Monday, July 30, 2012

Lure Them In, pt. 2

Part One

If you didn't figure it out already, the title is play on the lyrics to a well-known hymn, Bring Them In.  The song contains a nice allusion to what I believe is the parable of the lost sheep.  The concept of "lure them in" doesn't happen in the Bible.  "Bring Them In" isn't a picture of an invitation to church, but an invitation to salvation.

I recently had a private conversation with a pastor who uses promotion (offering of candy, small toys, soda pop, etc.) to lure a crowd.  I suggested to him (privately) that having a majority of unbelievers in your assembly could affect or influence your own young people.  I gave several possible bad results from this.  I oppose it for many other reasons.  Problems, however, occur when we in any way move from a scriptural path.  In at least three sermons after that, he told the story of the pastor he talked to who criticized their caring for the lost.  I said nothing of the kind to him.  I hope they care for the lost.  I think they are convinced that they do.  But I want you to consider with me who really cares for the unsaved sinners.

Option A.  A church goes out and preaches the gospel to everyone, attempting to preach the gospel to everyone.  Option B.  The people of a church go out to invite everyone to church, and just to be kind, let's say or imagine that 50% of those invited attend the church, and when they go, they hear the gospel at the church gathering.  Which of these two is most caring?  In other words, who really does care for unsaved sinners?

In option A everyone hears the gospel and has an opportunity to be saved.  In option B only half the people hear the gospel and have an opportunity to be saved.  The other half of the people, even with the very generous 50% attendees, do not have the opportunity to be saved.  With option A, the Bible is obeyed and the example of Christ and the Apostles is followed.  In option B, a methodology is invented and added to Scripture.   God is love.  They who abide in God, abide in love.  The Bible is God's Word.  Nothing could be more loving than what God's Word says to do.  God defines love.  God defines care.  If we do what the Bible says, then we are being the most caring and loving possible.  Option A alone follows God's Word.  Option A really cares for unsaved sinners.  Option A cares for sinners more than Option B.  We shouldn't want our people to believe option B.  It isn't caring for us to convince them they are more caring when they disobey Scripture.  In addition to not caring for unsaved sinners, it doesn't care for God.

The promotion in poor neighborhoods done by churches who follow the pattern of option B above is akin to the new society of United States history.  It is a kind of church welfare.  It is a program that goes to the people who are most vulnerable to these kinds of methods, and takes advantage of those people.  It uses them in essence for the sake of numbers.  It justifies the American welfare system, because it initiates a plan that mirrors that system.  American politicians grow their political power by buying votes.  Churches grow their numbers too by buying attendees.  The people that are most accustomed to taking a handout are vindicated by a church, a church which would most likely say that it is against this kind of strategy when it is utilized by the American government.  The people are not shown then the way out.  They are encouraged to remain the same type of people, who would be motivated in such a way.

The same types of arguments would be used in the government as would be used by the revivalist, fundamentalist churches who use promotion to lure in attendees.  Those who oppose the government handouts would be called uncompassionate, lacking in care.  Those who oppose the church promotional handouts would be called uncompassionate, lacking in care.  Both actually are causing harm.  By nature of its superior institutional position, the church is doing more harm than the government.  For what is at stake, the operation of the church, of which Jesus is the Head, a perverted methodology is worse when the church uses it.


Am I wrong to think that nothing seems more theologically wacky than professing Calvinists who think that they are more evangelistic by using humanly devised new measures to increase their unsaved crowd?  They might use fancy theological terms to describe what they're doing---contextualizing, missional, incarnational---but they are really just using forms of promotion and marketing as a part of a church growth technique.  They aren't trusting in God.  They aren't trusting that salvation is of the Lord.  They are behaving as though church growth is dependent on them, even though their professed theology says that it is irrelevant.

What puts the "restless" and the "new" into these Calvinists is how they expect church growth will happen.  The band---rock, rap, or grunge, the kegger party, the casual dress, the staging and lighting, the comedic style of communication, multisite technology---all of these and more are a basis for growth.  In a recent online video, well-known new Calvinist, Mark Driscoll, in a discussion with James MacDonald and Mark Dever, in his defense of being streamed into a particular multisite, talks about the necessity of his speaking versus someone there in New Mexico as a means of church growth.   Driscoll admits that no one had as much contribution to his preaching skills then the comedian Chris Rock. These are the lures of the new Calvinists, none of which match up with anything related to scriptural church growth.  It's easy to see and then they themselves would explain that these are keys to the expansion of their church and movement.

What is different between the revivalist, fundamentalist (RF) lures and the young, restless, and reformed (YRR) lures?   They are targeting a different audience.  The RF would argue that they are way different because they don't use sinful means as YRR for their attraction.  In essence, the RF would claim to use a less worldly means in degree than that of the YRR for their attraction.  They would preach against the casual dress and the alcohol.  However, they are strange bedfellows in depending on an invitation philosophy and the use of humanistic methods to attract unbelievers.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Did the Trinity Come from Paganism? part 3

This is a continuation of part 2.

When the Unitarians in the Watchtower society wish to prove that the Trinity comes from paganism in general, they quote, more often than any other single reference book[i] in their Should You Believe In the Trinity? the work “The Paganism in Our Christianity [which] declares: ‘The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan.’”[ii]  While the lack of context makes the quotation extremely difficult to trace,[iii] one can with great diligence discover that it comes from pg. 197 of the book in question, written by one Arthur Wiegall[iv] (New York, NY:  Knickerbocker Press, 1928).  An extensive quotation of Wiegall will demonstrate to all just how credible—or rather, incredible—he is:
[T]he miraculous . . . made [Christ] God incarnate to the thinkers of the First Century;  all these marvels make Him a conventional myth to those of the Twentieth.  Many of the most erudite critics are convinced that no such person [as Jesus Christ] ever lived. . . . [The] twelve disciples [were invented from] the twelve signs of the Zodiac. . . . [The gospels are] meagre and garbled accounts . . . borrowed from paganism . . . many of the details of the life of our Lord are too widly improbable to be accepted in these sober days. . . . [M]any gods and semi-divine heroes have mothers whose names are variations of “Mary” . . . the name of our Lord’s mother may have been forgotten and a stock name substituted. . . . . The mythological origin of [the record of Jesus’ birth] is so obvious that the whole story must be abandoned. . . . [When] St. Luke says that when the child was born Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger . . . [the] author was here drawing upon Greek mythology. . . . The story of the Virgin Birth . . . is derived from pagan sources. . . . The story of the forty days in the wilderness and the temptation by Satan . . . [comes from] a pagan legend. . . . the account of the Crucifixion . . . parallels . . . rites of human sacrifice as practiced by the ancients. . . . In primitive days it was the custom in many lands for a king or ruler to put his own son to death as a sacrifice to the tribal god. . . . in the primitive Passover a human victim was probably sacrificed. . . . [T]he side of Jesus [being] pierced by a lance . . . [relates to] a widespread custom [like] . . . the primitive Albanians used to sacrifice a human being to the moon-goddess by piercing his side with a spear. . . . Nobody in his senses now believes that Jesus ascended into Heaven . . . His body must anyhow have died or been cast aside. . . . such an ascension into the sky was the usual end to the mythical legends of the lives of pagan gods . . . [T]he Christian expression “washed in the blood of the Lamb” is undoubtably a reflection of . . . the rites of Mithra. . . . [T]he worshippers of Mithra practiced baptism by water. . . . There is no authentic evidence that Jesus ever intended to establish a Church . . . the Lord’s Supper has been changed . . . under Mithraic and other ancient influences. . . . The doctrine of the Atonement . . . nauseates the modern mind, and . . . is of pagan origin, being indeed the most obvious relic of heathendom in the Faith . . . it is not, of course, supported by anything known to have been said by Jesus. . . . this idea of a god dying for the benefit of mankind, and rising again, had is origin in the fact that nature seemed to die in winter and revive in spring. . . . [T]he Logos [the Greek term for “Word,” used of the Lord Jesus in John 1:1, 14; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13] theory, which had been adopted by the author of the Gospel of St. John from the philosophy of Philo . . . went a long way towards establishing the identification of Jesus Christ with God . . . the idea of the Logos itself was pagan. . . . Sunday, too, was a pagan holy day . . . the Jewish Sabbath . . . is obviously derived from moon-worship. . . . Now Sunday . . . had been for long the holy day in the solar religions of Mithra . . . Christians . . . [worshipped on Sunday] by pagan custom. . . . in this Twentieth Century thoughtful men . . . [reject] the phantom crowd of savage and blood-stained old gods who have come into the Church, and, by immemorial right, have demanded the worship of habit-bound man.”[v]
Weigall is obviously an irrational, Bible-hating wacko.  He provides no documentation, no proof, nothing that even closely resembles a semblance at an argument for the claims in his book;  they are nothing but the speculations and ridiculous accusations of his feverishly anti-Christian mind.  The Watchtower quotes Weigall more than any other individual in their Should You Believe in the Trinity?—despite the fact that a quote from him on the origin of the Trinity has about equal weight with a quote from a supermarket tabloid about King Kong being sighted in Yosemite National Park or one of the Tooth Fairy opening up a dental practice in New York City.

The quotations made by Arians and Unitarians to affirm that the Trinity is derived from paganism are regularly unreliable and untrustworthy, and they are all, in any case, false.  The Scripture, which is superior to all uninspired historical evidence, manifests the Biblical origin of Trinitarianism.  The Arian and Unitarian interpretation of post-Biblical history is also unscholarly and mythological.  The idea that the Trinity is derived from paganism cannot be sustained.
Arians (and others) sometimes put together a variety of pictures of three pagan gods in a group[vi] to scare people into thinking that the Trinity comes from paganism, and sometimes manufacture or find various further quotations that allege that the Trinity was derived from various pagan religions.[vii]  However, there simply is no connection between pagans who worshipped many gods and sometimes put three of them together (as they would sometimes put two, four, or some other number of their gods together in a particular idolatrous image) and the tri-unity of the one God of the Bible.[viii]

Similarly, Unitarians and modalists may affirm that Trinitarianism was derived from Plato or Platonic philosophy.  They offer as proof for their contention extremely questionable quotations of the sort examined above, by people like Norton, Lacugna, and Weigall.  What they do not do is quote Plato.  A rather severe problem for their position is that the writings of Plato do not contain the doctrine of the Trinity.[ix]  Nor do the writings of Aristotle or other pre-Christian pagan philosophers.  Similarities of language[x] between post-Christian neo-Platonic philosophers and Christian Trinitarians are weak, and similarites of meaning are either nonexistent or very strained.  If they were to indicate anything, they would demonstrate the influence of Christian theology upon the thought of post-Christian pagan philosophy, rather than the reverse.[xi]  Furthermore, even if one were to establish genuine and clear Trinitarian testimonial from pre-Christian pagan writings—which cannot be done—it would not demonstrate that Christians took pagan ideas into their theological system when they believed in the Trinity.  The fact that the fundamentals of Trinitarian doctrine were given to Adam (Genesis 1:2, 26), recognized by righteous Gentiles in the Old Testament era (Job 19:25-27; 33:4, echoing Genesis 1:2) and believed by Israel in the Mosaic economy (Isaiah 48:16) makes the consideration that remnants of the original Trinitarian revelation might be present among those descendents of Adam that fell into paganism, or among those pagans influenced by Israel or righteous Gentiles in the Old Testament era, a definite possibility.  In this case, Trinitarian ideas present in pre-Christian, non-Jewish writings would be evidence of influence from the God of Adam and of Israel.[xii]  What cannot in any wise be established historically is that Christian Trinitarianism was simply the influx of pagan thought into theological thinking.


[i] See pgs. 3, 6, 11, Should You Believe in the Trinity?

[ii] Should You Believe In the Trinity? in the section, “How Did The Trinity Doctrine Develop?” pg. 11.  Weigall is also quoted with approval elsewhere in this Watchtower work (pgs. 3, 6).

[iii] The publisher of the book is not cited.  The page number the quote is from is not cited.  The year the book was published is not cited.  The ISBN number is not cited.  The Watchtower work which quotes the book has no bibliography.  Nothing is provided in the Watchtower composition that would enable the reader to access the book in question and discover if the author has any credibility is provided;  the most basic conventions for quoted material are neglected.  In light of the radically, ridiculously unhistorical and unscholarly nature of the book in question, a desire on the part of the Watchtower society to make the book inaccessible and so prevent readers from discovering the facts about it is understandable, though detestable.  The lack of page numbers, publishers, year published, etc. is a common factor for all works cited in this Watchtower publication.

[iv] Weigall is an individual of sufficient obscurity that his academic qualifications, or lack thereof, are nearly impossible to discover.  It is not known if this great “historian” went to college, if he dropped out of high school (as did the majority of the New World “Translation” committee), etc.

[v] Pgs. 17, 19, 20, 23-24, 50, 51, 60, 61-62, 68, 71, 85, 86, 87, 92, 105, 140, 141, 152, 155, 160, 163, 187-188, 229-230, 235-236, 277.

[vi]             cf. Should You Believe in the Trinity? pgs 2, 10

[vii]             cf. Should You Believe in the Trinity? pgs. 11-12.

[viii] Robert Morey (pgs. 488-489, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues. Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 1996) writes, “The Watchtower . . . ‘proves’ [its] claim [that the Trinity comes from paganism] by pictures of three idols of various pagan deities standing together as if they represent the source of the Christian concept of the Trinity.  For example, they point to Egyptian idols of Osiris, Isis, and Horus.

This argument is based on two very basic logical fallacies.  First, it commits the fallacy of equivocation in that the word ‘Trinity’ is being used with several different meanings.  The word ‘Trinity’ according to Christian theology refers to one, infinite/personal God eternally existing in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  But the word ‘Trinity’ is used by the Arians to refer to any grouping of three finite gods and goddesses.  Obviously there is no logical relationship between three finite gods and the one trinue God of Christianity.
Second, the fallacy of equivocation leads to the categorical fallacy of trying to relate together concepts that have no relationship at all.  The following diagram illustrates the radical difference between the Trinity and pagan triads:
The Trinity
Pagan triads
one God
three gods & goddesses
infinite in nature
finite in nature
ignorant of some things
limited to one place
good and evil
The Watchtower’s attempt to link the Trinity to pagan triads reveals either that [it does] not understand the Trinity, or that, if [it] does, [it] is being deliberately deceptive.”

[ix] Morey (pg. 489-490, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues) writes, “The same problem arises when [Arians—specifically the Watchtower in Should You Believe in the Trinity?] claims the doctrine of the Trinity came from Plato.  They do not indicate where the Trinity can be found in the writings of Plato.  They quote from Unitarians and other anti-Trinitarians who make the same claim, but nowhere do they quote Plato.

Since we are quite familiar with Plato and have translated some of his dialogues from the original Greek, we must go on record that we have never found in Plato anything even remotely resembling the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  Perhaps this is why Arians never give a single reference to Plato’s works to back up their claims. . . .

[T]he Watchtower . . . [has] made [the] claim many times . . . that . . . [Trinitarians] borrowed their conceipt of the Trinity from Platonism and used Plato’s Demiurge as their concept of Christ . . . What they fail to tell their readers is that Plato’s Demiurge was a finite being created by God and, thus, not equal to God.  The following diagram reveals whose Christ is patterned after the Demiurge:

The Demiurge
Two Views of Christ

not created
not eternal
not eternal
not omnipresent
not omnipresent
not omniscient
not omniscient
not omnipotent
not omnipotent
full deity
From the above chart, it is clear that it is Arianism that has patterned its view of Christ from Plato’s Demiurge.”

It is also noteworthy that many Roman Catholics (though not all—some were rabid enough to attempt to read into Plato’s works what was clearly not present, a practice followed even by some earlier writers) who adopted and promolugated much of the philosophy of Plato in the medieval and subsequent eras, and tried with all their might to Christianize the Greek philosopher, were honest enough to admit that there was no Trinity in Plato.  For example, “Marsilio Ficino, 1433–1499, one of the circle who made the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent famous, was an ordained priest, rector of two churches and canon of the cathedral of Florence. He eloquently preached the Platonic gospel to his ‘brethren in Plato,’ and translated the Orphic hymns, the Hermes Trismegistos, and some works of Plato and Plotinus, — a colossal task for that age. He believed that the divine Plotinus had first revealed the theology of the divine Plato and “the mysteries of the ancients,” and that these were consistent with Christianity. Yet he was unable to find in Plato’s writings the mystery of the Trinity” (David Schaff, The Middle Ages: From Boniface VIII, 1294, to the Protestant Reformation, 1517, Vol. 6, Chap. 8:65 in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, elec. acc.).

[x] The evident fact that the requirements of language will lead to some overlap in terminology between God’s people and paganism as believers communicate the truths about God derived from revelation should be obvious from a simple consideration of the necessities of discourse in a language common to believers and unbelievers.  The fact that a Christian who is explaining truth about the nature of God in modern America at a secular university to a philosophy major may use terminology familiar to his unsaved philosophical friend does not mean that the Christian’s view of God came from anti-God philosophy.  Christian theological works that employ a precision of logic and terminology also employed by careful non-Christian philosophical works do not thereby prove that the Christian content was adopted from that of the pagans.  Likewise, the use of a Trinitarian word such as hupostasis by both Christians and pagans is no more proof that the Christian concept came from pagan philosophy then the fact that the phrase “one God” was employed by Christians and pagan philosophy demonstrates that Christians derived their idea of the unity of God from heathenism.  One might as well conclude that a church building is an evil derived from the ungodly world because structures owned by both Christians and non-Christians follow common standards required by law in building codes.

[xi] “The Socinian and rationalistic opinion, that the church doctrine of the Trinity sprang from Platonism and Neo-Platonism is  . . . radically false. The Indian Trimurti, altogether pantheistic in spirit, is still further from the Christian Trinity. . . . [The post-Christian pagn writers] Plotinus (in Enn. V. 1) and Porphyry (in Cyril. Alex. 100 Jul.) who, however, were already unconsciously affected by Christian ideas, speak of trei√ß uJposta¿seiß but in a sense altogether different from that of the church” (Philip Schaff, Ante-Nicene Christianity, Vol. 2, Chap. 12:149 of his History of the Christian Church, elec. acc.).

[xii] The affirmation of revelatory influence upon pagan philosophy is alleged, for example, by Justin Martyr, who asserts that Plato derived his idea that there was but one God from Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt (Horatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 20).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I'm Not a Calvinist, part five

Hi, I fully intend on completing the series on 'luring them in' (as well as every other series that I haven't completed---remind me of the ones I haven't finished), but today I interrupt completely that series by working on another series.  Why?  I usually figure out what to write while I'm jogging, and this one crossed my mind while running this morning.   You also may be wondering why "part five," when I've only written parts one and two.  Reason:  There are at least one and probably two in between this one in logical order after the first two.  I never finished what I was writing about Romans 9.  For those new to this:  part one and part two.


I've said that I want to be a Calvinist.  It's true, if Calvinism is true.  A book I'm reading now is by a Calvinist, someone who believes that regeneration precedes faith (which not all Calvinists believe), and the book is about salvation.   The one before that had several chapters written by a Calvinist, writing about the points of Calvin.  When I read those books, I'm open to being a Calvinist.  Not just open.  I want to be one.  But it doesn't work with me.  Perhaps this occurs because I had studied my Bible a long time before I ever read about Calvinism, so what I already know the Bible says keeps getting in the way of what Calvinists write.

Since the Bible is the only authority, we should get our doctrine from the Bible.  If you were dropped a Bible on a deserted island and had to come up with your doctrine just from the Bible, you wouldn't have come up with Calvinism.  Calvinism doesn't pass the test for me.  I know they say it does for them and that's the reason they believe it, but I don't believe them. I don't want to hurt their feelings.  It's just that I think that the only way you become Calvinist is by reading Calvinists.  After having read Calvinists and beginning to exist on the inside of that Calvinist barrel, everything begins to look like the inside of the barrel.

It's ironic, but Calvinists manipulate the sovereignty of God.  God is sovereign.  He is.  But Calvinists argue and write as though they are sovereign over His sovereignty.  We can't let God be sovereign.  He just is.   But in beliefs, we should also allow Him to be sovereign.  Since He is sovereign, we should let what He says about His own sovereignty actually be His sovereignty, not fiddle with it.

As sovereign as God is, which also involves His wisdom, power, and love, He can preserve His Word and He can preserve my soul.  Many Calvinists today see God has sovereignty over their souls, but not over His Word.  They are eclectic textual critics, hoping to still find God's Words.  They're the ones who choose.  Of course, He chooses them before the foundation of the world, unconditionally and they can't resist receiving Him, but many of them believe and teach that God couldn't or just didn't fulfill what He said He would do with His Words.  That unwillingness to believe what God said He would do, but then to believe things that Scripture doesn't say, based on their own logic, is where God isn't God any more to the Calvinist.  They've claimed sovereignty over the doctrine of preservation of Scripture.  And then there are all the out-and-out Calvinists, who say that salvation is all about God, monergism and all that, but then they are the biggest proponents of many various new measures, humanly derived, for church growth, as if it really did depend on their ingenuity.   This is where I say that I'm more Calvinist than Calvinists are.  But I digress.

When Calvinists lay out their system and plug the verses in, they can make them make sense, if that were all you were left with.  But as they read in their context, they don't have to mean what a Calvinist says they mean.  They will only mean that if Calvinism itself were true.  As we've done with the rest of this series so far, let me reveal what I'm talking about with Scripture.  The verses are what keep me from being a Calvinist anyway.

In Luke 13:23, because of how things were going in Jesus' ministry, someone asked him, "Are there few that be saved?"  If the Calvinistic view of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace were true, Jesus should say, "There are few because God chose only a few and Christ died for just a few.  Men are dead and they are unable to respond unless God first regenerates them to believe."  But Jesus didn't.  He made it sound like few were saved because men weren't striving (agonizing) to enter the narrow gate (v. 24).   If He wanted men to strive, all He needed to do was to regenerate a few more to do so.  And how much actual striving is necessary when grace is irresistible.  No resistance doesn't sound like striving.  This is just an example of how what Jesus says clashes with a Calvinistic view of salvation.

There is a lot I like about the Calvinistic system.  Parts of it are really nice, and when you read its theologians and preachers, they write some good material, but the system itself is badly flawed.  Let me give you another one.

Dead men are, well, dead.  As dead as someone in a casket, they can't respond.  Since spiritual death is total inability, then I would assume that these dead men could not suppress the truth.  The way it reads in the King James Version in Romans 1:18 is that these dead men "hold fast the truth in unrighteousness."  The understanding of "hold fast" is that they hold the truth away from themselves in their unrighteousness.  They suppress the truth.  How is God's wrath justified against these unrighteous?  Well, they have suppressed the truth.  These dead men know the truth.  There is even an inclination toward believing it, or else how could they suppress it?  And God's wrath against them is for what reason?  Because God didn't choose them?  Because God didn't regenerate them?  If God's grace was involved, then it was unsuppressable, right?  Wrong.  One would understand that God's wrath was vindicated by the fact that people who knew God, had sufficient knowledge to be saved, were thinking about the truth, suppressed it out of rebellion.

And lastly for this edition of "Why I'm Not a Calvinist" I bring you to Jesus parable of the sower in Matthew 13.  Why does Jesus give such a drawn out, intricate, detailed explanation for why it is that people don't believe, don't receive Him, if the simple answer is that He didn't choose them to be saved?  I would be fine with that answer if it were true.  I would believe God to be just in condemning whoever He wanted.  Since God defines what is true and good, how could I question Him if He simply crafted people for the sole purpose of damnation?  I wouldn't.  But Jesus doesn't give that as an explanation.  What He says is that people don't bring forth fruit, that is, they aren't saved, because of their lack of reception of the seed for various reasons different for different people.   Two of the reasons people don't receive the seed, the saving message of the gospel, is because they either approach it too superficially (rocky soil) or because they are too interested in the world or riches (thorny ground).  That's too much of an answer if the real answer was that God had predetermined some to salvation and others to damnation.

The points of Calvinism don't glorify God more than how He wants to be glorified.  God doesn't get glorified more by misrepresentations of Himself.  I contend that Calvinism has become (of course only hypothetically or in a Calvinistic thought experiment) sovereign over God's sovereignty.  I want actual sovereignty, not a made-up kind that poses as glorifying God more.  Salvation is of the Lord.  That, I have no doubt.  It can't be more "of the Lord" than the Lord Himself makes it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Audio at Bethel Baptist Church

Please read Monday's blog post.  However, we want to update you on a few things, first, that A Pure Church (pre-publication, one copy, and multiple copies) is to the printers and will be out four weeks after we approve the proofs, which should be any day.  Second, we have audio of the sermons and lessons taught and preached at our church.  Almost everything is exposition.  These are up to June 2011, but we are attempting to get everything online.  If you aren't a member at Bethel, and elsewhere, when we preached them doesn't matter so much, but there are new ones going up regularly.  Here are the series just going up.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lure Them In, pt. 1

When Purpose Driven Church first came out, I had never heard of Rick Warren, and I snatched it up immediately.  I thought we were Purpose Driven and I wanted to know what he had to say.  If you read that book, you had a hard time finding the purpose.  I concluded the purpose was "making unsaved people happy when they visit your church."  Rick Warren grew up in the home of a Southern Baptist pastor, who moved from small church to small church.  When little Rick invited unsaved kids to his dad's church, things weren't designed to impress his visitors so they wouldn't come back.  This sent Rick on a path to research what would make churches get big.  In his book, he says that nothing was more important for growth than the choice of music.  They went out and polled everyone and found people wanted "pop music."  That became the music of Saddleback.  People who didn't like pop music would just become necessary casualties to church growth success.

Luring in unbelievers to church has become the major if not unanimous church growth philosophy of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  Rick Warren isn't alone in that particular purpose that drives his church.  What attracts unbelievers?  Surprise.  Carnal things.

The Corinthians understood the attraction of carnality for church growth.  They knew that Greeks sought after wisdom and Jews after signs, among other allurements.  Excellency of speech was important to impress Greeks.  They had mastered rhetoric and logic and debate to defend themselves in their own court systems.   If you couldn't impress with your speaking ability, you weren't going to attract Corinthians.  The church there knew the importance of ecstasy in Greek worship in their temples and religion.  They also brought that into the church.  Paul derided and forbade all these different sorts of compatibility with the culture for purposes of church growth.  He required faith in the gospel instead and especially in order to glorify God.  Despite that, these techniques continue and more so today than ever.

Unbelievers aren't spiritual, so you can only go for the carnal to attract them and so churches do in many different ways.  You can divide the kind of allurements into categories.


It would seem that "revivalist" and "lure" would be mutually exclusive.  I would understand someone thinking this.  If you've got the power of God, the dynamic working of the Holy Spirit, perhaps even gained by paying the cost, you wouldn't resort to carnal allurements.  Not so.  The revivalists have been on the cutting edge especially of luring a particular demographic.  There is a tradition of revivalists using carnality to lure unbelievers to their gatherings.

I have called their strategy promotion.  Technically or definitionally I don't think there is a difference between promotion and marketing, but I have used them to differentiate between different strategies.  You promote for one demographic and you market to another.

Revivalists have their own musical attraction in the way of fast paced kind of carnival-type music that is designed to have some kind of effect on people.  They have specialized in certain kinds of performance features in the music to target unbelievers.  Some of this is now too tame to have as much of an effect, but it still comes with the same philosophical underpinnings.  This music has been so long now, it has a tradition.  Because it has been used in church, now its adherents think it is church music and discern it as spiritual.  It wasn't written to be spiritual, but because it has an effect, that is now attributed to the Holy Spirit.  This is the ecstatic feature of this musical aspect of revivalist fundamentalism.

In addition to the music are give-aways.  Evangelicals do this too, but revivalist fundamentalists have specialized in small toys, candy, ice cream, fast food, and soda.  These motivate a poorer, unbelieving demographic to do something.  These strategies work on certain people up to a certain age, so there is a turn-over rate, but they haven't stopped working.  When they work, the success of them also motivates the workers, which helps keep them going.  In the end, the allurements are called service and are attributed to "God working."  None of this is true, but it is how it works in revivalist fundamentalism.

On top of certain music and give-aways, revivalist fundamentalists depend on "big-days," that among them could be carnival Sunday, round-up Sunday, old-fashioned Sunday, among others.  They might have in a magician, a musician, or give away a trip to the zoo, a kite, a sno-cone, a watermelon, or a package of M & M's.  Most of you readers know about this strategy.

Some revivalist fundamentalists do this more than others.  For some, it is very developed and constant.  For others, it is more hit and miss.  I'm surprised to find how wide ranging it is.  It isn't just Hyles people who do this.  Bob Jones types also use these strategies regularly.  Some put a big emphasis on it during their version of vacation Bible school---Neighborhood Bible Time, etc.  You've got traveling groups that do this with teens for an entire week to lure in unsaved teens with the carnal amusements and promotions.  They also in most cases also believe in the "power of God," ironically.

The practices I've described are an offense to God.  They take away glory from Him.  They turn faith into sight, so they are faithless.  They practice and encourage carnality.  They take away discernment.  They make the church into something it isn't supposed to be.  They disobey scriptural methodology.  They hurt real evangelism.  They make a mockery out of worship.  I could list twice as many of these that I've already written.  I think that this part of Christianity has done more damage to the church than any other practice.

Despite all of what I've said they are, they most often don't result in a loss of or break in fellowship between churches.  Churches expect other churches to do these things.  It reminds me of what people will say about winning professional sports teams:  "if you aren't cheatin', you're not tryin.'"  They think that teams that really want to win should cheat.  The idea is that the churches that do these things, which are like or are cheating, are trying harder because they resort to this carnality.  It is so prominent that people now just expect it and then let it go.  This should be a separating issue because of what it is.

One more thing.  How is this justified?  One is that scripture doesn't say, "Thou shalt not give candy."  Another is that Jesus told  a story in which a lord said to his servants to go into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in---a misinterpretation of that has become a reason to lure people in.  Also, Jesus healed people---that drew a crowd.  He used something to draw a crowd so doing that is permissible.  What about all of these?  In short, first, silence isn't permission.  1 Corinthians 1-3 forbids this.  Jesus' parable was teaching to preach to sinners, not promotion.  And then Jesus' healing wasn't to draw a crowd.  He healed people to show He was the Messiah.  None of those work as arguments and how could they be teaching that in contradiction to what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 1-3?  Jesus hated that people followed Him for temporal bread or to seek after signs.  He said it was an adulterous people who did that.

Another point of the revivalist fundamentalists is now used to differentiate them from evangelicals who do the same kind of thing.  The fundamentalists aren't as bad.  It's a matter of degree.  If you don't do too much of it, you're not so bad.  I'm convinced these people know this is wrong, but maybe I'm too positive in this evaluation.  I think they know it's wrong and they do it anyway.  The most popular way to deal with things like I've said here is to attack me.  I lack compassion.  Why not go soulwinning instead of criticizing?  Or, how many souls have you won lately?   Those attacks don't mean anything to me, except to add to the exposure of the ones this post describes.

More to Come

Friday, July 20, 2012

Did the Trinity Come From Paganism? part 2

The Watchtower also, as quoted above in part one, wrote: “The Encyclopedia of Religion admits: ‘Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity.’ . . . The Encyclopedia of Religion says: ‘Theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity.’” The very vague references, without author, page number, volume number, publisher, or any other source information besides the title, can with diligence be traced to the many-volumed Encylopedia of Religion, and found within the article on the Trinity in that set.  There the article in the Encyclopedia does indeed declare, “Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity . . . the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity.”  However, the article goes on to say “the exclusively masculine imagery [that is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] of trinitarian doctrine [is a problem].  The fatherhood of God should be rethought in light of the critique of feminist theologies and also in view of the nonpatriarchal understanding of divine paternity . . . the Christian doctrine of God must be developed also within the wider purview of other world religions . . . [it] cannot be christomonistic, excluding persons of other faiths from salvation.”  The reason the author of this article in the encyclopedia, Catherine Mowry LaCugna, denies that the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine is the same reason she thinks the “fatherhood of God should be rethought” and asserts that non-Christians are going to heaven—she is an radically liberal, anti-Bible “feminist theologian” who believes that much of the doctrine of the “Trinity is metaphysical speculation that must be rejected because it has given rise to ‘sexist and patriarchal’ outcomes . . . . [Her] approach [has] almost no reference to the biblical text and [manifests a] disdain for church history, [while it also] does not allow for the notion of truth or revelation outside of personal subjective experience.”[i]  “LaCugna argues that early Christian history and dogma took an improper approach by defining God’s inner life, the self-relatedness of the Father, Son and Spirit . . . she believes that valid criticisms have been made by liberation and feminist theologians about the Christian doctrine of God as sexist and oppressive . . . [she argues for a doctrine of God that will] allow oppressed persons (women and the poor) to be able to restructure the human community . . . [she believes that] the doctrine of monotheism . . . must be discarded . . . [while the inspiration of the Bible is also rejected, to affirm that] God can only reveal to people what they experience.”[ii]  The Arians in the Watchtower society wish to convey the idea that rational scholarship, as evidenced in a weighty Encyclopedia,  knows that the Trinity is not a Biblical doctrine—one who discovers that the quotations made are actually the raving of a far-left radical feminist who rejects Scripture, monotheism, and the Fatherhood of God, but believes that people can become deified, are not very likely to be impressed.  The reason the Watchtower makes the reference hard to look up becomes clear.

To prove that Trinitarianism developed from Platonic philosophy, the Watchtower does not quote Plato, but rather mentions that in “the book A Statement of Reasons, Andrews Norton says of the Trinity: ‘We can trace the history of this doctrine, and discover its source, not in the Christian revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy . . . The Trinity is not a doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, but a fiction of the school of the later Platonists.’”[iii]  No further information is offered for the quotations, such as the publisher the pages in the book, or even more than a fragment of the title—not to mention the qualification of the author to comment on the subject.  One can, through labor-intensive research that the great majority of people who read Should You Believe in the Trinity? will not undertake, as the Arians who introduced the quotation are aware, discover the source of the quotation in a rare book written over 150 years ago.[iv]  The powerful bias against the Trinity manifested by the fact that its author, Andrews Norton, was a Unitarian, and his book was published by a Unitarian association, is conveniently omitted, as is the great majority of the title of his book;  a work by an unknown Andrews Norton entitled A Statement of Reasons is going to be much less obviously biased than a work entitled A Statement of Reasons for not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians concerning the Nature of God and the Person of Christ published by a prominent member of an association of Arian Trinity-haters.  But did Norton faithfully believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and did he write against the Trinity because it contradicted his unwavering faith in the infallible Scriptures?  Elsewhere in his Statement of Reasons for Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians, he wrote:

Our Lord [Jesus Christ] . . . speaks of descending from heaven, conform[ing] his language to the conception of the Jews, that heaven was the peculiar abode of God.  But we cannot receive this conception as true . . . there is no rational foundation for the opinion[.] . . . [T]he conceptions of the Apostle [Paul] respecting our Lord’s future coming were erroneous . . . There is so little reason to suppose that the Second Epistle ascribed to St. Peter was written by him, that it is not to be quoted as evidence of his opinions. . . . I do not refer to the Apocalypse as the work of St. John, for I do not believe it to be so. . . . [The Apocalypse contains a large degree of] imperfection [in] its language[.] . . .  [T]he Apostles . . . all appear to have expected [Christ’s] personal and visible return to earth . . . to exercise judgment, to reward his faithful followers, to punish the disobedient, and to destroy his foes . . . [t]hese expectations were erroneous . . . they . . . adopted the errors of their age[.] . . . The Jews [believed that there were] . . . many supposed predictions and types of their Messiah [in their] . . . sacred books[.] . . . This mode of interpretation was adopted by some of the Apostles . . . this mistake was not corrected by Christ . . . this whole system of interpretation . . . so far as the supposed prophecies were applied to [Christ, was] erroneous. . . . [I]n [Christ’s] discourses . . . he speaks, according to the belief of the Jews, of Satan as if he were a real being . . . [but he is an] imagination [and a symbol for the] abstract idea of moral evil.[v]

Norton’s rejection of Scripture for rationalism led him to reject the Trinity as “a doctrine which among intelligent men has fallen into neglect and disbelief. . . . [R]eligion must become the study of philosophers, as the highest philosophy. . . . The proper modern doctrine of the Trinity . . . is to be rejected, because . . . it is incredible. . . . The docrine of the Trinity, then, and that of the union of two natures in Christ, are doctrines which, when fairly understood, it is impossible, from the nature of the human mind, should be believed. . . . [T]hey are intrinsically incapable of any proof whatever . . . they are of such a character, that it is impossible to bring arguments in their support, and unnecessary to adduce arguments against them.  Here, then, we might rest.”[vi]  Andrews Norton’s fallen, sinful, mortal mind did not understand the revelation God had made of Himself as Triune.  It did not meet his criteria of acceptable philosophy, and he thought it was impossible to believe, no matter what God said about it in the Bible.  Norton did not reject the Trinity because he thought it was against the plain teaching of the Scripture and an import from paganism that was contrary to the infallible Word of God—he rejected the Trinity because he could not understand it perfectly and he idolatrously placed his mind above the all-knowing Lord.

The Watchtower quotation also conveniently left out devastating admissions the book itself states in between the two sections ten pages apart that are strung together to create the quote in Should You Believe in the Trinity?.  Norton himself admitted that the idea “Plato . . . anticipated [the Trinity is an] error, for which there is no foundation.  Nothing resembling the doctrine of the Trinity is to be found in the writings of Plato himself.”[vii]  Not only is there not a single quote from Plato in Norton’s chapter which is to prove that “we can trace the history of [the Trinity], and discover its source, not in the Christian revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy,” there is not a single quotation from a later pagan philosopher of the Platonic school.  No pre-Christian writers are cited.  Plato is not cited.  Pagan Platonic philosophers are not cited.  Why?  Norton does not “adduce the facts on which [his assertion that the Trinity comes from Platonic philosophy is] founded, because the facts could not be satisfactorily stated and explained in a small compass.”[viii]  Norton tells his readers that, in the course of a chapter that is to prove that the Trinity came from Platonism, within a book written to oppose the Trinity, a book of 499 pages, not including forty-nine additional pages of numbered introductory material—and thus a massive volume of over 548 pages—he does not have any room to give even one quotation from Plato or a pagan Platonist to prove that the Trinity comes from Platonic paganism!  The more modern Arians in the Watchtower Society will not, in their work Should You Believe in the Trinity?, quote Plato or a pagan Platonist to show that the Trinity comes from paganism—they will quote an earlier Arian, Andrews Norton.  Andrews Norton will not quote Plato or a later pagan Platonist to show that the Trinity comes from pagan Platonism—he has no room for that in his 548 page book.  If Norton will not quote Plato or Platonists to prove that the Trinity came from Platonism, how will he attempt to do it?  In between the pages the Watchtower quotes, Norton cites various “learned Trinitarians . . . [who] in admitting the influence of the Platonic doctrine upon the faith of the early Christians, of course do not regard the Platonic as the original source of the Orthodox doctrine, but many of them represent it as having occasioned errors and heresies, and in particular the Arian heresy.”[ix]  Norton quotes Trinitarians who say that Platonic philosophy influenced early Christiandom to prove that the Trinity came from Platonism—but he admits that these same authors declare that the Platonic influence did not produce the doctrine of the Trinity, but was the source of many errors, principly the Arian doctrine.  Thus, the support Norton gives for his affirmation that the Trinity is false because it comes from paganism comes from historians who affirm that Arianism is what actually comes from paganism!  It should be clear why the Watchtower wishes to keep Norton’s character as a Unitarian obscured, and to make their quotation from him very hard to trace.  Andrews Norton gives no evidence at all from Plato or Platonic philosophers for his contention.  Norton admits that Plato did not teach the Trinity.  Norton admits that the Trinitarian historians who he quotes to prove his point actually affirm the opposite of his position, that is, that Platonic philosophy was the source of the Unitarian heresy, not of the Trinity.  Someone who read Norton’s chapter and believed it was convincing would have to either have an extreme pre-formed bias against the Trinity or be amazingly gullible.  But the Watchtower will leave out all these facts—culled from the pages between the first and second half of their own quotation—and thus reproduce a quotation that is not only entirely inaccurate but clearly intentionally misleading.


part 3

[i] “The Revamping Of The Trinity And Women’s Roles In The Church” in “Egalitarians Revamp Doctrine of the Trinity,” Stephen D. Kovach, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2:1 (Dec 1996).  Compare Lacugna’s book, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), in which she argues that “feminist and liberationist perspectives are valuable for living life triunely. Salvation must lead to deification [people becoming gods] . . . For promoting a relational metaphysics, some may [also] think her a pantheist” (Roderick T. Leupp, book review of God for Us: The Trinity & Christian Life, by Catherine Mowry LaCugna.  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 39:2 (June 1996) p. 317).

[ii] “A Defense Of The Doctrine Of The Eternal Subordination Of The Son,” Stephen D. Kovach & Peter R. Schemm, Jr., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42:3 (September 1999), pgs. 473-476.

[iii]             Pg. 11-12, Should You Believe In the Trinity?

[iv] The words are found on pgs. 94, 104 of A Statement of Reasons for Not Believing The Doctrines of Trinitarians, Concerning The Nature of God and the Person of Christ, by Andrews Norton. (Boston, MA: American Unitarian Association, 1886; 14th ed.).  The first edition was published in 1856.

[v]             Pgs. 388, 389, 397, 401, 402, 407, 409, 413, 418, 420, 421, Norton, ibid.

[vi]             Pgs. 5, 37, 40, 61-62, Norton, ibid.

[vii]             Pgs. 95-96, Norton, ibid.

[viii]             See pg. 100.

[ix]             See pg. 100.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nothing Is Weird Any More

Homosexuality isn't weird.  Purple hair isn't weird.  Women wearing their underwear in public isn't weird.  Trying to walk slow in front of cars isn't weird.  Pants hanging below the buttocks aren't weird.  Nose rings aren't weird.  Churches that bribe you to attend aren't weird.  Believing there's life on Mars isn't weird.  Mr. Mom isn't weird.  Killing unborn children isn't weird.  Unmarried couples shacking up isn't weird.  Guys who act like girls aren't weird.   Having contradictory opinions that are both true isn't weird.  Rock stars aren't weird.  Wanting the rich to pay a higher share of taxes isn't weird.  Soccer leagues that schedule games every Sunday aren't weird.  Undisciplined classrooms aren't weird.  Modern art isn't weird.  Saying that you love your self isn't weird.  Women in the infantry aren't weird.  Believing we got here by accident isn't weird.  Hair sticking out all over the place isn't weird.  Illegal immigration isn't weird.  Foul language isn't weird.  People posting close up pictures of their face all over their facebook aren't weird.  Playing NFL football and NBA basketball and MLB baseball during church isn't weird.  Having a dedicated Christian play football on Sunday and miss church isn't weird.  Not spanking disobedient children isn't weird.  Wearing stocking caps in the middle of the summer isn't weird.  Trillions of dollars of debt isn't weird.  Calling those against homosexuality homophobes isn't weird.  Chicago politics isn't weird.  Not practicing church discipline isn't weird.  Allegorizing Scripture isn't weird.  Believing there are errors in the Bible isn't weird.  Loving rap music isn't weird.   Not knowing how to speak in complete sentences isn't weird.  Pastors preaching in Mickey Mouse t-shirts aren't weird.  Churches called The Adventure aren't weird.   Wearing shorts to church isn't weird.  Referring to most men as "dude" isn't weird.   Guys hanging out with girls just as friends aren't weird.  Maxing out your credit card isn't weird.  Men as fashion designers aren't weird.  Divorce isn't weird.  Protesting over the loss of a government hand-out isn't weird.  A United States president having an affair with his female intern isn't weird, and then lying to everyone about it isn't weird.   Changing lanes without signalling isn't weird.  Buying an expensive car on credit isn't weird.  Jerry Brown isn't weird.  Barney Frank isn't weird.  Borrowing more and spending even more isn't weird.  Saying the Lord's name in vain isn't weird.

Nothing is weird any more.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Local Only Ecclesiology, Baptist History, and Landmarkism, pt. 4

Part One, Part Two, Part Three

An assembly is an assembly.  People who don't assemble are not an assembly.  A church is an assembly.  That's the meaning of the word, "church" (ekklesia).  If you take the plain or normal meaning of "church," you read it as an assembly.  A church is a group of people, not all over the world, but in a particular locale, that assemble regularly for a specific business.  What I just wrote is it.

All believers in the world don't function as an assembly and will never function as an assembly.  At some point, all believers will assemble in heaven, but that doesn't mean they are an assembly now.  They're not.  They never assemble now.  And that is why you will never see in the Bible a universal church.  There is nowhere in Scripture that a church on earth in this age in which we live, which includes right now and in the last 2000 years, is defined as all believers.  There is not a single text in the Bible that explains or describes the church as a "universal church."  That idea is foreign to God's Word.  It actually contradicts what the Bible does say.

Those, like Fred Moritz, who say and teach that the true church is all believers, are not getting that from the Bible.  And then, to add insult to injury, Moritz attacks those who do teach what the Bible says about the church and treats them like they are coming with a novelty.  His view of the church is an old view, it's Catholic and then Protestant, but it doesn't go all the way back to the Bible.  He reads into Scripture his presupposition.

Then Moritz in his online journal article for Maranatha talks like two local only advocates or teachers (B. H. Carroll and S. E. Anderson) really did believe that a church was the unassembled all believers on earth, even though they said that they didn't.  Personally, I'm not so concerned what they said they believed, because I know what Scripture teaches, but I think it is important to consider what they were talking about and whether it is what Moritz says they were saying. His quotes of Carroll and Anderson don't present any problem for a local only position.  They are saying that all believers at the most are a church in prospect, that is, all believers will assemble in heaven.  This is also the way that Richard Weeks taught it at Maranatha.  That doesn't do anything to back a present assembly of all believers.  All believers will never assemble until heaven, so they are not a church in this age.  That means there is no universal church.  There is none.  There never will be one.  Universal and assembly are mutually exclusive.

The singular noun "church" is always an assembly.  However, normal grammar says that the singular "church" could be a particular church or a generic one.  If it is generic, it is still an assembly.  However, it is talking about an assembly or the assembly in a representative way.  There are no other usages of the singular noun, besides a particular or a generic.  In the few (about 10) passages "church" is used in a generic fashion, it is still talking about something local and visible.

So where did the idea of a universal or catholic church come from?   This is where a bit of irony comes in.  Moritz makes a big deal about the influence of covenant theology on James Graves.  He probably was influenced some by covenant theology in some of his understanding of the kingdom of God, but this is not where he got his local only ecclesiology, as Moritz seems to assert.  However, at that time, many were influenced at least a little by covenant theology, because of the pervasive influence of Protestantism.

In the New Testament, a church is only an assembly that meets.  That's how the New Testament authors used "church."  It's how they understood "church."  It's easy to see, however, that Greek philosophy was already beginning to influence the early churches.  The Corinthians were denying bodily resurrection because of the Greek philosophy of the immortality of the soul alone.  You read local only ecclesiology in the earliest patristic, Clement of Rome in his first century letter, 1 Clement.  However, as you keep reading patristic ecclesiology, you find influences in hermeneutics related to a response to persecution.  Origen developed an allegorical approach to Scripture.  And then much changed with the advent of Constantine and the state, catholic church.  Patristics and then later Catholic theologians mixed Platonism, a kind of Greek philosophy, with Scripture to come to a new position on the church, one not found in the Bible.  This same view continues to influence today and it has done so to Fred Moritz.

Scripture teaches premillennialism.   Every New Testament believer took that hermeneutic.  We should assume early Christians believed the same.  However, with Roman Catholicism's faulty view of the kingdom, seeing the church as the kingdom of God on earth, came the amillennial view.  The presupposition of amillennialism affected the approach to Scripture.  Allegorization or spiritualization of many Bible passages became the norm.  Augustine essentially codified this in Catholic thought with his response to the Dontatists.  The politics meant little to no challenge to a Catholic hermeneutic for centuries.  With the reformation came an in depth justification of amillennialism by a system of covenant theology.  The reformation stopped at ecclesiology.  Roman Catholicism and the the reformers spiritualized the church with the covenant theology.  This is where Moritz gets his view of the church and this is the irony.

The Baptists or Separatists, the non-Catholic churches, saw things differently.  Richard Baxter, a reformed pastor, recognized the ecclesiology of the Donatists, when he wrote in 1707 in his Practical Works: "[T]he Donatists arose from their not sufficiently distinguishing the Cburch Universal from the Associated Churches of their Country nor well considering that baptism as such is but our entrance into the Universal Church and not into this or that particular Church."  If you read the Schleitheim Confession of the Swiss Anabaptists in 1527, led by Michael Sattler, you will read a local only ecclesiology outside of the position of covenant theology.  William Tyndale grew up in a Baptist home and "he always translated the word by the word congregation and held to a local conception of a church" (Tyndale, Works, London, 1831, II, p. 13).

I'm in no agreement with the theology of Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, but he writes as an observer and historian in his The Misunderstanding of the Church (p. 60):

Both in classical Greek and in the usage of the Greek Old Testament, Ecclesia means congregation, the assembled people.  So then the New Testament Ecclesia in its original form, is the fellowship of Christ or the people of God assembled for purposes of divine worship.

On p. 90, he continues:

So far our thesis has proved sound:  the Ecclesia of the New Testament is a communion of persons and nothing else.  It is the Body of Christ, but not an institution.  Therefore, it is not yet what it later became as a result of a slow, steady, hence unnoticed process of transformation. . . . Then the neo-catholic Roman church ---is distinguished from the Ecclesia above all in this---that is no longer primarily a communion of persons, but rather an institution.

Brunner saw this as acceptable, but in telling it as it is about the history of the meaning of church.  Scripture doesn't teach a catholic church---that was a development of thought from the original understanding.

More to Come

Friday, July 13, 2012

Did the Trinity Come From Paganism? part 1

Unitarians (like the Watchtower Society) and modalists (like Oneness Pentecostals) often directly affirm that Trinitarianism is derived from paganism.  They commonly quote various publications as well to support such affirmations.  For example, the Watchtower society (so-called "Jehovah's Witnesses"), representative of modern Bible-affirming Arianism, states, “‘New Testament research has been leading an increasing number of scholars to the conclusion that Jesus certainly never believed himself to be God.’—Bulletin of the John Rylands Library.”[1] In fact, as “Yale University professor E. Washburn Hopkins affirmed: ‘To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it.’—Origin and Evolution of Religion.”[2]  Why?  “The Encyclopedia of Religion admits: ‘Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity.’ . . . The Encyclopedia of Religion says: ‘Theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity.’”[3]  If, as Arians affirm, Trinitarianism does not come from the Bible, where does it come from?  The Watchtower references the book “The Paganism in Our Christianity [which] declares: ‘The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan.’”[4]  In fact, these Unitarians affirm in “the book A Statement of Reasons, Andrews Norton says of the Trinity: ‘We can trace the history of this doctrine, and discover its source, not in the Christian revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy . . . The Trinity is not a doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, but a fiction of the school of the later Platonists.’”[5]  Similarly, the modalist leader David Bernard writes, “[T]he idea of a trinity did not originate with Christendom. It was a significant feature of pagan religions and philosophies before the Christian era, and its existence today in various forms suggests an ancient, pagan origin. . . . The Scriptures do not teach the doctrine of the trinity, but trinitarianism has its roots in paganism.”[6]  However, the allegation that Trinitarian doctrine comes from paganism, rather than from Scripture, is entirely false.  This notion has several severe problems.

First, since the word “Trinity” is not found in pre-Christian pagan writings, this objection to the Trinity contradicts another common anti-Trinitarian retort, namely, that Trinitarianism is unbiblical because the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.  If the fact that the word is not present means that the idea is not present, then the fact that the word “Trinity” is not in pre-Christian pagan authors means the idea is not found in paganism.  The two objections are contradictory.  Anti-Trinitarians should make up their minds to stick to the one or the other, but not employ them both.  However, despite their contradictory nature, Unitarians and modalists generally do advance both allegations.  For example, the Unitarian and modalist compositions quoted in the previous paragraph both employ the “the word ‘Trinity’ is not in the Bible” attack.[7]  Anti-Trinitarian compositions often do not worry about the logical consistency of their allegations, but simply employ whatever attacks sound good at the time, even if they are contradictory.

Second, the affirmation that Trinitarianism came from paganism is not sustainable historically.  As demonstrated in The Triune God of the Bible,[8] Trinitarianism is taught from Genesis to Revelation.  The idea that, centuries after the inspiration of the New Testament, paganism somehow crept in and brought forth the idea of the Trinity is impossible in light of the clear Biblical evidence for Trinitarianism and the testimony of post-Biblical Christianity from even the earliest period.

Furthermore, the writers quoted in anti-Trinitarian literature to support their affirmations of the non-Biblical, pagan origin of the Trinity are usually extremely suspect.  While, since “of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12), it is not possible to trace and evaluate every single quotation in every anti-Trinitarian composition, an evaluation of some of the sources employed in the Watchtower’s Should You Believe in the Trinity? quoted above will be evaluated as representative of much of the distortion and misinformation advanced in the anti-Trinitarian cause.

The Arian Watchtower Society, as referenced above, states, “‘New Testament research has been leading an increasing number of scholars to the conclusion that Jesus certainly never believed himself to be God.’ —Bulletin of the John Rylands Library.” The quote is prominently displayed in the exact middle of the page, set off in bold print within a special box.[9]  No author of the article, page number, or other information is provided.  The quotation was deemed important enough to be made twice in this Arian publication, once in a special box on the side of a page highlighting its importance.  One can with difficulty discover the very poorly referenced source of the quotation.[10]  Upon acquiring the periodical, one notices that the Watchtower left out, without any indication of the removal, the underlined words in the quotation:  “New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the Christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional designation ‘Christ,’ and certainly never believed himself to be God.”  The author of the article, G. H. Boobyer, is a radical Bible-rejector who denies that the Lord Jesus ever claimed to be the Christ, and thus rejected the idea of Scripture that He was God as well.  While Boobyer will deny that Jesus is the Christ and that He is God, he will in his article reference the conclusion of another writer with approval that early “Christians might, in certain senses, have been willing to recognize the deity of the emperor.”  Why such egregious misrepresentation of Boobyer’s claim—leaving out his claim that Jesus never said He was the Christ to quote only his rejection of the Scriptural testimony to His Deity?  Is this the kind of “scholarship” that the Arians in the Watchtower society will employ—people who will say that Christians were willing to recognize the deity of the emperor, but will say that Jesus never said He was the Christ, and thus not God?  And why will they rip the actual quotation of Boobyer into pieces, and leave out the parts that radically change his meaning?

The Watchtower also attempts to support its anti-Trinitarianism by affirming that “Yale University professor E. Washburn Hopkins affirmed: ‘To Jesus and Paul[11] the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it.’—Origin and Evolution of Religion. . . . [Therefore] the Christian Greek Scriptures provide . . . [no] teaching of the Trinity.”[12]  Again, no publisher, page number, or other information is provided for the quotation.  With considerable effort, one can discover the location of the quotation.[13]  One begins to see why such incredibly poor citation of the source is made when one discovers that Hopkins, in the very sentence before the one reproduced by the Watchtower Society, states that “The beginning of the doctrine of the trinity appears already in John,” thus demonstrating that Hopkins recognized that Trinitarianism was found in the New Testament, and on the same page affirmed that “The early Church taught that Christ was the Logos and that the Logos was God,” while two pages after the quotation made by the Watchtower Hopkins affirms that “[T]he plain faith of the early church members . . . was just this and nothing more.  Jesus is God. So proclaimed the first hymns, sung by the early Church.”[14]  Hopkins thus believed that early Christianity agreed with the New Testament in teaching the Deity of Jesus Christ. Of course, since these are exactly the opposite of the conclusion drawn by the Watchtower from its quotation from Hopkins’ book, it is clear why there was no great desire by this Arian organization for someone to look up the quotation and see what was on the very same page, and in the immediate context of the sentence from Hopkins so grossly taken out of context by the Watchtower. 

In any case, Hopkins’ book is not filled with Scriptural exegesis refuting the many passages in the gospels and Pauline epistles that teach Trinitarianism—nothing remotely like this is found anywhere in his book.  Rather, Hopkins, because of his anti-Bible evolutionary philosophy, believed that the New Testament writings of the apostle John evolved a Trinitarianism that was not known to the Lord Jesus (who was not, Hopkins believed, the Son of God) or Paul (whose writings, Hopkins affirmed, were not inspired).  Hopkins believed that “[e]very religion is a product of human evolution and has been conditioned by a social environment.  Since man has developed from a state even lower than savagery and was once intellectually a mere animal, it is reasonable to attribute to him in that state no more religious consciousness than is possessed by an animal. What then, the historian must ask, are the factors and what the means whereby humanity has encased itself in this shell of religion, which almost everywhere has been raied as a protective growth about the social body? . . . [T]he principles of religion [are like the principles of human evolution]. . . . [Man] once had a brain like that of a fish, then like that of a reptile, and so on through the types of bird and marsupial, upward to the brain of the higher mammals. . . . Man then was not suddenly created.”[15]  From Hopkins’ belief that all religion, including Christianity, is a mere product of evolution, like man himself, he describes what he believes is a progression from “the worship of stones, hills, trees, and plants” to “the worship of animals” to “the worship of elements and heavenly phenomena” to “the worship of the sun,” to the worship of man, of ancestors, and eventually the alleged evolutionary development of Christianity.  From this evolutionary, atheistic viewpoint, Hopkins wrote:

Christianity . . . utilized . . . much pagan material . . . [such as] baptism . . . the hope of immortality and resurrection, miraculous cures [and] water turned into wine[.] . . . The religions of the divine Mother and of Mithra had already taught the doctrine of a redeeming god . . . man through the death and resurrection of the god became . . . a partaker also in the divine nature . . . the pagan gods were still rememberd under a new form . . . [whether of] demons . . . [or] angels . . . to whom man still prayed. . . . It makes no difference whether union be felt with Brahma or God, with Vishnu Krishna or with Jesus Christ . . . the realization of union, not the special object of faith, [is] what matters. . . . God is one with Vishnu . . . Christ and Buddha and Krishna represent the same idea . . . [When someone is] bowing down before Buddha . . . let us not cry out, “Ah, the wretched idolator!”

Hopkins’ presupposition that religion evolved and that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God led him to conclude that the “evolved” idea of the Trinity must have not been believed by this “Jesus” who was not God’s Son, that Paul only gradually evolved it, and that the apostle John and early Christianity then saw it evolve.  Unless one accepts Hopkins’ evolutionary philosophy, the quotation made by the Watchtower from his book is worthless, as Hopkins assumes without any evidence or argument that the Lord Jesus saw Himself as simply a man, rather than as than God incarnate, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The fact that even a radical religious skeptic and Christ-rejector like Hopkins admitted, in extremely close proximity to the sentence wrenched from its context by the Watchtower, that the New Testament teaches Trinitarianism and the earliest Christianity knew Jesus was God, illuminates the extremely deceitful manipulation of sources by the Arians in the Watchtower society.


part 2

[1] Should You Believe in the Trinity? pgs. 19, 20.

[2] Should You Believe In the Trinity? pg. 6.

[3]  Should You Believe In the Trinity? pg. 6, in the section, “Is It Clearly a Bible Teaching?”

[4] Should You Believe In the Trinity? in the section, “How Did The Trinity Doctrine Develop?” pg. 11.  The Watchtower makes the same quotation on pg. 3, since the organization likes it so much.

[5]  Pg. 11-12, Should You Believe In the Trinity?

[6] See The Oneness of God, David K. Bernard. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, Chapter 11, sections “Pagan roots and parallels” and “Post-apostolic developments.

[7] ““The word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible” (Should You Believe in the Trinity? pg. 6), “The Bible does not mention the word trinity, nor does it mention the word persons in reference to God.” The Oneness of God, Bernard, Chapter 12, sec. “Nonbiblical Terminology.”). Note, though, that the word “person” IS explicitly used of the Father as contrast with the Son, Heb 1:3! So this is a quibble about the “s” on “person(s)”!


[9] Pgs. 19, 20.  Should You Believe in the Trinity? The second time, when not in a big, prominently displayed box, the quote reads, “The fact is that Jesus is not God and never claimed to be. This is being recognized by an increasing number of scholars. As the Rylands Bulletin states: ‘The fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus . . . certainly never believed himself to be God.’”  Here, while the extremely misleading omission that this same article said Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah or Christ is retained, at least elipses were included.  It should be mentioned that someone who did not acquire the actual article would have no way of knowing that the two quotations are of the same sentence, since the first one is even more significantly corrupted and altered than the second quotation, and neither quote gives any information that makes it at all easy to determine the actual source of the quotation.

[10] It is found in the article “‘Jesus As “Theos” In The New Testament,’ by G. H. Boobyer, Bulletin of The John Rylands Library, Vol. 50, (1967-68) pgs. 247-261.

[11] While Hopkins also said on the same page that the Watchtower took their quotation from that Paul did not specifically use the word God for Christ (an affirmation for which he provided no evidence, and which he is wrong about, Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13, etc.) and in his rejection of the inspiration of the Bible Hopkins claimed Paul confused Christ and the Holy Spirit, he nevertheless also stated that “Paul  . . . applies to . . . Christ . . . words of the Old Testament used of God: ‘I am God and . . . unto me every kee shall bow’ (Is. 45:22, 23; Phil. 2:10),” an affirmation that modern Arians would generally be extremely uncomfortable with and one that is only consistent with a recognition of the absolute and full Deity of Christ.

[12]             Pg. 6, Should You Believe In the Trinity?

[13] Pg. 336, Origin and Evolution of Religion, E. Washburn Hopkins. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1924.

[14]             Pg. 338, ibid.

[15]             Pgs. 1, 352, 353, ibid.