Saturday, February 29, 2020

What Is The Earliest Evidence For Christianity?

Let us then behold the earliest evidence for Christianity:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures . . .
he was buried . . .
he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .
he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time. . . .
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Listed above is what scholars argue is the actual creedal tradition(s) Paul received, without Paul’s additional words and comments. This is a new discovery. Even New Testament scholar (and atheist) Gerd Lüdemann called this discovery “one of the great achievements of recent New Testament scholarship.” The early Church Fathers, medieval theologians, and reformers all knew, quoted, and commented on 1 Corinthians 15:3–7, yet it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that anyone realized it wasn’t originally composed by Paul, but was instead a creedal tradition Paul had received more than a decade before AD 49 or 50, when he planted the Corinthian church.

The two main reasons for this are found within the biblical text itself.

First is the way Paul introduces it with the words “delivered” and “received” (1 Cor. 15:3). When Paul planted the church in Corinth, he delivered certain traditions to the Corinthians that further illumined the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2) he himself had received. These included some teachings and stories about Jesus (1 Cor. 7:10; 9:14; 11:1; 2 Cor. 10:1), the account of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23–26), hymns (1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 8:9), and this creedal tradition on Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Cor. 15:3–7).

The second major reason is linguistic. Paul uses words and phrases here that he uses nowhere else. Phrases such as “died for our sins,” “in accordance with the Scriptures,” “he was buried,” “he was raised,” “on the third day,” “he appeared,” and “the twelve” are either only used here, or, if used elsewhere, are likewise influenced by tradition.

These considerations have persuaded virtually all scholars that 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 is a pre-Pauline creedal tradition. It dates before Paul’s earliest letters. But how early?

When and Where Did Paul Receive This Tradition?

When you survey the literature, scholars from all different backgrounds and faiths (or no faith) are virtually unanimous that this creedal tradition dates, on average, to within five years of Jesus’s death. A few argue for around a decade after Jesus’s death, some for within even a year. For instance, New Testament scholar James Dunn argues, “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’s death.”

Scholars from all different backgrounds . . . are virtually unanimous that this creedal tradition dates, on average, to within five years of Jesus’s death.

I believe that Dunn has the best estimate, and that only “months” after Jesus’s crucifixion were new converts learning and memorizing this creedal formula, possibly during the church-planting movement of the apostles and their disciples. It may have formed the foundation of an introductory catechesis for new converts. Further, 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 is the creedal summary and foundation for sermons in Acts (see Acts 10:39–40; 13:28–31) and the Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Where, when, and from whom did Paul receive this pearl of great price? Scholars contend it was either soon after his conversion in Damascus (AD 34) or three years later in Jerusalem (AD 37), when he spent two weeks with Peter (Gal. 1:18) and also met with James, Jesus’s brother (Gal. 1:19). I favor the latter option. It makes the most sense of how he received information such as “[the risen Christ] appeared to Cephas . . . [and] to James” (1 Cor. 15:5, 7). New Testament scholar and agnostic Bart Ehrman agrees: “This visit is one of the most likely places where Paul learned all the received traditions that he refers to and even the received traditions that we otherwise suspect are in his writings that he does not name as such.”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/earliest-evidence-christianity/

Friday, February 28, 2020

Luke 1:34 And The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

        "In Luke 1:34, when Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, she asked the question, literally translated from the Greek, “How shall this be since I know not man?” This question makes no sense unless Mary had a vow of virginity. When we consider that Mary and Joseph were already “espoused,” according to verse 27 of this same chapter, we understand Mary and Joseph already have what would be akin to a ratified marriage in the New Covenant. They were married. That would mean Joseph would have had the right to the marriage bed. Normally, after the espousal the husband would go off and prepare a home for his new bride and then come and receive her into his home where the union would be consummated. This is precisely why Joseph intended to “divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19) when he later discovered she was pregnant. This background is significant because a newly married woman would not ask the question “How shall this be?” She would know—unless, of course, that woman had taken a vow of virginity. Mary believed the message, but wanted to know how this was going to be accomplished. This indicates she was not planning on the normal course of events for her future with Joseph." (https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-case-for-marys-perpetual-virginity)

        First of all, the fact that Mary was a virgin at the time the angel Gabriel announced to her the news of God using her as an instrument to bring about His will does not mean that she would always remain a virgin.

        Secondly, the text says nothing about Mary making some vow, either implicitly or explicitly. That is something which Catholics have read into the text. If Mary knew that she would forever remain a virgin, then she would have plainly said to the angel that she would never know a man. However, her response was that of an ordinary woman.

        Thirdly, the understanding of "betrothed" found in the quoted excerpt is quite different than how the term has normally been used. The Defender's Study Bible has this footnote on Matthew 1:18 and the meaning of espousal: "According to Jewish law at the time, the espousal was almost equivalent to marriage, except for the consummation, and could be dissolved only by a legal divorce. Infidelity during that period on the part of the bride might even be punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Joseph, however, was a “just man” (Matthew 1:19), who loved Mary, and was unwilling to have her humiliated even by a public divorce."

Notes On Colossians 1:19-23

[1:19] Fullness: in gnostic usage this term referred to a spiritual world of beings above, between God and the world; many later interpreters take it to refer to the fullness of the deity (Col 2:9); the reference could also be to the fullness of grace (cf. Jn 1:16).

[1:20] The blood of his cross: the most specific reference in the hymn to redemption through Christ’s death, a central theme in Paul; cf. Col 2:14–15; 1 Cor 1:17, 18, 23. [Through him]: the phrase, lacking in some manuscripts, seems superfluous but parallels the reference to reconciliation through Christ earlier in the verse.

[1:21–23] Paul, in applying this hymn to the Colossians, reminds them that they have experienced the reconciling effect of Christ’s death. He sees the effects of the cross in the redemption of human beings, not of cosmic powers such as those referred to in Col 1:16, 20 (all things). Paul also urges adherence to Christ in faith and begins to point to his own role as minister (Col 1:23), sufferer (Col 1:24), and proclaimer (Col 1:27–28) of this gospel.

Excerpt taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Note On Ephesians 1:1

1:1 [In Ephesus]: the phrase is lacking in important early witnesses such as P46 (3rd cent.), and Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th cent.), appearing in the latter two as a fifth-century addition. Basil and Origen mention its absence from manuscripts. See Introduction. Without the phrase, the Greek can be rendered, as in Col 1:2, “to the holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.”

Excerpt taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Answering The Catholic Aramaic And Greek Word Gender Argument On Matthew 16:18

        "When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros." (https://www.catholic.com/tract/peter-and-the-papacy)

        This argument begs the question. It is an instance of grasping at straws. Jesus Christ naming Peter the rock in being appointed to a position of supremacy and the Greek word rock being feminine are separate issues.

        If Jesus had to change the gender from feminine to masculine in order to address Peter, then all that point indicates is that (1) rock is usually feminine and (2) Peter is a male. The Greek word has a gender. It had that gender long before the authors of the New Testament associated the term with church foundations.

        The Greek New Testament does use the Aramaic Cephas in reference to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:14). It is also true that if Matthew wanted to tell us that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, he could have used petros twice in the same sentence ("you are petros and upon this petros I will build my church"). But two separate terms are used in Matthew 16:18 (petros and petra).

         Aramaic was not as advanced a language as the other semitic languages. It did not have an extremely rich or complex vocabulary. It could not utilize two different words in Matthew 16:18 as does the Greek. Thus, the usage of kepha in Aramaic twice is not due to some unique primacy bestowed on the Apostle Peter by Christ but to limitations in that language.

        In addition, the New Testament does apply the feminine petra to the man Jesus Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8). There are no Aramaic manuscript copies of Matthew, which means any discussion of such involves speculation. Scripture does not use the terms petros and petra interchangeably. The church is built on the revelation that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

1 Timothy 6:13-16 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:13-16)

        This passage clearly has Jesus Christ as its focus. He is said to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is said to be the blessed and only Sovereign. Christ alone possessing immortality and dwelling in unapproachable light refers to His mediating the divine glory. Paul thereby equates Jesus with God Himself. Christ is life. He furnishes us with life. Steven J. Cole gives the following commentary on 1 Timothy 6:13:

        "I charge you in the presence of God ... and of Christ Jesus” (6:13). The close association of God and Christ Jesus, plus the assumed omnipresence of Christ, point to Jesus’ deity. Paul reminds Timothy that both God the Father and Christ are listening in and watching as he gives this charge to Timothy. Keeping in mind the fact that God and Christ are always with us will motivate us to live each moment to please Him, whether or not anyone else is there."

        Interestingly enough, the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society agrees that 1 Timothy 6:15-16 refers to Jesus Christ:

        "Jehovah and Jesus Christ. Jehovah is “the happy God” and his Son Jesus Christ is called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1 Ti 1:11; 6:15)."

        If folks like the Jehovah's Witnesses want to admit that Christ is the object of emphasis in 1 Timothy 6:13-16, then that leaves them with the dilemma of having to explain how Jesus could be King of kings and Lord of lords. There cannot be two different figures occupying this same position of authority. The only logical and consistent explanation is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Conundrum For Catholics And Their Abstinence From Meats During Lent

        Despite Pope Paul VI permitting bishops to modify the meat abstinence policy as they see fit in their respective jurisdictions, the idea of weekly abstinence from meats each Friday is one that still exists in the Code of Canon Law (Canons 1250-1253). Violating this commandment is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be a mortal sin. That means a Catholic who consumes meat on Friday is destined to hell unless the sin is absolved by a priest. This restriction has been limited to Ash Wednesday and Lent in the United States since 1966 (when Paul VI issued Paenitemini). Does this mean that adherents of Rome who ate meat on Friday and failed to confess their sin to a priest before that year are in hell? Did God "bend the rules" and release these souls from hell the moment Church policy changed?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Examples Of Agreement Between Paul And The Four Gospel Narratives

        *Jesus Christ is a man (Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16)
        *Christ is a descendant of King David (Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8)
        *Belief in virgin birth implied (Galatians 4:4-5)
        *The ordinance of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
        *Jesus Christ died to make atonement for our sins (Romans 4:25; 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
        *He was killed, buried in a tomb, resurrected from the grave, and appeared to people (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6)
        *Christ testified of Himself as being the promised Jewish Messiah before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13-16)
        *Jesus Christ was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2; Galatians 3:1)
        *He ascended into heaven to be glorified (Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16)
        *Christ is known by Paul as Lord, God, and Messiah (Romans 1:4; 10:9-10; Philippians 2:6-11)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Did The Apostle Paul Exist?

        The available patristic testimony is unanimous on the authorship of the Pauline corpus. Even liberal scholars believe that Paul wrote at least a few of the New Testament books attributed to him. The fact that there is any discussion regarding Paul as a historical figure presupposes his existence.

        It is because of Paul that the gospel was spread to the Greeks and the Romans. Early church tradition was unanimous that he had founded churches in cities such as Corinth and Ephesus. Paul was martyred around AD 65 under the reign of Nero. Men such as Clement (Philippians 4:3), Linus (2 Timothy 4:21), and Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) would have known him.

        We have no argument from the first century disputing Paul's existence. The church could not have reasonably fabricated such a character out of thin air. He was known and written about by the Christians of the first and early second centuries.

Is Blessed The Same As Happy In Psalm 1?

So the word "blessed" - what does that mean? Many moderns translate it "happy." I think that's inadequate. I don't think we have a word for it.

But I point out in Hebrew that there are two different words for "bless"...So you have barak which means "to bless", and then you have this word ashrei.

The word barak means "to be filled with the potency for life". It's the ability to reproduce. So that when God blessed the creation, it was to be fruitful and multiply. Now when you carry that over to the NT, Jesus blessed the disciples. He himself never married. He's not saying to them be fruitful and multiply physically, but be fruitful and multiply spiritually. It's a different form of the kingdom. So that's the word "to bless", barak.

Now the other "to bless" is ashrei. The word used here [in Psalm 1:1]. And that word ashrei means that you have a blessed destiny. It usually refers to the future. And that future, that blessed future, is based upon your present relationship with God. The blessed person when you use ashrei may be in deep trouble at the time...This is a quote from Eliphaz in the book of Job. This would be the Greek equivalent of ashrei - makarios. He says "Blessed is the one whom God corrects". We don't think a person who is being disciplined is particularly blessed, but that's a blessed person. "Blessed is the one whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty, for he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal" [Job 5:17-18]. You have a blessed future. So be thankful that you're a blessed person because God is disciplining you to give you the celestial city. You see how that's different from the word "fill you with potency with life and victory"? It's a different word.

Or another illustration is from the Greek of the Beatitudes of Jesus. Who are the blessed? It's not the way we normally think of it. "Blessed - makarioi, plural - are those who mourn, for they will be comforted...Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you...Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..." (Mt 5:4, 10-12). So the blessed person is a person who has this great reward in the future. That is not translated by "happy". It's totally inadequate for that. I agree the average person doesn't understand it always, but I think it carries more than just being happy.

Professor Bruce K. Waltke, What Do "Person" And "Blessed" Mean In Psalm 1?

Friday, February 21, 2020

1 John 5:20 And The Deity Of Christ

"R. Schnackenburg,82 who has given us the best commentary on 1 John, argues strongly from the logic of the context and the flow of the argument that "This is the true God" refers to Jesus Christ. The first sentence in 5:20 ends on the note that we Christians dwell in God the Father ("Him who is true") inasmuch as we dwell in His Son Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus is the true God and eternal life. Schnackenburg argues that the second sentence of 5:20 has meaning only if it refers to Jesus; it would be tautological if it referred to God the Father. His reasoning is persuasive, and thus there is a certain probability that 1 Jn 5:20 calls Jesus God—a usage not unusual in Johannine literature."

Raymond E. Brown, Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?, p. 558

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Dilemma For Strictly Materialistic Views Of Biology

"Nothing in nature will ever simultaneously go to both low entropy and high energy at the same time. It’s a physical impossibility. Yet life had to do that. Life had to take simple chemicals and go to a state of high energy and of low entropy. That’s a physical impossibility."

Physicist Brian Miller, "Conundrums for Strictly Materialist Views of Biology"

Debunking The Mormon Teaching Of Human Souls Being Preexistent

       In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God created Adam from the dust of the earth. He was not a pre-existing soul, but had life breathed into him. That is when Adam's life began.

       In 1 Corinthians 15:46-47, the Apostle Paul states that our physical birth takes place prior to our spiritual birth. This is contrary to the idea of our souls being pre-existent.

       Jesus Christ as God existed eternally with the Father. He took on flesh to make atonement for our sins. If our souls are pre-existent, then that would compromise the uniqueness of Christ. There would be no basis for Him to appeal to His pre-existence as a special qualification (John 8:56-58). The response to Christ's claims of being God points to a general absence of belief in all human souls being pre-existent amongst Jews of His day (John 8:59).

       Blake T. Ostler notes the following regarding the absence of belief in the preexistence of human souls amongst the earliest followers of Mormonism:

       "The earliest Mormon publications defined God—in terms borrowed from contemporary orthodox Christianity—as the sole and necessary basis of all existence.2 [See, for example, Apostle Parley P. Pratt’s statement that at death the human spirit “return[s] to the fountain and become[s] part of the great all from which [it] emanated,” in Parker Pratt Robinson, Writings of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Robinson, 1952), 216.] The concept of a preexistence either in the sense of eternal, uncreated spirits co-existing with God or as spirit offspring of God did not exist in early Mormon thought. The Book of Mormon assumed that human existence depended entirely upon God (see, for example, Mos. 2:20-21). When the premortal Lord revealed his finger to the brother of Jared, he explained that humans were created “in the beginning after mine own image … after the body of my spirit” (Eth. 3:15-16), implying that human, physical bodies resemble God’s spiritual body. In contrast, orthodox Christianity interpreted “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) [p.128]to mean humankind’s moral capacities, not its physical attributes. The seeds, at least, of anthropomorphism and of co-existence of humans with God were thus planted in Mormon thought in the Book of Mormon notion of creation after the image of God’s spiritual body.

       Some Mormons have understood Alma 13 to teach the preexistence of humans because it refers to an ordination “prepared before the foundation of the world” (v. 3).5 However, a close reading suggests that the ordination was not based on actions made prior to mortality but according to the foreknowledge of God (vv. 3, 7). This notion is identical to the Arminian doctrine that God ordains people to salvation based on their good works foreseen by God and not because of preexistence. That early Mormons did not see an idea of preexistence explicitly taught in the Book of Mormon, and that the earliest Mormon converts were unaware of the doctrine, is apparent from Mormon apostle Orson Pratt’s comment: “This same doctrine [of premortal existence] is inculcated in some small degree in the Book of Mormon. However, I do not think that I should have ever discerned it in that book had it not been for the new translation of [the Bible by Joseph Smith].”6

       The classical gulf between God and his mortal creations entailed in the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was accepted without revision in the official Mormon publication The Evening and the Morning Star in October 1832: “The Creator, who having created our souls at first by an act of his will can either eternally preserve them or absolutely annihilate them” (p. 77). Humans were thus contingent beings who did not exist prior to their creation by God—either as body or as spirit—and could lapse into non-being if God willed it. A letter in the May 1835 Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate echoed a similar belief: “Man is dependent on the great first cause and is constantly upheld by Him, therefore justly amenable to him” (p. 113)."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Refuting The Mormon Belief That God The Father And Jesus Christ Are Two Separate Gods

        The Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct gods. God the Father is called Elohim (Hebrew word for God). Jesus Christ is recognized as Jehovah (the term Lord capitalized as LORD), which can be legitimate in certain cases because He is the second person of the Trinity.

        But how can a Mormon make sense of a text such as Psalm 110:1-2? It was quoted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:41-45. According to Mormon logic, He would be telling Himself to sit at His own right hand! The Trinitarian perspective properly interprets this text, as it is God the Father addressing God the Son. If Jehovah refers to Jesus as a separate god, then would that also mean He is exalted above God the Father (Psalm 97:9)?

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Error Of Turn Or Burn Evangelism

"It's not enough to run from something. Salvation is about running toward something-indeed someone. It is not enough to build your life on hating or being afraid of an idea, a place, or a consequence (hell) and loving its opposite (heaven). Fear doesn't create true obedience, only outward compliance, and only for a season. Fear was what motivated the rich man in Jesus' parable who wanted to save his family. "I beg you, father [Abraham]," he said, "send [Lazarus] to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). "Send someone from the dead," he is saying, "to scare my brothers into not coming here. Go, and tell them about hell and my anguish." His logic seems sound. "If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent" (v. 30). This has been the strategy of many who have claimed to represent Jesus over the centuries. Just give them the flames. "Turn or burn," "fire and brimstone," and they will convert. But what is Abraham's response? No, they won't, he says.

"They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them hear them...If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (vv. 29, 31, emphasis added). Why? Because you can't just tell people what they should run from. You have to explain what they're running to. At the end of Luke's Gospel, Jesus makes it clear what Moses and the Prophets were really all about: himself (24:44). The end of the law is not about following the rules—it's about God becoming human, dying for sin, and rising again to redeem sinners from death and punishment, including the punishment of hell itself. Jesus saves us by dislodging our addiction to the things we love that land us in hell. But he doesn't use fear to do this. His love for us leads us to love something or rather, Someone more than those things. It's a positive affection that changes us, not a negative one."

Mark Clark, The Problem of God, p. 148-149

A Note On The Song Of Solomon

"The role of the woman throughout the Song of Solomon is truly astounding, especially in light of its ancient origins. It is the woman, not the man, who is the dominant voice throughout the poems that make up the Song. She is the one who seeks, pursues, initiates. She boldly exclaims her physical attraction...Most English translations hesitate in this verse [Song 5:10-16]. The Hebrew is quite erotic, and most translators cannot bring themselves to bring out the obvious meaning...This again is a prelude to their lovemaking. There is no shy, shamed, mechanical movement under the sheets. Rather, the two stand before each other, aroused, feeling no shame, but only joy in each other’s sexuality."

Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, cited by Mark Clark, The Problem of God, p. 162-163

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Genesis Flood Narrative As A Prototype Of The Final Judgement

        "and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly." (2 Peter 2:5)

        What caused God to send a flood upon this earth, resulting in the death of mankind and countless animals? It had to do with the wickedness of man (Genesis 6:5-8). He had forgotten the ways of his Creator. People became overly comfortable with temporal blessings and so had removed the things of God from their minds. They behaved as though He was nonexistent, caring only about the things of this earthly realm (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27).

        Noah warned his generation of how God would judge the world through a flood. He was the recipient of mocking and scoffing as he prepared an ark for his family. The people were preoccupied with the things of this life: eating, drinking, and marriage. They were not concerned with the things of God. That is why the flood which Noah had spoken of beforehand was unexpected (2 Peter 3:3-6).

        Just as God cast judgement on sinful mankind through a flood, so He will judge the unrepentant and unbelieving world again. The imagery of fire is utilized as He refines creation and permanently does away with evil (2 Peter 3:7; 10-13). Both scenarios point us to the beginning of a new creation. Those who are righteous by faith will be delivered from the wrath of God to come (Hebrews 11:7).

        Just as faithful Noah was dismissed when he preached repentance, so there are plenty in this fallen world who mock the gospel message proclaimed by God's church. Indeed, He has been rather patient and merciful with all these people (2 Peter 3:8-9). Another point meriting consideration here is that Jesus and the New Testament authors treated the Genesis flood as if it were literal history.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

God Shows Mercy To Those Who Love And Serve Him

       "you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6)

       The Israelites were a cherished treasure before God. If His chosen people remained loyal to Him, then that would ensure their continual protection and support. He would regularly bless Israel. God unambiguously condemned the worship of heathen deities. He required that His people serve Him in ways that He ordains. God would punish descendants who followed in their parent's idolatrous footsteps.

       The love and mercy of God is extended to all who love Him. These things will be manifested for eternity. God is devoted to those who love and serve Him. These people have found favor in His sight. His love for sinners is infinitely wide. If we truly love God, then we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

       The Mosaic Law made known the way in which God's redeemed people were to live before Him. This is evident in the preface to the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, therefore..." First, God redeemed Israel. And secondly, He gave instructions as to how His redeemed people would walk before Him. Consequently, the Mosaic Covenant could not have been a system of works righteousness. We recognize the same pattern found in the New Testament: justification followed by sanctification.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

On The Meaning Of Faith Without Works Is Dead

In refuting the objection he has cited, James selects the most prestigious name in Jewish history, the patriarch Abraham. He selects also his most honored act of obedience to God, the offering of his own son Isaac. Since in Christian circles it was well known that Abraham was justified by faith, James now adds a highly original touch. He was also justified by works!

James writes:

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God (Jam. 2:20-23).

Earlier in this discussion we said that we can best understand James’s point of view by recognizing his harmony with Paul. That is extremely relevant here. James does not wish to deny that Abraham, or anyone else, could be justified by faith alone. He merely wishes to insist that there is also another justification, and it is by works.

Of course there is no such thing as a single justification by faith plus works. Nothing James says suggests that idea. Rather, there are two kinds of justification.

This point is confirmed by a careful reading of the Greek text of verse 24. When he returns to his readers generally, James says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only [justified] by faith.” The key to this understanding is the Greek adverb “only,” which does not simply qualify the word “faith” but the whole idea of the second clause. James is saying: Justification by faith is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also the kind which is by works.12

Somewhat surprisingly, to most people, the Apostle Paul agrees with this. Writing at what was no doubt a later time than James, Paul states in Romans 4:2, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God.” The form of this statement does not deny the truth of the point under consideration. The phrase, “but not before God,” strongly suggests that the Apostle can conceive of a sense in which men are justified by works. But, he insists, that is not the way men are justified before God. That is, it does not establish their legal standing before Him.13

In responding, therefore, to the kind of person who tried to divorce faith and works in Christian experience, James takes a skillful approach. “Wait a moment, you foolish man,” he is saying, “you make much of justification by faith, but can’t you see how Abraham was also justified by works when he offered his son Isaac to God?” (2:21). “Is it not obvious how his faith was cooperating with his works and, in fact, by works his faith was made mature?” (2:22). “In this way, too, the full significance of the Scripture about his justification by faith was brought to light, for now he could be called the friend of God” (2:23).

The content of this passage is rich indeed. It is a pity that it has been so widely misunderstood. The faith which justifies – James never denies that it does justify! – can have an active and vital role in the life of the obedient believer. As with Abraham, it can be the dynamic for great acts of obedience. In the process, faith itself can be “perfected.” The Greek word suggests development and maturation. Faith is thus nourished and strengthened by works.14

It would hardly be possible to find a better illustration of James’s point anywhere in the Bible. The faith by which Abraham was justified was basically faith in a God of resurrection. Referring to the occasion when that faith was first exercised, Paul wrote:

And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform (Rom. 4:19-21).

Abraham had confidence that the God he believed in could overcome the “deadness” of his own body and of Sarah’s womb. But it was only through the testing with Isaac that this faith becomes a specific conviction that God could literally raise a person from the dead to fulfill His oath. Accordingly, the author of Hebrews declares:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense (Heb. 11:17-19).

Thus the faith of Abraham was strengthened and matured by works! From a conviction that God could overcome a “deadness” in his own body (=inability to beget children), he moved to the assurance that God could actually resurrect his son’s body from literal, physical death. In the process of carrying out the divine command to sacrifice his beloved boy, his faith grew and reached new heights of confidence in God.

In this way, too, the Scripture that spoke of his original justification “was fulfilled.” That statement (Gen. 15:6) was not a prophecy, of course. But its implications were richly developed and exposed by the subsequent record of Abraham’s obedience. Abraham’s works “filled it full” of meaning, so to speak, by showing the extent to which that faith could develop and undergird a life of obedience. Simple and uncomplicated though it was at first, Abraham’s justifying faith had potential ramifications which only his works, built on it, could disclose.15

And now he could be called the “friend of God,” not only by God Himself, but also by men (cf. Isa. 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7). This is in fact the name by which Abraham has been known down through the centuries in many lands and by at least three religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). Had Abraham not obeyed God in the greatest test of his life, he would still have been justified by the faith he exercised in Genesis 15:6. But by allowing that faith to be alive in his works, he attained an enviable title among men. In this way he was also justified by works!

When a man is justified by faith he finds an unqualified acceptance before God. As Paul puts it, such a man is one “to whom God imputes righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6). But only God can see this spiritual transaction. When, however, a man is justified by works he achieves an intimacy with God that is manifest to men. He can then be called “the friend of God,” even as Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).16

Zane Hodges' commentary on James 2:20-24:
https://zanehodges.org/read/read-by-bible-passage/james-214-26-dead-faith-what-is-it/

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Catholic Marian Proof Text Bites The Dust

"The Fathers of the Church and early Christian writers did not so interpret the words of the dying Christ [John 19:25-27]. Development of the idea of Mary's spiritual motherhood was slow and did not enter the consciousnesses of the Church until medieval times. During those early centuries, the sacred text did not immediately convey the notion. Lengthy reflection was needed to reach it."

Michael O'Carroll, cited in Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary, Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples, p. 44

Monday, February 10, 2020

How The Book Of Hebrews Refutes Catholic Mariology

        Only Jesus Christ, being sinless and perfect, is fit to make atonement for our sins (Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:1-10). Christ, our High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice before God the Father (Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:10-12).

       Christ fully paid the debt of our sin and is now sitting at the right hand of God. He can relate to us in our sinful condition because He took on human flesh. He identified Himself with us. Christ forever makes intercession on our behalf before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-28).

        His Mediatorship is superior to that of the Old Testament. It is eternal. It is permanent. His role is a replacement of the Old Testament priesthood. We can approach God with confidence through Christ's body and shed blood (Hebrews 10:19-23). We obtain grace and mercy in times of need.

        If Jesus Christ is the one and only qualified Mediator because of His sacrificial work on the Cross, then any potential mediatorial position of Mary would be redundant. The position of mediator and intercessor is exclusive to Him. He is sufficient to bring about all things pertaining to our redemption.

An Early Date For The Gospel According To John

2. AN EARLY DATE (60S)

There are a number of data which strongly suggest a date in the 60s, chief among them are the following.

(1) The destruction of Jerusalem is not mentioned. This fits extremely well with a date before 66 CE.

(2) The topographical accuracy of pre-70 Palestine argues that at least some of the material embedded in the gospel comes from before the Jewish War.

(3) There is much primitive terminology used in this gospel. E.g., Jesus’ followers are called “disciples” in John, not apostles.

(4) The conceptual and verbal parallels with Qumran argue strongly for an overtly Jewish document which fits well within the first century milieu.

(5) The date of P52 at c. 100-150, coupled with the date of Papyrus Egerton 2 at about the same time—a document which employed both John and the synoptics—is almost inconceivable if John is to be dated in the 90s.34

(6) John’s literary independence from and apparent lack of awareness of the synoptic gospels argue quite strongly for an early date. Indeed, this independence/ignorance argues that all the gospels were written within a relatively short period of time, with Matthew and Luke having the good fortune of seeing and using Mark in their composition.

(7) Finally, there is a strong piece of internal evidence for an early date. In John 5:2 the author says that “there is in Jerusalem, by the sheep-gate, a pool (the one called Bethesda in Hebrew) which has five porticoes.” Without discussing all the interpretations possible for this verse suffice it to say that (a) the verb “is” (ἐστιν) cannot be a historical present, and (b) the pool was destroyed in 70 CE.35 By far the most plausible conclusion is that this gospel was written before 70 CE.

In sum, we believe that a pre-70 date for the Fourth Gospel is the most probable one. Further, we believe that this gospel should be dated late in 65 or even in 66, for the following two reasons: (a) it is doubtful that it should be dated after 66, because otherwise the lack of an Olivet Discourse in which many of the prophecies were at that time coming true, is inexplicable; (b) the gospel should perhaps be dated after Peter’s death, as we shall see when we examine the purpose.

https://bible.org/seriespage/4-gospel-john-introduction-argument-outline#_ftnref24

Friday, February 7, 2020

In The Beginning Was The Word Which Is God

1:1 the Word. The term “Word” (Greek logos) designates God the Son with respect to His deity; “Jesus” and “Christ” refer to His incarnation and saving work. During the first three centuries, doctrines of the Person of Christ focused intensely on His position as the Logos. In Greek philosophy, the Logos was “reason” or “logic” as an abstract force that brought order and harmony to the universe. But in John’s writings such qualities of the Logos are gathered in the Person of Christ. In Neo-Platonic philosophy and the Gnostic heresy (second and third centuries a.d.), the Logos was seen as one of many intermediate powers between God and the world. Such notions are far removed from the simplicity of John’s Gospel.

In this verse the Word is expressly affirmed to be God. The Word existed already “in the beginning” (a clear reference to the opening words of the Bible), which is a way of denoting the eternity that is unique to God. John states clearly, “the Word was God.” Some have observed that the word translated “God” here has no definite article, and argued on this basis that it means “a god” rather than “God.” This is a misunderstanding; the article is omitted because of the word order in the Greek sentence (the predicate “God” has been placed first for emphasis). The New Testament never endorses the idea of “a god,” an expression that implies polytheism and is in sharp conflict with the consistent monotheism of the Bible. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “God” occurs often without the definite article, depending on the requirements of Greek grammar.

That “the Word was with God,” indicates a distinction of Persons within the unity of the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not successive forms of appearance of one Person, but are eternal Persons present from “the beginning” (v. 2). “With” suggests a relationship of close personal intimacy.

Reformation Study Bible footnote on John 1:1

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Is The Old Testament Derogatory Towards Women?

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as interaction with some claims made by an atheist regarding so-called incidents of female suppression during the Old Testament in a comments thread of another post:

          "Women were regarded as little more than property. We know that because the Bible has rules on how to sell your daughter (Exodus 21:7). There is no such rule for selling sons, because men are important!"

          This law concerning slaves ensured release upon six years of voluntary service. The individual could choose to become a permanent slave. This was not an act of coercion but of love (Exodus 21:5-6). Permanent and forced servitude of Jewish slaves to Jewish masters was foreign to that culture (Leviticus 25:39-55). Conditions were set forth to make certain that female slaves were not abused and neglected. They were not to be mistreated by their masters. The Reformation Study Bible has this note:

          "The Lord sets forth the ordinances of His covenant in this section. Civil and penal laws are presented at 21:1–22:15; laws controlling morality at 22:16–27; 23:1–9; laws of worship at 20:22–26; 22:28–30; 23:10–19. Through 22:17 the statutes are in the form of case law (“If . . . then,” with appropriate penalties); afterwards laws of the unconditionally imperative type (“you shall not”) predominate. The purpose of these social codes was to regulate Israelite life in the Promised Land."

          "Leviticus 21:9 says unchaste daughters of priests are to be put to death. Not the sons of course. The law about adultery is all about the other man adulterating your property; it is comparable to the prohibition against theft."

         The context of this passage centers on the administration of the priestly law code. The daughters of the priests who committed adultery were put to death, not because they were personal property, but that she put the office of her father to an open shame. The Law frowned upon licentiousness and thievery. Both are violations of God's Law.

          "Deuteronomy 22:13-22 is all about virginity. A man wants to ensure his property has not been handled previously by another man. Obviously it is fine for the man to sleep around all he like, before or after marriage."

          This passage does not say that it is permissible for a man to "sleep around all he likes." That is an assertion devoid of contextual support. Indeed, elsewhere if a man has relations with a betrothed or married woman, he is prescribed the death penalty. The above verses are addressing a man who defames a woman and the punishment that he has to undergo.

          "Perhaps the worst of this is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which demands that a rapist marry his victim. Shameful in our culture, but if you consider women as property, this is like a shop saying "You broke it, you pay for it." The woman is damaged property, so the rapist has to pay the full price for her."

          "The verb used to explain what happened to the woman is תָּפַשׂ (tāpas). Tāpas means to “lay hold [of],”[2] or “wield.”[3] Like חָזַק (ḥāzaq, the word for “force) used in vv. 25-27, tāpas can also be translated as “seize.”[4] Unlike ḥāzaq, however, tāpas does not carry the same connotation of force. As one Hebrew scholar explains, tāpas does not, in and of itself, infer assault; it means she was “held,” but not necessarily “attacked.’[5] There’s a delicate difference between these two verbs, but it makes all the difference. Tāpas is often used to describe a capture.[6] Tāpas also appears in Genesis 39:12; when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, she seized (tāpas) him to wear down his resolve. This is distinct from ḥāzaq, which describes a forcible overpowering. Daniel Block notes that, unlike the law in verses 25-27, this law has neither a cry for help, nor an account of male violence.[7] It’s likely that the woman in verses 28-29 experienced overwhelming persuasion, perhaps an erosion of her resolve, but not necessarily a sexual assault. This does not mitigate the seriousness of the act. This woman was indeed violated; she was dishonored and humiliated.[8] However, verses 28-29 do not necessarily indicate she was raped. Had the author of Deuteronomy, Moses, (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him)[9] intended to depict this as a sexual assault, it seems unlikely that he would have chosen tāpas instead of ḥāzaq – the verb used just before it. Given the lexical differences between ḥāzaq and tāpas, and how closely they appear in these two consecutive laws, it seems more likely that these two distinct verbs are meant to convey two distinct scenarios. Further, tāpas does not appear in either of biblical stories describing sexual assault that were written after the Law.[10] When later biblical authors depicted a rape, they used the ḥāzaq (which appeared vv. 25-27) rather than tāpas. We can reasonably conclude that the biblical narrators (and again, the Holy Spirit) knew the difference in meaning between ḥāzaq and tāpas within the context of sexual violence, and they used these verbs with their meanings in mind.[11]" (https://cbmw.org/topics/sex/did-old-testament-law-force-a-woman-to-marry-her-rapist/)

          "In Numbers 1:2 a census is taken of the men. Women do not count."

           "That women, children, and the elderly were not included in the census its purpose as a military tool in preparation for the conquest of the promised land." (Women's Evangelical Commentary: Old Testament, p. 239)

           "Leviticus 12:2, 5 explain how a woman is unclean longer after giving birth to a girl. Here we get very a clear statement that women are worth less - and exactly how much less (Leviticus 27:3-7)."

           The Law is talking about ritual impurity, not moral impurity or women being inferior to men. As for the latter passage, the valuation is not conditioned on women being less made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That factor in of itself gives human life objective value. The estimation is based on the effectiveness of productive effort. In the Ancient Near East, men were responsible for more and were potentially able to do more vocationally and militarily. 

What Happens To The Catholic Eucharist After It Has Been Consumed?

        If the Roman Catholic priest has been bestowed the power to transform the communion elements into the body and blood of Jesus Christ to be consumed by the parishioners, then would that not mean His body travels through the digestive tract to be expelled as feces and flushed through the sewer system?

        This is admittedly not a pleasant question to bring up, but it does go a long way in illustrating the graphic consequences of the dogma of transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says that the wafer is Jesus "as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" (CCC # 1377). The duration usually given for this is fifteen minutes. But this dodge, as convenient it may seem, is not a satisfactory explanation.

        How come the Eucharistic species cannot subsist for thirty minutes or an hour? Who gets to make a decisive ruling on this matter? What would this process of the deconversion of digested communion elements even be called?

        The biblical view of communion is a remembrance of the work of Christ on the Cross at Calvary (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). We do not need to resort to philosophical speculation in order to avoid the logical absurdities of transubstantiation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Early Formation Of The New Testament Canon

"There was no early conciliar action that determined which books should be recognized and which not; the acceptance and selection of the books was a spontaneous process that went on throughout the Church...at the close of the second century the New Testament contained essentially the same books which we now receive and they were regarded with the same respect that Christians have for them today."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 26

A Lack Of Evidence For The Papacy In Rome During The First Century

"It seems as if at the time of the Epistle [to the Romans] there was no centralized organization, but rather as if there were various small groups of believers. Five such groups seem discernible in the chapter (vss. 5, 10, 11, 14, 15). Note that Paul does not address the Epistle to "the Church at Rome" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1), but simply to "all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (1:7). The apparent ignorance regarding the Christian movement on the part of the delegates who called on Paul at Rome may be due to the fact that the believers in that city had not yet come into definite conflict with the synagogue (Acts 28:22). At any rate, we believe that the origin of Christianity in Rome must be sought primarily in the work of the converts that came to the city from various parts of the empire."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 223

The Gospel And Old Testament

"Peter preached Christ on the basis of the Old Testament (Acts 2, 3, 10); Stephen reviewed the Old Testament history of Israel in his great sermon (ch.7); Philip preached Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch from Isa. 53 (ch. 8); and wherever Paul went, as seen in the Book of Acts, he preached from the Old Testament. Even the Gentiles, when they accepted the Gospel, accepted the Old Testament as their first Bible. The Jewish Christians recognized both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint, as is evident from the many quotations in the New Testament from both; the Gentiles, who could neither read nor understand Hebrew, accepted the Septuagint only. The Levitical system was regarded as a symbol and a type of the Christian economy, fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection, and present ministry of Christ (cf. Hebrews); and the predictions of the Messiah in the Old Testament were applied to Christ and His ministry."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 4-5

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Not By Works Of Righteousness But By His Grace

        "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:4-5)

        Why has God chosen to save us? This text provides three foundational reasons for Him doing so: love, mercy, and kindness. These three attributes of God are showcased as good works are excluded from us being justified in His sight.

        The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit refers to spiritually dead people being made alive in Christ. We are given new hearts and set apart to grow in holiness. This is all a work of the Spirit of God.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Confession And The Forgiveness Of Sin

        "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

        If we confess our sins before God, then He will offer complete forgiveness at that very instant. His forgiveness comes with the purification of our souls. We simply need to accept that proposition as true. That is how we secure an objective basis for our assurance of salvation.

        If we can place enough trust in a park bench to support our body weight every time that we sit on one, then how much more are we able to place our trust in God and His work for forgiveness and redemption? God is our infallible support. In Him exists no deceit.

        The Apostle John describes in succinct terms how the atonement of Jesus Christ is applied to those who believe on His name for eternal life. It is applied to us on a day by day basis.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Why Is The Charismatic Movement Thriving In Africa?

The African spiritual worldview consists of four tiers.

1. God
2. Angels and demons
3. Ancestral spirits
4. Human beings

It is because of this reality that Africans do not question the existence of God, as is the case with many people in the Western world. To an African, God is there. He is the Creator and ultimate Governor and Benefactor of the whole universe.

Rather, in our spiritual worldview, although God is there he is very far away. Between him and us as human beings lie two layers in the spirit world. One is that of angels and demons (i.e. bad angels) and the other—which is even closer to us—is that of the spirits of the departed.

So, although God is a benevolent, loving, and caring Being, unless the beings that dwell in these two layers that lie between him and us are appeased, his blessings cannot reach us. It is, therefore, important to appease the ancestral spirits and defeat the demons. Only after that will God’s blessings come upon us.

This is where in African traditional religions witchdoctors come in. They are the people with the mysterious power to break through these two layers. They tell us what we must do in order to appease the spirits of our forefathers. They also engage the demons for us through their midnight trances, dances, and incense.

So, a person who is beset with perennial illnesses, failing to get a job, failing to find a spouse or to have children, whose business is failing to thrive, etc., simply goes to the witchdoctor who alone has the key to look into the spirit world. He is told that it is either a deceased person or an evil spirit who is frustrating him.

Sometimes the enemy is a person who is alive. However, the reason why this living individual seems to have a mysterious hold over your life is because he has plugged into those two layers (of either dead ancestors or evil spirits) and you have not. With the help of a powerful witchdoctor you can outsmart him in those two layers, and the blessings of God can once again begin to flow into your life.

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services.

The Charismatic Movement’s Rendition

I do not mean to be unkind, but what the modern Charismatic movement in Africa has done is to simply take this entire erroneous superstructure of African religious worldview and baptise it with wrongly applied Bible verses and Christian language. The only difference is that the layer of dead ancestors and evil spirits is now one hotchpotch of confusion. This is why the nonsense of demons becoming spirit husbands and wives, and wrecking havoc in marriages, is taken for granted! This is also why the heresy of generation curses has become so popular. In our minds, bad luck can be passed on from that layer of dead ancestors.

In the African Charismatic circles, the “man of God” has replaced the witchdoctor. He is the one who oozes with mysterious power that enables him to break through those two impregnable layers, which us lesser mortals cannot penetrate. So, when blessings are not flowing our way despite our prayers, we make a beeline to his quarters or his church for help. This explains the throngs in these circles. The crowds are not looking for someone to explain to them the way to find pardon with God. No! They want the “man of God” to pray for them.

This also explains the stranglehold that “men of God” have on the minds of their devotees in these circles. In the Evangelicalism of a former generation “men of God” were primarily preachers of the word of God, but in the new setup they are primarily priests who enter the inner sanctuaries to bring down blessings to us.

This also explains why the answer to almost any problem that you take to these “men of God” is “deliverance” and “breakthrough”. God wants to bless you, but you need to break through these impregnable layers before those blessings can reach you. The prayers of the “man of God” will bring deliverance because at the overnight prayer meeting or on the hill he will bring about a breakthrough. Who can doubt that these two phrases have become the key words of this movement?

This also explains why prayer in the modern Charismatic movement in Africa is literally a fight. In fact, the people praying are called “prayer warriors”. Although they begin by addressing God, within the first few seconds they divert from God and begin to fight the spirits in these impregnable layers with their bare knuckles. The language is almost always, “We bind every unclean spirit in Jesus' name! We loose the Spirit that breaks the yoke in Jesus' name!”

The “prayer warriors” scream at the top of their voices and chant the name of Jesus. They sweat as they put up a gallant fight with these spirits, straining every muscle of their beings until they prevail (so they think). That is when they reach through to God and his blessings begin to flow. This is nothing more than the African traditional religious worldview sprinkled with a thin layer of Christianity.

Notice also how teaching is not the strength of the modern Charismatic movement in Africa. Its chief proponents survive on a few, well-worn, tortured verses: “By his stripes we are healed,” “We are not the tail but the head,” etc. There is absolutely no effort to properly exegete Scripture. Rather, by chanting phrases and making people drop under some trance, in witchdoctor fashion, they are holding sway over the popular mind. The people love it and are paying for it! The “men of God” are becoming stinking rich as the crowds just keep on coming.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B130724/~