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Cults and Christianity VI

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Question #1:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Didn't mean to drop the ball on you, or to be out of touch. I'm so appreciative of all of the referenced scripture and your advanced understanding of our Lord's supreme sacrifice for us. You are a true brother in Christ.

On another note, I need a friend right now, and some prayer. I'm just about done with my foray into church life, the ridiculous distractions, endless waffling and "have it your way" compromises of doctrine. Long story short....I belong to a very small non-denominational church. I teach adult Sunday School at this church. I am about as ferocious as John the Baptist when it comes to the Word of God and the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. I teach sound doctrine and often reference your commentary.

This past Sunday, a gentleman who has attended the church for some years, and whom I have yet to ascertain is a member, showed up in Sunday School and church wearing a shirt with an embroidered Masonic Lodge affiliation and the standard compass and square symbol. No one had any idea if he was a Mason, but his shirt seemed to indicate so. I questioned the Deacons about it and told them that the teachings of Freemasonry and Christianity are incompatible. I was then informed by a chagrined Deacon that this gentleman had been asked to lead the service this Sunday. I said that was unacceptable. This man is an active Mason in a local lodge. I got into a long email exchange with the gentleman about his Masonic beliefs, the fictitious Hiram Abiff, the secrecy, the rituals, the sworn oaths and every single thing that makes Freemasonry incompatible with the Word of God and the teachings of Christ. I referred him to emfj.org and ephesians5-11.org that are replete with testimonies from ex-Masons who have returned to Jesus Christ. He refused to answer my questions which is consistent with his sworn secrecy. One cannot be a committed follower of Jesus Christ and be a Mason. The Deacons feel that I should attend church on Sunday anyway, arguing that he "isn't really going to be preaching, but talking about the biblical origins of Christian hymns." We are currently without a pastor and the Deacons are filling in willy nilly. In this situation, I don't feel as though I need to support willy nilly. Having a professed Mason speak in a Christian church about anything is heretical in my book. I began attending this church to hear solid biblical doctrine. That appears to have fallen through the cracks.

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/masonry.html

Response #1:

It's no problem at all! Busy week here to as a matter of fact.

I do share your concerns. Let me give you my perspective below, but please read all the way to the end if you begin.

First, let me give you two links on Masons which may be of some help:

Experience with the Masons

Masons and the Bible

The first link relates the very negative experiences of a reader with this group; the second relates to what is also a common experience with this group.

One thing I am always quick to say whenever it comes to any group whatsoever but especially to groups with any sort of religious leanings is that one cannot necessarily predict with complete accuracy the beliefs of person X based on person X's affiliation with groups Y or Z. This is true even if we approve of group Y or disapprove of group Z. I was brought up in the Presbyterian church, but never came close to believing anything hyper-Calvinists consider fundamental. I was always very strong on free-will – because it is obvious and undeniable in my opinion. True, my beliefs over time led to disassociation with the Presbyterians, but it still would have been incorrect for someone in my youth to assume what I believed on that score entirely from my association with them.

Personally, I don't know a lot about the Masons. I don't really even know the difference between the "rites". From what I have seen of men whom I have known to be involved with them, it seems to me that for many it's mostly a sort of lodge experience (like the Moose or the Elks etc.). Personally, I would never even consider joining any such organization, and I do have reservations about the Masons in particular based upon stories I have heard. On the other hand, having lived in this world a while, I know from experience that one should be careful about imputing reports about wild teachings of any group to the belief system of a person connected with that group. I have known a large number of Roman Catholics in my life, for example, who most certainly did not go along with many of that church's teachings (and who were often ignorant of a great many of them as well).

That being said, it does seem to me that if there is any truth to the reports I have heard that a Bible believing born-again Christian would be well-served by staying away from this group. Also, it is hard for me to understand – again, if reports of what initiates are forced to say and do are true – how a Christian would be able in conscience to join. No doubt many are "ambushed", having known little about what the oaths and rituals involve before the fact. No doubt many are reassured that this is all just lodge mumbo-jumbo. It would still bother me as it does you, especially if the person concerned is active in any way. We all make mistakes, sometimes doozies. But continuing in a pattern after we find out it is wrong is another thing.

On your church. It is the nature of churches in the era of Laodicea that the pressures of this world have a tendency to corrupt even those begun with good intentions. The only biblical purpose of Christian assembly is mutual encouragement through the Word of God. That is best accomplished through the teaching of the Word from the pulpit (as opposed to sermonizing), and through godly fellowship (as opposed to mere socializing), with service resulting wherein actual needs are met (as opposed to things that look good and feel good and sound good but leave the truly needy in the congregation unattended to). The pressures of the current age generally lead to doing things that will 1) bring in members and 2) bring in money. If it is a question of a new member who has money, then accommodating when otherwise objections might be raised is "natural" – but wrong:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here’s a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1-4 NIV

When churches begin to play the "money and membership" game, they have shown their true colors, and little good can be expected to come from them in the future. On the other hand, teaching the Word and making the Bible truly the focus of the fellowship without regard to numbers or gifts will guarantee declining numbers and a diminishing budget. That should be fine with us – given that it most certainly is "fine with God": He can expand our reach if it is worthy, and even if He does not – provided we are doing the right thing – it will only mean that those we were ready to minister to were unworthy.

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.
Hebrews 11:36-38a NIV

Doing the right thing in the right way is the only way to earn the rewards that last forever. Here are some links:

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Can you recommend a church?

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Good for the Catholic Church. The Vatican and the Eastern Orthodox are the most openly opposed.

http://www.examiner.com/article/profile-of-admitted-freemasons-presently-serving-u-s-congress

"The Catholic Church has always been opposed to freemasonry .Pope Leo XIII in his 1884 Encyclical HUMANUM GENUS stated "We wish it to be your rule first of all to tear away the mask from Freemasonry and to let it be seen as it really is." He wrote "Filled with the spirit of Satan, who knows how to transform himself into an angel of light, Freemasonry puts forward as its pretended aim the good of humanity. Paying a lip service to the authority of law, and even to the obligations of religion, it aims at the destruction of civil authority and the Christian priesthood, both of which it regards as the foes of human liberty." Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the Church's prohibition on Catholics membership in the freemasonic sect as recently as 1983, in the DECLARATION ON MASONIC ASSOCIATIONS. This is outlined in my previous article Freemasonry: THEIR GOD IS THE DEVIL: Catholic Opposition to Freemasonry . Pope Pius VIII, speaking of the masons, said "Their Law is Untruth: Their God is the Devil and their Cult is Turpitude."

Thank you very much for all of the info. The account in your link of the young man who describes his experiences is particularly disturbing. I know quite a bit about Freemasonry, its roots in the occult, Egyptian religion, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Kabbalah, Thelema, its involvement with the KKK, and its agenda to establish the "New World Order" and the White Aryan Brotherhood. One of its Supreme Council Commanders was Albert Pike, who wrote their definitive lodge treatise for the Scottish Rite. It may be read in its entirety here:

http://www.resist.com/Onlinebooks/Pike-MoralsAndDogma.pdf

Albert Pike was also one of the founding members of the KKK in TN, a fact that today's Masons refute and attempt to hide. Aleister Crowley, the infamous black magician and Satanist, was also a Mason. You can peruse the list of the most famous Masons here, but it is by no means a complete list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Freemasons_(A–D) The E-Z list is here in addition. It is a well organized syndicate that caters to the wealthy and those who wield influence. Thus, they intentionally solicit the wealthy and influential for this purpose, although their claim is that someone must "ask" to join. Prince Hall Masonic lodges were established for blacks over two-hundred years ago because of racial tension. While Masons claim that those of any race/color may join, segregation still exists in many lodges in the South. Jesse Jackson left a blue lodge to enter a Prince Hall lodge because of racial tension. Ultimately, the lodge itself votes on who is admitted.

Freemasonry, by design, is a very complex, convoluted system of belief and the M.O. of a Freemason when confronted about these beliefs is to "divert from the discourse", change the subject, twist the facts and maintain secrecy. They are masters of diversion and evasion. There has been much that has been offered through anti-masonic sites, particularly by those who have returned to Christ who were former Masons.

Be that as it may, alarms go off when I discover that Masons have made their way into the church, as this is their agenda; to convert others to their way of thinking. This is no harmless fraternal brotherhood. There are many famous people, including a number of U.S. Presidents who are Masons. There are some interesting youtube videos posted by former members detailing their experiences. Bottom line; this is not a Christian organization by any stretch of the imagination and if there are those Christians whose ignorance has blinded them to the details of their sworn oaths, these corrupt teachings, and whose ignorance both of scripture and the teachings of Christ prevent them from seeing the truth, then it is our obligation to lovingly enlighten them.

Thank you again for taking the time to write. I'm deeply grateful for your deep love of our Lord.

Response #2:

You're very welcome, and thank you too for taking the time to write this. A couple of points. First, I'm always wary of using "origins" as a means of characterizing groups (and particularly a group's present members), because they mean nothing but may give false impressions. For example, many Christian churches have their "origins" in the teaching/work of true and good believers – but today are dead as stone in spite of their positive "origins". The same may be said of negative origins – not that we expect something good to come from something bad/evil, but such origins are no proof of present status, and as mentioned before are certainly no good measure of what members may believe (people join groups and churches too for mostly social reasons). Second, picking a noted evil person and demonstrating that he/she is/was a member of group X does not prove anything about group X. Hitler was apparently a confirmed Roman Catholic, and Stalin studied for the Orthodox priesthood. I am no fan of either religion but I wouldn't classify all R.C.'s as Nazis or all Orthodox as Communists because of these notorious associations. Third, the political officials listed here and in the links in this and your other email are not notoriously evil, as far as I can see. Are they good Christians . . . or even Christians at all? I have no reason to think so . . . or to worry about it (except that I would wish and pray for the salvation of any unbeliever). Fourth, there are many secret societies in this world, and there is a tendency for some to link them all together into some grand political conspiracy. Is that legitimate? Hard to know, but in the history of the world these sorts of putative trans-group conspiracies have usually turned out to be of no moment – whereas single party / single group conspiracies have been very powerful (Nazis, Communists, etc.). Should believers worry about this? As a reader of my website you know my position: believers should steer clear of politics of every sort, and should be wary of getting excited about any political developments, whether they view them as positive or negative. God is actually in control, and our lives are no more dependent upon what happens politically than they are upon what happens economically: God provides for and God delivers . . . those who are walking closely with Him. Fifth, it is certainly legitimate for any believer to question whoever is teaching from the pulpit. As you know, I have a problem with denominations, and also with much of what passes for normal in local church structure and administration these days. In the early Church, there was no "membership", and the association was voluntary with no dedicated buildings and no officials beyond a panel of elders and deacons chosen for service, and even here there was a great deal of flexibility as with all things in how a church should operate. But allowing someone to teach who is not qualified to teach is a serious breach because the communication and mutual encouragement of the truth is the one biblical reason for communal fellowship in the first place. I have no problem letting unbelievers come into the church (neither does scripture: 1Cor.14:23-25). When it comes to sinful behavior constituting a bad witness, the church is sometimes forced to act (as in 1Cor.5:1ff.), but "discipline" in the Bible is for the elders when those who are supposed to set an example are caught in indiscretion (1Tim.5:20).

Based upon the above, let us get back to your specific case. A person in your church of his own free will lets it be known that he is a member of a questionable group – questionable because of the reasons you have adduced. This is brought to the attention of the elders (or equivalent). How do they react? It seems to me that at the very least, if I were an elder, I would want to hear from individual X his/her defense of this association – what does it mean to him and what does he believe? As I say, I don't know enough about this group to condemn membership in it as absolutely positively inconsistent with being a born-again believer (is every "lodge" the same, and should we impute the written creeds of the group to the heart of all within it without reservation?). Mind you, the reports I have heard – from hostile sources – are, of course, negative. But we may take as a parallel the Roman Catholic church (which you congratulate above for being right on this issue). That church has, in my opinion, done more harm to the truth than any other satanic plot ever devised. In its history it certainly has the blood of countless martyrs on its hands as well. Almost exclusively those who have escaped and been born again testify to their belief that salvation is impossible within its ranks. On the other hand, I have good reports from non-hostile sources (such as yours above). What are we to make of this? In my opinion mainly that it is really a question of individuals and not organizations. I would hope that person X who is an R.C. who comes to my church and begins to learn the truth will, in time, separate from the R.C. church entirely and come to see just how much it has harmed him/her. But I would also be reluctant to force that decision on person X. At Ichthys, all are welcome . . . to listen and learn.

Your situation is different because of the fact that leaders are putting person X in the pulpit, apparently having no problem with his affiliation with Masonry. It would be interesting to know their thinking on this. Only prepared, gifted men who are believers are to be allowed to teach the congregation, and this case would seem to be inconsistent with that principle – unless for person X the association means little and the teachings of that society mean nothing to him (and he has the gift of teaching and is adequately prepared to do so). This has apparently been the case for some – I say apparently because I have never had any direct contact with that group, and only God knows the thinking and intents of anyone's heart. Here is a quote from one of your links:

I recall the words of my father when I first spoke to him about his involvement in Freemasonry. He told me that the Lodge taught that "once a Mason, always a Mason." Even as a senior citizen, that idea continued to have a definite hold on his thinking. My father, as a Christian, had not been able to see the vast difference between the teaching of the Church and that of the Lodge.

So the person in question here – a Christian and a Mason – was a member without really understanding the rituals or knowing the doctrinal teachings.

I am looking at all this at a far distance, so please take all this with at least a grain of salt, but it does appear peculiar to me that a newcomer with this affiliation (which may speak to a lack of spiritual maturity – at least to a lack of sensitivity to the concerns of others if he is bruiting this association abroad) should immediately be ushered into a leadership / teaching role. I refer you back to my closing comments from the last email, and conclude that, all in all, sometimes it is just best to move on when things begin to slip so far off the right course that there is no correcting them. That's a personal decision, of course. It's always difficult to see any organization one has put time, effort and love into begin to go the wrong way. What to do when that happens is a matter between the Christian in question and the Lord. But there is this scripture:

Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ "
Luke 5:36-39 NKJV

Praying for your guidance in this difficult time.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L. 

Question #3:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Wow. Your concern for the spiritual health of your students is really touching, as you take such great liberties with your time to respond. I thank you for this.

You are correct on all accounts. Another wise person advised me to never judge anyone for anything. I was once part of the "inner circle" of a "secret" group and ended up being subject to a lot of abuse - emotional, ritual, spiritual, etc.. Why in the world would I ever think that my little church would be a safe refuge from this stuff? So when I saw the masonic lodge emblem on the shirt, wheels turned, I shifted into high gear, and the wheels came off. I thought, "Here we go again."

All we really have in terms of intimate knowledge of anyone's heart is what we experience of them in the moment. I would even go so far as to say that we have "event-related relationships" that really only have meaning for us in the "now" - in this moment - when we are with someone - as all is subject to change. Perpetually. While we express faith and trust in the commitments of others, no one knows what is truly in another's heart. Only God knows that. And people and hearts certainly do change over time, and I've seen hearts change in the moment. Thus, nothing really matters but how we personally anchor in our identity in Christ, His Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Father and how we communicate our faithfulness to that identity - to the Trinity and to others. We must be responsible for the quality of our focus, our attention and intention - now - as what we feel, say and do has an affect upon others. If I'm projecting my fear, anxiety and anger on to another from an unreconciled place within me, then I need to take ownership of that. I can't allow my equanimity in Christ to be jarred by what others are putting out there.

This gentleman gave a very moving talk on Sunday, speaking tenderly about how much God meant to him. His reference was always to "God". He never once mentioned Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity or personal salvation. Masons aren't allowed to speak in specifics regarding Divinity, but address God as the Great Architect of the Universe or GAOTU. In his talk, it was simply God. And it is, most simply, between him and God. If I engage him in Sunday School or conversation elsewhere regarding essential doctrine, then I'll do so lovingly. Otherwise, as you suggested, move on. I don't count repairing burst wineskins as one of my spiritual gifts.

Response #3:

I'm very glad to hear you found this helpful. And I do share your concerns. It is always a red flag to me too when people talk about God but not Jesus Christ. After all, plenty of religions, including pseudo "Christian" ones like the Mormons talk about God (or god?), but Jesus Christ is the only Savior and the only way to life eternal – no matter how moved or moving a person without Him may sound.

In our dear Savior and Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Good morning Bob. I would like to help a former schoolmate and co-worker who invited me to attend an event at his Kingdom Hall. I've known him for fifty years and he's an Elder who grew up in "the Truth." His invitation prompted me for the first time to explore the WTBTS and to read the Bible.

I first read Walter Martin's book Jehovah of the Watchtower and ex-Witness Raymond Franz' Crisis of Conscious. Then I contacted a Rabbi who directed me to The Tanakh, aka the Jewish Bible, which I understood was the most accurate transcription, having the greatest fidelity with the original Hebrew texts. I also bought a King James Version to cross-reference.

I distilled my questions surrounding the WTBTS to three issues:

The poor character of their founder Charles Russell; not a bona fide pastor, the miracle wheat scandal, committed perjury, divorced and his fixation on the pyramids.

The WTBTS history of false prophecy. Changing the masthead of Awake! regarding 1914.

The scholastic dishonesty of the WTBTS translation committee as it relates to their NWT - inserting and deleting Scripture to lower Christ in rank to a "second God but not God Almighty"

I never thought the Bible would interest me. I was wrong. How could the Israelites could go through so many repeated cycles of obedience and defiance knowing the awesome power of God? After seeing the Nile turned into blood and the parting of the Red Sea, how could they offer prayers and build temples to a false god Baal?

How could Abraham summon the courage to question God's intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? That Moses could curb God's anger towards his people and that Gideon could actually dare to test God?

It's hard to reconcile a loving, merciful God with a God who strikes down fifty thousand men because they looked into the Ark of the Covenant and dispatched and angel to strike down one hundred and eighty-five thousand(185,000!) Assyrians overnight, more casualties than occurred at Hiroshima!

Is there a benefit in reading the Bible in chronological order? I discovered your site and thought it might be easier to understand and remember if I could fathom events in the order they happened. Please advise

Respectfully

Response #4:

Good to make your acquaintance. Walter Martin's book is first class (I've never read Franz). That the JW's are a cult and have no relationship whatsoever to Jesus Christ is evident to anyone who is interested in looking into the matter. The Bible is as you suggest the place to look. I am very happy to hear that you are becoming an enthusiastic Bible reader. Every born again Christian should be – it's the best way to protect against all cults and false doctrines (something more and more needful as the end of all things draws ever closer). Here is a short piece at Ichthys I would highly recommend to you: "Read your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility".

On the chronological issue, as may be seen from the postings you reference and elsewhere at Ichthys, there is not really any greater benefit to reading the books of the Bible in the order in which they were written, and it is not possible to be absolutely certain about that order in the case of about half of the books (roughly). As far as the events of scripture are concerned, since only perhaps twenty percent or so of the text of scripture deals with purely historical material, there is no basis for organizing the rest of the Bible along the lines of that principle even if it were possible (e.g., where would one place the prophecies of Isaiah, many of which have to do with the not yet arrived Millennium?).

More helpful would be to purchase a good study Bible which will help with those issues and other more important doctrinal ones (the Barker Bibles from Zondervan are excellent). And one other thing needs to be said. Growing up spiritually, then walking a closer walk with Christ, then helping others do the same, is the progression for which we are left here on earth after salvation. That process requires accessing a good teaching ministry wherein the truths of scripture are educed and explicated in a substantial and orthodox way. All Christians need truth to grow: they have to receive it and they have to believe it. The sad thing about the JW's is there are no doubt some within their ranks who are interested in the truth, but they are in the wrong place. Finding the "right place" requires an individual decision and search. You are certainly welcome at Ichthys (not the only place you can grow, but, I like to think, a good place to grow).

Best wishes for you in your noble effort to extricate your friend - I will say a prayer for the both of you on this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Good evening Bob. Thanks for your prompt and comprehensive answers, greatly appreciated.

Walter Martin said it's almost impossible to leave the WTBTS with dignity. He said the battle is not against the individual Witnesses but against the Watchtower which rules their subjects with a rod of iron.

I would never be rude to my friend. He is one of the most honorable men I've ever known. But his grasp of the Bible is vastly superior to mine given he was born into the WTBTS. I've been searching for the coup de grace that would cause him to question his beliefs. One former Witness I met suggested this;

The WTBTS teaches Jehovah Witnesses that the Trinity is Satanic, Jesus is not equal to his Father. This is touted as being a strong argument to present to Jehovah's Witnesses when they call

Revelation 1:8 establishes that Jehovah is the Alpha and Omega.

Revelation 21:5-7 confirms the identity of Jehovah God as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 22:13 ensures there can be no doubt that Jehovah is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

now have them read this

Revelation 1:17-18
King James Version (KJV)
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Can there be two firsts and two lasts? No! When did Jehovah die? When did God die? If Jesus is also the first and the last, he is Jehovah.

Your thoughts?

Respectfully

Response #5:

You're very welcome. Here are a couple of links where the NWT is discussed at Ichthys:

The NWT translation

More on the NWT

Your rationale for proving the deity of Christ is a very good one. However, I guarantee you that the JW's have stock answers for all these verses. The fact is, if a person reads the Bible with an open heart they will always come to the correct conclusion eventually. Most people in cults are discouraged from actually reading the Bible. They do "Bible study" under close supervision wherein the cult's interpretation is taught. Here are a few links at Ichthys which might be helpful for you in getting a better grasp on where the deity of Christ is taught in scripture and how, and also some ways in which it has been scurrilously attacked:

The Divinity of Jesus Christ

Jesus is God

Jesus is God and Man

The Person of Jesus Christ (in BB 4A: Christology)

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ.

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

The Trinity (in BB 1)

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism

Trinity Questions II

Christophany and the Trinity

Best wishes in this noble endeavor. Do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ, "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28).

Bob L.

Question #6:

Good morning Bob. A former JW suggested using passages from their own Bible, the New World Translation, so that when they're confronted with text that undermines their doctrine they have nowhere to go. I am hoping to present my friend with this next time he calls but I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Copied from the NWT, Psalms 102:25-28 describes Jehovah's creative power, his eternity and immutability - attributes that only belong to Almighty God

102 O Jehovah, hear my prayer;+Let my cry for help reach you.+ 2 Do not hide your face from me in my time of distress.+Incline your ear* to me;Do answer me quickly when I call.+ 3 For my days are vanishing like smoke,And my bones are charred like a fireplace.+ 4 My heart has been struck down like grass and has withered,+For I forget to eat my food. 5 Because of my loud groaning,+My bones cling to my flesh.+ 6 I resemble the pelican of the wilderness;I am like a little owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake;*I am like a solitary bird on a roof.+ 8 All day long my enemies taunt me.+Those who mock me* use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my bread,+And my drink is mingled with tears,+ 10 Because of your anger and your indignation,For you lifted me up only to cast me aside. 11 My days are like a fading shadow,*+And I am withering like grass.+ 12 But you remain forever, O Jehovah,+And your fame* will endure for all generations.+ 13 Surely you will rise up and show mercy on Zion,+For it is time to show her your favor;+The appointed time has come.+ 14 For your servants find pleasure in her stones+And have affection even for her dust.+ 15 The nations will fear the name of Jehovah,And all the kings of the earth your glory.+ 16 For Jehovah will rebuild Zion;+He will appear in his glory.+ 17 He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute;+He will not despise their prayer.+ 18 This is written for the future generation,+So that a people yet to be brought forth* will praise Jah. 19 For he looks down from his holy height,+From the heavens Jehovah views the earth, 20 To hear the sighing of the prisoner,+To release those sentenced to death,+ 21 So that the name of Jehovah will be declared in Zion+And his praise in Jerusalem, 22 When the peoples and kingdomsGather together to serve Jehovah.+ 23 He prematurely robbed me of my strength;He cut short my days. 24 I said: "O my God,Do not do away with me in the middle of my life,You whose years span all generations.+ 25 Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth,And the heavens are the work of your hands.+ 26 They will perish, but you will remain;Just like a garment they will all wear out.Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will pass away. 27 But you are the same, and your years will never end.+

And from the NWT Hebrews 1:10-12 ascribes the exact same qualities to Jesus and if Jesus and Jehovah are equals.......................

1 Long ago God spoke to our forefathers by means of the prophets on many occasions and in many ways.+ 2 Now at the end of these days he has spoken to us by means of a Son,+ whom he appointed heir of all things,+ and through whom he made the systems of things.*+ 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory+ and the exact representation of his very being,+ and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins,+ he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.+ 4 So he has become better than the angels+ to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.+ 5 For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: "You are my son; today I have become your father"?+ And again: "I will become his father, and he will become my son"?+ 6 But when he again brings his Firstborn+ into the inhabited earth, he says: "And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him."* 7 Also, he says about the angels: "He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers*+ a flame of fire."+ 8 But about the Son, he says: "God is your throne+ forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness.* 9 You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you+ with the oil of exultation more than your companions."+ 10 And: "At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, 12 and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end."+

Wishing you and your family health and happiness in 2016

Response #6:

This is great! Thanks for your New Years greetings – wishing you and yours a wonderful 2016 as well!

You and your friend are absolutely correct about the "NWT". But as you will see from the links below, sometimes their efforts only confuse their own case. In any event, it is a pointless translation that is designed only to head off what they have found to be the most obvious problems with their warped theology.

Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.

The NWT translation

More on the NWT

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity I

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Professor,

On a recent flight I was reading Metzger and it so happened, and perhaps that's no accident, that the other two people sitting next to me were Jehovah Witnesses and one of them started speaking to me. I've had a number of encounters with them now and I know there is often little point in getting involved in debates, particularly when it has been recognised the hearts are not open. Nevertheless, it is still important that I always give the best possible testimony to the truth and I don't think I've done it this time. That always bothers.

I'm not sure what you think of these situations, but I also think now that I would perhaps do more wisely to clearly state at the beginning of such conversation that not only I don't believe in their teachings, but that I have also discussed them with other members of this organisation a number of times. Instead, I got involved in a long discussion and I'm not sure how fruitful that was. A lot of it stems from assuming too much good intention and openness on their part. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that rather than worrying that such a statement at the outset could result in an abrupt end of the conversation (and the guy did seem a nice person, admittedly), I should just do it and make any further debate dependent on their reaction. They are willing to listen - we can carry on, they are not, there's no point in going through all this.

As for the substance of the conversation, it's same old. No understanding of kenosis, introducing the concept of "a god". But one verse which I've not been presented with so far is Proverbs 8:22-31 and seeing our Lord as the wisdom personified there. Verses 24 or 25 can be taken as this wisdom also being created by God and of course that is their view. What is your interpretation of this chapter?

Also, although growing spiritually, keeping in faith and waiting in patience for God to point the right direction are key at the moment, it seems that things may slowly beginning to unfold here as to what direction I could take next season with things. You prayers will be much appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #7:

We all second guess ourselves all the time. But, really, we ought to note that none of what is happening is unknown to God, even ahead of time. So each such situation is really best looked at from His point of view. If we are genuinely trying to do what is right, what is He trying to teach us and show us in such encounters? One lesson which might be to hand – I wasn't there after all – is the point that while we can provide the truth, it is really the Spirit who is doing the evangelizing, and it is the person receiving the truth who is responsible for the reaction. In short, it's really not about presentation at all, even though the world looks at things that way. No doubt the Lord brought these people to you in order for you to provide them with the truth; what they did with it or will do with it He knows even if we do not. From your perspective, there are always refinements possible, but as long as we make the issue of salvation as crystal clear as we can for those who are interested (or even pretend to be interested) in giving it a hearing, we have certainly done "our job", and should not feel down in any way, even if there was no positive response, and even if we are not 100% pleased with our delivery. I know virtually nothing about soccer, but it seems to me if you put the ball in the goal, you've done your job, even if the way you did it wasn't pretty.

On wisdom, it is personified in several poetic contexts in scripture. But even in this highly figurative context the verse doesn't say that wisdom was "created". Here is how NASB renders the verse:

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
Proverbs 8:22 NASB

The next verse states that wisdom was "in place from eternity". And that just makes sense. How could it not be so if the subject is God?

It strikes me that anyone who has to go to such lengths to support a position is probably aware at least on some level that they are engaging in sophistry – and that's not consistent with true faith. These people like all cult members are relying for their security and for the security of their beliefs on the solidarity of the group – not on the actual scriptures. So any time they are confronted with someone like yourself who is solid in faith apart from other people, relying only on the Word of God, it has to do something to them in their hearts. God knows.

Keep up the good work, my friend! I'm certainly keeping you in my prayers for a clear path forward this year.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Good afternoon Bob. I trust you and your family are well. My friend and another Jehovah's Witness dropped by yesterday. I asked if 1914 was old light or new light? He replied "Yes and no" and then defaulted to their standard "waiting on Jehovah" answer. They invited me to attend the upcoming Memorial service which prompted me to ask if there would be any from the anointed class attending? Those 144,000 spiritual Jews who go to heaven. said there were none in his Kingdom Hall.

I respectfully declined their invitation because in spite of scripture stating "no man knows the hour or the day, only the Father knows", their cult has followed the false prophecies of Russell, Rutherford, and Knorr, all of whom declared that they know, and all of their predictions have been wrong.

I see my friend as a victim. I am indebted to him, I know his moral compass always points true north, yet he will not read or consider any contrary viewpoints, total subjugation to the Governing Body in Bethel. I continue to hope that during one of his calls I can get something to register that will raise doubt in his mind.

best

Response #8:

Good to hear from you again, my friend.

This is indeed a tough sort of "nut to crack", as we say. Here is how I translate a critical passage in Philippians:

(5) You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. (6) Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for (or thought could be taken from Him). (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all]. (9) Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name (10) that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

This is just one example of a host of passages in the New Testament which proclaim in no uncertain terms the deity of Christ. Convoluted "theologies" aside, in addition to having become a genuine human being, Jesus Christ is either God or He is not God – there is no middle ground on that point as long as one has a correct notion of who and what God is, namely, the Creator of the universe (and not some super-creature subject to it).

I do allow as how all cult members are victims to some greater or lesser degree. But it is also true that we all have free will, and that anyone who in their heart of hearts really is interested in coming to Christ is not only free to do so, but is encouraged by the Lord through all of their life circumstances to do so. And, after all, He has already died for them. So while we can and should feel a measure of sympathy, we cannot allow that sympathy to vitiate our objectivity on the matter. One important reason for that is that when and if an opportunity is given, "tough love" manifest in the form of "straight talk" is likely to be what the person in question really needs.

I will say a prayer for your friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28).

Bob L.

Question #9:

Good morning Bob. Thank you for your response, it's appreciated more than you know.

Where to begin? Rather than reading the Tanahk/KJV straight through without interruption, I've found myself leapfrogging back and forth through the Bible to confirm or refute interpretations/statements by others. I also watch YouTube clips of Walter Martin, John Ankerberg and others relating to Jehovah's Witnesses, believe me there are many.

The WTBTS greatest affront is denying the deity of Jesus, calling the Trinity "Satanic".

Genesis 19:24King James Version (KJV)
24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

Doesn't this passage speak to the composite unity of God? How else could it be explained? We could never construct a sentence reading "Bob poured water on the fire at the front of the house while Bob operated the faucet in the back of the house."

John 5:37King James Version (KJV)
37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

Doesn't this beg the question, who spoke to Moses, Abraham and Noah?

I see my friend's environment not unlike some policemen I know. They live in a closed society, they associate with fellow police officers almost exclusively. Who do police come into contact with every day? Not the cream of society. On patrol they have each other's backs, off duty they continue to be on guard.

From a very young age my friend was immersed in the WTBTS. I doubt if he's ever read the KJV, his reading has been confined to their New World Translation and the society's publications. It's self-inflicted mind control. Over the decades he must have shunned disfellowshipped friends and relatives and as an elder must have personally disfellowshipped some for misconduct.

Thanks again for your time and indulging me. I have to study the Bible and believe

Hebrews 4:12King James Version (KJV)
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

best

Response #9:

You're most welcome.

Walter Martin's book is quite good as I recall. I had a team of JW's at the door not too far back. Other than assuring them that I was a Christian and that Jesus was God (best as I could), it didn't amount to much – they didn't seem interested in pursuing the conversation at that point. Next time maybe I'll ask them straight out if they believe in the Trinity.

Best wishes – and heartfelt prayers – for your success in rescuing your friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Good morning Bob. In my search I've discovered many ex-JWs and apologetics who are committed to turning adherents away from the Watchtower. I only found one who is confident that there is a sovereign question that can shake their faith

http://www.clayjones.net/2010/08/a-question-the-jehovah%E2%80%99s-witnesses-can%E2%80%99t-answer/

I know two "inactive" JWs and learned that when you engage them at your door, you're not speaking with just one or two Jehovah's Witnesses, you are literally speaking with millions of them because all of their house calls have been well documented, then analyzed and discussed back at the Kingdom Halls, collated and forwarded up the chain to Bethel, which prepares them with rebuttals for any argument you can think of - they have developed a "cover story" for almost everything.

The link below is their "cover story" to Clay Jones' question regarding John 1:1

http://defendingjehovahswitnesses.blogspot.ca/2013/02/why-is-jesus-called-mighty-god-at-isa-96.html

The result is you play scriptural ping pong which always ends in a stalemate. In the alternative, I'm considering presenting them with the transcripts of the Olin Moyle trial, where two members of the Governing Body, Nathan Knorr and Frederick Franz, testified under oath that Jehovah God is the editor of the Watchtower! At the risk of committing blasphemy, doesn't that beg the question, how could Jehovah get his dates for Armageddon wrong?

http://onlytruegod.org/jwstrs/JWSTRS-gb_trial.pdf

the complete transcript is over 2000 pages, the link is only to the relevant part

best

Response #10:

Thanks for this. I appreciate the fact that the organization has an answer for everything (they think), and that the people at the door have a whole organization behind them – and to my thinking even more importantly a "minder" in the other person who is with them. Still, the Spirit is far more powerful than the most extensive organization man could ever build, and He knows just what word of truth will cut to the quick of anyone on the other side of the threshold who may be wavering in the lie. Of course, I would imagine that the percentage chance of getting anywhere with anyone one of these people is very small or they wouldn't be at the door in the first place. Then again, no one would ever have bet on Paul becoming a believer.

One other observation. I notice in the link you gave for the JW apologetic site that for Isaiah 9:6 they use the fact that most versions have "Eternal Father" (or similar) after "Mighty God" to support their view that this is the Father who is being spoken about here (or at least that "Mighty God" can't be evidence for the fact that Jesus is God). In fact, this phrase is a mistranslation in that it misrepresents what 'abhi 'adh (אֲבִי עַד) means. A better rendering is "Father (i.e., Originator) of Eternity" – a valid title for Christ since He is the One who completes the plan of God on the cross and makes possible the eternal future we who believe in Him will have with Him forever.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Good morning Bob. My friend hasn't returned following his last visit. I intend to inform him that during the Olin Moyle trial, Frederick Franz and Nathan Knorr said under oath Jehovah God is the editor of the Watchtower. I hope it will raise doubt in his mind in consideration of their 1914 anchor date.

In his book Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz reported on a Circuit Assembly for Elders in Alabama where the District Overseer, Bart Thompson, held up a Society publication that had a green cover. He said to the assembly "If the Society told me this book is black instead of green, I would say 'Y'know, I could have sworn it was green, but if the Society says it' black, then it's black."

This anecdote perfectly illustrates the depth of their fealty, the degree to which they subjugate themselves, their blind faith and self-inflicted mind control.

I think Mr. Franz developed the perfect litmus test for any religion. Show me the plain, simple, clear-cut scripture that supports your beliefs. No intricate explanations, complex combinations of texts or mental gymnastics allowed.

best

Response #11:

Good stuff. The way I see things, the problem is not "blind faith"; the problem is WHAT one puts one's faith in. We put our faith in the Bible, the Word of God, and the One who is the living Word, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who made the universe and sustains it with His "Word of power" (Col.1:16; Heb.1:3). If the Lord told me green was black, I'd believe it. If the Bible told me green was black, I'd believe it. If someone from this group told me black was black and green was green, I'd double check.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Full agreement here. The Elder placed his faith in the Society. When I asked my friend if he placed more faith in the Watchtower than the Bible he said the headquarters in Brooklyn has a sign reading Read God's Word the Holy Bible Daily. I checked and that sign is posted between the fourth and fifth floors in letters about 3' high. On the roof above the twelfth floor is a huge sign in red letters The Watchtower. The scale and location of the signs speaks for itself.

Response #12:

Very nice!

It's pretty easy to discern an individual or groups true priorities from what they actually do (as opposed to what they merely say).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L

Question #13:

Good afternoon Bob. Only recently I learned how the Governing Body has solved the strain on the doctrine regarding their anchor date of 1914 - they tortured the definition of generation with "overlapping generations."

I can see this happening

Matthew 24:34King James Version (KJV)
34 Verily I say unto you, These generations shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

I've never lost a game when I was allowed to keep the score.

best

Response #13:

Not only is this a bad translation (as in incorrectly making a singular a plural), but it also completely misunderstands the meaning of this phrase used several times by our Lord. "This generation" is not a "physical generation" but a "type of person", namely, unbelievers in Israel, the "hardness in part" folks mentioned also by Paul (Rom.11:25), who will continue to be the dominant type in biological Israel until the Lord returns. There are exceptions in every time (there are always Jewish believers: they are the "remnant of grace" in Rom.11:5). Some links on this:

What did Jesus mean by "this generation"?

"O Faithless generation!"

"This generation" (Q#1)

"This generation" (Q#7)

Which generation is "this generation"?

The generation of hardness

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Bob, a thousand pardons. As bad and disingenuous their translations have been, they haven't made the egregious error of translating "this generation" to "these generations". I was only predicting they would in jest.

Response #14:

Got it!

No worries.

Question #15:

Dr. Luginbill,

Ancient Rome really had a lot of god's they worshipped and kept adding to the number over time. In the "modern era" fighting and prejudice over religion is common place. There doesn't seem to be much recorded about this within the Roman Empire, i.e., my god is better than your god, etc. and people fighting over this in the city of Rome.

Question: Is there any indication that there was friction, prejudice or fighting (within the empire) by adherents of one god over the other in the Roman pantheon?

Dr. Luginbill, I would appreciate your opinion on this matter as I may have developed a wrong judgment concerning it, by material I have read recently regarding the function of Roman temples. Roman temples seemed to be used by the Roman government to instill a sense of morality and honor in the people, whether these god's actually existed or not. Also, it seems that the temples were used for a variety of social purposes besides sacrificing to a particular god at a particular temple. They were also used as museums, meeting places (parks), and periodically to hold banquets and festivals, to hear speeches, to bestow honors, hear music, etc.

Question: Do you think this was seem by the population as a reason not to develop prejudices or conflicts over which gods were woshipped and by whom, because their temples provided a lot of enjoyable social benefits which all could enjoy?

Thanking you for your response,

Response #15:

No problem. As to the questions:

1) In the Classical world, paganism was the rule and it was syncretic, allowing all manner of worship. A few "religions" were tightly regulated (like licentious and extravagant Bacchic rites) and others were outlawed, however, and that was what happened to Christianity once it was realized that it was different from Judaism which was a religio licta (i.e., a sanctioned religion). Please see the link: "The Ten Days of Persecution"

2) The origins of paganism go back to the pre-flood days. Essentially, when people reject the truth they will accept some lie in its place, and paganism was the wide-ranging religious expression of that in the Classical world (although all religions share this same key element – as opposed to Christianity which is a living relationship with Jesus Christ, not a "superstition" which is what religio is in Latin):

[These] have exchanged the truth of God for the lie [of the devil], and have worshiped and served the creature [Satan] in place of the Creator, who is [worthy to be] blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:25

Apologies in advance if I missed the gist of any of your concerns here. If so please do write me back when you get the chance.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I'm going to exclude the first era from human history (the Gentile epoch) because the Jews did not exist at this point in time, so it was impossible for there to be Jewish-Gentile antagonism to begin with. All we really know is from Hebrews 11, which was that Abel, Enoch, and Noah were exceptional believers.

During the Jewish epoch, everyone except the Jews engaged in non-stop idolatry. Judaism looked like a local religion and therefore didn't appear very appealing compared to what a member from these other nations has received from their ancestors via mythology. Formal worship was God's preferred economy, and the gentiles didn't really find it in good taste.

During the Church epoch, God changed the economy so that things were done on the basis of informal worship. This together with the Trinity and the incarnation greatly offended the Jews, but for some reason gentiles didn't mind.

During the Millennium, the Trinity and Incarnation will stop bothering the Jews and they'll grow an acquired taste for it. For whatever reason, the gentiles will not like the formal worship and (as they perceive it) preferential treatment God is giving to the Jews and will rally for "freedom."

Response #16:

I'm not sure we know enough about the Millennium to draw that generalization. Also, it seems to me that pagan religion is quite formal (it certainly was for the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc.); also, nowadays the bulk of people who identify themselves as Christians participate in highly ritualized religious worship (R.C., Orthodox, Coptic, Episcopalian, and really many other Protestant denominations). It's not too much to say that unless there is an exceptional display of musical or other entertainment or emotional excess, high ritual is the only other thing that gets most people's attention. What the pagans "didn't like", what most gentiles in the Millennium (apparently: Rev.20:7-9; cf. Ps.2:1ff.) won't like, what unbelievers of all stripes today, Jew and gentile both don't like – and what, sadly, most genuine Christians today don't like – is the truth. The truth is the great divider. Always has been. Always will be. And when it is rejected, something will replace it, usually formal ritual or entertainment or emotional excess or some combination of the three.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Bob,

My Christmas gift to you: "The New Man" and "The Mark:" both by M. Nicoll and both, if read by you, may ( in God’s Will) alter the course of history. Trust me. Jesus’ teaching…( the " mysteries of the kingdom of God," as he said)…is in these books. He wants you to read them.

http://www.innerstream.net/Maurice-Nicoll-The-New-Man.pdf

http://www.innerstream.net/Maurice-Nicoll-The-Mark.pdf

Peace on earth to men of goodwill.

Response #17:

I prefer the Bible.

Merry Christmas!

Question #18:

Bob,

The Lord Jesus has shared with me your struggles. Your quest for righteousness will miss the mark until you understand what Jesus taught:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25"For whoever wishes to save his (soul)-life will lose it; but whoever loses his (soul)-life for My sake will find it.…

Self-love makes one asleep to God. Read!

Response #18:

I take my stand with Paul:

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:8-11 NASB

As I often have occasion to say, Ichthys is not everyone's cup of tea; everyone needs to find just the right ministry for themselves, but it has to be one that is teaching the actual truth, is genuinely orthodox, and is Bible-based. There is a big difference between teaching from the Bible and using the Bible to support one's own teaching. For that reason I would strongly urge you to give all such "Fourth Way" influenced teaching a very wide berth. It may have an intellectual appeal, but in the end it will only undermine your faith. Teaching that promotes true spiritual growth has to flow from scripture and not impose some sort of external system on scripture. This may be a difficult distinction for many to pick up (the devil makes it as difficult as possible), but it is as the difference between "straw and grain" (Jer.23:28), that is, all the difference in the world. Please read the link: "Read Your Bible" for more on the distinction mentioned.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Everything you will read in these two books is surely based in the scripture, which you now fail. In part, to understand, rightly. Do you know what it means to be "conformed unto his death?"

Response #19:

On Philippians 3:10 which you reference, Christ is our role model in all things. He died for us; therefore we should die to the world and live for Him. Paul expresses this essential point of proper Christian orientation to life in many ways in every epistle. But as Peter notes:

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
2nd Peter 3:14-16 NKJV

There is a difference between teaching the Bible and using the Bible to advance one's own theosophical theories. So if these individuals in your links wish to use the verse you quote – or any number of verses – to suggest something that is not actually present in the verse itself, that ought to be a major warning sign.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

"and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation"

Do you know what this "longsuffering" is? It is the same as the "fellowship of His suffering" It is the process of dying to one’s self. Do you know it is the same as being "conformed to His death?" When one dies to one’s self ( DENIES ONE’s SELF in His words) then one awakens ( AND, "knows the power of His awakening/resurrection," then is one is at peace, without spot and blameless.

Response #20:

If what you mean to say is that once we decide to live for Christ and not for ourselves our lives take on a whole new aspect of joy and power in the Spirit (i.e., spiritual growth produces all manner of positive spiritual results), I certainly wouldn't argue. In that case, your vague suggestions that this ministry is "on the wrong track" are very curious.

If, however, like the works you recommend, you are putting some sort of neo-platonic, mystical twist on these verses (which is not present in truth), then I would advise you to find a better source of teaching. I believe Ichthys to be one such source, but it's not for everyone. However, no one will be anything but spiritually harmed from sources which superimpose invented teachings upon scripture.

In the few sentences here you make a number of logical jumps gradually away from scripture, and end up with a conclusion that is not at all based upon what precedes – not even in logic, let alone scripture. All Christians are, by virtue of being in Christ, "spotless and without blame" because we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. That is a blessing we possess by virtue of being in Christ. That does not mean, however, that at salvation we enter into a state of sinless perfection – in fact no one but Christ ever managed that after mankind's ejection from the garden of Eden. And it is dangerous in the extreme to assume that through some sort of "self crucifixion" (a misreading or "twisting" of Paul's words) that such a sinless perfection is attainable. Here is what John says about that:

(5) And this is the message which we have heard from Him and report to you: that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. (6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and yet we walk in the darkness, we are lying, and not accomplishing the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we do have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say that we do not have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say "I haven't sinned!" we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
1st John 1:5-10

Exegesis of the passage above may be found at the following links: "Confession of Sin" in Pet.#15, and "1st John: text and interpretation".

I appreciate your desire to walk before the Lord in a sanctified way, my friend. That is possible, through learning and believing and applying the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit – but it has to be done God's way.

Wishing you and yours a blessed, happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2016!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

I did not mean to say your ministry is on the wrong track; but I do say that your understanding of scripture is incomplete. If you would read the two books I sent to you ( they can be ordered in paper back as well) you would see what I mean. I think a man of your faith, learning and brilliance would be most unlikely to be swayed in some way by reading these books.

The verse says the opposite of what you wrote.

"be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;"

Diligence is required. Lacking diligence ( the Work of oneself) one will not be found in peace by Him. To be in Christ is not auatic. It is only attained by walking (conducting one’s inner life) in the Spirit as Paul says in Romans which means to walk in a state of self-remembering and self-consciousness. I do not suggest we attain sinless perfection, I do say with Peter we can be found "spotless and without blame." which is from the Lord our God’s point of view, of course.

The key verse is the one I quoted where Jesus says: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25"For whoever wishes to save his (soul)-life will lose it; but whoever loses his (soul)-life for My sake will find it.…

What do you make of His word?

In your recent lesson you wrote: That rationale is the most important of all Christian perspectives, one which should be kept constantly and firmly in mind at all times by everyone who belongs to Christ, namely, the cross. When we realize what it cost our dear Lord and our heavenly Father to wash away all of our sins, further indulgence in sin – as if it were of no account – is essentially willful ignorance of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins in Calvary's darkness.

….makes me think you are looking for ways to avoid sin, that depend on rationales.

Response #21:

We should pursue sanctification with diligence. Assuming we can be perfect in this is incorrect and contrary to scripture. This may seem like a contradiction to human logic but it is not contrary God's truth (this sort of thing happens many times in scripture and it is always a mistake to "choose up sides" as for example divine sovereignty vs. free will – which in truth coexist perfectly in the plan of God).

The two extremes to avoid here are 1) losing heart because of imperfection and assuming it doesn't matter if we sin or not (antinomianism), and 2) wrongly assuming we can be 100% perfect and free from all sin forever then redefining sin to include only things we actually can personally avoid (legalistic perfectionism). I commend to you again the following link: "1st John: text and interpretation". 1st John is one of most prominent places in scripture where this apparent (and only apparent) contradiction is evident. We are meant to be perfect; we can't be perfect. We must strive to be perfect; we will never succeed in being absolutely perfect. Both propositions are true, and if we choose one over the other the result will be spiritual and theological shipwreck.

If being without spot and blemish is not being sinlessly perfect, the only other thing it can be is positional, being righteous by virtue of being "in Christ" – and all believers are "in Christ" (link). Unless you are saying that there is a "goodness" which is not "sinless". I would certainly agree that we ought to get better at walking with Christ in a sanctified way as we grow spiritually – that is a central tenet of this ministry. But at no time ought we to start "feeling good" that we have "arrived" merely because of some one-shot one-time decision on our part (crucifying self or denying self or whatever). All sin requires confession; all sin is sin; Christ died for all sin. Is some sin more damaging to self and others? Certainly. But there is no scriptural mandate to classify any sin as anything other than sin. The least sin of the least sinful person who ever had a sin nature had to be cleansed by the blood of Christ for that person to have the opportunity for life eternal. The worst sin of the most sinful person who has ever lived does not keep that person from salvation or spiritual growth thereafter if said person embraces the Substitute for their sin so as to be saved and cleansed.

With all due respect, I don't have time to read voluminous works which are prima facie not in consonance with scripture but based instead on philosophy or theosophy which merely makes occasional use of scripture. I hope you will understand. I have glanced over them. Apologies for the invidious analogy (I use it only to make the point), but it's not necessary to read the entire text of Mein Kampf to realize that there is nothing present there of a positive nature.

I don't understand your mis-impression of the quote from Peter #31 at the end of the email. However, if you are troubled by the teachings of this ministry, as I said, Ichthys is not everyone's cup of tea. You do need a good source of teaching in order to grow, however, and these books and the movement they represent are not "it".

Finally, if you want to continue this discussion, please be so good as to refrain from responding with the last text interspersed with highlighted replies (as in this latest response – at first I thought you had sent an empty email). That procedure may have some rhetorical effect and it may be easier, but is very confusing and difficult to deal with for the person on the other end (if a further response is really wanted). If something is worth saying it is worth treating in full and anew.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the only Savior, our dear Lord and Master,

Bob L.

Question #22:

As Paul says "I preach Christ crucified." And, "we face death all day long,".. this denying of self ( Jesus words!) is continuous AND DEFINES WHAT IT MEANS TO "walk in the spirit" and to be IN CHRIST.

Read the books and then tell me that there is something in them not true!

Response #22:

I don't have any problem with these verses and have already told you what they mean (and where to go to find more). I've perused enough of these "books" of yours to know that I'm not interested in pursuing them further for reasons already explained.

If you have some "truth" you wish to share, kindly do it an a straightforward non-mystical way. If something is that important, it can be explained without riddles. If it can't be, then it's not important (or real). Cults always play "guess the interpretation" because there isn't ever really any "there" there.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Bob,

I missed what you said about these verses. Cut and paste it to me would you please.

It would be helpful if you could find a sentence or two in one of the books with which you disagree and point that out to me.

But, you are right about giving you an explanation, and I can do so. I will use what Paul says in Romans about "walking in the spirit" and connect it to what Jesus says and write that up.

Response #23:

I take all these passages you have quoted to have the same import. As noted, "Christ is our role model in all things. He died for us; therefore we should die to the world and live for Him."

As to examples of objectionable statements in the books: in "New Man", p. 18, "Jesus was not born perfect, as a fully developed, a fully evolved Man"; in "The Mark", p.8, "By the King, then, something in oneself is meant".

These books are filled with titillating "insights" of the sort one finds in all successful popular psychology, theosophy, religious and cult writings (etc.), things which introduce an exciting perspective (for those not inoculated to this sort of thing), but which also are difficult to pin down as to exact meaning. They float along on an ethereal cloud of lack of specificity, and when they do come down to earth, the specifics are always disturbing – as in the quotes above, the first of which is outright heresy, the second of which demonstrates the sort of allegoric interpretation of scripture where "anything goes" that traces back to Origen and the beginning of the degeneracy of the organized church visible which then became the Roman Catholic church.

To be honest, the only things in these books with which I probably would not disagree would be the wide swaths of "stuff" where the flights of fancy are too general to pin down as obviously wrong. As I say, I've seen lots of this sort of material before in my life. My gifts have to do with teaching the Bible and I am not gifted in the realm of apologetics. So apologies if the refutation here is not persuasive to you. I answer Bible questions for those who are interested in hearing the answers. I don't get into the weeds too deeply in trying to disabuse loyalists devoted to one cult or another of their mistake (that is the job of apologetics).

I will, however, since I made a point of it, be happy to comment on your summation (and will be looking for that).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Bob,

I agree very much that what flows from scripture, logically, is important.

So I wish to go step by step.

MARK 8: 34And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Can we agree that we see Paul following Jesus’ teaching below: Paul, thinking psychologically about himself ( being spiritually minded!) denies or disavows himself.

" it is no more I that do it."

Romans 7: 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Response #24:

With all due respect, you are not Socrates and I am not your pupil.

Please spell out whatever principle of "truth" you think have discovered, doing so in a simple and straightforward way which even I might be able to understand.

Thanks in advance.

In Jesus Christ who is the only truth,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Bob,

I do not think I can show you the truth if you cannot see it, as we go.

Response #25:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Matthew 16:24 NKJV

Following Jesus means following Him and not oneself, that is, not one's own desires for this life. Jesus told us elsewhere that the "work of God" is to "believe in Him whom He sent" (Jn.6:29). Most people in the history of the world have followed the devil's lead in choosing to be their own god, in refusing to subordinate their free will to the Will of the Father. We submit ourselves to Him in the first place by accepting His Substitute for our sins through putting our faith in, giving our allegiance to the Son of God who died in our place. If we are willing to deny our own will in this way, we enter into the family of God, becoming one with Christ ("in Christ"), and now have an entire life of decision-making in front of us wherein we are confronted by choices each and every day. To the extent that we deny what we would selfishly wish to do and do instead what the Lord really wants us to do we grow spiritually, progress in our faith and its application through passing tests, and eventually become equipped to serve others through the ministries we have been assigned by our Master. All this takes responsiveness to the truth, first by believing/accepting the good news of the gospel about who Jesus is and what He has done for us, and then in accepting the truth of God on every other matter wherein scripture reveals it, learning and believing the truth, putting it into practice in applying it to every aspect of our lives, and finally helping others to do the same. This all involves sacrifice in that it all involves living for Christ instead of living for ourselves, constantly making decisions to spend time on Him rather than ourselves and our own desires and pleasures.

Most people in the history of the world have bought into the devil's lie of the myth of happiness in this life. In fact, whatever true happiness may be had in this life 1) comes only as the result of following the system of truth inherent in the creation (i.e., hard work and moral behavior within a good marriage are generally self-rewarding), and 2) is temporary, not outlasting this life (e.g., Eccl.9:9). But "myth happiness" (see the link) can't even satisfy a person in the first place because it doesn't really exist, and the attainment of the objects which are supposed to supply it only reveal that non-existence. Such is the fate of those who live for themselves, choosing their own will in this life to the exclusion of following God's will for their lives which results in eternal life in Jesus Christ for those who respond.

Sanctification, separating oneself from sinful behavior after salvation, is certainly a part of "denying" one's own selfish inclinations, but all of God's commands to that effect are certainly for our own good because sinful behavior will never make a believer happy, even though the devil through a special appeal to this sort of "myth happiness" tries to convince us it will (and he has a powerful ally in this deceptive appeal, the sin nature which infests our physical bodies). But "myth happiness" merely distracts us from our true purpose (see the link). However, sanctification is not the end but merely a necessary means to the end we ought to be seeking: a good eternal reward earned through spiritual growth, progress and production. Legalistic systems which get this backwards are really merely alternative "myth happiness" systems also designed by the devil for the benefit of people whose sin natures run more toward asceticism than they do towards hedonism. But if a person glories in setting up a false, non-biblical system of restraint based on a false appreciation of what sin really is and entails, then becomes proud about it while in the meantime not pursuing spiritual growth, the effects can be just as spiritual dangerous as the alternative. That, after all, is precisely what the Pharisees did.

The above is the kind of thing I try to do for anyone who asks Bible questions out of a sincere desire to know the truth, that is "spell it out" so anyone can understand. I generally refrain from asking vague questions or hinting darkly about what X or Y might or might not mean. There is no true help in that sort of thing (and you can get that in almost any sermon Sunday morning). I only ask you to do the same if you wish to continue this conversation.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, Him who is the very truth.

Bob L.

Question #26:

Bob,

I want to thank you for your patience and willingness to speak with me about these matters. A few moments ago I spoke with my wife and told her how it has become clear to me what it means when it is written:

"Whomsoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be delivered." Joel 2:32

What it means is that one cannot overcome Sin that lives in us by the will of our sinful selves; rather we must pray continually for Help from the Lord our God to act in us to do His Will.

I make no judgments about you, your faith or work or ministry.

I wish you only the best.

Semper Fi

Response #26:

You're most welcome. Thanks for your patience with me as well. I do hope that our disagreement on this point will not sour you too much on the materials available at Ichthys – you are most welcome here any time.

As to the substance of this last email, I see nothing here with which to disagree at all. Prayer is of course a vital part of any successful Christian life, and the battle against sin is one that never ends despite all spiritual progress (just ask David, Moses, Job, Peter or Paul). We are all dependent upon the Spirit's power for anything done truly in the will of God.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Good Morning Bob,

As you know Paul says he teaches in two manners: psychic (by the soul) and pneumatic (by the spirit.) 1 Cor. 2: 14-16.

Have you considered that Paul’s pneumatic teaching may be the "esoteric" teaching that I am recommending to you and which is present in the books I sent to you?

If one analyzes his letters to the Corinthians ( whom Paul says he teaches only as psychics, one can see that all the teaching of the Gospel in modern Christianity to be derived by the literal reading of scripture is present. What is missing in the letters to the Corinthians and modernly in the teaching of the Gospel is the inner or spiritual meaning of the scriptures ( the meaning that applies to the inner man.) This is the teaching that is present in Romans 7 and 8, as well as the Psalms, and many other places in the scriptures, if understood. Does this mean that the literal reading is wrong: God forbid; not wrong, but incomplete.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

What Paul is saying here is that the teaching of the Gospel in its pneumatic meaning, as it applies to the inner man, permits a man to see himself in his own inner world in terms of the thoughts arising from his body, soul and spirit.

Do you have a mailing address that I may use to mail you a book?

Response #27:

We can only understand the truth through the system of epistemology God has ordained for us to know that truth. That is why the truth is "foolishness" to unbelievers. Philosophers have struggled for millennia with the problem of how spiritual truth may be imparted to fleshly creatures, but God has the solution: the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes the truth understandable to us as believers when we are willing to listen, and when we believe the truth it becomes "full knowledge" (epignosis) within us – truth believed and stored inside of us that is then useful to the Spirit in guiding us. Only actual truth actually believed is epignosis. For more on this please see the link: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth".

All of the above is fundamentally different from either assigning meaning to scripture it does not in fact have (ala Origen and others) or mysteries that cannot be explained (too many exemplars to mention). Every human being is a unity: that was the case in Eden, it is the case today, it will be the case when we die, and it will be the case when we are resurrected. Human beings are composed of a body and a spirit, and it is the creation of a spirit within us at birth that gives us life. This body will be destroyed, will be temporarily replaced by an interim one when we die, and will be transformed into an eternal one when we are resurrected, a "pneumatic" one, which means one in perfect harmony with our spirit. The spirit is the true, inner "us", but at present has to function and express itself through the limited and corrupted first body. The place where we think about all these things and make our choices, the inner person, is a combination of the two, the "heart" or the "soul" in biblical parlance. But there is only one "us", only one "image of God", only one "will". Struggling with the lusts of the body and the temptations of the world challenge that will, but in the end this entire experience of being "in the body" demonstrates who we really are, who and what we really wanted to be, whether we were willing to respond to the Lord in fact, and if so to what degree. Everything else in this life is background noise. There is a great deal written about all this at Ichthys. I'm happy to give you the links if you are interested in pursuing the truth. One important point to note here apropos of the above is that there is no such thing as a "soul" in the way that the world uses this word; the "soul" is the "us" viewed from the inside, the essential combination of body and spirit that gives us our individual unity; see the links: "the question of the soul" and "Is the Soul a Tertium Quid?"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

Whatever we are, He was and is.

Whatever He was and is, we may be.

Response #28:

You can't be God.

Question #29:

Of course not. We like Him may be Son of God.

As it is written He is "the first-born of many siblings."

Nor is Jesus God, the Father: you do not think that Jesus is the Father; you understand Him when he says the "Father is greater" than He, as well as that He is in the Father and the Father in He.

This may be true for us as well.

I think this is the core question which we could explore in more detail.

How one thinks about this issue does affect how one interprets the work of the Father that Jesus says he finished on earth; that is the Father’s work is the "work of faith with power" as Paul calls it.

Why did Jesus have to finish this work as well as teach others how to do it?

Response #29:

You don't believe in the Trinity?

Question #30:

Good Morning Bob,

I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church. As I boy I prayed the Nicene Creed, which remains part of the liturgy in the Anglican -Catholic Church and I can pray this Creed with belief today.

My view of scripture may be compared to how a strict constructionist views the US Constitution. Jesus says it this way: "the scripture may not be broken." Which in my view means that one precept cannot contradict another, and "by the traditions of men you make the Word of God of no effect," which means in my view that humans trend to develop theories that replace the Teaching of the Word of God. Many things may be properly deduced from scripture that are not merely literal interpretations, but are implicit truths. I avoid however, developing theories to explain the mysteries of God. Rather, I look first and foremost to what Jesus himself said about his role and relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Someone might say that I pray the Creed which describes the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, based on what I believe Jesus has to say, but do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed by the tradition that has developed over the past 2000 years, which tradition seems to suggest an absolute identity and equality between Father, Son and Holy Ghost, not that there is One God, God the Father (John 14:28 "for the Father is greater than I") that there is the Son of God ( John 10:36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God's Son'?... who is One with the Father ( John 17:21 "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you, And may they be in us) and the Holy Ghost which proceeds from the Father ( John 15:26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.)

First Council of Nicea (325)
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.

Response #30:

Creeds are problematic (this one is no exception).

This simple (ancient) formulation for teaching the Trinity is better: "God is one in essence, three in person". This makes it clear that the persons of the Trinity are co-equal, co-eternal, and con-substantial. Nicene's going on (incorrectly) about "begotten" is a confusion and leads to confusion – because it misunderstands the meaning and usage of the adjective monogenes in John 1:14 and elsewhere (please see the link: "Begotten in the Nicene Creed").

Thanks for the bio.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31:

Hi Bob,

Before I read this let me say it seems to me that the Creed was translating as "begotten" and quoting the same word in Greek (monogenus) that, in turn, was translated by the King James committee as "begotten," in John 1:14, which in turn does not mean "born of" in Old and Middle English ( I was an English major!) but means to get or attain, by effort: so there is only one ( mono) Son of God and that Son ( ..attained by the effort of the Father.. ) is in us all!.... that is what I understand and I think this is what has been understood anciently and all along by those who do understand.

beget v. Old English begietan "to get by effort, find, acquire, attain, seize"

Response #31:

I do hope you will read the link. It's obvious to me that the committee that wrote the Nicene creed nearly three centuries after the New Testament either did not understand what this word really meant or were satisfying political ends (probably both in fact).

Back-translating from English representations based upon earlier misunderstandings gets us nowhere. In other words, it doesn't matter what the English words mean because they have nothing to do with a Greek word which is translating a Hebrew word.

In the history of the Church, confusion concerning the Person of Christ and the work of Christ (which of course are inextricably related) has perhaps been the single most devastating type of attack the evil one has launched – naturally, since the entire Christian faith depends upon understanding these points in full and in truth: it's all about having a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world – which required Him to be both God and man.

The problem in misunderstanding the word in question is that some see in it the idea of origination. God does not have an origin. If He did, He would not be God. This is an easy confusion to produce, since sons originate from fathers; that, however, is no argument for any origination of the Son, since the Father also has no origin. Origination only happens by creation or in creation, and God exists independent of His creation – in three persons of one essence.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32:

Bob,

You have missed my point, which I expressed poorly. I think the English translators of the Greek version of the Creed like the King James translators of John 1:14 and Psalm 2, did have insight into the meaning of the word: ( pun intended) "monogenus". The meaning they recognized was that the God ( whom as you say, is without origin) acquired or found or attained a Son, through His own work on Himself, in Jesus.

This Son is in us all.

King James 2000 God Rules the Heathen
1Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and distress them in his great displeasure. 6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7I will declare the decree: the LORD has said unto me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. 8Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. 9You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

More later,

Response #32:

Your most disturbing email to me yet.

I cannot see how anyone could possibly reconcile "God acquired or found or attained a Son, through His own work on Himself, in Jesus" with the truth of scripture.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved"
Acts 16:31

He – Jesus Christ – is God (see the link), and He took on a true human nature to die in the darkness of Calvary for every single sin of every single human being who has ever lived or will live. To do this He had to be both God and man.

In Him who is the only Way to life eternal, Jesus Christ, "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28).

Bob L.

Question #33:

God is Consciousness (work on Oneself) free from all SELF limitations. This is the same as LOVE. In the Son or Word he expressed this " essence " as you call it, in a way that we can know. In Jesus, whom he raised from the world, He found a son, yet His sonship or Word was in Jesus like it is in you and I right now. This finding was accomplished by God, in Jesus, as Jesus finished the work God gave Him. Jesus’ death on Calvary was only necessary for God in Him to overcome Himself.

15 years ago last October… I DIED…I CALLED OUT TO HIM: "SAVE ME JESUS!" BUT NOW I LIVE. Jesus spoke to me. He said "You’re thirst shall be satisfied" and then "we are in this together."

With all due respect, and I do respect your scholarship, you don't not know all the truth there is expressed in scripture. For instance you cannot see the psychological truth that the Son is present in The Psalmist as are the heathen as it is written present is Psalm 2, can you?

Kiss the Son! ( present, as "Christ I you, the hope of [your] glory" as Paul says). Also I think we are failing to separate apples and oranges. ( poor analogy). The Word or The Son of God and Jesus ( the person and personality) who was and is the only begotten ( the only found son, so far! ) son of God are both manifestations of The Son: The Son with God who was God from the beginning ( the Word) and the Son found by God, Jesus, in whom is and was The Son with God. The Word or The Son of God became flesh ( a person or personality) in Jesus. Jesus speaks in these two ways about himself in the Gospels.

While I am not too fond of this kind reasoning, consider that Jesus says

Matthew 18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

Jesus places himself as person or personality among those not good. Therefore, he claims that he, as a human person or personality, (as a "me" as he puts it) is not God. On the other hand, as I am, as the manifestation of The Word or The Son of God, He is God.

John 8:23 And He was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."…

The Word or The Son of God, who is God, is from above, Jesus as a person (as Son of Man) is from below. Whoops, …..another mystery to discuss!

Response #33:

There is only one person of Christ.

I'm afraid we've "hit the wall" here. From the beginning of the Church, there have been many alternative philosophies and religions and putatively "Christian" groups who have wanted to preach "another Jesus" (2Cor.11:4) – but there is only one.

And this is the word that was preached to you.
1st Peter 1:25b NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #34:

Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

When Jesus speaks of himself here as not "good," and of God as "good," he makes a distinction that belies the notion that he, the person-ality [in his flesh] of Jesus, is God. Can you see that? It parallels what Paul says: "For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells;

Can you see that?

On the other hand, Christ, which must be understood to be The Son of God, which manifested itself in Jesus is good and is God. The miracle of reconciliation is that Jesus Christ ( human failure coupled with the Goodness of Divine Love) was raised from the dead.

Response #34:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 NIV

In Jesus Christ, "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28)

Question #35:

Can you tell me what you think Jesus meant to teach when his told the young ruler not to call him good, for only God was good?

Ps. The importance of this to me is that unless one understands how Jesus viewed his "self," one cannot view one’s "self."

Response #35:

See the link: "Why did Jesus object to being called good?"

Spoiler alert: it wasn't because He isn't God – which He most definitely is.

Question #36:

Hi Bob,

Please read the following article: http://www.tektonics.org/qt/rhema.php

Does the Greek word rhema have a connotation of spoken word, as opposed to logos, or is the connection made by Word-of-Faith theorists spurious?

In Jesus Christ the Risen Lord,

Response #36:

The analysis at the link criticizing this cult is sound (as far as I read). The word logos is an "o" formation noun from the verb lego which means to speak, say or tell (all verbal actions). For the Greeks (and Romans too), reading was always oral, never silent, so the written/spoken distinction would be somewhat lost on them. In terms of usage, I don't have the sense that logos is more "written"; I would have said the opposite if quizzed. For example, at Luke 24:44, Jesus says "these are the words (logoi) I spoke to you". In fact, if a person were to look through the NT for all uses of logos, one would be hard put to find any that describe written communication (and even there, as mentioned, it's a distinction without much of a difference to the Greeks). The word rhema is merely a less common word; it is a synonym, sometimes with different connotations (e.g., it can mean "word of command").

In an age where Greek along with Hebrew and Latin are no longer the underpinnings of our educational system, and when many people, especially Americans, are essentially ignorant of linguistic issues, turning the biblical languages into "magic" and using them to justify all manner of invented theosophy is a commonplace. This notion of infusing unwarranted meaning into individual biblical words is a particularly noisome and dangerous practice, one which is all the rage even within evangelicaldom. But Greek is a phrase language – meaning that more so even than with other languages I have encountered the context (of the entire phrase) is "king" when it comes to interpretation. That doesn't mean that individual words aren't charged with meaning (of course they are). But it does mean that taking any specific word and building a theology around it irrespective of the contexts in which it occurs, something invalid in any language, is even less justified in Greek.

This movement on which you report is merely one of many such examples. As the end draws ever nearer, I'm afraid we're going to see more and more of this sort of thing. This technique allows the cult/individual in question to seem erudite and to seem to be revealing hidden biblical "truths", all the while merely downloading their own ideas into unwitting heads and hearts through misuse of the Bible. As Paul says, "Their condemnation is deserved" (Rom.3:8).

The litmus test? Orthodox teaching has to flow obviously and clearly from the Bible rather than beginning with some theory which is then inducted into the Bible.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #37:

Dear Doc and brother,

1. Would appreciate if you could give me some info on the "Word of Faith" movement which came out of Tulsa, Ok., I believe, or?

2. In Romans 4:17 it says: "17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."

Charismatics, and I pick on them a lot, because they are notorious for taking scripture out of context claim this verse as though they can "call those things that are not as though they were" because they misread the scripture which really says that "God calls those things which be not as though they were" referring to the promise He made to Abraham. They also believe that you can claim a scripture by reciting it and it will come to pass using Psalm 103:20: Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word." So, by proclaiming God's Word, the angels will hearken unto them and do what they have proclaimed. This is totally and completely unbelievable that they would believe some like that. Your comments. Another good one is the "the KJV Bible is the only anointed translation and that all the modern day translations are corrupt. I did a through study on this. I tried to share my thoughts with another believer? and they totally rejected it. I know that they read a book (quite a large one) and swallowed the information in the book, hook, line and sinker. I am appalled at so much false doctrine that abounds in Christianity, especially the Pre-Trib, which I bought into for many years, until several years ago I studied it for myself while preparing a Sunday School lesson I was going to teach. Yes, truly we are living in the age of the Laodicean Church. Thanks again for taking the time to answer me. I really do appreciate your efforts.

Your brother in Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Response #37:

Very good to hear from you, my friend. I certainly share your views on all these matters, and I think everything you say here is spot on in doctrinal terms. The KJV is a very valuable translation but, like all translations, it is not perfect – because it is not the Word of God but merely a translation of the Word of God into a different language. It also suffers, of course, from the fact that its language is now antiquated and as a result often imperfectly understood by many people who do not have the requisite understanding of the history of English (among other things); and, secondly, it was produced from a composite Greek text (in the NT) which was good for its time but which also contained a few significant errors on the account of the fact that the composite text (the so-called Textus Receptus) was based upon a dearth of first class manuscripts which have since come to light (I have written plenty about this and would be happy to send you the links).

On your two numbered questions, they seem to me to be one and the same in essence so I will treat them together. "Word of faith" or "prosperity gospel" or "name it - claim it" or "faith healing" are all variations of the same heresy which has been around for generations. "Word of faith" itself comes from Romans 10:8: "that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (KJV). The idea is that we can "speak a word in faith" and the word them comes true (when of course the passage is talking about the gospel). You have to be a complete ignoramus about the Bible to think that this is the way things work in scripture. If all we have to do is proclaim we are rich or healed or whatever we want, then why did Job have to suffer so much? Why did Abraham have to wait so long? Why was Paul's thorn in the flesh not removed after asking the Lord three times to remove it? Surely, these people are not of greater faith than the apostle Paul, are they? While I am happy to refute any verse they misuse, your fine treatment of Romans 4:17 and Psalm 103:20 shows that on the one hand seeing what these verses actually mean is very simple – for anyone really interested in what they actually mean – and on the other hand people who believe such drivel will believe anything (regardless of our protests and sound exegesis of scripture).

As you note well, my friend, the growth of these movements is a sure "sign of the times". What we have here, if I may cut to the essence of the matter, is a symbiosis of pastors (I use the word advisedly) who want numbers, money, and fame, and parishioners who want immediate healing, prosperity, and other miracles on demand. The latter do not seem to be concerned that all this is contrary to actual scripture, and the former seem willing to say anything and do anything and everything to achieve their secular goals . . . in the name of God (!). As long as there are charlatans willing to sell themselves out to the evil one in order to prosper, and as long as there are worldly "Christians" willing to believe anything – even though it is not in scripture – in order to attain worldly ends, these movements will flourish. And I rather suspect that the beast will use a heaping measure of these sorts of things in the pseudo-Christianity he will soon deploy.

So keep on standing up for the truth, my friend. In that noble effort there is great eternal reward. As Paul says,

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
1st Timothy 4:16 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #38:

Dear Brother Luginbill,

Thank you so very much for your kind response and insight. Yes, I would appreciate very much the links on your writings concerning the KJV only question. I just would have liked to discover your Website much earlier than I did, I have truly learned a lot just in the short time I have been studying your teachings. When I first got saved, from Catholicism, I wondered about the Gap in Genesis 1 verse 1 and verse 2. Finnis Jennings Dake also believed this, but his study is not near and complete as yours. Now, after studying what you say and reading verse 2 in the ISR translation, it all came together for me. I pray that God will continue the great work he has started in you, that many more believers will be helped and blessed as I am.

God's richest blessings on you and your family.

To the one who conquered hell, death and the grave for our sake, be praised forever.

Response #38:

Thanks so much for this! It's very encouraging to me – and will be to others as well.

I always rejoice at the power of the truth to bring light to the eyes and joy to the heart.

I appreciate your prayers, my friend!

Here are those links:

Who wrote the King James version?

King James only?

Is the KJV inspired?

Bible Reading and Translations II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading.

Are new Bible translations part of a conspiracy?

Keep in touch.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #39:

Dear Dr. Luginbill and brother,

I am attending a Church where I hear the Pastor and others quote a scripture outlined below. don't want to make the impression that I am a "know it all", but if I am going to quote a scripture I should be able to support my belief. Before I give my dissertation on this subject, I would just like to say that since I have been studying from your Website, I am learning much; we are all disciples, and I hope I never stop learning.

"God shall supply all our needs" as stated in Philippians 4:19, what does this mean?

Philippians 4:10-19.
"10I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

1. We need to read the context of verse 19 to get the meaning of what Paul is writing in these verses.

2. Many Christians often misinterpret Verse 19 because they fail to notice the context; context is extremely important in finding out what the writer is intended to convey to the reader.

3. I believe the key to what Paul is trying to convey is given in Verse 19 when he writes these words: "According to His riches in glory".

4. This "key" tells us that God will supply the needs of those (remembering context), who had sacrificially given to Paul; gifts (sharing in his troubles, moral support, and perhaps money, etc.).

5. Again, many Christians quote this verse believing that "God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus", lifting it out of the context in which it was written.

6. Just what are these "riches in glory in Christ Jesus"?

7. I believe that they are "spiritual" blessings, not earthly blessings, as Paul states in the following verses:

"12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

8. These are the blessings I believe Paul is speaking about: strength, Faith, Grace, Mercy, forgiveness, kindness, eternal life, healing, etc., etc., all of which are gifts God gives His children.

9. Ephesians 2:8, "8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;" Romans 1:17 says "The just shall live by faith".

10. See 2 Corinthians 12:9 – "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

11. Another reason why I believe that these blessings are more spiritual and not physical, although God does also give physical blessings but, as stated in Colossians 3:1-2:

"1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

We frequently misquote or misapply what the Scriptures are saying because we do not apply the rule of context. As humans, we have the tendency to think about earthly things in terms of God meeting our needs, and forget about the spiritual things which are the most important. I believe that in the case of the scripture in Philippians 4 verse 19, God is speaking expressly about spiritual blessings and not earthly blessings; this premise is based on the phrase in Verse 9 which says: "According to His riches in glory". God is definitely talking about heavenly blessings not earthly things.

See Matthew 6:19-20.
"19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

This scripture verse is often quoted by saying that "God will supply all of my needs", not realizing the meaning.

Please give me your kind input and thoughts on this.

Thanks again,

May God continue to use you in a mighty way, as He already has.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #39:

Good to hear from you again, my friend. Apologies for the delay. A bit of a busy time here.

As to your question, I appreciate your godly interest in trying to prevent abuse of scripture. I read this verse to mean what is says, precisely, namely, that God will supply all of our needs – at least for those who are walking with Christ as the Philippian believers certainly were. It is true that this is one of those verses that prosperity gospel folks make use of to suggest abundant material blessing poured out on all who follow their teaching – and give a lot of money to the ministry in particular. For it is demonstrably true that the real beneficiaries of the prosperity gospel are "pastors" who teach it, because they are able thereby to milk and mulct their congregations to an extraordinary degree for their own personal benefit.

Because of the fact that the context is talking about the financial contribution that the Philippians had made to Paul and his ministry, I don't think we can rule out material blessing as well as spiritual blessings which, as you very rightly argue, are of course part of the picture here. But there are two critical things which the average prosperity gospel teacher usually overlooks or at least omits here. The first is that the Philippians, despite these words of truth, were incredibly poor even by the standards of the believers of the first century (2Cor..8:2-9) – with no indication from scripture even in this later epistle that this situation ever substantially changed – and that Paul, the man who penned these words in the Spirit was also – unlike most prosperity gospel preachers – incredibly poor:

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2nd Corinthians 6:10 NIV

Clearly, Paul had more spiritual blessings than almost any other human being who has ever lived apart from our Lord in His humanity, but that did not obtain equally when it came to material resources.

"Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me."
Acts 20:34 NKJV

And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.
2nd Corinthians 11:19 NKJV

This leads to the second point which is often missed. The passage says "supply all your needs", but it seems to me that most prosperity gospel types focus on the "all" and not the "need". What is it that we really "need"? As you rightly point out, our Lord tells us to look to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field to see that God supplies them with food and covering – and that is really all we "need".

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
1st Timothy 6:8 NASB

Quite a statement. It makes clear that if we have a roof over our heads we have superabundant provision beyond what is really "need" from the divine point of view looking at the needs of believers in the world not to indulge themselves but to follow Jesus in a walk of faith. The verse above is directly preceded by these verses:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
1st Timothy 6:3-7

The final sentiment reminds us that we are – or certainly should be – looking not at this very temporary life but to our eternal reward. After all, all the material prosperity in the world will not advance us one step spiritually, will not help us draw one step closer to Christ, and does not constitute any sort of production for the Lord (unless we give it away in a godly fashion). So focusing on "prosperity" here and now is not only a huge distraction; it is also of no particular benefit since "you can't take it with you". Following verse eight where we are told to be satisfied if we have food and clothing, Paul concludes:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1st Timothy 6:9-10

Here we see that not only does the desire to get rich distract from true spiritual growth, progress and production, and not only is it pointless since worldly wealth even if it is gained does not continue into eternity, but the very longing for such prosperity is a subtle type of spiritual cancer which seeps into the marrow of our spiritual life and even carries with it the possibility of swamping our faith.

For all these reasons, false teaching regarding the so-called prosperity gospel is deadly dangerous, and you do a great service to the true Church of Christ in battling against it. Here are a few links at Ichthys where this subject and related issues are discussed:

Greed and spiritual security (in SR 4)

The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel

The "Prosperity Gospel".

Are health and wealth a part of the gospel?

Does God really want us to be sick and poor? Revisiting the prosperity gospel.

Habakkuk's Prosperity Prayer: Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Revisiting the prosperity gospel

What is wrong with the "prosperity gospel"?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #40:

Dear Bob

Thank you!

Have you written anything on A Course in Miracles (ACIM)?

Seize the day, with Blessings of Christ …

Response #40:

As far as ACIM, is concerned, I always get nervous when people claim they've been having personal, verbal, audible conversations with Jesus – especially when what they have been "told" doesn't square with the Bible. I'm happy to answer specific questions about it, but I couldn't recommend this "course".

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #41:

Hello Dr. L.

I have followed you for a number of years now, and whenever I have had a question I have tossed it your way for insight or a response. I have recently been reading topics from the Christian mysticism end of the spectrum, and one author in particular named Neville Goddard. I have tried to do some pro/con research about him and his writings and I haven't found a lot. There is lots of "pro" from those who follow him and what he has to say, but no critical analysis of what he has to say. At least, not that I can find. Are you familiar with him? Furthermore, is Christian mysticism an oxymoron? I find myself "seeing" what he is saying, but no disquiet within my spirit concerning it. The only thing that I can really sense is that what he is saying has been used by the "name it and claim it" shops of what calls itself Christianity without paying attention to the things that make their interpretation dead wrong. Any comments would be appreciated, as always.

Response #41:

As to Neville Goddard, no, I'd never heard of him before. From what I can see from a brief perusal of cyberspace, he's a new age, mystical, emotions rule, visionary – who built doctrines on visions he'd supposedly seen. Needless to say, this is all completely against the grain as far as I'm concerned. All false teachers (including certain "pastors"), are quite adept at making their stuff seem not directly doctrinally offensive. In fact, these sorts are worse than the average pastor who teaches nothing. They are teaching "something", the only problem is that this "something" is not true, and it may not be obvious to the rank and file of the church-visible that it's not true until they've bought the spiel hook, line and sinker. If the only thing we can say about a "ministry" is that there is nothing obviously dangerous about it in a deadly and catastrophic way at first glance, I'm not sure that this is much of a recommendation. Christians who truly do want to learn about Christ and grow closer to Him are going to persevere until they find just the right place, even if that is hard. One thing I can tell you about this person with no further adieu is that his ministry and writings are not "the right place" (for any serious Christian).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #42:

Hello Robert.

Thank you for your response to my question. As I have said, whenever something is not on the up and up for me, I can usually sense it and then begin looking for the reason for the disquiet. In a way that did happen, but I didn't really recognize that is what it was.

I get almost physically ill when I inadvertently channel surf across one of the TV evangelists and their gimmicks or misdirection. I had a serious problem with this for a long time, and then I was shown that in spite of the tripe they may preach or teach, there will be those who eventually recognize it for what it is and after sincerely searching, find the narrow way.

As I mentioned, I have been looking into Christian mysticism. I have tried to read thru " The Cloud of Unknowing" and "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence which I truly enjoyed and got a lot out of.

And I really did want to get your viewpoint of Christian mysticism. I am not thinking of going to live in a cave or a tree, but I do find a lot of peace and calm whenever I quiet myself and my thoughts as best I can and try to just "be" in the conscious awareness of the presence of God. I know He is there even when my minds eye is not focused on Him, and I also know that the second I turn to seek Him when I have been otherwise occupied mentally that He is there and I also know He has been there.

Anyway, this is what occupies my minds eye right now. But I would like to know your view on what I have asked about.

Thanks for your insights and answers over the years, once again.

Response #42:

On spirituality and mysticism. First, the Bible has a lot to say about spirituality and spiritual growth; however it has absolutely nothing to say about mysticism. In any case, mysticism is a loaded word with no sure definition. Generally speaking, it seems to include the idea of some sort of transcendent spirituality which is divorced from any sort of rational control or grounding in definite, positivist truths. In other words, it can be anything the person teaching it wants it to be. It is certainly the case that as we grow spiritually we will see Jesus more clearly, we will be more attuned to the heavenly realities and less focused on the mundane things of this world. However, if this is not to be forced, if it is to be real, if it is to have the true power of the Spirit, it will be the result of 1) learning the truth of scripture more and more; 2) believing that truth and making a point of applying that truth more and more. In other words, seeing beyond what the world sees is not supposed to be an oddity in the Christian life; it is supposed to be normal. But that "normal" is the result of hard work, consistency, and a proper, godly approach to spiritual growth, progress and production. If it is to be real and powerful, it's got to be done the right way.

Let me draw an analogy based upon something similar I have observed. Spiritually mature Christians who really have logged a lot of time in the Bible and in a good teaching ministry, who really have learned and believed and become consistent in applying the truth of the Word to their lives, may find, should they go to a baby church (and almost all churches out there today are baby churches) that at least at first they get a lot out of the music and devotionals with which they are presented – much more than those who are regular attendees. But that is because they have so much truth to apply that it easily responds to the little truth, emotionally packaged, that is the stock and trade of such churches. It would be a mistake for such an individual to imagine that he/she has "found the right place", and indeed mostly such mature believers will recognize that most of what they were presented with was pablum (and also, in most cases, that the "sermon" or whatever there was was pretty much wrong when it did occasionally make reference to scripture). So this "experience" of theirs is going to have rapidly diminishing effects if repeated – and they will suffer spiritual harm if they entrust themselves to such a ministry because of it. Mystic writings are, for Christians who do have a good relationship with the Lord, somewhat akin to the above. They can occasion a "good experience" because such believers will recognize in the common thread of such teachings a focus off of the world (most churches today teach family and relationship stuff with little regard for the Bible), and will inject into the malleable paradigms of such writings the considerable amount of truth they already have in their hearts. But it would be a mistake to think that the flow of truth is going the other way, and too much attention to such things will result in the same sort of dyspeptic cognitive dissonance one gets from going back to the "experience church" once too often – and far worse if any serious, long-term attention is given to such writings.

Or to put it more simply, in general I think any believer would be much better served reading the Bible and learning the truth from a good teaching ministry. All the things that "mystics" hype are really only possible in a deep sense through that route, the correct route, and can only be partially reproduced more in appearance than reality by trying to force feed it with false systems. More than that, most people who style themselves as mystics never really bothered to do things the right way, so that inevitably there are serious pitfalls in their approaches – as in this fellow you mention who thought he had visions. That means either he's nuts or deliberately deceptive. I don't see any other possibility – especially inasmuch as the "information" he received seems to collide with the truth. When the Lord returns, genuine visions will return also. And all manner of things will happen once the Tribulation begins that have not transpired since the apostles left the scene (some true, some false). Until then, we are quite safe in drawing the proper conclusions about the above – and really must do so if we want to remain spiritually safe. It's actually not a bad thing to consider such movements as you are doing if only as a means of inoculation oneself against what is false. After all, once the Tribulation begins, the deception launched upon the world by antichrist and his false prophet would "deceive even the elect, if that were possible" – and sadly in some cases, all too many cases, it will be possible (it's called the Great Apostasy; see the link). Here are a few related links which I hope will be helpful to you:

Third Party Testimony: We Believe God and His Word – Not People

Cult Characteristics

Dangers of Deception in the Tribulation

Satan's Three Lies

Cults and Christianity III

Atheism and Gnosticism: Denying the Truth about God

Culture and Christianity X

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend! Only the truth is of any use to us in this Christian spiritual warfare we are waging daily against the minions of the evil one.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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