About that lying “prophet” that rebuked John MacArthur

prophetIf you run in my social media circles, you know that Sunday, August 16th, a self-appoint, spiritual narcissist, by the name of John O’Neill, jumped up on the platform at Grace Community Church when John MacArthur was greeting the congregation and telling about his summer. I was so totally bummed that I was out of town and had to miss it.

Once he got on the platform, the prophetic crusader loudly shouted for John MacArthur to repent from his cessationist views. He himself was proof that cessationism is heresy, because He was a living prophet of God! or some such nonsense before security dragged him away.

Now we are in LA. We have our share of wack-a-doodles visiting our church. There are epic stories. From the guy brandishing a spear in John’s office to Mark Driscoll crashing a conference. There has always been times when folks are protesting out in front of our church, or wandering about the campus causing scenes in a Sunday school class, and on occasion, attempting to commandeer the pulpit. So the stunt our prophet crank pulled isn’t too unusual.

However, in our day and age, when lone wackos have shot people, including members of a church, what O’Neill did sort of put folks on edge. Being clad all in black and wearing a backpack also didn’t help convey his prophetic message to the congregation, either. Hence the reason there was all this nervous laughing from the audience after John made a crack about Scotland with an attempt to ease the tension in the worship center. His stunt displayed an woeful lack of self-awareness and overall discernment.

In spite of what really amounted to an embarrassingly stupid thing to do, in the last week or so, there have been genuine people defending this guy, likening him to a 21st century version of Jeremiah crying out against the religious establishment.

The first odd ball article came from a confused woman who praised the faux prophet for doing what he did and even suggesting it was the only way someone as big time as MacArthur could ever hear the truth about his heretical views of cessationism.

I say confused and odd ball, because last year the same lady rebuked the Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll protesters as ones disobeying the Word of God for attacking a pastor. They needed to heed Scripture’s admonition to touch not the Lord’s anointed. Disconnection much.

Then, Michael Brown chimed in with an editorial for Charisma News Online that wondered if God really sent a prophet to John MacArthur to tell him the truth and confront him for his divisive rhetoric against charismatics.

It’s amazingly unbelievable. But par for the course from charismatic lunacy that masquerades as “filled with the spirit.”

I happen to personally know John O’Neill wasn’t a prophet, because God’s prophets do not lie or misrepresent their true intentions and that is exactly what he did.

You see, I met him back in early June and had an extended conversation with him.

It was on a Sunday evening. The children’s ministries were hosting a plaza fellowship for the families of Grace Church. My wife and I were popping popcorn when he came strolling along with his backpack. We started chatting and immediately recognized he was Scottish. I asked if he was here to go to seminary. He said no; but that he was an open air preacher who had come to LA to evangelize. I asked if he knew about our church. He said yes he did, and get this, he told me HE LIKED JOHN MACARTHUR AND APPRECIATED HIS MINISTRY!

What was that? Yep, he emphatically stated he liked our pastor and his preaching ministry.

We spoke for nearly 30 minutes. Though I got weird vibes off him because he talked about God calling or telling him thus and such, never once did he mention anything about cessationism or that John was teaching heresy for saying the apostolic sign gifts had ceased.

In fact, he hung around Grace Church for the summer attending on Sundays. A lot of friends also met him and they never once had a conversation with him about cessationism or the sign gifts. Tony Miano, who does real street preaching, also went on visitation with him. He also didn’t hear any negatives against MacArthur when they were together.

But then on the 16th, when John returns from his summer sabbatical, he jumps up on stage and goes unhinged.

The guy was a deceptive liar, especially if he believed John MacArthur taught heresy. There are no double-minded prophets. A true prophet of God doesn’t ingratiate himself to a friendly church, telling everyone he likes the pastor in order to wait like a Trojan Horse that opens up to spring a trap. That is a lying spirit that does such things.

My take. I think he miscalculated his visit. He wasn’t expecting John to be gone so long during the summer. From what I understand, O’Neill’s visa ended the Tuesday following, so he barely made it.

Whatever the case, I know one thing for sure out of all this. John Oneill’s enabling cheerleaders again displays how sober-minded discernment is totally absent within charismatic circles. Makes me wonder if God has given them over to a deceiving spirit.

Reviewing Which Bible Would Jesus Use? [4]

monarchChapters 2 and 3

Two “dirty little secrets” of modern textual criticism

and

Proof — Prominent textual scholars believe God made mistakes when he wrote the Bible

 

I continue with my review and rebuttal of Jack McElroy’s book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? With this post I’d like to review chapters 2 and 3 together because they present similar arguments against modern versions. I’ll try to briefly lay out the content of each chapter.

Chapter 2 is an overview of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, two of the oldest complete codices of the NT that the church possesses. While they may be some of the oldest codices in existence, McElroy argues that does not mean they are reliable when it comes to the Word of God. Both of them contain numerous variant readings that not only disagree with the majority of manuscripts, but also with each other. In fact, Vaticanus is a text that has been edited according to an Alexandrian principle [41].

They were used by textual critics in the late 19th century, particularly B.F. Westcott and F.A. Hort, to create a revised critical Greek text from which new, modern versions are translated. The problem, however, is that there are two “dirty little secrets” about those codices that modern textual critics don’t want their readers to know.

The first is that critics know those two codices are filled with errors, but they will believe them anyway. Citing a number of scholars, McElroy explains how they themselves tell us that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are both filled with errors that distort the biblical text to the point they can’t be trusted.

The second “secret” is that critics assert that God made those mistakes in the original autographs. Again citing from a number of scholars, McElroy claims that modern textual scholars believe God or the authors of Scripture made mistakes concerning geography, grammar, and basic facts of detail [45].

Chapter three expands upon the last point and provides several citations from modern translations of specific passages that seem to contradict each other across the various modern versions, as well as from scholars like Bruce Metzger and Philip Comfort who have commented that errors may have existed in the original writing when the first biblical author wrote down his Gospel or epistle.

Some of the passages that McElroy highlights are Mark 1:2, John 7:8,10, Matthew 5:22, Mark 3:5, and 2 Samuel 21:19. He develops his point further by showing the reader how those passages read will severely impact some important doctrines essential to the Christian faith like the impeccability of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture. He then concludes the chapter by setting up the subject for the 4th chapter on the original autographs.

Review

Practically ever KJV Only book has a chapter or section of chapters explaining how the two codices, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, are wildly corrupted to the point of teaching heresy and how Westcott and Hort elevated them to a level of unquestionable prominence that has shaped modern Bible versions to this day.

Generally, the discussion is a ridiculous cacophony involving revision of ancient church history and the development of textual criticism. KJVO apologists will compile miscitations of out of context passages that are alleged to have been intentionally left out of those codices by editors who wanted to corrupt the Scripture. And then they impugn the character of Westcott and Hort as two Bible-hating textual critics who used those two codices to re-write the NT. They are the gateway scholars to all the modern perversions available today on the Christian book market. All those talking points are stirred up with a massive dose of pseudo-expertise in KJVO literature.

Never is there any attempt to genuinely explain the historical background and development of those codices. They are by default considered corrupted by heretics and were pushed onto our modern era by heretics. And that is exactly what we have here with McElroy’s two chapters.

They are amazingly bad; embarrassingly so. In fact, he even references an online article Will Kinney cobbled together explaining how Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are corrupted. Referencing Will Kinney in your book as a reputable source for understanding the character of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is like referencing Rachel Dolezal as a reputable source for race relations in the United States.

alexandrianSpace just does not allow the opportunity to chase down every rabbit trail McElroy presents in his chapters regarding the history of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and the reason why scholars utilized them in textual theory, but when the real history is put into perspective, they are not the Satanic bugbears KJV apologists want them to be.

Most folks in the 21st century forget that North Africa, where the so-called Alexandrian family of manuscripts circulated, of which Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are representative, was once a thriving Christian community. Some of the more notable earlier leaders there included Clement, Origen, Athanasius, Cyril, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine.

Far from being the hotbed of heresy that KJV apologist say Alexandria was, it was just as orthodox as any other Christian community throughout the world at that time. In fact, when the entire world-wide church was essentially sliding into the heresy of Arianism, due in part to theological and cultural compromise in Antioch, where KJVO apologists insist the Bible was kept pure, it was Athanasius of Alexandria who was the anchor God used to keep Christianity biblical. He would have used the Alexandrian manuscript text types as his Bible.

McElroy sets up his reason for rejecting the Alexandrian texts with the following outline in his book [39-40]:

  1. Paul made 3 missionary journeys, visited scores of cities, and never went to Alexandria, Egypt.
  2. No original New Testament letters were ever written to anyone in Egypt.
  3. The two main “oldest and best” Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph) manuscripts originated in or near Alexandria, Egypt.
  4. The best you could ever say about them is that they represent textual variation unique to that country.
  5. There was a lot of creative editing for style (referred to as “Alexandrian trimming”) and content instead of faithful copying going on in Alexandria.

If we take McElroy’s logic here, that represents KJVO apologetics in general, only cultic, new agey fake religious people who called themselves “Christian” lived in and around Alexandria. Apparently, it was a spiritual black hole where God’s Spirit could not operate and the Gospel could never penetrate. Nothing is to be trusted that came from Alexandria, and by extension North Africa, throughout church history. If by God’s grace there were any Christians living there at all, they didn’t have a real Bible to read. It’s a miracle they knew anything about Jesus.

But let’s revisit those 5 points. We could maybe re-write them thus,

  1. Paul made 3 missionary journeys, visited scores of cities, and never went to the British Isles.
  2. No original New Testament letters were ever written to anyone in Britain.
  3. The TR and the KJV originated in or near Great Britain.
  4. The best you could ever say about them is that they represent textual variation unique to that country.
  5. There was a lot of creative editing for style (referred to Erasmusian addition) and content instead of faithful copying going on in Britain.

You see how easy that is? But of course, it doesn’t represent the facts any more than McElroy’s strained version about the Alexandrian text type.

McElroy also pulls together a number of quotes and citations from various scholars he says proves his contention that they know Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are error-filled but don’t really care. His discussion, however, doesn’t even begin to explain how those two codices were just a part of a much larger picture of modern textual criticism that took shape in the 20th century with the uncovering of a number of papyrus texts. He attributes to them way too much influence. It is almost mythical.

Additionally, he doesn’t even define for the reader what those scholars meant by “error” or “corruption.” KJVO apologetics typically mean by the idea of “corruption” that an intentional distortion of the text by a nefarious individual or individuals that changes or challenges orthodox doctrine. But the word corrupt in the practice of textual criticism does not mean intentional distortion to introduce theological error. It has to do more with variants between similar manuscript types and explaining why or why not they should be included. There could be a number of rational, non-satanic cult reasons for why those variants exist. The point is that “corruption” does not equate to heretical attempts to alter God’s Word. That’s KJVO induced paranoia.

McElroy also ignores evangelical men who have written on the subject in order to provide a balanced perspective. Apologist James White is conspicuously absent in his discussion, as is Mark Minnick, who contributed essays on textual criticism to two separate books addressing the Scriptures and the Bible version issue among Fundamentalist believers. The author provides a disservice to his readers by ignoring good men who depart from his presentation.

In chapter 3, McElroy moves to highlighting specific passages that differ in reading between modern versions. They are meant to be the proof that modern scholars believe God made errors in the Bible. All of them he claims have dire impact upon the biblical orthodoxy. He specifically notes Christ’s deity as well as biblical inerrancy.

For the sake of the reader’s patience, let me interact with one I have addressed in a previous post. McElroy draws our attention to John 7:8-10 a number of times in his chapter. The passage states in the KJV,

 8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.
9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

liarThe debate hinges upon the word “yet” in verse 8. The word translated “yet” is not found in the “oldest and best” manuscripts that are despised by KJVO apologists, so that in modern versions like the NASB and the ESV, Jesus says, “I do not go up to this feast…”

KJVO apologists insist that long ago, the redactors of the “oldest and best” manuscripts made a subtle change to John’s Gospel narrative that intentionally put a lie in the mouth of Jesus, because after He tells His brothers he wasn’t going up to the feast, He goes anyways as noted in verse 10. Jack Chick even has a tract about it.

The problem is easily explained, however, if one takes the entire context of what John writes. Christ has a discussion with his unbelieving brothers about His claims. They wanted Him to go up to Jerusalem and declare Himself the Messiah. He told them that it wasn’t His time for that just yet. Thus, when the context is considered, Jesus wasn’t telling His brothers that He wasn’t attending the feast at all, but that He wasn’t going up to the feast in the way they expected Him. There really isn’t a need for the word “yet.” The context is clear what was going on.

The KJV Onlyists never consider the fact that John wrote the Gospel without the word “yet,” because John the Apostle didn’t believe what he wrote was a contradiction. I mean, he was probably there as an eye-witness of the conversation. But it could be that at some later point in history, copyists thought that the text created a contradiction and so added the word to smooth out the reading. Deletion is always assumed by KJV Onlyists, never addition, which is just as bad when it comes to tampering with holy Scripture.

The other examples he lists are also easily explained. There are sound reasons why textual critics believe Mark 1:2 says “Isaiah the prophet” rather than “the prophets,” for instance. And it’s not because evangelical scholars don’t care and they believe God allowed errors in the Bible. To suggest as much to the readers of your book is just dishonest and slanderous.

Studies in Eschatology [10]

postmillPostmillennialism

I wish to continue with my overview of the three main eschatological systems, amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism. I did a brief overview of amillennialism with my last post in this series, and with this one, I will review the second of the three, postmillennialism.

The prefix in “postmillennialism” provides the basic understanding of the word. “Post” means “after,” so the idea of postmillennialism is that Christ will return “after the millennium.” But, postmillennialism is much more refined than saying “Christ returns after the millennium.” Popular postmillennial teacher, Kenneth Gentry, provides a concise summary when he writes,

Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all human kind [Gentry, 13, 14].

Just like amillennialism, postmillennialism has its roots with the 5th century church father, Augustine. Some postmillennial writers try to place postmillennial sympathies with patristic sources earlier than Augustine [Mathison, 27,28], but it was Augustine’s theology in his major work, The City of God, that laid down much of the hermeneutical philosophy for the systems of amillennialism and postmillennialism to thrive.

Though some attempt to argue that theologians following Augustine held to the view of an advancing Kingdom of God going forth into the world to subdue it for Christ, the concept of a victorious gospel is not unique to postmillennial theology. The medieval Roman Catholic Church was amillennial, yet it saw itself as being the Kingdom of God on earth and believed the Church advanced the cause of the Gospel through its efforts to bring earthly nations under the dominion of the pope.

The postmillennialism of our modern era is fairly recent in origin. Postmillennialist, A. H. Strong, attributes the first and fullest treatment to English Arminian theologian, Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), [Culver, 1143]. Whitby, who late in his life rejected orthodox Christology for Arian heresy, published an essay in 1703 on the millennium that was part of a widely read book entitled Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament [Grenz, 69]. (It was Whitby’s Discourse on the Five Points that the Baptist minister, John Gill, answered in his massive work, For the Cause of God and Truth). Yet, we must not conclude, as some opposed to the eschatology mistakenly do, that because the postmillennialism we know today was first articulated by an Arminian turned apostate that it is to be rejected without question.

By contrast, the vast number of postmillennialists throughout history, and even in our modern day, are Calvinistic in their theology. Early on, postmillennnialism found favor with many pastors within the Puritan Reformation in England, as well as with American Puritan, Jonathan Edwards. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the greatest postmillennial growth. The eschatology was advocated by such important men as William Carey, A. H. Strong, B. B. Warfield, and David Brown to name a few [Gentry, 17-19; Mathison, 37-53].

The 20th century, however, saw a decline in postmillennialism. Two major world wars severely dampened the notion of a righteous peace prevailing over the affairs of nations. But, the last 35 years or so of the 2oth century have witnessed a resurgence of postmillennialism in the publications of writers like Loraine Boettner, Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, and Gary DeMar.

Because postmillennialism has its ancestry with Augustine’s eschatological theology, it shares many common features with amillennialism but with slight modifications. I would refer the reader to my previous post on amillennialism to see a fuller treatment of these points, but as a brief reminder,

* Prophetic literature is symbolic and must be interpreted in a non-literal, typological fashion. Postmillennialists believe all prophetic literature in scripture must be interpreted differently than other types of biblical genre. This is especially true with the book of Revelation.

* Revelation 20 is a recapitulation of previous portions of John’s prophecy. The millennium, then, is understood as the church age. The 1,000 years is not literal, in the sense of real days and years, but is figurative for the time the Church accomplishes Christ’s work upon the earth.

* Satan’s binding is a figurative description of the limiting of his authority to hinder the Gospel work.

* The “first Resurrection” described in Revelation 20:4,5, is spiritual regeneration a person experiences at salvation.

One important area where postmillennialists are different from their amillennial kinfolk has to do with their overall approach to interpreting the book of Revelation. A good portion of postmillennialists interpret John’s Revelation according to a preterist perspective.

Preterism holds to the idea that most of the prophecies written in Revelation were fulfilled in the first century before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. For instance, “the beast” would be identified with the Roman emperor Nero, or the hail stones described in Revelation 16:21 are the catapult projectiles hurled by the Roman armies besieging Jerusalem. Only the second coming of Christ awaits any future fulfillment, which of course takes place after the Gospel has gone through out the earth bringing all nations under His authority.

The theology behind postmillennialism can be outlined with three specific arguments:

God’s creational purposes. God created the world to be a paradise that reflects His glory. Man’s sin plunged the world into death and decay. The purpose of redemption is not only to bring man to salvation, but is also to restore paradise lost.

God’s sovereign power. God will sovereignly accomplish His purposes and the means He uses to do so is the proclamation and authority of the Gospel.

God’s provision. Additionally, the Church has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish those means to demonstrate God’s sovereign power, [Gentry, 23,24].

Those theological arguments are built upon numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments where the Scriptures directly tell of how the Messiah’s kingdom will gradually bring nations under the authority of the Gospel and grow to fill the entire earth. Looking first to the OT for example, there are plenty of Messianic passages in the Psalms and the prophets where God’s Kingdom is seen as overtaking the earth. In the Psalms, Psalm 2, 22:27, 72, for instance, speak of the Messiah’s reign going forth over the earth. Psalm 2 specifically speaks to the nations raging against the “Lord’s anointed” but He will break those nations who oppose Him.

In the prophets, Daniel 2 is one passage in which God reveals through the dream of a pagan king how His kingdom will be like a stone cut without hands and will break in pieces the great nations which opposed Him and His purposes, and then the stone grows into a massive mountain that fills the whole earth. The picture is one of God’s Kingdom gradually filling the whole world, and this is accomplished by the victorious preaching of the Gospel.

Coming to the NT, many of the parables of Jesus speak of the Kingdom of Heaven as gradually having victory over the earth. For instance, in Matthew 13:31, 32, Jesus tells how the Kingdom is likened unto a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, but it will grow into becoming a great tree where the birds take shelter. The parable of the leaven in Matthew 13:33 compares the Kingdom of Heaven to leaven, which fills the entire loaf of bread with its influence. In the same manner, so too will the Kingdom of Heaven influence the entire earth.

The final words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 is that all authority has been given to Him, and He commissions His disciples to go forth into all the world to teach the nations to keep Christ’s commandments. Acts 1:8 adds that the disciples will be given the power of the Holy Spirit for them to accomplish this duty throughout the world. The giving of the Spirit is fulfilled in the next chapter of Acts as the Church is empowered to do the task of evangelizing the nations. The remainder of the book of Acts is a testimony of the victorious gospel winning the hearts of men as the Church faithfully labors with bringing the gospel to the entire world.

In like manner, the modern Church continues to labor for this great commission, and in spite of opposition it faces from a hostile world not yet subdued, the promise of victory by the working of the Holy Spirit is the hope we have to see the nations come to Christ and live in righteousness.


*******

Sources:

Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. (Christian Focus, Great Britain, 2005).

Millard Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology: A Study of the Millennium. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI, 1977).

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Postmillennialism” in Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell Bock. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1999).

Stanly J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze: Sorting out Evangelical Options. (Inter Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1992).

Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope. (P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1999).

Where Faith Journey Theology Takes Us

path

A Rant

I’m gonna probably set off all sorts of “trigger warnings” with the pearl clutchers, but so be it.

During the last couple of weeks, it has been revealed that Hillsong Church, NYC, has a festering community of sodomites actively participating in their congregation.

While church officials state that no homosexuals serve or have served on their pastoral staff, the two men at the center of the Hillsong controversy claim to have an active “ministry” at the church including opening their apartment to host Connect groups, which I take to mean the Hillsong version of home Bible studies or small fellowship groups.

A day or so after I had tweeted a few stories about those revelations, I got into a bit of a back and forth with a fellow who says he attends Hillsong NYC. He had responded to something I had tweeted affirming that no homosexuals held any leadership positions at the church. I responded by asking him for clarification

tweet1

tweet2

I then asked him specifically about homosexuals actively participating at the church, and his responses I thought were rather troubling, especially when he mentions Hillsong’s view of church membership and salvation in general:

tweet3tweet4

I shouldn’t really be surprised with his responses. They demonstrate how a diseased theology has infected the Christian church in America to the degree that would allow outrageous perversion like sodomy and same-sex marriage to be considered a “journey” and Christians willing to tolerate it for the sake of loving others.

As I was pondering that whole twitter exchange, I thought of at least three major problem areas that would lead believers to tolerating faith journeying sodomites actively involving themselves in a local church.

First is what really amounts to a default Arminianism that has saturated red-state Evangelical churches. Jesus died for ALL men without exception, what would be the idea of the grace of God already paying for their sins past, present, and future. That autosoteriology bubbles about in nearly every church across the land and permeates what really amounts to our pseudo-evangelistic efforts. Jesus has died for everyone and it is left up for the person to appropriate Christ’s death. Hence, churches should be welcoming to sinful individuals of all shapes and sizes and vices because they need to hear about Jesus.

Everyone is a sinner, so pushing away any visiting sinners from churches because Christians are all smugly self-righteous and don’t want filthy sinners around blocks their opportunity to encounter the Gospel.

It is an extremely man-centered, atheological philosophy.

Secondly is the mush-minded belief that mass popularity, bustling activity, and big crowds means there is a move of God afoot. Activity and big crowds never equates spiritual things. Those characteristics equate a championship football game, not an awesome church service. Churches should seek godly holiness among the members. Not large, writhing crowds of youth undulating to sappy pop rock music and blinding light shows.

A side effect to that mindset is an unquestioned, ready acceptance of any new person who begins attending the church and showing interest in “helping out.” A person who is hardly known is allowed to lead worship, host Bible studies, direct small discipleship groups. Church leadership could not be any more foolish.

Thirdly is what would be a mere Christianity apologetics that attempts to skin down the Christian faith to the bare bones of some heart warming mental assent regarding Jesus of Nazareth. It is a technique designed to be absolutely unoffensive to sinners so as to at least win them over to hearing your life story about what Jesus means to you. In order to be unoffensive, awkward topics like a person’s sinful habits and wrong-head life choices and God-treasonous, self-destructive worldview are often avoided at all costs lest the sinner shuts down and turns off.

Though it is true that not all apologetic-minded believers go as far as Hillsong with allowing open homosexuals free reign to participate in church activities, taking a mere Christianity approach to defending the faith and evangelism more times that naught leaves sinners in a worse state than when the began attending church. They are now under the impression their sin is not that big a deal with God and there is no hurry to make any attempt to change. If no one around them at church seems the least bit alarmed, why should they be?

Now Hillsong NYC insists they affirm the biblical teaching of marriage and do not in any way affirm same-sex marriage. At the same time, however, the gay couple at the center of all this controversy state rather emphatically, at this point anyways, that they plan to stay at HNYC and fight those backward, fingerwaggers who are attempting to wreck their faith journeying experience.

But I’m actually of the opinion that a more insidious plan may be at play here. I think the underground gay culture at HNYC have it in their minds to change the church for the better. Into a so-called “conservative” but gay-affirming church. That could very well happen because all three of those factors I noted above are present: low view of man’s sin, excitement equals God’s spirit, and the tolerant, mere Christianity evangelism. The homosexuals will exploit those factors to eventually pull that church away from God and into apostasy, and Hillsong’s misguided toleration seems content to let them.

Helpful Apologetic Books for the Eradication of Trolls

trollI was thinking recently about compiling a list of some good, basic books I could recommend to Christians in order to help them shore up their apologetic defense and proclamation of the faith.

The idea came to me after witnessing another troll attack on Facebook. The troll left some stupidly ignorant comments under an acquaintance’s post concerning a point of theology. Regrettably, no one following in the comments offered any serious rebuttal. I don’t believe the person who posted the original item under discussion even tried offering a response. That started me pondering: Is that because the people don’t want to or that they just lack the ability?

Now I recognize that Christians engaging in any meaningful discussion in the comment threads on social media with a strident, chest-beating “know-it-all” skeptic can be a rather ridiculous waste of time. Honestly, the better course of action is to just silently move on without any engagement. I get that, and so many times I ignore the troll because I have not desire to discuss anything with him or her.

But Christians shouldn’t just be helpless invalids who roll over because they can’t offer any informed push back.

Moreover, such trolls don’t exist solely on social media. They can show up at your Bible studies, Sunday school classes, at your family reunions, and holiday get-togethers. Whatever the situation, it may be helpful to have some resources that can help you offer at least a little bit of a response of your own in order to squash the troll and chase it away.

I scanned my personal library and compiled a list of a few books I believe cover the essential areas of biblical theology or historicity where trolls tend to attack. I identified books in my offering that are around 250 pages or less.

Now regrettably, my cut-off at 250 pages will eliminate a number of books I personally like. In fact, I’m sure folks will be annoyed I left such-and-such awesome book off my list. But I wanted to keep my selection simple and not overwhelming to the uninitiated. Most serious minded believers are not afraid to tackle at least a 200 page book. Maybe I can do a follow up post for the advanced troll hunter.

The categories I have in mind pertain to basics about the Godhead, the person and work of Christ, the doctrines of salvation, the authority of Scripture, historical matters, and basic apologetic methodology and theological worldview. From my observation, trolls tend to latch onto those areas of discussion.

With that brief background, here is my basic introductory list.

Knowing God – J.I. Packer

The Forgotten Trinity – James White

The Five Points of Calvinism – David Steele & Curtis Thomas

Redemption Accomplished and Applied – John Murray

For Us And For Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church – Stephen Nichols

Hell on Trial – Robert Peterson

The Heresy of Orthodoxy – Andreas Kostenberger & Michael Kruger

The Bible Among the Myths – John N. Oswalt

Scripture Alone – James White

From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible – Norman Geisler & William Nix

From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man – James Williams & Randolph Shaylor

The Question of Canon – Michael Kruger

Biblical Authority: Infallibility & Inerrancy in the Christian Tradition – John Woodbridge

One Bible Only? – Roy E. Beacham & Kevin T. Bauder

The Battle Belongs to the Lord – Scott Oliphint

Every Thought Captive – Richard Pratt

Apologetics to the Glory of God – John Frame

Reasons We Believe – Nathan Busenitz

Inventing The Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians – Jeffrey Russell

God’s Battalions: A Case for the Crusades – Rodney Stark

Creation and Change – Douglas Kelly

The Battle for the Beginning – John MacArthur

Refuting Evolution & Refuting Evolution 2 – Jonathan Sarfati

By Design – Jonathan Sarfati

Same-Sex Controversy – James White & Jeffrey Niell

The Grand Demonstration: Study of the So-Called Problem of Evil – Jay Adams

Decision, Decisions: How & How Not to Make Them – Dave Swavely

Exegetical Fallacies – D.A. Carson

Studies in Eschatology [9]

amill

Amillennialism

Continuing with my study on eschatology, I would like to provide a brief overview of each of the three major eschatological systems with my next set of posts: amillennialism, postmillennialism, and then premillennialism. I don’t want to go into a detailed interaction with each system evaluating all the strengths and weaknesses. I merely want to lay out the historical development and the major theological talking points.

I will begin with amillennialism.

Right out of the starting gate we are faced with a problematic term. The prefix “a -” means “no,” and “millennium” of course means “millennium,” or “1,000” as in “1,000 years.” Thus, the term means “no millennium” or “no thousand years.”

It is a problematic term because it inaccurately suggests amillennialists do not believe in a millennium. I cannot count how many times I have had to correct this misconception in the minds of individuals who disagreed with amillennialism who wrongly assumed amillennialists just ignore Revelation 20:1-6 [Craigen, 1; Hoekema 173].  Amillennialists even recognize the difficulty in terminology. Jay Adam’s, in his book called The Time is at Hand, attempted to coin the term, realized millennialism. But even amillennialists thought any attempt to rename the term something other than “amillennialism” would be fruitless.

Rather than trying to rename amillennialism, the better approach is simply explaining what is meant by the term. Amillennialism means that no future millennium, or 1,000 years, follows the return of Christ. The millennium is understood as happening now in this present age with Christ reigning with His saints through the Church. Thus, the 1,000 years is not meant to be taken as a literal 1,000 years of 365,000 days, but is symbolic of the Church age from the time of Christ’s ascension to the time of His return.

Augustine was the first Church theologian to articulate an amillennial scheme. The view was found in seed form among earlier North African Dontanist schismatics, like Tyconnius in his commentary on Daniel. He employed an allegorical hermeneutic to interpret prophetic passages as speaking to the triumphant reign of Christ now upon the earth [Craigen, 5]. But it was Augustine who had the lasting impact as a theologian to formulate amillennialism.

He sets forth his eschatology in his magnum opus, The City of God in book 20, chapters 4-15, and as Robert Culver notes, “It is safe to assert that until this section of Augustine’s great work is mastered one cannot fully appreciate the millennial discussions which have followed since his day. It is almost, if not wholly true, that all amillennial and postmillennial systems have been postscripts to The City of God” [Culver, 1141].

Augustine’s influence cannot be underestimated. As a leading early Church theologian, he crystallized the non-literal, symbolic approach to reading prophetic literature by the Church from that point onward. I hope to explore his influence at greater length in a later post. At this point however, it is important to review the main theological talking points of amillennialism.

The first and foremost theological point is more of a hermeneutical principle I have discussed before. That being, prophetic literature is symbolic or typographical and must be interpreted in a non-literal or historic redemptive fashion. Books like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation are of an unique biblical genre meant to convey the unfolding drama of redemptive history.

Those prophetic books are apocalyptic in nature, written for the purpose of revealing how the great forces of evil that fight against God will finally be vanquished and to inspire hope in the people of God who will have certain victory over those forces. They are books filled with a great amount of symbolism, and those symbols should be understood non-literally or typographically. Hence, when we come to Revelation 20, the millennium discussed there is not meant to be understood as 1,000, 24 hour days, but must be understood as a period of time. That principle was the key interpretative presupposition for Augustine to develop his amillennialism, and adherents have built upon his work over the years.

A second key theological talking point is the idea of a singular consummation.  Amillennialist believe biblical history knows of only two ages: this present age and the age to come. Thus, there is but only one climatic event awaiting to take place, the Return of Christ.

Paul wrote to Titus that Christians should look for one blessed hope, the appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-15). There is no indication of an intermediary kingdom taking place after His Return, or a “golden age of peace” happening before His Return. This present age in which men live will come to an abrupt end at the coming of Christ. The Second Coming of Christ brings history to a close. The general judgment of all men, the just and the unjust, or what would be the Great White Throne judgment, takes place immediately after Christ’s coming. The Christian’s hope is fully realized at Christ’s Return and everlasting communion with God will be experienced forever, [Craigen, 10].

With those two primary points in mind, when we come to Revelation 20, there are at least four major elements defining amillennialism:

Revelation 20 does not follow chapter 19 chronologically, but is a recapitulation describing events which parallel previously revealed events. Amillenialists argue that one big mistake made when reading Revelation is to assume it is meant to be read in chronological order. However, Revelation is prophetic literature meant to be read as a series of visions rather than historical narrative. So, it is important to understand that John may have a series of visions in one chapter, and then another set of visions in the next chapter which go back and provide a different perspective of the previous visions.

Amillennialists, rather than seeing Revelation 20 as a vision of events following in chronological order after those events in Revelation 19, believe the visions of Revelation 20 return the reader back to the first of the Church age. Instead of being in chronological order, Revelation 20 parallels with what has been previously revealed, so that the millennium described in 20:1-6 is taking place contemporaneously with other earlier chapters in Revelation.

For instance, William Hendrickson, an amillennialist who wrote a popular commentary on Revelation called More than Conquerors, suggests Revelation 20 parallels with the events described in Revelation 12. When the reader understands the manner in which the book of Revelation fits together, it can be understood why amillennialists believe the 1,000 years are symbolic, rather than literal.

The thousand years described by John is ONLY found here in Revelation 20. When the Scriptures are searched, Revelation 20 is the only passage which speaks of Christ “reigning for a thousand years.” This passage is found in only one book of the Bible that is heavily symbolic, and the author builds his book upon the heavily symbolic prophetic literature of the OT. Thus, it is highly unlikely that the thousand years John relates in his book is meant to be taken as a literal thousand years and it must be viewed as symbolic.

The binding of Satan represents a victory over the powers of darkness by Christ at the cross. The idea of Satan being bound is not a literal binding in the sense of being restrained in some spiritual prison called the abyss. Rather, the expression “Satan was bound” is taken figuratively to mean he has lost a certain amount of authority he once possessed.

Turning back to Revelation 1:18, Jesus, due to His victory on the cross, now has authority over death and hades. This realm was once the sole dominion of the devil, but Christ’s death for sinners and His Resurrection for their justification, has changed the situation. As it says in Matthew 16:18, Christ’s authority in His Church overcomes the gates of hell [Riddlebarger, 211].

Now, that is not to say Satan does not oppose Christ and the Church. The amillennialists vehemently argue that dissenters to their view wrongly conclude this binding eliminates any working by Satan. The current state of wickedness in the world demonstrates otherwise. What Satan can no longer do, however, is “deceive” the nations. In other words, Satan cannot hinder the gospel from going forth in the world to bring men to salvation [ibid, 212].

The “first resurrection” in Revelation 20:4,5 is the spiritual resurrection of regeneration.  Amillennialists do not believe that John meant to convey the idea of a physical resurrection from the dead when he writes about the “first resurrection.” Instead, John has in mind regeneration, or a spiritual resurrection from the spiritual dead, what happens when a person is “born again.”

Amillennialists make this case based upon a couple of important arguments. First is the Greek word protos, translated as “first” in the phrase “first resurrection.” John, it is argued, is not speaking to first, in the sense of first in a sequential series, but rather first in a contrast between differences. In other words, he is contrasting different resurrections and he uses the word protos to indicate difference of kind with the resurrection that follows [ibid, 218]. John writes similar terminology in Revelation 21:1 with his use of protos that contrasts the new heaven and new earth with the old. Then secondly, in John’s gospel, the apostle records in chapter 5:24, 25 the words of Jesus when He likens spiritual life to crossing over from death unto life. What is clearly understood to be a spiritual resurrection.

Then there are a couple of other arguments not particularly found in Revelation which I need to reference.

First, a literal thousand years means millions of resurrected saints are living among millions of unresurrected people. Such a notion is perceived as just being too weird that it has to be unbiblical. What’s the purpose of God’s glorified saints living among people who still remained in a fallen state?

Second, a literal thousand years implies a millennial temple is built as described in Ezekiel 40-48 implementing real sacrifices for atonement to cover sin. This is a regression back to the old economy before Christ who, according to Hebrews, took away sin once and for all. Even if those sacrifices are taken as being a memorial, why is there a need for such sacrifices when the true lamb of God who took away the sins of the world is present among all men?

Now, there may be some additional arguments, but those are the main ones I have encountered in amillennial apologetics. With my next post, I want to outline postmillennialism.

*******
Sources

Trever Craigen, A Preliminary Critique of Contemporary Amillennialism, (on-line paper).

Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. (Christian Focus: Great Britian, 2005).

Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and The Future. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapid, MI, 1979).

Charles Powell, Progression Verses Recapitulation in Revelation 20:1-6: Some Over Looked Arguments. (on-line paper).

Kim Riddlebarger, The Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End-times. (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 2008).

Reviewing “Which Bible Would Jesus Use?” [3]

1611truck1Chapter 1: Why The Lord is Forced to Choose Only One Bible

I have taken up the task of reviewing KJVO apologist, Jack McElroy, and his book called, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? See Part 1 for the background

With this post, I come to the first chapter.

Summary

McElroy opens his first chapter by imagining a scenario in which Jesus Christ would visit your local church. As Jesus walks through the crowd to attend the service, you notice He is carrying a Bible and you wonder which version He prefers. McElroy then explains that in his book, the reader will learn why Jesus can’t use all the modern Bible versions, or even just some of them, and that He is currently using just one.

He goes on to prove his assertion by providing a number of passages from both the OT and NT that conflict between popular Bible version like the ESV, NAS, and the NIV.

For example, the ESV states in Ecclesiastes 8:10, Then I saw the wicked buried. They … were praised in the city, but the NAS states, So then, I have seen the wicked buried … they are soon forgotten in the city. Another example is found in Luke 10:1 where the ESV reads, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others… but the NAS reads, Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others.

McElroy also cites a number of evangelical leaders like Al Mohler, John Piper, Paige Patterson, and even John MacArthur, who endorse many of those conflicting translations. MacArthur, for instance, recommends both the NAS and the NIV. However, that only confuses matters because he says that both the NAS and the NIV are “accurate” when there is documented differences between those two versions.

McElroy now sets up what he will discuss in the next couple of chapters when he explains how he will expose the “dirty little secrets” of textual criticism.

Review

missingAll KJVO literature will have a section that presents side-by-side comparison charts that mark out conflicting verses among the various modern Bible versions. Usually the charts and tables are cataloged according to doctrines the KJVO apologists claim are adversely affected by the translations of modern versions.

J.J. Ray wrote a little book called, God Only Wrote One Bible, as early as 1955, and Barry Burton published a classic KJVO book called, Let’s Weigh the Evidence, still available at Jack Chick’s website. Both supposedly demonstrate numerous alterations in the modern versions attacking biblical doctrine like inerrancy, salvation by faith alone, the deity of Christ, and the virgin birth by either changing the way a verse reads or by total omission. Both books set something of a standard for verse comparison charts that have been copied by KJVO apologists over the years.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when considering those comparison charts as I move through interacting with McElroy’s examples.

First, KJVO apologist present them with the presupposition that the KJV is the Word of God alone and any deviation from the way it reads indicates an intentional corruption of Holy Scripture by either sinister forces or unwitting, compromised individuals. Thus, when the modern version sides with another reading of a biblical text that translates the verse differently than what is found in the KJV, it is concluded that heretical men chose those textual readings for the reason of intentionally distorting God’s Word for evil purposes.

What those “evil purposes” are usually remain in the realm of speculation on the part of the KJVO apologist presenting the evidence of corruption. It could be anything from the advancement of a secret Roman Catholic agenda designed to destroy Protestantism by casting doubt on Sola Scriptura, or it could be as fantastic as secretly working to subvert evangelical churches so as to make them more pliable to theological error and the ushering in of Antichrist.

Secondly, KJVO apologists ignore the context as to the reason why modern translators chose to use particular readings for their modern version. If any reasons are discussed, they are always bad. As we will see in upcoming chapters, modern textual critics and translators are considered liberal and the deniers of the inspiration of God’s Word, so they can’t be trusted because they have a nefarious agenda. Any evangelical translators who do affirm the inspiration of Scripture, yet still use modern versions, are considered compromised or pandering to “academia.” Never is there any genuine attempt to explain to the reader a balanced perspective for why translators translated a passage the way they did.

That is essentially what McElroy is trying to do with his first chapter. He lays out a number of verses taken from both the OT and NT, and then attempts to demonstrate that there are extreme differences between translations. So much so that it is implied that modern versions teach an alternative Christian faith.

However, if we were to take a step back and evaluate his “evidence” with a bit of sober-mindedness apart from the manufactured grid of his KJVO apologetic, one will quickly discover that he is misdirecting his readers just a bit.

Let me start with McElroy’s opening example. After telling his imaginary story of Jesus visiting your church with a big Bible under His arm, he cites Exodus 36:19 which reads in the KJV, And he made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins above that. He highlights the phrase “badger skins” and then lists out how Exodus 36:19 reads in the NIV, NASB, ESV, and the New NIV. All of those translations translate the word for “badger skins” in the KJV as, “hides of sea cows,” “porpoise skin,” “goatskin,” and “durable leather,” respectively.

So in other words, according to McElroy, a profound disconnect exists between all those translations. They can’t ALL be correct as he proclaims. The reader is left with the impression that the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy is at stake. But is it really?

What he is not telling his reader is that there really isn’t any corruption in the biblical text at all. Oh certainly there are differences in translations, but translational differences don’t count as textual corruption or even variant readings. All OT texts say the same thing in the original Hebrew language. But as seen in the previous post, McElroy rejects the concept of the “original” text which really just introduces still another presupposition one must accept unquestioningly for his system to work.

The phrase translated as “badger skins” is tachash ore and checking any Hebrew lexicon, the words are rather generic that mean some sort of leather or animal skin. The phrase may or may not mean “badger skins.” It is even mentioned in Exodus 26:14, where the same description of the tabernacle is given.

How the word is translated is left up to the translator’s discretion. McElroy doesn’t even bother to explain which one is correct. The reader now has the impression that all those kinds of leathers are presented in various readings of the OT at Exodus 36:19, but that’s not the case at all.

Let’s consider the citation of Ecclesiastes 8:10. McElroy partially cites the verse as it is found in the ESV and the NASB, but let me cite the verse in its entirety from those versions:

ESV: Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This is also vanity.

NASB: So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility. 

whatSo here we have a major contradiction, right? The ESV says the wicked will be praised in the city whereas the NASB says they are soon forgotten? What on earth? One translation has them being praised but the other has them forgotten?

Again, what is not mentioned here is that a variant does not exist in the Hebrew. However, because this section in Ecclesiastes has been historically difficult for translators to interpret, there have been emendations to the text to help with understanding what it means. McElroy mentions how the ESV sides with the Latin Vulgate and the LXX rendering of the verse, “were praised,” but the LV and LXX are also translations of the Hebrew. Those translators had the same difficulty with interpreting the text as modern translators do, hence the reason they chose the translation they did and the reason why the ESV chose to side with those translations.

Even the earlier English translations before the KJV recognized the interpretive challenge. For example, the 1549 Matthew’s second edition translates Ecclesiastes 8:10 as,

For I have oft seen the ungodly brought to their graves, and fallen down from the high, glorious place in so much they were forgotten in the city, where they had in so high and great reputation. 

So the verse is not a matter of a corruption of God’s Word, but which interpretation best understands what Solomon is saying and capturing that in the receptor language. Either one of those translations could be legit, because they are attempting to understand the meaning of the text so as to convey that in the translation. (This article provides a bit of background to the interpretive challenge of Ecclesiastes 8:10: The Doings of the Wicked in Qohelet 8:10).

Let’s go to the NT and consider a verse that is a result of a textual variant.

McElroy notes Luke 10:1. In the KJV the passage states that Jesus sent out 70 men to preach the Gospel. A few modern versions, particularly the NIV and ESV, will have 72 instead of 70. The question then is which one is correct?

Honestly, KJVO apologists exaggerate the variant (as they do most of them found in the Bible as we will see), but there is solid textual evidence for both readings as Jeffrey Miller reports in his article on the subject, Two or Not Two. Even the 1541 Great Bible recognizes the possibility of the variant when it translates “Seventy (and two)” adding the two in parenthesis.

I believe 70 is the correct reading, but I understand why 72 is found in a number of manuscripts and ancient translations and it doesn’t worry me one bit if a modern version reads 72 instead of 70, nor do I conclude God’s Word has been corrupted by heretics nor do I believe it is no longer inerrant.

McElroy discusses 5 other examples in the first chapter and everyone of them is easily explained when one steps back, lays aside the KJVO interpretive filters, and takes Barry Burton’s advice to weigh ALL the evidence. The specter of a corrupted Bible dissipates into the air.

Reviewing “Which Bible Would Jesus Use?” [2]

Mcelroy207202015The Introduction

I am reviewing KJVO apologist Jack McElroy’s book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? This will be the second entry. For background and preliminary remarks, see my first post.

What I will try to do is provide a brief summary of each chapter or chapters depending on how much I can cover in one post before becoming boring and the reader drifts off and clicks over to Facebook or somewhere. I will then back up and address specific talking points I think are important, especially important with offering a rebuttal and response.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Summary

McElroy begins his introduction by making the claim that before 130 years ago, the Christian Church understood that the real Bible (in bold italics) was a real, genuine book. Now the Bible is believed to be just an idea. That being, the real Bible exists in the originals, but, as McElroy points out, no one has ever seen those originals and so the Bible of today never really existed.

McElroy finds that view point ridiculous. It represents a dysfunctional God who allegedly “inspires words but fails to deliver them to you.” [4]. The Bible versions recommended these days are really a mixture of men’s words and God’s words and it’s just left up to the modern textual critic to figure out which ones are which. Thus, the so-called original Bible exists only in the imagination of the modern academics.

The author also lays out the challenge that Jesus can only use just one Bible. He can’t use them all. To do so would make Jesus look really, really foolish. Hence, there is only one Bible He could use that would save His integrity. (Can you guess which one it will be?). He then outlines his presuppositions and finishes out the introduction by providing a brief overview of the upcoming chapters and his writing strategy.

His presuppositions are [11]:

1. There has to be a book called the Bible — A physical book.
2. The book must contain ALL of God’s words and only God’s words. It can’t be a mixture of men’s words and God’s words.
3. Most importantly, the work of providing this authentic, physical Bible is the responsibility of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He then claims that he is qualified as an author to offer his book for today’s readers because he has done all the necessary study and research to show you why his preferred Bible version is the only one Jesus could genuinely use, and hence the one all Christians should use as well.

Review

laughMcElroy’s introduction is regrettably outright laughable.

Take for example his personal charge on page 11 in which he says that the readers of his book will be getting a unique and informed slant on the issue, not someone else’s repackaged teachings.

Is he kidding me? As I move through my reviews, I’m going to demonstrate how he rehashes pretty much every argument ever made by KJVO apologists the last 40 years. Sure. He may have organized those arguments differently, added some updated illustrations, and slapped a new cover on his book, but the challenges he levels were offered years ago by such folks as Peter Ruckman, Sam Gipp, and even Gail Riplinger.

And additionally, those challenges have also been answered. For instance, the “where can I get a copy of God’s Word” and “where are those originals” arguments I originally answered nearly 10 years ago when I did my own overview of KJVO apologetics.

McElroy must think his critical readers are dullards or something.

But seeing that his focus in his introduction is the “where are the originals” challenge let me respond just for fun.

Like all KJV Onlyists, McElroy begins with the presupposition that the King James translation is the pure Word of God. That presupposition is clearly implied within the three presuppositions he outlines in his introduction: The Word of God must be a physical book that contains all of God’s words, no mixture of the words of men, and that is protected by Jesus.

KJVO apologists believe the KJV is that book. It alone is the standard to which all other Bible translations are to be compared. That means it should never be questioned as an English translation because it is the best that needs no correction and to do so alters and corrupts God’s Word. Hence the philosophical formula, The KJV alone = the Word of God alone.

Anyone paying attention will immediately identify a major contradictory flaw with his second presupposition that states the book must not be a mixture of God’s Words and men’s words. The KJV is an English translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. If we are talking about language to language translation, there has been a mixture of men’s words that had to be “added” in the translation process. There is no possible way to get around that dilemma. Already the KJV fails McElroy’s own stated presuppositions.

That means, then, that he has to defend the idea that in the process of Jesus providing and protecting the physical book, Jesus inspired the translation process as well so that the KJV translators would translate accurately without error. That of course creates a major problem with basic Christian orthodoxy regarding the doctrines of inspiration and preservation of Scripture. It would in essence introduce a second level of divine breathing out by God beyond the original prophets and apostles to the very translating committees of the King James that in turn resulted in the Bible they produced. It also retells history so that an alternative story line is manufactured that traces the textual genealogy of the biblical texts down to the creation of the King James.

I would imagine that if pressed, McElroy would try and wiggle out from the intellectual conundrum his presuppositions created by redefining what he means by a “mixture of men’s words.” He would probably fall back by appealing to the “Jesus directed the translators to translate what He wanted” and “The KJV translators were the greatest, godliest scholars ever” argument.”

But anyone who seriously knows how our Bible came to us realizes how problematic his presuppositions are for him. He’s stuck having to acknowledge that when the translators translated from the original biblical languages into English, they had to make man-made decisions on how phrases and words were to be rendered into the receptor language. That by default means any translation, even the KJV, has a mixture of God’s words and man’s words.

In order to further strengthen his point about what modern evangelicals supposedly believe about the “original Bible,” McElroy cites from Randall Price’s book, Searching for the Original Bible. (Available on Google Books). He quotes from Price who stated that the autographs written by the original, inspired prophet or apostle is the original Bible. He then declares how inadequate that position is because the original animal skins Moses wrote on have since disintegrated and even Jeremiah’s “original” scroll was destroyed by Jehudi (Jeremiah 36:23). See how silly Price’s original autographs theory is?

strawmenOf course, that’s a typical strawman argument that comes stalking out from the rolling fields of KJV Onlyism. McElroy selectively quotes from Price in order to make him appear muddled with his views of Scripture. It really is a dastardly thing to do on McElroy’s part and is not becoming of one who names Christ as his savior. If a person will take the time to actually go and read what the guy really stated (I mean, the book is available online, for crying out loud!), you’ll see that Price defines his position rather clearly.

McElroy conveniently leaves off Price’s further remarks about his position. After citing article 10 from the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, Price writes that the concepts of inspiration and inerrancy applies only to the autographic text of Scripture and extends to copies and translations only insofar as they faithfully represent the original [Price, 35 emphasis mine].

You will note that Price believes we have the originals with us to this day. That is the position of the Bible-believing Church. (Heck, it’s the position of the Catholics as well, but we won’t go there). Price, like all sober-minded Christians, believes the originals are contained in the faithfully preserved copies of the biblical texts and faithfully translated editions of the modern Bible.

But like all KJVO apologists, that is not good enough because “sinful men” have their hands on the process way too much. And liberals critics were involved in the process as well! Can’t have that!

Again, folks who know how our Bibles came down to us over the centuries realize that McElroy’s historical theory is not as pure and clean as he let’s on. The Bible was a handwritten document for over a thousand years before the printing press was invented. Man mixed with the biblical texts a lot. Every time they hand copied a copy, with all the bad handwriting, misspelled words, spilled ink, water stains, etc., they were mixing with the text. That is just overwhelmingly evident for anyone considering the facts of textual transmission and criticism.

Now. Does God preserve His Word? Most certainly. But is it according to a KJVO daisy chain view that involves a mythical genealogical line of flawless Xeroxed manuscript copies that resulted in just one, never to be corrected English translation frozen in the 17th century? No. But we do have the “originals” in our hands, because the real way God preserved His Word effectively kept it safe, in the hands of His redeemed people, who faithfully passed it along so that we hold in our hands God’s written revelation.

McElroy, and the host of KJVO advocates will dispute my claim, but I’ll answer their disputations as I move along.

Studies in Eschatology [8]

castleThe Kingdom of God both Spiritual and Physical

I have been considering the subject of the Kingdom of God (KoG) in my recent studies on eschatology. I believe God’s kingdom is eschatological, or in other words, it is still future. I also believe it is a geo-political kingdom, one that entails physical territory and physical subjects. Most importantly a restored, national Israel will be at the center of this KoG with Jesus Christ as its appointed, sovereign monarch Whose reign will radiate from Jerusalem to the entire world.

As I have been pointing out, those of the covenant reformed persuasion equate the KoG with the NT Church. Rather than seeing the KoG as a yet future reality, Christ’s reign is said to be happening now over His people, the Body of Christ. The KoG is not a physical kingdom involving territory in the land of Israel, but it is a spiritual kingdom. Thus, those promises of a restored Israel in their land are not to be understood in such a wooden literalism as to imply a physical, ethnic nation returned to their land, but rather are to be understood in a spiritual sense, of Christ reigning over a spiritual body of believers comprised of people from all over the earth. They are Abraham’s true seed (Romans 4), identified by their faith in God and those promises of making Abraham’s offspring a great nation are being fulfilled as people from all over the world come to faith in Christ.

With my last post, I reviewed biblical passages stating how national Israel will be restored to their territorial land. With this post I want to review the idea that the KoG is more than just a spiritual kingdom, but it also has a material dimension to it.

There seems to be a conviction among many of the covenant reformed, particularly those of an amillennial perspective, that a strong dichotomy must exist between the material and the spiritual. When Adam fell, his sin plunged the entire world into sin. The earth and all that it contains has been placed under a curse. Our hope is not with a renewal of this sin cursed world, but it is looking forward to an entirely new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells.

The distinction between the material earthly realm and the spiritual heavenly realm was articulated early in Church history by a variety of apologists. The Church Father, Origen, and then later the more prominent theologian, Augustine, whose theology still shapes the Christian Church to this day, were men heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, which was in vogue everywhere during their day. Greek philosophy shaped their hermeneutics, specifically Augustine’s, when they interpreted the Bible. Augustine developed a two-kingdom model of theology that pits the KoG, or the NT Church in his thinking, against the Kingdom of Man in the here and now [Horner, 210-211, Vlach, 3-4].

As eschatological doctrine developed, it did so with that superior spiritual and inferior material division shaping the interpretation of various prophetic passages. That included a spiritualization of Revelation 20 in which the millennium is understood to be the age of the NT Church. Though it is true some modern day amillennialists have attempted to down play a sharp material-spiritual distinction, they do so at the peril of conceding their theological presuppositions to a premillennial perspective [Horner, 213, fn. 18]. An “earthly” material understanding of OT passages opens wide the notion of a messiah reigning over an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem with a restored Israel.

However, the subject before us is to consider some important passages raised by the covenant reformed that they argue present the picture of a spiritual KoG which in turn eliminates the material, physical aspects.

I’ll begin with probably the most often cited passage I know I have encountered, that being Christ’s words to Pilate as recorded in John 18:36. Upon asking Jesus why the Jews had handed Him over to the Romans, Jesus told Pilate: My Kingdom is not of the world: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight. The covenant reformed understand Christ’s words to Pilate to be plainly saying His kingdom, what is presupposed to be the NT Church, is solely a spiritual one; a kingdom that is heavenly in nature and to be occupied by men and women who have received eternal life by their faith in Christ. Christ’s kingdom, then, is contrasted to earthly kingdoms of this world and because Christ’s kingdom is said by the Lord Himself to not be of this world, it then must be understood as being strictly spiritual in nature.

But, is that what the Lord is saying exactly? Rather than taking Christ to be contrasting a material, worldly kingdom with a spiritual one, what is again presupposed to be the NT Church, the non-covenant reformed believe Jesus is merely telling Pilate of the supernatural origin of His kingdom: It does not originate on this earth by earthly means like military conquest or man-made political wrangling. It originates in heaven and is established by supernatural, divine means. Thus, Christ’s words do not reject the futurity of a coming eschatological kingdom of geo-political, material scope, but simply acknowledges the supernatural nature of His coming kingdom.

A second set of NT passages are also cited that seem to repudiate the physical reality of the future KoG by highlighting the spiritual dynamic of the Kingdom. I am thinking of Luke 17:20, 21 and Romans 14:17.

Luke 17:20, 21 is Christ’s words to the Pharisees who mockingly asked Jesus when the KoG would come. He responded by saying the KoG does not come by observation, or signs, but rather the KoG is said to be within you. Romans 14:17 is Paul’s exhortation to the Jews and gentiles who comprise the membership of the local churches in Rome, to put aside petty disagreements of what can and cannot be eaten by Christians. Instead, Paul writes, the KoG is about righteousness, joy, and peace.

It is argued these two passages strongly speak against the physical nature of the KoG. In fact, they clearly de-emphasize those tangible characteristics of “physicalness,” like observation, visible signs, and eating, and lifts up spiritual qualities like an internal heart change, righteousness, peace, and joy. That is why these passages are said to be speaking of a spiritual KoG, which the covenant reformed understand as the NT Church.

There are a few things to say in response:

First, I believe there is more than enough adequate revelation clearly telling us the NT Church is not the anticipated eschatological KoG. In fact, I believe the overwhelming amount of biblical discussion on the KoG presents it as a material, eschatological kingdom distinct from the NT Church. However, I do believe it is important to note how the writers of the NT speak to the salvific certainty of the chosen subjects of the KoG. They are now, presently declared to be in the KoG simply by their individual identification with the person of Christ.

It is similar with how all saints have been declared to be recipients of eternal life now, even though eternal life still awaits, or that God’s people are sitting in the heavenlies with Christ, even though we currently exist in this realm. The same is with the subjects of the KoG. They exist presently as subjects of the KoG, though they still await its eschatological arrival.

Second, in Luke 17, Christ’s words were to the Pharisees. They wanted a political Messiah who would overthrow the Romans immediately. Though the eschatological KoG will certainly bring in an overthrow of the world’s earthly, man-made kingdoms, Christ’s ministry at the time was not meant to establish that kingdom. His purpose was to gather the subjects for it through the means of the Church. The Church was unanticipated, hence the reason it is called a mystery — something that was previously unrevealed. The KoG is inaugurated with the formation of the Church, a spiritual body of believers comprised of Jews and gentiles, hence the reason Jesus describes the KoG as being within you.

Paul’s words in Romans 14 do not de-emphasize the future, material aspect to the KoG either, but rather they have similar emphasis on the current spiritual dynamic of the KoG as it is manifested in the Church. In this case, the spiritual unity and holy living which should characterize the people of God. Ultimately, the KoG is not about non-essential issues like what one eats or drinks, but it will be about righteousness and holiness.

Then lastly, probably one of the most significant passages of scripture to which the covenant reform appeal when challenging the idea of a future, geo-political KoG is Hebrews 11:8-16. The section of scripture comes from the great chapter in Hebrews on faith. It speaks of how Abraham dwelt in the land of promise, but he also waited for a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God. The covenant reformed point out that Abraham’s faith is not in being permanently established in the land of Israel, but it was in a non-physical city, one which comes from God. That passage alone eliminates any notion of a future, physical KoG dwelling on the material earth. In fact, Gary Long makes Hebrews 11:8-16 the second key presupposition when one must employ when studying eschatology [Long, 8,9]. Thus, this section in Hebrews rejects any idea of a future, earthly millennium, or so says the covenant reformed.

But, does the passage in Hebrews really eliminate the idea of an earthly KoG? Barry Horner points out that Abraham’s faith in a heavenly Jerusalem did not exclude a terrestrial location, but rather, his hope was in a kingdom in which heaven will be manifested on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy and permanent [Horner, 250]. It is not a country in heaven, but a country from heaven. Just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so even Christ anticipated a kingdom that was both spiritual and material.

*******
Sources:

Barry E. Horner, Future Israel. (Broadman & Holman: Nashville TN, 2007).

Gary Long, Context! Evangelical Views of the Millennium Examined. (Great Unpublished: Charleston SC, 2nd ed. 2002).

Michael J. Vlach, Platonism’s Influence on Christian Eschatology. Unpublished paper found on-line here.

Reviewing “Which Bible Would Jesus Use?” [1]

adventurebiblePreliminary Remarks and the Forward

Today I embark on a new adventure.

I plan to do a chapter by chapter review of the KJVO book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? The Bible Version Controversy Explained and Resolved, by one Jack McElroy.

Now I can already hear some long time readers saying, with eyes rolled to the ceiling, “Really? Why? Haven’t you beat this subject to death? Come’on. There’s all sorts of important discerning that needs to be going on out there. What about the gay fake Christians and their fawning allies trying to subvert the Church!?”

Yes. I understand that I have written a lot on this topic; but allow me to lay out my reasons.

First, my readership are for the most part, solid, right-thinking believers. They are not easily persuaded by bad teaching. However, there are a number of individuals who are pliable. They don’t attend solid churches nor do they particularly know where to find good material refuting such nonsense. I want to offer them a service.

Secondly, the KJVO issue is, sadly, not going away. It may be slowly waning in some respects as the older generation of KJVO apologists die off, but there is a newer generation that utilizes the internet and social media to keep their apologetics alive. Someone needs to provide them with a rebuttal.

And third, since I began blogging in 2005, I have received a steady stream of complaints, comments, and pronouncements of cursing against me from two radically opposite individuals: atheists and KJVO apologists. It is clear, at least in my mind, that this topic is still strong among a number of Christians. Those who have never been challenged need to be so. Those who watch their Sunday school classes and adult fellowship groups get split asunder by a small number of rabid KJV onlyists need to have a place where they can find responses to those challenges. That is what I hope to accomplish with these reviews.

I am not entirely sure how long the series will last. There are 21 chapters in the book, so potentially I could write up 21 posts. I hope to combine a few chapters into one post, but I will see.

So with that in mind, let me set forth on my journey.

et highwayBackground

How exactly did I come about finding this particular KJVO book to review? Excellent question!

It started back in December of 2013. I was interviewed on a podcast called Theology Matters hosted by Devin Pellew on the subject of KJV Onlyism. I made a post highlighting the interview and in the comment section, a fellow named David took me to task for that interview claiming I was misinformed and sloppy with my facts. He insisted I needed to read some newer, better material than what I had previously read when I was a practicing KJVO apologist.

He recommended two books. The first by a guy named Joey Faust who pastors a church in Venus, Texas, called Kingdom Baptist. I did a search and noticed that he seems to be a Steven Anderson clown clone. (Though it appears he and Anderson are feuding Fundamentalists). He protests stuff in the Dallas-Forth Worth area and back in 2012 he got himself and a church member jailed for a day for disobeying police orders during a gay pride parade by crossing a barricade. He wrote a book entitled, The Word: God Will Keep It. The second book was the one under consideration, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? by Jack McElroy.

At the time, I didn’t know either men, nor had I heard of their books. David, my KJVO comment challenger, insisted they represented the latest and greatest research in KJVO apologetics. I expressed incredulity, because I personally do not believe anyone could bring anything new to the KJVO perspective. My detractor insisted otherwise. He contacted me via email and told me that if I were interested, he would purchase the books and send them to me as a gift. I said sure.

There was no follow up, so a year and half went by and I had all but forgotten about the books. Then, out of the blue a few weeks ago, my detractor contacted me again and offered to send them to me. And again I said certainly I’d receive them and told him I would even review them for my blog. I sent out my mailing address and got them the next week or so. And here we are.

I scanned through them, and my initial, honest evaluation is that McElroy’s book seemed to be — how can I put it — more “scholarly” than Faust’s. Just at first glance, for example, note the covers,

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The cover of Faust’s book looks like it was created on his computer by Microsoft Paint. It has the classic KJVO clip art. Notice on one side the little snake coiled up on the modern Bible versions, fangs ready to pierce the hand of any unwitting fool who stupidly picks one up to read it. On the right side are bones piled up among the modern versions.

McElroy’s, on the other hand, looks a bit more professional. Like maybe he paid someone with skills to produce it. Now certainly we don’t want to fall victim to the idea that you “can’t judge a book by its cover,” but sometimes the covers do alert a reader to the quality of material found within it’s pages.

With that bit of background, let me move to the book itself.

The Author

According to his bio page [309], Jack McElroy was raised Roman Catholic. He became a Christian in 1978. He graduated with a B.S. in industrial management from Lowell Technological Institute and became a serial entrepreneur. He has been the president of McElroy Electronics Corporation for 35 years.

In addition to writing on KJV onlyism, he also wrote a book on losing one’s fear of dying and another on the soul winning techniques from Adoniram Judson. McElroy Publishing, which I take to be his personal publishing house, has a series of books on how to be the best Christian camp counselor ever.

Now. I am sure Mr. McElroy is a great guy and a fine, upstanding Christian man. However, given his background in electronics and industrial management, along with publishing how-to books on being camp counselors, does he have the theological chops as it were to lecture us about why my NASB is corrupted and Jesus would only use the King James?

Looking over his bibliography, he lists 11 pages of sources he used in his research [311-322]. His list is impressive, but does he cite from those sources accurately and in context? Does he treat the authors with whom he disagrees fairly with his assessments? I am also wondering why he lists two blog articles from Will Kinney, who is a hack when it comes the Bible version issue. Knowing that he is a KJV onlyists like the author, citing one of the more notorious internet trolls as a reliable source doesn’t shine favorably upon his ability to separate the chaff from the wheat regarding the Bible version issue. I guess we will see as we move along in our reviews.

The Forward

Okay. So what’s the big deal about the forward? I mean honestly, who reviews the forward to any book? In this instance, the forward, at least I believe, sets the tone for the quality of research that possibly awaits us in the actual book, and so I feel a need to touch upon it.

finalauthorityThe forward [v-vii] is written by William P. Grady, pastor of Macedonia Baptist church in Swartz Creek, MI. He published his own KJVO book back in 1993 called Final Authority  that has a picture of a judge hammering down a gavel with certainty.

Grady’s biography page follows immediately after the forward. It lists 3 other books he wrote. One large one on American history from his unique (myopic may be a better word) perspective as a KJV onlyist.

His bio further boasts that his books have held consistent, 5 star ratings on Barnes and Noble’s website, but that is because each one has two or three anonymous reviews, all of them submitted by what appears to be gushing fans. Amazon, on the other hand, has many more “positive” reviewers, but there are a few 1-star that bring his overall rating to 4-stars or 3 1/2 stars. But that is neither here nor there I suppose.

Grady begins the forward by recounting his personal journey into KJVO apologetics and all of the horrible translations he has come across over the years like the Living Bible, the Ebonics Version, and the recent Gay Bible. But seriously? Does Grady really believe those are influential Bible versions among solid, Bible-believing Christians? Especially the Ebonics version or the Gay Bible?

He then expresses his appreciation for the publication of Mr. McElroy’s book as Satan’s assaults against Scripture has only intensified since his own book came out in 93. He claims that Mr. McElroy offers “fresh information” and “combined with the author’s lack of traditional ‘seminary credentials'” makes his book a must read.

I have to stop and offer comment upon Grady’s disparaging of “traditional seminary credentials.” Even when I was a KJVO apologist, I’ve never really gotten why the typical KJVO independent fundamentalist Baptists are so alarmist against Christians attending college or seminary. They allege soul damning compromise with “worldly-wisdom” when a Christian attends a seminary, but I never really saw that at all. My thought was if a guy was anchored in his convictions, no amount of worldly scholarship is going to change him, but will only serve to shore up his beliefs and provide him with ammo defending his position.

At any rate, I see a fit of hypocrisy on the part of practically every big name KJVO author who has “Dr.” before his name and proudly lists out all of his degrees earned. Grady does the exact same thing. It’s pathetically laughable. Turning McElroy’s book over to the back cover, you will see listed a group of men singing their praises of his work. The second one is Dr. William P. Grady, B.S., M.Ed., Th.M., Ph.D, D.D. Five degrees! I kid you not.

Grady then comments on the thesis McElroy presents in his book, “Which Bible would Jesus use?” and explains how as the author works through his evidence, each modern version is discredited as a Bible Jesus would use. Grady then provides a couple of convoluted examples that illustrate the thesis.

First, he points out Luke 2:33 which reads in the King James as, And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. He then warns how every modern Bible removes the proper name “Joseph” at Luke 2:33 and insert the blasphemous reading “his father” so that the passage reads, And his father and mother marveled at those things… See the problem? The implications, states Grady, is that the virgin birth and Christ’s deity are now in question because modern versions proclaim that Joseph was Jesus’ father, not God the father.

Of course, if you were to link over to bibles-online.net, something Grady or McElroy must have failed to do, a person can search many of the pre-KJV 1611 translations. Wycliffe’s NT, Tyndale’s NT, Matthew’s Bible, the 1535 Coverdale’s Bible, and the Great Bible of 1541, all read at Luke 2:33, his father and mother marveled… Uh oh. What exactly does that say in regards to Grady’s condemnation of modern versions? Did those men like William Tyndale and John Rogers intentionally lie when they translated their work as his father and mother… in the same way Grady insists modern Bible translators lied?

A second example is really odd. Grady points to Jeremiah 10:5 and writes,

“… any doubt concerning “which Bible Jesus would use” can be settled by the litmus test of Jeremiah 10:5. Whereas the KJV reads, They are upright as the palm tree…, the 2011 NIV substitutes, “like a scarecrow in a cucumber field…” (see similar readings in the RSV, NRSV, NASB, ESV, and HCSB).”

I am not entirely sure what Grady is getting at with that example. It’s as if he is entirely devoid of what Jeremiah 10 is about. That chapter is addressing the foolishness of idolatry. The prophet is mocking the concept of idols and the idol makers. The idol makers decorate their idols, but in reality, they aren’t really living gods, but or more like a scarecrow in a cucumber field that while it looks like a man, in reality is just a dummy on pole. The word Grady insists should be palm tree can certainly mean scarecrow because the context of Jeremiah 10 is on dressing up dead idols to appear like living gods when in point of fact they are nothing of the sort. Grady’s criticism is way out in left field.

If Grady’s sophomoric forward is any indication as to the nature of the rest of the book, I’m a bit concerned here at the outset. However, I am dedicated to muscling my way through it. Hopefully it will be a fruitful endeavor for both myself and the readers both now and in the future.