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 Had A "Pleasing Aroma" To God:
          -"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 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)
          -"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, p. 33-36

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, p. 20

Monday, November 26, 2018

Does Protestantism Have A Problem With Subjectivity?

  • Discussion:
          -Leila Miller wrote an article titled "Catholicism is objective, Protestantism is subjective," attempting to illustrate how Sola Scriptura results in hopeless doctrinal confusion and anarchy. She characterizes non-Catholic interpretations of biblical texts as being inherently relativistic due to them not being rooted in an infallible teaching office. The Roman Catholic Church is thus presented as being the exclusive source of doctrinal truth and certainty. It is touted as the solution to all our problems. Following are a handful of excerpts from the author along with a critique of those assertions:

          "...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; 2 Corinthians 13:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:5; 1 Timothy 3:14-15). Scriptural truths relating to salvation are easier for us to comprehend. Other parts of the Bible are more complex and require more study. Sometimes we may even need other people to explain a passage to us, but that does not require a complex church hierarchy. The "paradigm" that the author speaks of is certainly not new, since it was the Bereans who were considered "noble" for daily searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11). The Proverbs were written to give people "certainty" in regards to proper moral instruction (Proverbs 22:17-21). Luke wrote his gospel narrative to give Theophilus "certainty" concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-4). Scripture brings clarity in the midst of disorder. That is the testimony it provides in regard to itself.

          "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."

           This exact line of argumentation is advanced by cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and International Churches of Christ. It is a fact there are disagreements that are peripheral and tertiary in nature. There are differences that both philosophical and exegetical in nature. For example, the debate in regards to the nature of predestination is one that can be traced back to the days of Augustine. It has not even at this point in time been dogmatically defined by Rome itself. There is the possibility that people reject what Scripture says in spite of its "clear" teaching.

          "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."

            Matters for Roman Catholics are not as simple as Leila Miller makes them out to be. 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 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 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:

            "Much of the dissent has remained within the Vatican walls, as Francis’s opponents worked to stonewall reforms. A few high-ranking church leaders have questioned him publicly about his teachings. But the simmering opposition has suddenly exploded across the Catholic world, with a former Vatican ambassador accusing the pope of covering up sexual abuse — and demanding that Francis step down. The accusations came in a 7,000-word letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ² that could be viewed as an act of courage or unprecedented defiance. Either way, it sheds light on the opposition movement, and particularly its insistence that homosexuality within the church — and Francis’s inability to keep it at bay — is to blame for the sexual abuse crisis."...“We are a step away from schism,” said Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. “I think there is a perception among the pope’s critics that there is vulnerability here — on the part of the pope and in the Vatican generally.”

           In addition, the Catholic teaching on the death penalty is subject to change. Note the words of Roman Catholic philosopher Edward Feser:

           "For another thing, if the Pope is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral, then he would be effectively saying – whether consciously or unconsciously – that previous popes, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and even divinely inspired Scripture are in error. If this is what he is saying, then he would be attempting to “make known some new doctrine,” which the First Vatican Council expressly forbids a pope from doing. He would, contrary to the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, be “proclaim[ing] his own ideas” rather than “bind[ing] himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word.” He would be joining that very small company of popes who have flirted with doctrinal error. And he would be undermining the credibility of the entire Magisterium of the Church, including his own credibility. For if the Church has been that wrong for that long about something that serious, why should we trust anything else she teaches? And if all previous popes have been so badly mistaken about something so important, why should we think Pope Francis is right?"

           Consider this excerpt from a Roman Catholic website called Ignitum Today on the issue of 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 significant number of Roman Catholics do not agree with official Church teaching on this issue. Consequently, the claims of unity existing within the Roman Catholic Church have been greatly inflated. Should we conclude that the Magisterium needs an infallible interpreter in order for it to make sense?

           The Roman Catholic Church has never given an "infallible" interpretation of every passage in the Bible. In fact, it has done so only on a handful of occasions to serve its own purposes. What is even more interesting is that, while the Church of Rome guarantees certainty behind the infallibility of its official decrees, it never promises that the theological reasoning used to support a decree is accurate itself. Consider these words from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online:

           ''the validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached."

           "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 claim of Protestants being "subjective" is ironic, since Roman Catholics *subjectively* believe the Roman Catholic Church to be objectively authoritative. We all have to make personal decisions in searching for truth. No one is exempt from using fallible reasoning faculties in discernment. Everybody has to fallibly interpret communicated messages. Roman Catholics cannot have their cake and eat it too. They must fallibly interpret every word of Church teaching, whether they retrieve information from Papal Encyclicals, Ecumenical Council documents, the catechism, hearing priests during Mass, or the Code of Canon Law. 

           Roman Catholics do and must possess individualized, subjective interpretations of Roman Catholicism. They must judge for themselves the validity of the Roman Catholic Church in order to argue their position. Catholics operate no differently than Protestants in this regard because they *subjectively* appeal to evidence, which has to be analyzed in their own minds. In making this kind of argument, Catholics are severing the very branch of logic that they sit on because one could not even begin to submit to some outside authority without *subjectively* making the choice to do so. They are not in any better of a position to understand spiritual truth than anyone else.

            When interpreting Scripture, a person should take into account historical context and various literary devices. Commentaries, lexicons, and concordances are useful in matters of biblical interpretation. We should approach Scripture with a humble and prayerful heart. Not every argument or interpretation is equally valid. If one must have some special authority in order to give grounds for his beliefs, then how does he become a Roman Catholic in the first place? One cannot argue for an authority by appealing to that same authority. There has to be external sources verifying at least to some degree its reliability. 

           On what basis does one establish the authority of the Roman Catholic Church? If such a process involves using one's own powers of reason to evaluate evidence, then the person investigating is behaving exactly as does a Protestant or anyone else. Rome's "infallible" certainty is thus reduced to a mirage. It only provides organizational unity. Having a representative available to preside over a body of people does not translate into having no divisions of any kind. It only means that Catholics have decided for themselves they will place all their trust in the claims he makes on religious issues. If Sola Scriptura is invalidated because of divisions, then the same can equally be said of the Roman Catholic Magisterium.

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, p. 163-164

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Evaluating Deism As A Worldview

  • Discussion:
          -Deism is the belief that God created the universe, set everything in order, and has not been involved with it since. This viewpoint maintains that there is no supernatural intervention by God in creation. It is a rejection of divine providence. It is a rejection of God interacting with human beings. Deists rely solely on reason in their rejection of miracles and divine revelation.

          We as Christians should regard this system of thought to be outright heretical, since God has indeed given to us divine revelation. We know that He is active in creation. The Bible describes in ample detail His character. God desired fellowship and communion with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

           The Old Testament records Him intervening for Israel on multiple occasions. He redeemed the Jewish people from Egypt. In fact, God the Son descended from heaven above in flesh 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 concerned about the affairs of man.

          Deism is not at all coherent as a philosophy. Reason has its limits. How can a person on the basis of creation alone (physical entities) deduce the existence of logic and reason (non-physical entities)? How can one derive morals from observing nature without reference to divine revelation? Why reject the possibility of miracles when creation itself is a miracle?

          Would it make sense to worship a god who does not interact with man? Is such a god even worthy of our worship and time? Would such a god even have a reason to exist? It is not enough to merely posit the existence of God. It must be understood that He is present and interacting with creation. Deism is a rather awkward position for one to espouse.

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 the things of God. It is from Him that all blessings, temporal and eternal, flow (James 1:17). God is the ultimate source of our provisions in life.

        The fundamental reasons for giving thanks to Him should be evident to any sincere, faithful Christian. We have been redeemed and forgiven of our sins (Colossians 1:14). We have been rescued from the kingdom of Satan (Colossians 1:13). We can also show thankfulness to God for the natural world and its beauty. 

        God is gracious and merciful. 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 point accounts for Scripture associating ingratitude with sin (Romans 1:21-32; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). If we are unthankful, then how can we really trust in God? If we are not trusting in God while professing to follow Him, then we blaspheme Him.

        The Lord is the source of all wisdom. We are to be appreciative for whatever gifts that He has bestowed to us (Matthew 7:11). Every gift or blessing that we have originates from Him. This reality is called divine providence. We are not to approach life in a secular way that fails to take into account the workings of God.

        Thankfulness is good for our souls. It reinforces humility and selflessness. It counteracts our tendency to boast. It keeps anger and resentment at bay. 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.

        Thankfulness changes our perspective of matters in this life. It is an inward state of heart which points to God and brings glory to Him. The test of whether we are truly thankful does not lie in good times but in our times of trouble and unease. We should be thankful, even in the midst of suffering and persecution (James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:12-19).

         We should thank God for holding us up spiritually during times of pain and suffering. He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. He is working things out according to His divine will. If we refuse to give thanks to God, then already existing bitterness will fester in our minds and so rob us of the supernatural 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 life. 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. We are to be grateful to God for even seemingly small things like the oxygen that we breath.

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 result 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. He has made known 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. Consider the following points of Paul's argument:

             * 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.

           The very reason that boasting is excluded from justification is that we are all sinners. We are not deserving of salvation. Even Christians still have spiritual weaknesses. We 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). If we sin, then we have Jesus Christ as our advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1). Other passages of Scripture confirm that the righteous do occasionally stumble (Psalms 130:3-4; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; James 3:2).

          To deny that we are sinners saved by the grace of God is the preaching of a false gospel and calling God a liar. Our sin nature does not immediately disappear in its totality at the moment of conversion. Christians are called saints because they have been consecrated by the Holy Spirit. We are not to continue in sin. We have been called to grow in sanctification. It is the grace of God that transforms our nature in this life.

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 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, p. 37-39, 212

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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, p. 255-256

Monday, November 12, 2018

Can The Roman Catholic Church Offer People Assurance Of Salvation?

  • Discussion:
           -An article was published at Catholic Answers titled Assurance of Salvation?, which tries to dispel mistaken notions of Roman Catholic teaching on assurance of salvation. Following are excerpts from the author with a critique of his assertions:

           "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.”

           On the contrary, most Roman Catholics act as though they cannot have assurance of salvation. When asked what it takes for one to enter heaven, they usually point to their church attendance and being a good person. Christ is not the point of focus in their life. This may not true in every instance, but we cannot minimize this problem. Consider also the words of Cardinal John O'Connor:

           "Church teaching is that I don't know at any given moment, what my eternal future will be," the Cardinal wrote. I can hope, pray, do my very best-but I still don't know. Pope John Paul II doesn't know absolutely that he will go to heaven, nor does Mother Teresa of Calcutta, unless either has had a special revelation."

           The bottom line is that the Roman Catholic Church has not adequately addressed the issue of assurance of salvation. This is a serious defect in its presentation of the gospel. 

           Moreover, Catholics attend Mass on a weekly basis for the express purpose of receiving grace from God. Justification for them is viewed as a fixed regular payment 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).

           The Bible tells us that we can have absolute assurance of salvation (John 5:24; 1 John 5:13). If we are in Jesus Christ, then we are fully justified (John 1:12; Romans 8:15-17). The salvation that He gives to believers is complete and instantaneous. We simply need to place our trust in 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 this excerpt from Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 262

           "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."

            We do not have to fear as Roman Catholics about quickly and unexpectedly loosing fellowship with God as a result of no longer being considered worthy. Justification cannot simply be a gift of God, if our works contribute to it at all. Our justification is not based on performance, even though we are responsible for our eternal destiny. The question is how we respond to the gospel. Constant doubt is a logical consequence of a system of works righteousness.

           We can have infallible assurance of salvation because it is rooted in the promises of God. He is faithful and trustworthy. He can neither lie nor deceive. In Roman Catholicism, committing one mortal sin constitutes a loss of all saving grace and so requires confession to an ordained priest. Thus, one could hypothetically lose his salvation thousands of times in a lifetime. Moreover, no man knows when he is going to commit one of those allegedly salvation forfeiting sins. What if a person dies before getting to the confessional? God is much bigger than this. The author of the article at Catholic Answers provides readers with the following talking points:

           "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 equated justification with sanctification, which is an abysmal error. In addition, 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 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. We do good works out of gratitude for what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. We do good works because God has given us a new heart.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Is Your Pastor Qualified To Be Preaching From The Pulpit?

  • Discussion:
          -The Apostle Paul expressed in a straightforward manner the qualifications required of a man before he can be ordained a bishop or elder in the church (1 Timothy 3-5). The first point of consideration is whether a man even desires to wield such a position of authority (1 Timothy 3:1). The required characteristics are presented in outline form as follows:

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

          A rhetorical question that the author raises in this context illustrates the importance of fitting the above provided description:

          "If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5)

          How a man manages his own household is indicative of how well he would handle a leadership position in the church. Is he fiscally responsible? Are his children believers? Obviously, authority comes with responsibility. It is even more so the case with 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 to be adhered to so as to determine whether a man is fit to be a pastor. He regards this kind of work as being of a most excellent kind. If a man has qualities that do not match up with the list provided, then he is not fit to be in that office.

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)

        The Apostle Paul focuses on stewardship in the church of God. From the viewpoint of oneself, we are not to 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, preaching, and exhortation is to be done for the glory of God. We plant the seeds of conversion, but it is He who causes the growth. It is He that makes godly the ungodly. His praise and approval are what ultimately matters.

        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 God. We do not know the thoughts and intentions of other people. Only God has that kind of knowledge. 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 descriptive of who we are as people.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Uniqueness Of Trinitarian Monotheism

         In simplest terms, polytheism is belief in the existence of multiple gods. Cited examples could range anywhere from the Roman pantheon of gods to religions that still thrive such as Hinduism. It is both an ancient and modern concept. The fundamental logical dilemma for polytheistic worldviews is rooted in the fact that the gods of such religions do not function in perfect harmony with each other. They certainly are diverse. Such gods are by no means unified. 

         In a polytheistic framework, there is no final arbitrator of truth. The deities fight amongst each other. In Greco-Roman literature, gods killed and stole wives from each other. They spitefully contradicted and blasphemed one another. The gods of polytheistic religions are subject to defeat. Thus, morality is rendered subjective in a polytheistic worldview. Peace becomes nonexistent. Chaos abounds fully. Of what avail is polytheism to our lives?

         In contrast, the God of the Judeo-Christian worldview exists as one in three separate, divine persons. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He is eternal and self-sufficient. God is love, and enjoys fellowship with creation. He is righteous. 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 gods of pagan religions, however, act exactly like depraved man himself. Are they even worthy of being worshiped? Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek wrote:

         "...the Trinity helps us understand how love has existed from all eternity. The New Testament says God is love (1 John 4:16). But how can love exist in a rigid monotheistic being? There's no one else to love! Tri-unity in the Godhead solves the problem. After all, to have love, there must be a lover (the Father), a loved one (the Son), and a spirit of love (the Holy Spirit). Because of this triune nature, God has existed eternally in a perfect fellowship of love. He is the perfect being who lacks nothing, not even love. Since he lacks nothing, God didn't need to to create human beings for any reason (he wasn't lonely, as some preachers have been known to say). He simply chose to create us, and loves us in accordance to his loving nature." (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 353)

         The so-called deities of polytheistic religions are defective and so have proven themselves to be nothing to us. They are beneath our consideration. They are not fit recipients of our effort, attention, or respect. The history of the Old Testament makes this reality clear to us who have faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was He who delivered the Jews from the hands of Egypt's pharaoh. It was God who spared Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. It is against this kind of a backdrop that a Psalmist wrote about pagans and their gods:

         "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them." (Psalm 115:4-8)

         This passage contains elements of sarcasm as well as irony. The Psalmist disparages the gods of foreign nations by noting their inability to do anything even for themselves. People who follow after them are thus considered stupid and senseless. They are viewed as objects of contempt. The gods of foreign nations are described as having characteristics of living beings, yet having no life or power in them. They have no use, being nothing but a product of human imagination.

          The Holy Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that there is only one true God (Exodus 20:1-3; Isaiah 43:10-11). He stands out in contrast to the false gods of this world. He is the living God; the rest are dead and helpless. God has no name like Zeus or Apollo. Human reason cannot even begin to fathom the depths of who He is. God alone is the Creator of heaven and earth. Logical deductions used to argue for the existence of God such as an orderly universe and objective moral truths are consistent with monotheism.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Basic List Of Questions To Use In Evangelism

  • Introduction:
          -How can Christians go about with presenting the gospel to the lost world? Each witnessing encounter will be different. One way to initiate a conversation is to 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 share the gospel with other people.
  • 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?"
          -"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?
          -"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?


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.

    - 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).


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