Category Archives: False Doctrine Questions

(NTEB) Jehovah’s Witnesses: A History Of Failed Prophecies And Deception

Source: Jehovah’s Witnesses: A History Of Failed Prophecies And Deception

Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their origins to the nineteenth century Adventist movement in America. That movement began with William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher who, in the year 1816, began proclaiming that Christ would return in 1843

“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Timothy 2:26 (KJV)

Unlike the bible which never changes, the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses has changed markedly over time as the things that they have predicted to come true…haven’t. In 1920, they published a book called “Millions Now Living Will Never Die“. Well, nearly all of those people are now dead. Do they admit their false prophecy? Of course not. Instead, they simply republish the book with the title of “Millions Now Dead Will Live Again“. (Watchtower, May 1, 1990). This is what is known in the used car business as a cover up. Or a lie. Take your pick.

“The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914”- Charles Taze Russell

How the Jehovah’s Witnesses got started

Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their origins to the nineteenth century Adventist movement in America. That movement began with William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher who, in the year 1816, began proclaiming that Christ would return in 1843. His predictions of the Second Coming or Second Advent captured the imagination of thousands in Baptist and other mainline churches. Perhaps as many as 50,000 followers put their trust in Miller’s chronological calculations and prepared to welcome the Lord, while, as the appointed time approached, others watched nervously from a distance. Recalculations moved the promised second advent from March, 1843 to March, 1844, and then to October of that year. Alas, that date too passed uneventfully.

What Jehovah’s Witnesses Actually Believe:

After the “Disappointment of 1844” Miller’s following fell apart, with most of those who had looked to him returning to their respective churches before his death in 1849. But other disappointed followers kept the movement alive, although in fragmented form. Their activities eventually led to the formation of several sects under the broad heading of “Adventism” including the Advent Christian Church, the Life and Advent Union, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and various Second Adventist groups. An interesting side-note: The Branch Davidians who died at Waco, Texas, under the leadership of David Koresh also trace their roots to the same Millerite source through a different line of descent. In 1935 the Seventh Day Adventist Church expelled a Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff, who had begun teaching his own views on certain passages of the Revelation or Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. Houteff set up shop on the property at Waco.

After first referring to his tiny new sect as The Shepherd’s Rod, Houteff and his people in 1942 incorporated and renamed themselves Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. Houteff died in 1955, and in 1961 his wife Florence officially disbanded the sect, but a few followers under the leadership of west Texas businessman Benjamin Roden took over the real estate. Roden died in 1978, leaving behind his wife Lois and his son George to lead the group. Then, in 1987, David Koresh took over the leadership position, and the tragedy that followed is public knowledge. Jehovah’s Witnesses, likewise, trace their roots back to the Adventists. But they do not often admit this to outsiders; nor do many Witnesses know the details themselves. JWs are accustomed to defending themselves against the charge that they are a new religious cult. They will often respond that theirs is the most ancient religious group, older than Catholic and Protestant churches. In fact, their book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose asserts that “Jehovah’s witnesses have a history almost 6,000 years long, beginning while the first man, Adam, was still alive,” that Adam’s son Abel was “the first of an unbroken line of Witnesses,” and that “Jesus’ disciples were all Jehovah’s witnesses [sic] too.” (pp. 8-9) An outsider listening to such claims quickly realizes, of course, that the sect has simply appropriated unto itself all the characters named in the Bible as faithful witnesses of God. By such extrapolation the denomination is able to stretch its history back to the beginnings of the human family-at least in the eyes of adherents who are willing to accept such arguments. But outside observers generally dismiss this sort of rhetoric and instead reckon the Witnesses as dating back only to Charles Taze Russell, who was born on February 16, 1852, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

5 Facts Jehovah’s Witnesses Don’t Want You to Know:

Originally raised a Presbyterian, Russell was 16 years old and a member of the Congregational church in the year 1868, when he found himself losing faith. He had begun to doubt not only church creeds and doctrines, but also God and the Bible itself. At this critical juncture a chance encounter restored his faith and placed him under the influence of Second Adventist preacher Jonas Wendell. For some years after that Russell continued to study Scripture with and under the influence of various Adventist laymen and clergy, notably Advent Christian Church minister George Stetson and the Bible Examiner’s publisher George Storrs. He met locally on a regular basis with a small circle of friends to discuss the Bible, and this informal study group came to regard him as their leader or pastor. In January, 1876, when he was 23 years old, Russell received a copy of The Herald of the Morning, an Adventist magazine published by Nelson H. Barbour of Rochester, New York. One of the distinguishing features of Barbour’s group at that time was their belief that Christ returned invisibly in 1874, and this concept presented in The Herald captured Russell’s attention.

It meant that this Adventist splinter group had not remained defeated, as others had, when Christ failed to appear in 1874 as Adventist leaders had predicted; somehow this small group had managed to hold onto the date by affirming that the Lord had indeed returned at the appointed time, only invisibly. Was this mere wishful thinking, coupled with a stubborn refusal to admit the error of failed chronological calculations? Perhaps, but Barbour had some arguments to offer in support of his assertions. In particular, he came up with a basis for reinterpreting the Second Coming as an invisible event: In Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott translation of the New Testament the word rendered coming in the King James Version at Matthew 24:27, 37, 39 is translated presence instead. This served as the basis for Barbour’s group to advocate, in addition to their time calculations, an invisible presence of Christ. Although the idea appealed to young Charles Taze Russell, the reading public apparently refused to ‘buy’ the story of an invisible Second Coming, with the result that N. H. Barbour’s publication The Herald of the Morning was failing financially.

In the summer of 1876 wealthy Russell paid Barbour’s way to Philadelphia and met with him to discuss both beliefs and finances. The upshot was that Russell became the magazine’s financial backer and was added to the masthead as an Assistant Editor. He contributed articles for publication as well as monetary gifts, and Russell’s small study group similarly became affiliated with Barbour’s. Russell and Barbour believed and taught that Christ’s invisible return in 1874 would be followed soon afterward, in the spring of 1878 to be exact, by the Rapture-the bodily snatching away of believers to heaven. When this expected Rapture failed to occur on time in 1878, The Herald’s editor, Mr. Barbour, came up with “new light” on this and other doctrines. Russell, however, rejected some of the new ideas and persuaded other members to oppose them. Finally, Russell quit the staff of the Adventist magazine and started his own. He called it Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence and published its first issue with the date July, 1879. In the beginning it had the same mailing list as The Herald of the Morning and considerable space was devoted to refuting the latter on points of disagreement, Russell having taken with him a copy of that magazine’s mailing list when he resigned as assistant editor. At this point Charles Russell no longer wanted to consider himself an Adventist, nor a Millerite. But, he continued to view Miller and Barbour as instruments chosen by God to lead His people in the past. The formation of a distinct denomination around Russell was a gradual development.

False teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

  • On the nature of God. They deny the triune nature of God and teaches that such a belief is inspired by Satan and teaches that Jehovah, the name of the one true God, corresponds only to God the Father. JWs also deny that Jesus is God (see next point). They deny the Holy Spirit is a person, and instead teach he is merely God’s active force, similar to electricity.
  • On the deity of Jesus Christ. The JW’s that Jesus is a created being who existed as Michael the archangel before being born as a perfect man. JWs believe that after Jesus was buried, God disposed of his physical body. He was raised a spiritual creature and “materialized” to make himself visible. Now in heaven he is once again known as Michael the archangel.
  • On salvation. The JW’s teach that only an elite group of Witnesses, known as “the 144,000,” or the “anointed ones” are presently credited with Christ’s righteousness. Only the 144,000 are born again and expect to reign with Christ in heaven. For the vast majority of remaining JWs, known as the “other sheep” or the “great crowd,” the atoning sacrifice of Christ only provides a chance at eternal life on earth. This is interesting because in the bible, the 144,000 are all males, all Jewish, and all from the nation of Israel. This is very much in contrast to the JW teaching on the 144,000.
  • On Hell and eternal punishment. Jehovah’s Witness denies eternal punishment and teaches that the soul cannot exist apart from the body. JWs believe that death ends all conscious existence. Hell refers to the grave and those who are ultimately judged by God will be annihilated and simply cease to exist.
  • On the Bible. Jehovah’s Witness teaches that the Bible can only be interpreted by the Watchtower Society and no individual can learn the truth apart from them.

Failed prophecies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Jehovah’s Witness leaders for over 100 years have claimed to be God’s only living “prophet” on the face of the earth. However, if one looks at their record, the documented evidence proves they are what Jesus described as “false prophets!” Most Jehovah’s Witneses have no clue about the true history of their organization. The false prophecies that we will list here are barely 10% of the total of false prophecies they have made since 1877.

  • 1877 ‘The End Of This World; that is the end of the gospel and the beginning of the millennial age is nearer than most men suppose; indeed we have already entered the transition period, which is to be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation Dan. 12:3.” (N.H. Barbour and C.T. Russell, Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World, p. 17).
  • 1879 “Christ came in the character of a Bridegroom in 1874…. at the beginning of the Gospel harvest.” (Watchtower, Oct 1879, p. 4)
  • 1880 “We need not here repeat the evidences that the “seventh trump” began its sounding A.D., 1840, and will continue until the end of the time of trouble, and the end of “The times of the Gentiles,” A.D., 1914, and that it is the trouble of this “Great day,” which is here symbolically called the voice of the Archangel when he begins the deliverance of fleshly Israel. “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince (Archangel) which standeth for the children of thy people and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” Dan. xii. 1. Nor will we here, again present the conclusive Bible proof that our Lord came for his Bride in 1874, and has an unseen work as Reaper of the first-fruits of this Gospel Age. (Zion’s Watchtower November, 1880 p. 1)
  • 1886 “The outlook at the opening of the New Year has some very encouraging features. The outward evidences are that the marshaling of the hosts for the battle of the great day of God Almighty, is in progress while the skirmishing is commencing. … The time is come for Messiah to take the dominion of earth and to overthrow the oppressors and corrupters of the earth, (Rev. 19:15 and 11:17, 18) preparatory to the establishment of everlasting peace upon the only firm foundation of righteousness and truth.” (Zion’s Watchtower, January, 1886;Watchtower reprints I, p. 817)
  • 1889 “Remember that the forty years’ Jewish Harvest ended October A.D. 69, and was followed by the complete overthrow of that nation; and that likewise the forty years of the Gospel age harvest will end October, 1914, and that likewise the overthrow of ‘Christendom,’ so-called, must be expected to immediately follow.” (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 245)
  • 1908 “True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved” (The Time Is At Hand; 1889; 1908 ed.; p. 99)
  • 1914 “While it’s possible that Armageddon may begin next Spring, yet this purely speculation to attempt to say just when. We see, however, that there are parallels between the close of the Jewish age and this Gospel age. These parallels seem to point to the year just before us part particularly the early months.” (Watchtower Reprints, VI, Sept 1, 1914, p. 5527)
  • 1917 “And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy.” (The Finished Mystery, 1917 edition, p. 258)
  • 1918 “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews 11, to the condition of human perfection.” (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, p. 89)
  • 1925 “The year 1925 is here. With great expectation Christians have looked forward to this year. Many have confidently expected that all members of the body of Christ will be changed to heavenly glory during this year. This may be accomplished. It may not be. In his own due time God will accomplish his purposes concerning his people. Christians should not be so deeply concerned about what may transpire this year.” (Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1925, p. 3

Can YOU trust an organization with a 100% FAILURE rate?

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Baptismal Regeneration?

 

Baptismal regeneration is the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation, or, more precisely, that regeneration does not occur until a person is water baptized. Baptismal regeneration is a tenant of numerous Christian denominations, but is most strenuously promoted by churches in the Restoration Movement, specifically the Church of Christ and the International Church of Christ.

Advocates of baptismal regeneration point to Scripture verses such as Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, and 1 Peter 3:21 for biblical support. And, granted, those verses seem to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, there are biblically and contextually sound interpretations of those verses that do not support baptismal regeneration. Please see the following articles:

Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does John 3:5 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Acts 22:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Galatians 3:27 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does 1 Peter 3:21 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Advocates of baptismal regeneration typically have a four-part formula for how salvation is received. They believe that a person must believe, repent, confess, and be baptized in order to be saved. They believe this way because there are biblical passages that seem to indicate that each of these actions is necessary for salvation. For example, Romans 10:9–10 links salvation with confession. Acts 2:38 links salvation with repentance and baptism.

Repentance, understood biblically, is required for salvation. Repentance is a change of mind. Repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to acceptance of Christ. It is not a separate step from saving faith. Rather, it is an essential aspect of saving faith. One cannot receive Jesus Christ as Savior, by grace through faith, without a change of mind about who He is and what He did.

Confession, understood biblically, is a demonstration of faith. If a person has truly received Jesus Christ as Savior, proclaiming that faith to others will be a result. If a person is ashamed of Christ and/or ashamed of the message of the gospel, it is highly unlikely that the person has understood the gospel or experienced the salvation that Christ provides.

Baptism, understood biblically, is an identification with Christ. Christian baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3–4). As with confession, if a person is unwilling to be baptized—unwilling to identify his/her life as being redeemed by Jesus Christ—that person has very likely not been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) through faith in Jesus Christ.

Those who contend for baptismal regeneration and/or this four-part formula for receiving salvation do not view these actions as meritorious works that earn salvation. Repenting, confessing, etc., do not make a person worthy of salvation. Rather, the official view is that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are “works of obedience,” things a person must do before God grants salvation. While the standard Protestant understanding is that faith is the one thing God requires before salvation is granted, those of the baptismal regeneration persuasion believe that baptism—and, for some, repentance and confession—are additional things God requires before He grants salvation.

The problem with this viewpoint is that there are biblical passages that clearly and explicitly declare faith to be the only requirement for salvation. John 3:16, one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In Acts 16:30, the Philippian jailer asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” If there was ever an opportunity for Paul to present a four-part formula, this was it. Paul’s response was simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). No baptism, no confession, just faith.

There are literally dozens of verses in the New Testament that attribute salvation to faith/belief with no other requirement mentioned in the context. If baptism, or anything else, is necessary for salvation, all of these verses are wrong, and the Bible contains errors and is therefore no longer worthy of our trust.

An exhaustive study of the New Testament on various requirements for salvation is not necessary. Receiving salvation is not a process or a multi-step formula. Salvation is a finished product, not a recipe. What must we do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be saved.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Prophetic Worship?

 

Prophetic worship is a trending activity within the Charismatic movement that combines spontaneous music, dance, and other art forms to present a “new” word from God. The word prophetic in this context means “hearing God in your heart and communicating what He says.” To prophesy is to speak (or sing) by “inspiration.” Sometimes the music and lyrics during a prophetic worship service are said to be “the song of the Lord,” because of the belief that the musicians and song leaders were “inspired” to speak God’s word—in the same way that the Old Testament prophets were.

There is an emphasis on spontaneity in prophetic worship. There are no programs to follow, no lyrics on the screen, and no rehearsals ahead of time. Words to the songs just “come” to the singer, as the Spirit supposedly directs him or her, and the musicians play along. Whatever the Spirit wants to sing is sung. Prophetic worship services often include other Charismatic elements such as tongues-speaking, ecstatic utterances, and claims of healing. There is much talk of “the spirit of Elijah,” “Jehoshaphat worship style,” “anointing,” and “soaking.”

Those who promote prophetic worship use several passages of Scripture (almost exclusively Old Testament) to support their practice. For example, the fact that Habakkuk included a song at the end of his prophecy shows a link between music and the “prophetic” (Habakkuk 3:1–19). And, since David was a prophet and a musician, and since he did a spontaneous dance “before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:14), we should do the same. (Using this passage has an added benefit: anyone who criticizes the prophetic worship style is considered a “Michal,” verse 16.)

Is there anything wrong with spontaneity in worship? Absolutely not. Can the Holy Spirit use our artistic ability for the glory of God? Yes, He can, and He does. Is music an important tool in the communication of God’s Word? Yes, and Spirit-filled believers will be characterized by song (Ephesians 5:18–19).

However, prophetic worship goes beyond simply praising God with its claim that God is still giving “new” revelation to His people today. In prophetic worship, glossolalia, a “small inner voice,” and whatever lyrics being sung at the moment are all equated with the Holy Scriptures. And therein lies the danger. To place anything on par with Scripture is to diminish God’s Word and open the door to deception. For anyone to claim the role of prophet or apostle, on par with Elijah or Paul, is to invite God’s resistance of the proud (James 4:6) and bring confusion to the church. Prophetic worship may offer opportunities for musical creativity, but it is not “inspired” in the sense that the Bible is, and it does not provide any new revelation from God.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: Is the Idea of Chi Compatible with the Christian Faith?

 

Chi (also spelled ch’i or qi) can be defined as “the energy force that gives life to all things.” The idea of chi comes from Taoism, which teaches that there are spiritual and health benefits to developing and strengthening one’s inner chi. This is done through meditation, exercise, and other techniques. Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and some martial arts like Tai Chi have an ultimate purpose of balancing and enhancing one’s chi on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.

By definition alone, the idea of chi is not compatible with the Christian faith. A foundational doctrine of Christianity is that God created all things through Jesus (see Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1–4). It is God who gives life, and by God, through Jesus, all things are sustained (see Psalm 147:9 and Colossians 1:16–17).

Some may argue that chi is just a different term for the “life” that God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7). But we can’t transplant the term chi into the Christian faith because the philosophy behind chi (Taoism) is also incompatible with Christianity. For example, the Taoist view of “God” is that each person has his or her own definition of what “god” is, and each definition is perfectly acceptable—neither right nor wrong. In the Christian faith, God is not defined by people’s perceptions. Rather, He reveals who He is to us (see Jeremiah 29:13–14). While God is infinite and beyond full human understanding, He has revealed certain things about Himself and is able to be known personally. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is the only way to a real relationship with God (see John 14:5–7).

The idea of chi cannot be separated from the spiritual realm. When one engages with the spiritual realm, he or she will either encounter God or the demonic. In the Old Testament, God forbade Israel to engage in certain occult practices. This was for their own protection; the forbidden practices would have put them in contact with demonic forces (see Deuteronomy 18:9–13).

Seemingly innocent practices, like trying to balance or strengthen one’s chi, may in fact produce some perceived benefits—or at least no “bad” effects—but if those practices are not in line with a biblical worldview, then they are to be avoided. Chi is a counterfeit of the kind of life offered by Christ (see John 10:10).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Are Angelic Humans? Is the Idea of Angelic Humans Biblical?

 

An “angelic human,” according to some New Age teachers, is a person who has been “awakened” to his or her “divine nature” and true “mission” on earth. Angelic humans, sometimes called “earth angels” or “Homo Angelus,” listen to divine messages within their hearts and act on those messages. According to this teaching, humanity is in a process of spiritual evolution as more and more angelic humans realize their place in the cosmos and their duty to enlighten mankind. When enough angelic humans have been awakened to who they really are and the world is full of their acts of goodness and love, the world will enter a new era of peace and goodness. Humanity will finally become one with the Divine Consciousness.

According to promulgators of the angelic human belief, angelic humans are akin to celestial angels; the difference is that celestial angels have no physical body, but earth angels do. Some New Age teachers think that angelic humans have invisible wings that can be felt with the psyche and used to perform powerful works. Externally, angelic humans look like “normal” humans, but they differ emotionally, psychologically, and, of course, spiritually. They are angelic spirits who are indwelling human bodies. As philosopher and Jesuit mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Le Phénomène Humain, 1955).

Some New Agers attempt to incorporate the Bible with their teaching. For example, some use Psalm 8:5, “You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor,” to “prove” the Bible teaches the idea of angelic humans. Many also speak of a universal “Christ consciousness” that enfolds a person with non-judgmental, unconditional love. Jesus, according to New Age theology, was the epitome of someone who learned to channel the “Christ consciousness” and fully realized his divinity.

The problems with a belief in angelic humans are many. The Bible says that God created “all angels” as “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). If “all” of the angels are “spirits,” then there are none created with human bodies. The Bible says that mankind was formed of physical material and animated by the breath of God (Genesis 2:7). No human-angel hybrid or special class of “earth angel” is ever mentioned in the Bible. Psalm 8:5 is speaking of humans, not angels in human form.

The teaching of angelic humans recycles many old lies. It says that Jesus was nothing more than an enlightened man. The Bible says Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). The angelic human theory says the answers we seek reside within us. All we must do is listen to our hearts and understand that God is speaking to us. This directly contradicts the Bible’s teaching of the depravity of man and the danger of trusting ourselves (Isaiah 53:6; Proverbs 3:5–6). The false New Age teaching of angelic humans also says that we possess the divine, that we will one day usher in a utopia on earth, and that we will become one with God. The Bible refutes all of this. Mankind is separated from God, and “there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Man’s sin will bring destruction to the earth in the form of plagues during the Tribulation (Revelation 16–18). We will never become one with God; rather, believers in Jesus Christ will be granted eternal life with God in heaven (John 17:2).

Those who believe they are angelic humans reject the Word of God in favor of their own feelings and imaginations. In seeking spiritual guidance and power apart from the Holy Spirit, they open themselves up to demonic influence and satanic lies. Satan wants to be seen as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), and one of his deceptions is to convince humans that they, too, can be “angels” if they focus hard enough on their own divinity. We know Satan’s end: “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 20:10). We dare not fall prey to his deceit.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is the Bridal Paradigm, and Is It Biblical?

 

The bridal paradigm is a teaching that emphasizes the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Kingdom of God as a love affair between Jesus and His Bride. A paradigm is a perspective or framework; the bridal paradigm is an eschatological framework that stresses loyal love for the Savior in the end times, soul-winning, a special anointing of the Spirit, and an emotional, “intimate” attachment to Christ. The bridal paradigm is taught by the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and similar groups in the Charismatic movement.

According to bridal paradigm doctrine, the whole Bible is the story of God’s seeking a suitable mate for His Son. Jesus is pictured as a lovesick suitor who is passionately awaiting the time when He will be reunited with His beloved Bride. While the New Testament does use the metaphor of the Bride of Christ, the bridal paradigm takes the metaphor to an extreme, teaching that it is the primary picture of the Church and that each individual believer is the Bride.

In the bridal paradigm, people are taught to see themselves as “married” to Christ. In some meetings “wedding ceremonies” are held in which individuals speak marriage vows to Jesus and walk under a huppah, a Jewish marriage canopy. They are encouraged to participate in a “bridal fast” and are often told to allow themselves to be “ravished” by Jesus. Words such as intimacy, passion, and lovesick are part of the standard vocabulary.

Teachers of the bridal paradigm place a heavy emphasis on their highly allegorized interpretation of the Song of Solomon. In their view, the book is more than a depiction of sensual love between a husband and wife; it is a metaphor of Jesus and the individual believer.

Concerning the end times, the bridal paradigm teaches that the Church will go through the Tribulation. During that time, the Church becomes a sort of “super church” as it finally recognizes its calling as the Bride of Christ. When the Church awakens to its true nature, it will experience a special anointing from the Holy Spirit; unite in intercessory prayer; call down judgment, Moses-like, upon the Antichrist; lead an unprecedented global revival; and, in the end, welcome Christ to the earth as a zealous Lover.

According to bridal paradigm doctrine, the problem with the Church today is that it is unenlightened and defeated. It does not see Christ as the Bridegroom and is not “intimate” with Him. Mike Bickle, the founder of IHOP, claims that, due to the “revelations” given to him, we can finally see our true purpose. Bickle has said that the end times are the “only. time in all of human history where the people of God universally, worldwide will see Jesus as a Bridegroom King” (from a message recorded March 6, 2008).

Bickle also teaches that Jesus will not return to the earth until His Bride really wants Him to come. He is being held back right now by our own lack of knowledge: “Jesus is not coming until the Body of Christ globally is crying out ‘Come Lord Jesus, Come Lord Jesus, Come Lord Jesus,’ and they don’t just say, ‘Come and forgive me,’ they are crying out in the understanding of who they are as the one that is cherished by Jesus in the bridal identity” (op. cit.). He uses Revelation 22:17 as a “proof text” for this teaching.

Is the bridal paradigm biblical? No, it is not. This is not to say that there is not some truth being presented in the movement. Jesus does love His Church (Ephesians 5:25), and the picture of the Church as a Bride is biblically supported (Revelation 19:7). But the bridal paradigm is an unbalanced approach to Scripture. Other problems include the teachings that the Church will experience the Tribulation; that everything God does is centered on a passion for us, rather than on His own glory; that the primary meaning of the Song of Solomon is a mystical one; and that all previous generations of Christians have failed to understand what Bickle now knows.

Second Timothy 4:3–4 warns that “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” One such myth is the romantic, sensual Jesus of the bridal paradigm.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: Should Christians Seek after Spiritual Enlightenment?

 

First let’s define “Christian.” According to the Bible, a Christian is a disciple of Christ (Acts 11:26), one who has made Jesus Christ the Lord of his or her life and has been “born again” into the family of God (John 3:3). The very act of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the ultimate spiritual enlightenment, because Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). When we invite Him into our lives, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within our spirits (1 Corinthians 6:19). What was dead inside comes to life; what was dark becomes light. So a born-again Christian has already attained true spiritual enlightenment.

The term “spiritual enlightenment” usually has overtones of New Age and Eastern mysticism, tracing its roots to man-made religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Gnosticism. Teaching the goodness of the inner self, transcendentalism, or the worship of angels is contrary to Scripture (Romans 3:23; Colossians 2:18). Jehovah God is the ultimate Spirit, and any search for “enlightenment” must lead to Him, through His Son, or it is a false religion (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 45:5; John 14:6).

The goal of spiritual enlightenment is to satisfy the human longing for immortality and purpose. People have attempted to meet that longing through a variety of emotional experiences that they call “god.” But we cannot create our own gods. Nor can we decide how we will approach the real God. He already exists, and the only way a human being can truly know Him is through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 10:30; 14:6). Because of our sinful state, we cannot come to a holy God by any other means. All paths do NOT lead to God, regardless of how sincere the seeker may be (John 3:16–18). Jesus is the way. Any religion or movement that offers another path to spiritual wholeness is leading away from true enlightenment, not toward it.

God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). We seek Him by getting to know Him through His Word (John 17:17), accepting His Son’s sacrifice for our sin (Romans 10:9), and living a life guided by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25). As we grow in our faith, our understanding deepens (Proverbs 9:10; 2 Peter 3:18). We begin to see life from God’s perspective (Isaiah 55:8–9), and, as we obey Him, we acquire wisdom (Psalm 128:1; Proverbs 2:6). So, within that context, Christians should absolutely seek spiritual enlightenment. To know God and align our will with His is the ultimate goal of human existence. The more we know Jesus Christ, the more enlightened we are (John 1:4–5). Any other path leads only to darkness (Matthew 22:13).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Transcendentalism?

 

Transcendentalism is a philosophy that says that our knowledge of reality comes from an analysis of our own thought processes, rather than from scientific evidence. According to the transcendentalist, if God exists, He can be found through human intuition. Transcendentalism is most commonly associated with a philosophical/religious view developed in the mid-1800s by a group of mainly Unitarian and agnostic intellectuals in New England, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Much of transcendental thinking comes from German idealism and the writings of Immanuel Kant, the philosopher generally seen as laying the foundation of all modern philosophy. Kant used the term transcendental to describe those a priori (nonanalytic) elements involved in empirical experience. Kant did not believe these elements to be “spiritual” in any sense, but he held that they did not originate with empiric observation and so were, in some sense, intuitive.

The transcendentalism of 1830–60s New England essentially hijacked Kant’s philosophy and applied his “transcendentals” to ideas as well as to the phenomenological realm. Thus, intuition was valued as a necessary guide in the understanding of all reality, including science, philosophy, and religion. This idea came from Samuel Taylor Coleridge as interpreted by Unitarian Minister Frederic Henry Hedge.

Hedge started a group that became the Transcendental Club, originally a discussion group for disenchanted Unitarian ministers and some others. Important transcendentalists include Emerson, Thoreau, Theodore Parker—who ultimately rejected even a Unitarian understanding of the supernatural—James Marsh, Caleb Henry, and Hedge himself. Margaret Fuller was also influential in the movement through her writing, editing, and organizing efforts.

Defining transcendentalism has been troublesome from its beginning. Emerson himself had great difficulty putting it succinctly, complaining in letters to his mother that people always asked him to define it because he was identified as a transcendentalist. It does not help that the only truly consistent belief among the original transcendentalists was Hedge’s adaptation of Coleridge’s interpretation of Kant—an already confusing chain of ideas! A conglomeration of many different definitions could be boiled down to “a philosophy of intuition as a guide for spirituality.”

Some transcendentalists have claimed to be Christian; however, the idea that a human, intuitive understanding of “the transcendental” can bring us to the truth is misguided. Transcendentalism directly conflicts with the biblical command to “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). But the transcendentalists did more than trust their feelings. They also received guidance from Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and from the sacred texts of Hinduism. Thoreau, in Walden, spoke of how “in the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita.”

The Bible is truth (John 17:17). The heart of man is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Those who rely on their own intuition and “good sense” to lead them to spiritual truth will find themselves being led astray (Isaiah 53:6).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Taize Worship, and Is It Biblical?

 

Taizé is a monastic community located in Taizé, France, founded in the 1940s by a Swiss named Roger Louis Schütz-Marsauche, familiarly called Brother Roger. The “brothers” of Taizé have taken a vow of celibacy and are committed to a lifetime of simplicity, service, and community. There is an ecumenical emphasis at Taizé, as expressed in their official website, which says the community “wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples.” Brother Roger was especially eager to bring Catholics and Protestants together.

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, Protestant and Catholic, and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and icons. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshipers from around the globe and from many different denominations. The prayers consist of “short chants, repeated again and again,” according to an introduction in a Taizé songbook. “The words are sung over many times.”

There are several problems with the Taizé style of worship. Contemplative worship, in general, seeks a subjective spiritual experience apart from the objective truth of God’s Word. Also, Jesus specifically forbade repetitive prayer (Matthew 6:7), and the prayers of Taizé are purposefully repetitive. The use of icons and the ecumenical nature of the movement are also problematic.

In short, a Taizé worship service is an unbiblical attempt to connect with God. Scripture says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), yet the Taizé model dispenses with preaching. Rather, it relies on idolatrous images, repetitive chants, and mystical experience to manufacture a sense of unity and peace.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Heavy Shepherding?

 

“Heavy shepherding” (also referred to as the “Discipleship Movement”) is a method of psychological control used by abusive churches and cults. It came out of the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s. The International Churches of Christ from the Boston Movement is perhaps the most well-known group that practices heavy shepherding. Another infamous group to come out of the Shepherding Movement was Christian Grown Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Heavy shepherding churches and cults can be identified by the following practices:

  • Submission to “discipleship partners” or “shepherds” and those in authority
  • Obligation to confess sin to “discipleship partners” or “shepherds”
  • Unquestioning loyalty and obedience to all those in authority
  • Obligation to intensively recruit others to join the movement
  • Authoritarian leadership and group experience
  • Conformity to the movement’s standards
  • Spiritual manipulation and intimidation
  • Hierarchical system of accountability
  • Legalism and control over members
  • Prohibition against reading any literature not approved by the leadership
  • Whistle-blowing on members suspected of being nonconformists
  • Total dependence on the movement and the leaders for approval
  • Fear of punishment or humiliation for questioning the leadership

Any leader who demands blind obedience and submission is building on a false basis of authority. True authority comes only from God and cannot be seized by men who simply seek power and authority over others, who want to be in charge and admired. If a group or a person assumes authority based solely on role, office, or position, then he is abusing his position. Heavy shepherds are religious power brokers who control others through fear. They preach about authority, submission, judgment, prosperity and end-times. These false shepherds present themselves as the source of all knowledge and authority. They punish people who do not meet a certain standard and ostracize them as not earning God’s approval. They ignore the fact that Christians already have God’s approval through the shed blood of Jesus Christ—no person can “earn” God’s approval.

There is a biblical basis for structure within the church. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to obey our leaders and submit to their authority because “they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” But when leaders tell their flock not to think, not to ask questions and to ignore problems, they are abusing their position. When people who think, ask questions and confront problems are branded as un-submissive, unspiritual or divisive, then they are being abused by false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

John 10:1–18 shows that the church should be modelled on Christ Jesus, who is the good shepherd. When He calls His sheep, they recognize His voice and follow Him. And, most importantly, Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (verse 15). A good shepherd leads his flock to safety and guards them from predators that seek to hurt them.

Jesus instructs His disciples to obey His commands, just as He obeyed the Father. But there is nothing heavy-handed about this command! “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you … I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit … This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:9–17). Nowhere does Jesus suggest that we have to blindly submit to men. Instead, we must submit to Christ, who is the head of every man (1 Corinthians 11:3). And in all things, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

This is how shepherding should be done: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.… All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:1–7). A heavy shepherding pastor is the exact opposite of the humble servant-leader whom Peter endorses.

Jesus told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25–26).

Christian leaders are under obligation to follow Jesus’ example of humility and compassion. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Beware of any religious group that practices “shepherding,” “submission” and “covering” concepts. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ Jesus and “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?

 

No, Jesus and Satan are not brothers. Jesus is God and Satan is one of His creations. Not only are Jesus and Satan not brothers, they are as different as night is from day. Jesus is God incarnate—eternal, all knowing and all powerful while Satan is a fallen angel that was created by God for God’s purposes. The teaching that Jesus and Satan are “spirit brothers” is one of the many false teachings of the Mormons (Latter Day Saints), and to some degree also the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both of these groups are properly labeled as cults because they deny essential Christian doctrine. While they use Christian terms such as Jesus, God and salvation, they have heretical views and teachings on the most basic and essential Christian doctrines. (Please note that most Mormons today will vehemently deny that they believe Jesus and Satan are brothers. However, this teaching was most definitely a belief of the early Mormons).

The teaching that Jesus and Satan are “spirit brothers” is born out of the Mormons’ misunderstanding and distortion of Scripture as well as some of the extra-biblical teachings they consider to be authoritative. Simply put there is no way you can read the Bible using any type of sound hermeneutical principles and come away with the idea that Jesus and Satan are “spiritual brothers.” The Scriptures are very clear that Jesus is fully God, not some type of lesser god as the Mormons or other cults believe. The Scriptures are also very clear that God is transcendent above His creation which simply means that there is no comparison between Christ the Creator and Satan His creation.

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the first “spirit child” born to God the Heavenly Father with one of his many wives. Instead of acknowledging Jesus as the one true God, they believe He became God, just as they will one day become gods. According to Mormon doctrine, as the first of the “spirit children” of God, Jesus had preeminence over Satan or Lucifer who was the second “son of God” and the “spirit brother” of Jesus. It is ironic that they will use Colossians 1:15 as one of their “proof texts” because it says that: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Yet they ignore verse 16 where we see that “By Him (Christ) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth. Visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. ALL THINGS were created through Him and for Him.” All things—thrones, dominions, principalities or powers—include Satan and his demons.

In order to believe that Satan and Jesus are “spiritual brothers” one must deny the clear teaching of Scripture. Scripture is very clear that it was Jesus Christ who created all things and that as the second person of the triune Godhead Christ is fully and uniquely God. Jesus claimed to be God in many passages of Scripture. In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I am the Father are one.” Jesus was not claiming to be another lesser God. He was declaring that He was fully God. In John 1:1–5 it is clear that Jesus was not a created being and that He Himself created all things. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). How much clearer can it get? “All things” means what it says, and it includes Satan who as an angel was himself a created being just like the other angels and demons are. Scripture reveals Satan to be a fallen angel who rebelled against God and Jesus as being God. The only relationship that exists between Satan and Jesus is that of Creator and creation, of the righteous Judge Jesus Christ and the sinful created being, Satan.

Like the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses also teach that Jesus and Satan are spiritual brothers. While some Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses might sometimes try to sidestep this teaching because it is so antithetical to what the Bible actually says, it is nevertheless what these organizations believe and is part of their official doctrine.

Mormons believe that not only were Jesus and Lucifer “spirit children of Elohim,” but that also humans are spiritual children as well. In other words they believe that “God, angels, and men are all of the same species, one race, one great family.” This is why they believe that they themselves will one day become as much of a God as Jesus or even God the Father. Rather than seeing the clear distinction in Scripture between God and His creation, they believe that one day they will be a God themselves. Of course this is the same old lie Satan has been telling us since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). Apparently the desire to usurp the throne of God is endemic in the hearts of men.

In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asked the important question: “But who do you say that I am?” This is a question that is essential to salvation and one that the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses get wrong. Their answer that Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan is the wrong one. Jesus is God the Son, and in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily (Colossians 2:9). He created Satan and one day He will cast Satan into the lake of fire as the just punishment for his rebellion against God. Sadly on that Day of Judgment those who fall for Satan’s lies will also be cast into the lake of fire with Satan and His demons. The god of the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses is not the God who revealed Himself in Scripture. Unless they repent and come to understand and worship the one true God, they have no hope of salvation.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is the Hallucination Theory?

 

For almost two thousand years opponents of the Christian faith have proposed various theories in an attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the “stolen body theory” proposed by the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew’s gospel to the”swoon theory” advanced by the 19th century critic Friedrich Schleiermacher, skeptics have stopped at nothing to explain the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus without recourse to the supernatural.

While most of these naturalistic explanations have been rejected as implausible by contemporary critics of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, one particular theory has begun to gain traction in skeptical circles. This hypothesis is known as the “hallucination theory.” The hallucination theory attempts to account for the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus by claiming both auditory and visual hallucinations on the part of Jesus’ disciples. Proponents of this view claim that Jesus’ disciples really did “see” Jesus, but that these sightings were merely hallucinations in the minds of Christ’s followers, not genuine encounters with a resurrected man. The hallucinations, or sightings, are claimed to have happened repeatedly and are said to have been so vivid as to convince Christ’s followers that Jesus actually had risen from the dead.

The advantage of this proposal is two-fold. First, the proponents of this theory need not engage the impressive evidence for the life-changing transformation of the disciples based upon their newfound belief in the Christ’s resurrection. Rather, the skeptic can grant that there were “appearances” of some sort without conceding the occurrence of a miracle. The second move is to then explain these “appearances” as subjective hallucinations, events that took place only in the minds of the disciples.

From the outset, the Hallucination Theory is beset with problems. First, we now know that anticipation and expectation play a crucial role in the occurrence of hallucinations. This, by itself, makes the disciples poor candidates for such experiences. The disciples were understandably depressed, sorrowful, and deeply grieved as their beloved leader had been violently taken from them and executed. All four Gospels describe the disciples as not expecting to see Jesus resurrected. In fact, some doubted even after Jesus appeared to them (Matthew 28:16–17)! It does not seem that any of Jesus’ disciples were in the proper mindset to be likely candidates for hallucinations.

Second, the diversity of the appearances makes hallucinations an unlikely explanation. Jesus appeared to numerous individuals under various circumstances and locales. He appeared both indoors and outdoors. He appeared not just on one particular day but over a period of weeks. He appeared to people of different backgrounds and personality types.

Probably the most formidable obstacle for the Hallucination Theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people. As clinical psychologist Gary A. Sibcy has commented, “I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.” Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.” And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals, but to groups as well-and on numerous occasions (Luke 24:36–43, Matthew 28:9, John 20:26–30; 21:1–14, Acts 1:3–6, 1 Corinthians 15:5–7)!

Still more problems remain. Jesus not only appeared to His disciples but to His skeptical brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), as well as Saul of Tarsus (later to become the Apostle Paul), a self-professed enemy of the Christian faith. How likely is it that these two would also have individual hallucinations of a resurrected Jesus of whom they had no previous commitment?

Even if all of these obstacles could be overcome, a further problem remains for the Hallucination Theory: the empty tomb. If all of the disciples of Jesus had simply been the victims of numerous individual and group hallucinations, the body of Jesus of Nazareth would have remained where it was, interred in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. How likely is it for the disciples of Jesus to have gained converts—after preaching a bodily resurrection in the very area where Jesus was buried—if His tomb were in fact occupied with a recently crucified man? The critic who appeals to hallucinations must then combine this theory with another hypothesis to explain why Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Hallucinations, by themselves, cannot begin to explain all of the data. When all of these factors are taken into account, the Hallucination Theory crumbles under the weight of the facts. The Christian can remain confident that Christ has risen![1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is the Messianic Secret?

 

The Messianic Secret is a theme of biblical criticism developed in 1901 by a German Lutheran theologian named Wilhelm Wrede. The Messianic Secret involves Wrede’s explanation for Jesus wanting to hide His identity from His enemies by commanding the disciples to keep silent about His mission on earth and the miracles He performed. Wrede claimed that Jesus did not ever think He was the Messiah and that Mark (and the rest of the New Testament authors) sensationalized Jesus and made Him into the Messiah. Wrede claims Mark added the Messianic Secret in an attempt to give a reason for why Jesus was not accepted by many as Messiah until after His death. Wrede’s Messianic Theory enjoyed some popularity during the 1920s but quickly faded soon thereafter.

Is there any biblical basis for Wrede’s theory? It is undeniable that Jesus told His disciples on several occasions to keep what He had done secret. Each of those incidents, however, has a much more plausible explanation than the one put forth by Wilhelm Wrede. Further, each is consistent with the other Gospel accounts, and not an invention by Mark.

In Mark 1:43–45 Christ commanded the leper He had healed: “After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.” Jesus knew the publicity about the healing would hinder His ability to minister in the area, which is exactly what happened when the leper disobeyed, and worse, the sensationalism caused by miraculous healings would hamper the spreading of His message. Because of the leper’s disobedience, Jesus could no longer enter a city without being mobbed by those seeking healing, causing Him to abandon His ministry in the city and keep to relatively uninhabited areas. The healing of the leper is also found in Matthew 8:1–4 and Luke 5:12–16, with Luke reiterating the reason for the command for secrecy in vv. 15–16.

Further “evidence” for Wrede’s theory of secrecy involves the explanation for Jesus speaking in parables in Mark 4:11 where He tells His disciples that the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God had been given to them, but to others He spoke in parables so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” This is not, however, a plea for secrecy. Rather, it is an explanation of divine revelation in the hearts of true believers, revelation that is unavailable for those who, like the Pharisees, continued to reject the truth. The ‘mysteries of the kingdom’ are revealed to those who have ‘ears to hear’ but not to those whose hearts are darkened. As the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus would have been able to distinguish between those two groups. Again, this is not an invention of Mark as it is reiterated in Matthew 13:11–17.

Mark 8:27–30 is another example of a statement that has led to misunderstanding about the secrecy Jesus required. When Peter, speaking for the rest of the disciples, declared Jesus to be “the Christ” which means “Messiah,” Jesus “strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.” Far from denying His identity as the Messiah, Jesus was aware that the people, and even the disciples, did not yet understand that He came to die on the cross for sin. They were awaiting appearance of the Jewish concept of the Messiah as the conqueror who would free them from Roman oppression. If the crowds began to attempt to press Him into service in such a way, His mission and message would be compromised. As further proof, He immediately began to teach His disciples about His true mission (Mark 8:31–33).

The Messianic Secret theory is just that—a theory, and one that has been disproved and universally rejected among theologians. The truth is that Jesus commanded secrecy about His identity from certain people at certain times during His ministry, but for perfectly good and logical reasons. There can be no doubt, however, that by the time His ministry came to an end, everyone knew exactly who He was and is—God in flesh who came to save His people from their sins.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is Nestorianism? Who Were the Nestorians?

 

The Nestorians are followers of Nestorius (c. 386–451 AD), who was Archbishop of Constantinople. Nestorianism is based on the belief put forth by Nestorius that emphasized the disunity of the human and divine natures of Christ. According to the Nestorians, the nature of Christ is divided equally between His divine nature and His human nature, but the two are distinct and separate. This idea is not scriptural, however, and goes against orthodox Christian doctrine of the hypostatic union, which states that Christ’s one nature was fully God and fully man. God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14).

In the first few centuries of the church, a great debate arose: what is the exact nature of Christ? How can a being be completely divine and completely human? In the West, the Roman Catholic Church decreed Jesus to be “two natures in one person,” and went on to other things. In the East, the definition of Christ’s nature was as much about politics as it was about religion, and the discussion went on far longer.

The Alexandrines, so named because the political loyalties of most who held the view were Alexandrian, were “monophysites.” They insisted that Jesus was, above all, divine. He was the teacher of divine truth and, in order to have had that truth, must have been primarily divine. To emphasize His humanity over His deity led to unthinkable assertions like “God got tired, injured, hungry, thirsty, and then died.” Apollinaris of Laodicea summarized the thought by saying the Word of God took the place of a rational soul so that a human body could preach the truth of God; the body was a mouthpiece.

The Antiochenes from Antioch thought this was ridiculous. A sacrifice that was not fully human could not redeem humans. Antiochenes were “dyophysites.” The Godhead dwelt in Jesus, no doubt, but not in any way that undermined His humanity. Jesus’ two natures were distinct from one another—although no one could precisely explain what that meant.

When Constantine had moved the political capital from Rome to Byzantium (later Constantinople), the church of the west centralized into the religious and political power of the Roman Catholic Church. The church of the east didn’t have that chance. They had several important churches spread throughout the region, each led by their own bishops. Alexandria and Antioch were two of the oldest and most important, but the church in Constantinople was considered as close to Rome as the East had. The clergy of Alexandria and Antioch constantly fought over the bishopric in Constantinople in hopes of uniting the scattered churches into a regional power house.

In 428 A.D., Nestorius became patriarch of Constantinople. He was from Antioch, and his theological (and political) leanings became clear when he declared Mary to be Christotokos, or “bearer of Christ,” not theotokos—“bearer of God.” In so doing, he said more about Jesus than Mary. He said that, above all else, the humanity of Jesus must be emphasized, His nature firmly divided, and that He was comprised of “two natures and two persons.” The human nature and person were born of Mary. The divine were of God.

The Bishop of Alexandria, among others, didn’t agree. He and his supporters marched into Constantinople and held a trial that relieved Nestorius of his position. Shortly after, Nestorius’s supporters finally arrived and held a smaller trial that convicted the Bishop of Alexandria. After much theological debate and political wrangling, Nestorius was exiled back to Antioch.

The Alexandrians exerted more pressure on the Antiochenes. The Antiochenes were forced to leave Antioch; Nestorius lived out his days in Egypt. But many of the Antiochenes fled east into Persia, where they were called “Nestorians” whether they had politically supported Nestorius or not.

The church already in Persia had its own problems. The rulers in Persia were quite religiously tolerant, but politically they hated Rome and anything that came out of Rome. The church in Persia carefully explained that they were not the same church as in Rome, and the Persians alternated between persecuting them and leaving them alone. Several Nestorian theologians settled in Persia, where the Persian church heard their thoughts on the two natures of Christ and told them, “Yes, of course, we’ve believed that all along.” So Nestorians were readily absorbed into the local church.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.