Friday, March 31, 2017

When America Saved Europe From Islam

"Thomas Jefferson fought back, and ended Moslem piracy in Europe. It was the first time America saved Europe militarily, and no one seems to remember, least of all the Europeans. Although our people don’t remember, they do speak about it whenever they sing or hear the first words of the Marine Corps Anthem: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land and on the sea….” Why don’t we teach our children about the wars these words refer to?"

Patrick Michael Murphy, “How the West Was Lost,” p. 203

Sola Scriptura And Divisions

  • Defining the issues:
           -Although this article is dedicated primarily to the Roman Catholic apologists who maintain that there are 33,000 (or more) Protestant denominations (in order to disqualify the principle of Sola Scriptura), the contents that are about to be presented hold true for all who tout the same argument around.  
           -There is a great deal of controversy between  the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all of the Protestant churches due to the issue of "private interpretation." Private interpretation of Scripture is the concept of a person using his or her reasoning to make a judgment on a particular passage from the Bible. It is a more individualistic approach to determining what Scripture means.
           -Roman Catholic apologists insist that we absolutely must have their leaders "infallibly interpret" the Scriptures in order to preserve absolute truth in doctrinal matters and thus aid in the prevention of division within the entire congregational body.
           -The claim that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture is essentially the same as saying that the Bible is too difficult for the common people to understand. In other words, both arguments use the same logic in there premises in order to reach their conclusions. If the basic message of Scripture is simple enough for us to understand, then why would we even need an infallible interpreter in the first place?   
           -Consequently, the Church of Rome claims that Christians who rely on the Bible alone for the development of doctrine (instead of its Magisterium) will inevitably end up in a state of hopeless doctrinal confusion. In summary, one of the most common arguments raised against Sola Scriptura is that it unavoidably results in irreconcilable doctrinal contradictions and thus points to the need of an infallible teaching authority.
    • Scripture Is A Perspicuous Guide And Is Therefore In Need Of No Infallible Interpreter:
               -Scripture repeatedly implies and assures that its readers can understand its message (Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Kings 22:8-13; Psalm 19:7-9; 119:97-105; 130; Matthew 22:29-32; Luke 1:1-4; 10:25-28; Acts 17:11-12; Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:13; 3:15-16; Colossians 4:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Timothy 3:15).
               -With the exception of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, all of the New Testament epistles were written to Christians in general: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philemon 1:1-2; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; James 1:1-2; Revelation 1:3-4.
               -Calls to read and obey Scripture demonstrates that we can understand it (Joshua 1:7-8; 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3-4; Matthew 12:3; 5; 19:4; 21:16; 42; 22:31; Luke 10:26; John 10:34; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:13).
               -The common people understood the teachings of Jesus Christ apart from some infallible interpreter (Matthew 11:25; 13:51; Mark 12:37). In other words, there was never an infallible interpreter sitting next to Jesus when He was teaching in front of the crowds. Jesus Christ did not always explain His parables to those who were confused by His teachings, He made individuals interpret the Scriptures for themselves, and held them accountable when they interpreted them incorrectly. He neither demanded the people who heard His teachings to blindly submit to Him nor instructed His disciples to act in such a manner. Jesus usually attracted the poor and the uneducated. Anyone with a humble and prayerful heart can understand what God desires for us, apart from a complex church hierarchy.
    • Addressing Common Misrepresentations Of Sola Scriptura:
               -"What use is an infallible book without an infallible interpreter?":
                   *God does not require that we understand Him infallibly. Our minds are finite. However, we can have sufficient certainty behind the meaning of Scripture. Now, this is not to suggest that we can interpret the Scriptures in any random way that we desire. We have the obligation to examine Scripture in its proper context, compare our interpretations of particular Scripture passages to what other passages say about the same topic, use our common sense, and consult commentaries. 
               -"By What Authority Do You Interpret Scripture?":
                  *Interpreting Scripture has nothing to do with our own "personal authority," but rather, are things God is expecting us to do. He wants us to obey Him. This in no way implies that no additional church authorities besides the Bible exist. They exist, but are subject to the infallible authority of Scripture. We do not need "special authority" to search the Scriptures and discern God's will. Scripture is clear enough for readers to get truths related to salvation and godliness.
    • Religious Division:
               -While it is true that divisions within the Body of Christ over significant doctrinal issues are unfortunate and painful, there are scenarios in which such is necessary. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). We are called to publicly expose false brethren and separate ourselves from those who propagate heretical doctrines (Galatians 2:4; Romans 16:17). Unity in of itself does not guarantee truth or preservation of the truth of the gospel.
            -The New Testament reveals to us that churches had significant divisions over doctrinal and moral issues such as the ones located in the ancient cities of Corinth, Galatia, and Colosse. The first century churches had the same problems that exist in our local congregations today. Instead of simply appealing to the allegedly infallible papal authority of the Apostle Peter for a short, clear, inspired declaration to settle matters once for all, Paul reasoned directly from the Scriptures with these divided churches. Not only did he reason in such a manner, but he also wrote Scripture to furnish the discerning ability of the church for future generations. If we stay within the boundaries of God's wisdom as revealed through the testimony of Holy Scripture, then we will have no reason to be bitterly divided against each other (1 Corinthians 4:6).
          -According to Scripture, Christians are permitted to uphold their own views on minor-doctrinal issues (Romans 14). Essential doctrines are ones that are clearly and repeatedly defined in Scripture. Doctrines that are of secondary importance (meaning not issues that we should break fellowship over) would include women's head coverings, singing in church, musical instruments in church, eschatology, etc.
    • Rome's Unity Is Superficial At Best:
             -While it is true that there are divisions within Protestantism, Roman Catholics who raise this argument against Sola Scriptura fall into the category of being hypocritical because they have just as many, if not more, divisions within the realms of their own denomination, even though they scarcely choose to recognize or admit that fact.
           -While the Church of Rome may appear to be fairly unified because of it is structured and organized manner under the headship of a worldly king called the pope, the unity in which Catholics appeal to is largely imaginary. It is simply a trick to deceive those who only look at things from a very superficial perspective, for there are significant theological differences among the Catholic laity, priests, scholars, theologians, and bishops. There are all sorts of societies, movements, and orders forming within the chambers of Roman Catholicism. There are liberal and conservative Catholics.
             -Many individual Roman Catholics are unlearned in regards to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many flatly contradict many of the official teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion, artificial birth control, the death penalty, homosexuality, on whether priests should be married, letting females join the priesthood, stem-cell research, and much more. Roman Catholics are in a state of bitter division over additional issues such as creation verses evolution, the material sufficiency of Scripture, charismatic occurrences, whether practicing Jews and Muslims can be saved without conversion, and whether Mary is the co-redemptrix. Catholic theologians are even divided over the interpretation of Vatican II documents! Although all of these significant divisions are hidden under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, dramatic differences still exist and are significant.        
             -In reality, comparing the unity of the Roman Catholic Church to Protestantism as a whole is like comparing apples to oranges. Catholicism is a group that is lead by an individual leader and occupies the same title all throughout its domain ("Roman Catholic"), whereas Protestantism is made up of individual churches with different labels. Within Protestant Christianity, there is a general consensus as to what constitutes the essential doctrines of Christianity. Though it may shock some to hear this, there is a great sense of spiritual unity amongst all genuine Christians across all different denominations within the realm of orthodoxy. All genuine Christians accept the fundamental doctrines of the faith. We all have a sense of genuine love and fellowship toward each other. We are not lost and always contradicting each other, as Roman Catholic apologists foolishly claim. It is true that doctrinal differences exist within Protestantism, with some being heretical. Every church group has its own set of problems.
    • Refuting The 30,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
             -This argument is derived off a complete misinterpretation of the World Christian Encyclopedia (David A. Barrett; Oxford University Press, 1982).
             -Out of the cited figure of 20,780 denominations, only 8,196 are labeled as being Protestant. According to Barrett's figure, 242 Roman Catholic denominations exist.
             -The figure of 8,000 denominations is pretty misleading because David A. Barrett separates "distinct denominations" according to their jurisdiction, rather than differing doctrinal practices and beliefs. In reality, these individual "denominations" only have slightly different beliefs. 
             -Then, Barrett breaks the Protestant section down into 21 major traditions, and the Church of Rome is subdivided into 16 different traditions. The word "denomination" in this context is best defined to mean "tradition".
             -Interestingly, the National Catholic Register agrees with this assessment and provides similar results: "...There are not—repeat with me—there are not 33,000 Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions. There are not any­where close to it. It is a myth that has taken hold by force of rep­e­ti­tion, and it gets cited and recited by reflex; but it is based on a source that, even Catholics will have to con­cede, relies on too loose a def­i­n­i­tion of the word “denom­i­na­tion.”...How­ever strong the temp­ta­tion some may have to char­ac­ter­ize any­thing not Catholic or Ortho­dox as “Protes­tant,” you can’t do that. All that tells Protes­tant apol­o­gists is that you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, or what its dis­tinc­tives are—and they would be right. And why would they take any­thing you say seriously after that? If you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, who are you to be talk­ing about its errors? Not only are Mor­mons, Jehovah’s Wit­nesses, One­ness Pen­te­costals, Uni­tar­i­ans, Pros­per­ity Gospel believ­ers (included among 23,600 Inde­pen­dents and Mar­gin­als) not Protes­tant, they are not even Chris­t­ian; they adhere to a false Chris­tol­ogy. Protes­tants and Catholics are in agree­ment about who Christ is; these other groups have other ideas."
             -In conclusion, this argument against Sola Scriptura is unfair and a case of intentional intellectual dishonesty.  
    • An Argument That Backfires:
              -If the Roman Catholic apologist still wants to use this totally false argument against the biblical principle of Sola Scriptura, then we can point out the fact that the same Word Christian Encyclopedia ranks Roman Catholicism as being the fifth worst when persecuting martyrs (total of: 4,951,000):

    Tuesday, March 28, 2017

    Gnosticism And The Gnostic Jesus

                                                         By Douglas Groothuis

    From the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1990, page 8. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

    Popular opinion often comes from obscure sources. Many conceptions about Jesus now current and credible in New Age circles are rooted in a movement of spiritual protest which, until recently, was the concern only of the specialized scholar or the occultist. This ancient movement -- Gnosticism -- provides much of the form and color for the New Age portrait of Jesus as the illumined Illuminator: one who serves as a cosmic catalyst for others' awakening.

    Many essentially Gnostic notions received wide attention through the sagacious persona of the recently deceased Joseph Campbell in the television series and best-selling book, The Power of Myth. For example, in discussing the idea that "God was in Christ," Campbell affirmed that "the basic Gnostic and Buddhist idea is that that is true of you and me as well." Jesus is an enlightened example who "realized in himself that he and what he called the Father were one, and he lived out of that knowledge of the Christhood of his nature." According to Campbell, anyone can likewise live out his or her Christ nature.[1]

    Gnosticism has come to mean just about anything. Calling someone a Gnostic can make the person either blush, beam, or fume. Whether used as an epithet for heresy or spiritual snobbery, or as a compliment for spiritual knowledge and esotericism, Gnosticism remains a cornucopia of controversy.

    This is doubly so when Gnosticism is brought into a discussion of Jesus of Nazareth. Begin to speak of "Christian Gnostics" and some will exclaim, "No way! That is a contradiction in terms. Heresy is not orthodoxy." Others will affirm, "No contradiction. Orthodoxy is the heresy. The Gnostics were edged out of mainstream Christianity for political purposes by the end of the third century." Speak of the Gnostic Christ or the Gnostic gospels, and an ancient debate is moved to the theological front burner.

    Gnosticism as a philosophy refers to a related body of teachings that stress the acquisition of "gnosis," or inner knowledge. The knowledge sought is not strictly intellectual, but mystical; not merely a detached knowledge of or about something, but a knowing by acquaintance or participation. This gnosis is the inner and esoteric mystical knowledge of ultimate reality. It discloses the spark of divinity within, thought to be obscured by ignorance, convention, and mere exoteric religiosity.

    This knowledge is not considered to be the possession of the masses but of the Gnostics, the Knowers, who are privy to its benefits. While the orthodox "many" exult in the exoteric religious trappings which stress dogmatic belief and prescribed behavior, the Gnostic "few" pierce through the surface to the esoteric spiritual knowledge of God. The Gnostics claim the Orthodox mistake the shell for the core; the Orthodox claim the Gnostics dive past the true core into a nonexistent one of their own esoteric invention.

    To adjudicate this ancient acrimony requires that we examine Gnosticism's perennial allure, expose its philosophical foundations, size up its historical claims, and square off the Gnostic Jesus with the figure who sustains the New Testament.



    Glossary

    aeons: Emanations of Being from the unknowable, ultimate metaphysical principle or pleroma (see pleroma).

    Apostolic rule of faith: The essential teachings of the apostles that served as the authoritative standard for orthodox doctrine before the canonization of the New Testament.

    Demiurge: According to the Gnostics (as opposed to Plato and others who had a more positive assessment), an inferior deity who ignorantly and incompetently fashioned the debased physical world.

    esotericism: The teaching that spiritual liberation is found in a secret or hidden knowledge (sometimes called gnosis) not available in traditional orthodoxy or exotericism.

    exotericism: A pejorative term used by esotericists to describe the mere outer or popular understanding of spiritual truth which is supposedly inferior to the esoteric essence.

    gnosis: The Greek word for "knowledge" used by the Gnostics to mean knowledge gained not through intellectual discovery but through personal experience or acquaintance which initiates one into esoteric mysteries. The experience of gnosis reveals to the initiated the divine spark within. "Gnosis" has a very different meaning in the New Testament which excludes esotericism and self-deification.

    Pleroma: The Greek word for "fulness" used by the Gnostics to mean the highest principle of Being where dwells the unknown and unknowable God. Used in the New Testament to refer to "fulness in Christ" (Col. 2:10) who is the known revelation of God in the flesh.



    MODERN GNOSTICISM

    Gnosticism is experiencing something of a revival, despite its status within church history as a vanquished Christian heresy. The magazine Gnosis, which bills itself as a "journal of western inner traditions," began publication in 1985 with a circulation of 2,500. As of September 1990, it sported a circulation of 11,000. Gnosis regularly runs articles on Gnosticism and Gnostic themes such as "Valentinus: A Gnostic for All Seasons."

    Some have created institutional forms of this ancient religion. In Palo Alto, California, priestess Bishop Rosamonde Miller officiates the weekly gatherings of Ecclesia Gnostica Myteriorum (Church of Gnostic Mysteries), as she has done for the last eleven years. The chapel holds forty to sixty participants each Sunday and includes Gnostic readings in its liturgy. Miller says she knows of twelve organizationally unrelated Gnostic churches throughout the world.[2] Stephan Hoeller, a frequent contributor to Gnosis, who since 1967 has been a bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica in Los Angeles, notes that "Gnostic churches...have sprung up in recent years in increasing numbers."[3] He refers to an established tradition of "wandering bishops" who retain allegiance to the symbolic and ritual form of orthodox Christianity while reinterpreting its essential content.[4]

    Of course, these exotic-sounding enclaves of the esoteric are minuscule when compared to historic Christian denominations. But the real challenge of Gnosticism is not so much organizational as intellectual. Gnosticism in its various forms has often appealed to the alienated intellectuals who yearn for spiritual experience outside the bounds of the ordinary.

    The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, a constant source of inspiration for the New Age, did much to introduce Gnosticism to the modern world by viewing it as a kind of proto-depth psychology, a key to psychological interpretation. According to Stephan Hoeller, author of The Gnostic Jung, "it was Jung's contention that Christianity and Western culture have suffered grievously because of the repression of the Gnostic approach to religion, and it was his hope that in time this approach would be reincorporated in our culture, our Western spirituality."[5]

    In his Psychological Types, Jung praised "the intellectual content of Gnosis" as "vastly superior" to the orthodox church. He also affirmed that, "in light of our present mental development [Gnosticism] has not lost but considerably gained in value."[6]

    A variety of esoteric groups have roots in Gnostic soil. Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, who founded Theosophy in 1875, viewed the Gnostics as precursors of modern occult movements and hailed them for preserving an inner teaching lost to orthodoxy. Theosophy and its various spin-offs -- such as Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy, Alice Bailey's Arcane School, Guy and Edna Ballard's I Am movement, and Elizabeth Clare Prophet's Church Universal and Triumphant -- all draw water from this same well; so do various other esoteric groups, such as the Rosicrucians. These groups share an emphasis on esoteric teaching, the hidden divinity of humanity, and contact with nonmaterial higher beings called masters or adepts.

    A four-part documentary called "The Gnostics" was released in mid-1989 and shown in one-day screenings across the country along with a lecture by the producer. This ambitious series charted the history of Gnosticism through dramatizations and interviews with world-renowned scholars on Gnosticism such as Gilles Quispel, Hans Jonas, and Elaine Pagels.

    A review of the series in a New Age-oriented journal noted: "The series takes us to the Nag Hammadi find where we learn the beginnings of the discovery of texts called the Gnostic Gospels that were written around the same time as the gospels of the New Testament but which were purposely left out."[7] The review refers to one of the most sensational and significant archaeological finds of the twentieth century; a discovery seen by some as overthrowing the orthodox view of Jesus and Christianity forever.

    GOLD IN THE JAR

    In December 1945, while digging for soil to fertilize crops, an Arab peasant named Muhammad 'Ali found a red earthenware jar near Nag Hammadi, a city in upper Egypt. His fear of uncorking an evil spirit or jin was shortly overcome by the hope of finding gold within. What was found has been for hundreds of scholars far more precious than gold. Inside the jar were thirteen leather-bound papyrus books (codices), dating from approximately A.D. 350. Although several of the texts were burned or thrown out, fifty-two texts were eventually recovered through many years of intrigue involving illegal sales, violence, smuggling, and academic rivalry.

    Some of the texts were first published singly or in small collections, but the complete collection was not made available in a popular format in English until 1977. It was released as The Nag Hammadi Library and was reissued in revised form in 1988.

    Although many of these documents had been referred to and denounced in the writings of early church theologians such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, most of the texts themselves had been thought to be extinct. Now many of them have come to light. As Elaine Pagels put it in her best-selling book, The Gnostic Gospels, "Now for the first time, we have the opportunity to find out about the earliest Christian heresy; for the first time, the heretics can speak for themselves."[8]

    Pagels's book, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, arguably did more than any other effort to ingratiate the Gnostics to modern Americans. She made them accessible and even likeable. Her scholarly expertise coupled with her ability to relate an ancient religion to contemporary concerns made for a compelling combination in the minds of many. Her central thesis was simple: Gnosticism should be considered at least as legitimate as orthodox Christianity because the "heresy" was simply a competing strain of early Christianity. Yet, we find that the Nag Hammadi texts present a Jesus at extreme odds with the one found in the Gospels. Before contrasting the Gnostic and biblical renditions of Jesus, however, we need a short briefing on gnosis.

    THE GNOSTIC MESSAGE

    Gnosticism in general and the Nag Hammadi texts in particular present a spectrum of beliefs, although a central philosophical core is roughly discernible, which Gnosticism scholar Kurt Rudolph calls "the central myth."[9] Gnosticism teaches that something is desperately wrong with the universe and then delineates the means to explain and rectify the situation.

    The universe, as presently constituted, is not good, nor was it created by an all-good God. Rather, a lesser god, or demiurge (as he is sometimes called), fashioned the world in ignorance. The Gospel of Philip says that "the world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire."[10] The origin of the demiurge or offending creator is variously explained, but the upshot is that some precosmic disruption in the chain of beings emanating from the unknowable Father-God resulted in the "fall out" of a substandard deity with less than impeccable credentials. The result was a material cosmos soaked with ignorance, pain, decay, and death -- a botched job, to be sure. This deity, nevertheless, despotically demands worship and even pretentiously proclaims his supremacy as the one true God.

    This creator-god is not the ultimate reality, but rather a degeneration of the unknown and unknowable fullness of Being (or pleroma). Yet, human beings -- or at least some of them -- are in the position potentially to transcend their imposed limitations, even if the cosmic deck is stacked against them. Locked within the material shell of the human race is the spark of this highest spiritual reality which (as one Gnostic theory held) the inept creator accidently infused into humanity at the creation -- on the order of a drunken jeweler who accidently mixes gold dust into junk metal. Simply put, spirit is good and desirable; matter is evil and detestable.

    If this spark is fanned into a flame, it can liberate humans from the maddening matrix of matter and the demands of its obtuse originator. What has devolved from perfection can ultimately evolve back intoperfection through a process of self-discovery.

    Into this basic structure enters the idea of Jesus as a Redeemer of those ensconced in materiality. He comes as one descended from the spiritual realm with a message of self-redemption. The body of Gnostic literature, which is wider than the Nag Hammadi texts, presents various views of this Redeemer figure. There are, in fact, differing schools of Gnosticism with differing Christologies. Nevertheless, a basic image emerges.

    The Christ comes from the higher levels of intermediary beings (called aeons) not as a sacrifice for sin but as a Revealer, an emissary from error-free environs. He is not the personal agent of the creator-god revealed in the Old Testament. (That metaphysically disheveled deity is what got the universe into such a royal mess in the first place.) Rather, Jesus has descended from a more exalted level to be a catalyst for igniting the gnosis latent within the ignorant. He gives a metaphysical assist to underachieving deities (i.e., humans) rather than granting ethical restoration to God's erring creatures through the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

    NAG HAMMADI UNVEILED

    By inspecting a few of the Nag Hammadi texts, we encounter Gnosticism in Christian guise: Jesus dispenses gnosis to awaken those trapped in ignorance; the body is a prison, and the spirit alone is good; and salvation comes by discovering the "kingdom of God" within the self.
    One of the first Nag Hammadi texts to be extricated out of Egypt and translated into Western tongues was the Gospel of Thomas, comprised of one hundred and fourteen alleged sayings of Jesus. Although scholars do not believe it was actually written by the apostle Thomas, it has received the lion's share of scholarly attention. The sayings of Jesus are given minimal narrative setting, are not thematically arranged, and have a cryptic, epigrammatic bite to them. Although Thomas does not articulate every aspect of a full-blown Gnostic system, some of the teachings attributed to Jesus fit the Gnostic pattern. (Other sayings closely parallel or duplicate material found in the synoptic Gospels.)

    The text begins: "These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down. And he said, 'Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.'"[11] Already we find the emphasis on secret knowledge (gnosis) as redemptive.

    JESUS AND GNOSIS

    Unlike the canonical gospels, Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection are not narrated and neither do any of the hundred and fourteen sayings in the Gospel of Thomas directly refer to these events. Thomas's Jesus is a dispenser of wisdom, not the crucified and resurrected Lord.
    Jesus speaks of the kingdom: "The kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."[12]

    Other Gnostic documents center on the same theme. In the Book of Thomas the Contender, Jesus speaks "secret words" concerning self-knowledge: "For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge of the depth of the all."[13]

    Pagels observes that many of the Gnostics "shared certain affinities with contemporary methods of exploring the self through psychotherapeutic techniques."[14] This includes the premises that, first, many people are unconscious of their true condition and, second, "that the psyche bears within itself the potential for liberation or destruction."[15]

    Gilles Quispel notes that for Valentinus, a Gnostic teacher of the second century, Christ is "the Paraclete from the Unknown who reveals...the discovery of the Self -- the divine spark within you."[16]

    The heart of the human problem for the Gnostic is ignorance, sometimes called "sleep," "intoxication," or "blindness." But Jesus redeems man from such ignorance. Stephan Hoeller says that in the Valentinian system "there is no need whatsoever for guilt, for repentance from so-called sin, neither is there a need for a blind belief in vicarious salvation by way of the death of Jesus."[17] Rather, Jesus is savior in the sense of being a "spiritual maker of wholeness" who cures us of our sickness of ignorance.[18]

    Gnosticism on Crucifixion and Resurrection

    Those Gnostic texts that discuss Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection display a variety of views that, nevertheless, reveal some common themes.

    James is consoled by Jesus in the First Apocalypse of James: "Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed. And this people has done me no harm."[19]

    In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus says, "I did not die in reality, but in appearance." Those "in error and blindness....saw me; they punished me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing in the height over all....And I was laughing at their ignorance."[20]

    John Dart has discerned that the Gnostic stories of Jesus mocking his executors reverse the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where the soldiers and chief priests (Mark 15:20) mock Jesus.[21] In the biblical Gospels, Jesus does not deride or mock His tormentors; on the contrary, while suffering from the cross, He asks the Father to forgive those who nailed Him there.

    In the teaching of Valentinus and followers, the death of Jesus is movingly recounted, yet without the New Testament significance. Although the Gospel of Truth says that "his death is life for many," it views this life-giving in terms of imparting the gnosis, not removing sin.[22] Pagels says that rather than viewing Christ's death as a sacrificial offering to atone for guilt and sin, the Gospel of Truth "sees the crucifixion as the occasion for discovering the divine self within."[23]

    A resurrection is enthusiastically affirmed in the Treatise on the Resurrection: "Do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth! Indeed, it is more fitting to say that the world is an illusion rather than the resurrection."[24] Yet, the nature of the post-resurrection appearances differs from the biblical accounts. Jesus is disclosed through spiritual visions rather than physical circumstances.

    The resurrected Jesus for the Gnostics is the spiritual Revealer who imparts secret wisdom to the selected few. The tone and content of Luke's account of Jesus' resurrection appearances is a great distance from Gnostic accounts: "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

    By now it should be apparent that the biblical Jesus has little in common with the Gnostic Jesus. He is viewed as a Redeemer in both cases, yet his nature as a Redeemer and the way of redemption diverge at crucial points. We shall now examine some of these points.

    DID CHRIST REALLY SUFFER AND DIE?

    As in much modern New Age teaching, the Gnostics tended to divide Jesus from the Christ. For Valentinus, Christ descended on Jesus at his baptism and left before his death on the cross. Much of the burden of the treatise Against Heresies, written by the early Christian theologian Irenaeus, was to affirm that Jesus was, is, and always will be, the Christ. He says: "The Gospel...knew no other son of man but Him who was of Mary, who also suffered; and no Christ who flew away from Jesus before the passion; but Him who was born it knew as Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that this same suffered and rose again."[25]

    Irenaeus goes on to quote John's affirmation that "Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31) against the notion that Jesus and Christ were "formed of two different substances," as the Gnostics taught.[26]
    In dealing with the idea that Christ did not suffer on the cross for sin, Irenaeus argues that Christ never would have exhorted His disciples to take up the cross if He in fact was not to suffer on it Himself, but fly away from it.[27]

    For Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of the apostle John), the suffering of Jesus the Christ was paramount. It was indispensable to the apostolic "rule of faith" that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross to bring salvation to His people. In Irenaeus's mind, there was no divine spark in the human heart to rekindle; self-knowledge was not equal to God-knowledge. Rather, humans were stuck in sin and required a radical rescue operation. Because "it was not possible that the man...who had been destroyed through disobedience, could reform himself," the Son brought salvation by "descending from the Father, becoming incarnate, stooping low, even to death, and consummating the arranged plan of our salvation."[28]

    This harmonizes with the words of Polycarp: "Let us then continually persevere in our hope and the earnest of our righteousness, which Jesus Christ, "who bore our sins in His own body on the tree" [1 Pet. 2:24], "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" [1 Pet. 2:22], but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him."[29]

    Polycarp's mentor, the apostle John, said: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16); and "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (4:10).

    The Gnostic Jesus is predominantly a dispenser of cosmic wisdom who discourses on abstruse themes like the spirit's fall into matter. Jesus Christ certainly taught theology, but he dealt with the problem of pain and suffering in a far different way. He suffered for us, rather than escaping the cross or lecturing on the vanity of the body.

    THE MATTER OF THE RESURRECTION

    For Gnosticism, the inherent problem of humanity derives from the misuse of power by the ignorant creator and the resulting entrapment of souls in matter. The Gnostic Jesus alerts us to this and helps rekindle the divine spark within. In the biblical teaching, the problem is ethical; humans have sinned against a good Creator and are guilty before the throne of the universe.

    For Gnosticism, the world is bad, but the soul -- when freed from its entrapments -- is good. For Christianity, the world was created good (Gen. 1), but humans have fallen from innocence and purity through disobedience (Gen. 3; Rom. 3). Yet, the message of the gospel is that the One who can rightly prosecute His creatures as guilty and worthy of punishment has deigned to visit them in the person of His only Son -- not just to write up a firsthand damage report, but to rectify the situation through the Cross and the Resurrection.

    In light of these differences, the significance of Jesus' literal and physical resurrection should be clear. For the Gnostic who abhors matter and seeks release from its grim grip, the physical resurrection of Jesus would be anticlimactic, if not absurd. A material resurrection would be counterproductive and only recapitulate the original problem.

    Jesus displays a positive attitude toward the Creation throughout the Gospels. In telling His followers not to worry He says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them" (Matt. 2:26). And, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (Matt. 10:29). These and many other examples presuppose the goodness of the material world and declare care by a benevolent Creator. Gnostic dualism is precluded.

    If Jesus recommends fasting and physical self-denial on occasion, it is not because matter is unworthy of attention or an incorrigible roadblock to spiritual growth, but because moral and spiritual resolve may be strengthened through periodic abstinence (Matt. 6:16-18; 9:14-15). Jesus fasts in the desert and feasts with His disciples. The created world is good, but the human heart is corrupt and inclines to selfishly misuse a good creation. Therefore, it is sometimes wise to deny what is good without in order to inspect and mortify what is bad within.

    If Jesus is the Christ who comes to restore God's creation, He must come as one of its own, a bona fide man. Although Gnostic teachings show some diversity on this subject, they tend toward docetism -- the doctrine that the descent of the Christ was spiritual and not material, despite any appearance of materiality. It was even claimed that Jesus left no footprints behind him when he walked on the sand.

    From a biblical view, materiality is not the problem, but disharmony with the Maker. Adam and Eve were both material and in harmony with their good Maker before they succumbed to the Serpent's temptation. Yet, in biblical reasoning, if Jesus is to conquer sin and death for humanity, He must rise from the dead in a physical body, albeit a transformed one. A mere spiritual apparition would mean an abdication of material responsibility. As Norman Geisler has noted, "Humans sin and die in material bodies and they must be redeemed in the same physical bodies. Any other kind of deliverance would be an admission of defeat....If redemption does not restore God's physical creation, including our material bodies, then God's original purpose in creating a material world would be frustrated."[30]

    For this reason, at Pentecost the apostle Peter preached Jesus of Nazareth as "a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22) who, though put to death by being nailed to the cross, "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (v. 24). Peter then quotes Psalm 16:10 which speaks of God not letting His "Holy One see decay" (v. 27). Peter says of David, the psalm's author, "Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave nor did his body see decay. God raised Jesus to life" (vv. 31, 32).

    The apostle Paul confesses that if the resurrection of Jesus is not a historical fact, Christianity is a vanity of vanities (1 Cor. 15:14-19). And, while he speaks of Jesus' (and the believers') resurrected condition as a "spiritual body," this does not mean nonphysical or ethereal; rather, it refers to a body totally free from the results of sin and the Fall. It is a spirit-driven body, untouched by any of the entropies of evil. Because Jesus was resurrected bodily, those who know Him as Lord can anticipate their own resurrected bodies.

    JESUS, JUDAISM, AND GNOSIS

    The Gnostic Jesus is also divided from the Jesus of the Gospels over his relationship to Judaism. For Gnostics, the God of the Old Testament is somewhat of a cosmic clown, neither ultimate nor good. In fact, many Gnostic documents invert the meaning of Old Testament stories in order to ridicule him. For instance, the serpent and Eve are heroic figures who oppose the dull deity in the Hypostasis of the Archons (the Reality of the Rulers) and in On the Origin of the World.[31]

    In the Apocryphon of John, Jesus says he encouraged Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,[32] thus putting Jesus diametrically at odds with the meaning of the Genesis account where this action is seen as the essence of sin (Gen. 3). The same anti-Jewish element is found in the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas where the disciples say to Jesus, "Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and all of them spoke in you." To which Jesus replies, "You have omitted the one living in your presence and have spoken (only) of the dead."[33] Jesus thus dismisses all the prophets as merely "dead." For the Gnostics, the Creator must be separated from the Redeemer.

    The Jesus found in the New Testament quotes the prophets, claims to fulfill their prophecies, and consistently argues according to the Old Testament revelation, despite the fact that He exudes an authority equal to it. Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt. 5:17). He corrects the Sadducees' misunderstanding of the afterlife by saying, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures..." (Mark 12:24). To other critics He again appeals to the Old Testament: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me" (John 5:39).

    When Jesus appeared after His death and burial to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He commented on their slowness of heart "to believe all that the prophets have spoken." He asked, "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into glory?" Luke then records, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27).

    For both Jesus and the Old Testament, the supreme Creator is the Father of all living. They are one and the same.

    GOD: UNKNOWABLE OR KNOWABLE?

    Many Gnostic treatises speak of the ultimate reality or godhead as beyond conceptual apprehension. Any hope of contacting this reality -- a spark of which is lodged within the Gnostic -- must be filtered through numerous intermediary beings of a lesser stature than the godhead itself.

    In the Gospel of the Egyptians, the ultimate reality is said to be the "unrevealable, unmarked, ageless, unproclaimable Father." Three powers are said to emanate from Him: "They are the Father, the Mother, (and) the Son, from the living silence."[34] The text speaks of giving praise to "the great invisible Spirit" who is "the silence of silent silence."[35] In the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Jesus is asked by Matthew, "Lord...teach us the truth," to which Jesus says, "He Who Is is ineffable." Although Jesus seems to indicate that he reveals the ineffable, he says concerning the ultimate, "He is unnameable....he is ever incomprehensible."[36]

    At this point the divide between the New Testament and the Gnostic documents couldn't be deeper or wider. Although the biblical Jesus had the pedagogical tact not to proclaim indiscriminately, "I am God! I am God!" the entire contour of His ministry points to Him as God in the flesh. He says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The prologue to John's gospel says that "in the beginning was the Word (Logos)" and that "the Word was with God and was God" (John 1:1). John did not say, "In the beginning was the silence of the silent silence" or "the ineffable."

    Incarnation means tangible and intelligible revelation from God to humanity. The Creator's truth and life are communicated spiritually through the medium of matter. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The Word that became flesh "has made Him [the Father] known" (v. 19). John's first epistle tells us: "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard..." (1 John 1:2-3).

    Irenaeus encountered these Gnostic invocations of the ineffable. He quotes a Valentinian Gnostic teacher who explained the "primary Tetrad" (fourfold emanation from ultimate reality): "There is a certain Proarch who existed before all things, surpassing all thought, speech, and nomenclature" whom he called "Monotes" (unity). Along with this power there is another power called Hentotes (oneness) who, along with Monotes produced "an intelligent, unbegotten, and undivided being, which beginning language terms 'Monad.'" Another entity called Hen (One) rounds out the primal union.[37] Irenaeus satirically responds with his own suggested Tetrad which also proceeds from "a certain Proarch":
      But along with it there exists a power which I term Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced...a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon.[38]
    Irenaeus's point is well taken. If spiritual realities surpass our ability to name or even think about them, then any name under the sun (or within the Tetrad) is just as appropriate -- or inappropriate -- as any other, and we are free to affirm with Irenaeus that "these powers of the Gourd, Utter Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus."[39]

    Whenever a Gnostic writer -- ancient or modern -- simultaneously asserts that a spiritual entity or principle is utterly unknown and unnameable and begins to give it names and ascribe to it characteristics, we should hark back to Irenaeus. If something is ineffable, it is necessarily unthinkable, unreportable, and unapproachable.

    ANCIENT GNOSTICISM AND MODERN THOUGHT

    Modern day Gnostics, Neo-Gnostics, or Gnostic sympathizers should be aware of some Gnostic elements which decidedly clash with modern tastes. First, although Pagels, like Jung, has shown the Gnostics in a positive psychological light, the Gnostic outlook is just as much theological and cosmological as it is psychological. The Gnostic message is all of a piece, and the psychology should not be artificially divorced from the overall world view. In other words, Gnosticism should not be reduced to psychology -- as if we know better what a Basilides or a Valentinus really meant than they did.

    The Gnostic documents do not present their system as a crypto-psychology (with various cosmic forces representing psychic functions), but as a religious and theological explanation of the origin and operation of the universe. Those who want to adopt consistently Gnostic attitudes and assumptions should keep in mind what the Gnostic texts -- to which they appeal for authority and credibility -- actually say.

    Second, the Gnostic rejection of matter as illusory, evil, or, at most, second-best, is at odds with many New Age sentiments regarding the value of nature and the need for an ecological awareness and ethic. Trying to find an ecological concern in the Gnostic corpus is on the order of harvesting wheat in Antarctica. For the Gnostics, as Gnostic scholar Pheme Perkins puts it, "most of the cosmos that we know is a carefully constructed plot to keep humanity from returning to its true divine home."[40]

    Third, Pagels and others to the contrary, the Gnostic attitude toward women was not proto-feminist. Gnostic groups did sometimes allow for women's participation in religious activities and several of the emanational beings were seen as feminine. Nevertheless, even though Ms. Magazine gave The Gnostic Gospels a glowing review[41], women fare far worse in Gnosticism than many think. The concluding saying from the Gospel of Thomas, for example, has less than a feminist ring:
      Simon Peter said to them, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."[42]
    The issue of the role of women in Gnostic theology and community cannot be adequately addressed here, but it should be noted that the Jesus of the Gospels never spoke of making the female into the male -- no doubt because Jesus did not perceive the female to be inferior to the male. Going against social customs, He gathered women followers, and revealed to an outcast Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah -- which scandalized His own disciples (John 4:1-39). The Gospels also record women as the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection (Matt. 28:1-10) -- and this in a society where women were not considered qualified to be legal witnesses.

    Fourth, despite an emphasis on reincarnation, several Gnostic documents speak of the damnation of those who are incorrigibly non-Gnostic[43], particularly apostates from Gnostic groups.[44] If one chafes at the Jesus of the Gospels warning of "eternal destruction," chafings are likewise readily available from Gnostic doomsayers.

    Concerning the Gnostic-Orthodox controversy, biblical scholar F. F. Bruce is so bold as to say that "there is no reason why the student of the conflict should shrink from making a value judgment: the Gnostic schools lost because they deserved to lose."[45] The Gnostics lost once, but do they deserve to lose again? We will seek to answer this in Part Two as we consider the historic reliability of the Gnostic (Nag Hammadi) texts versus that of the New Testament.

    NOTES

    1 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, ed. Betty Sue Flowers (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 210.
    2 Don Lattin, "Rediscovery of Gnostic Christianity," San Francisco Chronicle, 1 April 1989, A-4-5.
    3 Stephan A. Hoeller, "Wandering Bishops," Gnosis, Summer 1989, 24.
    Ibid.
    5 "The Gnostic Jung: An Interview with Stephan Hoeller," The Quest, Summer 1989, 85.
    6 C. G. Jung, Psychological Types (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 11.
    7 "Gnosticism," Critique, June-Sept. 1989, 66.
    8 Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), xxxv.
    9 Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 57f.
    10 James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 154.
    11 Robinson, 126.
    12 F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 112-13.
    13 Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1987), 403.
    14 Pagels, 124.
    15 Ibid., 126.
    16 Christopher Farmer, "An Interview with Gilles Quispel," Gnosis, Summer 1989, 28.
    17 Stephan A. Hoeller, "Valentinus: A Gnostic for All Seasons," Gnosis, Fall/Winter 1985, 24.
    18 Ibid., 25.
    19 Robinson, 265.
    20 Ibid., 365.
    21 John Dart, The Jesus of History and Heresy (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 97.
    22 Robinson, 41.
    23 Pagels, 95.
    24 Robinson, 56.
    25 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.16.5.
    26 Ibid.
    27 Ibid., 3.18.5.
    28 Ibid., 3.18.2.
    29 "The Epistle of Polycarp," ch. 8, in The Apostolic Fathers, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 35.
    30 Norman L. Geisler, "I Believe...In the Resurrection of the Flesh," Christian Research Journal, Summer 1989, 21-22.
    31 See Dart, 60-74.
    32 Robinson, 117.
    33 Ibid., 132.
    34 Ibid., 209.
    35 Ibid., 210.
    36 Ibid., 224-25.
    37 Irenaeus, 1.11.3.
    38 Ibid., 1.11.4.
    39 Ibid.
    40 Pheme Perkins, "Popularizing the Past," Commonweal, November 1979, 634.
    41 Kenneth Pitchford, "The Good News About God," Ms. Magazine, April 1980, 32-35.
    42 Robinson, 138.
    43 See The Book of Thomas the Contender, in Robinson, 205.
    44 See Layton, 17.
    45 F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 277.


    End of document, CRJ0040A.TXT (original CRI file name),
    "Gnosticism And The Gnostic Jesus"
    release A, March 21, 1994
    R. Poll, CRI
    A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.
    Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    Commentary On 1 John 5:7

    “Some suggest that “water” refers to the baptism of Jesus and “blood” to the crucifixion. This is unlikely, since John in his gospel does not directly recount the baptism of Jesus. Others suggest that “water and blood” refers to the two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is also unlikely, since John does not recount the institution of the sacraments in his gospel. The difficult saying of this verse probably reflects John 19:34. In John’s gospel, the testimony God bears to Jesus His Son is a key theme. The blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side after His death attested to the reality of His death; the wound later confirmed the reality of His bodily resurrection (John 20:20, 25–27). Both the death and the resurrection were denied by the Docetists, who denied the humanity of Christ (4:2). “The Spirit “testifies” to the truth of Jesus’ incarnation as the divine Christ.”

    Excerpt taken from the Reformation Study Bible

    Refuting The Atheistic "God Of The Gaps" Argument

    • Discussion:
              -Atheists portray belief in the existence of God as merely being an explanation for things that science has not yet answered. In other words, a common objection to theism is that it has only been assumed without proof the necessity of God's existence in all areas that science alone has not been able to explain.
              -Christians are not pointing to the existence of a deity to seal up any sort of missing or incomplete scientific information. In other words, we are not simply saying, "Oh, God did it." We are not making arguments based on ignorance.
              -When arguments for the existence of God are made, we are making inferences from the best observations gathered by science and from the principles of elementary logic to substantiate our beliefs. In the end, all of our collected evidences point to the existence of a external, much greater reality. These logical proofs for the existence of God point beyond the scope of the natural world. 
              -The validity of each logical premise in these arguments is based on the validity of each scientific or logical fact. For instance, the universe does indeed have a fine tuning and a first cause. These theistic arguments do not simply appeal to God as a means to provide an explanation, but are logical deductions that are unpacked to get an intended point across.
              -If the premises of such arguments are true, then their conclusions automatically follow. This is true, regardless of how people feel or react to the validity of the presented deductive arguments.
              -A true scientist must always be willing to admit to the possibility of many things, for they are supposed to be dedicated to seeking answers. Scientists are supposed to be about evidence. Those who reject the existence of God are indeed very biased. Science is about the study of the natural world, not searching for naturalistic explanations that rule out the supernatural.
              -The fact that science has discovered answers to a number of complicated questions does not mean that it can or will uncover all or even most of the difficult questions of life.

      Answering A Common Objection To The First Cause Argument

      • Discussion:
                -A very common objection raised by atheists in response to the first cause argument for the existence of God is, "If God is the creator of the universe, then who created or designed God? Where did He come from?"
                -God has no beginning or end. He is eternal. That is His very nature. He is the first cause of all things. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that something cannot create itself from nothing. It is impossible for nothing to create something.
                -What about the idea of an eternal universe? Can matter, time, and space be infinite? It is impossible to have an infinite number of finite things. The universe cannot be in itself eternal because it consists of finite particles. Hence, there must be an infinite outside Source which brought it into existence.

      Sunday, March 26, 2017

      Telling One Lie Leads To More Lies

      "A lie keeps growing and growing until it is as plain as the nose on your face. A boy who won't be good might just as well be made out of wood."

      The Good Fairy, Walt Disney's Pinocchio

      Musings On Lust And Adultery

      • General Points Of Consideration:
                 -Engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners reduces our nature to being on the same level as that of wild animals. If we were truly programmed to function on the basis of mere instinct, like animals do, then we would have no recognition for morals. Neither would it be possible for us to have personal values. But we do have such traits due to our advanced intellect, reasoning capacities, and free will.
                 -Marriage is supposed to be the life-long, romantic commitment and companionship to a partner of the opposite sex. Thus, adultery is wrong for obvious reasons: it is lying and unfair. The lives of people and long-term relationships have come to a tragic end because of adulterous acts. Matters like these cannot simply be downplayed.
                 -If fornication and adultery are morally permissible, then why even bother with getting married in the first place?
                 -Jesus Christ specifically taught that having a mental sexual desire for another person is equivalent to actually committing adultery and fornication (Matthew 5:28-29). Lust itself is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). A soul can be punished for eternity in hell because of this sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
                 -We are not to focus on finding ways to indulge our own sinful lusts (Romans 13:14). Sexual temptations are waging war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). We will either choose to rebel against (and conquer by God's grace) sin or continually engage in sin (and let it conquer us in accordance with our fallen nature).
                 -The Apostle Paul instructed women to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9). Moreover, Jesus Christ warned against being a stumbling block to others (Matthew 18:6).
        • Measures That Should Be Taken In Conquering Lust (Speaking In A General Sense):
                  -Eliminate the source: the best way to get rid of any temptation is to get eliminate the source; you first need to identify with certainty the source(s) of your sexual temptation(s); then, find ways to permanently remove/avoid temptations (to the best of your ability).           
                  -Prayer: acknowledge God's Lordship; ask for His forgiveness of sin; pray for those who are ensnared by sexual sin.
                  -Study: read the Bible and meditate upon the moral principles taught within; spend some quality time reflecting on Scripture or memorizing specific verses (Psalm 119:10-11).
                  -Find wholesome Christian people: though a difficult task, you should try to find a group of true Christians who can help you steer out of the direction of sexual temptation; you need to carefully examine professing Christians (rather than blindly accepting their mere profession by mouth) because Satan can also use other people as a means to drag you back down; might have to cut off contact with people who live immoral lifestyles (unless they are your co-workers, etc.--then you can do nothing about that situation).
                  -Find some good Christian music to distract you from sinful thinking; take brakes from the television and video games (or cut them out of your life for good); spend much valuable time doing godly things.
                  -We are fully capable by God's grace of being victorious over our spiritual weaknesses such as lust, just as Joseph in the Old Testament refused to sleep with his master's wife (Genesis 39:6-21). He was not even married during that time.

        Saturday, March 25, 2017

        Christian Dating And Courtship

                "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man." (Romans 7:2-3)

                "and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:8-12)

                People committed to matrimony are under ordinary circumstances united until the moment of physical death. If a spouse dies, however, then the living member is free to marry again (1 Corinthians 7:39). God absolutely despises divorce (Malachi 2:16). Therefore, it is best for arguing couples to seek reconciliation. Marriage was instituted by God. He has authority over it.

                The best thing to do is marry another Christian, somebody who shares a similar worldview. To marry somebody from a different religious or a secular background is not recommended because he or she could pose a great threat to one's own spiritual life--though it is not an absolute command (1 Corinthians 7:12-14; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Marrying an unbeliever is unwise, to say the least.

                We need to stop judging people by worldly factors such as physical appearance, charm, intellect, and wealth. Neither should one choose a spouse on the basis of a mere profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21). What a person should be looking at in a potential spouse is their overall doctrine, state of heart, and personality. Thus, it is better to suffer from the pains of loneliness than to make the poor decision of marrying the wrong person!

                 Some people may have to wait a long time before finally getting married, like Isaac who was forty before he got married (Genesis 25:20). In fact, not everybody has been called to live a married life. Even Christ spoke of the celibate (Matthew 19:11-12).

                 "...although divorce is always the result of sin, divorce in itself is not always a sin, and not everyone in a divorce situation is guilty of sin. Matthew 19:9 gives us one case in which divorce is allowable: sexual immorality. This term translates the Greek word porneia, which can cover a wide variety of sexual sins and not just a physical relationship between a person and another who is not his or her spouse. Repeated, impenitent sexual sin is proper grounds upon which the injured spouse may seek a biblical divorce. Paul gives the other grounds for a biblically permissible divorce—desertion on the part of an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:10–16). A Christian married to an unbeliever is free to remarry if the unbeliever wants out of the marriage. In both cases, it is imperative that good and godly elders are prepared to deal with the multitude of complexities that can arise when one spouse seeks a divorce. They must be able to discern when actual sexual sin has been committed, when a professing believer has actually proven himself an unbeliever through impenitent spousal abuse, and much more if they are going to accurately discern whether a divorce is biblically acceptable in a particular situation." (https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/when-god-allows-divorce/)

        Marriage From The Christian Perspective

        • The Biblical Purposes Of Marriage:
                  -For human reproduction (Genesis 1:28)
                  -Love and companionship (Genesis 2:18)
        • Biblical Description of Marriage:
                  -"And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE", and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?" (Matthew 19:4-5)
        • Biblical Responsibilities Of The Husband:
                  -According to the Bible, the husband is supposed to show loving leadership over his family (1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). In other words, he is to exercise authority over his household, be responsible, and thus provide for the needs of the household. The man is meant to be the head of the household.
        • The Functions Of The Wife:
                 -The wife is supposed to be the manager of the home, but under the care of the husband (lower not in essence but positionally). In other words, she is supposed to care for the children, prepare the meals, and keep the house organized (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:15; 5:14). The wife is free to take on other responsibilities, as long as they do not interfere with her assigned duties (and distracts the husband from fulfilling his responsibilities). 
        • Submission To The Husband Does Not Equal Inferiority Or Lack Of Dignity:
                -Women are not in any way intellectually subordinate in nature or worthy of less respect than men. In other words, both genders posses equal intrinsic value because they were both created in the image and likeness of God. Women are not merely slaves or indentured servants. Women have their own thoughts. They have the same inherent rights as men.  
               -Wives have been called to be voluntarily submissive to their husbands. This "obedience" actually points to the closeness of the two partners in marriage. It is the sharing of a mutual goal, a romantic partnership. It represents the different responsibilities that both leading figures of the family have. The wife of the household has indelible value and a vital role for the success of the family, regardless of whether she chooses to work outside the house or not. 
        • The Necessity Of Compromise:
                 -In order for marriage to work, both partners must agree to fulfill the necessary obligations that have been assigned to them. No successful relationship can thrive without compromise. There has to be necessary conditions for the husband and wife to abide by, for the household cannot stand in a state of division, an individual cannot complete a job which requires many people to work together, and are simply limited by bodily design. 
               -Human beings were never meant to be stand alone creatures. In other words, we all have the inherent need for social interaction, mental settlement, and compatibility. We all need each other. Both genders, when isolated from each other, are essentially incomplete. One cannot survive without the existence of the other. This is why marriage must also have strict boundaries and obligations for the husband and the wife. Marriage involves personal accountability. Marriage is based on commitment. Marriage is based on self-sacrifice. It is because the spouses love each other, that the marriage, and thus the family structure, is held together.

        Friday, March 24, 2017

        Does God Have A Gender?

                                                 By Bert Thompson, Ph.D
        Q.

        Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, whenever reference is made to God (or, for that matter, to the other two members of the Godhead) a male pronoun (He, Him, His, etc.) is employed. Why is this the case? Does God indeed possess gender comparable to that of humans? Is God male?

        A.

        God’s “gender” has been a hot topic for approximately the last two decades, owing in large part to the impact of the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution. Books with titles like When God was a Woman, The Feminine Face of God, Womanspirit Rising, and Beyond God the Father are leaping off bookstore shelves. Religious writers have capitulated to the “signs of the times” in attempts to make God “gender neutral.” For example, the well-known writer on science and religion (and herself a believer in God), Kitty Ferguson, placed the following disclaimer in the frontispiece to her best-selling book, The Fire in the Equations, produced and distributed by the W.B. Eerdmans company (a religious publisher).

        The author of a book on the topic of science and religion needs a pronoun for God. Regardless of whether I choose to call God “he” or “she,” I find myself making a statement which I don’t wish to make. Using them interchangeably seems contrived and gets confusing. “She/he” or “he/she” is cumbersome...and one still has the problem of which gender comes first in the pairing. “It” will not do. Lacking a better solution, I have chosen to use “he,” which makes the weaker statement and is more easily interpreted as inclusive (1994, ellipses in orig.).

        Major religious groups even have begun altering their views on God and the language they use to express those views. In the Inclusive Language Lectionary produced by the U.S.Council of Churches, Christ’s word for God, Abba, has been changed from “Father” to “Father and Mother,” and the word for His relationship to God has been altered from “son” to “child” (see Reuther, 1988, p. 144). At its annual conference in 1992, the Methodist Church in Great Britain concluded that “the use of female imagery is compatible with faithfulness to Scripture—indeed Scripture itself points in this direction and also gives us examples of that imagery.” The Methodist Faith and Order Commission thus recommended that, in order to avoid distortion of our image of God, both female and male images should be used to refer to Him/Her (Inclusive Language and Imagery about God, 1992). And, as British writer Hugh Montefiore noted:

        Even the Church of England, while not going so far as this, has made some suggestions for inclusive language. No doubt such measures are as yet in their infancy. Teaching will in future focus on the filial relationship of Jesus to God rather than on his sonship, and on our dependence on God and on his love and care for us, rather than on his fatherhood (1993, p. 131).

        What should be the Christian’s response to these kinds of innovations and the changes that stem from them? Is it scriptural to speak of God as “Mother”? Is it permissible to refer to Jehovah as “Her”?

        To answer these kinds of questions, one first must know something of the nature of deity. And the only source of that kind of information is God’s Word, the Bible. While it is correct that something may be known of God through a study of the created Universe—namely “his everlasting power and divinity” (Romans 1:20)—there nevertheless are specific traits of Deity that can be explained to mankind only via supernatural revelation. Fortunately, such a revelation has been provided in the Bible. The question then becomes: “What has God revealed concerning His nature and gender?”

        It is true that the Bible often uses masculine terms to describe God or His activities. Male names/terms are applied to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture. The names for God—Yahweh, Elohim, Shaddai, Sebbaoth, Adonai, Kurios, and Theos—are all masculine gender. Furthermore, male metaphors frequently are applied to God. The psalmist cried, “The Lord is king for ever and ever” (10:16) and wrote that “like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). Nehemiah represented God as a warrior when he wrote: “Our God will fight for us” (4: 20). Jeremiah portrayed God as a spurned husband (3:1-2). Jesus likened God to a loving Father (Luke 15:11-32). The names for Christ—Iesus and Christos—are masculine. And Jesus is presented in the male roles of a shepherd (Matthew 25:32; John 10:11-18), a prophet (Luke 13:33), a priest (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 7:24-28), a bridegroom (Matthew 22:1-4), and a son (Mark 1:11; John 3:16 [John mentions the father-son relationship more than 60 times in his Gospel]; Hebrews 1:2-3).

        It also is true, however, that on certain occasions God is portrayed via female images and metaphors. Isaiah 42:14 has God saying, “I cry out like a travailing woman,” and Isaiah 46:3 records God’s words as “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, that have been borne by me from their birth, that have been carried from the womb.” In Isaiah 49:15, God inquired: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, these may forget, yet will not I forget thee.” The psalmist used a female attribute in speaking of God when he said, “Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother” In Isaiah 66:13, Jehovah promised: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” In one of His parables, Jesus portrayed God as a woman diligently sweeping her house in search of a single lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). And in Matthew 23:37, Jesus employed a female figure to refer to Himself in His lament over the city of David: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets and stoneth them that are sent unto her! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

        However, there are other important factors to be considered as well. In an article titled, “Is God Female?,” Steve Singleton mentioned three of them:

        1. God is referred to hundreds of times with masculine names and with masculine pronouns such as “he,” “him,” and “his.”
        2. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to with feminine pronouns such as “she,” her,” and “hers.”
        3. This does not mean that God is male. The masculine pronouns have always had the second, generic sense, referring to both male and female, just as “Man” has been used for centuries to refer to both men and women (1978, 120[10]:154).

        These are critical points that must not be overlooked in responding to those who question the “gender” of God. I began this article by asking: “Does God indeed posses gender comparable to that of humans? Is God male?” In his book, Credible Christianity, Hugh Montefiore asked and answered those same questions. “Does this mean that God is male? The very question verges on the absurd.... God exists eternally, and in the eternal sphere there is no sexual differentiation. God has no gender. He is neither male nor female” (1993, pp. 130-131, emp. in orig.). As Singleton concluded: “God is not male or female. God is God. Do you hear the answer which God gave to Moses on the mountain when Moses asked, ‘Who are you?’ God said, ‘I am that I am!’ ” (1978, 120[10]:154, emp. added).

        But why is it that God has no gender? Hopefully, the answer to this question will become obvious as we study the Scriptures. God is an eternal Spirit (Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 102:27; John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 1: 8) and, as Jesus pointed out, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). In 1 Samuel 15:29, God Himself announced: “The Strength of Israel...is not a man.” Moses wrote in Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man...neither the son of man.” Hosea repeated that affirmation: “I am God, and not man” (11:9). Time and again the Scriptures address the fact that, as a Spirit, God is invisible. John commented that “no man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Paul spoke of “God...whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:13,16) and of Christ as “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). He reminded the young evangelist Timothy that to the “immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Timothy 1:17).

        Spirits—because they are non-corporeal beings—have no physical body, and thus, by definition, are incapable of possessing gender. In speaking of the humans who one day will inhabit the heavenly realm, Jesus remarked that they “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels” (Matthew 22:30). His point was that we shall not take up our earthly gender roles in heaven, just as the angels, as spirit beings, have played no gender roles throughout their existence. Similarly, God, as a Spirit Being Who inhabits the heavenly realm, has no gender. Why, then, if God has no gender, do the Scriptures refer to Him via masculine names and metaphors? And must we refer to Him via masculine names and metaphors?

        The answer to the first question has to do with both history and authority. From a historical standpoint, the fact is that every known ancient religion—except one—posited both gods and goddesses as beings worthy of worship. The lone exception was Judaism. Kreeft and Tacelli, in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, addressed this matter when they wrote:

        The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself. Surely there is an inherent connection between these two radically distinctive features of the...biblical religions...: their unique view of a transcendent God creating nature out of nothing and their refusal to call God “she” despite the fact that Scripture ascribes to him feminine attributes like compassionate nursing (Is. 49:15), motherly comfort (Is. 66:13) and carrying an infant (Is. 46:3). The masculine pronoun safeguards (1) the transcendence of God against the illusion that nature is born from God as a mother rather than created and (2) the grace of God against the illusion that we can somehow save ourselves—two illusions ubiquitous and inevitable in the history of religion (1994, p. 98, emp. in orig.).

        From an authoritative standpoint, as Singleton pointed out earlier, God is referred to hundreds of times throughout Scripture by masculine names and masculine pronouns—but never is given a feminine name or referred to by feminine pronouns. Thomas Rees, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, addressed the matter of God as the ultimate authority figure when he wrote that “the essential nature of God, and His relation to men, is best expressed by the attitude and relation of a father to his children; but God is Father in an infinitely higher and more perfect degree than any man” (1955, 2:1261). K.C. Moser, in his book, Attributes of God, stated emphatically that “this manner of referring to God is significant” (1964, p. 12). Indeed it is. While those who were involved in the false religions that surrounded the Jews worshipped a myriad of non-existent gods and goddesses, the Israelites worshipped “Jehovah the true God, the living God, an everlasting King” (Jeremiah 10:10; cf. “the true and living God,” 1 Thessalonians 1:9, NLB; “the only God,” John 5:44). Or, as Spencer, et al. put it in their book, The Goddess Revival: “The Judeo-Christian God, unlike the gods and goddesses of pagans new and old, exists above the limitations of gender” (1995, p. 48). It is an “authority” matter—not a “gender” matter.

        But must we refer to God via masculine terms? The question has nothing to do with what we would like to do, but rather with what God tells us to do. C.S. Lewis addressed this point in his book, God in the Dock:

        Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity.... Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?

        Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable (1970, p. 237, emp. in orig.).

        Scripture makes it clear: “O Jehovah, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.... Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, ‘He made me not’; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, ‘He hath no understanding’?” (Isaiah 64:8; 29:16). Since when does the clay have the right to dictate to the potter or override his decisions? As a believer in God and His inspired Word, and yet as one speaking from an inherently masculine viewpoint, Lewis went on to say:

        We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.... It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer.... A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles... (1970, pp. 237-238, emp. added).

        It is not man’s (or woman’s!) place to question God’s sovereign authority or divine will; neither falls under mankind’s jurisdiction. As Kreeft and Tacelli noted: “One issue is whether we have the authority to change the names of God used by Christ, the Bible and the church. The traditional defense of masculine imagery for God rests on the premise that the Bible is divine revelation, not culturally relative, negotiable and changeable” (1994, p. 98). Christ Himself left us the perfect example (as He always did) when He said: “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name” (Matthew 6:9, emp. added). The fact that biblical designations of God are placed within the specific framework of the masculine settles the matter once and for all. It simply is not a matter up for discussion.

        REFERENCES

        Ferguson, Kitty (1994), The Fire in the Equations (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

        Inclusive Language and Imagery about God (1992), (Peterborough, England: Methodist Faith and Order Commission).

        Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli (1994), Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).

        Lewis, C.S. (1970), God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

        Montefiore, Hugh (1993), Credible Christianity: The Gospel in Contemporary Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

        Moser K.C. (1964), Attributes of God (Austin, TX: Sweet).

        Rees, Thomas (1955), “God,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr, et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 2:1250-1264.

        Reuther, R.R. (1988), “Feminism and Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, ed. J. Hick and P. Knitter (London: SCM Press).

        Singleton, Steve (1978), “Is God Female?,” Gospel Advocate, 120[10]:145,154, March 9.

        Spencer, Aida B., et al. (1995), The Goddess Revival (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

        http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1165

        Thursday, March 23, 2017

        Assurance Of Salvation And Eternal Security

        • Can We Have Assurance Of Salvation?:
                  -Since we are able to humbly approach God with absolute trust in His divine promises (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 10:22), we are therefore able to have great assurance of our salvation. Salvation is promised to those who trust in God (1 John 2:25). All who call upon His name shall be saved (Romans 10:13). God's character is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6), never deceptive (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:17-18), and reveals no partiality in judgment (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:6-7). That is the grounds upon which we can have great assurance of our salvation from sin. We accept the free gift of justification that God has offered to us.
        • Can We Have Assurance Of Salvation If Our Good Works Are A Contributing Factor?:
                  -Having assurance of eternal life is proof of being saved by faith apart from meritorious works. If our works contributed at all to our justification, then our good works would have to outweigh our bad works by a large margin. If any kind of works contribute to salvation, then how many must we perform in order to be declared righteous in the sight of God? How many sins will He tolerate? How could one know that he or she is saved? No answer has been provided to these questions and thus undermines any possible certitude of salvation or trust in God to be saved. The futuristic sight of our eternal destinies would simply be too murky because there would be no grounds to make any sort of determination with certainty. If we are justified on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith alone, then we have grounds to know whether we have been reconciled to God.
        • How Can One Believe In Justification By Faith Alone If Eternal Security is Rejected?:
                  -One sin does not necessarily send a person to hell (this does not in any way mean that sin is permissible or justifiable). Salvation, technically speaking, is not easy to lose. Habitual sinning is generally the spiritual symptom of a spiritually unhealthy journey. This process may continue until a person completely falls away from God because of a hardened heart or he or she truly repents so that he or she may continue to build his or her relationship with God. People practice sins such as murder, theft, and greed because their hearts are dedicated to those specific sins. They are the EVIDENCE of what is in our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). We fall into a state of sin, especially during our times of spiritual weakness. One can indeed "walk away" from salvation. We can indeed forsake our salvation. We can indeed reject the gifts and callings of God, although doing such violates the original intent of God giving us free will. We escape the wrath of God by repenting from our hearts and trusting in Him. God looks at a person's state of heart in judgment (Matthew 5:21-28; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10). Belief in justification by faith alone and a rejection of eternal security would constitute a logical contradiction, only if a person identified as a Calvinist.