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Bible Interpretation I:

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Question #1:  

Hi,

If the prophetic books had been written by the prophets, those books would not be addressing them as THIRD PERSON. It shows that these books are not the books of prophets but written by somebody else who speaks of them in the third person.

Examples:

Isaiah 1
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Jeremiah 1
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2 The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3 and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.

Jeremiah 7
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD

Ezekiel 1
3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.

Hosea 1
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

Joel 1
1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.

Amos 1
1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa-what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

Obadiah 1
1 The vision of Obadiah.

Micah 1
1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah-the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

Haggai 1
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:
13 Then Haggai, the LORD's messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people:

Zechariah 1
1 In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
 

Response #1: 

Dear Friend,

While that may seem reasonable, it is in fact not necessarily the case (and definitely not so in the case of the Old Testament prophetic books which were written by the prophets). Consider this famous example of secular ancient literature:

"Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war waged by the Peloponnesians and the Athenians against one another."

So begins Thucydides' famous History of the Peloponnesian War, and beyond all dispute the work was written by Thucydides himself – including this superscript. While the phrase "so and so wrote" may seem to exclude "so and so" as the author by our contemporary practices, as the example above and many more testify, this was a commonplace in the ancient world used by authors themselves (analogous to the use of the third person more generally today in scholarly works).

Moreover, to take just the first two examples, John clearly states unequivocally that it was Isaiah himself who saw the vision in Isaiah chapter 6 (Jn.14:12); and Jesus Himself attributes the book of Isaiah to Isaiah (e.g., Matt.15:7); Jeremiah's authorship is confirmed by one of his contemporaries, Daniel the prophet (Dan.9:2). I could go on, for the same things apply to all of the other instances you notice. But even if they did not, as I say, use of the third person by the person writing in the manner cited above and as you related is a common occurrence inside and outside of scripture and cannot be taken as evidence that the person himself did not write either the phrase itself or the entire book.

In the One who is the only way, the only truth, and the only light, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill
 

Question #2: 

I just have a fairly quick question for you. Have you ever heard of the Protoevangelion of James? I have heard from some that it was widely read in the early church and highly thought of. But since it comes from the 2nd century, so far as I can tell, James--either Jesus' brother or John's brother--couldn't possibly have written it. Do you know anything about it? Was it highly regarded in the early church? If so, why wasn't it included in the Canon of the Bible?

Response #3: 

I don't know much about this work except that it is apocryphal. According to the literature, the first mention of it is by Origen, so 2nd or 3rd century is a good guess. This lack of any mention before Origen is also an indication that the work was of little consequence in the early church. One apparent purpose of the book is to figure out a way for Mary to continue to be a life-long virgin (in this work Joseph had married earlier and had a number of children). So it appears to be another in a long line of forgeries designed to support arguments that are not supported by the Bible, here trying to provide a "biblical basis" for a false doctrine that had become important in the R.C. church.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:

What translation of the bible do you use? Thanks,

Response #3:

For my Bible research and writings, I use the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek scriptures, and I also make it a point to read my Hebrew OT and Greek NT on a daily basis. I also read the Bible in English, listen to tapes in KJV, use NASB for parallel reading of the OT, and read the NIV alone. For translations used in the studies posted at Ichthys, I more often than not do my own translations from the originals, but sometimes I will use NIV or KJV or NASB or RV or whatever version has captured the essence of the passage in what in my judgment is just the right way. So, long story short, I'll most often render my own, but when I can't improve on one of the versions I'll use that instead. You can find a critique of some of these versions in the following link:

Read your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility

FAQ #12. Translations: Where do the translations of scripture that appear at Ichthys come from?

FAQ# 20. Sigla: Would you explain the abbreviations and symbols used in the translations at Ichthys?

In Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4: 

Dear Brother,

I first want to thank you for your obvious love for our Lord and Savior. Your have an impressive intellect and have devoted this intellect for its highest purpose, knowing and understanding God. I have just discovered your site and have found it very interesting. Before I go any further, I would like you to read the following "meditation" that I have written. I know you don't need a pen-pal and I know your time must be exhausted, but if you could make a one line comment, I would appreciate it. I strongly believe the main problem with Christ's church that runs across denominational lines is inherently contained in this meditation. As a scholar you may be somewhat offended by some of my comments, but please don't be. If they are directed at you in any way, it is positive not negative.

God Bless

BUT WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

There are many issues such as hell and punishment, baptism, sanctification, eternal security, holy living, infallibility of scripture, what constitutes salvation, the rapture, etc., that remain divisive issues to God's church and His elect. Many folks who claim to be part of God's family differ on their interpretations of scripture that pertain not only to these important issues, but also to just about every other theological position ever considered. Cults have begun based on these differences and disunity even among God's elect is common based on these differences of opinion. Now to many, these differences are not only perplexing, but have the effect of weakening their own faith. They may not profess it outwardly, but in their hearts they are asking themselves, if these other learned people can read the same scripture and disagree, perhaps there is no real absolute truth contained in God's word. How often is that comment heard from among the secular folks and by the dogs whose only goal is to attack God's children and His word? It is a most effective attack, but does it really matter to us individually? In other words, will God ever reward us or chastise us based on the unity or disunity of what others believe? Remember that the reformation was in a sense born as a result of a refusal to allow the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders to dictate and define spiritual truth for individuals. They basically argued that God would not hold individuals responsible for their personal understandings, and their only obligation was to yield to the teachings of the church. Now, where in the world is that found in scripture. Why would the Lord tell us to study to show ourselves approved?

2 Timothy 2 15. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. Why did Jesus say, depart from me for I never knew you, to those who called Him Lord? Matthew 25: 11. "Later the other virgins also came, saying, `Lord, lord, open up for us.' 12. "But he answered, `Truly I say to you, I do not know you. Even if our spiritual leaders were true Apostles, which they are not, would they have the right to demand they be followed regardless of what they teach? Didn't the Apostle Paul include the word "we" in his warning about those who would preach another gospel? Galatians 1 8. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! No, it is the right and duty of every saved person to properly divide the word of truth for themselves. The present evangelical church and professing members of the evangelical community are dangerously close to establishing a Roman Protestantism. They either discourage or brand as heretical anyone who wishes to investigate theological or doctrinal issues that might deviate from their particular creed. They may give lip service to progressive sanctification for others, but apparently it does not apply to them. Our leaders will even publicly humiliate those who question their sermons and doctrine and imply they are divisive and should worship elsewhere. Don't they realize that God can only be pleased when His children believe in their hearts a particular truth contained in His word?

Even worse is the desire for God's children to be accepted by the world or by the church at the expense of their own doubts regarding a particular doctrine. How sad that the world is actually defining the Christian faith; God is love and loves everyone, God would never send someone to hell, God is open to the future and nothing is firm or fixed in His mind, man will be judged by his works, all gods are equal, Jesus was not God, but just a wonderfully enlightened man, just be true to yourself and be kind to others and everything will be okay, etc. These thoughts are prevalent in the professing evangelical church today. Jesus said there are and would be false prophets masquerading as sheep when in realty they are wolves in sheep clothing. He showed us how to recognize them and instructed us to have discerning spirits. He warned us that Satan would not cast out or expose himself. Luke 11:17. But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18. "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. He is a liar and deceiver and his only desire is to destroy God's children. Look at it this way, every teacher is responsible to God for the truth or error of their messages. But their culpability is not extended to me. They are responsible for what they taught, I am responsible for what I "believed", either rightly or wrongly. So it is clear we are the ones ultimately responsible for recognizing truth and error. If some of the church leaders are wolves, they aren't going to expose themselves, are they?

Most professing Christians while maintaining the mantra of their specific communities do so in spite of their personal beliefs and understanding of scripture. Poll after poll suggests that while large numbers do profess to having absolute truth in matters regarding faith while they are in church settings, in private large numbers deny the same truths they profess. They agree to the concept of holy living, but live like the world, and in private deny doctrinal issues that are essential even to their very salvation. Can God be pleased with this, or on that day when they call Him Lord will they hear His words, "I never knew you"? It is not only important, but critically important that we attempt to know and understand God individually. He has instructed us to do this and we should never shrink from our responsibility. "Let him who boasts, boast in this; that he understands and knows Me". Jeremiah 9 24. but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. All of us are and will be "personally" accountable to God. If we acknowledge a truth, but don't believe it, it is absolutely meaningless to God. If the Lord knows us, He will reveal Himself to us. Now what about all those areas of disagreement and contention?

In order to understand and know God, we must meditate on His word and then compare our findings to the entire body of scripture presented to us. We must never abandon our quest for truth by relying solely on a consensus of opinion or on our spiritual leaders regardless of how gifted we may think they are. God will not hold us innocent and will not give us spiritual truth and insight if we look to someone or something to replace the Holy Spirit as our sole guide. Abandonment of the Holy Spirit and scripture for popular teachings and church authority smacks of Roman Catholicism, which should be rejected by all of God's elect. We will all individually give an account of our lives and thoughts on the day of judgement, and God will not hold us innocent or blameless if we say, "but the church taught", or "but, Pastor so and so, taught". When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the king of the Jews, Jesus' response was "did someone tell you", or is this from "your own initiative". John 18:33. Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34. Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?"

What Jesus was asking is did you hear this and believe what you heard based on your own heart and initiative, or are you just repeating something you heard. Our own initiative and understanding are what reveals how much truth we have. None of us will be able to stand before the Lord on that day based on things we have heard but not believed in our hearts. Calling Him Lord, without His acceptance of us, will not work. We can not claim to know Him, if He does not know us. Jesus asks all of us, "but who do you say that I am". Do not be deceived, God knows and will judge our hearts when we stand before Him. Our spiritual leaders have a great responsibility and duty given to them by God. They are to be faithful to His word, teach men as the Holy Spirit gives them truth and power and be overseers of God's children. But, they are just men who sometimes disagree over major doctrinal issues and often over the minor ones. God's leaders are supposed to teach and illumine truths from the Bible. Notice, the truths are in the Bible. That means that without the teacher, the truths are still available, does it not! Always compare their teachings to scripture and ask God to provide you with understanding. Just remember that scripture is God breathed, and it was Jesus' words that will never pass away.

2 Timothy 3:15, "and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. Hebrews 4: 12, For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13, And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."

Aside from the necessity of translation which enables scripture to be communicated to all men, so that all men can either accept or reject God's revelation of Himself, to include His past, present, and future plans for His creation, any and all information that is contained outside of scripture is in a sense unnecessary and in many cases proves harmful for our spiritual edification. In other words, there is no historical, present/contemporaneous, or future knowledge outside of Holy Scripture that could possibly improve what is already contained in scripture. Teaching and preaching scripture is efficacious because it not only presupposes the assembly of God's children and the unsaved that is necessary for fellowship, evangelism, public worship and praise, public confession of Christ, partaking of sacraments, corporate prayer, unity, strengthening of the brethren and whatever else scripture requires assembly as necessary, but the gifts and commands to preach and teach are found in scripture. Without preaching and teaching, the illiterate or those who do not possess the Holy Scriptures would also be deprived of the blessings, warnings, and requirements contained in God's written word. However, to say that preaching and teaching require extensive study of anthropology, philosophy, linguistics, customs, science, psychology, world events, scriptural interpretative methodologies, or any other informational system outside of scripture is to deny the sovereign omnipotence of God. Those who believe additional secular learning and information is necessary for teaching and preaching should beware; those who believe those who believe that should beware even more. Logically, if it was necessary for teaching and preaching, then it was necessary for understanding.

Most all preachers and teachers of God's word align themselves in various camps of theology. These theologians or scholars adopt their positions normally early in their careers and seldom if ever deviate from any major line of reasoning. To do so would mean they were in error, which then makes them in a sense less believable. If someone says, "that after careful study and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced the scripture teaches such and such", then what is the natural result of them changing their position? Now, progressive sanctification demands this change, but what would be the natural conclusion in academia? Just think about that. The list of the different theological schools of thought are endless: Calvinist, free will, Holy Spirit baptism, word/faith, open theism, covenant theology, and on and on. Do these people ever say they are wrong and then switch, not likely. Even John MacArthur said he started out with specific doctrines and his approach to bible study and teaching was to stay within those early doctrinal boundaries. Now that is certainly a common and possibly healthy approach, but all of the others have said the same thing. The issue isn't whether they are right or wrong, but whether we want to commit our eternal destiny in the hands of people who by their own admissions or practice, won't or don't admit they are wrong? They might admit to little errors, that is safe in academia, but not errors that impact larger issues. Little errors make them pious, large ones makes them unspiritual. John Stott a famous English theologian changed his viewpoint on God's wrath, or the punishment of the lost. As soon as he did this, he was branded as a heretic or liberal, or some other not so flattering comments. His followers were unable to accept that just perhaps Mr. Stott had been wrong, because they would mean they might be wrong. God forbid! The problem is not their approach, but their pride and arrogance. They can call it whatever they want, but it is pride and arrogance.

Robert Van Kampan, who wrote extensively on a concept called "pre-wrath rapture" noted the following in one of his books. He had set up a toll-free number for those who wanted to call him and express their opinion of his book. He stated that he received hundreds of calls from those who no longer believed in pre-tribulation rapture after reading his book. But, they also told him that they would not change their public profession of pre-tribulation rapture because to do so would jeopardize their jobs as either pastors or teachers. My goodness, just think about that for a minute. Anyway, the issue is God will not hold us responsible for the teachings of any theologian. He will hold us responsible for what we ourselves believed. Remember, if God wants to reveal Himself, He will do if for all of His children who have committed themselves to knowing and understanding Him so they can be better "servants" and followers of Christ. If He has given us revealed truth, which is what we are accountable for, then He will make it clear and understandable so that even a little child can understand. He knows and understands all of our thoughts and intentions.

God has given us His written account of everything that pertains to godly living, sanctification, and salvation. The Holy Spirit will illumine all those who read His word and desire to understand and know God. Of course, if we insist on being enlightened by man, in all likelihood He won't compete for our attention. 1 Corinthians 1:12. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:4. For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? If we think that to "study to show ourselves approved" means something outside of God's word, to include what some would say it reveals or points us to in our time/space, then confusion and disunity will be the "natural" result. Is God really such a respecter of persons that those who live in the informational age are more blessed than those who didn't? Since the natural, pious response to this is "of course" not, then why do we profess the sufficiency of scripture, but revel so much in our secular study, religious studies and degrees? How few fishermen do we see today in our pulpits today. Maybe we should just retroactively award the Apostles honorary doctorate degrees so they can be more credible and understandable. Why do we say the scriptures are sufficient for all of our psychological needs, but then take a course that focuses on secular things outside of scripture so we can better teach what we claimed God has already done in scripture? Is that not hypocrisy? Churches decide who will be their spiritual leaders using the world's criteria; is that not hypocrisy? Believers who substitute the teaching of the Holy Spirit for mans teaching and worldly qualifications; is that not hypocrisy? Is there any wonder that there is such disunity among God's children? We profess piously to follow God and believe His word is totally sufficient, but then follow and trust in man and his teaching. Isaiah 2:22. Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed? Paul warned us of this mindset and he would once again tell us not to belong to and follow the teachings of some spiritual leader at the expense of not following the Holy Spirit. When Moses wrote Genesis, he did not write about complexity of design, DNA, etc. God's people believed in the Genesis creation account without our current scientific confirmation. I think it is safe to say that God knew about these scientific principles but chose to simply say He did it and we should believe and trust in that by "faith", not by sight! How interested do you believe the Old and New Testament saints would be in today's scientific denial or confirmation of the Genesis account of creation? I think they would just smile and ask why we spent so much time and energy on such a useless endeavor. If we need for anyone or anything to confirm that God's word is true, then we will never walk by faith and without faith it is impossible to please God. Science may accidentally support and confirm God's written word, but the written word should never be subject to confirmation in any way to science or any other secular discipline. Just look at our modern day Pharisees, the Catholics, and you will see where man centered reliance leads us.

God's word is absolute and certain, and all conclusions drawn from scripture, must be absolute and in no way contradicted by scripture. Anomalies and divine mysteries reveal God's divine attributes, glorify Him, and require faith, but contradictions will not be found. Additionally, if God has indeed spoken to man in His word, then surely His word contains clear and unambiguous instructions and knowledge regarding salvation and holy living. How could God require something from us, if He doesn't tell us what the requirements and solutions are? Jesus said He spoke to the "unsaved" in parables, but not to His elect. Mark 4:12. so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN." Since He created us and He knows and understands our hearts and limitations, we can be sure He understands how to communicate with His children. If God has provided us with His written word regarding a subject, he is either calling us to accept something primarily by faith as a divine mystery with full understanding locked within the triune God, or He is calling us to "understand" the principle or doctrine in question. God is glorified either way. To argue this would be tantamount to claiming there is nothing we have to accept by faith, apart from human reasoning, or by claiming that all things are or can be fully clear to our understanding. In any event, God can't be glorified if we yield to the status quo alone principle. The things of God are foolishness to those who are perishing, not to those who are being saved. 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The Lord's second coming will be like a thief in the night to those in darkness, but not to us who are in the light. 1 Thessalonians 5:2. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief. But, how great is the mystery of God's sovereign elections and decrees! God with 100% certainty decreed Jesus should die on the cross at a specific time and place in history. The Jews and Romans crucified Him. Did they have a choice? No, it was decreed by God to happen in exactly the way it happened. Are they going to be held responsible? Yes, God will hold those responsible for the most heinous crime ever committed. ACTS 2:23. this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. We should never try and separate predestination from cause and effect. If God predestines something, He must be the cause of the effect. Predestination is a "proactive" process, not a reactive process or a process that is dependent on some type of foreknowledge of what man may or may not do. Otherwise, predestination loses its meaning and significance. We can fully accept this by faith, but we can never fully understand it with our reasoning.

Robert Van Kampen suggested that when attempting to solve any apparent contradiction in scriptures we should consider each of the obvious paths and then attempt to find a common denominator between the various paths that would reconcile all the verses concerning a specific subject. If the common denominator was indeed correct, then it would have the effect of putting us on the "one" correct path. Scripture should be afforded a literal interpretation where it would be permitted and all differing scripture that bears on a particular issue should be considered. If something is pertinent, do not avoid it even if it is the only scripture that appears to contradict your findings. Consider to whom God was speaking and what was the context? Always allow scripture to interpret scripture whenever possible. We should never allow our preconceived notions or itching ears to determine interpretations. Nothing in our hearts or approach should be motivated by putting God on trial. If we do, He will permit us to find Him guilty and our quest for truth is finished. God knows our hearts and motives. If His desire is for us to have wisdom to understand His mysteries, He will gladly show us the truth.

What if after all your research, study, meditation and prayer, your conclusions are contrary to what you have heard? If it concerns your salvation, it is too important and you should seek the guidance of those you trust. There are leaders who have been called and empowered by God to shepherd His flock. Give them an opportunity to clear up any confusion you might have. But, remember you will be held accountable for what you have believed from your own initiative and heart, not what others hold to be true. It is certainly wise to compare your findings to the beliefs of others whom you believe have been gifted by the Lord to teach, but there are no more Apostles and there is no man, or group of men who have replaced the Holy Spirit as our guide to truth and holy living. Just think about this for a moment; is it even remotely plausible that the Lord would unlock His mysteries concerning His love for us only for theologians, church leaders, priests, or popes? Someone should notify the Pope that Peter is dead and Christ's church was not subject to the inheritance laws of the Roman Empire. If we simply accept what we hear without believing it, we are worshiping man and NOT the triune God. The Lord wants to know who we think He is. We get no credit and He could care less what we have heard or even by rote affirm.
 

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I enthusiastically agree with almost everything you have to say here. Indeed, the very reason why Ichthys is on the inter-net is precisely because this sort of ministry can only occur these days "outside the gate". It might interest you to know that there are any number of men who have prepared themselves diligently for ministry but who are not serving in churches precisely because they have had similar problems resulting from the low level of esteem in which the teaching of the Word of God is currently held in most evangelical and conservative churches – not that it doesn't receive lip-service, but it isn't given the emphasis, attention, care, respect and primacy that it must have for a congregation to grow spiritually.

The one place I would quibble a bit is on the point of education, and that quibble may be one more of your emphasis than of your actual position. You are dead-on correct that academic degrees and official "higher learning" do not guarantee any special "in" with God, and, historically speaking, have more often than not correlated with humanistic doubt rather than Spirit-filled faith. But don't be too quick to throw all the babies out with the considerable bath water. I notice, for example, that you have a very specific hermeneutic about the coexistence in the Bible of contradictions which in fact are only apparently such, and you even quote someone who has done what I dare say is "scholarly work" on the subject. This is not a criticism, but only meant to underline that this is a point that needs to be "taught" to people, as the average Christian is unlikely to be able to develop such a principle on their own just from reading the scriptures.

The real problem is not preparation but the use to which the preparation is put. Just as it is true that "guns don't kill; people do", so it is true that Ph.D.s and Th.D.s don't sow seeds of doubt about the power of the truth that is the Word of God, evident to everyone who cares to open their eyes and see it, but people who have these degrees and put them to such use may in fact do so – or they may not (as in the gun analogy).

Put it another way, the Bible does indeed as you so eloquently and forcefully argue hold us responsible to seek out the Word of God and believe the truth, discerning carefully what is or is not true under the guidance of the Spirit. But it is also clear that this involves our accessing of good teachers teaching the Bible as well as our reading the Bible for ourselves. Of the necessity for the latter there is absolutely no doubt (please see: Read your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility). But of the need for Bible teachers there is equally no doubt just as specific scriptures and the whole history of the people of God recorded in those scriptures likewise make abundantly clear (e.g., 1Cor.12:28; Eph.4:11; 1Tim.5:17).

Now if a person is indeed gifted by the Spirit to teach the Word, certainly that is the key thing. But would not such a person be benefitted by, for example, learning Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, and learning them well, so that he would not be entirely dependent upon unknown others who have translated the heap of versions that sit upon his desk? For example, every time I read my Greek NT, I find some aspect of the passage I read, however subtle, illuminated and sharpened by what the Bible actually says and precisely means in its original languages. On the flip side of that, every time I hear the Bible being misinterpreted by obviously well-meaning "teachers", it almost invariably goes back to misunderstanding what the scripture is really saying. Now sometimes this is a translation issue, sometimes it is a "systematic theology" issue (but what is "systematic theology" at its orthodox best other than seeing what the Bible really says on a topic everywhere in scripture and using that information to explain passages you might otherwise not understand elsewhere?), sometimes it is a result of ignorance about the historical background of the Old and New Testament worlds, and sometimes – often these days – it is an attempt to "find" passages that back up what the pastor is preaching on this Sunday. The latter is, in my view, the apotheosis of the problem that you are trying to get at. The dumbing down of what Christians expect from the pulpit caused by the primacy of the "sermon" started in antiquity, and most churches/denominations have never gotten past this info-tainment substitute for serious study of the Word of God where the emotional response to a pleasing and entertaining message is often the true ultimate goal rather than teaching what the Bible says (yet another reason why this ministry is on the net and not in a "brick and mortar" church).

In any case, all of the above errors are all in some ways directly related to what may be deemed a "lack of education". This stems first and foremost from an ignorance about what our Lord really wants from us which is to know Him better through His Word and to put that knowledge, believed and understood, into practice in our lives, helping others to do likewise.

Thus this "lack of education" may or may not equate to a "lack of degrees". Indeed, on the one hand educating oneself as to what the Lord wants requires first and foremost a responsive heart rather than academic training, and, on the other hand, it is possible to educate oneself in all of the areas discussed above without a formal program (although that is extremely difficult, especially in the area of language study as I can professionally attest). Furthermore, it is equally possible these days to get any number of "degrees" without really learning much of anything useful, and, in some cases, suffering the result of being indoctrinated instead into things that are objectively harmful (if one puts any faith in them). Once again, however, the fault, where there is fault, will lie with the "operator" rather than the instrument. Just because some or many or most or even almost all who nowadays go the long and difficult extra miles to receive academic accreditation may do so out of false motives and in any case achieve negligible or even negative results does not necessarily mean that everyone who has earnestly tried to be as diligent as possible in their preparation to serve Jesus Christ has had that identical experience.

To sum up, then, it is not the degree or the academic preparation that is the true problem here per se, but rather the heart of the person who proclaims that he is a teacher of God's Word when his is really something else. So while I would certainly agree that the "academic system" has ginned things up to the point that there may seem to be no daylight between these two points, I would like to think that this ministry and others of whom I know and to whom I can bear witness are some proof that one should not automatically and uncritically equate adequate academic preparation with a low view of inspiration, liberal heresy, spiritual lukewarmness, or spiritual cowardice. For example, I know of no denomination that would accept, lock stock and barrel, the things that are taught at this ministry. Ichthys.com is independent for a reason. Every position taken and taught reflects what I have come, by long study and careful meditation over the Word of God in prayer, to understand as what the Bible actually teaches. On the pre-Trib rapture, for example, I too was indoctrinated into this false belief and defended it vociferously until scripture drew me inexorable to the realization that it was a concocted misunderstanding. Once I became convinced of where the truth actually lay, I did not hesitate to change what I taught as well as what I thought. This has been my practice, I certainly hope and pray that it always will be. What I want is the truth, not tradition or agreement at the cost of the truth – and this ministry is dedicated to those who feel the same way. This approach has come at some personal cost, straining of personal relationships and, as I say, had the result of making me somewhat of a pariah when it comes to established Christian organizations and denominations. I don't hold this against anyone, but I am determined to follow the truth wherever it leads, to follow Jesus wherever He leads, no matter what the cost.

I am confident that you find this principle demonstrated in everything you read at Ichthys.

In Him who is the very Word of God incarnate, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

Dear Bob,

I want to thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I have always argued that the most important and significant Christian we will ever come into contact with is the one that is directly "in front" of us. With that said, I doubt whether your response would have been more thoughtful if you were responding to MacArthur, than this nobody. There is as much unsaid in this praise, than could ever be written or spoken. I enjoyed and will take to heart your "quibble" on my emphasis on education. I tend to be overly forceful in some areas and this perhaps skews my thoughts and intentions. I absolutely feel that nothing is wrong with education, both theological and secular. What I do feel is wrong is for the educated to think that their education makes them better vessels to learn about or to serve God, in and of itself. In other words, you have a doctorate and you would be wrong to feel the doctorate, in and of itself, makes you more spiritual or progressively spiritual in any way. The paper means nothing, the man behind the paper means everything. To get it backwards is man-centered Roman Catholicism or as I noted, Roman Protestantism. It is the same lie as the New Perspective on Paul, but it can be tricky. I know you agree with this so it is sort of a moot point. It is the man and how God views his heart and intentions that determine how much spiritual truth he gets. I thought I made this clear with my comments about how there are indeed men that have been chosen by God to teach and to preach. My argument was not primarily aimed at scholars per se, but to those who leave their spiritual futures in the hands of those scholars, because they are scholars. I only condemn those scholars who at some point in their ministries have chosen to serve man and not God. Actually Van Kampen was not a scholar. He was a very successful, rich business man that decided, as I have, that it is God's word that unlocks His truths and this is available to everyone. "If you search for Me with all your heart, you will find Me". He also believed, as I do, that most profound things from the word of God can be understood and learned if our desire is to acquire wisdom for the "sole reason of understanding and knowing Him." Van Kampen supported my position and my quoting him was not a contradiction. He sought out the viewpoint of scholars on every side of his positions and then "rightfully" compared their viewpoints to scripture. His final conclusions were from scripture and if his views found support from those scholars he researched, it only served to "reinforce", not dictate his position. He would have never said someone should agree with him because Dr. MacArthur agrees with him. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I thank God for you and will include you in my prayers. There is a difference between the "revealed" truths of God that we will all be held accountable for and the secret things of God that you and I love to discuss. I believe God is very pleased when His children undertake to know and understand even these secret things that, in part, will likely remain somewhat mysterious.

Your Brother in Christ,

Response #5: 

Thank you so much for your kind e-mail. I do apologize if I over-compensated in my response for your forceful presentation of your point of view. Again, I very much in agreement with what most of what you have to say here. I seriously considered avoiding formal preparation for my goal: to study and teach the Word of God. In addition to the arguments of the previous e-mail and some good advice I received (e.g., L.S. Chafer's opinion that ten years of preparation for one year of ministry was not an unreasonable balance if a person were serious about doing a good job), one of the factors in deciding upon the more formal route was the realization of the flip side of what you are saying here, namely, that many people would find the lack of the requisite degrees a stumbling block. And while I certainly find fault with a point of view that suggests that a person with degrees et al. is automatically a superior vessel (or even a true vessel in the first place), it seemed to me not unreasonable to ask why someone who felt that the studying and teaching of the Word of God was the most important thing in the world would not have gone to seminary or would have failed to get an appropriate advanced degree. There are many good answers to that question, but as I didn't have one personally, I felt it incumbent upon myself to add formal preparation to personal spiritual preparation.

This approach has paid many dividends over the years, not the least of which is has been my being in a position to evaluate and reject without any guilt or suspicion of envy the work of scholars who have missed the point of what is actually in the Word of God. In fact, there are really very, very few scholarly works in theology and less in exegesis that have been much use to me past the formative stage of this ministry. One large reason for this, it seems to me, is that in speaking to both a community of scholars and a publishing market, any clear focus upon the undiluted truth of the Word is necessarily dimmed. I am far less concerned with what 100 other exegetes have said about a passage than what the passage says. Not that I ignore them. It's just as the years have gone by the diluted help they provide has proved every more impotent (there are some notable exceptions: Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament is surprisingly insightful for example). This is one reason why there are so few attributions in my work. Generally speaking, there is little occasion to attribute help in the specifics of my writing at all (though I do and have clearly acknowledged my roots and those I have benefitted from in the past in general terms et al. – all plants spring from seed). I absolutely agree that the authority argument when it comes to individuals is folly in terms of the scriptures. I always make it my policy to attempt to show from translations, parallel passages, systematics, and honest argumentation why it is I believe what it is I teach on any given point and passage – that is, I teach something because I believe the Bible teaches, and try to be as clear as possible in demonstrating where and why and how it does so.

I certainly do want to know everything that is in the Word of God, believing it as the truth it is and teaching it to all who are willing to listen, for every single particle of truth is important, supporting, connecting, and animating the whole. I apologize that this comes across sometimes as a bit "intellectual". Were I a better writer, I could make this stuff less dense and still retain the same "pop". But we all have different gifts.

Finally, you are no more a "nobody" than I am, and this is really not a bad position for us to be in, tending the vineyard in the place our Lord has assigned us. It's when we get to be "somebodies" in the eyes of the world that dangerous things often begin to happen.

Thanks for everything, especially for your prayers!

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.
 


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