Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Orthodox Christianity

The Orthodox church (Eastern Orthodox [Greek, Russian, etc.] and Oriental Orthodox [Coptic, Syrian, etc.]) is the oldest denomination in the world, but it was not founded by Jesus, and its beginnings are not chronicled in the New Testament. Her history cannot be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Jesus and His twelve apostles. Such a claim to the contrary is a LIE and lies are not becoming of those who profess to belong to King Jesus. Her history can be traced, however, in unbroken continuity all the way back to Emperor Constantine and his “Christianity.”

Rome forfeited its place in the Church of the New Testament, and the Protestant Reformation failed to return to the New Testament Church, but the Orthodox churches also left the Church of the New Testament. Do they meet in homes? Do they repudiate titles and positions of honour? Do they reject the unbiblical division of "clergy" and "laity"? Ergo, the Orthodox church is not the New Testament Church. Large cathedrals, fanciful garb, priests, division of clergy/laity, veneration (reverence) of icons; etc. None of these date to the early, pure Church; they date to the corruption of the Church under Emperor Constantine!

If Orthodox individuals believe that Yahweh God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him as Yahweh God’s anointed King of the whole Earth and Judge of the living and the dead, earnestly pursuing to live holy lives set apart from sin, then I love them as my brothers and sisters in both the faith and the Spirit. However, if they are the least bit honest with themselves, and with the Scriptures and Church history, they will have to admit that a great deal of the elements they cling to not only cannot be found in Scripture or the early Church, but also cannot be defended from Scripture or the early Church. If any Orthodox priest wants to contact me and debate these issues, I will be waiting.

The Orthodox churches believe themselves to be retaining the practices and traditions of Jesus, the apostles, and the early Church, condemning all other branches of Christendom, from the Roman Catholics to the Protestant Reformers and onward, as having departed New Testament Christianity. They erroneously refer to the elements they hold to as “biblical ideas,” without regard for what the Scriptures actually teach or even what the early Church taught (A.D. 90-300). Let us examine some of their heretical practices and traditions, shall we.

Tradition #1: Why do Orthodox churches have cathedrals? Neither Jesus nor the apostles instituted any kind of temple for believers to meet in. Why? Because we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22) For the first three centuries, Christians went from house to house meeting in homes. Temples were first introduced to the New Testament Church under and by Emperor Constantine. Orthodox tradition #1 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

Tradition #2: Why do Orthodox churches have a division of clergy and laity? Neither Jesus nor the apostles instituted any such division between believers. Read Matthew 23, where Jesus condemns titles of honour and says that if you want to be great you need to be like a slave. Elsewhere He says you need to be like the youngest member of the family. What kind of authority does a slave have? What kind of authority does the youngest member of the family have? Jesus said that "it is not this way among [us]" (Mark 10:42-45). While such divisions began appearing in the latter part of the third century, they became entrenched under Emperor Constantine. Orthodox tradition #2 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

Tradition #3: Why do Orthodox churches have priests? Neither Jesus nor the apostles instituted priests because every believer is a priest. Hence “the priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:5-9). Priests have their origin in pagan religions and the Jewish religion. They are not part of the New Testament Church. The New Testament Church knows only two terms, and neither is an authority over other believers: watchman or overseer (episkope) and ministers or servants (diakonos). Watchmen are also described as elders (presbuteros). Priests were introduced into the New Testament Church under Emperor Constantine. Orthodox tradition #3 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

"Our elders are proven men who obtain their position not by purchase, but by established character." —Tertullian

"As to anyone who teaches principles to live by and molds the characters of others, I ask, "Is he not obligated himself to live by the principles he teaches?" If he himself does not live by them, his teaching is nullified. ...His student will answer him like this, "I cannot practice the things you teach, because they are impossible. You forbid me to be angry. You forbid me to covet. You forbid me to lust. And you forbid me to fear pain and death. This is totally contrary to nature; all living creatures are subject to these emotions. If you are so convinced that it is possible to live contrary to natural impulses, first let me see you practice the things you teach so I will know they are possible." ... How will [the teacher] take away this excuse from the self-willed, unless he teaches them by his example, so they can see with their own eyes that the things he teaches are possible? For this very reason, no one obeys the teachings of the philosophers. Men prefer examples to words, because it is easy to speak—but difficult to act." —Lactantius

"[The elder] should be chosen in the presence of the people under the eyes of all, and should be proved worthy and suitable by public judgment and testimony. ...For a proper ordination, all the neighboring overseers throughout the same province should assemble with the congregation. The overseer should be chosen in the presence of the congregation, since they are intimately familiar with his life and habits." —Cyprian

Tradition #4: Why do Orthodox church clergy wear fanciful robes and giant hats? Observe the photo below. Do you think that either Jesus or the apostles ever dressed this way? No, no they did not! None of the early Christians dressed this way. Some Orthodox individuals may attempt to connect the priest and this clothing to Moses and/or the Levites, but this is a false connection. This mode of dress, imitating the officials of Roman government, was instituted under Emperor Constantine. Orthodox tradition #4 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

Tradition #5: Why do Orthodox churches "venerate" icons (paintings and statues)? Iconography is idolatry! Have Orthodox churches never read Exodus 20:4-5 or Deuteronomy 5:8-9? "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth." The early Christians repudiated such practices, and yet the Orthodox churches have made it part of their practices and traditions. Why? Because they embraced pagan practices and traditions that trace back to Emperor Constantine. Orthodox tradition #5 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

"They call themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material. They maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at the time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world. That is to say, they place them with the images of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles." —Irenaeus, c. 180

"It is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you. . . . It leads you to pay religious honor and worship to images and pictures." —Clement of Alexandria, c. 195

"Ages before, Moses expressly commanded that neither a carved, nor molten, nor molded, nor painted likeness should be made. This was so that we would not cling to things of sense, but pass to spiritual objects. For familiarity with the sense of sight disparages the reverence of what is divine." —Clement of Alexandria, c. 195

"He who prohibited the making of a graven image would never Himself have made an image in the likeness of holy things." —Clement of Alexandria, c. 195

"Works of art cannot be sacred and divine." —Clement of Alexandria, c. 195

"In a word, if we refuse our homage to statues and frigid images, . . . does it not merit praise instead of penalty that we have rejected what we have come to see is error?" —Tertullian, c. 197

"We know that the names of the dead are nothing, as are their images. But when images are set up, we know well enough, too, who carry on their wicked work under these names. We know who exult in the homage rendered to the images. We know who pretend to be divine. It is none other than accursed spirits." —Tertullian, c. 197

"Demons have their abode in the images of the dead." —Tertullian, c. 197

"'Not that an idol is anything,' as the apostle says, but that the homage they render to it is to demons. These are the real occupants of these consecrated images—whether of dead men or (as they think) of gods." —Tertullian, c. 197

"[This disciples of Carpocrates] make counterfeit images of Christ, alleging that these were in existence at the time . . . and were fashioned by Pilate." —Hippolytus, c. 225

Tradition #6: The Orthodox churches think that their services closely relate to the practices of the New Testament Church. Much of their service follows a similar pattern to Roman Catholic Mass and Anglican Holy Communion. Let us put their claim to the test, shall we. Observe how Justin Martyr, who lived from A.D. 110 to 165, described a typical New Testament Church meeting:

"On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place. There the memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets, are read, for as long as time permits. When the reader is finished, the presiding brother verbal instructs us and urges us to imitate the good things that were read to us.
Next we all rise together and pray. And as I related before, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine [mixed with] water are brought. In like manner, the presiding brother offers prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability. And the people assent, saying, "Amen." Then the bread and wine are distributed to each person, and each partakes. The servants [diakonos] take a portion to those who are absent.
Those who are well to do, and are willing, give what they think fit. The funds collected are deposited with the presiding brother, who helps the orphans and widows, together with others in need because of sickness or any other reason. He also assists the prisoners, and any strangers who happen to be among us. In short, he takes care of all who are in need.
Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common meeting, because it is the first day on which God made the world, having worked a change in the darkness and matter. On this same day, Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead."

First Corinthians chapters 11 through 14 describe what typical meetings looked like, too. The fellowship was centered around a meal. This meal was known as the "love feast." Every member of the Body was allowed to contribute for the edification of the entire Body. "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." Orthodox tradition #6 exposed, refuted, rebuked, and condemned.

The Orthodox church could benefit greatly from reading and paying attention to not only the New Testament, but the writings of the early Christians from A.D. 90-300. While some the Orthodox church's practices and traditions may trace back to these early centuries, several of them did not exist until Emperor Constantine turned Christianity upon its head and perverted it. The Orthodox churches have blindly clung to these unbiblical ideas and attempted to defend them via proof text methodology from the Scriptures. If they bothered reading and paying attention to the writings of the early believers, they would find that several of the practices and traditions they cling to, that were borne under Emperor Constantine, are condemned by the early Christians.

I love my brothers and sisters in the Orthodox church. I love and admire the Orthodox church, but they have some soul searching to do. They are not as in line with the teachings, practices, and traditions of the New Testament Church as they would like to think they are. We have just examined six elements where they have departed from the Church of the New Testament. If they are honest in the least, they will have to admit that this is indeed the case. Like every other denomination out there, they have some restitution that they need to do in order to return to the biblical standard of the New Testament Church.

There are no gifts that are "limited to those who lead the Church," as the Orthodox Study Bible claims. No one leads the Church except for King Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, as He is her Head and we are His Body. The Body does not consist of one mouth and many ears, as our denominations today practice (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-31). Any other form of "leadership" is severing the headship of King Jesus and usurping His authority for themselves. He said in Matthew 23 not to call others Leader and not to be called Leader ourselves because hierarchy is not to be named among us as we are all equals. Anabaptists were closer to the biblical New Testament Church in practice than the Orthodox churches ever will be.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Myth of "Sola Scriptura"

Anyone who claims to be "Sola Scriptura" is either ignorant or a liar. If you believe that "all I need is my Bible," then please tell me who wrote the first book that appears in our New Testament. Matthew? Why do you believe that? Where in the book does it identify the author? The names at the top of the books are not part of the original manuscripts. Paul did not write "1 Corinthians" at the top of his letter to the Corinthians (which is actually his second letter; the first is lost to us). So why do you believe that the first book was written by Matthew? the second book by Mark? the third book by Luke? the fourth book by John? Etc.

The reason you believe these things is because the early Christians said that is who wrote them. So accepting that is Extra Scriptura, it is outside Scripture. If you want to truly be "only Scripture," then you need to remove "Matthew," "Mark," "Luke," and "John" out of our Bibles. Call them First Gospel, Second Gospel, Third Gospel, and Fourth Gospel instead. Same goes for First John Second John, and Third John. Call them First Anonymous Letter, Second Anonymous Letter, and Third Anonymous Letter instead.

Why do you believe the 27 books of our New Testament are canon? The apostles did not hand their disciples a completed New Testament. The first complete New Testament did not appear until about the end of the 3rd century. For the first 20 years after Pentecost, not a single word of the New Testament had been written. It took 40 years for the entire New Testament to be written. So why do you believe the 27 books we have are supposed to be there? Again, you need to go outside Scripture. The early Christians compiled lists of these books. These 27 books were consistent.

Even the Reformers, who touted "Sola Scriptura" as their battle cry, did not follow their profession. The Reformers made sure their readers would not have "Sola Scriptura" by inserting prefaces to each book and chapter of the Bible, steering the reader's attention away from parts that did not fit their theology. The marginal notes that "explain" the Bible make void the claim of "Sola Scriptura." The Geneva Bible was horrendous for this. This is the only good thing about the King James Version; the lack of running commentaries.

Evangelicals are no closer to "Sola Scriptura" today than they were in the sixteenth century. Evangelicals blindly prefer to purchase interpretative "study" Bibles that willfully steer them away from "Sola Scriptura." I am not merely talking about the poor addition of chapters and verses, which distract the reader from the context and main intention of the author, or about cross reference systems that are the result of proof text methodology. Some Bibles are helpful, such as the Thompson-Chain Reference Bible or the Newberry Reference Bible. But most these "study" Bibles add human interpretations and biases alongside Scripture, giving man's words equal weight with God's, influencing the average reader by essentially making man's opinions equal to the inspiration of Scripture, which they are not!

When you are reading the epistles, you are hearing one side of a phone conversation. You are missing important context. Not to mention that you are missing what the authors said to their audience in person. When Paul says things like, "And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed," you and I do not know. You and I were not privy to those in-person conversations.

When you read First Corinthians and come across difficult to understand passages, how do you determine to figure out what they mean? You will not find the answers in "Sola Scriptura." You need to go Extra Scriptura. Ideally, you should go to the primary source. However, since we cannot ask Paul, and we cannot ask the Corinthians, who can we ask? We can look to the early Christians and see how they understood these passages and put them into practice. If you want to understand Scripture correctly, you need to listen to the early Christians!

Nobody uses "just the Bible alone"! Anyone who claims to is a liar. Do they make use of Bible commentaries? dictionaries? handbooks? lexicons? Do you read references on historical and culture backgrounds? Do they read Christian literature? Do they listen to sermons? All these things are Extra Scriptura, but not all of them are helpful. If you do not use any Bible aids whatsoever, and do not read or listen to anything else, but only read the Bible, then you could try to claim you use "just the Bible," but if you listen to a "pastor," then you are not.

I hate to burst your bubble and break it to you, but "Sola Scriptura" is a myth.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

What Does John 16:12-13 Mean?

How many Christians have you heard argue using the following Scripture to support whatever it is they are personally invested in?

"When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth."

"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

I have heard this more times than I can count. In fact, I heard it again this past Sunday in our congregational meeting.

Let us examine the context, shall we? The setting takes place shortly after Jesus and the apostles had eaten the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had already gone out. Jesus was giving some final words of counsel to His eleven faithful apostles. In due course of this counsel, Jesus says, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:12-13).

Did you notice that these words were not spoken to the crowds? Did you notice that these words were not spoken to the seventy disciples Jesus had sent out? These words are not even spoken to you and me. These words were only spoken to the eleven apostles!

This passage is a reiteration of what Jesus had previously told His apostles moments before: "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 that I said to you" (John 14:26). Did Jesus ever say anything personally to you? So how could the Spirit bring to remembrance in you all that Jesus had said?

The early Christians understood John 16:12-13 to apply only to the apostles—at least to direct revelation from God. Not everything Jesus said to His apostles applies to all Christians, or even to the same degree. To believe otherwise is to be ignorant of context and Scripture.

If the Holy Spirit guides us to all truth, then He also guided the Christians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries to all truth as well. Our truth should be the same as theirs. If it is not, one of us has not been following the Spirit's guidance. Guess which one that is logically likely to be?

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Legacy Standard Bible's Pre-Trib Proof-Text Agenda Exposed

The translators of the Legacy Standard Bible have an agenda, and it could not have been revealed in a more blundered manner. I say 'blunder' because I sure hope it was not willful and deliberate. In their Inside Column Reference Bible, proof text methodology is on full display in their cross reference system. In Daniel 9:25, right next to the words "Messiah the Prince," appears a superscript letter 'c.' Please take special notice of those words again: "Messiah the Prince." Would anyone care to venture a guess as to precisely who "Messiah the Prince" is? That is correct; it is JESUS!

If you look in the inside column reference for verse 25, the superscripted letter 'c' has been cross referenced to Daniel 8:11 and 25. Normally, Dispensationalists (or Pre-Tribulationists) apply the first half of verse 27 to their mythical future "Anti-Christ," thereby turning JESUS into the Anti-Christ. (Look in any commentary from the 1800s and earlier and note how they identified JESUS as the person in the first half of verse 27.) However, in the LSB Inside Column Reference Bible, they blatantly turn JESUS into the Anti-Christ by a colossal blunder. They link "Messiah the Prince" by cross reference to their imagined "Anti-Christ."

Why was this cross reference not applied to the "prince" in verse 26? While it would still be wrong, nevertheless it would have made more sense than to link "Messiah the Prince," which is JESUS, to their mythical future "Anti-Christ." Why would this cross reference still be wrong if linked to the "prince" in verse 26? Because the entirety of Daniel 8 is in conjunction with the Greek empire, whereas the "prince" of Daniel 9:26 is in conjunction with the Roman empire. The "little horn" in Daniel 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes, as history bears out.

Dispensationalists have a problem with reading the Bible literally and paying attention to the context. They interpret the Bible using a proof text methodology similar to that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, choosing random isolated verses from Genesis to Revelation and then trying to assemble them in a manner to support their ridiculous and nonsensical doctrines, which the Scriptures utterly repudiate.

If you are going to insist that the 70th week of Daniel has not yet been fulfilled, then go read Daniel 9:24-27, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. During which week of the seventy-week prophecy did Messiah carry out his multi-year ministry?
  2. In which week did He die for our sins?

If you are the least bit honest with the text, you will discover that the only place for those events is in the 70th week. Daniel's 70 weeks have already been fulfilled! There is no debate here.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word gabar does not mean "to make," as the Legacy Standard Bible has translated it in verse 27. It means "to confirm, to strengthen, to cause to prevail." Which covenant is being confirmed, strengthened, and caused to prevail? The same covenant mentioned back in Daniel 9:4: "I prayed to Yahweh my God and confessed and said, "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments."" It is the Abrahamic covenant.


The prophecy in Daniel 9:25-27 is presented in a poetic form of parallelism with two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah. The text alternates between these two foci. Below, the phrases referring to the Messiah are in bold while the phrases referring to Jerusalem are in italics.

25 So you are to know and have insight that from the going out of a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and rebuilt, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. 27 And he will [confirm, strengthen, cause to prevail] a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will make sacrifice and grain offering cease; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

A strict chronologically literal sequence is prohibited by the poetic parallelism. The mention of Messiah immediately after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in verse 25 implies that the city was rebuilt to receive the Messiah. The mention of the destruction of the city immediately after the killing of Messiah in verse 26 implies that the city is once again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah. There is a cause and effect relationship happening here. Even Jesus acknowledges this: "They will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:44; cf. 21:20-24).

A chiastic structure is a literary device used to emphasize the statement at the center of the chiasm. Verses 25 to 27 of Daniel 9 form a chiasm, which means that the first item corresponds to the last, the second item corresponds to the second last, etc. The central point of the chiasm is the death of Messiah. Observe:

Messiah cut off (v.26a)
Construction (v.25c) —— Destruction (v.26b)
Unto Messiah (v.25b) —— Messiah covenant (v.27a)
Construction (v.25a) —— Destruction (v.27c)

Viewing Daniel 9:24-27 in this way clarifies a great deal of confusion. The last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of Jerusalem, which corresponds to its construction in the beginning of verse 25. The "he" in the first part of verse 27 quite obviously corresponds to the Messiah in the second part of verse 25. The death of the Messiah is the great focus of this prophecy as His death would make atonement for all evil and, as a result, bring in everlasting righteousness (v.24).

While the Legacy Standard Bible is an excellent translation, nevertheless their cross reference system and headings are saturated with proof text methodology and erroneous opinion. Anyone who purchases the LSB (or any other translation for that matter), I encourage you to purchase a copy without cross references. If you can obtain one without chapters, verses, and headings, even better. None of these things (chapters, verses, headings, or cross references) are inspired; they are more frequently a hindrance to your understanding the Scriptures correctly than any kind of help.

Unfortunately, this erroneous cross reference is not just limited to the LSB; it is also found in the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Once you break free of proof text methodology, it is disheartening every time you see it.

Daniel 9:24-27 forever puts Jews in the wrong as Messiah had to be born and die before the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70. There is no debate here. Moreover, Isaiah 53 forever puts Jews in the wrong because it clearly identifies the Messiah, which they cannot deny describes Jesus.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Christians and Movies with Nudity and Sex

Here's the Problem with Just Closing Your Eyes During the Sex Scenes
by Cap Stewart in Reformed Perspective, pp. 11-13

Several years ago, Kate Beckinsale was conned into signing a movie contract that required nudity—something she didn't want to do. With her acting career in jeopardy, she found herself browbeaten by the director. At long last, she gave in to intimidation and performed the nude scene, which made her feel, as she put it, "violated and horrible." Afterwards, she secretly urinated in the director's thermos in revenge.

In more recent history, Jennifer Lawrence wrestled with inner turmoil while filming her first sex scene (for the sci-fi movie Passengers). During an actress roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence described the experience:

I got really, really drunk. But then that led to more anxiety when I got home because i was like, "What have I done? I don't know." And he was married. And it was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach. And I knew it was my job, but I couldn't tell my stomach that. So I called my mom, and I was like, "Will you just tell me it's OK?"

Notice three sobering facts about Lawrence's experience. First, she battled anxiety before and after filming the scene. Second, she felt intense guilt for sexually acting out with a married man. Third, she tried several coping mechanisms to eliminate her distress: alcohol (which only made things worse), telling herself everything was okay, and asking for consolation.

Would you believe me if I told you that stories like these are numerous? Sadly, it's true. The amount of pressure and intimidation Hollywood places on actors—especially women—to undress and sexually act out for the camera is commonplace. When asked about sex scenes, celebrities often reply with something like, "We're actors; it's a part of the job." Indeed, those who want to make it as an actor won't be taken seriously if they have qualms about nudity and bed scenes.

The movers and shakers in Hollywood have acquired what seems to be an almost limitless amount of power to enforce the sexualization of actors. To cite one more example (this time from the world of television): director Neil Marshall once commented on how he was pressured by an HBO executive to put more sex and nudity in an episode of Game of Thrones:

...one of the exec producers...took me to one side and said, "Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side—I represent the perv side of the audience, and I'm saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene. So you go ahead and do it."

Notice the implicit acknowledgement that the nudity had nothing to do with are—that it was designed solely for the satisfaction of a perverted audience base. The producer pushed his weight around, and the director (and everyone else) acquiesced. All of this to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

What gives entertainment executives the authority to force others into such compromising situations? What gives a producer the power to manipulate a director into catering to perverse fantasies? What gives a director the right to coerce an actress  into agreeing to do more than she meant to?

If this page was a mirror, you would be looking at the answer.

You see, when average folks like you and me support films and TV shows like these, we are perpetuating the sexualized culture we say we deplore. My guess is that, because it's often hard to see how "A" eventually leads to "X," we think little of doing "A," even if we abhor "X." We may complain about the objectification of women (and men) in our culture. We may complain about how movies are ruined by sex scenes and gratuitous nudity. But if we then turn around and financially support that culture, something is askew.

It doesn't matter if you avert your eyes during sex scenes—at the end of the day, studies care about profit margins. That being the case, prudes and perverts give equal support for a film when they buy a movie ticket or purchase a DVD. The truth is, if people stopped financially supporting the abuse of actors, the industry would change. But producers follow the money, and there's money to be made through the objectification of entertainers. As one acquaintance of mine with ties to Hollywood once put it in a Facebook discussion:

I know how many of the women in these scenes (and probably men too, you just don't hear from them) have talked about throwing up in the bathroom between scenes, crying, stressing out constantly, etc. So basically, I'm paying for that person to do that for me? .... there are perhaps no handcuffs involved with these performers, but social constraints / expectations / demands / culture can be equally, if not more, powerful. And that's the problem. I've lived in Hollywood. I've worked with prostitutes one on one. The line between the two worlds is thin. I know not other culture more willing to use people and throw them away.

Consider also that plenty of actors in the entertainment industry are not professing believers. They do not subscribe to a Christian sexual ethic. Still, their consciences bother them when it comes to nudity and sex scenes. Yet most movie-goers, including many professing believers, say their consciences are clear when they watch the consciences of others be violated—for entertainment, no less. They pay for actors to be abused or debased and experience no qualms about it.

In contrast, Paul calls Christians to give up their rights if it means hurting the conscience of others (see 1 Corinthians 9 an Romans 14). We have it backwards: we participate in the violation of others' dignity so we can benefit from their moral and emotional compromises. Granted, the context of Paul's teaching on this matter is the relationship between members of the church, but I don't think that gives us an excuse to disregard the wellbeing [sic] of unbelievers.

As patrons of Hollywood, our pursuit of personal freedom has hijacked our ability to consider the needs of others. We have adopted a consumeristic mindset that disregards most every other factor in favor of us having a positive, cathartic experience. If the story is interesting enough, and if it "demands" the objectification and dehumanization of actors, then the needs of the story win out.

Brothers and sisters, this should not be!

Now, it is true that some actors do sex and/or nude scenes willingly, with little or no manipulation involved. Even so, that shouldn't be of supreme importance to people of faith. Not if we take seriously God's command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

With this command in mind, whether or not actors agree with the nudity and sex acts required of them is actually beside the point. Why? Because it doesn't negate the fact that they are being objectified and degraded as human beings in what is essentially a pornographic act. It is unloving of us as Christians to support such actions, even when they are free from coercion.

We see this principle at work in Romans 13, which says loving your neighbor includes avoiding adultery. The point is not that all adultery is rape. Some adultery—much of it, in fact—takes place by mutual consent. Does that suddenly make the adultery excusable? Not according to Scripture. By its nature, sexual perversion is sin, even if it takes place between consenting adults.

All forms of immorality are inherently unloving. That's the Bible's stance. That should be the Christian's stance. In contrast, to this, the film industry has created a socially acceptable ménage à trois: two actors commit sexually intimate acts, and audiences sit in on the proceedings with complete approval.

What finally opened my eyes to this culture of sexual abuse was Wayne A. Wilson's book Worldly Amusements. Wilson himself became aware of the issue after watching a movie in which the director had his own daughter perform sex acts on screen.

The fact that a director would sacrifice his child's dignity for the sake of a movie changed Wilson's perspective. He now implements what he calls the "law of love" in his movie watching habits: he refuses to support films that sexually objectify or degrade actors. He now asks himself, "Would I approve if my sister [or wife or daughter] were asked to behave or expose herself in any way that undermined her purity?"

It is a question we would do well to ask ourselves. This law of love exhorts us to consider the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of men and women in front of the camera. Is that restricting for a movie-going audience? I suppose so. It has definitely kept me from visiting the theater on several occasions where I otherwise would have willingly and excitedly done so.

But this law of love is not "restricting" in a lastingly negative sense any more than monogamy is a negative restriction for married couples. it's a law that protects, not harms. It's a law that governs for good, not evil. It's a law that helps one cultivate the greatest motive known to humankind. In the end, what is truly more freeing: living a self-centered or an others-centered life? The Bible's answer is the latter.

Think about the implications here. How would it affect you if you put the law of love into practice? What if you refused to financially support movies that objectified actors because you wanted to treat them with the humanity they deserve? Would you not start viewing the actors you encounter in the movies as real people and not just potential sources of eye candy or gratification? Would the law of love not help you fight sexual lust even more effectively with gospel power? Would it not help you keep from focusing on yourself (which is what lust does) and instead focus on the needs of others (which is what a healthy, Biblically-informed sexuality is all about)? Would that not be a gloriously countercultural way to demonstrate God's love to your fellow human beings?

I think it would. In fact, my personal experience has been that it does. I dare you (in the most positive sense possible) to prove me wrong.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Evangelicals Have Been Deceived and Lied To

The "satisfaction" model of the atonement is not biblical! While this model is widely accepted by Protestants and Catholics alike, nevertheless it was not introduced until about AD 1100 by Anselm, the Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. (It is extremely interesting the number of false teachings developed by the Catholics, including the foundation to what evolved into Dispensationalism.)

Our modern "gospel," that which was redefined by Martin Luther, firmly rests upon this faulty foundation. The tragic result of this has been "easy believism." Since the penal substitution or satisfaction theory of atonement cleanses those who believe through Jesus' death on the cross, the work starts and finishes on the cross. Ergo, there is no need for repentance, obedience, holiness, righteousness, or fruit, and no change of allegiance establishing Jesus as King in the one who professes to "believe." The end result is a "salvation" that does not require a heart turned to God.

This "gospel" of "easy believism" is at odds with the Gospel according to Jesus, where He says, "repent and follow Me." Instead, we are told to simply, "believe in Me." But Jesus' words throughout all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is contrary to this teaching that has taken over the majority of Christendom. We have been taught that all we need to do is "believe" and that we will inherit Heaven. Not only by reading Scripture, but also by reading the first three centuries of the early believers can we see that this teaching is contrary to biblical truth.

In the Disciples' Prayer (where Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray), Jesus says these words:

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Matthew 6:14-15

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." Mark 11:25-26

Professing believers today, under the "gospel" of "easy believism," will say that this is not true and that Jesus was being extreme here. They will attempt to explain how "Jesus was wrong." That is some shaky ground I would not want to be standing on. It is thin ice overlooking a slippery slope. This is not the only place where Jesus illustrated this fact of reality:

"Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."" Matthew 18:21-35

The king is God the Father. The slaves are men. This story illustrates the mercy of God. God has always been merciful with men. Nothing has changed in that department. God desires us to show mercy to our fellow man, and if we do not then He will not show mercy to us! Evangelicals can attempt to argue with this all they want, choosing their faulty and corrupt theology over the words of Jesus, but in the end they will find out, and at that point it will be too late.

Most doctrines can be traced back to individual men rather than to Jesus or the Scriptures. In order to support these doctrines, these men utilize the proof text methodology (ripping random isolated verses of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation out of their immediate context and forcing them together to support agendas and doctrines of demons). If you are offended by that statement, good. Maybe that is what you need to be woken up and to pay attention. Jesus does not say things simply for the sake of saying them. He says what He means and means what He says. Stop choosing your particular theology over Jesus!

Whether you like it or not, or want to admit it or not, God's forgiveness is conditional. The above passages make this abundantly clear. Our debt is forgiven by God's mercy, based on sincere remorse and repentance. However, if we fail to manifest that repentance and live it out with our fellow man, God can justly reinstate the sin to our account. There is a reason we are repeatedly commanded to walk and live a certain way in the Scriptures. Jesus states clearly that if we fail to forgive our debtors, then we will not be forgiven. After His illustration in Matthew 18, Jesus even declares, "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." Deny and reject this at your own risk and peril!

"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32

"bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." Colossians 3:13

"For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." James 1:25

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Titles of Honour and Humility

Jesus strongly forbade titles of honour for shepherds of His Congregation, yet every major denominational branch of Christendom employs them. Why?

"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
" Matthew 23:8-10

Evangelicals are extremely familiar with this passage; or as least with verse 9, which they bludgeon Roman Catholics with for the title of "Father." Ironically, Evangelicals are oblivious to the fact that Jesus forbade all titles of honour here, including "Minister," "Pastor," and "Reverend."

There is nothing wrong with being known as a teacher or a shepherd or an apostle, but we are not to bestow such titles upon people in order to show honour. We are not to elevate anyone above anyone else. Many such people in positions of authority will argue that you should simply because they desire such honour, but Jesus was against it, which means these people are against Jesus.

Not once in Scripture do you see people addressed as Apostle So-and-so or Disciple So-and-so or Prophet So-and-so. Instead, you see them addressed by their names only. It is not "Pastor So-and-so"; it is simply "So-and-so."

Look at the context of the above passage. How does it begin?

"Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men."" Matthew 23:1-7

The leaders of Israel (1) seated themselves in the chair of Moses, taking authority unto themselves; (2) tied heavy burdens and placed them upon the peoples' shoulders; (3) performed deeds solely to be noticed by and praised by men; (4) love the place of honour at events; (5) love the best seats in the house; and (6) love respectful greetings in the markets. They were very egotistical and filled with pride. If they had a PhD, they would remind people to call them "Doctor So-and-so," despite knowing nothing of medicine. They yearn for the honour and praise of men while ignoring the approval of God.

Jesus continues by saying,

"But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12

Jesus teaches His disciples concerning proper attitude. The greatest among us should be our servant. Elsewhere He says that the greatest among us must be like the youngest member of the family. What authority does a servant have? What authority does the youngest member of the family have? Biblical shepherds are to be servants, not authoritarian dictatorial tyrants on power trips.

Jesus then launches into eight (8) woes pronounced against the Jewish leaders:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.
" Matthew 23:13-32

The phrase "son of hell" uses the word γεεννησ, which was a reference to the Valley of Gehinnom, which was Jerusalem's garbage dump. It was apparently visible from the city and burned day and night. Ergo, Jesus was saying that the Jewish leaders and their disciples were sons of a garbage dump. Could there be a greater insult to one's teachings?

Jesus was not mild mannered when He addressed titles of honour; He was angry! And rightfully so. We all know that there is a bond between pride and titles of honour. Men are puffed up with titles of honour, and lust after the praise of men because of their titles. This goes for having the alphabet before or after your name. Most men who study to become "wise and intelligent" often turn into ignorant, arrogant fools who are blinded by their own education, degrees, and titles. This is why God is opposed to them. Observe Jesus' words elsewhere:

"Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

Everyone in Christendom knows that "it is more blessed to give then to receive," but how many sermons have you heard that rightly point out that the context of this statement has to do with leaders working with their own two hands for their own income? Observe:

"I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:33-35

The context here is Paul summoning the Ephesian elders to himself while he was in Miletus (the elders that existed in Ephesus 5 or 6 years before Paul wrote his letters to Timothy) and informing them that he provided himself as an example for them to follow.

When you adopt titles of honour for yourself, are you disciples of the apostles, or of the Pharisees? Have you inherited the traditions of Jesus and the apostles, or the traditions of the Pharisees? Are shepherds and teachers only supposed to teach with words, like the Pharisees, or are they to teach by example, like Jesus and the apostles? Could you imagine if the leaders of your organized religious institutions sat among you and behaved even remotely like Jesus did? All the New Testament Scriptures are opposed to honouring and showing partiality to specific people. We are to treat all people as equals.