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When Churches Produce Heretics instead of Disciples

astrologyTim, we need your assistance up front.” I heard this from one of our Baristas (professional coffee worker) recently. He continued, “There’s a guy in the Credo House asking a bunch of questions we’ve never heard before….we’re out of our league.” Michael Patton and I work hard to theologically train our coffee employees, but we also tell them to come get us if they feel like help is needed.

As I walked to the front, I was greeted by a guy with a slightly wild look on his face. We ordered Luther Lattes and sat down for a chat. I asked for his story and thoroughly loved the conversation which followed.

Jake, the name I’ll use for the rest of the post, had been your typical church going Christian. He worked a normal job and played by all the “Christian” rules. Something bizarre happened to him about six months ago. He got really into reading the Bible. As he continued with his story he said he was getting ready to wrap up his third complete reading of the Bible in the last six months. I stopped him in mid-sentence, asking him again to clarify, “You have actually read every word of the Bible three times in the last six months?

He assured me that, yes, he was consumed with the Bible and had been reading it whenever he wasn’t working or spending time with his family. Although I knew there was some reason the Baristas asked me to talk with Jake, I first encouraged him that it was totally amazing he was spending so much time learning from the Bible. Almost every pastor I know of would kill to have a guy like this in their churches. Someone who is devoting more time to God’s Word than Netflix, Google Play, Amazon Prime and/or Hulu Plus. So often church leaders bang their heads against the wall pleading for their people to step out of the stupor of apathy. It was exciting to talk with someone who is, for the first time, discovering such powerful truths.

Then came the “Aha” moment for why I was asked to talk with Jake at the Credo House.
As Jake read the Bible he processed some of the content in unusual ways. First, he believed any ideas he came up with from the Bible must be correct because the Spirit must have communicated the ideas directly to him. If anyone thinks his interpretation is wrong…Jake thinks they must be wrong. Second, he had closely correlated the Bible with Astrology. Note, I said Astrology and not Astronomy.

He continued to go on for quite some time, without any further interruption from me. He told me that he had started to ask his pastor many questions without much of a helpful response. Maybe the pastor was being helpful, but from Jake’s perspective the pastor had no clue. His pastor then decided to pass Jake, and his many questions, on to his predecessor who had recently retired from the local church but was still attending their church. “What happened then?” I asked. The referred pastor also couldn’t help him, saying he wasn’t that much of a Bible scholar, but perhaps the young man should talk to the professor at the local seminary who was just retiring at the age of 80, and would likely be able to help Jake. “What happened then?” I asked. Jake said he was really disappointed, and even felt bad for the professor, because Jake felt like he knew more in 6 months than the professor acquired in Biblical knowledge during his 80 years.

Jake then looked at me straight in the eyes and said something that almost broke my heart, “I know I’m not a crazy person…what’s wrong with me or those around me?

We then started to walk through his story. I knew this guy really wanted to be orthodox. He really loved God. He really loved God’s Word. I knew my task was one of discipleship. We quickly dove into ideas of: Bible interpretation (Hermeneutics); How we know things (Epistemology); How to test our interpretations with Spirit-Indwelt Saints who have gone before us (Regula Fide); and many more issues.

Jake was surprisingly receptive for some theological/biblical direction. For six months, while his passion for God’s Word had exploded, Jake had been pushed to the periphery. When church members saw Jake coming down the sidewalk, they crossed to the other side. Instead of receiving encouragement and grace from God’s people, piles of dry wood were being stacked for the up-and-coming heretic. Jake was on the fast track to being kicked out of his church and remembered as that crazy guy. It struck me so vividly how the church can produce heretics instead of disciples.

Nevertheless, I thought Jake and I had made a lot of progress. After a lot of “calm” back and forth exchanges, he eventually saw the need for some excellent commentaries to help guide and direct his reading of Scripture. I was able to teach him about essentials and non-essentials of the faith. There are certain things like the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union of Jesus, and the Resurrection that are essentials. These are issues all of us should be willing to die for. There are also non-essential issues that may be important, but probably aren’t worth giving up one’s life. Unfortunately, many people who have not been discipled may think that every issue is equally essential.

Things were going great in our conversation, but I still didn’t know how to approach the Astrology issue in a way that would, hopefully, point him in a good direction. Then I remembered reading about a great friendship between some world-changing Christians.

Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon were very close friends. Many people are familiar with the 16th century reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther. Melanchthon is not as well known today, but he was just as influential a reformer as Luther, or Calvin.

Luther thought the world of Melanchthon. Since Luther made such a large impact on world history, he could have easily considered himself the best of everything. It’s interesting, however, to hear him talk about the strengths of Melanchthon. On more than one occasion we have preserved writings where Luther is telling people how Melancthon is such a great Bible and Theology teacher. It is clear Luther considers Melanchthon a more gifted communicator, teacher and even thinker in certain areas. Luther is obviously excited to be teamed up in ministry together with Philip.

Philip Melanchthon, however, was really into Astrology. It was a side passion. Around the Credo House we call this his pet heresy. We have a recorded conversation between Luther and Melanchthon where Luther is complaining about the Princes ruling 16th century Germany. Luther makes the comment that he’d never like to rule Germany, it’s not in his nature. Melanchthon’s response to Luther made me laugh out loud. Philip was trying to help Luther see how it makes sense why Luther wouldn’t want to rule Germany. He turns to Astrology by telling Luther, “You have the sun in your nature, it’s in your horoscope.

How did Luther respond to Philip’s well reasoned Astrological analysis? Luther said, “Oh, I have no interest in your astrology!” I can just picture Luther even slugging his friend in the arm as he quickly dismissed Philip’s ideas. They continued in their conversation talking about other issues they fully agreed upon. I love that Luther still highly valued Melanchthon although they disagreed over Astrology.

I told Jake that for the past 2,000 years Astrology has not been seen by Christians as a central component of the faith. There are far larger things for us to discuss and teach than astrology. When we are communicating Christianity to someone, there are many other things we should address before bringing up the subject of Astrology. I quoted him John 3:16 noting the absence of Astrology from this very important verse. I encouraged Jake to make sure people know he’s way more into Jesus than Astrology. But I also encouraged him to not think of himself as a crazy heretic if he never drops his Astrology leanings.

As Jake and I parted our ways for the day I felt like Jake had been rescued from the category of heretic and properly placed back in the discipleship category. As we were getting up from the table he was visibly relieved that I didn’t think he was crazy (even though I had a couple times told him confidently that some of his ideas clearly were not from the Holy Spirit). We left our conversation as friends in Christ, not as enemies.

The next time any of us encounter someone who seems to be one of those crazies with a Bible in their hand. I want to challenge you on two points.

First, thank God they have a Bible in their hand. It is good for them to have God’s Word.

Second, pray God would allow you to be part of their discipleship. We are all part of one body. We need the gifts of each other to grow and be healthy. The Christian life is not meant to be lived solo. That “crazy” person might help you too. You might need to “go deep” with them. You might need to learn more about: Hermeneutics; Epistemology; Essentials/Non-Essentials; Regula Fide and many more topics. Would that be a bad thing? Helping to grow other people in Jesus will help you also grow.

If we effortlessly label someone a heretic and move on…two people are hurt.

51 Responses to “When Churches Produce Heretics instead of Disciples”

  1. Thank you Tim for writing this column.

    I appreciate the mercy, grace, and wisdom that you demonstrated toward this young man.

    Surely this is what pleases our heavenly Father.

  2. That story brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing. Wisdom is such a rare and precious jewel.

  3. I’m wondering about using the word heretic- I realize that it means (denotation) a divisive person and Scripture is clear about our responsibility as Christians in addressing it twice and then stepping away.

    On the other hand, there is the connotation of the word heretic within church history and the severe torture “justified” by the label troughout the Inquisition.

    We need to be careful about the terms we choose to use and how it would affect the other person…..

  4. I know exactly how this guy felt. I grew up baptist but started studying Judaism a year ago. At first it was just to gain a better understanding of the foundation of Christianity but since then it has brought up many questions regarding the diety of Christ, the virgin birth, and the idea of a messiah being a blood sacrifice. I have found that the majority of Christian pastors cannot give a good answer to these questions, at least not one that doesnt require a fair bit of imagination to make it work. I stopped asking questions. The only reason I attend church on Sunday is for my daughter to have some form of religious experience and because of the friendships that we have made over time at the church. We live in a small town so Christianity is the only option here. So I sit in church, I listen and for the most part I dont believe what is said. I study and worship on my own on Saturdays through live online Shabbat services. The more questions I ask from Christian pastors, the more frustrated I become. Every question that I have presented to a Rabbi I have received a strong answer backed by scripture and historical proof. What does this tell me? I know at some point I am going to have to make a very tough decision and given the lack of answers that I have received from the Christian pastors, it seems pretty clear to me who has the evidence to back up their beliefs.

  5. Delwyn X. Campbell July 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Carrie, I would like to hear some of these ideas to which you refer. I suspect that the lack of information stems from a lack of education. I can assure you, given the historical background of Christianity (as you pointed out, it is, in fact, the fulfillment of the promises made to the Patriarchs), that there are no questions you have that a nonbelieving rabbi should be able to answer better than a believing pastor and teacher.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides July 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Are there any verses in Scripture about astrology?

  7. A good lesson for the listener and the teacher, but as a reader I want to know what happened to this man? Did he come back? Did you follow up?

  8. Luther Lattes???… :-)

    • Luther Lattes…yes, the Credo House is also a 3rd Wave Gourmet Coffee Shop. Our signature drink is called the Luther Latte. It’s basically a vanilla Latte with some of the best ingredients under the sun. I know…sounds weird…welcome to the world of the Credo House. We’re weird.

  9. The opening post struck a chord with me and I thought the approach with Jake was an exemplary one.

    I also have some sympathy with Carrie JH in any difficulties she may have in regard to the deity of Christ. I do too! I have no difficulty in accepting the miracle of the virgin birth by which the Son of God came into existence, but the idea of his pre-existence seems to stem from an overly literal reading of some of the highly figurative language that Jesus used, recounted in such great detail in John’s Gospel.

    I can accept the importance of believing that Jesus is the Son of God – that is explicitly stated. So is the fact of the Resurrection. But should we really go further than the apostles did and declare Trinity and Hypostatic Union to be “essentials”?

    Carrie JH may be interested to follow “The Great Trinity Debate” elsewhere on this blog.

  10. For Carrie JH, and anyone else who has a problem with the death of the Messiah being some kind of legal transaction or appeasement of God’s wrath, I would like to recommend a fairly short, non-technical and highly readable book (by John Launchbury) about why Jesus died and showing from scripture that it was wholly, and simply, in order to “Change Us, Not God”

    http://www.amazon.com/Change-not-God-Biblical-meditations/dp/098240929X

  11. It kind of looks like I am going to be “the oddman out” here.

    I really want to ask something Tim. With the close association astrology often has with divination, (Google the two terms and see what you find), do you really think it wise to give the impression that astrology is not really that big of a deal?

  12. Thanks for relating this, Tim. Very encouraging and impressive. So many on both sides of this issue become passionately indignant of their positions, which is not a deal-breaker and about as non-essential, imo, as they come. I was not familiar with Melancthon’s leanings in this…that is a great testimony to the type of relationship, discourse and tolerance of non-essentials that Christians should have –both of other Christians as well as non-Christians. For the idealistic visitor you had at Credo House, I’m happy he connected with you and found a place where he can get answers to his questions, and not a condemnation of conclusions he has come to –which he may or may not hold on to even over the years to come. The tendency to magnify nominal differences and minimize the things we agree on with others tends to divide & discourage, at the least –and at worst it ends up with someone putting a match to that dry timber that gets stacked so easily. –in both directions, with Christians burned in effigy by those who are disenfranchised by wholly unfortunate encounters with untrained or ill-advised defenders of the faith. IMO, it would not matter in the least if Astrology turned out to have some credence to it, which I realize is further than most want to run with it.

    Anyway, I was very encouraged to see you handle the visitor to Credo House with respect and with such humility. If I was keeping score, which I suppose in some way I must be, you guys have notched up another “Well done!” You might, at some point, even convince me to be a Calvinist :)

  13. Yes. Interesting the take “Jake” had on what he was reading. Early Christians didn’t have all these Words, and yet they “believed.”

    So, while there is nothing wrong with scholarship, it is not essential to faith. Yet faith does offer a “reason” to believe.

    Coming to be able to express that and be willing to also admit you don’t have all the answers is maybe a test of patience and humility.

    I have been thankful for those questioning the Bible. Digging out answers to their questions has always increased my own faith.

    Kindest regards, gary

  14. I have to admit I’m a little puzzled here by two things, the response given in the post itself, and also a lack of a response to someone who seems to be abandoning the Gospel in favour of Judaism. To the latter I will assume it’s just a question of time, especially since a response was given to a later comment concerning “Luther Lattes”. I cannot do anything other than assume you have not overlooked the weight of the former comment from Carrie J.H.?

    With regards to your teaching on the essentials/non-essentials of the faith I’m well aware, and I also fully understand that there are certain things that we simply must believe in order to be considered a genuine believe (especially when we are seeking to examine ourselves to ensure we are in the faith as commanded). However I do not agree with your conclusion that all other matters of doctrine can be treated lightly because they’re simply non essential. I think the Bible makes it pretty clear that everything in God’s Word is connected as one:

    160 The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Psalm 119:160 (NKJV)

    What I am puzzled by however is that, even though your friend claims to have read the Bible three times in six months, rather than appealing to the same Bible to correct him, you appeal to an extra biblical relationship, albeit with good solid characters in it.

    Here are three Bible references that I genuinely believe show your advice to this man to be on shaky ground to say the very least.

    Isaiah 47:12-15 , Deuteronomy 18:9-12 , Deuteronomy 4:19

    I’m sure there are many more, but am dumbfounded as to why you would not simply highlight such texts and prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit to work repentance and faith into his heart?

    God bless,

    John

  15. if all one member, where would the body be; and though many members-one body;and if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with I; and He will show us a still more excellent way

  16. Excellent post.

    Yes, I have run into several “Jakes” through the years. Rather than feeding their obvious hunger, the church unfortunately tends to be scared of them, often pushing them to the side where they can consume all manner of heresy.

  17. I once knew a guy who was fascinated with the “flat earth theory” but I ended up referring him to a good psychiatrist. Luther’s medieval tolerance of Melanchthon’s pet heresy is certainly not the type of counsel that I would offer your stargazer; in my opinion, he needs help, not just a Bible to clutch.

  18. Hi carriejh,

    It’s quite unfortunate that the pastors you talked to could not give you a good explanation. I recently read “Simply Jesus” by NT Wright and I think he gives a good answer to your questions, one Theme that struck me was how the Old Testament prophecies spoke clearly about what was to come in Jesus. They spoke like poems, indirect but hinting at what will happen, sometimes razor sharp, sometimes subtle. I hope you will give this a try before you dismiss Christianity, it is a faith that has nuance and subtlety, sometimes the hyper literal approach that others have fail to express what is there.

  19. Before we left our oppressive fundamentalist church in 1998, I began listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio. His message concerning Abigail was so encouraging to me….
    When people from our fundamentalist church came to our home for fellowship, I wanted to to discuss I Samuel 25 with some of the ladies. They weren’t interested- one lady told me that I read and I think too much.

    Later I read about spiritual abuse and that this is a common accusation of cult members as someone begins questioning the teachings of the cult…..

    Over the years I have learned to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in a group of believers.
    Once someone tries to control the group, the Holy Spirit withdraws His presence.
    It seems to me that all of us need to be tuned in to where the Spirit is leading us.

  20. Delwyn X. Campbell, John Dunning and Ruben

    I apologize for not responding earlier to your posts. I have been researching the claims of Judaism for the past year. I have found one person online who is able to present some supportive information for JC being the promised messiah but there are still some things I am having a problem making work. For example:
    1. does the OT say anywhere that we must believe in the Messiah who comes and dies for sin if we want forgiveness for sin?
    2. Also I was told by a Rabbi that scripture is deliberately manipulated in the OT to place JC in the scripture. For example Isaiah 53:8, when translated correctly does not say He was stricken but They were stricken. Meaning Israel, not JC.
    3. When Christians speak about the Messiah what the scripture is really speaking about is the anointed one. Joshua was the person who replaced Moses so that God would not speak to them directly. Joshua was anointed by Moses…this was the anointed one.
    4. Alma does not mean a virgin but a young women and actually in Proverbs 30 the word Alma is used for an adulterous woman.
    5. Proverbs 30 is claimed by Christians to be a prophesy of the Messiah but by the Jewish community as a prophesy about Solomon himself. I am told that these are double prophesies. To me this seems wrong to say that there are two meanings to things. For that matter, any scripture can be given two meaning. I don’t believe that the God of Israel would create something that would bring about confusion among the people.
    6. The NT never called Jesus Emmanuel.
    7. When the people asked Jesus how to receive Eternal life he replied, follow the commandments.
    8. Where is the historical recordings of JC?

    Of course I have more but these are just a few of the things that I am trying to piece through.

  21. Wow guess I stumped everyone….why does that not surprise me! LOL

  22. Hi Carrie,

    I am certainly not any of those people you addressed your last comment to. But I have read what you said here both times and have some thoughts in mind that I hope will be of help to you. Due to the character limits here, they may have to be abbreviated and much shorter then I would like them to be.

    What I am going to say here will be based in large part on the Book of Hebrews. I would really encourage you to read it, asking God to show you what He is teaching you through it.

    Notice how in chapter 1, Jesus is very strongly spoken of as God Himself. He is the Creator and and the one that sits on the throne of God eternally.

    You mentioned in your first comment struggling with the idea of Jesus/Messiah being a blood sacrifice. You need to go way back to the book of Genesis to really understand this concept. God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him, the result would be death. The very first blood sacrifice took place way back there in the Garden when God made coverings of skins for them after their disobedience to His commandment. After that, the Jewish sacrificial system was based in large part on the death of a substitute–an animal–to atone for the sins of the people. Hebrews chapters 8-10 deal with this whole concept of blood sacrifice and how forgiveness of sins comes through the shedding of blood. Indeed, forgiveness of sins is not possible without it.

    Chapter 8 refers to God’s promise in the OT to make a new and better covenant with the people then the one that was in place at that time. In chapters 9 and 10, he speaks strongly of that necessity for blood sacrifice, how it was done in the OT, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of the promised New Covenant. Jesus whose blood sacrifice of Himself became the final, once and for all sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of sins.

    As I said, I wish there was space here to say more. This is such a quick summary of what I want to say.

    May God bless you in seeking His…

  23. Oh dear, the blog turned Scripture references into links. But they do not link to the Book and chapter that they should. For some reason, they seem to go to Proverbs. Please, just ignore them!

  24. Hi @Carrie JH,

    I’m one of those you aimed your comment towards, and I will get back to you as soon as I’m able. Unfortunately I have returned to work after my days off, and due to the incredibly long hours I work, I’m unable to give a sufficient answer for you.

    Whilst I don’t pretend to know it all by any stretch of the imagination, I’m sorry to say your presumption that you”ve “stumped” everyone because they haven’t responded yet is quite incorrect. In a similar way it took four days for my comment to even appear after I wrote it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t a major reason why you haven’t received other responses apart from Cheryl’s.

    God bless,

    John.

  25. I will be as brief as possible because of the limit:

    Quote: “does the OT say anywhere that we must believe in the Messiah who comes and dies for sin if we want forgiveness for sin?”

    From the initial promise in Gen 3:15 God promises to send the Seed to overcome the work of Satan. Though in the Mosaic system under the Old Covenant there is forgiveness found by way of substitutionary sacrifices, there also remained the promise of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34). Under the Old Covenant God’s people relied upon His promise to forgive their sins and iniquity, just as under the New Covenant. The thing that has changed is the sacrifice, which under the Old was a type and shadow of that which was to come in the once for all sacrifice of the Messiah. (See Heb 8 & 9)

    Quote: “Also I was told by a Rabbi that scripture is deliberately manipulated in the OT to place JC in the scripture. For example Isaiah 53:8, when translated correctly does not say He was stricken but They were stricken. Meaning Israel, not JC”

    I really don’t mean to be rude, but that statement is just plain silly. Those chapters of Isaiah noted as being the “suffering servant” chapters are so clearly all about one Person, and that person is the Messiah God had promised to send. Even the Jews believe this to be true generally, it is that many simply refuse to believe that Jesus Christ is the One sent by God. Please just read through those verses in context, that’s all it takes.

    As for you use of the word “alma”, I’m not really able to say because I am not a student of the original language. What I can say however is that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin according to the witness of Scripture (unless of course you reject the New Testament as Scripture). But as for the Jewish statement that Proverbs 30 isn’t about Christ, then I won’t argue against that one. How about the many other prophecies that were so clearly fulfilled by Christ? Look here for a few:
    (Continued)

  26. (Continued)

    Here’s the link: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/Prophecies-Jesus.htm

    Quote: “The NT never called Jesus Emmanuel.”

    Sorry again, but you are flat out wrong:

    21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
    23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
    Matthew 1:21-23 (NKJV)

    Quote: “When the people asked Jesus how to receive Eternal life he replied, follow the commandments.”

    It would be helpful if you could just give me the quotes you are referring to here.

    Quote: “Where is the historical recordings of JC?”

    The historical recordings of Jesus Christ are given by eye witnesses to His life, death and resurrection we now know as the apostles, according to His own command.

    19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
    Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)

    (Continued)

  27. (Continued)

    I can understand your confusion Carrie, but the bottom line is that you either believe the Gospel presented in the New Testament as the truth, or you reject it as being false. As far as the outcome of how you react is quite clear according to the Bible text itself:

    18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    John 3:18 (NKJV)

    Your ability to believe in Christ unto salvation is in itself a gift from God:

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
    9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

    It is “by grace” because none of us are deserving of His mercy, only His judgement. We are all guilty of sin, the wages of which is death, and God as righteous Judge must punish our sins. Through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, He put our sins upon Him (as the sins of Israel under the Old Covenant were placed on the sacrificial Lamb), both punishing our sins and purchasing our righteousness in Him at the same time.

    21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
    22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
    25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
    26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV)

    (Continued)

  28. (Continued)

    If you decide to believe those Jewish teachers you know who reject Christ Jesus as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, then you will join them in their judgement, which is everlasting destruction in the Lake of Fire.

    11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
    12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
    13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
    14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
    15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
    Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV)

    Regardless of what your deceived friends might tell you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both true, and attested to by the very Scriptures they claim to hold to and believe. Those who Christ called as His apostles were eye witnesses to all that He did and said, and then received the anointing of the Holy Spirit in special way.

    26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
    John 14:26 (NKJV)

    45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
    Luke 24:45 (NKJV)

    I will finish with what the apostle Paul says of the Gospel, and pray that you will repent of your sins and believe it to your salvation:

    (Continued)

  29. (continued)

    1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
    2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
    3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
    4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
    5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
    6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
    7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
    8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
    1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NKJV)

    God bless you,

    John

  30. Carrie: Concerning the idea of “dual fulfillment” of prophecy, the confusion is over what the Greek word means that is translated “fulfill” in so many passages. When an event in Jesus’ life mirrored an Old Testament passage, it was seen as a sign of the providence of God at work, and the earlier passage was said to be “fulfilled” in the sense that it is made complete by the later repetition of God’s pattern. If does not mean, as we simplistically interpret it, that a prophet makes a futuristic prediction, it never happens until a certain point in time, then it happens, that is the fulfillment, end of story. Sometimes Messianic prophecies are this cut and dried, but Matthew in particular is fond of the rhetorical device of matching New Covenant events to Old Covenant events to show a pattern. A helpful discussion can be found at:

    http://goddidntsaythat.com/2010/10/19/what-happens-to-prophecies-in-the-new-testament/

    I hope you will continue this discussion and continue to seek answers before deciding that there are no answers.

  31. Truth Unites... and Divides August 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    John Dunning,

    Thanks much for writing your recent comments. Not for my sake, but doing so for the sake of others.

    Thank you.

  32. Thanks very much for you kind words Truth Unites. ;) As an aside, and because of the limit on the length of replies here etc, if anyone wants to discuss this subject in more detail, they are welcome to do so on the forum at my website. The offer is open to those who would agree or disagree with my comments, simply pop along and register.

    http://aletheuo.org.uk/forum

    God bless,

    John

  33. Carrie JH: I am happy to answer questions in a peaceful manner by email. clark dot coleman at comcast dot net

    The important thing to gather from the link I posted earlier is that the confusion you have concerning “fulfillment” of prophecies is that this is not a matter that centers on Messianic prophecies in particular. It is not a matter of Jews vs. Christians on the interpretation of Messianic prophecy. There are uses of “fulfill” in the New Testament that match your intuitive understanding of that word, and uses that do not, and there are examples of both uses in Messianic passages as well as in non-Messianic passages. A key non-Messianic example is found in James 2:23 and the use it makes of Genesis 15:6, as discussed in detail at the link posted in my earlier comment.

    Note to John Dunning: You missed the point of this aspect of the discussion. Saying that Carrie is “flat out wrong” on the confusing “Immanuel” reference by Matthew was not charitable and actually shows you to be flat out wrong. Carrie’s point was that everyone called Jesus by the name “Jesus.” His parents are not recorded as calling him Immanuel, nor is anyone else. Thus, Carrie was questioning Matthew’s statement, and you cannot cite Matthew’s statement to “refute” her questioning of Matthew’s statement. Please keep in mind that you are dealing with a fellow Christian who has questions that are troubling her, not someone who is attacking the faith, and choose your language accordingly.

  34. Carrie, let me address one of your important questions: Where are the historical references to Jesus? The answer is that the historians of the day were Roman, and the Romans did not care about theological disputes or religious sects and leaders unless they were disturbing civil order or encouraging insurrection. The gospel accounts of Jesus before Pilate indicate that Pilate did not care about Jewish religious disputes, and indeed no Roman governor would care unless there is going to be a riot. The agitated behavior of the crowd pushes him to pacify them by condemning Jesus; the Romans cared about “law and order” and not about “justice.” By misrepresenting what “King of the Jews” meant, the crowd was able to make the issue sound like one that a Roman governor would care about (disloyalty to Caesar). Before the Sanhedrin earlier, the trial was a blasphemy trial, but Pilate would care nothing about that.

    So, here we are a day before the death of Jesus, and no Roman official had previously cared one whit about Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, we should expect no historical references yet. Once Christians became a troublesome group in the Roman Empire because of their lack of absolute loyalty to the Emperor, then they got on the radar screen of the Romans and start being mentioned in histories. By that time, Jesus has been dead for a couple of decades or more, so the histories talk about Christians directly, and Jesus only indirectly and after the fact (e.g. “these Christians claim to be followers of a man they call Christ,” etc.). That is exactly what we would expect of Romans in the first century.

  35. @Clark Coleman

    If Carrie believes that I have “missed the point” of her statement, and have been uncharitable by calling her “flat out wrong”, then I’m willing to clear that up with her personally. I will make the following statement though, to take the personal element of it out of the equation, and I utterly refuse to back down from it.

    Quote:
    ANYONE who says the New Testament does not refer to Jesus Christ as Immanuel/Emmanuel is flat out wrong. The only reason being that it does right in the New Testament text itself:

    21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
    23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
    Matthew 1:21-23

    What I do find interesting, especially in the light of where in the OT Carrie is making reference, is the name itself. It is used once in the New Testament (G1694). In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament undertaken by the Jews in 300-200 BC), the same Greek word replaces the Hebrew (H6005) in both Isaiah 7:14 & Isaiah 8:8 . Ain’t that strange? ;)

  36. Clark and John,
    Im not upset at all. Thank you both for trying to help with answers.
    Clark,
    I see what you are trying to say about Jesus not being of much importance until the people started rioting. It just seems like there should be somee kind of records about his death or sentancing. So do we have records of Saul/Pauls life? Apparently he studied under Rabbi Gamliel, the same Rabbi that Jesus studied under. If its true that this Saul became a rougue student of Gamliels and sided with the Christians, wouldnt there be some writings about that? Im just saying, the OT has a lot of historical writings and evidence to back up its claims but the NT is just based on if you want to take Pauls writings at his word. It seems like its lacking. For example Paul wrote 2/3 of the NT…wow that is a huge portion that is the opinion of one person.
    John,
    Im sorry. I dont see the angle your coming from in comparing the word Immanuel in chap 7 with chap 8. Immanuel just means God with us. Chap 8 is a continuation of the story from Chap 7. If anything the use of the word should show you that it was just a part of the promised sign that God would be with them during these trials, as it is used in chap 8. In chap 7 the word should not be virgin, and you already know this, it should be young woman. If you look in prov 30:18,19,20 the word alma is used to refer to an adulterous woman. I think there is some translation issues and possibly may have been done on purpose in order to fit the Christian messiah into the OT. Just a thought.

  37. Hi Carrie,

    I am a bit confused about your question regarding the word/name Emmanuel. You said originally I believe that in the New Testament Jesus was never called Emmanuel. John pointed out that was not actually the case. But that in Matthew He was actually referred to in this way.

    Could you maybe clarify a bit what your concern is here? I am not certain I am following you accurately.

  38. I think the question about Emmanuel is the question I had as a teenager when I read the passage. Matthew says that there was a saying of the prophet that “they shall call his name Emmanuel” that was “fulfilled” in Jesus. My question was: Who (besides Matthew in this passage) ever called Jesus by the name Emmanuel? The answer is found at the link I provided:

    http://goddidntsaythat.com/2010/10/19/what-happens-to-prophecies-in-the-new-testament/

    “With this in mind, we can return to the important text of Matthew 1:18. The claim there is not that Isaiah predicts Jesus’ birth, but rather that the text of Isaiah matches. This is why Matthew had no problem juxtaposing, ‘…you are to name him Jesus’ (1:21; NRSV) and “…they shall name him Emmanuel” (1:23; NRSV).”

    Notice that as soon as Matthew says “you are to name him Jesus” he says that this fulfills what Isaiah said, “They shall name him Emmanuel.” As Rabbi Hoffman said, Matthew saw no problem with this, because he did not mean by “fulfill” what we tend to think.

    Carrie: You will note that the explanation I linked is from a rabbi.

  39. Carrie: The translation of alma in Isaiah 7:14 was given as parthenos in the Greek Septuagint, and the Greek word implies virgin more than the Hebrew word. Some would say that the Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria, four centuries before Christ, made a mistake in their translation. Others (including myself) see their translation as a divine foreshadowing, not a mistake. Others have wondered if parthenos always has to mean virgin, or could it just mean young woman as the Hebrew alma means.

    Two things are certain:

    1. The New Testament declares the virgin birth of Christ, even if we removed this verse, so the virgin birth doctrine is not based on Matthew’s use of Isaiah. It is based on the details surrounding the birth that are given in Matthew and Luke.

    2. The Jews who translated Isaiah in the Septuagint, four centuries before Christ, were not Christians trying to squeeze a Christian doctrine into the Old Testament.

  40. Carrie: The Romans no doubt executed many Jewish rebels, including the two who were on either side of Jesus. Where are the historical records of all of their trials and executions? If those records do not exist, then we have no reasonable expectation that similar records would exist for Jesus. If we had dozens or hundreds of records of Jewish rebels being executed, but no such record for Jesus, that would certainly be odd, but that is not the case. What we have are records of truly major rebellions, in which someone got hundreds or thousands of followers to participate in an armed insurrection, and the Romans had to respond with significant military force to defeat them; that is the kind of Jewish movement that Roman historians can be expected to record in detail. Jesus and Saul/Paul do not fit this mold. Their only major controversies were with Jews, and the Romans just don’t care about religious disputes that are not insurrections.

    By contrast, when leaders of insurrections are mentioned in the New Testament, you can find them in histories. E.g. in Acts 5:37 the Jewish teacher Gamaliel mentions a “Judas” who led others “in the time of the census.” The IVP Bible Background Commentary notes:

    “Judas the Galilean led the tax revolt of A.D. 6. The Romans retaliated by destroying Sepphoris; Judas’ model led to the revolutionaries who later came to be called the Zealots.”

    A revolt that leads to the Roman army destroying a city — now that will get the attention of Roman historians!

  41. Carrie: Proverbs 30:18-20 does not say that the virgin of verse 19 is the adulterous woman of verse 20. The Keil & Delitzsch commentary on the verse is too lengthy to paste here, but you can get it for free if you have the free e-Sword Bible software on your computer. To summarize: In verse 19 we find four examples of things that leave no EXTERNAL trace. The eagle flies through the sky but does not leave a trail (like a jet would!). The ship in the open ocean leaves no trail visible from the shore, and its wake dissipates quickly even out in the ocean. A snake leaves a trail in the sand, but not when crawling over a rock, as in verse 19. And these all lead up to the fourth example, which is that a man who has intercourse with a virgin does not leave a trace that can be easily seen. The moral point to ponder is that not all sins leave the same visible trace. When we build idols, steal what belongs to our neighbor, commit murder, violate the Sabbath, bear false witness, etc., our actions are often public and have visible effects, but sexual sins tend to be secret.

    Starting with this moral lesson, we finish with the most glaring example: The adulterous woman simply denies what she has done (verse 20). There is no implication whatsoever that the adulterous woman of verse 20 is the virgin of verse 19.

  42. Carrie,
    I find Tim Mackie
    of doorofhopepdx.com
    helpful with the Hebrew Testament. It is the site for Josh White and Tims church in Portland. Both have good thoughts on the interplay of The New amd Hebrew Testaments.
    Cheers,
    ¡*~ kris

  43. The psalm series they ran this summer shows some of this scholarship and understanding. Hope this helps.
    Cheers,
    ¡*~ kris

  44. Clark,
    If you are still willing I think it would be good to email you some questions. I would like to just take one question at a time. It appears that you have a better understanding of where im coming from. As long as you dont push me after a couple of emails to drop my doubts and just take you at your word im willing to correspond with you. Let me know if you are still willing and I will email you. Thanks

  45. Carrie, I am more than happy to converse. I believe that doubts should be answered, not ignored. Please contact me at clark dot coleman at comcast dot net. Thanks.

  46. Thx kris. I will look at that! ;)

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