Friday, May 29, 2015

Did New Testament Christianity Borrow from Mithraism?

            Did New Testament Christianity borrow from ancient pagan mystery cults such as Mithraism?[1]  Attempts have been made to discredit Christianity or to cast doubt upon its veracity by alleging that it simply borrowed its ideas from the Mithraic mystery religion.  For this allegation to have substance, one must prove: 1.) That Mithraism predates Christianity; 2.) Minimally, that adherents of Mithraism had direct contact with the stories, rituals, and beliefs to clearly display real and significant parallels, and that there are no better candidates that serve as a model for understanding nascent Christianity, and 3.) Maximally, that there is an oral or literary dependence of the latter on the former.
            Can advocates of New Testament dependence upon Mithraism establish points one through three above?  First, archaeology indicates that the earliest Mithraic temples or mithraeum in the Roman Empire post-date the rise of Christianity by over a century.  The earliest known Mithraic inscription also dates to the second century.  Christianity cannot be dependent upon Mithraism because there is no evidence for the Mithraic mysteries prior to A. D. 100.  Furthermore, when evidence for the mystery religion begins to appear, it is almost entirely absent from Judea or Palestine where the New Testament was composed and the core doctrines of Christianity were formulated.  The only mithraeum discovered in Palestine dates to the fourth century.  Christianity could not have borrowed its teachings from Mithraism because Christianity antedates the Mithraic mystery religion in the Roman Empire.
            Second, alleged parallels between Christianity and the practices of Mithraism are greatly exaggerated.  Modern advocates of Mithraic parallels allege that Mithra experienced a virgin birth, died in a manner similar to Christ, and rose from the dead.  Christianity also allegedly borrowed baptism and the Lord’s Supper from Mithraism.
            However, Mithraic art never depicts a virgin birth for Mithra.  He springs naked from a rock, or alternatively the zodiac, or an egg, while holding a torch and a knife.  Furthermore, no clear references to the death of Mithras can be found in either Mithraic art or surviving literary sources.  Just as there is no evidence for the death of Mithras, there is no evidence for his resurrection, for the latter is inconceivable without the former. The concept of rebirth (cf. John 3:3) is also absent from early Mithraism.  The gradual identification of Mithras with Sol takes place too late to have any impact on early Christianity, as does the belief in an astrological ascent of the soul.
Is Mithraism the source for the Christian ordinance of baptism, the immersion of the believer in water as a sign of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection?  On rare occasions, post-Christian Mithraism practiced a ritual bath in the blood of a bull, but since this practice did not exist in the religion before A. D. 160, all extant references to it were in parts of the Roman empire in the west, far removed from Palestine, and the ritual bath included no notion of a death and resurrection, allegations that this practice was the source of Christian baptism are not credible.  Does Mithraism provide the source for the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper?  While a common meal was practiced as a rite in Mithraism, parallels to the Christian practice of the Lord’s Supper are extremely questionable.  First, there is no evidence that the Mithraic communal meal was practiced by all initiates.  Second, bread eaten at the Mithraic meal represented the blood of a bull slain by Mithra in hunting, not the blood of Mithra himself.  There is no evidence at all of Christian dependence upon the Mithraic common meal, and parallels between the Christian communion rite and Mithraism are, at best, highly tenuous and dubious.
It is true that the date for the Christmas holy day as celebrated in Roman Catholicism was adopted from paganism, as were the dates of many other Roman Catholic holy days.  However, the Bible never affirms that December 25 was the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor was Christmas brought into the developing Catholic religion until centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the composition of the New Testament, and the crystallization of Christian doctrine.  It is one thing to demonstrate pagan influence upon Roman Catholicism centuries after the rise of Christianity when the Roman Catholic religion united with the Roman government.  It is quite another to demonstrate pagan origins for Biblical Christianity itself.[2]
In summary, the issue of Christian borrowing from Mithraism hinges on the issue of chronology. If the chronological priority of Mithraism is shown to be wrong, the entire issue is a moot point. Strong evidence indicates that the development of Mithraism in the Roman Empire was chronologically later, not earlier, than the advent of Christianity. Furthermore, even apart from the tremendous chronological problem, a causal connection would need to be established to prove that Christianity took its doctrines from Mithraism.  To posit such a connection contradicts the facts of history. Finally, a careful look at proposed similarities between Mithraic stories and rituals and Christianity demonstrates that clear exaggeration has taken place by advocates of parallelism.
Rather than highly dubious parallels with Mithraism explaining the background and doctrines of Christianity, Christianity had its birth and development within the context of first century Judaism.  Unlike the mythical god Mithras, the life of the historical Jesus is documented extremely well, and every key event in His life fulfills predictions in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Rather than being a product of pagan mythology, the New Testament records historically accurate events through which the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah.
           As for the rituals and traditions of the early church, they too had their source in the one culture that had the most direct impact on early Christianity, Judaism.  The initiation of the Lord’s Supper was in the direct context of the Jewish Passover meal. The sacrificial aspect of the death of Christ should likewise be understood in light of temple sacrifice, and Old Testament images of the substitutionary atonement and the scapegoat.  As for origins of the Christian baptism, one need look no further than first century Judaism and the ministry of John the Baptist.
            The idea that the New Testament borrowed or was dependent upon pagan mystery cults such as Mithraism is clearly a radically inaccurate evaluation of the historical data.  Rather than the life of Christ and the records of the New Testament being legendary accounts because of their alleged dependence on Mithraism, the idea that Mithraism is the source of Biblical Christian doctrine and practice is itself a legend and a fable, no more real than the mythical god Mithra himself.

This  study can also be accessed here.

[1]           The following study is greatly abridged from “The Mithraic Cult and Christian Origins,” Allan Di Donato, Christian Apologetics Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2007, 21-53.  The 167 footnotes in the original article provide extensive evidence from ancient sources.  Professor Donato is an instructor in Humanities at a State college in Charlotte, NC.

[2]           Compare the resources on the unbiblical and unauthoritative nature of Catholic holy days at http:/

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sons Need Dads and Same Gender Marriage: Something's Gotta Give

After the Baltimore riots, President Obama gave an explanation in the Rose Garden at a Joint Press Conference with the Prime Minister of Japan.  He said this:

In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men . . . . in those environments, if we think that we're just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not going to solve this problem.

A week after that, he made the next statement at the launch of My Brother's Keeper Alliance:

I grew up without a dad.  I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path.  

A few weeks later, he attended a poverty summit at Georgetown University, and he said the following:

I am a black man who grew up without a father, and I know the cost that I paid for that. And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence I think that my daughters are better off.

Three times, the President of the United States, on different occasions came back to the lack of the role of the father, the role of the dad, as vital for successful raising of boys and young men.  He was saying success of raising boys was dependent on this.  He tied failure into it not happening.

OK.  Question.  If what he is saying is true, then he cannot support two women, a same-gender couple, raising a boy, can he? He must oppose that, right?  He must say about what they are doing, "I know the cost of that."  And the cost is Baltimore and other cities like it.  He can't support it.  He does, but this only underscores the poverty of his worldview, that will contradict itself for political reasons.

In 2012, Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, did research, performed as study (in pdf), entitled "New Family Structures Study," answering the question, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-(gender) relationships?"  The study was very thorough and concluded that the children of same-gender couples fare far worse than those of two different genders, both a father and a mother.

The President says he agrees.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Gospel and Simplicity

I began a series on my assessment of independent Baptists (parts one, twothreefour, and five), and will continue, but that's how I got started on the gospel recently.  From that series, I spun off into a post on the gospel, that turned into another series (parts one, two, three, and four).  All of this occurred between April 27 and May 20.  I still plan on finishing the assessment of independent Baptists, but I want to park on the gospel still, because if men either can't admit that or don't understand it, the other points and observations won't matter.

In one of the comments in the series I was writing on omissions from the gospel, someone expressed concern over the simplicity that might be missing in an explanation of the gospel, that included the Lordship of Christ.  To be sure I represent it properly, here is a quote from the comment:

Where is the simplicity in your position? Does someone have to understand that he is giving up his life, in order to be saved? Does he have to consciously have that thought?

I included the follow up questions, but it seems that the thought was that teaching the Lordship of Christ makes the gospel too complicated or more complicated than it should be or is.  I think the opposite of that.  The true gospel is the most simple, because it is the one you can show from the Bible.  A false gospel is one where you have to read into the text of scripture, and that's what is complicated.

However, I want to consider the concept of simplicity.  I have heard in the past the thought of keeping the gospel simple.  I have four separate thoughts right away.  One, I think of the old gospel tract, "God's Simple Plan of Salvation," that many churches had in their tract rack and used, and I'm sure still do use it.  That tract told people the plan of salvation was simple, so if it isn't simple, it must be wrong.  By "simple" the tract meant very, very easy to understand even for someone of very little mental capacity.  Or as I sometimes will describe something simple -- without very many moving parts.

Two, I think of the description of Peter and John in Acts 4:13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."  The idea here is that the gospel of Jesus is one for even the "unlearned and ignorant men."  It must be simple, because that's how the original disciples of Jesus were -- simple.

Three, I think of 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul says that the saving message isn't for the "wise" or the "scribe" or "the disputer of this world."  Since it isn't for the "wise," it must be for those not so wise.  It is the "foolishness of God," something that doesn't even make sense in its lack of complication, a simplicity that would not be expected by an intellectual researching his plan of salvation.  He would make it more sophisticated.

Four, I think of 2 Corinthians 11:3:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

That verse says point blank that the gospel is simple, so it is.  It is worth exploring what "simplicity" means in 2 Corinthians 11:3, if "simple" has the same meaning here as it does today.  The word translated simplicity, aplotes, is used eight times in the New Testament, including here.  The same word is translated "liberality" in 2 Corinthians 8:2, "bountifulness" in 2 Corinthians 9:11, and "liberal" in 2 Corinthians 9:13.  On the other hand, that word is translated "singleness of heart" in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22.  In Romans 12:8, the KJV translates it "simplicity," but the obvious meaning is similar to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, because it reads, "he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity."  BDAG, the foremost Greek lexicon, says concerning the meaning in 2 Corinthians 11:3, "Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached’, ‘without hidden agendas’."

The meaning of the word translated "simplicity" in 2 Corinthians 11:3 fits with the understanding of a true gospel.  The simple gospel, the true one, is one in which it is clear cut who is saved.  You can know it.  It doesn't muddle it up with convoluted explanations of the nature of Jesus.  It isn't this contemporary gospel, where it is almost impossible to judge, because a person could live in a nearly perpetual state of carnality and still be saved.  This is the one that seems to come with a hidden agenda that plays around with the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  You receive Jesus as Savior in the complicated gospel, and then maybe or maybe not, you receive Him as Lord at some later date.

As all of the doctrine of salvation relates to the modern understanding of simple, the later additions or omissions to a true gospel have complicated the simplicity.  Salvation comes through believing in Jesus Christ, and He's either the Jesus of the Bible or He's not.  If someone diminishes the identity of Jesus to widen the threshold or broaden the appeal of Jesus to the lost, you get another Jesus.  That's actually what 2 Corinthians 11:3 is talking about more than anything as related to the distortion of the gospel, that is, another Jesus Who will not save, albeit a more palatable Jesus to someone who wishes to remain in charge of His own life.  The false teachers at Corinth were presenting another Jesus and, therefore, teaching another gospel.

I'm afraid that the simple that people want, as it regards salvation, is something as simple as a glancing thought about Jesus.  A modern audience may want to "click in" to Jesus on the right index finger to its mouse.  You're now saved sort of like the one motion that sends an email, or publishes a post or comment, or makes a purchase.

If there is a simple plan of salvation, as close to what we would understand "simple" today, then it is found in the gospel of John.  I would agree that if you want to make it simple, have someone read John, because John writes (John 20:31), "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."  John could be the Bible's gospel tract, giving the most fundamental or simple information that would end in someone believing in Jesus Christ with the consequence of eternal life.  What does John say to believe about Jesus?  "That Jesus is the Christ" -- "the Christ."

"Christ" is found 569 times in the New Testament.  John says if you "believe that Jesus is the Christ," you "have life through his name."  If salvation is simple, then that is as simple as it gets.  If it must be more simple than that, then it is too simple.  With it being so simple, then a lot of people were saved, right?  A lot of people got life through Jesus, right?  Wrong.  Was it not simple enough?  Did it need to be more simple?

When you read John, you see Jesus separate the true followers from the false ones.  He whittles down His crowd like no other preacher, by today's estimation just making it harder and harder for folks.  He totally blew multiple opportunities in John by a modern gospel assessment.  What was it that made the gospel so difficult for people, when it was so simple?

It's simple to "believe that Jesus is the Christ," right?  I think it's as simple as it should be.  I've not noticed it being complicated in my experience.  You've got to believe.  It must be "believe," but people easily mess that up.  It must be "the Christ," and then people also distort that.  I've found that they usually corrupt it by twisting it into something of their desire, so that it is less than believe and less than "the Christ," and usually both.

If John is about convincing people that Jesus is the Christ, so that people will believe that He is the Christ, then reading John, to see Who that is, is necessary.  Is it too complicated to find out Who Jesus is in John? With most evangelicals and independent Baptists today, I think it is.  That would take too long and require reading skills or perhaps a lot of time of explanation.

As I have read through John many times, and taught through it a few times, it reads like it's arguing for the content of saving faith.  Let me offer you a sample.  In John 5, Jesus goes down to one of the feasts in Jerusalem.  It doesn't say which one.  It's obvious that John 5 is thematic, furthering the evidence for what John says in John 20:31, like it already has been up to that point.  It reads like part of a master plan.

At the beginning, Jesus performs a sign or miracle.  He does it on the Sabbath, on purpose.  In this case, he has the lame man stand up, pick up his bed, and walk, so that he would violate their Sabbath laws.  He does that so that they could see that He was Lord of the Sabbath, just like His Father.  Jesus works on the Sabbath, just like the Father works on the Sabbath.  How does the Father work?  He upholds the entire universe on every Sabbath, a never ending task of sustaining the entire creation. Jesus argues that His work is the same as the Father's work, which is giving life and judging, which encapsulates everything that man experiences.  Jesus is the Author of it all.  

I could explain further, but I'm just pulling John 5 out as a sample.  John reads like it offers one sample after another.  All of this is to convince that Jesus is "the Christ."  "The Christ" is the Anointed One.  That's what the term means.  "Anointed" for what?  To reign.  Jesus is the Messiah. He is the coming King, Who comes to rule.  You have to believe that.  

"Belief" is not just intellectual assent.  The word means more than just registering something in the brain, what most evangelicals want "belief" to be and twist it into.  Interpretation is guided by the laws of language.  Belief must be what belief is.

Belief involves the will.  If someone believes Jesus is the Christ, he has acquiesced to Jesus' authority.  The reign belongs to Jesus, not himself.  In John, just from the minimal sample of John 5, he knows that Jesus does the works that the Father does. Someone who stays on the throne of his own life doesn't believe that.  However, most evangelicals and independent Baptists want that still to be belief and that still to be Jesus.  It isn't.  It's a distortion. The distortion is what complicates simplicity.

It's simple.  Jesus is either Lord or He is not.  That's simple.  That's not hard to grasp.  What makes it hard?  People want to stay in charge, want their own way.  They want to be saved, sure.  People want a Jesus who will save them, but not rule them.  If they believe in that Jesus, does he save?  No, because that isn't Jesus.  Men present this alternative Jesus, because he's easier to accept, but he doesn't save, because he isn't Jesus.  He isn't the Messiah. He isn't Christ.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Omissions From the Gospel, Important to Consider: Follow-Up Three

At least two different gospels are advocated by independent Baptists who say that they fellowship around the gospel, that is, both unify on the gospel and separate over the gospel.  In order to explore this topic further, use it as a teaching moment, we're going to analyze a quote from Lou Martuneac in the comment section of the first follow-up or part two in this now four part series.  Lou has written a book about salvation, he titled, In Defense of the Gospel.  Here's the comment:

You wrote, “Lordship is either included with the gospel or it isn’t.” No problem there until we learn how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship. What decisions(s) the LS preacher insists must be made by a lost man about Christ’s Lordship to be born again, justified. 
The Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the requirements for salvation, not the results of salvation. This is where the divide over the gospel is and where the FBFI should debate the issue. 
A genuine conversion should evidence itself in genuine results. New believers will vary in levels of growth, but growth should be evident to some degree. The focal point of controversy is Lordship’s requirements for the reception of eternal life, i.e. how to become a Christian. 
Man comes to Christ for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) and then follows Christ in discipleship (Eph. 2:10). In his critical review of MacArthur’s TGATJ, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, “Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here [Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-27, 33; Mark 8:34] is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.” 
LS teachers hold that the title “Lord,” when applied to Jesus, necessitates the lost man’s upfront submission to the rule and reign of Christ over his life, in sanctification, for both initial salvation (justification) and final salvation (glorification).

I think it would be of value to take this comment paragraph by paragraph to be clear on what we're talking about here.  First one.

You wrote, “Lordship is either included with the gospel or it isn’t.” No problem there until we learn how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship. What decisions(s) the LS preacher insists must be made by a lost man about Christ’s Lordship to be born again, justified.

Lou says, "No problem" with my statement that one gospel with Lordship and another without Lordship are different gospels, and says that the issue is "how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship."  Is that true?  By how lordship is defined, he says he is referring to what "decision(s)" "a lost man" must make "about Christ's Lordship to be born again, justified."  And is that true?

It's true that definition of Lordship does distinguish between the false and the true gospels, as related to Lordship, but not how Lou is saying.  If there is a false definition of Lordship, it is those who equate "Lordship" with deity and say that Lordship is merely deity, that Lord equals God.  I had read this, and when I looked for a quote, I found Charles Bing:

So Lord is a title that primarily conveys Jesus' deity. What this means for salvation is that Jesus has the power and authority to save sinners because He is God. What this does not mean is that sinners can only be saved if they submit to Him as the Ruler of their lives.  Ruler is only one subset of deity, and it is arbitrary to make that one divine function and position into a subjective demand. As the word implies, salvation requires a Savior. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15; 4:10) and He can because He is God. Sinners need a divine Savior. 
It is one thing to say that to be saved a sinner must acknowledge the divine authority that Jesus has as God or as the Son of God. It is quite another thing to say that to be saved a sinner must submit to Jesus as the Ruler of his life.

I agree with Lou, but not as he presents the twisting of a definition.  Men twist the definition of Lordship and essentially gut Lordship of its essential meaning.  I'll deal more later with what Bing wrote, as have others like him. However, the root problem of this false definition above is that it removes volition out of faith.  He says a "sinner must acknowledge the divine of authority that Jesus has as God," limiting faith in Jesus Christ to mere acknowledgement, resulting in intellectual salvation only.  It is akin to the dead faith of the man who solely professes in both James and 1 John.

Lou's second statement in this paragraph is typical of what I call "loaded words."  Is salvation ever called "making a decision"?  Who is saying that?  No Lordship proponent calls faith in Christ, "making a decision."  There is also an intimation from Lou that a lost man can't make a decision about Christ's Lordship, because that would be a work for him, impossible in his lost condition.  All of a man's conversion is impossible.  He can't "just decide" he's going to believe.  He believes according to a work of God's grace, the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, in his spiritually dead heart.  Believing in Christ as Lord is no more a "work" than believing in Christ as Savior.

Most non-Lordship advocates also teach that after someone accepts Christ, only then can he follow Jesus as Lord, that is, only after salvation can someone decide to follow Jesus.  To the non-Lordship person, someone doesn't decide to follow Jesus until after he's saved.  This is usually called "dedication," a second experience after salvation sometimes.  In other words, He might not follow Jesus for awhile after he's justified, because following is a matter of discipleship.  They say the call to salvation is not a call to follow Jesus, but that is the call of discipleship, and it occurs an undetermined amount of time subsequent to justification.  This is the message of the four spiritual laws tract, which said that at the moment of justification, Jesus is in the life but not on the throne of the life.  He might be allowed on the throne of the saved person at some time in the future.
Lou talks like John MacArthur originated the teaching of "Lordship Salvation," when Lordship salvation was biblical and historical salvation until folks like those at Dallas Theological Seminary and what it spawned, as pictured in the four spiritual law tract above.  The idea is that the unsaved person is self on the throne and Jesus not in the life, but the saved person is self on the throne but now Jesus in the life.  That is the new and corrupt view of salvation.  Here's the second paragraph of Lou's comment:

The Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the requirements for salvation, not the results of salvation. This is where the divide over the gospel is and where the FBFI should debate the issue.

You can't separate requirements and results of salvation, as the two are inexorably connected.  The non-Lordship position leads to a false view of sanctification, with this second "decision" or truly second blessing.  Second blessing theology comes with the false view.  That actually can't be escaped.  When you read the writings of non-lordship independent Baptists, they read like Charismatics on this.

Here's paragraph three from Lou:

A genuine conversion should evidence itself in genuine results. New believers will vary in levels of growth, but growth should be evident to some degree. The focal point of controversy is Lordship’s requirements for the reception of eternal life, i.e. how to become a Christian.

Lou says "should," not "will" in the first sentence and this is tell-tale -- "should evidence" and then, second sentence, "should be evident to some degree."  Also you should notice that Lou says, "requirements for the reception of eternal life."  I know that some readers might think I'm being too picky here, but what Lou writes all fits together.  There is a consistency to his presentation.  Eternal life is a gift that doesn't come by receiving eternal life.  You won't read that anywhere in the Bible. We receive everlasting life by believing in Jesus Christ.  Many non-Lordship advocates will compare salvation to a gift someone receives, so that if you just receive the gift, you'll be saved.  It is a gift, but not one that comes by receiving the gift.  I don' t think this is too technical.  It's an important distinction.

Here is the next and longest paragraph from Lou:

Man comes to Christ for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) and then follows Christ in discipleship (Eph. 2:10). In his critical review of MacArthur’s TGATJ, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, “Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here [Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-27, 33; Mark 8:34] is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.”

Strong irony exists in this paragraph from Lou.  He says "man comes to Christ for salvation."  You read it.  Isn't "coming to Christ" discipleship language?  That's the very language that Jesus uses in Luke 9:23-24, a text to which later Pickering refers in Lou's paragraph:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

I agree with Lou that "come after me" is salvation terminology.  "If any man will come after me," come to Jesus, "let him deny himself," etc.  Maybe Lou would argue that he was imprecise in his use of "come after me," or misspoke.  I would say that Lou is correct.  "Come after me" is salvation terminology and so Luke 9:23-24 is a salvation terminology.  The context, the next verse, shows that's true too.  If someone saves his life (psuche, his soul), he will lose it, but if he loses his life (psuche, his soul), he will save it.  Someone's soul is saved by his losing his soul.

A person must give up his life in order to be saved.  That's the same message that Jesus gives all over the gospels about salvation.  You can't hang on to your life and be saved.  This is a description of the so-called "submission" Lou talks about.  I don't use the word "submission" for "losing your life," because the word submission sounds like it must be a work.  However, to be clear, I call it, "relinquishing control."  If you keep control of your life, you don't believe in Jesus, because you are still an idolater, like the rich young ruler.  You are serving yourself as god, and you can't believe in you to be saved. It's as simple as that.   You'll find this in very old commentaries on Matthew and Luke in the parallel passages.

In the paragraph, Lou refers to Ephesians 2:8-10, which is a reference that does not prove his point, unless someone equates saving faith with works.  No Lordship advocate, whom I have read, does that.  Lordship salvation says we believe Jesus is Lord, which constitutes relinquishing of the life to Him, not hanging on to it for Himself, because Jesus is King, repentance from the old way to the new way, which entails following Jesus, that is, coming after Him.  You can't believe in yourself and in Jesus, that is, you don't put Jesus on a shelf with your other gods.  That's what Lou's non-Lordship position does.

Pickering, who received his ThM and ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary, uses Luke 9:26-27, which is obviously salvation, especially in light of Luke 9:27-29.  Luke 14:26-27 and Mark 8:34 start with the same language, "If any man come to me."  It's the same language used in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," same exact Greek word (erxetai).  "Cometh to me" is salvation terminology.

John 6:35, And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Coming to Jesus or coming to God are not post-justification or post-conversion language, but salvation.

In the above last quoted paragraph of Lou's comment, he writes the following:

LS teachers hold that the title “Lord,” when applied to Jesus, necessitates the lost man’s upfront submission to the rule and reign of Christ over his life, in sanctification, for both initial salvation (justification) and final salvation (glorification).

No Lordship teacher says what Lou does here.  Jesus is Lord whether a lost man believes He is or not.  If someone believes in Jesus or receives Him, he receives Him for Who He is, and He is Lord. A lost man doesn't believe in Jesus if He rejects Him as Lord, doesn't receive Him as Lord.

If someone believes Jesus is Lord or receives Him as Lord, this is more than just intellectual assent. A lost man, who continues in his sin, lost, can give assent to Lordship.  If someone believes, it is more than His mind, but also His will.  If someone believes Jesus is Lord, God will save him, and he will submit to Jesus as Lord.  He will follow and keep on following Jesus.  Someone who does not receive Jesus as Lord, is not repenting, continues in rebellion against Jesus Christ and in idolatry. That is someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ.

Lou would advocate some kind of selective approach about Jesus, isolating Him as Savior, and leaving out His Lordship.  Charles Bing above said that accepting Jesus as Lord means accepting him as God. That clashes with the confession of Thomas in John 20:28, when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God."  Those concepts relate, but they don't overlap.  In 2 Peter 2:1, the unbeliever is called one who 'denies the Lord who bought him.'  I have no doubt that men want Jesus as Savior, but most reject Him, because they don't want Him as Lord.  Lou would have the latter be saved anyway.  That is a different gospel.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Omissions From the Gospel, Important to Consider: Follow-Up Two

Part One, Part Two

I want to give this at least one more shot (but there may be more).  It is a small series spawned by a bigger series assessing independent Baptists.

Most of the discussion about unity and separation among Christians deals with what unifies and what separates. Scripture teaches unity and separation.  Both evangelicals and fundamentalists know this.   As I have written here so many times before, the only true view is consistent with itself (one could call this the test of coherence).  The true view of the two results in or allows for coherence between the two.  Both exist in an exactly biblical way.  Someone can't hold to a position that doesn't separate according to scripture and be right about unity.  That can't be biblical unity, because biblical unity won't contradict biblical separation.

Neither unity or separation is better than the other, that is, unity isn't better than separation and separation isn't better than unity.  However, if there is a bias today, it's toward unity. Contemporary Christianity prioritizes unity, as if it is better than separation.  When someone is ashamed of separation, he probably will unify with those he shouldn't.

I have a view of unity that coheres with separation.  It is the one taught in the Bible, the one I can defend with scripture.  If it wasn't true, I'd be glad to know what was true and take that position. Whatever is the true view should allow for the defense of both biblical unity and biblical separation.  My belief contradicts the positions I most hear in fundamentalism.

Stay with me here, because I'm getting to the point that fits with the theme of these three posts.

Positions that contradict cannot both be right.  From evangelicals, I hear a position that is gospel centered, that is, the gospel is the core of their unity, so unity is core driven.  The core is the gospel.  I don't hear teaching on separation from evangelicals.  A core driven unity seems to eliminate separation altogether.

From fundamentalists, I hear a position that corresponds to separation.  I hear a boundary driven unity, the boundary being the gospel.  One unifies with someone whose belief does not deny the truths necessary for the gospel, and so separates with someone who does deny teachings required for salvation.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists contradict each other on their teaching of unity and separation. Those two positions are not the same.   They both have something in common though.  They both say the gospel is the basis of unity, one core driven and the other boundary driven.

If people are going to use the gospel as their basis of unity, and for fundamentalists, therefore, separation, then one would think that when they say "gospel," they mean the same thing.  If people say the gospel is the basis of unity, whether core-driven or boundary driven, then one would think that it's the same gospel, at least.  This is what I'm talking about with regards to the fellowship especially between fundamentalists.  They want to limit unity to the gospel and then are not too picky as to what is the gospel, as I see it.  This seems to dispel the idea that the gospel is what drives either unity or separation, but that it is just the terminology "gospel" that is important.

I'm going to be very plain now.  I told someone that getting the gospel right is more important than the Manhattan Project during World War 2.  I want to use the example of the Gospel Proclaimed as an example.  I think that the gospel represented by Sexton, or at least those associated with him, the ones whom he still exalts (and you can't have it both ways), causes bile to rise in the throats of Doran and Bauder (and perhaps others).  The fact that those two factions come together under the heading, Gospel Proclaimed, relates to what I'm talking about.

Fundamentalists, many independent Baptists, say that the doctrines necessary for the gospel are the basis of unity and separation.  They are the boundary.  And yet they've never come to an agreement in this coalition, in this definition, at what the gospel is.  It is obvious in their practice that they have not done this and maybe aren't going to do this.  I've never seen it.  I'm doing it right here, and I don't even agree with their position on unity and separation.  I practice at least their position, because I agree with at least their position, but they don't, is what I'm saying.

If men are going to unify on the gospel, unify on the gospel.  If men are going to separate over the gospel, then separate over the gospel.  Don't just say you are.  Do it.  But to do it, they are going to have settle on what it is.

I believe a game is played.  Lordship is either included with the gospel or it isn't.  Those who say it is and those who say it isn't -- they aren't saying the same thing.  They aren't teaching the same thing.  I would say everyone knows it.   Among many who exclude Lordship, which is most independent Baptists, they don't like it because of its effect on their success.  These people, those who exclude it, are included in the coalition.  They are part of the unity, as if there is no difference.  There is a difference and a major difference.  Many are going to be in hell and they'll know there was a difference.  The coalitions are not more important than what I'm talking about here, and these are the ones who say they are based upon the gospel.  The game played is that a gospel is called a gospel that someone doesn't believe is the gospel and that's enough for it to be one.  It isn't one, but it is called one, but it's only a game.

If you are someone who says unity and separation are based on the gospel, the gospel must be a big deal to you.  I don't even say that it is the basis for unity and separation, and yet the gospel is a deal breaker with me.  Is it for you?  I don't think we can be fuzzy on it. Are we fuzzy on the Trinity?  Is T. D. Jakes a Trinitarian?  If we won't protect the gospel, what will we protect any more?  If we won't defend it, what will we defend?  If unity and separation are based on the gospel, you boundary-driven types, then I think you should decide where that line will be drawn.  If you are not going to include Lordship, then let everyone know that you aren't going to do that.  If someone is going to accept something along the lines of intellectual repentance, then let everyone know that you accept it.  If not, your boundary doesn't mean that much.

What I'm talking about is a bias toward unity.  You won't separate from someone that teaches a different gospel, very likely because you think unity with that person is superior to separation.  It fits with the world's wrong understanding of love.  Love is toleration.  You think that you are more loving because you tolerate a different gospel.  New evangelicalism spawned from dialogue with unbelievers.  It was an evangelistic strategy of evangelicals.  Fundamentalism separated from new evangelicalism because evangelicalism chose not to separate from unbelieving theology, based on its strategy of infiltration.

Is the gospel the litmus test of your fellowship?  If it is, then you've got to come down on one side or the other of Lordship.  If not, then you will get those who receive Jesus only as Savior, and not as Lord, maybe many, who will go to hell because of that omission, that omission from the gospel.


For the sake of complete transparency and full disclosure, I want to admit to you that I am also boundary driven in my belief about unity and separation.  Core driven is wrong.  It perverts the doctrine of God's love by equating it with tolerance.  I agree with the boundary driven on this. However, I believe that the boundary is everything God has taught.  Scripture is perspicuous.  God doesn't allow for disobedience.  Neither should we.  Don't let this be a detriment to your enjoyment of and provocation to thought about the above post.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2014-15 Bethel Christmas Program

Here are our kids for the 2014-15 school year Christmas program, 1st through 12th grade.  Two of my daughters are in the picture, one at the piano, and the other, the third, took the picture.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Do Animals Have Souls and Spirits?

            Have you ever heard someone say, “The difference between man and the animals is that man has a soul,” and then quote Genesis 2:7?  The idea that the word soul, the Hebrew nephesh or the Greek psueche, or the spirit, the Hebrew ruach or Greek pneuma, is what distinguishes man from the animals is very widespread.  However, it is clearly and blatantly unbiblical.  Why is this the case?
            First, the Old Testament word for soul, nephesh, is very clearly employed for both animals and man. Indeed, Genesis 2:7 is the only text where the Hebrew for living soul is used of man alone.  In Genesis 9:16 the phrase is arguably used for both men and animals.  In every other text where the phrase living soul is found, it refers not to people, but to the animals, and often to the animals in contrast with man.  The relevant passages are as follows:
Gen. 1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
Gen. 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
Gen. 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. (KJV margin, “life: Heb. a living soul.”)
Gen. 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Gen. 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
Gen. 9:12  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
Gen. 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Gen. 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
Ezek. 47:9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.[1]
There is no basis for saying that the distinguishing feature of man, in contradistinction to animals, is the possession of a soul or nephesh.  Since living soul, nephesh chayyah, is employed identically of the animals in Genesis 1:20, 24, 30 and for man in 2:7, the conclusion that Genesis 2:7 teaches that the soul is what distinguishes man from the animals in Genesis 2:7 flies in the face of context in a radical way.  In fact, the nephesh is what distinguishes what is properly Biblically alive—and thus could not pass away before sin entered into the world at the time of the Fall—from the plants, which do not have nephesh, and could therefore be eaten before the Fall without there being death in the world.  Because both man and the animals have a soul or nephesh, neither of them could die before the Fall.
            Furthermore, the spirit or ruach (Aj…wr) is also employed for animals in Genesis 6:17; 7:15, 22 (KJV, “breath of life”), as well as appearing in texts where the ruach is a part of man (Genesis 26:35; 41:8; 45:27).  Animals and men also both have a body or gewiyyah (hÎ¥yˆw◊…g; Gen 47:18 (people); Judges 14:8-9 (animal)).  Similarly, the New Testament word for soul, pseuche (yuch/), is also used for both animals (Rev 8:9; 16:3) and people (Matthew 10:28).  The word spirit or pneuma (pneuvma) is used for people (Acts 7:59) but not specifically for animals in the New Testament, although there are also simply not that many animals in the NT, and pneuma is employed in the Greek LXX for the animals in the verses where the Greek translates the Hebrew ruach (e. g., Gen 6:17; 7:15, pneuma zoes, pneuvma zwhvß, but not 7:22, where the LXX has pnoen zoes, pnoh\n zwhvß, instead).
            So if neither the terms for body, soul, or spirit distinguish man from the animals, what does?  Genesis 1:26 provides the answer—the image of God.  Only mankind possesses the image of God, while animals and men both have ruach and nephesh; plants have no nephesh and, therefore, are not living, Biblically speaking.  Because man is in the image of God, one can properly say that man has a radically different soul and spirit (and body, for that matter) than those of animals, and that man’s body, soul, and spirit will exist forever either in the New Jerusalem or the lake of fire, unlike those of animals.  However, these differences are not the fundamental ones, but are built upon the fundamental difference of man’s unique characteristic of being created in God’s image.

This study, including a PDF file where Hebrew and Greek characters are not garbled if they are so on your computer, can also be accessed here.

[1]           The Hebrew for these verses, with the relevant phrase in red, is as follows:
:Mˆy`DmDÚvAh Aoyñîq√r y™EnVÚp_lAo X®r$DaDh_lAo P∞Epwøo◊y ‹Pwøo◊w h¡D¥yAj vRp∞Rn X®r™Rv Mˆy$A;mAh …wâx√rVvˆy My$IhølTa rRmaâø¥yÅw Gen. 1:20
:N`Ek_yIh◊y`Aw ;h¡DnyImVl X®r™Ra_wøt◊y`Aj◊w cRmö®rÎw h¶DmEhV;b ;hYÎnyImVl ‹hÎ¥yAj vRp§Rn X®r%DaDh a°Exwø;t My#IhølTa rRmaâø¥yÅw 1:24
:N`Ek_yIh◊y`Aw h¡DlVkDaVl bRc™Eo q®r¶Ry_lD;k_tRa hYÎ¥yAj vRp∞Rn ‹wø;b_rRvSa X®r#DaDh_lAo c∞Emwør — lâOkVl…w Mˆy%AmDÚvAh Pw°øo_lDkVl…w X®rDaDh t∞A¥yAj_lDkVlá…w 1:30
:h`D¥yAj vRp¶RnVl Mä∂dDa`Dh y¶Ih◊y`Aw My¡I¥yAj t∞AmVvˆn wy™DÚpAaV;b j¶AÚpˆ¥yÅw h$Dm∂dSa∞Dh_NIm ‹rDpDo M#∂dDa`Dh_tRa My%IhølTa h∏Îwh◊y ·rRxyˆ¥yÅw 2:7
:wáømVv a…wñh h™D¥yAj vRp¶Rn Mö∂dDaèDh w¬øl_a∂rVqˆy r°RvSa · lOk◊w wóøl_a∂rVqˆ¥y_hAm twäøa√rIl M$∂dDa∞Dh_lRa ‹aEbÎ¥yÅw Mˆy$AmDÚvAh Pwâøo_lD;k ‹tEa◊w ‹h®dDÚcAh t§A¥yAj_lD;k h#Dm∂dSa`Dh_NIm My%IhølTa h∏Îwh◊y ·rRxˆ¥yÅw 2:19
:M`Dlwøo tëOrOdVl M¡RkV;tIa r∞RvSa h™D¥yAj vRp¶Rn_lD;k Ny¢Eb…w M$Rky´ny∞Eb…w ‹yˆnyE;b N#EtOn y∞InSa_rRvSa ‹tyîrV;bAh_twáøa taôøz My#IhølTa rRmaâø¥yÅw 9:12
:r`DcD;b_lD;k t™EjAvVl l…w$;bAmVl ‹Mˆy‹A;mAh dwôøo h∏‰yVh`Iy_aáøl◊w r¡DcD;b_lDkV;b h™D¥yAj vRp¶Rn_lD;k Ny¢Eb…w M$Rky´ny∞Eb…w ‹yˆnyE;b r§RvSa y#ItyîrV;b_tRa y∞I;t√rAkÎz◊w 9:15
:X®r`DaDh_lAo r¶RvSa r™DcD;b_lDkV;b hYÎ¥yAj vRp∞Rn_lD;k ‹NyEb…w My$IhølTa Ny∞E;b M$Dlwøo tyâîrV;b ‹rO;k◊zIl Dhy#ItyIa√r…w N¡DnDo`R;b tRvä®;qAh h¶Dt◊yDh◊w 9:16
:lAj`D…nAh hD;m™Dv awøb¶Dy_rRvSa löO;k y$DjÎw ‹…waVpá∂r´y◊w hR;l#EaDh Mˆy∞A;mAh hD;m%Dv …wa°Db ·yI;k dóOaVm h∞D;bår h™Dg∂;dAh h¶DyDh◊w hY‰yVj`Iy ‹Mˆy‹AlSjÅn M§Dv aw°øbÎy ·rRvSa_lD;k l∞Ra X&OrVvˆy_rRvà≈a —h∞D¥yAj vRp∞Rn_lDk h∞DyDh◊w Ezek. 47:9