Question #1: Hello there, Not quite sure what to say but WOW. Who are you my friend? I have tried to find some info on you and on your webpage - however your writing is quite frankly inspired, truthful, knowledgeable and remarkably helpful. I am guessing you live in the USA while I live in the UK. However if you teach in a Church I think I would make my way like my heels were on fire to you.
You were just what I needed in a very difficult time we are currently going through. Thank God for your writings and making it available on the internet. I am so thrilled to find a teacher that is inspired - we are rock bottom in this fallen world at the moment of true teachers who like the Reformed can only bang the gong on Salvation (fully aware how important that is ) - however one must mature and they seemed to entrenched in this doctrine and the horrendous 5 points of Calvinism. Then you have the Charismatic who are the me, me, me and what can God do for me brigade. Then yourself who puts the muscle, and the flesh on to the bones of Gods wonderful word. What a joy to read.
It is inspirational to read your articles they have enriched, and you have done what I have always felt that it should be and that is to bring it all to life. Bless you, I have no doubt you are a very busy person, however if you can drop me a line. I hate flattering you and that is not my intention - it is purely to let you know that your knowledge of the Word has utterly changed my life and just want to thank God that people like you are listening and are able to articularly put it into to words. It is a wonderful and powerful gift you have been given. I have not been a Christian for so many years not to recognise TRUTH when I read it.
If you are from the States do you ever come to the UK?
God bless you and may He keep your mind clear and inspirational.
Yours in debt to HIM for his goodness and kindness and for finding you on the Web. That in it self is a miracle considering I am researching the Patterns of God in Scripture.
Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for this extremely encouraging e-mail. I very much appreciate it (and appreciate your prayers even more). I am always thrilled to hear when my brothers and sisters draw some benefit and encouragement from these studies as that was the reason I began this ministry in quite another form many years ago. The Word of God truly is transformative. I would dearly love to claim all the credit you assign here, but I honestly have to say that God is doing the all the good work (the errors, however, are all mine).
I rarely travel and (apart from Greece) I haven't been outside of the US since my days in service. At present, I have my hands pretty full with my job and with this ministry (and "life" intrudes sometimes as well), but one never knows what is going to happen, and I seem to be particularly challenged when it comes to personal prognostication. Since you have some questions about it, you can find out more about this ministry and my CV et al. at the following links and linked pages:
Frequently Asked Questions.
I also certainly agree completely with your take on the state of the church visible in our Laodicean age, caught in a vise between tradition and emotion, with little interest in learning the truths of the Word. I thank God for fellow believers like you who share a passion for the truth of the Bible, and very much appreciate you sharing your enthusiasm with me. No matter what this life may bring, the blessings and rewards of that blessed time to come are indeed an eternal weight of glory to which nothing on this earth can hope to compare.
In anticipation of that great day when we shall all stand together in white before our Lord Jesus.
I wrote to you the other day and you replied very promptly. I was delighted to hear from you. Such alot of dross and so little truth. I think why I am so blessed to have found your web page is that I am aware by your credentials that you are an educated and highly intelligent man. I am uneducated and highly intelligent ..... (LOL) However we have arrived at the same goals. Like you my teacher has been the Holy Spirit and I have taken this excerpt from a series of e-mails (and I have to admire your patience). I am so delighted to read how you have been led as much is the same as my own experience I say that cos it has been a very painful and difficult road. However we are told that the 'narrow' road is strewn with boulders and difficult and few there be that find it. Now without looking that up I cannot give u chapter and verse - however I think you will know where it comes from somewhere in Matthew?
I was a Roman Catholic for many years, convent educated (and too emotionally screwed up to learn anything). However I was seeking. And believe it or not found an RC priest who was 'baptised in the spirit'. And he led me through in to what I thought was 'Shangri-la' and being born again. What delusion, what madness, what stupidity was my portion. I stayed a Charismatic for many years - thought I was one of God's elite - I had made it. OUCH.......You know Robert - I knew something was wrong, where were the healings? where was the power and I mean the POWER? it just did not exist. So I started saying to the Lord. I am obviously not baptised in the spirit, please Oh, God, let me have it. I paced the roads, I paced my house and still nothing. OK Lord I said, send me wherever you want in the world and I will go anywhere to receive this 'power'. Still nothing. OK ... back to the drawing board the Bible.
Oh, my goodness were my eyes opened. All this claiming the blood over everything and using it as a talisman ..... NOT RIGHT. It was one thing after the other. This other dear friend and a bible teacher was absolutely out of whack. He had got is so wrong and was teaching his error to hundreds of people. So I started to research Church History and horror of horrors - I discovered it was all wrong and not scriptural. Robert I am being very candid with you because I know I am talking to the converted here - I realise you cannot be quite so dogmatic because it does offend. Not only was the fellowship I belonged to wrong the whole Pentecostal/Charismatic is wrong.
Wait for it ... I found truth ... Yup, straight into the arms of John Calvin. I had arrived again ... got the truth and threw myself heartily into that. I think I must have offended many with TULIP and specially Limited atonement. We moved to Wales on the strength of that and found a chap who was a 'preacher' ( would like to know how you take a year to preach one verse of the scripture ....)? Disaster - he was totally anti RC's and thought that Protestant children should stone them .... this was from the pulpit. My darling mum who has long gone to glory some years ago, did not think this was the 'church' for her. So that was it. As true to form this preacher showed his true colours very soon. So we were glad to leave. Then we found a Baptist church .... who basically was reformed. The teacher there was a lovely guy, dapper, intelligent and reasonably knew the Word. However very Sunday he would bleat that the Holy Spirit was not in his church. I would agree. Because we would not join membership of this church we were treated like outcasts. My take on this is I belong to the Body of Christ which is universal. Why would I want a membership in your church. That went down like lead balloon. So we were on our way again after a few months. Disillusioned again - I went back to the Word of God. Battered, troubled and totally frustrated - How could I keep getting this so wrong. Then came the bombshell after studying and researching - I have now discovered that few if any denominations are right. Which leaves us in a huge quandary - where to go and have fellowship?
Robert - why have we not met in the wilderness - cos your there and many others must be too? We outcasts need fellowship ....
I just want to say how God has honoured this .... what I have learned has been Holy Spirit taught, and now I find you ... and see you have been taught the same, may I say Robert I do not have your knowledge or gift in understanding scripture like you do. I cannot be a teacher because I am a woman, however I am part of the Body of Christ and His Bride and His Church. So I have copied this below as we seem in a strange way to have walked the same route:
Let me start by saying that from what you have shared with me in this e-mail, we have quite a bit in common. My primary experience is Presbyterian to quasi-Baptist to charismatic to outcast (my current status in the wilderness). After a very positive early life experience, later in life I found the Presbyterians growing ever farther from scripture, the quasi-Baptists dogmatic about things for which dogmatism was inappropriate, and, as for the charismatic, well, that is in many ways the underlying issue of this conversation. I found good and bad in all groups, and good and bad people in all groups, but, ultimately, like you, God lead me to choose undiluted truth over what was flawed and incorrect. So, like you, I am off doing "my own thing" because in my heart I was called by the Lord to do "His thing", and that is what I am trying to do to the best of my ability.
There are many questions I would like to ask you. I know that I was directed to you by the Lord and am very grateful to HIM for that. I am so blessed that the Lord's teachings for me is to understand what it is to be 'in Christ'. I am so thrilled to learn that how a relationship with God, is us learning to 'know' HIM. As He has the full advantage of knowing me inside out. However all the pain of getting it so wrong - and the lesson in pride to admit it .. is so worth learning the truth. You are reading about a truly liberated lady here who knows the truth and it has seriously set me free. So much to learn - I have printed out alot of your work specially on the 'rebellion' series and intend to get stuck in..
Dear Robert, thank you for you for putting your gift on the internet so people can 'stumble' on it. How true it is that if you 'seek' you shall find. Bless you. In His Wonderful Name .. JESUS
Thanks so very much for your encouraging personal testimony. We do indeed have many experiences in common, having "proved" at some personal cost the validity (or actually the lack thereof) of these major areas of the modern day church visible. The particular experiences you relate are very encouraging to me as they parallel in many ways my own and are completely consonant with what I too came to see as the essential pitfalls of each. I hadn't thought about in these terms, but the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the charismatics pretty much cover three of the four main "pillars" of contemporary Christianity (I would add the generic "super-church" evangelicals as the fourth, and I have always been disappointed with them as well: going to one of these places always leaves me with an intense feeling of nausea). The first has dead tradition, the second self-righteous zeal, the third emotional excess, and the fourth comfortable consumerism -- none of them is interested in learning about the Bible to any noticeable degree. I don't know where to put the RC church. I have always been hopeful that it contains some believers, but most of the former RC members I have met have assured me that it is impossible to stick in that church and have a saving faith in Christ. In any case, however one views the particulars, the Laodicean church is in a sorry state indeed. I have a number of former seminary friends who have tried to make a go of teaching the scriptures in a traditional church setting, but this has generally not panned out for any of us. It is pretty clear what most people want today, and substantive Bible-teaching is not it.
So I don't think you should be too hard on yourself. You have been searching for the truth which, as you point out, is precisely what scripture enjoins. Genuinely searching for the truth (as opposed to self-willed self-styled undirected "searching") is never easy; the bumps and the lumps along the way are partially to test our resolve: how badly do we really want what we say we want? If more of our brothers and sisters where doing so, there would be at least a few more churches out there, I am certain, where the Bible and the truth of the Word really did have pride of place. As you so correctly noted in your previous e-mail, doctrine in even the "best" of present day churches consists mainly in salvation and witnessing for those few groups who have some inclination for biblical studies. Even this would not be so terribly bad if they bothered to do this in enough depth to "get it right", but, sadly, even here the superficiality of understanding has generally boiled over into misunderstanding, misapplication and, in many cases, outright heresy.
I am always thrilled to bump into other Christians out here in the wilderness, as you put it, who really are passionate about the Word of God. It is not easy to "go outside the gate to the place where Jesus was crucified". Indeed, it is pretty scary sometimes to be doing the exact opposite of what everyone else seems to affirm is the correct thing to do. But as I read my Bible, this has generally been the way of things for all those who have been determined to follow Jesus wherever He leads. The right course is seldom safe, seldom comfortable, seldom easy. It is as you quote a "narrow and tribulated path", one that few find -- precisely because most cannot be bothered to look.
Please know that you are very welcome here at Ichthys, and that I would be very pleased to correspond with you about the Word of God any time.
In our dear Lord Jesus whom we shall adore forever together in company with all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thank you for your prompt reply, there is a question I would like to ask that seriously puzzles me and that is: Man has been around for some 6000 years - why is it that it is only since the Industrial revolution that we have progressed into the amazing technology that we have today? My old Grandmother had seen man with cart and horse, two world wars and a man land on the moon!
That is quite some change in just her life. Now I am aware this must be spiritual and appreciate the dominance and control of the middle-ages from the Roman Catholic church, the birth of the Reformation the turbulence this brought and subsequently the Industrial revolution. As the common people wanted knowledge and education ect. The birth of steam, electricity and communications. I noted that many of the pioneers of this were in fact labelled 'Christians').
The Illuminati, Bilderburgs ect .... there seems to be a connection to the massive credit crisis we are in today - of controlling the masses! Plus wars etc. I am sure that God is using this to bring about what will be necessary to bring the world to its knees, if not there already is surely must be tottering. All this seems to be around the time of the 18th Century when all this started specially with the French revolution. However as we know it is impossible to separate history from the established 'church' - they are so heavily entwined.
It is a question I find quite puzzling. I have a few ideas - however I would love to hear your take on this? The attack on Truth is nothing new - as we know from the Bible, the warnings have been ringing out since the beginning of Genesis and continue to Revelation. What is amazing is that all denominations seem to ignore these warnings and continue in man orientated doctrines.
Would you say that Daniels statement that 'knowledge will increase' in Dan12:4 would be prophetic on this, as the derivative is the same as the 'knowledge' from Genesis 2:9 and 2:17?
It always makes me think that all this so called 'progress' is in fact going backwards. It is basically destroying us and our planet. People are more stressed and more unhappy then ever now. So all these so called labour saving gadgets etc do not give us more time. We like to say that when folk get married (if they do and not shacking up together) nobody saves for anything any more. Since the last world war (of which I am one of the so called baby boomers) ......all these youngster expect to move into a fully furnished house or apartment, all singing and dancing ,electrical equipment, massive TV's ect and a huge credit bill.
The attack on the Lord God is breathtaking as our schools refuse to teach about HIM and all religions must have a say. The Gideon's Bibles are now removed from Hotels etc (which I read). Not sure it has actually happened. We live in utter fear and chaos - so obviously the handiwork of the enemy. Free speech is now gone and we cannot preach any more in public without possibly being arrested as a public nuisance.
So we can wipe away the tear of nostalgia and know that God is sovereign and we are heading for the tribulation so fast our feet are not touching the ground.
I am looking forward to studying this - and am in the middle of your satanic rebellion series of which I read mostly open mouthed!
Greetings from a wet and miserable summer in Wales.
Still rejoicing and Praising Him the Lord God who has saved us from Satan's clutches.
God bless and keep you safe.
That's an interesting question you pose. The flood set things back (the first generation after Adam had already mastered metallurgy et al.), and so did the Lord's confusion of the nations at Babel. Both of these events not only slowed technological advance per se but also population increase (which is not unconnected to the issue). I would also suspect that part of the Holy Spirit's restraining ministry (see the link: "The Restraining Ministry of the Spirit") has been to prevent technology arriving at a critical mass before the appointed time. Clearly, had there been a few centuries ago the kind of weaponry and communications systems we have today it is hard to see how humanity would have survived; hard also to see how the faithful could have been preserved. As you rightly point out, technology is a mixed blessing at best, and much of what we see today in terms of "advances" have doubtless contributed to the spiritual malaise which presently grips the world. Now that we are the cusp of the end, there is no longer a need to restrain such "progress" on the one hand, and on the other hand much of it is doubtless "necessary" in order for antichrist to bring about his world kingdom of evil. As to Daniel 12:4, that may be part of it (dha'ath is the most common Hebrew word for knowledge and is often applied to knowledge of God as well). My main take on that verse is that Revelation "unseals" the "sealed" prophecies about the end times (compare the first part of Dan.12:4 with the seals of Rev.6-8; see the link: "The Seven Seals"), so that what I have taken from this verse is that as we approach nearer and nearer to the Tribulation, the critical information about it, much of it detailed in the book of Daniel, will become ever more perspicuous -- at least to those who are interested and truly seeking the truth of these things (that's the "[enthusiastically] going here and there" part, namely, the efforts of true exegetes and believers over the centuries since and up to the present time to search out these things). But I find your suggestion intriguing and will certainly keep in mind; it may very well be an important part of that verse's interpretation as well.
So good to hear that you are enjoying these studies!
Thanks again for your encouraging words.
I just wanted to let you know that I have been teaching Bible studies at my church on Wed. nights since 1993 and have just begun teaching your material. I'm concentrating on the devil and his angels as a prelude to his strategies which you outline so well. My goal, like yours, is to better equip those willing to listen in the battle as we who embrace Jesus are all soldiers in His army. Some questions: Have you ever considered starting a church? Are there any churches which emphasize what you teach? Will this material ever be in print? God has certainly opened your eyes to the deeper realities revealed in His Word; do you think He'll ever move you to evangelize with it? What haunts me so to speak is why am I just hearing this now? Why aren't churches sharing these things with the congregations? Would you share your testimony with me? Finally, do you think we (all Christians) ought to be praying for Christ's return? After all, isn't His return the only true solution to the ever decaying mess we see around us? I always make reference to you when I teach or speak or your material. Should you choose to share your testimony, I will relate that as well. Once again, thank you,
Well first let me say that I am deeply gratified that you are not only personally benefitting from these materials but are also sharing them with others as well. You certainly have a heart for God and I appreciate very much your desire to share the truth with others.
As to your questions, I will answer as best I can - they cover a lot of ground. There is some bio material at the website (see the links: "Current CV" and "A Bit of Autobiography"). I have been around Christians churches of various flavors all my life. My dad was a Presbyterian minister, something I may have already mentioned. As a kid, I liked some things about church, but was never enamored of the worship service. I didn't know why. In retrospect, I think I really wanted to know God and know more about God, to build true faith (I always admired Daniel's faith), but I didn't really get this out of church (sermons, in my view, can't really teach anything - they are by nature sonorous pep-talks and nothing more). No sleight to my dad intended here - he was a great man and I owe so much to him. He was working with the standard pattern that came down to him that almost everyone else was working with as well. As I look on the Church and its history, it seems to me that the true Bible teaching which is oh-so evident in the epistles of Paul, for example, did not survive the third generation after the apostles (you might check out the comments in "Coming Tribulation 2A: The Seven Churches"). Very early on, into and through the dominance of Rome, and in spite of all the changes of the reformers, the Sunday worship service and the sermon (with once-a-week or at best once-a-week plus being good enough) seems to have been the rule as it continues to be today. You can't read any of Paul's epistles and get the impression that explaining/teaching/understanding the Word of God is not the number reason why believers are to get together, but somehow that has not been emphasized in the main throughout the history of the Church.
All this is a long prologue to explain why I do what I do. Coming up in seminary (and Talbot was a non-demoninational seminary with diverse representation) I pal'ed around with a number of other men who likewise were ex-military and had been what amounts to "disciples" of Col. Thieme whose style of teaching the Bible had impressed and greatly influenced us all. We have all gone in slightly different directions since, but my cohort and I have all shared the idea, often differently implemented, that teaching the Word is what the true ministry is all about. That was what we all felt to be our calling anyway. This has resulted in much disappointment for many of us, because we all felt, as your question suggests, that the ideal situation would be a "church" where people were likewise interested in learning the Word of God as the top priority (rather than as an add-on). It turns out in my experience and observation (and I like to think of both of them as diverse and broad) that there are not really all that many people in the Church who are interested in really finding out what the Bible has to say and growing in the grace and knowledge of God thereby, growing closer to Jesus Christ in a real and tangible way (especially to the detriment of traditional church activities). Why? I can't say for sure, but as I take this to be the "age of Laodicea" (see the link) where "lukewarm" is the operative adjective, my experience and observation matches my understanding of the prophetic age in which we live perfectly.
I have had a Bible study group before (this ministry grew out of that), and even tried to teach doctrine in a traditional adult "Sunday school" setting. These and other experiences make me skeptical of success -- for who wants to stay true to his principles, that is. I would love to start a church, but I think I would probably have to call it a "Bible study society" or something like that just to avoid the charge of false advertising. There are too many false expectations that contemporary Christians have about what a church is-and-should-be for my idea to work (i.e., Bible teaching the number one priority). I have learned over time that to try and foist this what-I-believe-to-be-correct standard upon any present church and/or denomination would only bring disaster (both for the would be pastor/teacher and for the church). What we have at this point is "new wine in old wine skins". I am sorry to say that employing any present church format and plugging in teaching instead of preaching would probably crack the skin and leave most of the wine draining out into the sand. People are drawn to traditional churches. The ideas of the past couple of millennia are very deeply ingrained. And for most of the Christians in the world today, I wouldn't try to change the situation. After all, they are in many cases getting something out of the church experience and learning something about the Lord and His Word and gaining some measure of spiritual confidence and assurance by associating with other, like-minded believers. That is not all bad. Ideally, one could graft in the truly good to the marginally mediocre and benefit both, but the reality I have observed is that both are usually destroyed when that is tried. So I try not to judge specific churches or any one else's ministry or to change them in any way. Rather, I try to do what I feel I have been called to do, namely, to continue to dig deep into the Word of God and thereby move closer to the Lord, and in my own little way to make available what I have been given to find out to any and all who may be interested.
I once truly thought that if detailed and deep Bible teaching were only made available, that most Christians would flock to it. Sadly, however, most of our generation of believers is little interested in spiritual growth: they are getting out of "church" exactly what they want. I have come to be very grateful for those rare individuals like yourself who deeply desire the pure milk of the Word. I have learned not to take this attitude for granted. I would wish to impart zeal to my fellow Christians and an enthusiasm for the truth without which growth and nearness to God are impossible, but what I have found in the main is that where there is enthusiasm, there is often a lack of orthodoxy, discipline, or carefulness about scripture, and where enthusiasm is lacking, it is usually impossible to impart it. So while I would love to have a "group" meeting together, at this moment that is not a reality. I hope that one day this ministry will develop in that direction (that is certainly part of my long-range plan). And I do hope to put these things into formal print some day (but as I have a problem with people being charged money for them, that has not happened yet beyond occasional photo-copies).
You have chosen the good part, and I am thrilled beyond expression that you have chosen to seek some of your spiritual food from this particular "pantry". To truly live one's life for Jesus Christ is not easy - the road is a narrow one. But the advantages of joy now and reward in the life to come are not fit to be compared with anything that the complacent, marginal Christian life can offer.
Why are you "just hearing this now"? From a personal point of view, it seems to me that a person has to be ready for it, and, from a prophetic point of view, I like to think that the Lord is taking matters into His own hands and making these things available before the Tribulation arrives. Yes, we definitely should continue to pray for the return of our Lord, and to be eager for His return. Nothing in this world of tears can satisfy us apart from Him, and He is the only solution to the all trouble our eyes behold.
Marana Tha "O our Lord, return [we bid You]!"
1st Corinthians 16:22
In Him in whom the whole body ought to grow and edify itself in love, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your faith!
Last night was the third Wed evening I taught your material. After the second I wanted to write and talk about how many more people were there but decided to wait. Usually we only have a steadfast few on a wed evening but the second night I taught on the tactics of the devil it more than doubled...Now this week there weren't quite as many but still more than usual so i can say it's going well. My pastor sat in on the teaching last night and according to his wife they were okay with what I was teaching. I'm sure that sounds odd that I would have to ask the wife how he took it but this is a new pastor (been with us a year) and the most uncommunicative individual I've ever met. So I've learned to just ask his wife how he feels about this or that. Next time I teach I will begin to go into detail on the lies beginning of course with the lie that still besets so many of us; we don't need God. Next wed we will be in revival (the ultimate pep rally) so i'll have to wait. You mentioned so many things in your letter that i find discouraging with just my own church, and the fact that we get so fired up for these so called revivals just exemplifies it all. This preacher will have a decent turn out every night he's there and folks will be falling all over the place at the alter. A week later everything will be as it was prior to his coming. This particular evangelist is a favorite among most of our church members (even though he told one of our church mothers she was healed of her cancer to no avail - she died months later). My guess is it's because he is theatrical and entertaining. I hate to say it but I'm not looking forward to it at all. In any event, I'm trying to get as many people as I can into these studies you've chosen to share with us and should anything take place to hinder that at my church I would just start something right here in my home. If I could have my druthers you would be the pastor of our church and rather than preach and have revivals you would teach us first hand all that God has given you to share - so convinced am I that this is from Him. If you ever do establish a bible study society let me know...in the meantime I will continue to print out what you have on the net. I really enjoyed the letter you sent sharing your experiences and thoughts - anytime you feel so led please do. I'd have written back immediately but didn't want to be a pest either. I take it, though, that I'm not, considering you wrote to ask how the studies were going. You can trust that until I'm through with them all, which will probably be never since they all beckon to be read again and again, the studies will always be going well with me.
I really appreciate your letter - it is a delight and no small encouragement to hear how you are persevering in the ministry of the Word. I find your efforts quite personally inspiring, and will try to do my best to be worthy of your good words.
As to your frustrations with the situation you describe in your church, I can only say that they are typical of every time I can ever remember hearing about someone who was interested in scripture and trying to share and further that enthusiasm in a biblically appropriate and substantive way. My interpretation would be that the opposition you face and the frustration you feel are indications of the rightness of your approach and the dedication of your heart. No positive steps such as you are taking are ever unopposed by the evil one and his forces, and no one who is truly dedicated to the importance of the Word of God can easily stomach things which run counter to the true purpose of the Church. So I would have you be encouraged in the Lord that you are indeed on the right track (whether you are using the materials of this ministry or substantive Bible teaching of any type, including your own studies), and remember that the eternal rewards for choosing the right path and enduring opposition in the Lord's true cause are great indeed.
In Him who will reward each one according to his works, our merciful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
G'day - I hope you can shed some light on a debate we are having. Is it correct to say that ordinary Christians in the early church, say before 250 AD, did not have free access to the Bible, in part because books were rare and expensive, in part because many could not read in any case? If so, how could the Bereans check out new teachings using scripture? Did the early church leaders have a good selection of texts and copies of letters written by Paul and others? If not, how did they refute heresies such as gnosticism?
Good to make your acquaintance. These are very good questions and the answers to them are of necessity somewhat impressionistic. By that I mean that while there is some evidence upon which to opine (as I shall do here), there is much more that we should like to know but do not, especially during the period before Christianity became a state religion under Constantine in the early fourth century.
Literacy and literacy rates for antiquity are often debated. In my field of Classics, a new book on the subject appears with regularity every couple of years as the evidence is re-hashed and re-thrashed. My own feeling is that revisionist ideas which see the percentage of literate individuals as small is greatly overdone. I do think it is fair to say that the number of individuals who had a refined ability to read difficult material in Latin and/or in Greek was probably restricted to the upper classes who had opportunities for higher education, such as it was. However, when we look into such things we find that most tutors of literature to wealthy families of the late Roman Republic and early Empire were slaves. Ancient Athens and ancient Rome were, moreover, cities filled to overflowing with written material publicly displayed, and not only of the permanent, formal sort. The walls of Pompeii, for example, were filled to overflowing with semi-literate graffiti -- a phenomenon difficult to understand if people could not read, by and large. The New Testament, written in Greek, was translated into a variety of other languages beginning almost immediately (Coptic, for example). Parts of the Old Latin version doubtless go back to at least the second century. Greek was, moreover, widely known, even in the west. Inscriptions in the catacombs are largely in Greek and the earliest letters to and from Rome after the close of the NT are in Greek (e.g., of Clement and Ignatius). We have an amazing number of witnesses to the New Testament in papyrus form (inexpensive compared to vellum) going back to the late first century, and even have Bible verses written on potsherds (which was the free writing material of antiquity). The ancient world was awash with written material of every sort, and this fact alone certainly argues for a very high level of basic literacy. Moreover, New Testament Greek is very easy to read. I would imagine, based on my own studies of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, that the number of individuals who were completely illiterate in the Corinthian congregation, to take one example, was much the minority. The rate of literacy was no doubt smaller than in the US today, but not by a significantly large amount (in my opinion). Greek has a 24 letter alphabet and, unlike English, is very easy to pronounce once you know the very few simple rules. For native speakers, the jump from sound to visual images would not have been terribly difficult.
As to dissemination, I also believe that this process could better be described as a flood rather than a trickle. The Bereans had no New Testament (they had never heard of Jesus before Paul arrived), but they clearly did have access to the Old Testament. Every Jewish synagogue would have an official Hebrew copy and no doubt the (or a) Greek version (often called the Septuagint) was also readily available. For Acts is very clear on the point that they (collectively) were checking Paul's citations of the Old Testament as he proved from the likes of Isaiah 52-53 that Jesus is the Christ. The desire of the Bereans to see it in writing for themselves, a very natural reaction which I would imagine was the rule rather than the exception, also suggests what I would suspect, namely, that wherever a Christian community arose, the scriptures came with the gospel, and the first order of business would have been to assemble and spread the written word along with the spoken gospel. If a letter or book was missing from the collection, efforts would have been made to locate and reproduce a copy. Peter, writing his second epistle ca. 55-60 A.D. was already referring to Paul's epistles as "scripture" (2Pet.3:15-16), and beyond any argument he expected his readers throughout Asia to have read Paul whose earliest epistles date to only about 5-15 years earlier. In the next generation, Polycarp (ca. 69-155) in his letters repeatedly quotes the NT and Paul's letters in particular with the apparent expectation that his readers miles away will recognize the passages immediately.
One could go on, but in my opinion a theory which assumes that most people in ancient world were literate and that the scriptures expanded widely and voluminously just as Christianity did (so that the Bible was generally available in one form or another to most Christians at most times, even if that required greater efforts than today to achieve this such as personally copying out large amounts of text on personally acquired cheaper materials) will meet the evidence we have. On the other hand, a theory which assumes a small percentage of literate believers and a very difficult to find and access Bible will be contradicted at every turn. Your point about combating heresies is a good one. We know that throughout the early history of the Church the faith grew and the doctrine was not perverted (that came later). This would hardly have been possible in the absence (or effective absence) of the Word of God. So whether we consider the logical, theological, archaeological, literary or historical evidence, these all argue for a fairly widely available canon from a very early point, read and understood by the vast majority of the large and growing Christian population.
It was most certainly not an easy process to acquire a personal, complete copy of the scriptures, but the persuasive evidence for the canon alone suggests all of the Christian communities did have such access collectively. We may indeed assume that collecting the texts and disseminating them was a difficult and costly process at times, but as with so many other things we today of the lukewarm Laodicean era of the Church don't appreciate just how easy and how good we have it.
Yours in Him who is the Word of God incarnate, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Dr. Luginbill:
Your work on creation as recorded on your web site("The Genesis Gap" and "The Grammar behind the Genesis Gap") is most helpful and appreciated. Your's is one of only two web sites I have found that supports the gap theory. Everyone seems to be pushing the young earth or old earth theories, neither of which I can accept. However, I note that your timing of the creation of the angels is after the creation of the heavens and earth; the same as Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Thieme, Jr. pastor of Berachah Church, Houston, Texas. Pastor Thieme is retired from Army Air Corps. You and Thieme are the only two sources I am aware of that place the creation of the angels AFTER the creation of the heavens and earth. And you use the same verse, i.e. Job 38:4-7 to substantiate your timing. I too use this same verse but to show that the angels were created BEFORE the heavens and the earth. My reasoning is that they would have to already be in existence to be able to sing together and shout for joy. I have given a great deal of thought to this particular passage and it does seems to me that it is referring to the original creation of Gen.1:1 and not the recreation, or restoration, of Gen.1:2. Would you be so kind as to elaborate upon your position of placing the creation of the angels after the original creation of heavens and earth? Thank you.
I understand the Job 38:4-7 passage to be describing the scene at the earth's RE-creation (following the Genesis gap) - see the link: SR#2 II.5.
One of the greatest theologians of the our "pre-Laodicean" era, Franz Delitzsch, also holds this view (see his System of Biblical Psychology). I find in general that even supposedly Bible-believing theologians of the present day are often a) largely unprepared from a linguistic point of view; b) in a rush to homogenize, apologize for, and generally "dumb-down" the teachings of the Word, so that your failure to find many contemporaries who are even conversant with well-known teachings of the past such as the Genesis gap comes as no surprise.
Yours in Christ,
It's a pity you wrote the following about Dr. Martin Lloyd-jones:-
As to Lloyd-Jones, I don't know much about him, but I believe he taught the "second blessing", that is, the >false idea that a person didn't "get the Spirit" at salvation necessarily but might need some sort of >additional laying on of hands or whatever (cf. the charismatic's).
Of all the hundreds of sermons he preached you had to pick up on this idea, thus putting off your enquirer from listening. I think that is most unfortunate. I have listened to much of Lloyd-Jones teaching and I never herd him actually say that. Mind you , if he did , I would be interested to listen to the whole sermon very carefully, as is needed with his preaching.
If I can be a bit simplistic to save writing pages of text; I have spent a lot of time in Calvary chapel over the years and listened to many preachers on sermon audio. Lloyd -Jones, in my view( admitting some differences of doctrinal opinion) is about as good as you can get given that no man has complete knowledge and is subject to error from time to time.
Thank you for your e-mail. I was honestly unaware that there was any controversy on this point, but after doing a little more research it seems that it is possible that my characterization was misleading. From what I could glean (though not through a detailed treatment such as you might be able to provide), it seems that Lloyd-Jones did oppose the idea that to teleion in 1st Corinthians chapter 13 referred to the Bible. Personally, I think that was a mistake (see the link: "The Gift of Tongues part 2"), but that does not mean of course that he was a proponent of the idea of the Spirit being received sometime later after salvation. I found some of his statements which seem to be contradictory on this point (meaning at the very least that such was not a firmly held conviction). Out of an abundance of caution, therefore, and not wishing to be unfair, I have altered the file to which you refer. The paragraph now reads as follows:
As to Lloyd-Jones, I don't know much about him, except that he is admired in a number of traditions, charismatics included.
Thanks again for your interest.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
The quote below is from Debra Kaminer*. Please let me know if her translations are correct.
In Christ Jesus,
"In the Hebrew Bible, the terms which refer to forgiveness (nasa, calach and kaphar) connote divine forgiveness by God through the covering, concealing, cleansing or cancelling of sin (Enright et al., 1997; Pingleton, 1997). Genuine repentance by the sinner is a necessary pre-condition for both divine forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness. In interpersonal forgiveness, the offended person is duty-bound to forgive the offender once genuine repentance is offered, thus imitating divine forgiveness. Forgiveness then restores a relationship of reciprocal love between the offender and the forgiver, as well as the wider community (Landman, 1941; Newman, 1987). In the New Testament, references to forgiveness are derived from the Greek words aphiemi, apoluo, charizomai and agape. Here forgiveness means to send away, to let go, to remit divine punishment, and to pardon, but also to restore harmony between sinner and God as well as God's unconditional love for the sinner (Nygren, 1932; Strong, 1984; Vine, 1985). As in the Hebrew Bible, divine forgiveness is contingent upon repentance; acceptance of Christ's sacrifice is an additional pre-requisite (Enright et al, 1991). However, the conditions for interpersonal forgiveness differ from those of the Hebrew Bible, as repentance by the offender is not necessary – forgiveness should be unconditional (Lewis, 1980)."
* Debra Kaminer, Dan J. Stein, Irene Mbanga and Nompumelelo Zungu-Dirwayi. FORGIVENESS: TOWARDS AN INTEGRATION OF THEORETICAL MODELS, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
I have several problems with this.
1. In the list of Hebrew terminology calach is a misprint for salach.
2. I won't attempt to interact with the theology expressed here, but the definitions given for these words are either not in order and/or inaccurate or misleading.
Sometimes some scholars use "cover" as an essential definition of caphar (kaphar) -- i.e., #1 definition might for some match #3 verb -- but none of these three terms really has either "concealing" or "cleansing/canceling" as its main idea. The definitions provided should be listed in the same order as the listing of the Hebrew terms (they apparently are for the Greek), but this set of definitions does not really match at all.
nasa: The key idea is lifting up as of a burden: God has taken the burden of sin off of our backs (and laid it on His Son's back).
salach: The key idea may be that of sprinkling (from Semitic cognates), and the verb means "forgive", used only of God, never of human beings: God forgives our sins as an act of complete mercy (based upon the sacrifice of His Son; if sprinkling is at the heart, He looks on the blood as a sign of substitution, His Son's death for our life).
caphar: The idea is really that of ransoming. We are sinners but God makes atonement for us through a sacrifice (His Son's death on our behalf).
aphiemi: The generic Greek verb for forgiveness. "Sending away" is the root meaning, so this one is OK (but see observation below).
apoluo: The key idea here, on the contrary, is that of redemption rather than "the remission of divine punishment" (cf. lytrosis and apolystrosis). In the analogy, we are slaves to sin and death, but God has effectively liberated us by paying the redemption blood-price, Jesus' death for our life.
charizomai: When used of sin (not the normal meaning of the word), it is a synonym of aphiemi above adding the flavor of graciousness and mercy to the overall concept (cf. Col.2:13b).
agape: This is not a verb; this is the NT word for "love". It does not really belong on either of these lists except in the loosest possible configuration of things. Obviously, love is a big part of the equation: "for God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead]" (Jn.3:16). But we could include "righteousness" and "foreknowledge" and the angelic conflict and every other part of theology without some limits here.
A couple of general observations. Vocabulary is important to theology and in the doctrinal areas of Christology and Soteriology it can be useful in illuminating what is meant. However, it is very dangerous to make the kind of theological assumptions made here based solely on vocabulary. There are a limited number of words in any language for expressing this sort of thing and they inevitably contain a certain amount of semantic overlap (as can be readily seen from the fact that in the New Testament the Greek vocabulary is not consistent in rendering Hebrew vocabulary on this subject, and English vocabulary, in any version, is not consistent in rendering either set of words from either original language). Theology has to be built on all information available. The terms chosen here for discussion cover a lot more ground than "forgiveness". Redemption is a soteriological doctrine, as is atonement and propitiation, but they are not the same precise things, and forgiveness is only one aspect of them. Of the words considered, only salach and nasa in Hebrew and aphiemi and charizomai in Greek are really used to mean "forgive" in the Bible, and both pairs are synonyms in their respective languages with little real differentiation in meaning.
God does forgive even the terribly wayward, when the change of heart is genuine. That is the mercy upon which we all rely both for our salvation but also for our restoration in the Christian life whenever we stumble (as all inevitably do). All He requires is our genuine response in returning to Him (1Jn.1:9).
"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
Nehemiah 1:8-9 NIV
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12 NIV
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
"For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer.
Isaiah 54:7-8 NIV
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Isaiah 55:7 NIV
For a synopsis of the other terms and their like, please see the following link: Summary of the work of Christ in effecting salvation (in BB 4A).
I would like to hear from you regarding this issue.
Let's say a missionary comes to your church to present their ministry:
1) Do you pay attention to what type of car they are driving and how nice it is?
2) Does their presentation board make any difference to you at all?
3) Prayer cards - a stupid tradition, or a real help?
4) Does the more exotic and remote a location make you more apt to support them?
5) Specific fellowship or mission boards get any preferences over those sent out by their church?
6) Dynamic preaching and illustrations along with "5 points to a better life" sermons sway your judgment of them?
7) The more they can entertain, the better chance of receiving support. Missionary wives, children and pets should all be able to perform some sort of special for the Lord.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this, because I have had some strange replies from other people, and I know you know can easily spot truth from error. I just know somehow that I'll be agreeing with you. =)
All of these sorts of things make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have never liked commercialism or commercial methods in the Church. I have never liked self-promotion. I have never liked the idea of begging for money. There are plenty of examples of good Christian men and women who have found ways to be effective missionaries for the Lord without any of this stuff. I'm not ready to condemn the entire process as it exists today out of hand, but it is not one that I would or could in good conscious give my unqualified support. In defense of such practices, I suppose one could point out that most churches use this same methodology for themselves today as well – indeed, it is becoming so prevalent that it is beginning to be enshrined as a sanctified way of doing things (people are starting to do sermons and sermon series about church growth and image projection based on Madison Avenue techniques – did I ever mention how I feel about sermons?).
In my view, a person who wants to be a missionary should be concentrating on preparation before shipping out and on production once in the field. A good missionary needs even more preparation than a good pastor – if that is even conceivable – since in addition to being in many cases a trained evangelist and/or a trained Bible teacher, they also need to know the language and culture of the area they are headed to like the back of their hand. It is a shame that true missionaries overall receive very paltry support from churches in this country. In a day when pastors are making six figures and church administration big-wigs twice or three times as much, many missionaries come up short trying to raise subsistence salaries for themselves in spite of these "techniques" you ask about. That is true even in denominations and pan-church missionary organizations where much of the money such as it is goes for "administrative costs" in most cases, and the people actually out trying to do something for the Lord in another country get very, very little. This is a sad story, and one with which I am sure the Lord is not pleased, given how rich this country is and how much money is spent on grandiose church buildings and generous salaries for senior pastors in mega-churches and senior administrators in denominations.
The solution to this problem is the same as the solution to all of the other problems we've discussed in the past months, namely, individual spiritual growth and production. If Christians generally were interested in growing in the Lord, there would be a revival of local Bible-teaching churches, and these would in turn send out their own missions, adequately supported in a biblical way. The list of questionable practices you send and the circumstances that engender this sort of thing are thus merely symptoms of the general spiritual rot abroad.
I will also say that you have hit on another problem, namely, that support for missions, instead of being well-targeted nowadays, has gotten absolutely "Darwinian". A huckster with a good presentation can raise millions. Someone, on the other hand, who is a good, dedicated missionary with a heart for bringing the gospel to the world, but a bad "showman" lacking such P.T. Barnum-esque technique, doesn't get the support (also true of any and all who have some standards about the level to which they will stoop to bring in money).
I don't care what kind of car they drive. What is important is where they are going and what they will be doing when they get there.