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Question #1:   

Hi Bob,

A blogger made this post. I read it and said that the author was an Arian. The author said the following to me in his own words:

I have never been an Arian. Since you are a liar, it is obvious that your ability to interpret Scripture from a Christian perspective should be viewed with skepticism.

I responded with the following:

I added the qualifier "unless you changed your mind" because I was going from memory on this quote, which prima facie seem to imply arianism. You should also know that verses in the Gospel which limit the Son's omniscience are taken to be an example of kenosis, which would have been essential in order for the death of the Son to be effective in atoning for the sins of humanity.

He responded with this:

As I said, you are a liar. You omitted this not entirely irrelevant part: "Note that since I am skeptical of both doctrines, this argument obviously does not reflect my own theological beliefs." You're not honest enough for theology. Don't try to correct what you believe to be the theological mistakes of others.

Penultimately, I responded with this:

So when you said, "As it happens, he got that one ["The Trinity is obvious BS"] entirely correct, which is not the case in two of the other ten points," I am supposed to interpret it as meaning that you do believe in deity of the Son, and that reading your statement in any other way is evidence of dishonesty because you happened to tack on a dubious disclaimer several paragraphs after your introduction? Do you think that it is possible for an honest reader to interpret your introduction as implying that perhaps you don't fully believe in the deity of the Son?

Lastly, he responded with this:

Mistaken? Do you seriously think I have to believe an argument in order to accurately present it? Do you really believe I am incapable of correctly summarizing an argument concocted by an intellectual inferior? You observably don't even have a clue and yet you went ahead and hurled a false accusation. That's stupid and contemptible. Next time, I suggest you try simply asking a question instead of making a complete ass of yourself.

I left the exchange entirely confused and without a clue on what the author actually means. He says at the beginning of the post that the opponent summarized his belief in the denial of the Trinity correctly, but when I pointed out that he said this, he said that I am a liar and that I am too dishonest to understand his point.

I need an objective observer (aka you) to tell me if I am actually being dishonest.

Sincerely,

Response #1: 

I'm not sure how objective I am, but I certainly don't think you are a liar. I would, however, resist using labels or any kind in such conversations precisely because they may give unreasonable disputants a target without being particularly helpful. If a person does not believe in the Trinity, the chances of that person being a believer are nil, especially if said person is vociferous about it. It is clear from this blog-post that the person is being argumentative about the Word merely for sport – also making the chances of genuine belief remote in the extreme. It's very unclear from the post why this person thinks these rhetorical gymnastics prove anything. Clearly he/she has his/her own parti pris definition of who "God" is and what "the Trinity" means. It's no use arguing with someone who deliberately keeps their own definitions a secret. They only do so in order to be able to shift their ground in debate whenever anyone begins to get an advantage. The anger present in the attack on you is vented at precisely this attempt on your part to pin the person down with a traditional definition. When arguing with Socrates, never answer with an unqualified "yes" or "no". If that is true of someone trying to get to some sort of truth as they see it, how much more is not the case when arguing with someone who is an agent of the evil one.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

Sometimes I meet more than just angry atheists on Facebook. Here's a recent dialogue I had with a Christian.

ME: Do you know what the three fundamental doctrines of Christianity are?

HIM: Would it be life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

ME: That's one of them. There are two more.

HIM: I don't know.

ME: Here they are: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the trinity, and here's the one that everybody gets wrong, the hypostatic union.

Back in the early days of Christianity, there were heresiarchs (that is, people who taught heresy) who really sought to attack the third one. The hypostatic union teaches that Jesus Christ has a divine nature ("The Logos") and a human nature, but that these two natures are "in union" in one person, who is called Jesus Christ.

One of the heresies were that when Jesus became incarnate, the divine nature mixed with the human nature to create a new kind of nature that was human-divine (this heresy was called Monophysitism). One of the other heresies was that Jesus was just the Logos who possessed a human body, just like a hand fits into a glove (this is called Apollonarianism). One of the other heresies was that Jesus was both God and man, but that there was a God-person named Jesus and a separate human-person named Jesus, and these two natures were totally separate (This was called Nestorianism). If you believe any one of these, you are technically not a Christian.

To be a Christian, it is necessary to believe that Jesus has a divine nature and a human nature, that these natures did not merge to form a new tertium quid, but at the same time these two natures became "married" under the one person of Jesus Christ, so that he has both a human nature and a divine nature. Or to simplify, one person with two natures, and these two natures are united but distinct.

HIM: I've never heard of hypostatic union or monophysitism ever. Like the words. I never knew such a word existed.

ME: There's an entire field of study all about Jesus Christ and his unique nature, along with terminology for all the common misunderstandings of his nature.

HIM: Even the other big words you said I never heard of. This is fascinating I'm learning something new.

ME: I hope you heard of the trinity.

HIM: Of course just the stuff after. Dealing with the heresy stuff.

ME: Oh, you mean Apollonarianism and Nestorianism.

HIM: Yeah those.

ME: They're named after the people who first formulated the heresy in question (Apollos and Nestorius)

HIM: Are they Greek in origin?

ME: Yes.

HIM: Ah okay. looks like I'll be doing some diving into new terms tomorrow.

ME: Go to this website (Ichthys) and read all of the studies that are installed.

HIM: Awesome sauce you are very helpful with parts that I haven't been taught yet.

ME: Thank you.

Response #2: 

Nice job! And thanks for the referral.

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ – as this dialogue shows, there are plenty of believers out there who just have never been exposed to any in-depth teaching.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

"You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice." (Exodus 23:2)

Response #3:   

A great theme verse for any apologetic ministry!

Question #4:   

Dr. Luginbill,

Stumbled on you site today doing my quiet time. Very comprehensive and informative. Love the fact that you are open to sharing and reaching out. Praise Him for your service!

I am developing material to share with people that are resistant to the Gospel and are more agnostic some may be atheists but not aggressively so. Do you have resources on the topic of apologetics? I have many resources but always looking for other insights.

Thank you for your help in advance!

In Christ,

Response #4:  

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your kind words regarding Ichthys. As to your specific question, I'm not particularly gifted or skilled in the realm of apologetics, though I do get many questions from those who are attempting to minister in that part of the vineyard. I suppose I would say that this site has a wealth of information about most Bible subjects and topics, and that all good apologetics must start with a detailed knowledge of the truth of the point or principle in question. As to the tactics and the framing of arguments for, say, debating the existence of God with atheists, as I say, it's not my forte and not the thrust of this ministry. I'll give you a couple of links here where I discuss apologetics in principle and/or in regard to particular points of truth, and invite you to have a look at individual topics in hopes that will be helpful in preparing approaches (through getting a better grounding in the scriptures and principles related to any given topic).

Atheism and Apologetics

Atheism and Gnosticism: Denying the Truth about God

Atheism: Putting Truth to Death

Confronting atheism.

Apologetics and alternative points of view

Apologetics

Apologetics and the Trinity

Proving the existence of God

Subject index (see under "Apologetics")

Please do feel free to write back about anything particular you may have in mind.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Whenever someone who I take as an authority says something completely stupid, it leads me down the path of doubt wondering whether I need to reevaluate everything they previously said. The only thing worse than having an authority say something completely stupid is intellectual dishonesty. Here is an example of what I mean.

Jonathan Sarfati is a scientist at Creation Ministries International who has the following to say about Climate Change:

"And he points out the irony, if not hypocrisy, of those who fly around the globe on jets (which emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases) while lecturing in country after country on why we should limit such emissions."

If hypocrisy among climate change activists is evidence that climate change is false, then hypocrisy among Christians is evidence that Christianity is false. And if hypocrisy among Christians is not evidence that Christianity is false, then neither is hypocrisy among climate change activists evidence that climate change is false. But what cannot be the case is for hypocrisy among climate change activists to be evidence that climate change is false and for hypocrisy among Christians not to be evidence that Christianity is false. To say otherwise would be intellectual dishonesty.

Response #5: 

Without going into the merits of your example (i.e., cca's hypocrisy may be evidence that concern for the climate is not really as important to them as they make it sound – just as many Christians, sadly, may not care as much about Christ as they may make it sound), it is certainly the case that especially for anyone involved in apologetics avoiding saying unnecessary things that one is aware ahead of time may be taken for "crackpot" is a good idea where possible. That is why scripture says:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

The American Physical Society spearheaded a committee to redo all climate models. Whatever findings the APS committee issues, the very fact that it has been convened at all is a sign that (in Yudkowsky’s analogy) the higher-energy molecules have become excited by the counterevidence and are exiting the cold trap. Or, in the metaphor of an earlier day, the rats are looking for a way off their sinking ship.

"The most recent climate model simulations used in the AR5 indicate that the warming stagnation since 1998 is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level." - Grand climate poobah at March 2014 conference

This is science-ese for EPIC FAILURE

Response #6:  

Interesting. But it's not my religion.

Question #7: 

It's relevant because lots of young people are devoting way too much willpower to solving what is essentially a non-existent crisis. I met a kid at university who wanted to become a theoretical physicist (a worthwhile pursuit) who decided to get a major in agricultural engineering in hopes of solving the climate crisis (a non-worthwhile pursuit). So there are relevant costs to following nonsense.

I know you're being facetious about the religion remark, but you have no idea how true your statement is. Most warmists employ a variant of Pascal's wager: if global warming isn't happening and you do something you lose negligible costs. If global warming is happening and you do nothing you are bringing the End Times. I reply with a variant that replaces global warming with Muhammad and they do not take too kindly to that.

Response #7: 

It's certainly relevant in terms of apologetics since this is part of the "new religion"; regardless of level of validity, just as in any political cause, the devil is never far away, and he is adept at using all such causes to usurp whatever energy and interest those ensnared would otherwise have for the truth of the Word of God. Trying to wean someone from any sort of religion or religion equivalent to the truth requires some facility with their false faith, but for most believers on the right track, the less involvement in anything political the better. That's why it takes a special cocktail of gifts to be involved (effectively) in Christian apologetics. One would need, I should think, the intellect, the interest, and the ability to keep a sufficient emotional distance even while recognizing the importance of the task in order to be effective.

Question #8: 

I thought you might find this interesting

Grace and Peace

An Open Door Closes

By Jan Markell

April 4, 2017

When I began Olive Tree Ministries years ago, I ministered in hundreds of churches, home fellowships, women's groups, and even some men's groups. Every week I would pile my small vehicle with a 12-string guitar, sound and audio-visual equipment, books, and a map, and head toward destinations large and small. My audiences were enthusiastic as I shared messages focusing on Bible prophecy, Israel, Israel in prophecy, Christ in the Passover, Jewish evangelism, and current events.

I could not keep up with the demand. I could have ministered 5-6 times a week. This was more than a decade after Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth. That book opened the eyes of a lot of people and caused them to want more insight. Many thought end-time issues were irrelevant until John Darby in the 1800s. The one-third of the Bible that referenced prophecy was for real and could no longer be ignored. It was for today.

If church pulpits didn't want me to talk about it, then I was invited to classes and retreats sponsored by churches from every denomination.

How Times Have Changed

Today about 90% of these doors have slammed shut. It is not just indifference, it is outright hostility towards topics that a few years ago generated great enthusiasm. Yes, there are small pockets of interest that remain but opportunities continue to shrink.

We are now in the days of 2 Peter 3:3: The mocking and scoffing generation as to end-time events. We are in a time when Israel has been so maligned that even within evangelicalism, she is seen as an "apartheid occupier" more than God's Chosen People. Anti-Israel sentiment is global. Anti-Semitism is raging. Entire denominations are engaging in the Boycott, Divest, Sanction Movement that harms Israel economically.

If I were to still make my living by visiting churches across America tapping into these very same topics, I would be out of business.

How Did This Happen?

I've reported on Pastor Tom Hughes' excellent article before about church indifference to eschatology. He pastors the Calvary Chapel 412 Church in San Jacinto, CA. Tom writes that many pastors refuse to touch the topics of Bible prophecy and Israel because (1) They don't understand it; (2) They fear offending members; (3) They are concerned about scaring people; (4) They fear losing the tithes if they talk about end-time events; (5) They are afraid of being identified with the "loony fringe" such as Harold Camping.

Consequently, 90% of our church pulpits today are totally silent on the good news that the King is coming.

The Cry of the Young: Social Justice!!

As a young person, I loved these topics. Bible prophecy ignited my spiritual life which was slipping into complacency. My trip to Israel at age 30, plus my Jewish heritage, allowed me to have an all-new worldview that was actually Israel-centric because the Bible is Israel-centric!

The Pre-Trib Research Center has an excellent articlewritten by Dr. James Showers on the eroding evangelical support for Israel. He addresses one major area that is problematic: Young people are more troubled by injustice than they are inspired by Bible prophecy. They perceive some injustice and consider the "occupation" of the Palestinian territories. They have bought into the propaganda that Israel is an abuser of the Palestinians. I will list the Pied Pipers who have taught them this in a moment.

He suggests that the old adage that we support Israel "because the Bible tells me so" is over. As a result, there is a trend among younger people to leave the evangelical nest previous young adults occupied to fit into their new postmodern worldview. Postmodern/Emergent leaders only reinforce this as across-the-board they are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, pro-Islam.

He accurately states that young adult evangelical events such as the Justice Conference, Empowered 21 and Catalyst have become pulpits for pro-Palestinian groups to come in the name of peace and blame the lack of peace on Israel. The Justice Conference emphasizes Leftist politics and features the likes of Marxist Cornell West. The annual Catalyst event will not have one Israel-friendly or prophecy-oriented representative.

Evangelicals Who Influence

We expect the postmoderns and the religious Left to distort truth, but in the last 20 years, evangelicals have been in the forefront of discouraging believers on these topics. I will now name some names that will cause many to unsubscribe from these emails. I am not attacking these individuals. I am just reporting on what they say.

Popular blogger Tim Challies wrote back on January 31 that there are seven "false teachers" in the church today. One category of false teacher he labels as "the Speculator." He says that, "Today, as in every age, the 'Speculator' obsesses about end-times and somehow his failed predictions dissuade neither himself nor his followers."

Dr. John Piper wrote in 2002 and again in 2014, "Israel has no warrant to a present experience of divine privilege when she is not keeping the covenant with God. Israel has no divine right to be in the land of promise when she is breaking the covenant of promise. For now, the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah."

Lynne Hybels, wife of Willow Creek's Bill Hybels, has been an outspoken proponent of Palestinian issues and a prominent critic of Israel's wall of partition. This was built some years ago to stop the slaughter of innocent Israelis by the Palestinians. She states, "I believe that the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza is a violation of human rights; as such, it deeply harms the security, freedom, and dignity of both peoples."

First, she states she is both "pro-Israel and pro-Palestine," but then she suggests there be a one-state solution. She is deceived thinking that the Palestinians want to live in a peaceful co-existence with Israel. Her one-state solution would only be for the Palestinians. Hybels softened her tone after a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.

Pastor Brian Brodersen, son-in-law of Calvary Chapel's founder Chuck Smith, recently told Calvary Chapel pastors to avoid the "gloom and doom" of eschatology. Calvary Chapel may be the last denomination in the world that has maintained an eternal perspective with an emphasis on end-time issues. Now they are encouraged to dump the topic and cater to younger people.

Pastor Rick Warren writes in his Purpose Driven Life book, "When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. Jesus said in essence, 'The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that.' If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy." (See pages 285-286)

Author and columnist Jim Fletcher reached out to Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He asked him about his views on eschatology and Israel. Moore declined and later blocked Fletcher on Twitter.

I have previously written that the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, states often on his call-in radio program that God's Chosen People are only Christians. He says God is not a land-broker and suggests Israel does not belong to the Jews. Hank says the Rapture is "nonsense" and is forced into the biblical text. His listeners have had a nearly 30-year diatribe of error in these areas. Many have been turned off on these issues for life.

Space does not permit me to quote many other leading evangelicals and evangelical organizations who take negative positions on these topics. World Vision is just one organization that has been anti-Israel for decades. They were recently caught funneling their humanitarian funds to Hamas though they denied it.

Postmoderns and The Religious Left

Jim Fletcher also writes about leftists like Shane Claiborne.Fletcher writes, "Typically pro-Palestinian activists like Shane Claiborne portray Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors of the downtrodden Palestinians. It's all a toxic stew of political and religious claptrap designed to turn more Millennials against the Jewish state."

Every other year the patriarchs of the religious Left such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, as well as ardent anti-Israel speakers and writers such as Wheaton's Gary Burgeand the U.K.'s Stephen Sizer, gather at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference for a solemn assembly of Israel-bashing. Lynne Hybels is also a frequent speaker at this pretty shameful event.

Emergent Church leaders are far more interested in yoking with Rome than considering the things to come or looking at Israel-related issues. This is preparing them to receive a counterfeit Christ.

Dispensationalism Declines

Eschatology and pro-Israel sentiment have always found a home within Dispensationalism. Twentieth Century teachers John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Mark Hitchcock, Ron Rhodes, Dave Reagan, Thomas Ice, Ed Hindson, and many more, have educated millions.

The rise of Amillennialism, Preterism, Dominion/Kingdom Now Theologies -- and what often comes with them, Replacement Theology -- are crowding out Dispensationalism. Dr. Jim Showers says, "Dispensationalism has become a dirty word in many corners of Christian higher education."

Showers continues, "The next generation of ministry leaders, at best, sees no value in studying future prophecy and, at worst, views it with disfavor or as something to be avoided entirely." He suggests even those who hold to Dispensationalism and a Christian Zionist view of Israel, born out of a literal interpretation of the Bible, are distancing themselves from these topics.

At a time in history when headlines are at best maddening and bleak, the very theologies that make sense of them are declining in favor of theologies that fill pews and offering plates.

This ministry encourages you to tell the inconvenient truth as it concerns our times no matter how unpopular it makes you. God will honor you some day.

But the conclusion here is that the days are gone when

to be an evangelical Christian was nearly synonymous with being pro-Israel and pro-prophecy. It's a new day and not a happy one. Yes, the Bible states that Israel will be on her own someday (Zechariah 12:3), but watching the process unfold remains heartbreaking.

In spite of this, the King is still coming, stage-setting signs are escalating, a trumpet is about to sound, the Church will vanish, and the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen will be heard in the distance.

Let your voice be heard!

Response #8:  

Thanks!

Question #9:  

Robert,

Your explanation regarding the 'One & Same' Gospel for all human history was clear and I do agree absolutely.

I was asked a question by a friend as to how can one TRUST the Bible amidst all the different translations and perhaps 'wrong' interpretations? I had to reply simply that the Word is clear on this subject that it is inspired 2Timothy 3.16. What would be a more concise answer.

May your 'Aman' become even more established and firm because of who our God is; The Eternal One who has revealed Himself in Christ.

Shalom,

Response #9: 

The practice of apologetics is not my particular strength, nor it is the main purpose of this ministry. So while I will say a few things here, I am sure there are plenty of others and other ministries out there who have spent a lot more time worrying about these sorts of questions than I have done.

From my perspective, as someone who is teaching the Bible, whenever I hear that sort of question I am always a bit suspicious as to motivations. In my experience, most people who put things that way are looking to justify their lack of interest in scripture and in learning its truths. Also, in my experience and reading of the Word, whenever anyone truly is interested in the truth and starts "knocking" to find it, that truth will be provided. This life is not an "un-refereed event". God does not let the genuinely positive flounder for lack of hearing the truth nor does He let those with good intentions and a genuine desire to draw close to Him wander forever or become hopelessly entrapped in cults and false teachings. There is an old saying that "you can't cheat an honest man". That may or may not be true, but it is true from everything that I have learned from scripture and observed in my life that those who really do want to walk closely to our Savior are always provided the means to do so.

Are there many false teachers and cults abroad today? Indeed there are, but they would not flourish unless there were willing adherents. Also, where is a person supposed to go to get the truth? Any reasonable person with a near-normal I.Q., if they thought about that problem for only a few minutes, would (because of God's natural revelation of the truth of Himself) realize that our God is the only true God (Rom.1:18-32), and it is not a great leap from there to recognize that therefore the Bible is the only place to go to find the truth; and said person would further realize after reading a bit of it that he/she needed a good Bible teacher to understand it beyond a certain basic level. And of course the Holy Spirit is completely involved in guiding all such persons who are genuinely seeking the truth.

The whys and wherefores of inspiration and the history of scripture, the canon, the individual books, the principles of prophecy, the ministry of the Spirit, yes indeed I do teach all about all these and all other related issues (although I've never been accused of being concise). However, these are matters for those who have already turned away from the world and towards God through faith in Jesus Christ. All such people – believers – have the Holy Spirit and are led directly to the Bible and to good teaching ministries by Him . . . if, that is, they are truly interested in doing what the Lord wants them to do with their lives. They know instinctively (viz., through the Spirit) what it is they should do, and all who set themselves to doing so are provided for by the Lord.

Of course, if a person is not a believer, to be arguing about the canon and inspiration is only to be getting side-tracked from the real issue: "What think ye of Christ?" And if a person is a believer they certainly know from the Spirit right from the start that they need the Bible and someone who can teach it well in order to grow. There are, however, plenty of unbelievers out there who don't want to admit outright that they have no use for God, so they use "questions about the Bible" as an excuse to avoid being honest about what is really motivating them. And, since this is the lukewarm era of Laodicea, there are sadly also plenty of believers out there who are not interested in doing the hard work of spiritual growth; likewise, they are often not willing to reveal their true motives to fellow believers who are "gung-ho" for the truth of scripture (should they ever meet one, that is). So they will adopt this same sort of defensive posture to make their negativity seem reasonable.

Are there bad translations of the Bible? Sure. How about reading one or two to see if you can figure out which is which? Are there bad Bible teachers? Sure – in fact the vast majority of churches and pastors don't even teach the Bible at all (to be honest). How about seeing if you can find a good one? Are you really even looking?

Will there be times that a believer may be unsure about a teaching as to whether it's right or not? Of course. But Jesus said "you will know them by their fruit" (Matt.7:16-20). Have a bite at the apple. If it's rotten, with the Spirit's help you're sure to know it (if not at the first bite, surely by the second or third). If it's good, that ought to be obvious too to anyone with a rudimentary spiritual I.Q Can't find a good apple immediately? Jesus tells us that you will . . . if you keep looking (Matt.7:7-11; Lk.11:9-13; Rev.3:20).

As you can see, I'm neither concise nor particular patient when it comes to apologetic matters, but I hope this is of some small help to you. That type of ministry along with the gifts which support it is important, especially in our time here on the cusp of the Tribulation – it's just not something that is in my particular "wheel house".

Here are some links that may also be of help to you:

How can we know that the Bible is true?

The Bible (in BB 5)

Read Your Bible

The integrity of the Word of God

Issues of Canonicity

All scripture is "God-breathed"

Inerrancy of scripture (contains many other links)

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God II

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is right (Part 2)?

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is right (Part 1)?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hi Bob,

A lot of your writing covers the process of apostasy, but less covers what apostates actually look like. And this is important, because apostates don't necessarily become atheists or join a new religion once they have departed from the faith. Sometimes an apostate looks like a Christian who is in a state of habitual sin.

This is important, because upon talking with such a Christian he or she may talk about God and Jesus and use all of the right words, but deep down inside has no actual intention of obeying God. Their "faith" is effectively useless. They have the appearance of godliness but deny its true power (to destroy the works of the Devil).

Many Evangelicals do not like this doctrine because it sounds suspiciously similar to the Roman Catholic doctrine of "mortal sin," namely, sins that once committed immediately sever the person from a state of grace. The difference is that the person in a state of habitual sin really has no intention of giving up their sin or obeying God. Their faith is dead, because a necessary component of faith is faithfulness, which they do not have. So they do not believe, even if they use all of the correct theological vocabulary. Or rather, the god they worship is simply an idol who has ears but cannot hear and eyes but cannot see. Nonetheless, a person in a state of habitual sin, no matter how flagrant and perverse, may nonetheless still maintain their allegiance to God but as of yet feel either that they can "get away with it" or simply do not want let go of their faith yet. It is because that these things are so difficult to call that Paul instructs the Corinthian church to never associate with anyone who is in a state of serious unrepentant sin, because one cannot know if we are dealing with a (seriously) wayward believer or an actual apostate.

Sincerely,

Response #10: 

Believers believe; unbelievers do not. Habitual sin is only an issue in this regard because it hardens the heart, alienates a person from the Lord, and can lead to the death of faith – or the sin unto death (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death):

Make sure, brothers, that none of you develop an evil heart of unbelief (i.e., lack of faith) by turning away (lit. "apostatizing") from the living God. Rather keep encouraging each other every day as long as we still call it "today" (i.e. still remain in this world), lest any of you be hardened [in heart] by the deception of sin. For we all have a share in Christ, as long as we hang on to that original confidence [of our faith] firmly to the end.
Hebrews 3:12-14

Practically speaking, the Bible presents the gospel as the means of salvation; those who respond to it by putting their faith in Christ are saved and are called believers. And no one can take this away from us – but we can lose faith (apostasy) through willfully abandoning it. So in biblical terms, there are only two types of human beings, those who believe and those who don't. It is true that there are no doubt many unbelievers who are only nominally Christians. Whether they were in the past and are now apostates or whether they were never believers in the first place is entirely beside the point. Nor is it generally necessary for believers to be concerned about this issue – except perhaps in the case of those they love or otherwise care for or are concerned for. In any case, only God truly knows the heart (2Tim.2:19). There are no doubt plenty of unbelievers who are most honorable in all of their dealings, so that if they are Christians in name only it would be difficult for most people to tell without having detailed conversations with them. And there are definitely many actual Christians whose conduct is so questionable in many areas that it may not obvious that they really are believers, so poor is their witness.

There is not much we who are determined to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ can do about any of this . . . except our Christian "jobs": we all have ministries to fulfill, even if only a small percentage of the Church ever gets around to being prepared enough to fulfill them and then to actually doing so. If we are ministering the truth directly or supporting some ministry in some way according to our gifts (e.g., service, giving, prayer, administration, encouragement, etc.), then we are doing our part. What some folks think about this (whether they describe themselves as Catholic or Evangelical or who know what) has nothing to do with the truth. It may be pertinent to an apologetics ministry such as you are contemplating / beginning to engage in. But it strikes me as a bit of a rabbit hole to try to explain these nice distinctions to individuals who may not even be saved or, if they are, have very little proper understanding of biblical principles of truth in any case. Then again, I always prefer to go straight for the jugular if possible.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:   

Is This Gentleman Mad?

http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/03/03/why-god-created-evil/

Response #11: 

I'm no psychologist. I will say that when people have no clue about what the Bible really means and then take it upon themselves to "teach" it any way, they can certainly sound like they're off their rocker.

Question #12:  

Following the advice of Titus 3:10-11, I gave one final reply:

The Bible has a lot more to say about eschatology than the Book of Revelation.

(1) Ezekiel 40-48 described a literal rebuilt temple with sin offerings, which therefore cannot be the New Heavens and New Earth.

(2) Daniel 11 describes the rise of Antiochus IV along with Antichrist.

(3) II Thessalonians says that the second coming cannot come until both the great apostasy and the session of the man of lawlessness occurs, who will come with signs and wonders.

(4) The Book of Hosea states that "on the third day he will restore us [Israel]" (Hosea 6:2), which is a prophecy that is yet to occur.

(5) The Book of Romans describes that Israel has experienced "a hardening in part," but will be restored in the future.

I do not doubt that you are a Christian, but I do doubt that you will persevere with the faith until the end. Quite frankly, you are being intellectually dishonest. Jesus Christ, who is the second person of the Trinity, is destined to reclaim his position as ruler of the nations and remove the curse on the Earth. The idea that the end of history will include a restored paradise has been around since the very beginning of the church.

What are you going to do when the Antichrist comes not only with signs and wonders beyond all explanation, but also as a savior from Islam, atheists, and all the people you hate? This will happen in 2026, and he will convince one third of the true church to follow him.

His response?

There will be no antichrist as popular taught. And Revelation is a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem, already fulfilled in the first century. Christians can already do signs and wonders beyond all explanation when they have faith. And I am glad that at least two third of the church will still follow Christ!

Response #12: 

I'm never terribly sanguine about getting through to people who reject scripture. The truth is the only real leverage we have to use on the consciences of those who are expressing incorrect views. But if they reject the truth written by the Spirit a priori, they have no doubt been resisting the Spirit Himself for some time before that (all believers understand in their hearts at salvation that the Word of God is the truth); this is especially the case in my experience for persons who are not just experimenting but who are in print or have their own websites. However, you do well to hold this gentleman's feet to the fire on points of scripture outside of Revelation – so that he will have in effect to reject all not just part of the Bible to maintain his position.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:   

Hi Bob,

Vincent Cheung is a hypercalvinist theologian. He even goes as far as saying that the "free offer" message of the Gospel is a Satanic lie, and that the true Gospel has always been "If you are elect you will obey the Gospel. You cannot choose to obey the Gospel, unless you make yourself equal to God."

(This is half of his website anyway. The other half of his website is seething hate toward cessationalists, saying that they are worse than unbelievers and that they use scripture to justify their unbelief. He even says that Arminian pentecostalists are preferable to Calvinist cessationalists.)

However, Isaiah 7:9 says something very interesting: "Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm." Here God is saying that he cannot do something, which is make someone stand firm if their faith is not firm. If God makes people believe in him, then this verse is either an error on the author's/scribe's part or incoherent.

Sincerely,

Response #13: 

Yes, I certainly do think this is an argument in favor of free will. Of course, we find this sort of thing on every page of the Bible. Whenever the Lord tells anyone to "do something" or "not to do something", how is that not an indication that we have free will? If we couldn't "do it" or refrain from "doing it", why would the Lord give us His commands at all? And if every aspect of our lives has a moral element vis-a-vis how we respond to the will of God, why would the most important thing, where we are going to spend eternity, not be an issue of free will – when everything else of any moment whatsoever clearly is?

Certainly we believe scripture regardless of logic; but no scriptures say anything close to what this sort of warped Calvinism proclaims. Finally on this, my reading of Calvin himself suggests to me that he would be appalled at the likes of Mr. Cheung. Calvin was fighting against a Roman Catholic system of false theology which made everything depend on human beings and nothing (in effect) on God, so that we were all stuck in a transactional arrangement with Him whose shifting parameters were defined by the whims of the R.C. church. Stressing God's choice of us through the sacrifice of Christ for us was clearly a necessary palliative. However, throwing out the important aspect of our need to respond to Him is equally wrong. Both things (God's choice and our free will) are true, even if they seem to overly pedantic "little minds" to be inconsistent.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who died for all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Hi Bob,

Why is every source of information I read bogus? I usually try to find reputable people. (Although sometimes I go to not-so-reputable sources simply because someone gave me a lead, although it's usually a false one). And I get information that is worse than nothing.

I'm just gonna say it: it's next to impossible to sieve good information from the bad.

Response #14: 

I think this email speaks to your growing spiritual discernment. At this point I usually counsel readers to find a good place to grow in the truth and stick with it – because only actual truth which is actually believed can produce growth. In your case, however, while this is a valid point to make, as someone who is planning on an apologetic ministry it's not a bad idea to expose oneself to all manner of falderal the better to become adept at spotting the weaknesses and the dangers for the sake of those one is ministering too. The best way to learn how to sieve is to keep growing spiritually and to keep sieving. There is going to be a lot more "bad" out there before it's over. As someone quipped, "things are going to get a lot worse before they get even worse".

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2nd Timothy 2:4-3 NASB

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hi Dr.

I apologize for the late response. I hope you are doing well. I continue to pray for your ministry and for you as well.

As it relates to our discussion, here is an excerpt from a John MacArthur series in Roman that speaks about obedience being a hallmark of a regenerate born again believer. What is your take? I have to agree with his premise. We do not know individual's heart but the only thing we can gauge any results is by performance and I don't see how this doesn't include our spiritual walk.

As always, we do not want to be legalistic but this issue seems to be on the forefront of my mind particularly because in this age we are in closing on our Lord's return, it really is hard to see who really is His or not. I guess the only thing I can control is my actions and my walk of obedience and everything else is irrelevant.

Just wanted your thoughts. Thank you and In Christ our Lord.

------John MacArthur Sermon-------

In other words, just like you've been called to Christ, we're going to go out and call others to Christ. This really extends the last thought, the good news about Jesus Christ which has brought us grace and service leads us to go out and proclaim it and to call for the nations of the earth to be obedient to the faith. That's a great statement, folks. I wish we had time tonight just to go over the whole thought of obedience to the faith. You ought to write; put a circle around that phrase in your Bible, "Obedience to the faith." A tremendous statement, a statement just literally jammed with meaning. And it appears again at the end of Romans in chapter 16, verse 26, the next to the last verse: "To make known to all nations the obedience of faith." The obedience of faith; listen, if there's one thing about faith, it is that faith is what? Obedient. You show me someone who says he believes and lives a life of disobedience and I'll show you someone who is not redeemed. For faith, if it does not manifest works of obedience, is dead. We are not saved by works; we are saved unto good works. And the message of Christianity is a call for people to be obedient to the faith. When you come to Christ, you affirm the faith. And by the way, that is a very definite statement—the faith. And Jude uses it, "The faith once for all delivered to the saints." It means the content of the gospel, the content of the message. It means teaching them to observe "all things whatsoever I have commanded you." That's how you go about preaching. It is obedience that we preach, obedience to the faith, the duly constituted faith. We are preaching a message of obedience. And sadly that isn't the message that people are hearing today. We must call people to faith, but faith that obeys is the only genuine faith. People say they believe and live the life of disobedience, they lie and the truth is not in them. People who really believe will obey. And so, the design of our apostleship, the design of Paul's apostleship, was to bring all nations to obedience to the faith. And the faith is more than just believing in Jesus, it's the faith. It's all that our faith embodies. The faith once for all delivered to the saints. If you want to know what the faith really is, it is the full content of the Word of God revealed. We call people to obey. Now listen to me. It is not faith plus obedience equals salvation. No, it is an obedient faith equals salvation. True faith is verified in obedience. That's why the Bible constantly says that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is Lord, because that demands submissive obedience. There's no faith without obedience. There has to be obedience for faith to be genuine. Look at, for a moment, a good illustration right in Romans chapter 1 verse 8, verse 8. "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." How so? How was it that their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world? Chapter 16 verse 19, here's how, 16:19, "For your obedience is come abroad unto all men." In the beginning it is your faith that is spread abroad. In the end it is your obedience that is spread abroad. Why? Because one must exist with the other; it is not faith unless it obeys. Salvation is submission. Salvation is affirmation of the lordship of Christ. Now you don't want to have a theology that makes a Christian out of somebody who lives a life of absolute disobedience. There is no recognition of the lordship of Christ. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth," Romans 10:9 and 10, "Jesus as Lord," and that means obedience to His lordship, "thou shalt be saved." That is the true stuff of which salvation is produced. "Let all the house of Israel know," says Peter, "that God has made that same Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." And Jesus said to the Pharisees, in effect, in Matthew 5, "I don't care what you believe; by the way you live you deny salvation." A faith without obedience is a faith that won't save anybody. It is piling on the broad road that leads to destruction. That's what it is. It's building a nice big religious super-structure on sand. A faith without obedience is no saving faith. It's the kind of thing that deludes and deceives but doesn't save. People say, "Oh, I believe in Jesus, I believe in the Bible, I remember when I walked the aisle, I remember so forth and so forth." That doesn't save unless there's a life of obedience. Listen to Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men," now listen to this, "and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." No holiness, no heaven. People are to be saved for the glory of God, because it is effrontery to His holy nature that someone should live in rebellion against Him. It is His glory that is the issue. And that is the reason for everything. In Philippians 2 it says that every knee should bow and confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. Salvation is for His glory, the gospel is for His glory. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, "We preach the gospel that the thanksgiving of many may redound to the glory of God." The reason we want to bring you to salvation is so you can praise God's glory. See, God is glorified when you believe His gospel. God is glorified when you love His Son. God is glorified when you accept His diagnosis of your sin and your need. God is glorified when you take Him into your life. God is glorified when your plans become His plans and your thoughts become the thoughts that are common to Him. We live and exist for the glory of God.

Response #15: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope things are going well and that I will get the "full report" of total deliverance very soon. We shall endeavor to be patient in the meantime.

As to your question and your snippet from MacArthur, it seems every single time someone shares something with me from him, I always end up being disappointed and appalled. I heard him speak very many years ago at Talbot seminary. I remember being unimpressed by his exegesis of the passage in question; I don't remember the passage, but I do very well remember that he used the opportunity to "dis" an emeritus professor who happened to be the mentor of my old pastor (and who was working with one of my fellow seminarians in a very gracious way). MacArthur thought he had done so humorously, but from my point of view it only made it worse and only demonstrated to me that he had missed the point of the emeritus professor's criticism in the first place – which criticism, if he had understood it, perhaps would have led him a different direction in ministry (as I recall, he had written in his evaluation that M had "missed the whole point of the passage" he was attempting to exegete – past is prologue).

As it is, it seems to me that he is doing more harm than good. That is because he has fine credentials, is clearly an engaging speaker, and knows a good deal about the mechanics of scripture – yet he always seems to miss the point (whatever the point may be). The real problem too is that the "misses" always seem to be "near misses" – which to my mind is in many respects even worse than missing by a mile. Any baby Christian with nominal spiritual common sense ought to be able to see at first glance that a cult leader is a cult leader or that a totally unprepared pastor is totally unprepared or that a person who has no respect at all for scripture is not truly a Bible believer. In MacArthur's case, however, I can see how many who are not very careful about choosing a spiritual authority might easily be sucked into his subtle brand of legalism and non-spiritual treatment of scripture. It's a hard thing to say, but I think the bottom line is that he is a good Christian man who has no business teaching the Bible because he lacks the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher – it's the only way I can explain his consistent "misses" whenever it comes to trying to get virtually any passage or biblical concept right.

I say this not by way of slander, but as a palliative for you and others who might be drawn into his way of approaching scripture. Ichthys is not for everyone, and I am not jealous for this ministry; I am very happy to have each brother and sister be fed the truth from just the right source of truth for them – and we are all different in many ways. But I am jealous for the truth, and I can't see how this man's ministry would ever bring anyone to spiritual maturity; I can see it bringing the faith of many onto the rocks. I am sure that I would not waste as much time and capital on every Tom, Dick or Harry about whom I receive emails; MacArthur is different because he seems to be a conservative, Bible-believing teacher, and is certainly in the forefront of that movement in evangelicaldom from the standpoint of worldly appearance. I am happy to have him receive the glory and the prosperity – but I despair of his teaching.

"You show me someone who says he believes and lives a life of disobedience and I'll show you someone who is not redeemed" (emphasis added).

This is a statement that ought to make any Christian who has an ounce of spiritual common sense cringe – and then run for cover. First, who among us is truly "obedient"? Do we not sin every day? Of course we do. Do we not miss many opportunities to do all the good things we ought to be doing for the Lord, prayer, Bible study, ministry of all sorts – all things that the Lord wants us to do but we don't get around to doing? Of course. But if we buy into this notion that we – who follow this person – are somehow better than others because we embrace this teaching, then in very short order we will start redefining sin to the advantage of our own sin natures (i.e., what WE do is not so bad; it's only what OTHERS do that is "disobedient"). So for example, if we publicly denigrate the life's work of some dearly loved teacher who gave us some uncomfortable moments in an effort to help us, doing so in order to get a little "pay back", well, that's not "disobedience"; that's merely "humor". Of course we may suspect that M means "big sins" vs. "little sins" – but all sin is sin to God; and self-righteous legalism and hypocrisy is not a "little sin", especially when it becomes a way of life (ask the Pharisees).

Second, while I don't have the whole text here, I well know from much experience that no definitions or specifics follow this line of thought. The effect is to leave the individual listener feeling nervous about their own spiritual status without any solid assurance about the particulars of just how it is in danger or what precisely might be done about it – and that is the intent, no doubt, so that the person will "do better" . . . as defined by M. But are we supposed to adapt our behavior merely out of vague feelings of guilt, fear, and uncertainty about our spiritual status as to whether or not we are even saved or whether or not we are going to "make it into heave"? That is Roman Catholicism; that is cultism; that is NOT true, biblical Christianity (1Jn.4:18).

A good teacher teaches in a way so as to leave absolutely NO doubt about what he means, about what he is convinced the Bible teaches. If the person teaching has doubts about a subject, he should not teach it at all. But placing NEW doubts into the heart of those who listen to him is about the most dangerous and despicable thing I can imagine a teacher doing. Cult leaders and plenty of denominations which are only not cults in name do this deliberately in order to control those who listen to them. They do this to make the person feel that the only safe place is within their flock. The person in question will not be any less a sinner in this group than out of this group, but will feel safer just by staying in even if totally unsure about just what is meant by the "teacher". In other words, this approach leads to the believer thinking that his/her spiritual safety is bound up in the institution and/or the leader – whereas our true spiritual safety comes from our enduring faith in Jesus Christ. The fact that MacArthur nods to the truth here and there even as he builds his system of impossible-to-fulfill-legalism in the main argument only makes it more difficult for the parishioner to follow the logic – because in fact there is no godly logic. Please be honest. Either you are preaching sinless perfection in order to be saved or you are not; leaving the congregation in doubt is merely a way to keep them in the pews as "the only safe place" – precisely because they have no truth in their hearts, only doubts.

Third, this technique uses and abuses rather than correctly interpreting scripture. MacArthur makes much of Romans 1:5, but that passage is clearly talking about placing faith in Jesus Christ so as to become a believer in the first place – we are saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8). That is obvious to any baby Christian reading an English version. And while it is certainly true after becoming believers, after using our free will to obediently respond to the gospel, after obediently saying "yes!" to God in Christ rather "no!" to Him, that yes indeed we are required to and ought to obey Him in every way. But that is neither what this particular passage says or implies as its essential interpretation – Paul is an apostle charged with bringing the gentiles to faith in Christ. Suggesting that if a person is not "obedient" in some vague and not-precisely-defined way they are not even "redeemed" is dangerously outrageous. Only the most spiritually blind and hypocritically self-righteous of individuals would be so bold as to suggest that they are completely obedient to Christ! And if not "completely obedient", then what does it mean to be "obedient"? The lack of specificity brings doubt and that erodes faith – but it keeps the person in the flock (and no doubt also keeps the contributions flowing in . . . for all the wrong reasons).

Fourth and finally, I give MacArthur the benefit of the doubt that he has merely "missed the entire point of the passage" (the criticism laid on by the old professor); but the bigger problem is that he is then building theology on all these missed points . . . and that is very dangerous. IMHO, he should run for political office or retire and play golf, but he should stop teaching this stuff. The essence of his error in approach, it seems to me, is that he uses Bible passages to support what he already thinks without ever paying much mind to what they actually mean. The correct approach is to let the Bible tell you what to think – and that is only possible for a pastor-teacher who is engaging with scripture in the Spirit according to a correct and disciplined exegesis. Anyone can find a Bible passage which, read a certain way, seems to support what they want to argue for at the moment. That may be fine for politicians and cult leaders; it's not acceptable for pastor-teachers of the Church of Jesus Christ.

So we can't necessarily tell if someone is "really a Christian" unless we look at their behavior? Fair enough. But it is clearly also possible for unbelievers to live highly moral and exemplary lives; even atheists sometimes do so. And how many carefully scrubbed people in Sunday finery show up at MacArthur's church every week, looking to all the world like fine upstanding Christian men and women, trained to put on a good act on the outside, to say and do the things that are expected of evangelical Christians in this country, and not to be seen (that is to say, not be caught) doing otherwise, who are only forcing themselves into a Procrustean mold of appearances? Is this really the way to change? To adopt an appearance of sanctity based on adapting to someone else' questionable and often false standards? Isn't this precisely what the Lord warned against?

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."
Matthew 23:27 NIV

As believers, we are meant to pursue sanctification, clearly, but that can only really come from the inside out, not the outside in. We are to honor the Lord in everything we think and say and do. But the only way to change what we do (in secret as well as in public) and to change what we say (in secret as well as in public) is to change the way we think in our hearts, because that is who we truly "are" (Prov.23:7); and the only way to do THAT is to let ourselves be completely transformed by the truth of the Word of God. But if a pastor-teacher is preaching his doubts or his prejudices and is not teaching the Bible but only using the Bible to advance these, how can that ever happen?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Dr. Quick clarification. I work using my computer and during the day I want and need to hear biblical exegesis or studies by Bible books. Your site doesn't have that. I use your site for my nightly studying time but during the day while I am working sermons really keep my focus during the day.

Dr C. Omo is good but his approach is for new and young believers. I guess my issue is who to listen to while working, walking, etc. that you can recommend.

Will respond in depth later.

God bless

Response #16: 

I recommend listening to the Bible.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

[n.b.: Thanks to Chris B., Ichthys now does have a large number of audio files: see the link: MP3 audio files; also, since time of writing several years ago, Pastor Teacher Omo's offerings at Bible Academy have also been greatly expanded – they are beneficial for all levels of spiritual growth at the link].

Question #17:  

Touche'. That had me smiling. Lol. Good point

I believe you have a point. When listening to him, specifically the Roman series, I started to think about how my obedience was better than others and this was a subtle creep into my conscious, which led to these emails about 1 John etc.

I do believe we have to walk a fine line about knowing who is of Christ or not. We are not the Lord, so therefore it is not for us to judge. It is relegated only to Him by the Father.

Wow. God does show that but for His grace we are still sinners and this was an apt lesson of humility to me.

Thank you and God bless.

Response #17: 

Good application, my friend! It's very easy to get trapped into a "holier than thou" mindset. We are all susceptible to that from time to time – until we remember what the Lord has rescued us from and what it cost Him to do it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hello--I was wondering if you could look at something here, from CARM:

Only Mormons Understand Acts 1:3 and Temple Ordinances.

Acts 1:3 being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

I was wondering if there really were some 2nd and 3rd Early Church Fathers' writings on what Jesus supposedly taught in the 40 days He spent, off and on, with His disciples, after His resurrection and before His ascension. The Acts verse just says that He gave them convincing proofs of His resurrection and taught them about the "kingdom of God." This Mormon, and all of Mormonism, try to say that we don't know what Jesus taught, and that Mormons alone know--that He supposedly taught them about Mormon doctrines and about the priesthood and especially, about the temple rituals that Mormons perform in them--like sealing marriages, baptizing for dead people, and especially, the temple endowment ceremony, that supposedly gives married couples the right to become gods and creators of worlds in the Celestial Kingdom, after death. (try not to gag).

The first stuff you see is from Dr. Hugh Nibley, a Mormon professor. Which tells you a lot...I told correspondent that almost none of his footnotes quote the bible, but most appear to be from the fathers, which, although they do teach some truths about Christianity, also have errors in them and are NOT to be considered inspired and inerrant, as the Bible is. I pointed out that Acts says He taught them about the kingdom of God and why should He have taught them anything contrary to what He had already taught them, while He walked the earth, and that if He had, why is there nothing in the epistles or Acts even remotely "Mormon", or about the temple and the ceremonies performed therein? I told correspondent that your church is just reading into that verse what it wants to read into it without a shred of Biblical evidence. And that is NOT proof that his church DOES know what Jesus taught, in Acts. 1:3.

I was just wondering--Did many of the ECFs and other early Christian writers try to "fill in the blanks" about Acts 1:3? WERE there lots of secret rituals and such in early Christianity, after the first century? I don't remember reading anything about that, in Dr. Justo Gonzales's book THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY, part one.

I don't expect you to do an in-depth analysis and a lot of reading. I just basically want to know if this is true:

"Recently I collected all the references I could find-I have twice as many now-of the forty-day mission of Christ. Whenever you find a very early Christian text, it almost always has a title referring to 'the secret teachings of the Lord to the Apostles during the forty days.' The fifty texts available to me then had four things in common."

This is by Nibley, I think. I think he means just stuff in the ECF's about the 40 days after Jesus' resurrection and His ascension. It is the stuff he wrote about a "very early Christian text". It sounds more like Gnosticism, to me.

Thanks.

Response #18: 

I wouldn't want to put myself forward as an expert about the apostolic or early church fathers. My experience with these writings is that they suffer terrifically by comparison with the scriptures – because they were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. And also, pretty obviously, because these individuals, learned and dedicated as they may have been, did not understand the Bible as well as is often supposed . . . just because they were closer in time to the NT than we are (that is a typical logical fallacy; see the link: "The Age of Ephesus").

If there were "secret teachings" of this kind expressly present in early church writings, they would not then be "secret" – and where would these individuals, who were not inspired or prophets, have gotten these "secrets" if not from the Bible? If correspondent has found some English translations of some of these texts where obscure things are said (that, after all, would be the easiest thing in the world), and then wishes to jump from "odd thing A" in an early writing to "Mormon doctrine B", well, that is his prerogative, but it makes no logical sense. This is the sort of thing true believers do all the time to defend their mental compromises, but since there is clearly no "there" there, it wouldn't be something that could possibly convince anyone not already in the fold.

And yes, you are correct. Our Lord did not give the disciples "secret information". Think about it. They had not yet even received the baptism of the Spirit at this point and so were not yet able to bear all of the NT truths that He would elucidate:

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes (i.e., after our Lord was taken up into heaven), he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come."
John 16:12-13 NIV

Secondly, once the eleven apostles and Paul, Judas' replacement, were given "all truth", it was written down by them in the New Testament over the course of the next thirty years. They certainly didn't forget anything our Lord might have shared during those forty days, and even if they had, and if the Spirit meant it to be part of the Word, He would have brought it to their memory (Jn.16:13). That would mean that for correspondent to be correct, the writers of the NT must have deliberately hidden the "real truth" from us all, and also that this "real truth" stayed hidden until Mr. magic glasses was given the full story – after seventeen plus centuries of believers being in the dark about the "real truth" and with no possibility even of learning that truth since it was not around to be had or heard.

So believing this malarkey would be a heavy lift even if it were delivered by a heavenly angel (Gal.1:6-9). But without such authority – or any proof whatsoever . . .

I didn't see a single quote or reference at the link or in the thread (other than to Mormon books). This seems to be much ado about nothing. At some point when a kid is acting up at a dinner party, you tell him/her to go to his/her room so the adults can have a conversation.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hah! Love your last line! This Mormon brags about what great scholars their church has. But I told him being a scholarly expert on works of fiction (the Book of Mormon) and false doctrines from their other works was nothing to brag about.

And did your forget Matthias? I thought he was chosen to replace Judas, and Paul was different. An apostle, but not one of the 12.

Thanks for your input. God bless you.

Response #19: 

You're welcome.

On Matthias, the human "election" took place before the gift of the Spirit. We never hear of Matthias again – but we do hear about Paul who affirms his apostleship in each of his epistles. Jesus appointed the first twelve Himself – and He also appointed Paul, after all. The Book of Acts accurately records what people actually said and did; it's not necessarily an endorsement of all their words and deeds, whether good, bad or indifferent. That is very different from the gospels where Jesus' words are of course meant to be directive (but those of the disciples and those of other people not necessarily so), or the epistles, where the apostle is speaking directly to the church in question under the guidance of the Spirit. That's why it's no accident that whenever someone is building a false doctrine, it's almost always leaning heavily upon a misinterpretation of something said or done in the Book of Acts. For more:

Matthias and the Numbering of the Twelve Apostles

The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Thanks. I get what you are saying, but we don't hear a lot about most of the apostles, either, after Pentecost, like Simon and Andrew and I think Philip. But you are saying that the disciples picked Matthias and not God? But they did pray to Jesus Christ to help them pick Judas' replacement, since He knows the hearts of all people. Also, Jesus breathed on them, after His resurrection and told them "receive the Holy Spirit", so He must have bestowed the Holy Spirit partially onto them, and they had to await Pentecost to receive Him fully.

As for Acts, I always saw it as history but with doctrine in it, when the apostles were expounding on the Gospel. And it showed the early church's development, warts and all, like when Paul and Barnabas quarreled over Mark accompanying them and they argued so badly they parted company. Our church put out ,some years ago, a video series on St. Paul's journeys, taken from Acts, narrated by our church's leading theologian and early church historian.

Thanks again.

Response #20: 

You're most welcome. Sounds like an interesting series, along the lines of A.T. Robertson and W.M. Ramsey.

On Acts, what you say is true – good point about Paul and Barnabas quarreling (we're definitely not to take from that that such behavior is OK because two great believers were involved). The most decisive point is that Christ personally picked all the actual apostles. In Revelation there are only twelve, one for each one of the gates of New Jerusalem. They aren't named there, but are we supposed to think that Matthias has his name on one of the gates but not Paul? Paul claims the title in every epistle.

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel."
Acts 9:15 NIV

I don't remember Jesus ever saying word one about or to Matthias.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:   

Hello--I have a question--a Mormon is saying that the book of Matthew preaches a different gospel than Paul does in Galatians and therefore, Matthew is "anathema." We of course say that Mormonism preaches a FAR different Gospel than Paul does. He has yet to show any proof of this, though I suspect he will, but it leading up to a big "finale" about it. I don't know of any such difference, though some Mormons have said what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes contradicts Paul. But I always though that the Beatitudes were how true believers in Jesus Christ should respond to their faith. This Mormons says that if I had read both Matthew and Paul I would be able to see where they contradict. Well, I have read both, esp. Paul. I don't remember any contradictions.

Anyway, have you ever heard of this?

Response #21: 

No, I've never heard of this one. There is a complete doctrinal unity among the three synoptic gospels (as virtually any secular reader would acknowledge), but also between the Pauline epistles and all of the gospels. Those who (wrongly) think differently would need to supply specific instances of supposed divergence.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
1st Corinthians 7:10 NIV

How is this not a reference to Matthew 5:31-32? This is from the beatitudes. The beatitudes cover a lot of ground, but I am unaware of anything there that is discordant with Paul's epistles in any way – properly interpreted and understood (anything can be misinterpreted or misunderstood).

Finally, we've made this point before: I thought that the Mormons accepted the New Testament. If they are going to select only what they want out of it and discard the rest, that destroys any allegiance to the authority of scripture on their part, and reveals them for the cult that they are, giving allegiance only to their own teachings in fact. That would be important information for anyone to know who is either contemplating joining this "church" – or who is presently in it or has some loved one enslaved to it.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Hi--Yes, they accept the NT, but "only insofar as it is translated correctly" as Joseph Smith once wrote. They think less of it than the Book of Mormon. But it is not uncommon for them to pit one book in the Bible against another. But I did a little research and I think this guy is referring to where in Matthew Jesus says He didn't come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it and that not one jot or tittle of the Law will pass away until all is fulfilled. But Jesus had not yet died when He said this and the Jews were still under the Old Covenant. And they still had to obey and follow it. That is what I found out by googling it, but I am not sure if that is what this Mormon will come up with. So far, he is all talk and no action. But thanks for your input.

Response #22: 

You're very welcome. It's amusing that someone who needed magic glasses to translate his magnum opus wanted to weigh in on other people's translations of the NT.

Either the Bible is scripture or it isn't; either any given book in the Bible is canonical or it isn't. The wish-washy in-between approach demonstrates to me why evangelizing Mormons must be so difficult: if a person isn't willing to accept that the Word of God is the Word of God, there's not much hope of persuading them absent a divine intervention in their life.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:   

Okay, this guy finally told us how Matthew supposedly contradicts Paul. Some of it involves the Millennial reign of Jesus on earth, that some people believe in (which isn't about salvation by grace through faith, anyway), but some of it is plain absurd. This website he got it from is ridiculous. I will put a link down to it and I hope you can read it.

Galatians 1:8 and Mormonism

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you...

I don't have time right now to go into detail with this guy, point by point over what he posted, as I have to go someplace later on this morning, but you know the bible so well, I thought you might give me some points in refuting this website. I notice some other websites out there also think that Matthew contradicts Paul.

The Jews were expecting an earthly king like David to come, weren't they? To kick out the Roman? But instead Jesus came to establish a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. He told Pilate that His kingdom is NOT of this world, at least, not yet. And didn't one of His disciples, after Jesus' resurrection, ask Jesus when the Davidic kingdom would be set up? In Acts 1? Also, long before Paul was converted, the Apostles had been spreading the Gospel of grace to all people, esp. the Jews. And I hardly think that it was contrary to what Jesus told Paul to preach!

Response #23: 

Yes, this is the key to the "problem". Whenever any literature is interpreted, one has to take into account the author, the audience, the genre, and many other factors. Our Lord was offering the kingdom to the nation of Israel; Paul is preaching the gospel of the kingdom to the gentiles. It's all the same truth; the way it is presented is different on account of the different audience, different circumstances, and different present circumstances (among other things). So there are reasons for differences in style and phraseology; there are in fact no doctrinal differences whatsoever.

In terms of this fellow's posting, he is absolutely wrong in the first place about what "the gospel" preached by our Lord entailed. The crown of the kingdom is founded on the cross of Calvary. To hear this fellow tell it, he seems to think our Lord never anticipated the cross or (more profoundly heretical) doesn't think the cross was necessary. But our Lord knew that He had "a baptism to undergo" wherein He would die for the sins of the world (Lk.12:50); this was the reason for the first advent as He certainly knew very well:

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mark 8:31 NKJV (cf. Matt.26:2; Lk.9:22; 24:7; Jn.12:22-23)

The suffering of the Messiah is, obviously, present in the Old Testament prophets as well (has this fellow ever read Isaiah chapter 53?); rewriting the Bible to assume that the cross is an afterthought makes a mockery of all true Christianity: the cross is the foundation stone of the entire plan of God – no salvation (and thus no creation) without it.

In Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:   

HI--I didn't expect you to get back to me so soon.

The Mormon did say that in the end, the differences between Paul and Matthew were resolved, but he still insists that Paul and Matthew (Jesus in Matthew he means) preached a "contrary gospel" and that they must be "anathema" which is plain stupid. I quoted from Gal. 1 AFTER vs. 8 and from parts of Galatians 2, where Paul plainly tells how he became an apostle and how he sought out some of Jesus' disciples and checked with them about what he had been preaching in case he had run or had been running "in vain." But Paul wrote that they could add nothing to what he already knew and in fact, recognized that God had given Paul grace to take the gospel to the Gentiles, as they had, to the Jews. And they gave Paul and Barnabas the "right hand of fellowship. Would they have done that IF Paul and the other Apostles had been preaching contrary Gospels?? And this was all AFTER what Paul wrote in 1:8!

Where is the logic with the folks on this website and with this Mormon? Don't they read ALL of the bible?

And I actually told this Mormon what you basically told me here, before I had even read this letter, that Jesus was teaching Jews who were still under the Law and that He was also teaching Jews, and Paul was teaching Gentiles, so their approaches to teaching each group were going to be different. But it was the same message.

I didn't have time to read all of what that website wrote that the Mormon guy posted, but skimmed through it. I do know it said that Peter thought Jesus' death was a bad thing (he did, before Jesus died and Jesus rebuked him for it) but after he had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he knew then for certain WHY Jesus had to die. But I didn't know it said what you mentioned--that Jesus didn't have to die and didn't know about His upcoming death. Really? If so, how...dumb can one get? Don't they READ?

Thanks again for your help. God bless!

Response #24: 

You're welcome. Good stuff here. These people have a flexible approach to the truth so that the truth can be whatever they want whenever they want. It's just like our Lord said:

"They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.' "
Luke 7:32 NIV

In Jesus Christ who is the Truth.

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Hi Bob,

A bit of perspective on my anger: if there are adherents of another religion who are nicer, kinder, and more gentle than Christians who proudly call themselves "born again," then those adherents have a better testimony to share with others on the power of their faith than Christians. From my personal experience, Jews have been more nice, kind, and gentle to me than most Christians I've met. Believe it or not, the religion with which I see the closest resemblance to Christianity as it is practiced by its adherents today is Mormonism.

Response #25: 

It's significantly easier for unbelievers to appear any way they want to appear. They are not answerable to Lord as we are, and they are not under severe attack in continual unseen spiritual warfare as we are. You can't compare the false smiles of the people eating popcorn in the stands with the grimaces of the gladiators.

But God knows the true hearts of all, and He knows what is really going on. All adherents of all false religions are only playing games here on earth. The truth is that they are only pretending when it comes to anything spiritual. In truth they are not interested in having anything to do with God, the real Father, and are not interested in responding to His great gift in accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord. They rule their own wills and want to continue to do so as long as possible. It's a foolish bargain indeed, but it is where the rest of the world "lives". Things for us are quite different. We are looking to an eternal inheritance and a city not built with human hands.

So love your brothers, even though most of them are lukewarm and completely out to lunch about true spiritual growth and the urgency of the times. Help them if you can, praying for their enlightenment. But don't let anything trip you up in your own running up the course that leads to great spiritual reward, not lackadaisical and frighteningly misinformed fellow believers, and not unbelievers who seem nice but who have rejected the One who really matters. We can have confidence that true colors will be shown by all in the not too distant future – one advantage of the difficult times in which we live and the even more difficult ones soon to come.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

[personal remarks omitted]

Currently, I have found arguments 1, 2, and 5 of Thomas Aquinas' quinque viae to be the best-developed arguments for God's existence, and interestingly enough, he very carefully phrases them in such a way so that they assume almost nothing. Most importantly, they are not contingent on certain physical interpretations of reality. Aquinas was very well-aware that our knowledge of physical science could render some of Aristotle's theories to be false, so he carefully sought to develop theism on a framework of pure metaphysics. I cannot say the same for William Lane Craig (have you heard of him?), however. His most well-developed defenses rely on the A-theory of time (that time has objective, irreducible tenses, called "past," "present," and "future"), but special relativity has shown that time actually has four tenses ("past," "present," "future," and a mysterious region of spacetime called "elsewhere" by physicists), which is quite an embarrassment. He wrote a big book on why relativity doesn't prove the A-theory of time wrong, and I would absolutely love to read it, but I'm too broke to afford it.

David Hume once presented a philosophical idea called "Hume's fork," which states that all knowledge can be partitioned into two mutually exclusive sets: empirical, testable facts and conceptual analysis. Immanuel Kant showed that it is impossible for causality to fit into either one of Hume's fork. The inability for causality to be proven by science was one of the biggest philosophical surprises in the history of humanity, suggesting that metaphysics is an essential component to developing a rational picture of the universe. Given that all arguments for the existence of God rest on causality and principles concerning causality, it seems that God's existence is primarily metaphysical.

While we're on the topic of Hume: his famous paper Of Miracles is an excellent example of an extremely intelligent man developing a sound and valid logical argument that is also completely wrong. Most people think that in order for an argument to be correct, it needs to be valid (that is, it doesn't make any leaps of logic) and sound (that is, it doesn't assume anything false), but what they don't know is that an additional necessary property exists for logical arguments: categoricity (that is, there is only one possible interpretation, and it's the desired one). Hume's argument in Of Miracles is valid and sound, but it's not categorical.

This is why people make fun of philosophers. It's not that philosophers are always wrong, but that philosophers focus on validity and soundness of their arguments to the exclusion of categoricity. This is why so many philosophers can read arguments from other philosophers but yet not change their mind (this is a big problem. If you encounter a good argument but don't change your mind, then there's something seriously wrong with you). It's because proving categoricity is extremely difficult, if not impossible, and there's almost no way to check for the categoricity of an argument like there is to check validity (and to a lesser extent, soundness).

For more on categoricity: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CategoricalAxiomaticSystem.html

Sincerely,

Response #26: 

I know that there are many people out there who have used all manner of intellectual rationalizations as thick armor against ever reconsidering their decisions to move away from God and thus away from salvation. No doubt you are being tested in this way in order both to strengthen you for the battles ahead, but also to deepen your sympathy and insight into what others who may yet be snatched from the fire are experiencing (that is, those who are somewhere deep in their hearts desirous of salvation despite their great intellects), if only someone can show them the way by (when necessary) reducing to rubble the defenses of those who would keep them ensnared.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

It truly does all come down to faith that transcends the material realm.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1st Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Hi Bob,

One day I would like to write a book about the philosophical flaws of skepticism as an epistemology. In short, I do not think that doubt and skepticism accurately describe how human beings acquire knowledge, nor do they play a significant role in the acquisition of knowledge. Contrary to how critics of faith define faith, faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but the trust that naturally results from the reliability of a source of truth.

Response #27: 

You are obviously right, of course. We learn a lot about the world when we are young from parents, friends, teachers, books (and electronic media nowadays), none of which things can be guaranteed to be true – we take them on faith. Neoplatonism is largely about the inability of anyone to actually know anything for certain in any case; what philosophers and scientists don't "get" is that when it comes to divine truth the Holy Spirit bridges all subjective gaps which are a function of flawed humanity and human limitations and makes that truth perceptible to our spirits. Then we believe it or not. It doesn't matter if we don't understand the process or are skeptical about it – so we may say; God knows what He has done for us and at the last judgment all these specious arguments and disingenuous positions will shown for the lies they truly are.

Question #28: 

In the chapter discussing the claims of the scriptures that they are the true revelation of God Thiessen writes of 1 John 5:10 - "John teaches that his testimony was God's testimony". Do you agree that John has his own testimony in mind? Can we draw a definite conclusion about it?

Response #28: 

I don't see this in 1st John 5:10. So I suppose I would have to know more about what Thiessen thinks he means by this statement. This is not something I would ever say – certainly not without explaining it. Whenever reading something like a systematic theology, we have to take care to distinguish between the opinions, phraseology, framing of discussion that are purely the work of the theologian on the one hand, and what the Word of God actually says and means on the other. Failure to make this crucial distinction has lead in too many cases to mention the deifying of theology over scripture and the building of theology on theology apart from scripture – with the inevitable result of the departure of theology from scripture. The most egregious case of this is Augustan theology – from which even the Protestant world is still suffering today.

 

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