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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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As a People’s Morality Goes …

Americas Christian HistoryColumnist Selwyn Duke:

“Just as with religion, people bring their ideology with them. And unless you think you could talk a Muslim jihadist out of Islam, why suppose you could talk a socialist out of socialism? … As a people’s morality goes, so go its fortunes. You simply cannot be one kind of people but have another kind of government … And what has happened to our sense of virtue in America? So lost it is that even the word has been replaced with ‘values,’ that fixture of the atheistic literary style. For decades we have instilled children with leftism, nihilism, hedonism, relativism, and atheism through academia, the media, and popular culture; we have seduced them into sin and made them, as Ben Franklin wrote, ‘more corrupt and vicious, [so] they have more need of masters.’ For sure, masters will be one’s lot if he has not mastered himself. … There is a strong atheism-statism correlation the world over, which is why it’s no coincidence that ‘conservatives’ in heavily secular Western Europe are simpatico with our liberals. … Without the Christian right, there is no right at all.”

Continue reading here. . . .

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Jesus in History

JosephusJosephus:

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.” (Josephus—The Essential Works, P. L. Maier ed./trans.).

Christianity and Mithraism

When I was in college, I wrote a paper on Mithraism for a course dealing with ancient religions. At that time I was interested in the “similarities” Mithraism seemed to have, according to the text I was studying, (information greatly exaggerated) with Christianity. Even today, there are many who attempt to build a false connection between Mithra and Jesus. Such assertions abound in literature critical of Christianity. I hope the following information will help you if you are ever confronted with these claims.

Those who claim there is a connection between Mithraism and Christianity are really trying to restructure Mithraism according to their own preconceived ideas. There are no existing texts that come from the ancient followers of this belief system. There are, however, artifacts found in caves and references from some historians that prove it did exist. The artifacts have been dated to at least 60 or 70 years after the beginning of Christianity. Many believe they are more likely from the middle of the second century.

There were two forms of Mithraism: Roman Mithraism and Iranian Mithraism. These two forms of Mithraism are connected by little more than the name. Roman Mithraism was pretty much a new creation (influenced by the Greeks) which was very popular among the military. It seems probable that its followers adopted some Christian ideas along the way.

The birth of Mithras was celebrated on the Winter solstice and eventually on December 25th. The ancient church knew that Jesus was not born on December 25th (perhaps in September or October?), but chose December 25th as the day of His birth’s celebration. This action was an assertive move of the church to wipe out the pagan celebrations that took place at this time of year.

None of the available records from historians of this time period show that the pagan god Mithras was ever a teacher. Mithras did not have twelve disciples and he had no bodily resurrection. Mithras was born out of solid rock; not a virgin woman. Mithras is recorded as having battled with the sun and a primeval bull. Mithras killed the bull, which then became the ground of life for the human race.

Mithraism was truly a bloody cult. To achieve a higher level in Mithraism, followers had to stand under a bull while it was slain so they could be bathed in its blood and guts. Then they’d join the others in eating the bull. They were literally washed in the blood of the bull. Christians, on the other hand, thought of themselves as ‘washed… in the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:14).” Christian baptism involves water, not blood!

Mithras is totally a mythological creature, and not a historical person. On the other hand, Jesus is a historical person. Along with the twenty seven New Testament documents, which are continually affirmed by historical data and archaeological research, we have the testimony of the early church fathers, along with a few non-Christian sources, such as Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Flavius Josephus, and others. We have more historical documents which make mention of Jesus and the events of His life and death (along with references to His follower’s claim of His resurrection) than we do for Tiberius Caesar.

Yet, it is the nature of mankind to suppress the truth of Christ to have their own way (Romans 1:18-23). Many will grasp at any straw to disgrace the name of Jesus. History has often been rewritten with the intention of such consequences. In the instance of Mithraism, we find another attempt to reinvent a pagan cult as the source of Christian practices. Remember this warning from Paul to those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved”: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, for all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV)

I would like to recommend for further reading:

“Refuting Mithras Myth Parallelism To Christianity” by Prayson Daniel and Ronald Nash’s “Seven Arguments Against Christian Dependence of The Mysteries” which may be found in Daniel’s article.

The Humanity of Jesus

The Bible and Apollinarianism:

Apollinarianism was a heresy taught by Apollinaris the Younger in Syria about 361 A.D. He taught that the Logos of God took the place of the rational human soul of Jesus and that the body of Christ was a glorified form of human nature. Jesus was a man, but He did not have a human mind. Apollinaris taught that the two natures of Christ could not coexist within one person and so he lessened the human nature of Christ.

Apollinarianism was condemned by the Second General Council at Constantinople in 381 A.D. This heresy denies the true and complete humanity of Jesus which jeopardizes the value of the atonement. Jesus has to be both God and man to atone. He must be God to offer a holy sacrifice and He must be a man to die for men.

The Bible teaches:

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. . . .” (Romans 8:3 ESV)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law. . . .” (Galatians 4:4 ESV)

The Heresy of the Albigenses

Heresy and the Bible:

This heresy developed during the middle ages in the town of Albi in Southern France. According to the Albigenses there were two gods: the good god of light in the New Testament and the god of darkness and evil in the Old Testament.” Anything material was considered evil including the body which was created by Satan. The soul, created by the good god, was imprisoned in the evil flesh and salvation was possible only through holy living and good works. At death, if the person has been spiritual enough, salvation comes to the believer. But, if the person has not been good enough, he is reincarnated as an animal or another human. The Albigenses denied the resurrection of the body since it was considered evil.

The Albigenses taught that Jesus was God but that He only appeared as a man while on earth. There were two types of Albigenses: believers and Perfects. Believers were Albigenses who had not taken the initiation rite of being a Perfect. Perfects denounced all material possessions. They abstained from meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and sexual relations. To become a Perfect a believer had to go through an initiation rite involving the laying on of hands that was supposed to bring the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Infrequently, suicide was practiced as a way to rid oneself of the evil human body.

The Bible teaches:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. . . .” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3 ESV)

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. …” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)

The Church Deceived

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1, ESV)

I am often dismayed when I hear about people I know or their friends who are being deceived by some new teaching that provides shortcuts to the victorious Christian life. You do not often hear that they have presented this new teaching to their orthodox pastors and elders – and then, after a careful search of the Scriptures, they have decided to follow this new prophet and his books. As a matter of fact, what I mostly hear as justification for following these teachings (which are usually old heresies) is something like, “All my friends are reading his books and listening to his sermons. They say he makes Christianity so simple!”

Most of these false teachers are simply rehashing the “word-of-faith” teachings mixed with their own particular flavors. The bottom line of these movements seems to always be a concoction focusing on success, prosperity, and health. If bad things happen to you, then you simply do not have enough faith or you are using the Word incorrectly.

Some of these teachings imply the godhood of man and the possibility of superhuman powers. Some of these false teachers adopt faith rituals and positive prayer formulas guaranteed to get results – if you just have enough faith. In these movements you often find some sound doctrine mixed with false teachings to attract those who are overly confident in their own Bible knowledge.

One such book, titled Destined to Reign, has been called to my attention recently. In this book, the author gives the following credit: “I give thanks to God for my roots in the Word of Faith teachings. It is truly on the shoulders of great men of God like Brother Kenneth E. Hagin (see the addendum below to find out more about Kenneth Hagin) that we are able to see further into the Word of God today. Growing up, I learned a lot about faith from Brother Hagin who truly had a special revelation of faith from the Lord. I deeply honor and respect him for all that he has taught me.” (Destined to Reign: The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living p.271)

The author of this book is Joseph Prince. He is, as quoted above, a product of the “word-of-faith” movement. Prince promotes the false idea that because of grace believers only get blessings. All sins were forgiven at the cross for the believer, therefore repentance or confession of sin is not necessary. He teaches that wealth is for all Christians. He believes God is restoring NEW TRUTHS to the church. Prince also teaches that the “moral law” no longer applies to Christians and has ceased along with the “ceremonial law”.

However, if I am faithfully following after the teachings of Joseph Prince and am still having problems with health, money, and relationships, then I am not in God’s grace. Thus, we see what an utter failure Paul was when he wrote by the Spirit of God, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13 ESV) Should we assume then that Paul was not in God’s grace?

We have only to apply the test of the Scriptures to measure the truth or deceitfulness of any teaching found in Destined to Reign: The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living – or any other of Joseph Prince’s writings or sermons.

Yet, people continue to choose to follow what their neighbors think or like and not search the Scriptures themselves or at least discuss it with a sound teacher of the Word of God. We are deceived by the sin of pride and the lust for “effortless success”. The truth is that most of us do not want to hear that wealth is seldom achieved or held on to effortlessly. Thus we are willing to accept a little heresy mixed with the strong drink of true Christian doctrine to make Christianity more palatable to our tastes and current frame of mind.

We are given this warning by Peter, “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” (2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV)

Addendum:

Kenneth Hagin seems to have taken many of his teachings from E. W. Kenyon. Kenyon was born on April 24, 1867, in Hadley, New York. The origin of Kenyon’s positive confession teaching (word of faith) can be traced back to his introduction to the philosophical ideas of positive confession at Emerson College of Oratory in Boston in 1880. Emerson College taught New Thought metaphysics, which is a system of cultic belief that taught that the human mind through positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to create its own reality: either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty. Kenyon’s beliefs centered on faith in faith; guaranteed health; wealth/prosperity; the spiritual death of Christ and the belief that Christians are little gods.

Word of Faith preacher, Kenneth Hagin, claimed to be a prophet called by God Himself. He also believed that Christians are little gods and that if they are not healthy and wealthy it is because of their lack of faith or knowledge. Hagin taught that Christians have control over their lives by the words that they speak.

Interesting Quotes from Hagin:

The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth. (“The Word of Faith”)

Man…was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority…. God has made us as much like Himself as possible…. He made us the same class of being that He is Himself…. Man lived in the realm of God. He lived on terms equal with God…. [T]he believer is called Christ….That’s who we are; we’re Christ! (“Zoe: The God-Kind of Life”, pp. 35-36, 41)

The Heretics

According to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The heretics were never dishonest men; they were mistaken men. They should not be thought of as men who were deliberately setting out to go wrong and to teach something that is wrong; they have been some of the most sincere men that the Church has ever known. What was the matter with them? Their trouble was this: they evolved a theory and they were rather pleased with it; then they went back with this theory to the Bible, and they seemed to find it everywhere.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

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