Friday, November 30, 2018

A Study On The Jewishness Of Jesus Christ's Atonement

  • In The Old Testament, Animals Were Offered For The Sins Of God's People:
          -"Then to the sons of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both one year old, without defect, for a burnt offering." (Leviticus 9:3)
  • Jesus Christ Offered Himself As A Sacrifice Once For Our Sins:
          -"and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)
          -"and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
  • The Animal Sacrifices Of The Old Testament Were To Be Unblemished:
          -"Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats." (Exodus 12:5)
          -"and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a calf, a bull, for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before the Lord." (Leviticus 9:2)
  • Christ Is The Final Unblemished Sacrifice For The Sins Of Mankind:
          -"knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Peter 1:18-19)
  • The Animal Sacrifices Of The Old Testament Were Peace Offerings:
          -"Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings." (Leviticus 9:22)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ Is Our Peace Offering:
          -"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)
          -"For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." (Colossians 1:19-20)
  • The Blood Of Animals In The Sacrifices Served As A Temporary Covering For Sin:
          -"And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement." (Leviticus 17:10-11)
          -"For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off." (Leviticus 17:14)
  • The Shedding Of Blood Was Foundational To The Entire Levitical System:
          -"And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22)
  • Insightful Comments On The Shedding Of Blood And The Law:
          -"Even though the Law does mention some cleansing rites apart from sacrifice (for example, Num. 19:11–12), we must remember that once a year, on the Day of Atonement, blood was offered for the sins of the entire nation (Lev. 16). As such, all of the cleansing rites of the old covenant were subsumed under the absolute necessity of a blood sacrifice once every year. Likewise, the grain offerings that in some cases could atone for sin were ultimately effectual only because of this annual, “bloody” event. The shedding of blood was absolutely necessary for atonement under the old covenant, and, as we are to infer from these verses, death is also absolutely necessary for atonement in the new covenant."
  • Offerings In The Old Testament Produced "Pleasing Aromas" (A Theme Of Propitiation) To The Lord
          -"Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD." (Leviticus 23:18)
  • Christ's Sacrifice Also Had A "Pleasing Aroma" To It:
          -"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
  • Just As The Blood Of Lambs and Goats Were Offered For The Sins of Israel In The Old Testament, So Jesus Christ Had His Blood Shed For The Sins Of Mankind:
          -"for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28)
  • This All Accounts For Him Being Called The "Lamb Of God" In New Testament Texts With Sacrificial Connotations:
          -"The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

The Fraudulent Nature Of The Charismatic Movement

"If these faith healers have the same ability as the apostles, why do they do their “healings” in church buildings, in front of people who already believe? Signs are given for unbelievers; Christians do not need to be convinced that Jesus is the Christ—they already believe.

Why don’t modern faith healers do what Christ and the apostles did and perform a public healing on someone that everyone knows is crippled? The answer is simple: they can’t.

If miraculous healings were still occurring today, it would be very easy to prove. Anyone could take a camcorder to the healing crusade and film the miracle for all to see. But why is this not happening?

If Charismatics were healing crippled legs, withered hands, cut-off ears, blind eyes, deaf ears, palsy, hemorrhages, etc., like Christ and the apostles, they would be on the nightly news, 60 Minutes and 20/20. Sadly, the only Charismatic faith healers who make the news are there because of fraud, adultery, theft, prostitution, and the like.

If Charismatic healers could raise the dead, like Christ and the apostles, then they could prove it by doing it in front of a large group of witnesses."

Brian M. Schwertley, The Charismatic Movement: A Biblical Critique, pg. 33, 34, 35, 36

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Charismatic Movement Violates Paul's Instructions Set Forth In 1 Corinthians 14

"There is often speaking in "tongues" without proper interpretation (contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:28); unless this requirement is met, it does absolutely nothing to edify the church (14:4-5). The biblical requirement of speaking in turn is frequently not observed (14:27-30); rather, a number of individuals speak at the same time (this lapse in proper church order is inexcusable, for "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets," 14:32)."

Brian M. Schwertley, The Charismatic Movement: A Biblical Critique, pg. 20

Monday, November 26, 2018

Refuting The "Catholicism Is Objective, Protestantism Is Subjective" Quibble

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Leila Miller wrote an article titled "Catholicism is objective, Protestantism is subjective", attempting to illustrate how the Sola Scriptura model results in hopeless doctrinal confusion and anarchy. The author portrays non-Catholic interpretations of biblical texts in a general sense as being inherently relativistic, with the Roman Catholic Church being the exclusive source of absolute truth. The purpose of this article is to show the intellectual dishonesty of such rhetoric, beginning with an excerpt from the author:

          "...this new paradigm of each Christian interpreting Scripture for himself means that there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are Protestants. As you can imagine, this leads to a host of problems for a religion that exists to proclaim Truth."

          The inspired authors of the Bible wrote for the express purpose of instructing believers in their absence (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:10). Scripture was meant to be understood by the man who has a basic education. Truths related to salvation and the gospel are relatively simple for us to comprehend. Other parts of the Bible are more difficult for us to understand. Sometimes we may even need people to explain a passage, but that does not require a complex church hierarchy. The "paradigm" that the author speaks of is certainly not new, as it was the Bereans who were considered noble for daily searching the Scriptures to test the gospel message delivered by the apostles (Acts 17:10-11). 

          "Protestants will tell you that sincere Christians can find the Truth easily, because the "Scriptures are clear" -- and yet Protestants cannot seem to agree on even the essentials of salvation."

          Apart from the obvious fact that the above quotation is a bald-faced lie, the same logic is advanced by other cultic groups such as the International Churches of Christ. We do have disagreements on secondary issues. We do have disagreements that are more peripheral in nature. There are differences that are more philosophical in nature than they are exegetical. There are also pseudo-Christian sects which totally disregard what the Bible says. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura should not be disregarded simply because individual congregations have departed from the realm of biblical orthodoxy. People can reject what Scripture says in spite of its clear teaching. Whenever the sufficiency of Scripture is denied, anything goes. Our Lord Jesus Christ defeated the devil by saying three times, "It is written" (Matthew 4:1-11). Why not emulate His perfect example in spiritual discernment? If a child like Timothy could understand Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15), why can't we?

          "Catholics, thankfully, don't have that headache. We know what the Church teaches on every issue that touches on salvation, because Tradition has been handed down intact throughout the centuries, both written and orally, and those teachings are accessible to all."

           But the truth of the matter is that Roman Catholics are a doctrinally diverse group. There are just as many divisions within the Roman Catholic Church as there are Roman Catholics themselves. Catholics disagree on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Catholics disagree on the number of ex-cathedral pronouncements. Catholics disagree on the number of teachings which should be considered infallible, and even what they are. Catholics disagree as to the meaning of several passages in the Bible. Many contemporary Catholic Scripture scholars do not even uphold the inerrancy of Scripture. There has even been a threat of schism within the Church of Rome with the more traditionalist folks on the issue of homosexuality. The Catholic teaching on the death penalty is subject to change. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches uphold contradictory doctrine, which is significant because both make identical claims of possessing the fullness of God given truth. Additionally, catechisms can be revised. In Roman Catholicism, whatever is affirmed to be orthodox today can be deemed heresy tomorrow by the pope. Consider this excerpt from a Roman Catholic website called Ignitum Today on the issue of Roman Catholics being divided on the dogma of transubstantiation:

           "According to John Young, theologian and philosopher, “Protestants reject transubstantiation, and so do many Catholic scholars. The average Catholic is vague concerning the nature of the Eucharistic presence of Christ, and one can sympathize with him, in view of the lack of clear teaching about the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

           He further asserts, “The basic objection to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is not that it is against Scripture, but that it is against reason.” Theologian and professor at Virginia Seminary, Charles P. Price similarly believes that “most Catholics, without realizing it or perhaps considering it, actually believe in Consubstantiation,” as did Luther, and even a Catholic would be hard-pressed to refute the allegation."

            Is not the dogma of the Mass central to Roman Catholicism? Indeed it is. Yet, the above report plainly tells us that a fairly large number of Roman Catholics do not agree on this issue. Thus, the claims of unity existing within the Roman Catholic Church are greatly inflated. Does this mean that the Magisterium needs an infallible interpreter?

           "At base, the divide between Protestants and Catholics boils down to authority. If there is no earthly, human authority, if everyone gets to decide for himself what the Bible means, then we have a system of subjectivity and chaos."

           The Roman Catholic Church cannot simply make itself the final authority, for that is a circular appeal. There has to be an infallible spiritual standard for us to use in testing doctrine, and that rule of faith is the Bible. 

           The claim of "Bible only Christians" being "subjective" is ironic, since Roman Catholics subjectively believe the Roman Catholic Church to be objectively authoritative. We all have to make decisions when searching for truth. Nobody is exempt from using their fallible reasoning faculties in discernment. Everybody has to fallibly interpret communicated messages. If one rejects this proposition, then he or she cannot even begin to argue against Sola Scriptura. 

           Scripture does interpret Scripture. When studying, a person should take into account the surrounding context, cross references, and various literary devices. We should be approaching Scripture with a humble and prayerful heart. The Word of God should be treated with utmost respect. Not every argument or interpretation is equally valid. Notice how the author has to misrepresent Sola Scriptura in order to make her case. There are divisions within the Protestant realm, which is truly unfortunate. However, the Roman Catholic Church also has numerous problems of its own. This is true of all denominations. If Sola Scriptura is invalidated due to the existence of divisions, then the same must also be true of "Sacred Tradition" and the Magisterium. Having some sort of a referee available to settle disputes does not amount to having no disputes of any type. The pope has been very ineffective in resolving theological problems.

           Now, a Catholic apologist may inquire, "But who's interpretation of Scripture should we side with?" My reply would be, "With those who have the correct interpretation." Truth is not unknowable. Truth is not indiscernible. Truth is not subjective, but objective. Whatever the scenario may be, we must examine the evidence and follow where it leads. Roman Catholic apologists must independently examine evidence in order to argue the truthfulness of the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, they must judge the validity of the Roman Catholic Church in order to argue their position. Private interpretation is inevitable. Fundamental doctrines such as the incarnation, virgin birth, inerrancy, and the deity of Christ can clearly be derived from Scripture. Most of the time, false doctrine can easily be exposed by consulting context. Scripture gives us certainty in the midst of spurious teaching (Proverbs 22:17-21; Luke 1:1-4). The author of the article being critiqued may believe that personal Bible reading has resulted in the church becoming doctrinally fractured, but the text itself emphatically disagrees with her. The real problem is the serious ignorance of Scripture prevalent amongst professing Christians. The problem is not with the inspired text itself, but a willfully sinful condition of the human heart. The author's attacks on the integrity of God's Word are remarkably cultish. It places the Catholic apologist right alongside with the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. Only the cults demand blind, unquestioning submission to an earthly organization. There is no objectivity about that. In fact, such can be rather dangerous. One of several things that us "Bible only Christians" can unanimously agree on is that Rome preaches heresy.

Do Not Conform To This World

"Anyone can be a non-conformist for nonconformity's sake. ... What we are ultimately called to is more than non-conformity; we are called to transformation. We notice that the words conform and transform both contain the same root form. The only difference between the words is found in the prefixes. The prefix con means "with." To conform, then, is to be "with the structures or forms." In our culture a conformist is someone who is "with it." A nonconformist may be regarded as someone who is "out of it." If the goal of the Christian is to be "out of it," then I am afraid we have been all too successful. 

The prefix trans means "across" or "beyond." When we are called to be transformed, it means that we are to rise above the forms and the structures of this world. We are not to follow the world's lead but to cut across it and rise above it to a higher calling and style. This is a call to transcendent excellence, not a call to sloppy "out-of-it-ness." Christians who give themselves as living sacrifices and offer their worship in this way are people with a high standard of discipline. They are not satisfied with superficial forms of righteousness. The “saints” are called to a rigorous pursuit of the kingdom of God. They are called to depth in their spiritual understanding.

The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the “renewal of the mind.” This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Serious education. In-depth education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It will call for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed.

True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are to be like Jesus, thought not in the sense that we can ever gain deity. We are not god-men. But our humanity is to mirror and reflect the perfect humanity of Jesus. A tall order! To be conformed to Jesus, we must first begin to think as Jesus did. We need the “mind of Christ.” We need to value the things he values and despise the things He despises. We need to have the same priorities He has. We need to consider weighty the things that He considers weighty. That cannot happen without a mastery of His Word. The key to spiritual growth is in-depth Christian education that requires a serious level of sacrifice. 

That is the call to excellence we have received. We are not to be like the rest of the world, content to live our lives with a superficial understanding of God. We are to grow dissatisfied with spiritual milk and hunger after spiritual meat. To be a saint means to be separated. But it means more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. If we are justified, we must also be sanctified."

R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pg.163-164

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Simple Worldview Test Of Deism

  • Discussion:
          -Deism is the belief that God created the universe, set everything in order, and has not been involved with it since. In other words, this viewpoint maintains that there is no supernatural intervention by God in creation. Deists rely solely on reason in their rejection of miracles, including the divine inspiration of Scripture and truths related to the gospel. Also, this article excerpt is worth pondering:

          "Classical deism has existed since ancient times and centers on the idea of one Supreme Being who created all things. This thought system evolved in ancient Greek literature as well, and can be seen in the apostle Paul's argument for the Christian message to those in Athens in Acts 17:23-27."

          We as Christians should regard this system of thought to be outright heretical, since God has indeed given to us divine revelation and does interact with creation. The Bible describes in ample detail His character. It attests to His unsearchable graciousness, love, mercy, and righteousness. The Old Testament records God intervening for Israel on multiple occasions. In fact, He offered His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to make atonement for our sins. There may be times in this life when the Lord may seem distant, but we know very well that He is interacting with creation.

          Is deism even a coherent philosophy? Not at all. How can a person on the basis of creation alone (i.e. physical entities) deduce the existence of logic and reason (i.e. non physical entities)? How could one come to grasp spiritual concepts such as sin and repentance without another source of divine revelation? If there is no ultimate, infallible spiritual standard to govern our worldview, then how can we determine truth in the midst of subjective, contradictory ideas? How can one derive morals from observing nature? Why reject the possibility of miracles when creation itself is a miracle? Why would God create people just to leave them all alone?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Giving Thanks In The Christian Walk

        One major theme of Scripture is thankfulness. There are literally dozens of exhortations in the Bible, from the Psalms to the Pauline epistles, for the saints to be showing appreciation for and rejoicing in God. The fundamental reasons for giving thanks to Him should be evident to any sincere, faithful Christian. He is gracious. He is merciful. He is righteous. His love is everlasting. A person cannot praise God without also giving thanks to Him. A person cannot worship God to the fullest extent without also giving thanks to Him. The aforementioned accounts for Scripture associating ingratitude with sin (Romans 1:21-32; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

         The Lord is the source of all wisdom, and wants to teach His children to be appreciative for whatever gifts that He has bestowed (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17). Every gift or blessing that we have originates from Him. Thankfulness is good for our souls. It reinforces humility. It reinforces selflessness. It counteracts our tendency to boast. It keeps anger and resentment at bay. It keeps our hearts in a morally sound state. Giving thanks serves as a constant reminder of the blessings we do have. Giving thanks takes our focus off potential things we may desire to have, thus making us happier. It changes our perspective of matters in this life. We must thank Him for everything, even in the midst of sadness, suffering, and persecution (James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:12-19).

         We should thank God for keeping us strong during times of evil. He gives to us the strength to endure harm by His all sufficient grace. He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. He is working things out to His eternal glory. If we refuse to give thanks to God, then already existing bitterness will fester in our minds and so rob us of the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:4-8). A refusal to show heartfelt gratitude is one of the biggest mistakes that one can make in the Christian walk. The preaching of the gospel is to be done in thanksgiving to God. The gospel itself is a call for all people to give thanks to God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Meaning Of Thanksgiving

This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She explained, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book. George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789, exactly 74 years before Lincoln's.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

READ IT HERE:

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Are Christians Sinners Saved By Grace?

  • Discussion:
          -The Bible plainly identifies the problem that impacts the entirety of mankind, which is sin. We have incurred the wrath of God as a consequence of our transgressions against Him. We do not deserve to be in His presence. But the good news is that God by His grace has provided us one way to salvation through trusting in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals to us the greatness of His love and mercy. Consider the following:

             * The ungodly are justified through faith (Romans 4:4-6).
             * Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6-10).

          Does this mean that it is permissible for a Christian to continue living in sin after conversion? Absolutely not. Justification does change a person. Consider the following:

             * The Law is upheld by our faith (Romans 3:31).
             * Christians are to put to death fleshly works through the Spirit (Romans 6:1-2).
             * The truth sets us free from the shackles of sin (Romans 6:17-18).

          The Christian walk is a call to put away the deeds of the flesh. Our conscience has been purified by the blood of Christ to serve the living God. The Christian walk is a higher calling, firmly established on the foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have been called to walk humbly with God. We have been called to faithfully serve God.

          Yet, we have all sinned. We are spiritually bankrupt, deserving of eternal condemnation. The very reason that boasting is excluded from justification by the Apostle Paul is that we are all sinners. We are not deserving of salvation. Believers still have spiritual weaknesses. Believers are still subject to temptation. We need the righteousness of God. He is gradually conforming our character to that of Jesus Christ. God has saved us in spite of our sins.

          It may sound noble or pious to deny that we are sinners saved by His grace, but such a notion could not be further from the truth (1 John 1:7-10). In fact, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for the forgiveness of sin on a daily basis (Matthew 6:11-13). The Old Testament confirms this truth (Psalms 130:3-4; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20) To deny that we are sinners saved by the grace of God is the preaching of a false gospel and calling Him a liar. Christians are called saints because they have been consecrated by the Holy Spirit. We are not to continue in sin. We are called to grow in sanctification.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Christ Myth Theory Is Untenable

"What I do hope is to convince genuine seekers who really want to know that Jesus did exist, as virtually any scholar of antiquity, of biblical studies, of classics, and of Christian origins in this country and, in fact, the Western world agrees. Many of these scholars have no vested interest in the matter. As it turns out, I myself do not either. I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promotion a Christian cause or a Christian agenda. I am an agnostic with atheist leanings, and my life and views of the world would be approximately the same whether or not Jesus existed...But as a historian, I think evidence matters. And the past matters. And for anyone to whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist."

Did Jesus Exist?, Bart D. Ehrman, cited by Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist, pg. 219

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Earmarks Of A True Christian

"The religion I have is to love and fear God, believe in Jesus Christ, do all the good to my neighbor, and myself that I can, do as little harm as I can help, and trust on God's mercy for the rest."

Daniel Boone, American Pioneer

Friday, November 16, 2018

Liberty Requires Sacrifice

"Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."

John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams April 26, 1777

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Old Testament Does Not Teach Justification By Works

  • Discussion:
          -Following are passages of Scripture from the Old Testament that provide insight into the question of how people were saved before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ:

          "Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by failing to keep his commandments and ordinances and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and your herds and flocks have increased, your silver and gold has increased, and all your property has increased, you then become haughty of heart and forget the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that house of slavery; he guided you through the vast and terrible wilderness with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; he brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the wilderness with manna, a food unknown to your ancestors, that he might afflict you and test you, but also make you prosperous in the end. Otherwise, you might say in your heart, “It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth. Remember then the Lord, your God, for he is the one who gives you the power to get wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant he swore to your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18)

          "Understand, then, today that it is the LORD, your God, who will cross over before you as a consuming fire; he it is who will reduce them to nothing and subdue them before you, so that you can drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD promised you. After the LORD, your God, has thrust them out of your way, do not say to yourselves, It is because of my merits that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land; for it is really because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. No, it is not because of your merits or the integrity of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land; but the LORD, your God, is driving these nations out before you on account of their wickedness and in order to keep the promise which he made on oath to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand this, therefore: it is not because of your merits that the LORD, your God, is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Deuteronomy 9:3-6)

          The Lord promised that He was going to grant His chosen nation Israel unfathomable blessings. He ensured that the Jewish people would remain prosperous. God wanted to continually protect His people. God wanted to continually provide for the needs of His people. He was not, however, carrying through with His oath to their ancestors because of praiseworthy behavior. Rather, He was working things to His glory. God was not blessing Israel because of its righteousness, for the Jews were indeed rebellious against Him. He was accomplishing great things on their behalf in spite of their unrighteousness. He wanted the Jews to place their trust in Him. This testifies to the graciousness and mercy of the Lord. 

          Likewise, God offered up His Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to make atonement for our sins. He did so, not because of any righteousness that we have, but in spite of our unrighteousness. We have all sinned against Him. Thus, we neither deserve His grace nor His salvation. None of us are worthy of entering the kingdom of God. His offer of eternal salvation is available without cost to all who come by faith. Justification is not accomplished by our merits and power, but by the Lord. He wants us to lean on Him. He gives to believers His righteousness. He is saving us because He is gracious and merciful. There is no room for Christians in this framework to boast. The New Testament emphatically imparts to us this spiritual truth:

          "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

          This is evidence that the Old Testament does not teach justification by works, as is erroneously believed by some. Additionally, the Levitical sacrificial system is supportive of vicarious atonement. In the Old Testament, lambs, bulls, and goats were offered to take away sins as an innocent substitute. These sacrifices were done on behalf of the sinner. The animal paid the sin debt with its life. These sacrifices are representative of what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary. He is the unblemished Lamb who takes away our sins (John 1:29).

The Meaning Of Holiness

"The primary meaning of holy is “separate.” It comes from an ancient word that means “to cut,” or “to separate.” To translate this basic meaning into contemporary language would be to use the phrase “a cut apart.” Perhaps even more accurate would be the phrase “a cut above something.” When we find a garment or another piece of merchandise that is outstanding, that has a superior excellence, we use the expression that it is “a cut above the rest.”

God’s holiness is more than just separateness. His holiness is also transcendent. The word transcendence means literally “to climb across.” it is defined as “exceeding usual limits.” To transcend is to rise above something, to go above and beyond a certain limit. When we speak of the transcendence of God, we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. Transcendence describes His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. He is an infinite cut above everything else.

When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different is a special way.

We are so accustomed to equating holiness with purity or ethical perfection that we look for the idea when the word holy appears. When things are made holy, when they are consecrated, they are set apart unto purity. They are to be used in a pure way. They are to reflect purity as well as simple apartness. Purity is not excluded from the idea of the holy; it is contained within it. But the point we must remember is that the idea of the holy is never exhausted by the idea of purity. It includes purity but is much more than that. It is purity and transcendence. It is a transcendent purity."

R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pg.37-39, 212

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Negative Spiritual Implications Of The Catholic Eucharist

"Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament—grant that every time the words of the consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the communion table under the forms of bread and wine—grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ—grant for a moment these things, and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing. You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. You spoil the scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians. Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ’s human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not “the last Adam” in the truth of our nature."

Light from Old Times, J.C. Ryle, cited by John MacArthur, Exposing the Heresies of the Catholic Church: The Mass

A Roman Catholic Quotable On The Eucharist

"When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.

Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man, not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.

Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ."

John A. O'Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, pg. 255-256

Monday, November 12, 2018

Catholic Answers Fails Miserably To Provide Readers Assurance Of Salvation

  • Discussion:
           -Catholic Answers published an article titled "Assurance of Salvation?", which claims that faithful adherents of Rome can know that they possess eternal salvation. As a matter of fact, the author goes as far as to claim:

           "Sometimes Fundamentalists portray Catholics as if they must every moment be in terror of losing their salvation since Catholics recognize that it is possible to lose salvation through mortal sin.”

           But the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of Roman Catholics act as though they cannot have assurance of salvation.

           What is more, these people attend Mass on a weekly basis for the express purpose of receiving grace from God. Salvation for them is viewed as a wage that can be depleted daily by sin. The Roman Catholic Church views grace as forgiveness plus works of obedience, which is not a biblical definition of grace at all. It is an unmerited, undeserved gift of God (Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Our good works cannot get us into the kingdom of heaven. The Bible tells us that we can indeed have assurance of salvation (John 5:24; 1 John 5:13). If we have Jesus Christ, then we are justified (John 1:12; Romans 8:15-17). The salvation that He gives to believers is complete salvation. We simply need to believe on Him (John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31). If we repent and believe on the gospel, then we are saved (Romans 10:9-10). We are saved by trusting in His work alone. Consider two quotes from Roman Catholic sources:

           "If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema. (Sixth session, Canon XVI)

           "The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 262)

           This is not meant to provide commentary on the eternal security debate. I personally believe that a person can "walk away" from salvation. The point being stressed here is that Christians do not have to fear as do Roman Catholics about quickly and unexpectedly loosing fellowship with God as a result of no longer being considered worthy. Nobody deserves to be saved. None of our good works can save us. Our salvation is not based on performance, but we are responsible for our eternal destiny. The question is how we respond to the gospel. We should be walking the Christian walk in humility, not doubt. We can have infallible assurance of salvation because God said so in His Word. He is faithful and trustworthy. He cannot lie. In Roman Catholicism, committing one mortal sin constitutes a loss of all saving grace and so requires confession to an ordained priest. But God is much bigger than that. Whoever calls upon His name shall be saved (Romans 10:13). The author of the article at Catholic Answers makes the following statements:

           "Are you saved?" asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: "As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13)."

           The New Testament most certainly does use three tenses in describing salvation. The initial tense simply involves God pardoning the iniquity of the sinner. Christians are no longer under the penalty of sin. That is justification. The ongoing tense involves being conformed gradually to character of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is sanctification. The future tense involves being utterly taken away from the presence of sin in heaven. That is glorification. The author seems to have confused justification with sanctification, which is an abysmal error.

            Also, James Swan has made an observation regarding the irony interwoven in the midst of this theological catastrophe:

           "Roman Catholics are always bringing up certainty, as if by being a member of the Roman Church, one of the benefits is certainty. That is, by being a Roman Catholic you can (allegedly) know with certainty which books are supposed to be in the Bible, you can know with certainty which is the church Jesus Christ established, you can know what the Bible says and means with certainty. But ironically, on a very basic (and important) fundamental human issue, you can’t have certainty of your salvation."

           If one takes the Word of God to heart, then he or she will depend wholly on Christ for salvation (Matthew 11:28-30). We cannot make reparation for our sins because doing such requires a perfect substitute (Hebrews 7:25; 10:10-14).We cannot make reparation for our sins because that has already been accomplished at the cross. The gospel nowhere demands that it be administered through some complex church hierarchy. Works are the product, not the cause, of justification. We do them out of gratitude for what God has accomplished on our behalf. We should do them because our hearts have been transformed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Answering Practical Objections To Sola Scriptura

  • High Illiteracy Rates In The Early Church:
          -Being illiterate does not mean that a person is dumb or has less of an ability to understand concepts. Sola Scriptura was still possible for the early Christians because:
            *Scripture can be taught orally by those who are literate.
            *Scripture can still be memorized or recited from memory.
            *Scripture can still be studied, though it may take more time to grasp the meaning behind certain passages of Scripture.
            *The Scriptures were read in the Synagogues and churches. In fact, the heretics of the early church would use Scripture to engage Christians.
          -The ruthless persecution of Christians is problematic for the spread of the gospel, but that does not in any way suggest that hearing and accepting the preached message is of less importance.
          -If the Lord Jesus Christ passed on infallible, extra-biblical oral traditions that were meant to be heard by the layman, then what about the people who are deaf? If illiteracy rates disqualify Scripture from functioning as the only infallible rule of faith, then the Roman Catholic "three-legged stool" must also be disqualified because deaf people cannot hear oral teaching.
  • Concerning Malnutrition In The Early Church:
          -Everybody most probably had the same fundamental diet.
          -It takes no more nourishment to understand teachings found in a catechism than it does to understand passages of Scripture.
  • The Invention Of The Gutenberg Printing Press In 1436:
          -The underlying problem with the "practical arguments" against Sola Scriptura is that they misrepresent the doctrine. All it means is that Scripture alone is the ultimate standard of authority in spiritual matters. These points, however important, are separate issues that need to be addressed on their own terms. These points have nothing to do with the truthfulness of Sola Scriptura, or other articles of the Christian faith such as the Trinity. In order to refute Sola Scriptura, one actually has to demonstrate that the principle is unbiblical or conflicts with Scripture. The authority of Scripture is not determined by our intelligence. The authority of Scripture is not determined by our health. The authority of Scripture is not determined by its availability. Scripture is inherently authoritative because it is God-breathed. It looks as though Roman Catholic apologists have raised a bunch of red herrings and straw men so as to make their critics appear laughable.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Is Your Pastor Qualified To Be Preaching From The Pulpit?

  • Discussion:
          -The Apostle Paul expressed in a straightforward manner through his first epistle to Timothy the qualifications required of a man before he can be ordained a bishop in the church. These traits are all outlined in chapters three and five of that letter, which are presented as follows:

           * Not needing criticism
           * Wise
           * Worthy of respect
           * Able to show hospitality
           * Well grounded in the faith/not a new convert
           * Competent
           * Responsible
           * Faithful
           * Loving, selfless, and humble
           * Not having fellowship with sin/setting a good moral example (e.g. not selfish, conceited, greedy, combative, aggressive, contentious, an alcoholic)

          A rhetorical question that the author raises in this context plays a key role in illustrating the importance of fitting the provided description:

          "If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?"

           Obviously, taking on a leadership position requires a lot of responsibility. This is even more so true of becoming a minister, since it entails preaching the entire counsel of God. The Holy Spirit has given to us through Paul a thorough set of guidelines for us to adhere to so as to determine whether a man is fit for the office of pastor. If a man has qualities that do not match up with the list provided here, then, by biblical standards, he is not fit to be a minister.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Receiving Praise From God

        "It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

        To preface, it should be noted that the context of this passage is about stewardship. From the viewpoint of oneself, this text of Scripture is a call to not evaluate (in a non-spiritual fashion) the quality of ministerial work. Themes of selflessness and humility are clearly being enforced here. All manner of teaching and preaching in the church is to be for the glory of God. We plant the seeds of conversion. It is He who causes the growth. It is He that justifies. His praise and approval is of greatest importance. From a general standpoint, this text serves as a condemnation of passing hasty or harsh judgments regarding the faithfulness of those who preach the counsel of the Lord. We do not know the intentions and desires of other people. Only God knows the hearts of men. He reveals truth. On Judgement Day, every person will be rewarded according to his or her deeds. God looks at our works in judgement because they are the evidence of our faithfulness to Him. They are descriptive of who we are as people. God will bestow praise accordingly to each believer.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Social Justice Issues Are Not The Top Priority Of The Church

"The history of the social gospel is, in nearly every case, a sincere attempt by Christians to do those things that they believe will honor God and benefit humanity. In every case, however, the practical working out of “benefiting humanity” has compromised Biblical faith and dishonored God. Why is that? God’s Word gives no commission to the church to fix the problems of the World. Those who attempt to do so are starting out under a false premise, “…a way which seemeth right unto a man,” not God’s way. So where can it go from there? “The end thereof are the ways of death,” i.e., destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Furthermore, the problems of the world are all symptoms. The root cause is sin.

The social gospel is a deadly disease for “people of faith.” It reinforces the belief that salvation can be attained by doing good works, putting aside differences for the common good, treating others the way we want to be treated, acting morally, ethically, and sacrificially – and that doing so will endear humans to God. No. These are self-deceptive religious works that spurn God’s salvation, deny His perfect standard, and reject His perfect justice. Salvation is“not of works, lest any man should boast.” In fact, it is “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

...What does it profit the billions of "people of faith" who may alleviate some of the world's symptoms yet lose their very souls?"

McMahon, T.A., "THE SHAMEFUL SOCIAL GOSPEL"

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Analyzing The Freethinker Position

           Freethinkers, who are generally naturalistic humanists, claim to derive their points of view through reasoning processes and the scientific method. These people claim to develop opinions, apart from subjective preferences. They present themselves as being objective, free from religious superstition, moral absolutes, and societal traditions. The beliefs of individual freethinkers differ widely, as well as their conduct. However, errors in this philosophy become apparent as one begins pulling its threads.

           The underlying problem with the freethinking position is that it is simply not true. Everybody has biases. Everybody has underlying presuppositions by which data is processed. These so-called freethinkers are no exception to the rule. They are confined to their personal opinions. They preach their ideas as dogma. Moreover, this philosophy involves much speculation and question begging.

           How can one know that the freethinking position is right? Is there any evidence that this philosophy is not a mere assumption? Is it not circular to assume the validity of reason without proving it? Are we to use our reasoning to verify our own reasoning? If freethinkers disagree with each other, then who is correct? If our thoughts are a product of random chemical reactions in the brain as dictated by the fixed laws of chemistry, how can atheists call themselves freethinkers? If these people were as objective as they claim to be, then surely, they would allow creationism to be taught in public educational institutions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Logically Illustrating The Doctrine Of The Trinity

"In Romans:1:20 Paul argues that God's "eternal power and Godhead" are seen in the creation He made. God's eternal power—but His Godhead? Yes, as Dr. Wood pointed out years ago in The Secret of the Universe, the triune nature of God is stamped on His creation. The cosmos is divided into three: space, matter and time. Each of these is divided into three. Space, for instance, is composed of length, breadth and width, each separate and distinct in itself, yet the three are one. Length, breadth and width are not three spaces, but three dimensions comprising one space. Run enough lines lengthwise and you take in the whole. But so it is with the width and height. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is all of space—just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is each God.

Time also is a trinity: past, present and future—two invisible and one visible. Each is separate and distinct, yet each is the whole. Man himself is a triunity of spirit, soul and body, two of which are invisible, one visible. Many more details could be given of the Godhead's triunity reflected in the universe. It can hardly be coincidence."

Dave Hunt, The Trinity

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Uniqueness Of Trinitarian Monotheism

         Quite simply, polytheism is the worship of multiple deities. Examples would include the Roman pantheon and Hinduism. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the fundamental logical dilemma for polytheism, which is rooted in the fact that the gods of such religions do not function in perfect harmony with each other. They certainly are diverse, but are by no means unified. 

         In a polytheistic worldview, there is no final arbitrator of truth. The deities fight amongst each other. The deities can steal wives from each other. The deities can be killed. They spitefully contradict and blaspheme one another. They are subject to defeat and virtually powerless by themselves. Thus, truth and morals are rendered subjective. Peace becomes nonexistent. Chaos abounds fully. Of what practical application is polytheism?

         In contrast, the God of the Judeo-Christian framework exists as one in three separate, divine persons. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He is eternal. He is self-sufficient. He is love, and enjoys fellowship. He is righteous. He is consistent with Himself. Trinitarian monotheism is the most rational expression of monotheism. No mere man could have invented a doctrine as sophisticated, yet so profound, as that of the trinity.

         The so-called divine entities of polytheistic religions are defective and so have proven themselves to be nothing but idols. The Holy Scriptures plainly tell us that there is only one true God (Exodus 20:1-3; Isaiah 43:10-11). He is the Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). Logical deductions used to argue for the existence of God such as degrees of perfection, our orderly universe, and objective morals are supportive of monotheism. Further, it is from the Judeo-Christian worldview that people derive the objective nature of truth, logic, and reality.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Basic List Of Questions To Use In Evangelism

  • Introduction:
          -How can we as Christians go about with presenting the gospel to the lost world? Each witnessing encounter will vary. One way to participate in evangelism ministry is to lovingly pose questions. Different questions exist for different circumstances, depending on the audience. Good questions are thought-provoking, challenge conventional ideas, and can generate other good questions. Posing questions can create opportunities to present the gospel.
  • Some General Questions:
          -"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"
          -"What do you think happens after death? Do you think that there is life beyond the grave?"
          -"How do you get right with God?"
          -"Who is Jesus to you?"
          -"What do you think that is Jesus doing now?"
             ^According to Scripture, Jesus is holding the universe together (John 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1), He is sitting at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20), He intercedes on behalf of Christians (Hebrews 7:25), He is the mediator of the New Covenant (1 Timothy 2:5-6), He is working among believers (2 Corinthians 13:3), and will be returning (Titus 2:13).
          -"Where did we come from"? (who made us?)
          -"Who are we -- why is life sacred?" (value or purpose of life)
          -"What has gone wrong with the world?"
          -"What can we do to fix it?"
  • Questions To Ask During Discussions:
          -"What do you mean by that?"
          -"How did you come to the conclusion?" (or "Why do you think that?")
          -"How do you know that's true?"
          -"Have you considered...?"
          -"Is there an objective evil? Where did it come from--what is its source?"
          -"Where did human conscience come from?"
          -"What would it mean to you if what you believe is true?" "Is not true?"
          -"Do you believe that what you believe is really true?"
          -"How did you reach the verdict that I am wrong?"
          -"If God asks you why He should let you into His kingdom, how would you answer?"
          -"What kind of person do you have to be for God to accept you?"
          -"Since you don't have access to ALL knowledge, is it possible that God exists outside your sphere of knowledge?"
          -"If God is discovered, would that make your life better or worse? How would it change your life?"

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Was The New Testament Influenced By Pagan Philosophy?

Summary

Many college students still encounter outdated charges that first century Christianity and the New Testament were heavily influenced by pagan philosophical systems. Prominent among such claims are the following: (1) elements of Plato's philosophy appear in the New Testament; (2) the New Testament reflects the influence of Stoicism; and (3) the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo was a source of John's use of the Greek word logos as a description of Jesus. Each of these claims may be easily answered, a fact which challenges the badly outdated scholarship that continues to circulate these allegations in books and lectures.

Did the Christianity of the first century A.D. borrow any of its essential beliefs[1] from the pagan philosophical systems of that time? Was first century Christianity -- the Christianity reflected in the pages of the New Testament -- a syncretistic religion (i.e., a religion which fuses elements of differing belief systems)?

Christian college students occasionally encounter professors who answer these questions in the affirmative and then attempt to use the claim that there are pagan roots behind the words of the New Testament to undermine the faith of Christian students in their classes. Many Christians who hear allegations like these for the first time are stunned and find themselves at a loss about the best way to handle such claims. The purpose of this article is to provide such Christians with the help they need to answer charges that the New Testament was influenced by pagan philosophy. In a separate article that will appear in the next issue of this journal, I'll tackle the related issue of whether the New Testament was influenced by pagan religious systems of the first century.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ISSUE

During the period running roughly from 1890 to 1940, scholars often alleged that the early Christian church was heavily influenced by such philosophical movements as Platonism and Stoicism. Special attention was given to the Jewish philosopher Philo (d. A.D. 50) whose thought, it was claimed, can be traced in the use of the word logos as a name for Jesus Christ in the early verses of John's Gospel.
Largely as a result of a series of scholarly books and articles written in rebuttal, allegations of early Christianity's dependence on pagan philosophy began to fade in the years just before the start of World War II. Today, in the early 1990s, most informed scholars regard the question as a dead issue. These old arguments, however, continue to circulate in the publications of a few scholars and in the classroom antics of many college professors who have never bothered to become acquainted with the large body of writings on the subject.

For example, in a widely used philosophy text, the late E. A. Burtt, a professor at Cornell University during the post-war period, argued that Paul's theology was dependent on ideas borrowed from the Hellenistic world.[2] Similar claims can be found in a widely used history of philosophy textbook by W. T. Jones, a professor of philosophy at California Institute of Technology.[3] Thomas W. Africa's history text, The Ancient World, makes repeated assertions about Christianity's dependence on pagan systems of thought.[4] While it is true that such examples exhibit a surprising lack of acquaintance with the scholarly literature, the false claims can still cause harm when believed by uninformed people.

This article will provide the reader with the most important claims made by proponents of an early Christian dependence on pagan philosophy during the Hellenistic age.[5] I will focus on three major claims: (1) the claim that elements of Plato's philosophy appear in the New Testament; (2) the claim that the New Testament shows signs of having been influenced by the system known as Stoicism; and (3) the allegation that the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo (whose thought was an odd mixture of Platonism and Stoicism) was a source of John's use of the Greek word logos as a description of Jesus (John 1:1-14), and also an influence on the thinking of the writer of the Book of Hebrews. In the case of each set of claims, I will direct the reader to information that points out the weaknesses of the assertions.

It should be obvious that this subject is too vast to be covered adequately in one short article. Hence, I will also direct the reader to more detailed treatments of the material. For example, everything discussed in this article is covered much more extensively in my book, The Gospel and the Greeks.[6]

My focus, it should be understood, is on the writers of the New Testament whom Christians regard as divinely inspired recipients of revealed truth. The well-known Christian commitment to the inspiration and authority of the New Testament documents does not oblige Christians to have the same commitment for Christian thinkers who wrote after the close of the New Testament canon. Students of church history recognize the presence of various unbiblical ideas in many of the early church fathers, such as Origen (A.D. 185-254).[7] My concern is with allegations of pagan ideas in the documents of the New Testament.

INFLUENCED BY PLATONISM?

This section will examine the major arguments that were once used in support of the view that the apostle Paul borrowed from Platonism. By the time we finish we will not only better understand why such claims are seldom made anymore; we will also have cause to marvel at how any careful student of the New Testament could ever have thought the charges had merit.

The publications that assert a Pauline dependence on Platonism tend to focus on a similar collection of charges. For instance, Paul's writings are supposed to reflect a dualistic view of the world -- a view that is said to be especially clear in his allegedly radical distinction between the human soul and body. Moreover, it is claimed, Paul manifests the typical Platonic aversion to the body as being evil, a prison house of the soul, from which the Christian longs to be delivered. Until this deliverance actually comes by means of death, the Pauline Christian is supposed to denigrate his body through various ascetic practices.

The obvious first step for the Christian to take in all this is to ask the person making the claims to produce the New Testament passages in which Paul's supposed Platonism appears. Romans 7:24 is the verse usually cited in support of the claim that Paul taught that the human body is a prison house of the soul: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

It is obvious that Paul in this verse uses neither the word prison (phylake) nor the idea that the body is a prison of the soul. As a matter of fact, nowhere in Scripture does Paul write of the body in terms of a prison. In all likelihood, Paul in Romans 7:24 used the word body metaphorically.

Another verse critics sometimes appeal to in this connection[8] is Romans 8:23: "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." If anything, this verse disproves the claim that Paul was a Platonist, since the redemption that Paul awaits is the glory that will follow his bodily resurrection. No self-respecting Platonist would ever teach a doctrine of bodily resurrection. Basic to Platonism is the belief that death brings humans to a complete and total deliverance from everything physical and material.

Almost every author who used to claim that Paul was influenced by Platonism referred to the apostle's repeated use of the word flesh in contexts associating it with evil. If Paul really taught that the soul is good and the body is evil, then the case for his alleged dependence on Platonism might begin to make some sense.[9] The important question here, however, concerns what Paul meant by the word flesh. Philosopher Gordon Clark warns against a careless reading of Paul that would make "flesh" mean body. Instead, Clark notes, "a little attention to Paul's remarks makes it clear that he means, not body, but the sinful human nature inherited from Adam."[10] Theologian J. Gresham Machen -- who wrote during the period when this view was most accepted -- elaborated on the real significance of Paul's use of the term flesh:
    The Pauline use of the term "flesh" to denote that in which evil resides can apparently find no real parallel whatever in pagan usage....At first sight there might seem to be a parallel between the Pauline doctrine of the flesh and the Greek doctrine of the evil of matter, which appears...in Plato and in his successors. But the parallel breaks down upon closer examination. According to Plato, the body is evil because it is material; it is the prison-house of the soul. Nothing could really be more remote from the thought of Paul. According to Paul, the connection of soul and body is entirely normal, and the soul apart from the body is in a condition of nakedness....there is in Paul no doctrine of the inherent evil of matter.[11]
Paul's condemnation of "flesh" as evil, then, has absolutely no reference to the human body. He uses the term sarx or flesh in these contexts to refer to a psychological and spiritual defect that leads every human to place self ahead of the Creator. The New International Version (NIV) makes this clear by translating sarx as "sinful nature." For instance, Romans 7:5, a verse often used as support for the claim that Paul regarded matter as evil, reads: "For when we were controlled by the sinful nature [sarx], the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death." None of the texts in which Paul uses sarx in its ethical sense can support the claim that he was a Platonic dualist.

The claim that Paul believed matter is evil is also contradicted by his belief that the ultimate destiny of redeemed human beings is an endless life in a resurrected body, not the disembodied existence of an immortal soul, as Plato taught. Paul's doctrine of the resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 15:12-58) is clearly incompatible with a belief in the inherent wickedness of matter.

Efforts to find an evil matter versus good spirit dualism in Paul also stumble over the fact that he believed in evil spirits (Eph. 6:12). The additional fact that God pronounced His creation good (Gen. 1:31) also demonstrates how far removed dualism is from the teaching of the Old and New Testaments.

As for the claim that Paul advocated a radical asceticism that included the intentional harming of his body,[12] the fact is that Paul wrote the New Testament's strongest attacks against asceticism (e.g., Col. 2:16-23). Gordon Clark correctly observes that Paul was "not motivated by a desire to free a divine soul from a bodily tomb, much less by the idea that pain is good and pleasure evil. Rather, Paul was engaged in a race, to win which required him to lay aside every weight as well as the sin which so easily besets. Willing to suffer stonings and stripes for the name of Christ, he never practiced self-flagellation."[13]

We must conclude that the authors who claimed Paul was influenced by Platonism and the college and seminary professors who passed these theories along to their students were, at the least, guilty of sloppy research and shoddy thinking. It is easy to suspect that their primary motivation was a desire to find anything that might appear to discredit the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.

INFLUENCED BY STOICISM?

Stoicism was the most important philosophical influence on cultured people during the first century A.D. Stoic philosophers were materialists, pantheists, and fatalists: they believed that everything that exists is physical or corporeal in nature and that every existing thing is ultimately traceable back to one ultimate universal stuff that is divine. They thought that God and the world were related in a way that allowed the world to be described as the body of God and God to be described as the soul of the world. Unlike the God of Judaism and Christianity who is an eternal, almighty, all-knowing, loving, spiritual Person, the Stoic God was impersonal and hence incapable of knowledge, love, or providential acts. The Stoic fatalism is seen in their belief that everything that happens occurs by necessity.

The major contribution of the Stoic philosophers was the development of an ethical system that would help the Stoic live a meaningful life in a fatalistic universe. To find good and evil, Stoics taught, we must turn away from whatever happens of necessity in our world and look within. Personal virtue or vice resides in our attitudes, in the way we react to the things that happen to us. The key word in the Stoic ethic is apathy. Everything that happens to a human being is fixed by that person's fate. But most humans resist their destiny, when in fact nothing could have been done that would have altered the course of nature. Our duty in life, then, is simply to accept what happens; it is to resign ourselves to our unavoidable destiny. This will be reflected in our apathy to all that is around us, including family and property. The truly virtuous person will eliminate all passion and emotion from his (or her) life until he reaches the point that nothing troubles or bothers him. Once humans learn that they are slaves to their fate, the secret of the only good life open to them requires them to eliminate all emotion from their lives and accept whatever fate sends their way.

The fact that the Stoics often described this attitude of resignation as "accepting the will of God" is no doubt responsible for the confusion between their teaching and the New Testament's emphasis upon doing God's will. But the ideas behind the Stoic and Christian phrases are completely different! When a Stoic talked about the will of God, he meant nothing more than submission to the unavoidable fatalism of an impersonal, uncaring, unknowing, and unloving Nature. But when Christians talk about accepting the will of God, they mean the chosen plan of a loving, knowing, personal deity.
Decades ago, it was fashionable in some circles to claim that the apostle Paul was influenced by Stoicism. As late as 1970, Columbia University philosopher John Herman Randall, Jr., attributed the strong social emphasis of Paul's moral philosophy to Stoicism.[14] Paul's stress upon inward motives as over against the outward act has been said to evidence a Stoic influence.[15] There was a time when some claimed that a relationship existed between Paul and the Stoic thinker Seneca who was an official in Nero's government during the apostle's time in Rome.[16] And there can be no question that Paul quoted from a Stoic writer in his famous sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:28).

Paul's quoting from a Stoic writer proves nothing, of course. As an educated man speaking to Stoics, it was both good rhetoric and a way to gain the attention of his audience. Though Paul and Seneca were in Rome at the same time, there is no evidence of any personal contact and plenty of evidence that their respective systems of thought were alien to each other. When properly understood, Seneca's Stoic ethic is repulsive to a Christian like Paul. It is totally devoid of genuine human emotion and compassion; there is no place for love, pity, or contrition. It lacks any intrinsic tie to repentance, conversion, and faith in God. Even if Paul did use Stoic images and language, he gave the words a new and higher meaning and significance. In any comparison between the thinking of Paul and Stoicism, it is the differences and conflicts that stand out.

Two other instances of alleged Stoic influence remain to be considered. The first concerns the Stoic's use of the Greek word logos as a technical term. It is this same term that John uses throughout the first fourteen verses of his Gospel as a name for Jesus Christ. Since the immediate source for the New Testament use of logos is usually said to be the Jewish philosopher Philo, whose system was a synthesis of Platonism and Stoicism, I will postpone comment on this point until the next section. The second instance of alleged Stoic influence concerns the belief of early Stoics (300-200 B.C.) that the world would eventually be destroyed by fire. This led some critics to charge that Peter's teaching in 2 Peter 3 that God will end the world by destroying it by fire echoes the Stoic doctrine of a universal conflagration.

Unfortunately for such critics, their theory falls apart once one notices the significant differences between the Stoic belief and Peter's teaching. For one thing, the Stoic conflagration was an eternally repeated event that had nothing to do with the conscious purposes of a personal God. As philosopher Gordon Clark explains, "The conflagration in II Peter is a sudden catastrophe like the flood. But the Stoic conflagration is a slow process that is going on now; it takes a long time, during which the elements change into fire bit by bit. The Stoic process is a natural process in the most ordinary sense of the word [that is, it is simply the ordinary outworking of the order of nature]; but Peter speaks of it as the result of the word or fiat of the Lord."[17] Furthermore, the Stoic conflagration is part of a pantheistic system while the conflagration described by Peter is the divine judgment of a holy and personal God upon sin.

As if these differences were not enough, the Stoic fire endlessly repeats itself. After each conflagration, the world begins anew and duplicates exactly the same course of events of the previous cycle. The history of the world, in this Stoic view, repeats itself an infinite number of times. Contrast this with Peter's view that the world is destroyed by fire only once, like the flood of Noah's time.

Perhaps the most decisive objection to the claim of a Stoic influence in 2 Peter is the fact that major Stoic writers had completely abandoned this doctrine by the middle of the first century A.D. The critic would have us believe that the writer of 2 Peter was influenced by a Stoic doctrine that Stoic thinkers had completely repudiated. It is little wonder that most scholars abandoned theories about a Stoic influence upon the New Testament decades ago. This leaves us with the third and last of our possible philosophic influences on the New Testament, the first century system of the Jewish thinker, Philo.

INFLUENCED BY PHILO?

At the beginning of the Christian era, Alexandria, Egypt -- an important center of the Jewish Dispersion -- had become the chief center of Hellenistic thought. The large colony of Jews who claimed Alexandria as their home became Hellenized in both language and culture. While still observing their Jewish faith, they translated their Scriptures into the Greek language (the Septuagint). This tended to increase their cultural isolation from their Hebrew roots because they now had even less incentive to remain fluent in the Hebrew language. Given the intellectual interests of the Alexandrian Jews, it was only natural that the arrival of such philosophical systems as Platonism and Stoicism in Alexandria would eventually affect them.

The greatest of the Alexandrian Jewish intellectuals was Philo Judeaus, who lived from about 25 B.C. to about A.D. 50. Philo's work illustrates many of the most important elements of the synthesis of Platonism and Stoicism that came to dominate Hellenistic philosophy during and after his lifetime. He is the best example of how intellectual Jews of the Dispersion, isolated from Palestine and their native culture, allowed Hellenistic influences to shape their theology and philosophy.[18]

Philo has become famous for his use of the term logos.[19] It is impossible, however, to find any clear or consistent use of the word in his many writings. For example, he used the word to refer to Plato's ideal world of the forms,[20] to the mind of God, and to a principle that existed somewhere between the realms of God and creation. At other times, he applied logos to any of several mediators between God and man, such as the angels, Moses, Abraham, and even the Jewish high priest. But putting aside his lack of clarity and consistency, his use of logos has raised questions about a possible influence of Alexandrian Judaism on such New Testament writings as John's Gospel and the Book of Hebrews.

Sixty years ago, the view that the writer of the fourth Gospel was influenced by Philo's use of logos was something of an official doctrine in certain circles.[21] With few exceptions, however, the drift of scholarship has been away from Philo as a source for John's Logos doctrine. But as happens so often, news of this change in scholarly opinion was slow in reaching some. And so, John Herman Randall, Jr., wrote in 1970 that "in his Prologue about the Word, the Logos, [John] is adopting Philo Judaeus' earlier Platonization of the Hebraic tradition."[22] And in his history of philosophy textbook that is still widely used, even in some evangelical colleges, W. T. Jones claims that the "mysticism of the Fourth Gospel was grounded in the Platonism of Hellenistic Alexandria."[23]

Most contemporary New Testament scholars see no need to postulate a conscious relationship between Philo (or Alexandrian Judaism) and the New Testament use of logos. They point out that alongside the philosophical and Philonic views of logos, there were two similar but independent notions in the Judaism of the time. One of these was a pre-Christian Jewish speculation about a personified Wisdom that appears in Proverbs 8:22-26.[24] Other scholars advance a different theory that sees a connection between the New Testament use of logos and such Old Testament expressions as "The Word of God" and "The Word of the Lord." In many Old Testament passages, such expressions suggest an independent existence and personification of the Word of God.[25]

These two lines of thought may have merit and the reader is encouraged to examine them more fully. However, for a number of years I have been recommending a different approach to the problem, one that recognizes a possible link between the implicit Logos-Christology[26] of the Book of Hebrews and the Prologue to John's Gospel.

In Chapter 6 of my book, The Gospel and the Greeks, I explore a number of fascinating connections between the author of the Book of Hebrews (whom I take to be Apollos) and Alexandrian Judaism. I point to indications that the author of Hebrews may have been an Alexandrian Jew trained in Philo's philosophy prior to his Christian conversion. His purpose in writing Hebrews was to warn other members of his community of converted Hellenistic Jews against an apostasy that would result in their rejecting Christ and returning to their former beliefs. In the course of his message, the writer (Apollos?) argues that since Christ is a better Logos (or mediator) than any of the mediators available to them in their former beliefs,[27] a return to the inferior mediators of their past would make no sense.

If the argument in my book is correct, then several interesting possibilities open up. For one thing, the author of Hebrews (whoever he may be) deserves the title of the first Christian philosopher, since he was clearly trained in the details of Alexandrian philosophy. But the writer of Hebrews does not use this philosophical background to introduce Alexandrian philosophy into Christian thinking; rather he uses Christian thinking to reject his former views. Furthermore, this reading of Hebrews points to the existence of a Christian community that had a highly developed Logos Christology. But their application of the concept of logos to Jesus Christ did not amount to an introduction of pagan thinking into Christianity. On the contrary, their Christian use of Logos was developed in conscious opposition to every relevant aspect of Philo's philosophy. Once this possibility is recognized, the proper source of John's use of logos in John 1:1-14 may reflect his own contact with the thought of this community of converted Hellenistic Jews.

Wholly apart from my own speculation on this matter, Philo's Logos could not possibly function as a direct influence on the biblical concept of Logos.[28] (1) Philo's Logos-Mediator was a metaphysical abstraction while the Logos of the New Testament is a specific, individual, historical person. Philo's Logos is not a person or messiah or savior but a cosmic principle, postulated to solve various philosophical problems. (2) Given Philo's commitment to Platonism and its disparagement of the body as a tomb of the soul, Philo could never have believed in anything like the Incarnation. Philo's God could never make direct contact with matter. But the Jesus described in Hebrews not only becomes man but participates in a full range of all that is human, including temptation to sin. Philo would never have tolerated such thinking. (3) Philo's Logos could never be described as the Book of Hebrews pictures Jesus: suffering, being tempted to sin, and dying. (4) The repeated stress in Hebrews of Jesus' compassionate concern for His brethren (i.e., Christians) is incompatible with Philo's view of the emotions. Philo was influenced by the Stoic disparagement of emotion, and it is clear that he views the attainment of apathy (freedom from passion, emotion, and affection) as a much more important achievement than sympathy and compassion.

Readers may pursue these matters more fully in the works cited in the sidebar ("Suggested Reading"), and in the hundreds of works cited in the bibliographies in those books. The purpose of this article has been merely to introduce the reader to the fact that over the past century, various writers have attempted to undermine the authority of the New Testament by affirming that some of its teachings were borrowed from pagan philosophical systems of the day. A careful study of this issue reveals this claim to be false. Perhaps the most serious question still remaining is what we should think of the scholarship of authors and professors who continue to make these long-discredited claims.

SUGGESTED READING
    - A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (Boston: Beacon, 1963). - Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1989). - Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1992). - Ronald Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden: Brill, 1970).
About the Author

Dr. Ronald Nash is Professor of Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando. The latest of his 25 books are Beyond Liberation Theology (Baker), World-Views in Conflict (Zondervan), and Great Divides (NavPress).

NOTES

1 An essential Christian belief is one which, if false, would falsify the historic Christian faith. For example, if either the incarnation or the atonement or the resurrection of Jesus should turn out to be false, the Christian faith as it has been known from its inception would be false.
See Edwin A. Burtt, Types of Religious Philosophy, rev. ed. (New York: Harper, 1951), 35-36.
See W. T. Jones, The Medieval Mind (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969), Chapters One and Two.
See Thomas W. Africa, The Ancient World (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), 460. See also Thomas W. Africa, The Immense Majesty: A History of Rome and the Roman Empire (New York: Crowell, 1974), 340-42.
5 In its most narrow sense, the adjective "Hellenistic" is applied to the period of history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and the Roman conquest of the last major vestige of Alexander's empire, the Egypt of Cleopatra in 30 B.C. But in a broader sense, the term refers to the whole culture of the Roman Empire. While Rome achieved military and political supremacy throughout the Mediterranean world, it adopted the culture of the Hellenistic world that preceded Rome's rise to power.
See Ronald H. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1992).
7 For more on this, see Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (Jefferson, MD: Trinity, 1989), 210-17.
See George Holley Gilbert, Greek Thought in the New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1928), 85-86.
See William Fairweather, Jesus and the Greeks (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1924), 290.
10 Clark, 192.
11 J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1925), 275-76.
12 See Gilbert, 86-87.
13 Clark, 193.
14 John Herman Randall, Jr., Hellenistic Ways of Deliverance and the Making of the Christian Synthesis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 155.
15 Fairweather, 296.
16 See J. B. Lightfoot, "St. Paul and Seneca," in J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (1913; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1953), 270-333. Lightfoot argues against the possibility of a Stoic influence in this old essay. His polemic serves as an example of the importance once attributed to such views.
17 Clark, 191.
18 For more details, see Clark, 195-210 and Nash, Chapters 5-6.
19 The Greek word logos was a technical term in several ancient philosophical systems. Its philosophic usage goes back to Heraclitus (about 500 B.C.). It was then used by the Stoics, several hundred years later, some of whom influenced Philo.
20 For an explanation of Plato's theory of the forms, see Nash, Chapter 2.
21 Typical of these older works is G. H. C. MacGregor and A. C. Purdy, Jew and Greek (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1937), 337ff.
22 Randall, 157.
23 Jones, 52.
24 For more on this, see Nash, 84-86.
25 See Nash, 86-88 and James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 218.
26 When I say that the Logos-Christology of Hebrews is implicit, I am really making two points: (1) the Christology of Hebrews relates Jesus Christ to a Logos-concept that does have affinities to things the writer could have learned from Philo; (2) but since the term Logos is not actually applied to Jesus in Hebrews, it is implicit in the sense that it must be derived from a careful examination of the author's language. That is, a number of very special Greek words that Philo applied to his Logos are used by the writer of Hebrews to describe Jesus. See Chapter 6 of my Gospel and the Greeks.
27 To restate a point made earlier, Philo applied the term logos to all of the following: the angels, Moses, Abraham, and the Levitical high priest. It should be noted that the author of Hebrews argues that Jesus is better than each of these.
28 The points that follow are perfectly consistent with my theory that Christian Hellenists advanced their view of the Logos in conscious opposition to Philo's system.



End of document, CRJ0163A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Philosophy?"
release A, August 31, 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.)

By Ronald Nash, Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute