?
  • What’s the difference between a real Christian and one who goes to church?
  • What must I do to receive salvation?
  • How can I get to heaven and avoid hell?

 The following broad outline is designed to answer these questions.

A. You must understand God’s holiness.

 “God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.”[2]

Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 15:33; Micah 6:9.

1. God is utterly holy and His law, therefore, demands perfect holiness.

See Leviticus 11:44-45; Joshua 24:19; I Samuel 2:2; 6:20.

2. Even the New Testament gospel requires this holiness.

See I Peter 1:15-16; Hebrews 12:14.

3. Because the Lord God Almighty is holy, He hates sin.

Exodus 20:5.

4. Sinners cannot stand before Him

¨ What is sin? “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. . . Sin is more than simply painful and destructive–it is also wrong in the deepest sense of the word. . . Sin is directly opposite to all that is good in the character of God.”[3]

Psalm 1:5

B. You must understand God’s righteousness/justice.

In English, the terms “righteousness” and “justice” are different words. This is not so in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. There is only one word group behind these two English terms.[4]

1. What is God’s righteousness/justice?

  • “God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.”[5]
  • What is right or just? “Whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right.”[6]
  • Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 18:25; Psalm 19:8; Isaiah 45:19; Romans 9:20-21.

2. Christ’s sacrifice was to show God’s righteousness

When God sent Christ as a sacrifice to bear the punishment for sin, it was to show God’s righteousness. See Romans 3:25-26.

C. You must understand that you are a sinner who sins & God hates sin.

  • Gospel means “good news.”
  • What makes it truly “good news” is not only that heaven is free, but also God’s Son has conquered that sin.
  • Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). What do you think Jesus meant by that?

1. Sin is what it is that makes true peace impossible for unbelievers.

Isaiah 57:20-21

2. All have sinned.

Romans 3:10-18

3. Sin makes the sinner worthy of death.

James 1:5; Romans 6:23

4. Sinners can do nothing to earn salvation.

Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; Revelation 21:8

D. You must understand the wrath(anger) of God.

“If God loves all that is right and good, and all that conforms to his moral character, then it should not be surprising that he would hate everything that is opposed to his moral character. God’s wrath directed against sin is therefore closely related to God’s holiness and justice.”[7]

1. What is the wrath of God?

“God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin.”[8]

Exodus 32:9-10; Deuteronomy 9:7-8; 29:23; 2 Kings 22:13; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8; 5:9; 9:22; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; Hebrews 3:11; Revelation 6:16-17; 19:15.

2. God is slow to inflict his wrath on people. Why?

See Psalm 103:8-9; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9-10.

E. How can God’s wrath be pacified/appeased?

1. God has provided a way through blood-sacrifice.

Leviticus 8:15; 17:11

2. By Christ’s death (blood-sacrifice), he appeased the wrath of God.

Hebrews 9:7, 12, 20, 22, 24.

3. God calls this “propitiation” and it makes God favourable towards sinners.

Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; 45:10 (atoning sacrifice/sacrifice of atonement = propitiation)

  • Propitiation is important “because it is the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. It means that there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. Furthermore, before the atonement ever could have an effect on our subjective consciousness, it first had an effect on God and his relation to the sinners he planned to redeem. Apart from this central truth, the death of Christ really cannot be adequately understood.”[9]

  • “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.”[10]

F. Who is Christ and what has He done for you?

The solution for the sinner is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Christ is eternally God

John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 2:9

2. Christ is Lord of all

Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 10:36

3. Christ became man

Philippians 2:6-7

4. Christ is utterly pure and sinless

Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22-23; 1 John 3:5

5. The sinless one became a sacrifice for YOUR sin

Corinthians 5:21; Titus 2:14

6. He shed His own blood as an atonement for sin

Ephesians 1:7-8; Revelation 1:5

7. He died on the cross to provide a way of salvation for sinners

1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:20

8. Christ rose triumphantly from the dead

Romans 1:4; 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

G. What does God demand of you?

“Repentant faith is the requirement. It is NOT merely a ‘decision’ to trust Christ for eternal life, but a wholesale forsaking of everything else we trust, and a turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.”[11]

1. Repent

What is repentance? “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”[12]

Ezekiel 18:30, 32; Acts 17:30; 26:2

2. Turn your heart from all that you know dishonours God

Thessalonians 1:9

      3. Follow Jesus

Luke 9:23, 62; John 12:26

4. Trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour

Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9

5. Repentance and faith continue throughout your life

Repentance and faith must start together at the beginning of the Christian life. See Acts 20:21. Repentance and faith must be lived by Christians throughout their lives.

Concerning faith, see Galatians 2:20; I Corinthians 13:13.

Concerning repentance, see Revelation 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10

H. You must count the cost of following Jesus with much thought.

  • Salvation is absolutely free.
  • So is joining the army; you don’t have to pay to get into it. Everything you need is provided.[13]
  • Following Christ is like joining the army. It will cost you daily. It will cost you freedom, family, friends, doing things your own way (autonomy), and possibly even your life.[14]
  • I must tell you, a prospective believer, the full truth and nothing but the truth.
  • Read what Jesus said about this in Luke 14:26-33; Matthew 10:34-38; Romans 6:6.

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“The cross is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history. . . The cross effects [i.e. brings about] its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.

With perfect knowledge of all this, Christ said, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.

This, and nothing less, is true Christianity. . .

We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do – flee it or die upon it.”[15]

  • Read Mark 8:35-37.

I. I urge you to trust (have faith in) Christ alone for your salvation.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:11, 20; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 10:9-10;
  • What will you do with Jesus?


J. After you trust Christ alone, what should you do? Where do good works fit in?

  • Good works: See Hebrews 5:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10;
  • Baptism: See Acts 2:28; 8:36-39; Mark 16:16; Romans 4:10-11;
  • Join with a local church. See Hebrews 10:25.

K. What was the first creed of the early church?

See Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5.

L. How will you know that you are a Christian?

1. You presently continue to trust Christ for salvation

Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14; 6:12; John 3:16 (“believes” means “continues believing in him.”[16])

2. There will be evidence in your heart of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit[17]

  • Through the subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit within your hearts. Romans 8:14-16; 1 John 4:13.
  • Your life will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
  • You continue to believe and accept the sound teaching of the church. 1 John 2:23-24
  • You will have a continuing relationship with Jesus Christ. John 15:4, 7
  • You will have a life of obedience to God’s commands. 1 John 2:4-6, 10, 19; 3:9-10, 14, 17, 24; 4:7; 5:18; James 2:17-18.
  • You will give to needy people. Matthew 25:31-46

3. You will have a long-term pattern of growth and obedience in your Christian life

2 peter 1:5-7, 10; John 6:40

M. How will other people know that you are a Christian?

By the fruit in your life

Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:16-20; 25:31-46; James 2:17-18

N. Do you want to repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation and live eternally for and with him?

O. What happens to those who reject God’s offer of salvation?

Because God is an absolutely just God, if you reject his offer of salvation you will receive the consequences God has decided. At death, God sends you to hell.

1. Hell forever

“Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.”[18] David Kingdon writes: “Sin against the Creator is heinous to a degree utterly beyond our sin-warped imaginations’ [ability] to conceive of. . . Who would have the temerity to suggest to God what the punishment . . . should be?”[19]

Matthew 25:30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 16:22-24, 28; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3

2. Is hell just?

Revelation 19:1-3

Notes:


[1] This summary of the content of the Gospel is based on John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1993, p. 247ff.

[1a] Spencer D Gear PhD is ordained with the Christian & Missionary Alliance Australia, is an independent researcher, Bible teacher and Christian apologist, based in Brisbane, Qld, Australia.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, p. 201

[3] Ibid., p. 490, 492.

[4] Ibid., p. 203.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 204.

[7] Ibid., pp. 205-206.

[8] Ibid., p. 206.

[9] Ibid., p. 575.

[10] Ibid., p. 568.

[11] MacArthur., p. 252.

[12] Grudem, p. 713.

[13] MacArthur, p. 253.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., pp. 254-55, from A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous. Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1955, pp. 61-63.

[16] Grudem, p. 803.

[17] Ibid., p. 803-806.

[18] Ibid., p. 1148.

[19] In ibid., p. 1151

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 December 2015.