Untwisting Scripture #4: The False Claim that Jesus Was a Socialist

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [Colossians 3:5]*

One of the popular misapplications of Scripture with an attendant misrepresentation of Christ and His teachings, is the idea that somehow Jesus loved poor people more than He loved wealthy people and that Jesus condemned the accumulation of wealth.

Those who make such utterly ignorant statements demonstrate, by their mendacity, that they have not read the Gospels in their entirety, nor have they read the rest of the New Testament with any real comprehension or depth. If they had—they would not dare to utter such nonsense.

One of the more recent examples of this low-level of comprehension which I have encountered was a meme which appeared on Facebook with the caption to the effect that if Jesus was here bodily today, Fox News and the Republican party would seek to have him executed as a Palestinian terrorist with socialist [Marxist] teachings.

The caption on this photo displays its ignorance of Scripture in several respects. In the first place, Jesus identified Himself as being in the ethnic line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Matthew 1:1-2; Luke 3:34]. He did not identify Himself with the descendants of Ammon, Moab, Ishmael, or Esau [from whom are descended the modern-day Arabs]. Were any such person to make such a claim, he would be proclaiming a false Christ, an anti-Christ, if you will — and Jesus Himself warned His followers not to heed such people [Matthew 24:5, 24-26].

Secondly, nothing about the teachings of Christ can rightly be associated with terrorism –especially not that associated with Islamists. No followers of Christ have ever hijacked a jetliner and flown it into a skyscraper. No followers of Christ have ever strapped detonators and packets of C-4 or dynamite to their bodies, gone into a crowd of unsuspecting people, and detonated those explosives in the belief that such will grant them immediate access into paradise with an opportunity to indulge in eternal sexual hedonism.

Jesus stated that His kingdom was not one of this world. [John 18:36] He did nothing to encourage or incite violence against those who chose to reject Him. In fact, when He was arrested, He rebuked Simon Peter for using a sword to wound the High Priest’s servant. [Matthew 26:51-54; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11]

As a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus was an observant Jew. In fact, of everyone who ever lived, He is the only person who has lived His life in complete fidelity to the Mosaic Law — both in intent and action. Not only that, but He said that anyone who taught or encouraged others to live lives in disobedience to God, were to be considered as accursed [Matthew 5:17-20].

It must also be noted that Jesus Christ is more than a mere man. He is also God Incarnate, the very image of God in human flesh [John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3]. To suggest that He would identify Himself with an ethnic group and culture which denies the Incarnation, as the Islamists and “Palestinians” do, is not merely logically inconsistent, it is blasphemy.

It must be kept in mind that Jesus would not have recognized Mohammed as a prophet. Jesus declared that for men to be acceptable to God the Father, they must honor and worship Jesus Christ with the same honor and worship as they would show the Father. [John 5:23] Conversely, anyone who dishonors Jesus by claiming that He is not the Son of God, is someone who is rejected by God. [1 John 2:23]. Since one of the key beliefs of Islam is that Jesus Christ is NOT the Son of God, for Christ to suggest any kinship with the beliefs of Islam would be for Him to deny Himself.

Finally, it should be noted that the economic principles espoused by Christ, especially as commanded through Moses, while protecting the poor, are not like contemporary welfare programs, which amount to government appropriating money from the productive by use of threats of imprisonment [a form of extortion] to reward indolence, immorality, drunkenness and other forms of idolatry. Under the Mosaic law, those who wished to avail themselves of charity, had to glean in the fields following the harvest [Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22], or they had to present themselves to one of the cities assigned to the Levites [Deuteronomy 14:28-29]. Individuals who went beyond that were only expected to give assistance to the needy as a LOAN — with the expectation of being repaid in full [but not with interest] — not as a gift [Deuteronomy 15:7-11]. But such loans were to be given only for proven NEEDS [food, shelter, and clothing] — not to subsidize luxuries such as satellite dishes, HDTVs, broadband internet service, or smartphones with unlimited voice, text, and data plans.

But these principles apply to the Old Testament people of Israel and are nowhere imposed on Gentile believers in Christ [Acts 15:18-29]. If one looks to the New Testament to seek instruction on dealings with the poor, we find such aid very restricted. Christians are NOT required to provide financial assistance to every person they may encounter — at least not on an ongoing, open-ended basis. In Matthew 26:8-10, Jesus dismisses the idea that such an ongoing, open-ended form of charity is necessary for His followers to fund.

The only form of charity imposed on followers of Christ towards unbelievers is patterned in Luke 10:30-37. It is situational — based on extreme emergency from circumstances outside of the control of the beneficiary [not because of poor vocational, educational, or lifestyle choices]. It is temporary [not continual and ongoing]. It is voluntary and based on the proximity of the donor to the beneficiary — not a general obligation to be imposed on an entire congregation — because a donor near in proximity would be presumed to have actually vetted the beneficiary to determine the genuineness of the need. For a more thorough development of the exegesis of this text, see my previous blog: https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/untwisting-scripture-1-matthew-2531-46/

Basically, those who claim Jesus was a socialist are imposing their own politics on Him and trying to sanctify their support for what amounts to government-imposed theft of private property. Jesus and the Apostles had no such view. Jesus, in His parable on the talents, implicitly condones and encourages the precepts of venture capitalism. In this parable, the servants who take use their master’s money to obtain a profit, are deemed worthy of reward and given a share of the profits, while the servant who does nothing except to hoard the portion he was entrusted with, is condemned and cast away from the master.

In Acts 5, we are instructed from the incident where Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. They were under no compulsion to sell their property and donate their proceeds to the church. According to Acts 5:4, it was their property to retain or sell as they pleased. After they sold it, the proceeds were theirs to do with as they willed. Their sin was NOT in selling the property and keeping some of the proceeds for their own pleasure. Their sin was in giving only part of the money to the church while claiming they were giving the entire proceeds of the transaction. In other words, the property, whether the land or the proceeds from the sale of the land—was theirs, not anyone else’.

Nor do we find any place in Scripture where Jesus or the apostles condemned people for having wealth. Jesus and the apostles had friends among the wealthy: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Barnabas possessed wealth, as did Lydia [Acts 16:14] and Philemon. What is condemned in Scripture is the worship of wealth or the acquisition of wealth by means which are illegal/immoral. Of course the liberationistas and their theological cronies would claim that all acquisition of wealth is immoral, if not illegal. But look at entrepreneurism: if I offer someone a product or service and the production of that product or service does not involve violation of either Scripture or human law, and someone is agreeable to pay a specified sum for that product or service, and I have made no misrepresentations concerning the product or service, who is harmed? According to the terms, they have received fair value in the exchange of my product or service for their money. Now if there is sufficient demand for my product or service that I accumulate wealth, again, no one has been harmed, no Scripture has been violated and no law has been broken.

Now someone may trot out James 5:1-5 as proof that the accumulation of wealth is condemned in Scripture. But a careful reading of the context shows that James is no more condemning the possession of wealth anymore than he is teaching one must work to earn salvation in James 2:14-26. What is being condemned here is the misuse of wealth as a weapon for harming people.

In the final analysis, those who try to create a Jesus who was a Palestinian Arab instead of Jewish, who was a proto-socialist and for whom the only unforgivable sin is the acquisition of wealth, create for themselves a graven image born of an idolatrous human mind—not at all reflecting the true teachings of Scripture.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Untwisting Scripture #3: The mistaken notion that we are only to follow the example of Jesus’ and not other people.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. [1 Corinthians 4:16*]

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. [1 Corinthians 11:1]

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. [Philippians 3:17]

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. [Philippians 4:9]

…not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. [2 Thessalonians 3:9]

A meme recently popped up on my Facebook newsfeed which states: “Jesus did not say ‘Follow Christians,’ He said ‘Follow Me.’”

The inference that people who subscribe to that type of “theopraxy” want people to make is that we should never follow the example of human conduct, the only one we should follow is Christ. It falls into the “WWJD” juvenile mentality of shallow theology and application of Scripture.

This is the flip side of the theopraxic coin expressed in the false gospel song “One Day At A Time,” where the singer begins by moaning the trite phrase “I’m only human,” and then bemoans his/her inability to live a holy life, but God is “obligated” to forgive his/her shortcomings because of His grace. Both the song and the meme are rooted in the view that fallen humans, even when regenerated and empowered by the Holy Spirit, are miserable failures and will lead people astray and therefore cannot be trusted or relied on as examples of godliness. More often than not, this is offered by professed believers as a means to justify and rationalize their own sinful behavior, as if it would relieve them of any obligation to provide examples of godly living to others.

In other words, when caught in sin, their rationalization goes like this: “Well, you shouldn’t be looking at me as an example of godly conduct because I’m only human. You are erring because you are examining my behavior instead of how Jesus behaved.”

The problem with such thinking is that there is no Biblical justification for it.

In the first place, when Jesus spoke the command “Follow Me,” it was not to believers, rather it was a call to non-believers to change their direction. In other words, He is not telling them to reject human examples of godly behavior — He is directing them to reject all human works as being inefficacious for salvation and trust only in Him.

In addition, if we carefully examine Scripture, this is not the only word on the subject. To be qualified to speak to the subject requires looking at everything Scripture has said on the issue.

And although He did not speak to the issue directly, He did expressly state that the apostles would carry His authority in determining orthodoxy [right teaching] and orthopraxy [right actions] for the Church. And that authority is conveyed through their writings canonized in the New Testament. [See Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.]

When we examine the apostolic writings, we can see a far different picture than what is displayed in the Facebook meme. It doesn’t get any plainer when he told the Corinthians twice: “Imitate me.” Granted, the second time he qualified his command with the phrase, “just as I imitate Christ,” but the command is still not, “don’t follow me, follow Christ.” His command is rather, “Follow me, just as I follow Christ.”

To the church in Philippi, Paul wrote that the believers were to consider him as an example and a pattern.

To the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote that he was an example to be followed.

Nowhere in the writings of Paul does he ever write that believers are to not follow the example of human teachers whom God has placed in the Church for our edification.

The apostle Peter also held himself forth as an example to be followed in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

“But,” I hear objectors cry, “Peter and Paul were apostles and were supernaturally empowered to live holy lives.” This objection is nonsense for two reasons.

In the first place, neither Peter nor Paul led lives of sinless perfection following their regeneration and conversion.  Paul notes in Romans 7 his struggles with sin and the desire to have the old nature completely eradicated from his life.  Paul notes in Galatians 2:11-16 how he publicly rebuked Peter and Barnabas [who had been his mentor in the faith] when their conduct was not consistent with their teaching.  Luke candidly catalogs Paul’s shortcomings when he talks about the very “un-Christian” disagreement Paul had with Barnabas in Acts 15:36-39.ŧ  Luke also forthrightly records Paul’s disobedience in going to Jerusalem in Acts 21:4

And yet, in spite of their imperfections, Peter and Paul both held themselves as examples for believers to emulate.

In the second place, although the apostles were supernaturally empowered to perform signs and wonders to confirm their message and claims to apostleship, this empowerment is qualitatively different from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life, which is enjoined upon every believer, according to what Paul wrote to the church in Rome in Romans 7:6; 8:12-17, and to the churches in Galatia in Galatians 5:16-25.

Finally, it must be noted that Scripture does not merely presume that those who were apostles were empowered and commanded to be examples, but those who followed them were to be examples also. Paul commanded Timothy: …be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. [1 Timothy 4:12] He commanded Titus: …in all things to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility.  [Titus 2:7] Peter told the elders in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, …not by compulsion…, nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. [1 Peter 5:2-3].

Jesus Himself commanded all His followers to: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. [Matthew 5:16]

Therefore, when Christians say that we are to follow Christ as our moral example, while ignoring the examples of believers who live less than perfect lives, we are confusing the roles of Savior [a role which only Christ can occupy], teacher [a role and calling which the Holy Spirit gifts believers to occupy for the edification of the church], and pattern/example [a role and calling for which all who follow Christ are gifted and required to occupy].

Moreover, the doctrine of “Follow Christ, not men,” ignores Scripture, and instead offers a cheapened form of grace to believers with no accountability. It is an arrogant excuse for ungodly living and not a plea for grace and mercy.

*Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧ John MacArthur, in the MacArthur Study Bible, in his note on this passage, places the blame for the dissension on Barnabas [p. 1662], stating that since Paul was an apostle, Barnabas should have been in submission to him. No other commentary I have been able to consult follows MacArthur’s view. It should be noted that MacArthur’s interpretation of the event fails to recognize that Barnabas was also called and anointed as an Apostle in Acts 13:2. Therefore, Acts 15:36-41 presupposes a calling in which both men were of equal standing. Paul himself considers Barnabas an apostle of equal standing in 1 Corinthians 9:5-6. In this same passage, Paul is asserting his calling as an apostle in a situation where the believers were questioning his authority. That is why do not see him pulling rank on Barnabas on this occasion.

§ Typically, the passage is translated: And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. The NASB says they kept telling Paul not to proceed to Jerusalem. According to the construction of the phrase “not to go up,” the Greek uses the negative particle μη [pronounced “may”] with an active future infinitive. Such a grammatical construction always has the force of an imperative, such that Paul was being commanded NOT to proceed to Jerusalem or face severe consequences. [See A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, electronic edition. See also James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham, MD: University Press, 1979), pp. 138-139, on the “infinitive of command.”] Most commentators and study Bible notes gloss over this for fear of making Paul less “holy.” My belief, based on exegesis of the text in the original language, and not the language of a translation, is that the passage shows that Paul, like Peter, was far from a perfect human and that even he did not live a life of perfect obedience following his conversion and call to be an apostle.

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Orthorexia in the Church [aka The Heresy of Diet-ism]

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things.

For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. [Romans 14:1-4*]

More and more frequently, I am encountering an incursion of an ancient heresy I shall call for the sake of this blog, “Diet-ism.” Those who deal with eating disorders have a new name for it, “orthorexia.” It is a disorder in which people have a compulsion/obsession with only eating certain foods deemed to be correct.

It is nothing new in the experience of the church. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it in the form of Judaizers in Antioch and Galatia who attempted to teach believers that they had to abide by the kisruth laws in the Mosaic code. They had to deal with it in the church of Rome because vegans were seating themselves in the judgment seat of Christ asserting their moral superiority over those who were not vegans, while the non-vegans were looking down their noses at the vegans for not enjoying their freedom in Christ.

“Diet-ism” takes many contemporary forms. One form, experienced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [aka, the Mormons] follows a dictate from their founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., which dictates that, “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” [Doctrine and Covenants 89:9, Utah Edition]ŧ With this command, that group deems it inappropriate for members to drink coffee or tea. While some believe this is because coffee and tea contain caffeine, the rule specifically states “hot drinks,” and is inconsistently applied. For example, there is no prohibition against consuming other beverages served hot, such as cocoa, herbal teas, Postum [a coffee substitute made from roasted grain and chicory], or hot spiced apple cider. Nor is it caffeine which is cited as the reason for the prohibition because there is no proscription against drinking carbonated beverages which contain caffeine [such as most cola drinks, Doctor Pepper, Mountain Dew, and even some fruit-flavored carbonated beverages]. This leads to an interesting [yet trivial] conundrum for Mormons: since the proscription specifies “hot drinks” and not caffeinated beverages, could a Mormon consume iced tea or frappecino without violating their moral code?

And while Mormons may not be excommunicated for failing to follow these provisions, strict adherence to the provisions is a requirement if one wishes to participate in their temple ceremonies. Failure to participate or being banned from participation in temple ceremonies means one will not experience deification.

Another form of “Diet-ism” is found in Sabbatarian sects like the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Church of God, and the Worldwide Church of God, all of which espouse avoidance of pork, shellfish, and other meats deemed unclean under the Old Testament law—in a revival of the Judaizing which Paul condemned at Antioch and Galatia. Many Seventh Day Adventists go even further by insisting that ALL meat should be avoided and that God only approves of a vegan diet.

This latter form of the heresy is now surfacing in the “evangelical” church. Rick Warren, that guru of the gospel of self-actualization, now promotes what he calls “the Daniel Plan,” a plan he developed in partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft, Dr. Mahmet Oz.ŧŧ

Warren’s partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft directly disobeys New Testament teaching [2 Corinthians 6:14-17]–but disobedience to Scripture commands and teaching is nothing new for Warren since his entire ministry is built on promoting a thoroughly unbiblical view of man and the Person and Work of Christ.

But where Warren’s brand of diet-ism becomes heretical is the fact that he uses this man-made plan as a means for determining who is to be accepted as a “serious” [aka “spiritual”] believer—presumably those who do not participate are deemed to be unspiritual.

It is this latter view which makes Warren’s practice even more heretical. He places himself as a judge of others over the issue of food—a practice specifically prohibited by the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul in Romans 14:1-4, and again in Colossians 2:16: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.

Yet another manifestation of diet-ism is the more recent view which claims people should only eat organic foods or should eschew any foods which might contain GMO ingredients. Proponents of this view make unfounded claims that organic/non-GMO foods are “better” [i.e., healthier] for people than foods produced by non-organic/GMO foods.

There are two basic problems with this view. The first is that there is no objective, peer-reviewed research following accepted protocols which justifies the claims that foods grown/processed according to organic “standards” are nutritionally superior to non-organic foods. Nor is there any research to substantiate the claims that GMO foods are dangerous for human consumption. What is presented as “research” is anecdotal evidence which is non-verifiable, non-replicable, and cannot prove even a statistical correlation between health and consumption of organic/non-GMO foods vs. inorganic/GMO foods, let alone causation. And the so-called “experts” cited in such “studies” are not trained scientists in fields such as biochemistry, genetics, or other accepted disciplines—but instead have “doctorates” in such fields as “spiritual nutrition” and “zen biology” from diploma mill schools. The fact that Doctor Oz, the so-called “health professional” who advances this nonsense, is a noted practitioner of Reiki [a form of witchcraft], besides the fact that he also relies solely on anecdotal evidence, completely invalidates any statement he might have on the issues. As noted earlier, Doctor Oz is also the main architect behind the “Daniel Plan” being shilled by another huckster of occult name-it/claim-it nonsense, Rick Warren.

So what do we do when we are confronted by “believers” who promote orthorexia as an indication of Christian orthodoxy?

The first thing we must do is recognize that until and unless one has irrefutable scientific proof [not mere speculation or suspicions because one is truly ignorant o the science involved], that non-organic/GMO foods are toxic, the people touting any form of orthorexia are speaking in opposition to our liberty in Christ.

Jesus Himself spoke to the issue: So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” [Mark 7:18-19]

Of course, the argument could be made that Jesus was only referring to the issue of meat from animals previously deemed unclean—but that ignores the fact that orthorexics are, by and large, vegans. And I have encountered many such who vilify those of us who see no moral problem with consuming meat.

Paul went further to state in the passage cited above from Romans that those who are vegans are not to place themselves in judgment over those who choose not to be. And those who are not vegans are not to look down on those who are.

Unfortunately, orthorexics do just that. At a recent church family camp, I overheard one orthorexic telling people that GMOs are poisonous and anyone who eats GMO foods is killing themselves [and by implication–such people are sinning]. Now this person has no formal training in any scientific discipline—having only a high school education—and her knowledge is not based on any peer-reviewed research which supports her statements. Except for one study, all peer-reviewed research shows that GMOs are safe for human consumption—the only study which shows GMOs to be “possibly toxic” was rejected by the British Academy of Science because it was procedurally flawed, thereby rendering the conclusions worthless since the results have never been replicated.

Basically, the people who fall prey to this type of nutritional paranoia are scientifically illiterate and prone to gullibility when it comes to conspiracy theories. They hear or read something which fuels their paranoia, look up some articles via Google which support their paranoid conspiracy theories, and then build a pseudo-theological framework to rationalize their paranoia.

An example of this paranoia can be found at websites such as http://www.responsibletechnoloy.org, which regularly posts hysterical warnings of the dangers of GMO foods. The problem is that the person who operates this website, one Jeffrey Smith, has no scientific credentials, and the “evidence” he claims to support his paranoid conspiracy theories is undocumented and therefore unverifiable. The problem is compounded by the fact that this self-proclaimed expert is then the one cited as authoritative by the other conspiracy theorists to support their paranoia. Such paranoid thought processes steeped in conspiracy theories and presented in hysterical, apocalyptic tones are reminiscent of the King James Only cultists like Peter Ruckman and Tex Marr.

Contrary to the beliefs of orthorexics and those who promote orthorexia in the church—people like Rick Warren and Doctor Oz, eating meat does not make a person less spiritually mature, nor does eating a vegan diet bring one closer to God. [1 Corinthians 8:8]

If anything, the practice of orthorexia become in and of itself a sin, because it divides the body of Christ in a manner not justified in Scripture.

I cannot repeat this enough: As believers, we are commanded in Scripture not to hold in contempt or judge as unworthy anyone whose dietary practices differ from ours.

Those same people claim otherwise, but let me demonstrate how subtle the process works:

In 1 Corinthians 10:25-28, the principle is laid out that if we are invited to someone’s house for a meal, we are not to kick up a fuss about the source of the food. Paul’s specific reference here is to meat offered up as a sacrifice to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. But there is an application here for the “I only eat organic/non-GMO foods” cult: when someone invites you to their home for a meal, you do not ask whether or not the host/ess is only going to prepare organic/non-GMO foods. Now as a host, I would want to make certain there are no medical dietary restrictions such as whether or not a guest might have GIRD, Coeliac Disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance or food allergies, and plan accordingly. For friends who are vegans, I would of course, prepare a vegan meal—but I am not going to strain my bank account and consume massive amounts of time and energy to make sure every single item I prepare has been certified as organic and non-GMO just to assuage someone with orthorexia. My view here is, eat what’s set before you without question, or just don’t bother to come over.

Paul goes even further to say that those who promote orthorexia in the church are promoting a doctrine which originated with demons, not Scripture. [1 Timothy 4:1-5].

This means that when we are not under any compulsion to limit our diets to suit the orthorexics, who, by definition of Scripture, are manifesting a form of immaturity. However, we do not judge them or despise them, but we call them to respect our liberty in Christ.

*Unless otherwise noted, all passages are from the Holy Bible: New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧTo be distinguished from the “Independence Edition,” followed by the Community of Christ [formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]

ŧŧDr. Oz practices an occult art called “Reiki” in which he invokes a familiar spirit to control his body in order to diagnose diseases and perform surgeries.

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Defining Essential Doctrine

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,

he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,

usesless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.   [1 Timothy 6:3-5]#

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  [2 Timothy 1:13]

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned to fables.  [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

For a bishop [elder, pastor] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,

but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,

holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.   [Titus 1:7-9]

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine….   [Titus 2:1]

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded,

in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  [Titus 2:6-8]

It is a disgrace to the Church in the twenty-first century that in many congregations, the leadership is an abysmal failure in promoting sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? It is that body of teaching which the Church has understood to be the body of apostolic teaching [and the necessary inferences derived from those teachings] which have been consistently taught since the first century. Basically, the issues of sound doctrine center around five questions:  (1) What do we understand the nature of God to be?  (2) Who do we say Jesus is?  (3) What do we understand the Bible to be?  (4) What do we say about the nature of man?  (5) What must one do to be saved [or be in right relationship with God]?  While there are other doctrines which are important, the answers for these questions are definitional for believers.  If anyone has an incorrect understanding of any of these doctrines, all of their doctrine is built on a very unstable foundation.

In answer to the first question we say that we believe in one God who has revealed Himself as three distinct Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We affirm that the Father is God [John 20:17;  1 Corinthians 8:6;  Ephesians 4:6], the Son is God [John 5:23;  1 John 2:23], and the Holy Spirit is God [Acts 5:3-4].  Each is co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existant. However, while God is One in His essential being, He is not one in Personhood.  Scripture affirms this distinction of Persons in three ways:  Firstly, there is the simultaneous manifestation of all three Persons in the Trinity at the same instant in Matthew 3:16-17.* Secondly, Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, draws a distinction between Himself and the Father.##  Thirdly, Jesus draws a distinction between the Holy Spirit and Himself [John 14:16-17, 26;  15:26;  16:7-8, 13-15;  Acts 1:8].  Finally, Jesus draws a clear line of distinction between the Father and the Holy Spirit [John 14:16, 26;  15:26].  Therefore, we cannot say that the Father is the same as the Son and both Father and Son are the same as the Holy Spirit — because in so doing, we would be stating an ancient heresy called modalism, not the doctrine of the Trinity.  This is important because I recently had the misfortune of hearing a Southern Baptist pastor proclaim a modalistic view of God in a Wednesday evening Bible study when he stated that the members of the Trinity are each the same Person.

Do you see the doctrinal confusion which results when one does not carefully express what he believes, or states it in a manner which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture?  The whole concept of modalism is fraught with such confusion:  If the Son and the Father are the same, to whom was Jesus praying in John 17?  If the Father and the Son are the same, who died on the cross and who forsook Jesus on the cross [Matthew 27:46]?

Of course it goes hand in hand with the doctrine of the Trinity that we also affirm that Jesus Christ was fully God Incarnate — as is taught in Scripture.§  This is in distinction from such errant views which would claim that Jesus was merely a man who was adopted as the Son of God [adoptionism—a heresy now advocated by liberals and those who identify their theology as “neo-orthodox”], or that Jesus was some form of semi-divine being who while called the Son of God, was less in majesty and rank than God [a heresy called subordinationism — its most prevalent form was called Arianism and is currently promoted by the Jehovah’s Witness cult].  We also affirm that He was fully human—in contrast to such views which teach that He only appeared or seemed to be human.  These two natures are distinct, yet conjoined in what is called “hypostatic union.”

These are crucial issues because if one denies either the Trinity, or the full Deity and humanity of Christ, one is preaching a different gospel.  And Scripture says anyone who preaches a different gospel is to be considered accursed [Galatians 1:8-9].  If anyone wishes to take exception to this remark and accuse me of being “judgmental” — I would remind them that this is the judgment of God and clearly stated in His word — not my mere personal opinion.

Another area where false teaching deviates from historic Christianity concerns the nature of Scripture.  The historic view of the Church has been, from apostolic times, that Scripture is the very Word of God.  In other words, on any matter about which Scripture has spoken, we are to take what Scripture has said as God’s word on the matter.  It is plenarily [fully, completely, totally] inspired by God [as opposed to the view that it is merely the writings of men and what they thought about God.  It is inerrant [without any error] in the autographs [original writings] in all that it affirms, either propositionally or by necessary inference.  It is totally sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes for us without resort to “natural wisdom.”  While I could say more, I have addressed these issues in other blogs and refer the reader back to them.¶

Typically, those who deny the primacy of Scripture may deny it in different ways.  First, they may deny the inspiration of Scripture, claiming that it is merely words about God, not the Word of God.  Another form of denial comes in the form of denying its inerrancy.  Both of these denials are common from those who have embraced some form of liberalism or neo-orthodoxy.

More insidious than either of the first two forms of denial, is that which affirms the inspiration of Scripture, and its authority, but equivocates on the issue of the canon of Scripture.  Liberals do this by asserting that the canon of Scripture, those books which have historically been recognized as the comprising the Bible, was not “determined” by any godly process — but is solely of human origin.  The other extreme claims that the canon of Scripture, while adequate for its time, is no longer adequate and needs to be supplemented by more up-to-date revelation [the view of cults such as Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and the New Apostolic Reformation].  The same Southern Baptist pastor who denied the Trinity, on that very same evening, denied that the Bible as we know it to be sufficient.  His statement was that the Bible as protestants know it was determined politically and that there are books which are included in the Bible which should have been omitted, and other books which have been omitted which should have been included.  In other words, this so-called “Christian” pastor told his congregation that liberalism has a better view of the nature of Scripture than almost two thousand years of church history.

It is sufficient to say that the pastor has a somewhat uninformed [if not theologically illiterate] view of Scripture.  Had he actually studied the issue [and it was evident that he had no knowledge to speak on the subject intelligently], he would have found that his statements had been thoroughly rejected by scholars of more ability and godliness than he, with better grounded explanations on how the canon of Scripture was recognized [not determined].ŧ  Regardless, his statements made to those for whom he is charged with teaching sound doctrine are such that he is leading them astray.

If I was stunned by such comments made to a small group gathered on a Wednesday evening, what was said from the pulpit on Easter morning of this year went beyond mere heresy into blasphemy.  In his Easter sermon, this same pastor stated.  “There is within all men [and women, I presume] an innate desire to seek God and please Him.”  Why is this blasphemous?  It is one thing to make a theological statement based on poor inferences.  It is another thing entirely to utter from the pulpit a statement which not merely contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture, but, by inference, also calls God a liar.

Let me state it plainly:  There is nothing in man which innately seeks God.  Romans 3:10-11 states:  “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands;  there is none who seeks after God.” [emphasis added]  Jesus stated:  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….” [John 6:44, emphasis added]  Paul is saying that we [in our natural, unredeemed state] do not seek God.  Jesus further states that we have no capacity to seek God — except He draws us.  Jesus went even further and stated that only those who are drawn by God will come to Him. [John 6:37, 45] So, if we agree with the pastor in claiming that man is innately drawn to God, we infer that Paul writing under the inspiration and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, was lying.  More than that, if one agrees with the pastor, one is, by inference, calling Jesus a liar.  What is being taught by this pastor is an ancient heresy called Pelagianism. It is a different gospel.

The problem with this pastor’s wrong view of the nature of man stems from a view that denies the doctrine of total depravity and the sovereignty of God in electing whom He wills to salvation.  The emphasis in such proceedings is not upon the sovereign grace of God, but on man’s capacity to autonomously decide for himself whether or not to accept God’s grace — as if man is doing God an immense favor in deciding to follow Him and therefore has “earned” grace by his decision.  Contrary to the word of God [John 1:13], this view of salvation makes man the measure of salvation, not the will of God.

Such a view is not surprising, however, last Wednesday night, this same pastor called the doctrines of man’s depravity and God’s sovereign grace, “a false gospel.”

It comes as no surprise that in this congregation, even the other leaders have no idea what salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone means.  One of the Sunday School teachers told his class on that day that Christians must do good works to prove they are “worthy” to enter heaven.  This emphasis on works righteousness has also been taught by the pastor in his Wednesday night “discipleship” training, where he taught that unless one performs certain actions [tithing, regular attendance, soul winning] one isn’t really a Christian and will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  To compound the error, the pastor then leveled a false accusation against all who follow reformed doctrine because one person he claims is a Calvinist supposedly told him that Calvinists have no need to engage in evangelism or mission work.  I know this to be false because I have two acquaintances who are firm in their convictions of reformed soteriology, yet are engaged in mission work.  And these are not the only ones.  One can point to such past Calvinists as George Whitefield, David Brainard, Jonathan Edwards, Cotton and Increase Mather, and Charles Spurgeon who promoted missions and evangelism.  In our time we can point to such people as Cornelius van Til, Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, R.C. Sproul, James R. White, and John MacArthur as Calvinists who promote evangelism and mission work.

The sad part of this saga is that the pastor really believes he is teaching the truth, when what is really being taught is riddled with so many misconceptions, distortions, and outright slander that it really is a false gospel.  Unfortunately, the congregation is proof of what the late Jim Strauss said about churches who promote growth via programs and promotions:  “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

ENDNOTES:

# Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* This was also manifested at the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17] and again during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry in John 12:27-30.

## Matthew 10:32-33; John 5:17, 19-23, 26-27, 36-37, 43, 45; 6:27, 29, 32, 37-40, 44; 7:28-29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29; 10:15-18, 25-30, 32-38; 11:41-42; 14:24, 28, 31; 15:9-10, 15, 16, 23, 26; 16:10, 27-28, 32; 17:1-26; 18:11.

§ Matthew 26:63-64; John 8:58; John 20:28; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1.

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/scripture-pt-1/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/scripture-pt-2/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/scripture-pt-3a/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/scripture-pt-3b/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/scripture-pt-4-translation-theory/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/scripture-part-5-the-sufficiency-of-scripture/

ŧ See Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 203-317. See also Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 20-32, 56.

 

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Untwisting Scripture #2: Psalm 105:13-15 (The problem with Charismaniacs)

And they wandered about from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people.

He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes:

“Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”[Psalm 105:13-15]*

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. [James 4:11]

This is a prime example of how some pentecostals, charismatics, and third wavers twist and distort Scripture.  I use a term I learned from the late Chuck Smith to describe such people: charismaniacs.  He used this term to denote those in the pentecostal/charismatic movement who elevated subjective experience over the propositional truth of Scripture. One of the marks of charismania is that whenever one of their own is placed under the scrutiny of Scripture to determine whether what is taught is accurate and true, they immediately trot these passages out to squelch any discussion of the matter.

The underlying premise they operate from is that teachers have a “special” anointing from God and therefore their pronouncements and dictates, no matter how far out in left field they seem to be coming from, are to be accepted on a par with Scripture without question and must be regarded as inerrant, infallible, and authoritative—regardless of whether or not those statements align with Scripture. And in the event of a clear-cut contradiction between Scripture and so-called “new revelational truth,” Scripture is relegated to second-class status.

The charges which are leveled at anyone who dares to question is that they have a “critical spirit.”  In other words, the charismaniacs are saying any believer who dares to question their form of popery or who states, or even hints, that some teachers are not teaching the word of God accurately, is demon possessed.  I had that very charge made to me by some woman on facebook who has never met me and who doesn’t know anything about me simply because I told her in a thread that her understanding of Scripture was not accurate.

In order to understand the depth of Scripture twisting engaged in by charismaniacs when they haul out these two passages, it is highly crucial that we look at the passages in their historical and grammatical contexts.  We cannot simply state that because this is what a passage says in an English translation and because certain teachers [who are usually involved in the name-it/claim-it heresy] say it means such-and-such, that such an  interpretation is accurate or true.

In the instance of the passage I cited from Psalm 105, two questions arise:  (1) Who are “the anointed ones?” and (2) Is it accurate to apply this passage to a specific class of believers in this dispensation?  In the first place, I charge charismaniacs of ignoring not only the historical context of this passage, but the immediate context as well.  In verses 8-12, the writer makes it abundantly clear that those “anointed ones” are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the passage is not a reference to believers in this dispensation.

But let’s assume for the purpose of this discussion that “anointed ones” could refer to believers in this dispensation, the next question would be, does this refer to a special class of believers?

The answer to that question would be a resounding “NO!”  There is no elevated class of believers who are to be regarded as “anointed,” while there exists a second-class group of believers who are not.  All who follow Christ are to be considered “anointed ones” according to Romans 8:9-11;  1 Corinthians 12:3;  1 John 2:20, 27.  Those who perpetrate charismania on the basis that there is a special class of believers who are anointed and a second class of believers who are not are promoting false doctrine and directly contradicting the word of God.

Let’s also examine their other pet passage for “refuting” those who would call them out on their heresy—James 4:11.  They claim it is a sin to “speak against” [the NKJV says “speak evil of”] a brother. But what does this mean?  According to the promoters of charismania, to “speak against” means to place any of their so-called special prophets and teachers under the scrutiny of Scripture to evaluate their teachings, and when those teachings are found to be in error—to call them out on it.

This is twisting Scripture again because it is reading into the passage a meaning which was foreign to the intention of the appointed writer—and by extension, the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scripture.

The Greek word rendered as “speak against” is καταλαλέω [pronounced “kah-tah-lah-LEH-o”].  According to the lexical section found in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, the primary meaning of the word is “to traduce, to slander.” [p. 2198].  I find no discussion of the term in either Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, or the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament.  The Biblical Illustrator gives the primary meaning of the term to mean a willful false accusation.  John Gill, in his exposition of the Bible, states that it is “raising false reports, and bringing false charges.”

It is therefore an egregious twisting of Scripture to apply a word that objectively means “to traduce,” which Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines as “to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation,” and say that it means any form of disagreement or criticism of someone.  It is this meaning which John MacArthur applies to the text when he notes:  “This means to slander or defame.  James does not forbid confronting those in sin, which is elsewhere commanded in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-17; Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10).  Rather, he condemns careless, derogatory, critical, slanderous accusations against others.” (MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV edition, p. 1933).

This brings up another word which charismaniacs like to throw out as an accusation:  being “critical.”  To criticize someone or thing means [again, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition] “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly:  EVALUATE.”  But the charismaniacs I’ve dealt with do not appear to be interested in objective, factual evaluation of any matter according to the standard of Scripture — at least if their actions indicate anything, since their discourse and logic are not rational or Scriptural.

Instead, the instant someone exposes a flaw in their interpretation of Scripture or use of terminology by appealing to objective sources, the ones I have dealt with resort to name calling and false accusation:  “You have a critical spirit.” [Which is their code for “I think you’re demon-possessed, so I don’t have to deal with you or treat you with any measure of courtesy.”]

What is obvious to everyone, except apparently charismaniacs, is that it is not defamatory or slanderous to accuse someone of false teaching or twisting Scripture, when one has factual data to back it up the accusation.  As an attorney once told me, “Truth is always a defense against a charge of slander.”  The Scriptural command is a prohibition against making false accusations, not against leveling an accusation which can be proven true.  It therefore follows that those who are willing to confront false teachers over their errors are not being critical, but demonstrating a greater love and loyalty to Christ and His Church than those who actively promote error or those who simply acquiesce to error, but try to stifle the voices of truth with false accusations that the voices of truth are “possessed of a critical spirit.”

Moreover, there is a certain level of disingenuousness, if not outright hypocrisy, being engaged in by charismaniacs when they say someone or a group of people are “possessed of a critical spirit.”  In the first place, there is no passage in the Bible which even indicates that such a spirit exists.

In the second place, even if such a spiritual entity did exist, Christians, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot be possessed by a demon at the same time.  For those charismaniacs who claim that Christians can be possessed by a demon, I have one challenge to make:  prove it from Scripture.  I know some charismaniacs will point to the example of Peter in Matthew 16:23, but that eisegetical boat won’t float.  The incident in question where Jesus addressed Peter as Satan occurred BEFORE His ascension into heaven.  Therefore, at that point in time Peter was not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit according to John 7:39.

This means that when charismaniacs run about accusing other believers of being possessed of a critical spirit because the other believers are speaking the truth of God’s word, the charismaniacs are being hypocritical.  They are laying false accusations against other believers, who are God’s anointed ones—and thereby violating the same Scriptures they falsely accuse their brethren of violating.

If the charismaniacs’ shabby application of Scripture is true, why is it not demonstrated in Scripture?  We have a vivid example of a respected church leader [Peter] engaging in gross misconduct in front of other believers in Galatians 2:11-21.  And this was AFTER Pentecost!  Peter was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  But when he was confronted by Paul, did Peter puff out his chest with the arrogance displayed by contemporary charismaniacs and declare to Paul that Paul had no authority to criticize him because he was one of God’s anointed?   No, Peter’s own words suggest that he repented, because later in life he acknowledged Paul’s writings as being Scripture. [2 Peter 3:15-16]

The example of Paul’s dealing with Peter in Galatians 2:11-21 also refutes another claim raised by charismaniacs:  that when their teachers proclaim false doctrine, those who seek to correct them are obligated to approach them privately, following the pattern of Matthew 18:15-17.   Paul did not go to Peter privately when Peter sinned publicly.  The Bible states that Paul rebuked Peter “in the presence of all.” [Galatians 2:14]  There are many passages which instruct believers on to deal with those who willfully promote false teachings and practices: we are to “keep an eye on” [“note” in the NKJV] and “turn away from” [NKJV — “avoid”] them in Romans 16:17.  We are to consider them “accursed in Galatians 1:8-9 [Paul’s word inspired by the Holy Spirit—not mine].  We are to “keep away” [ “withdraw” — NKJV] from and “not associate” [“keep company” — NKJV] with such people according to 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14.  We are to withdraw from such according to 1 Timothy 6:3 [NKJV — the phrase does not appear in the critical text of the NT and so is omitted from the NASB].   We are to “reprove” [“rebuke” — NKJV] them according to Titus 1:13 and 2:15.  We are to “reject” them according to Titus 3:10.  We are not to even extend such basic courtesies as hospitality or greeting them according to 2 John 10.  It stands to reason that when charismaniacs support false teachers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, T. D. Jakes, Paul Crouch, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Ted Haggard, et al, and such false phenomena as the “Toronto Blessing,” they do so in defiance of Scriptural teaching and standards, and thereby become promoters of false doctrine themselves. When they set themselves at odds against those who seek to return the Church to the standard of Sola Scriptura, I charge that they are the ones who do not show evidence of a proper reverence for Christ, His word, or His Church. They are the hypocrites in word and deed.

*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture passages are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used By permission. http://www.Lockman.org

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The Believer and MMA

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [meekness], self-control. Against such there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis added]i

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness [meekness], with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,… [Ephesians 4:1-2]

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;… [Colossians 3:12]

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. [1 Timothy 3:2-6]

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness [meekness]. [1 Timothy 6:11]

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but [must] be gentle [meek] to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,… [2 Timothy 2:24-25]

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle [meek], showing all humility to all men. [Titus 3:1-2]

Recently I was involved briefly in a discussion on Facebook, in which I stated that sports which glorify violence and which involve the deliberate infliction of pain and injury upon one’s opponent do not glorify God—this was in specific reference to MMA [Mixed Martial Arts, for those not familiar with the term]/UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship – the biggest promoter of MMA fighting in the United States]. I basically compared MMA fighting to gladiator fighting in the Roman Empire.

Some youngster, who claimed expert knowledge of MMA fighting [but apparently utterly lacking in knowledge of the Bible, logic, or history] stated that my comparison was simplistic and ridiculous–and, by inference, stated that he believed I was stupid.

In his remarks, this young man displayed at least four logical fallacies which invalidated his remarks and rendered them as utter nonsense.

The first logical fallacy was the fallacy of ad hominem.  For those not versed in formal debate or rules of logic, the ad hominem fallacy is to attack one’s opponent personally when one has no factual basis for dismissing their points.  This young man committed the ad hominem fallacy when he dismissed me and my remarks as being “simplistic” and “ridiculous” without offering a shred of factual evidence to refute the comments.

In my remarks, I had described MMA fighting as basically having the goal of one combatant pummeling his [or her] opponent into senselessness.  The young man who wished to gainsay my comments again offered no solid evidence to refute my claims.  Instead, he resorted to a second logical fallacy—false equivocation—claiming that such competitive sports as baseball, basketball, football, and hockey are equally violent and that I was being hypocritical in not addressing the violence in those sports.  Another form of false equivocation in his “argument” is the inherent presumption which equates the risk of injury with violence.

This gainsayer claimed as “proof” of the inherent violence in these other sports, the fact that he had lost a tooth while playing a basketball game.  This presents the third and fourth logical fallacies—appealing to inappropriate authority and sweeping generalization.  An anecdote of personal injury presented without context as to the circumstances under which the injury occurred cannot be cited as expertise in evaluating the level of violence in one particular sport—and to make that the basis for claiming all sports as “violent” is simply a claim which has no epistemological warrant in terms of logic.

Before we examine the Biblical proscriptions which render any form of violence for the purpose of entertainment as unsuitable for the one who claims to serve Christ [either as a participant or as a spectator], let’s look at the history and facts surrounding the “sport” called MMA fighting.  We shall then compare those with other sports which my opponent claims to be equally violent.  In other words, I hope to disarm false logic with facts.

Contemporary MMA competitions originated as a means of incorporating different elements of martial arts in a situation resembling a street fight.ii  Because combatants are not trained in a formal style, such as tae kwan do, kung fu, hap ki do, or sanshou, they are not ranked according to levels of mastery.  The only evaluation of “mastery” is one’s win-loss record.

MMA matches are scored by a panel of three judges.  Wins are determined in one of three ways: a knock out, a submission [surrender by one’s opponent], or a judges’ decision.  This is similar to how matches are decided in boxing [the submission being the MMA equivalent of a TKO].

Although rules for the “sport” differ depending on which organization is promoting the fights, until very recently [since 2007], unified rules for this “sport” allowed for a combatant to kick or stomp a downed opponent in the head to accomplish a knockout–thereby leaving little doubt as to intent to inflict permanent injury upon an opponent.iii  While current rules allow for stomping on a downed opponent, kicking a downed opponent is now considered a foul.  Such egregious disregard for the well-being of another human being in the name of “entertainment” can hardly be considered “no more violent than any other sport.”

The names used for various fighting strategies within MMA also display its intentional, willful, prideful glorification of violence:  sprawl-and-brawl, grinding, and ground-and-pound.

So, the charge that my description that MMA has as its foundational philosophy the goal of pounding one’s opponent into senselessness was “simplistic” and “ridiculous” is without foundation when one carefully examines the facts instead of resorting to a knee-jerk attempt to justify one’s sinful pursuits.  After all, what does this person think a “knock-out” is?  It means one’s opponent has been rendered unconscious by repeated blows to the head.

What are the effects of MMA on its participants?  On average, approximately 26 percent of those participating in MMA combat receive lingering [having effects which last after the fight is over] injuries:  lacerations, abrasions, contusions, concussions, broken bones.  It has been determined that injury rates in MMA are similar to the injury rates in boxing, and full contact karate.iv

Long term medical studies of participants in MMA show those having at least six years of MMA experience show significant reduction in the size of the hippocampus and thalamus.  Those with at least twelve years of experience showed not only significant reduction in the size of the hippocampus and thalamus, but also showed significant memory loss and and diminished alertness.v  The memory loss and diminished alertness are directly attributable to the reduction in size of the hippocampus and thalamus—the same phenomenon observed in Alzheimer’s patients.

While statistics have not been kept concerning fatalities due to MMA emerging comparatively recently as a form of entertainment, there have been seven documented fatalities since 2005.  Because the injury rates for MMA participants are consistent with those of other sports involving the intentional infliction of head trauma such as boxing and contact karate, it would not be unreasonable to project similar fatality rates.  Professional boxing has documented over 900 fatalities in the period between 1890-2007.vi

How do these figures compare to the other sports mentioned?  During its entire history, there has only been one on-field fatality in major league baseball which can be attributed to a play-related injury.vii  Probably the best comparison would be to American Football, as this is the only sport which actually requires body contact with force as part of the game.  When evaluated across all levels of organized play [youth, high school, collegiate, and professional], we find the following:  High school students suffered 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 exposures [an exposure is defined as a game or practice].  College students suffered 6.3 concussions for every 10,000 exposures.  When we look at catastrophic [defined as career ending or disabling] injuries, the incident rate is less than 1 in 100,000 players at the high school and collegiate levels.  As far as fatalities are concerned, the average number of deaths per year is about twelve.  Of these twelve deaths, only four deaths per year have been found to be directly attributable to playing football.  The other eight were due to causes such as heat illness, cardiac arrest, asthma, sickle cell disease, or pulmonary embolism.  In other words, the remaining 2/3 of those deaths could have occurred during any type of strenuous exertion because of an underlying health condition and cannot be blamed solely on playing football.viii

The basic point is this: there is a crucial distinction between injuries incurred in MMA fighting, which are intentional, deliberate, and an integral feature of the “sport” and those which occur in other sports which are accidental and outside of the usual course of events in those sports.  In other words, people who participate in MMA do so expecting to hurt or be hurt.  Spectators view such events with the full expectation and even anticipation that someone will be hurt.

Outside of Oakland Raider fans, I know of no one who views baseball, basketball, American football, or hockey games with the expectation and anticipation that someone will be injured or worse.  The rules of those games are constructed to enhance the safety of the players and sanctions are imposed for violations of those rules.  And intentional, flagrant disregard for those rules results in stiff penalties against those in violation.  In other words, acts of violence which occur in the contexts of other sports are against the norms for those sports.  In MMA fighting, if the element of gratuitous violence did not exist in the sport, the sport itself would not exist.

With this factual basis laid, again I charge that those who are disposed to viewing MMA [or other forms of fighting] as entertainment are no better than the Roman citizens who went to the Colosseum to watch the gladiators kill each other. The difference is one of degree, not of kind.

What are the theological issues involved in participating in or viewing MMA?  As noted in the Scriptures cited, attributes of the Holy Spirit which are to be manifested in all believers are kindness and gentleness [meekness].  “Kindness” in the Greek is χрηστότης [pronounced “chrās-TŎ-tās” with the “ch” being given a hard sound].  It refers to benevolence and looking out for the well-being of others.ix  Can one say one is honestly looking out for the well-being of others when one is engaged in a “sport” or is paying to view a “sport” which glorifies and encourages inflicting pain and injury on another human?

Scripture also mandates that believers in Christ display “gentleness” or “meekness.”  The words rendered as such are επιεικής [pronounced “hĕp-ē-ī-KĀS” and found in 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 3:2], ηπιος [pronounced “HĀ-pē-ŏs” and found in 2 Timothy 2:24], and πραΰτης [pronounced “pră-Ü-tās” and found in Galatians 5:23; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:25;  Titus 3:2].  The words embrace the concepts of congeniality, amiability, benevolence, leniency, and mercy.  The concepts carry to the extent that one exhibiting such traits would advance the interests of others even to the extent of putting one’s own safety and well-being at risk.

Given the meanings of the words as used in Scripture, how then, can one legitimately claim that participating in, endorsing, and even subsidizing [via PPV and ticket purchases] MMA combat exhibits the requirements of God that His people must display kindness and gentleness to all?

While we cannot say that those who participate in, endorse, and/or subsidize MMA combat are not believers in Christ, because we do not know their hearts, we can question and even point out the fact that such affections and actions are contrary to the will of God and give cause to question the credibility of their witness since what is in their hearts will be made known by their actions and professions.

For further consideration, let’s look at this instruction from Scripture:  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:3-5, emphasis added]

How do we bring every thought into captivity to Christ?  Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble [honorable, respectable], whatever things are just [right], whatever things are pure [innocent, blameless], whatever things are lovely , [acceptable], whatever things are of good report [having a good reputation], if there is any virtue [having nothing but good qualities]—meditate on these things. [Philippians 4:8]

This gives us a checklist to evaluate any activity to determine whether or not it can be enjoyed with a clear conscience before God.  Unless our activities promote ALL of these qualities in exactly the same way those terms are used in Scripture, we cannot claim that they are acceptable to God.

And in this situation, we cannot claim that such activities are morally neutral.  It doesn’t matter how much a participant in MMA or boxing or professional wrestling may claim to be a Christian and that God is honored as long as he [or she] follows the rules of the sport and is being honest, the activity dishonors God because there is nothing commendable, good, respectable, right, or innocent in activities which involve the intentional infliction of pain on other human beings for the purpose of entertainment and amusement.  The greater hypocrisy lies with those who, while claiming to profess Christ as their Lord, pay their money into such amusements.

To claim to be a follower of Christ while participating in, or subsidizing violence against human beings for the sake of amusement, carries about as much moral value as claiming to be a follower of Christ while enjoying pornography.

i Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

iii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRIDE_Fighting_Championships

iv See paragraph: “Injury Rates” in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

v See paragraph: “Mental Health” in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

vi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatalities_in_mixed_martial_arts_contests

viihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pitch_That_Killed

viii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_issues_in_American_football

ix All research in Greek references the following: Stephen Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), Ceslas Spicq (Translation by James D. Ernest), Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), and Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2008). See also articles on “kindness” and “meekness” in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible.

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Untwisting Scripture #1: Matthew 25:31-46

“…for I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

“When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

“Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me.” [Matthew 25:35-40]*

In this new series, I plan to look at scriptures which are taken out of context, misquoted, and otherwise distorted in their presentation with the result that they are twisted and distorted in their interpretation and application. What makes this even more reprehensible is that some of the worst offenders are people who otherwise seem to be quite accurate and responsible in their presentation of Scripture.

I will not be talking about such cultic twisting of Scriptures such as the utterly false presentation of John 1:1 by the Watchtower Society [aka Jehovah’s Witnesses] or their New World [mis]translation of the Bible, or the even more fantastic inventions added to the Bible by the Independence, Missouri, branch of the Mormon church called the RLDS [or Community of Christ, as it prefers to be known now], via their so-called “Inspired” [“Invented” would be a more accurate adjective] Version of the Bible.

No, what I will be looking at will be passages which are misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied by Christians who consider themselves to be conservative, Bible-believing, evangelicals.

The first passage for this series is the above-cited passage in Matthew, with emphasis on verse 40, and its analogous antithesis, Matthew 25:45.

Whether cited by Mother Theresa, Samaritan’s Purse, Prison Fellowship, World Vision, Compassion International, Teen Challenge, JPUSA, or a lot of well-meaning pastors with poor exegetical skills, the common [mis]interpretation and [mis]application of the passage is taken as a command that all believers are required to expend massive outlays of resources on the unredeemed to relieve any and all financial distress. Some further add that it is un-Christian to qualify or impose any conditions for such aid—that because God freely bestows His grace on all, we should be equally free in dispensing our finances without qualification, condition, or examination as to the “worthiness” of the recipient.

The fact of the matter is that when one examines not merely this passage, but other passages which speak to the issue of what is the relationship of the believer and charitable giving, one finds a vastly different view than what is promoted by most charitable organizations and ministers.

I am sure what I say will strike some as being rebellious, heretical, or callous, but I ask you to hear me out, search the Scriptures, and examine the Scriptures in light of what the text ACTUALLY says and not merely take it for granted that simply because some publicly noted Christian celebrity, televangelist, or minister espouses some view or another that it must be right. And it does not matter if 10,000 ministers gainsay what I write, the standard for formulating our doctrine and practice is God’s Word as it actually reads, not what 10,000 ministers claim it reads.

POINT 1: Jesus never imposed a general obligation on His followers to aid all poor people everywhere.

In the passage cited above, the Scripture twisters interpret and apply the phrase “the least of these” to mean whoever is in those conditions: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, sick, and imprisoned. But is that really what Christ said?

When one looks at the phrase as it is found in Matthew 24:40, the clause is qualified with the phrase “My brothers.The qualifier does not appear in Matthew 24:45, but that is not a cause for concern. The lack of the qualifier is viewed by most commentators as an elision, an omission which is understood from the previous usage in the same context. Therefore we have to understand the phrase in accordance with the qualifier and any interpretation which ignores the qualifier is twisting the Scripture.

Those who do attempt to deal with the qualifier while still twisting the Scripture make the attempt in one of two ways. The first method is to change the usage of “my brethren” from a qualifier to a vocative. This argument is not merely poor exegesis—it is dishonest and manipulative. The Greek construction of the phrase is in the genitive case in every manuscript, while a vocative is always, ALWAYS, in the nominative case. A more accurate [and clarifying] rendering of the phrase “the least of these My brothers” would be “one of the least of these brothers of Mine.” [HCSB]*

The second method is to fall back on a heresy called universalism, in which the qualifier is basically ignored or reinterpreted according to liberation theology, in which the phrase is interpreted as being a reference to all who are in physical poverty. [This interpretation is offered in the pseudo-evangelical commentary The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, pp. 998-999.]

Whichever method is used, the result is the same—an interpretation and application which is based in eisegesis—reading a meaning into the text according to the biases and prejudices of the reader—instead of allowing the text to speak for itself according to the rules of grammar for the original.  And the worst “translation” when it comes to abusing and twisting this passage [as it does with the entire Bible] is The Message.

Allowing the text to speak for itself, we must ask ourselves, what did Jesus mean when He qualified the phrase “the least of these” with “My brothers”? Some commentators, writing from the theological perspective of dispensationalism believe this judgment occurs at the onset of the millennium, immediately following the Second Coming. In this judgment, all who are alive are judged immediately and are either granted eternal life, or consigned to eternal punishment. According to such interpretations, the sheep and the goats refer to Gentiles—since they described in v. 32 as being from “the nations,”–a term which is never used in Scripture except in reference to those who are not physically descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My brothers,” according to these commentators, then refers to Jewish people who became believers during the seven-year tribulation. “The sheep” are those Gentiles who also became believers during the tribulation and did what they could to help their Jewish brothers in the faith. “The goats” are the non-believing Gentiles who tried to play both ends against the middle. They did not accept the mark of the beast or worship the anti-Christ, but they were never followers of Christ either. This is the interpretation offered in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (II:81), and the Believer’s Study Bible (p. 1382). Such interpretations take into account the overall context of the passage [the events immediately following Christ’s return] and therefore do not see this as an absolute, general command for believers to devote themselves to the alleviation of all poverty.

While I believe there is a more general application than that indicated by some of the dispensational commentators, I do not believe there is a universal application which directs Christian efforts towards the alleviation of all poverty. In Matthew 26:8-10, Jesus had to rebuke the apostles for thinking there was some general obligation to alleviate all poverty.  This is further reinforced by Acts 5:4.  Even though this appears in the context of judgment being meted out on Ananias, the point is clear and simple—Ananias had no obligation to rid himself of wealth in order to give to the poor. His sin was in lying about the amount being given. Had he sold the property and told Peter, “I wish to give a portion for the care of the poor,” there would have been no problem.  The sin was in keeping back a portion, while publicly claiming to be giving all.

POINT 2:  Jesus’ use of the term “My brothers” is highly restrictive, and does not apply to humanity in a universal sense.

Those who believe otherwise, need to be able to provide proof from Scripture.  To understand Jesus’ use of the term in this context, we need to ask if there are any other instances in which He used the term.  The answer is yes—but only once. And there His use of the term is restrictive, not universal.  That incident is recorded in Matthew 12:46-50 and Jesus states succinctly that ONLY those who do the will of God are qualified to be called His brothers.  In one of the parallel passages, Luke 8:21, He said His brothers are those who hear the word of God and do [obey] it.  This is highly restrictive in that those who have never acknowledged the Lordship of Christ cannot be considered as having heard the word of God and obeying it.  Hebrews 2:11 further clarifies this distinction—that His brethren are those whom He has sanctified—no one else.  So there is no universal obligation to aid the poor which can be justified according to this passage of Scripture.

So when we are helping others, we are only obligated to aid those in need who are: (1) who have professed belief in Christ, and (2) whose lives demonstrate it by their actions. [For example, see 1 Timothy 5:3-16.]

POINT 3:  Therefore, it is only to those whom are considered Jesus’ brothers that we have any obligation to provide aid according to this Scripture—not to those who by their attitudes and actions have displayed nothing but rebelliousness and contempt for the things of God.

But, I hear someone say, what about Jesus’ command to the young man to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor?  [Matthew 19:16-22]  The point might be valid—except for the fact that this is an instruction given to one person at a particular point in time for a particular purpose.  Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the young man went away with no intention of obeying Christ. There is nothing in the passage which indicates that this was a universal command—any more than Jesus’ command to Peter in Matthew 14:29 is a general command for all believers to walk across bodies of water without the use of conveyances such as bridges or ferries [or, in some cases, tunnels], or that in Mark 16:9-20 we find general commands to play with venomous reptiles and drink poison.

As I alluded to earlier, if Acts 5:4 indicates that what we have acquired through the fruits of our labors is ours to retain or dispose of as we deem appropriate, then we cannot make Matthew 19:16-22 a general obligation for all believers, either by direct command, necessary inference, or approved precedence, because it was instruction given to one individual, only one time, and in a particular set of circumstances.

Scripture is full of references which point to the believers’ obligation to engage in labor, industry, thrift, and commerce to secure their economic well-being. One example is 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, in which the apostle Paul states that he provided for his own needs through his own labor and that this was an example for the Thessalonian believers to follow. He concluded by noting that the Thessalonians were not to keep company with any so-called believer who rejected his teaching.

POINT 4:  If there is any obligation to assist those outside of the faith, that obligation is situational, based on extreme emergency, limited in duration, and entered into voluntarily by the donor.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-37], the Samaritan’s aid for the man beaten by robbers was situational, based on extreme emergency, limited in duration, and entered into voluntarily. He did not undertake to support the man for the rest of his life, his aid was limited to the victim’s recovery, and the only compulsion he had was his own conscience. Moreover, had the victim been rendered permanently unable to work, he would have been required to locate to one of the Levitical cities for subsistence from the tithes and offerings brought to the Levites, he would not have been the responsibility of the Samaritan.

This is unlike the assistance programs operated by our government, which are open-ended and make no requirements of the recipients apart from some generalized, extremely lax job search requirements. At one point, thirty years ago, work requirements were proposed by the federal government, but the courts quickly overturned these requirements stating that welfare is a right [which is why welfare programs are called “entitlements”] not a gift, or a privilege. “Workfare” was deemed to be a form of involuntary servitude, instead of people earning their subsistence.

James Madison, who is credited with authoring our Constitution once noted: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” In other words, the author of our Constitution stated that there is no power vested in the Congress [where spending bills originate – not in any other branch of government] which authorizes them to take money from working citizens to give to people who either cannot or will not work. This is the original intent of the founding fathers. Madison rightly understood that works of charity, or benevolence were the domain of the churches and those who wished to do so voluntarily.

POINT 5:  Poor planning on someone’s part, does not make it an emergency on my part.

While such a view may seem callous and trite, it basically follows common sense and represents the Biblical view which encourages labor, ingenuity, and thrift.  When someone chooses to do poorly in school and drops out, or chooses not to extend his or her education beyond high school, thereby becoming unemployable for anything other than minimum wage jobs, or someone chooses to expend his or her income in a prodigal or wasteful manner [such as tattoos, alcohol, tobacco, or some other such nonsense]–it does not become my responsibility [or the church’s] to bail them out should they not have sufficient funds to cover their needs until their next paycheck or to support them in a “better” economic lifestyle.

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scriptures designated as HCSB come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers.

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