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John F MacArthurJohn MacArthur has a new book, The Truth War, which he is adapting for a series of blog posts on his GTY — Grace To You — site.

On September 18, 2017, he wrote ‘Modernity to Postmodernity: From Bad to Worse’. It is a good summation of how we got to where we are with our 21st century thinking. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Postmodernism in general is marked by a tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth … Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything. Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive. Everyone is entitled to his own truth.

Postmodernism therefore has no positive agenda to assert anything as true or good. Perhaps you have noticed that only the most heinous crimes are still seen as evil. (Actually, there are many today who are prepared to dispute whether anything is “evil,” so such language is fast disappearing from public discourse.) That is because the notion of evil itself does not fit in the postmodern scheme of things. If we can’t really know anything for certain, how can we judge anything evil?

Therefore postmodernism’s one goal and singular activity is the systematic deconstruction of every other truth claim. The chief tools being employed to accomplish this are relativism, subjectivism, the denial of every dogma, the dissection and annihilation of every clear definition, the relentless questioning of every axiom, the undue exaltation of mystery and paradox, the deliberate exaggeration of every ambiguity, and above all the cultivation of uncertainty about everything.

If you were to challenge me to boil down postmodern thought into its pure essence and identify the gist of it in one single, simple, central characteristic, I would say it is the rejection of every expression of certainty. In the postmodern perspective, certainty is regarded as inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive—and therefore always wrong.

Postmodernism has resulted in a widespread rejection of truth and the enshrinement of skepticism. Postmodernists despise truth claims. They also spurn every attempt to construct a coherent worldview, labeling all comprehensive ideologies and belief systems “metanarratives,” or grand stories. Such “stories,” they say, can’t possibly do justice to everyone’s individual perspective, and therefore they are always inadequate.

Postmodernism’s preference for subjectivity over objectivity makes it inherently relativistic … Instead, truth, if acknowledged at all, becomes something infinitely pliable and ultimately unknowable in any objective sense.

Postmodernism therefore signals a major triumph for relativismthe view that truth is not fixed and objective, but something individually determined by each person’s unique, subjective perception. All this is ultimately a vain attempt to try to eliminate morality and guilt from human life.

And as we’ll see next time, eliminating rational thought is key to those objectives.

It’s a funny thing, postmodernism. A postmodernist will deny Christianity as being subjective or irrational. Yet, that same person will say that it is established science that diet soft drinks are bad for everyone and that climate change science is settled.

Postmodernists pick and choose their ‘truths’, generally alighting firmly on something that needs more research, the way a bluebottle eagerly lands on decaying rubbish to lay its eggs.

MacArthur’s next essay is called ‘Rationality Without the Rationalism’. We all know how atheists pride themselves on being rational, whereas, in their eyes, the Christian is irrational. Similarly, an increasing number of Christians eschew the study of philosophy, which they consider harmful because there is no Scripture involved.

However, MacArthur says:

Rationality (the right use of sanctified reason through sound logic) is never condemned in Scripture. Faith is not irrational. Authentic biblical truth demands that we employ logic and clear, sensible thinking. Truth can always be analyzed and examined and compared under the bright light of other truth, and it does not melt into absurdity. Truth by definition is never self-contradictory or nonsensical. And contrary to popular thinking, it is not rational to insist that coherence is a necessary quality of all truth. Christ is truth incarnate, and He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Self-denying truth is an absolute contradiction in terms. “No lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).

Nor is logic a uniquely “Greek” category that is somehow hostile to the Hebrew context of Scripture. (That is a common myth that is often set forth in support of postmodernism’s flirtation with irrationality.) Scripture frequently employs logical devices, such as antithesis, if-then arguments, syllogisms, and propositions. These are all standard logical forms, and Scripture is full of them—Paul’s long string of deductive arguments in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 being a great example.

MacArthur points out that what postmodernists object to about Holy Scripture and Christianity are propositional statements which are either true or false, with no middle ground:

The reason behind postmodernism’s contempt for propositional truth is not difficult to understand. A proposition is an idea framed as a logical statement that affirms or denies something, and it is expressed in such a way that it must be either true or false. There is no third option between true and false. (This is the “excluded middle” in logic.) The whole point of a proposition is to boil a truth-statement down to such pristine clarity that it must be either affirmed or denied. In other words, propositions are the simplest expressions of truth value used to express the substance of what we believe. Postmodernism, frankly, cannot endure that kind of stark clarity.

In reality, however, postmodernism’s rejection of the propositional form turns out to be totally untenable. It is impossible to discuss truth at all—or even tell a story—without resorting to the use of propositions. Until fairly recently, the validity and necessity of expressing truth in propositional form was considered self-evident by virtually everyone who ever studied logic, semantics, philosophy, or theology. Ironically, to make any cogent argument against the use of propositions, a person would have to employ propositional statements! So every argument against propositions is instantly self-defeating.

That is no doubt why so many established denominations are moving away from centuries-old dogma and doctrine. Whereas the ancient Church thinkers and, later, the Reformers repeated the same biblical truths, these have now become ‘offensive’ to many Christians, hence, the movement towards ‘all are saved’ and ‘Jesus loves you’. Yes, and no. Mankind must submit to God’s will in order to be saved. All mankind seems to do these days is to submit to addiction (including psychotropes) and/or depravity.

Although MacArthur acknowledges that there is more to Christianity than adopting a set of beliefs, we cannot claim to have our hearts and heads allied with the Lord unless we accept certain truths — which are propositional:

While it is quite true that believing the truth entails more than the assent of the human intellect to certain propositions, it is equally true that authentic faith never involves anything less. To reject the propositional content of the gospel is to forfeit saving faith, period.

Postmodernists are uncomfortable with propositions for an obvious reason: They don’t like the clarity and inflexibility required to deal with truth in propositional form. A proposition is the simplest form of any truth claim, and postmodernism’s fundamental starting point is its contempt for all truth claims. The “fuzzy logic” of ideas told in “story” form sounds so much more elastic—even though it really is not. Propositions are necessary building blocks for every means of conveying truth—including stories.

But the attack on propositional expressions of truth is the natural and necessary outworking of postmodernism’s general distrust of logic, distaste for certainty, and dislike for clarity. To maintain the ambiguity and pliability of “truth” necessary for the postmodern perspective, clear and definitive propositions must be discounted as a means of expressing truth. Propositions force us to face facts and either affirm or deny them, and that kind of clarity simply does not play well in a postmodern culture.

Hence the accusations of notional Christian ‘hate’ towards others. Fellow Christians accuse each other of that, too. We see it in the controversy over same-sex marriage in church, the Anglican synod being one example. Those who oppose it were shouted down as being haters or reactionaries. No, they are simply being true to Scripture. It also doesn’t mean they don’t want persons of same-sex persuasion banned from church. What they object to is the church performing misplaced wedding ceremonies.

It seems to me, from what I have seen, that postmodernism has produced a lot of unhappy people. Never before are there so many depressed, angry and violent men, women and children. They react negatively at the drop of a hat — over anything that even politely contradicts their little, individual worldview.

That includes churchgoers.

Clergy aren’t helping the situation by turning sermons into ‘addresses’ and making what should be worship of God into therapy for humankind.

I just reread a recent church bulletin I received. It mentions a new programme on the Bible which will be conducted in ‘a non-confrontational atmosphere’. It is sure to be steeped in postmodernist relativism.

When Christians, through the aid of prayer, open their hearts and minds to the truth of Scripture — all of which condemns man’s base, sinful nature — and see a good explanation of it, they will come to understand the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ and reject postmodernist thought.

That time cannot come too soon.

Bruce Bawer — an American who has lived in Europe for nearly two decades — wrote an excellent essay for PJ Media, ‘What Happened in France?’

It offers a post-mortem of Emmanuel Macron’s victory on Sunday, May 7, 2017 and explains how it happened.

With an upcoming parliamentary election taking place in Britain on Thursday, June 8, it seems apposite to look at voting patterns in the two countries.

Before I excerpt Bawer’s editorial, I, too, have noticed a certain voting behaviour in France and the UK, two countries I know well. I live in the UK and see that voters are reluctant not so much to go to the polls as they are to actually vote in a way that reverses globalism. People in other parts of Europe, e.g. France, are similarly skittish.

The hive mind is a powerful thing in Europe. The globalists created it through politically correct thinking and make jolly good use of it via the media and pollsters.

Two recent British shockers were David Cameron’s victory in May 2015 and the referendum vote for Brexit in 2016. Both results surprised everyone. This is because we were under constant onslaught by print and broadcast media to vote against the Conservatives and Brexit.

Even now that Theresa May is the occupant of No. 10, politics remains a touchy subject. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not something I discuss much with people I know, even with fellow Conservatives, some of whom are quite wet — squishy, for my American readers — about Brexit. They think voters should have gone for Remain last June.

Howeverand this is something Bruce Bawer did not mention in his pieceEuropeans do not have a well developed online alternative media universe comprising independent journalists, citizen journalists and political fora. This, to me, is the principal difference between the UK and Europe.

Bawer’s article is well worth reading and passing along to friends. I’ll try to excerpt as little as possible, because it probably took him a long time to write.

Americans are probably still scratching their heads over 2017 election results, not only in France but in the Netherlands. Both resulted in preserving a self-destructive status quo, one that increases terror and diminishes national identity.

Bawer says that Europeans feel a collective guilt about their former colonies and political movements. Therefore, they feel the need for perpetual atonement (emphases mine below):

One way of trying to answer it is to look at countries one by one. For example, the Brits and French feel guilty about their imperial histories, and hence find it difficult to rein in the descendants of subject peoples. The Germans feel guilty about their Nazi past – and the Swedes feel guilty about cozying up to Nazis – and thus feel compelled to lay out the welcome mat for, well, just about anybody. The Dutch, similarly, are intensely aware that during the Nazi occupation they helped ship off a larger percentage of their Jews to the death camps than any other Western European country, and feel a deep need to atone.

Then there’s postmodernism:

According to postmodern thinking, no culture is better than any other – and it’s racist to say otherwise. No, scratch that – other cultures are, in fact, better than Western culture. Whites, by definition, are oppressors, imperialists, and colonialists, while “people of color” are victims.

We are in denial about terrorist attacks:

The plainer the truth got, in fact, the more fiercely they resisted it. And as skilled propagandists began to represent Muslims as the mother of all victim groups, many Westerners were quick to buy into it all …

But – and this is a fact that some of us are thoroughly incapable of identifying with, and thus almost thoroughly incapable of graspingsome people don’t want to know the truth. And if they do know the truth, they want to un-know it.

These are not intellectuals or socio-political elites, but ordinary people of various income groups and educational levels:

I’m talking about people who, in everyday life, come across as thoroughly good and decent – but who, when push comes to shove, just don’t want to rock the boat. That’s a lot of people. Maybe most. People who are nice so long as it’s easy to be nice

There are kind people who, the minute there’s any hint of trouble – which means, way before the death-camp round-up begins – prefer to lie low. Their highest value isn’t truth or virtue or beauty or even long-term security for them and their families but the ability to buy another day without major trouble.

You’d think they’d be able to look forward at least some distance into the future and dwell on that grim prospect. Able to see their children, their grandchildren, and so forth, living under sharia law. If, indeed, lucky to be living at all.

But I think it needs to be recognized that for some people, seeing that far into the future is just beyond their intellectual grasp. Or beyond what they dare to envision

Bawer posits that a lot of these people can see what is actually happening to Europe but they are ‘terrified’ to do anything about it, even at the ballot box.

This is why a Conservative victory in 2015 and Brexit victory in 2016 were so significant for Britain. I had hoped our continental neighbours would follow suit this year, but, alas, it was not meant to be. The Germans are likely to see Angela Merkel continue her chancellorship later this year.

Bawer says that Europeans are now so cowed into submission, even a private vote can’t help:

You might think that, once in the voting booth, these people would be able – and not just able but eager, desperate even – to stand up against the powers above them that have turned their countries upside down and assert their power as citizens. But everything around them has conspired all their lives to render them incapable of feeling that power – or, perhaps, has rendered them incapable of feeling that they have the moral right to exercise that power in the way that their gut is begging them to.

That still, quiet voice in their heads, which I would describe as a voice of plain reason and common sense, is up against the resounding voices of all the higher-ups shouting in unison – the leading voices of politics, business, the academia, the media, and so on – that they’ve been bred from infancy to respect and take seriously. To, indeed, obey

So it is that even in a secret ballot, it takes European voters a remarkable amount of nerve to resist the thunderous chorus of voices from above urging them to vote against their own interests; it feels like nothing less than an act of treason to heed the meek little voices in their own heads begging them to do the opposite – to do what’s actually best for themselves and their loved ones.

Bawer nails it perfectly in his next sentence:

They’ve been psychologically manipulated to the point where they truly believe, on some level, at least in some Orwellian doublethink kind of way, that acting in clear defense of their own existence, their own culture, their own values, and their own posterity, is an act of ugly prejudice.

Yes — that’s it in a nutshell.

I see it here in the elderly — people old enough to know better — and I see it in the middle-aged and the young.

Europeans must wake up and vote for what is right and good.

I sincerely hope that Britain will do so again on June 8.

Yesterday’s post Saint Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt is the first in a study of verses from St Matthew’s Gospel which do not appear in the three-year Lectionary (‘the Lectionary’ for the purposes of this entry).

I have completed a similar study on the Gospels of John, Mark and Luke in that order to encourage those unfamiliar with the New Testament to read them. These are available on my Essential Bible Verses page.

I purposely held off with the first book of the New Testament — Matthew’s Gospel — because I found it difficult to read when I was younger. Some of my friends have also expressed the same opinion.

However, the Gospel according to Matthew is undoubtedly the most complete account of our Lord’s earthly ministry. And, to the credit of the Lectionary compilers and editors, they leave comparatively little of it out in prescribed readings for public worship. In that sense, they are honouring the tradition of the first and second centuries of the Church, where Matthew was the pre-eminent Gospel (p. 2 of PDF).

That said, for centuries, Bible scholars have been asking who wrote what when.

Modern Synoptic Gospel hypothesis

My introduction to St Mark’s Gospel gave an explanation of how the three Synoptic Gospels fit together.

Synoptic means ‘seen together’ as Matthew, Mark and Luke share many of the same accounts of Jesus’s ministry. St John’s Gospel differs, focussing on other episodes of His life, although it, too, follows a chronology of the essentials, particularly in relating the Last Supper, which is the fullest Gospel account, comprising several chapters.

My post on Mark explains the theory held by many scholars, theologians and clergy of all persuasions that Mark was the first to be written. Luke and Matthew came in the decades following.

However, Matthew is still the pre-eminent Gospel and appears first in the New Testament. If the early Church had to rely on Mark’s concise yet highly readable account, the end of which might have been lost, there might not have been so many Christians throughout the centuries.

Before addressing what early Doctors of the Church have written, let us look at background information about Matthew (depicted above by Rembrandt, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Matthew and his Gospel

Unlike modern scholars, Christians who are faithful to Church history consider that the Apostle Matthew — Levi, when our Lord called him — is the author.

Because he was a tax collector, he would have come in contact with not only the local Aramaic-speaking public but travellers as well. Therefore, he was also well versed in Greek.

When he began his ministry, Matthew stayed in Judea. Later, he went further afield to preach to Gentiles as well as Jews.

This raises the ancient question of whether Matthew had written an account of Christ’s life in Aramaic and a subsequent one in Greek for the second phase of his ministry. Matthew Henry, who died in the first decade of the 18th century, left this contentious question open, writing:

it is probable that there might be an edition of it in Hebrew, published by St. Matthew himself, at the same time that he wrote it in Greek the former for the Jews, the latter for the Gentiles, when he left Judea, to preach among the Gentiles.

Bible History tells us that St Matthew’s primary audience was the Jews:

One of the obvious reasons is that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned over 30 times and never the Kingdom of God. This is because the Jews do not speak the name of God and this could be the very reason that Matthew used this phrase. There are many times while reading the book that an event happens and a prophecy is cited. The event is mentioned as the direct fulfillment of a promise made to the Jews by one of their Jewish prophets, and the fulfillment of the prophecy was happening before their very eyes.

Indeed, we can see from the genealogy in Matthew 1 that the Apostle set out to prove to the Jews from the start that Jesus is, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. His Gospel goes on to show that Jesus’s contemporaries rejected Him time and time again.

Another hotly debated question revolves around the time Matthew composed it. Bible History explains that, although most scholars believe it was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, a number of today’s scholars discount this and place it afterward. Bible History says the reason for this is that these scholars

do not believe in the miracle of prophecy.

What we can expect from the text

Bible History tells us that Matthew was intent on demonstrating our Lord as Christ the King:

– Matthew 1 refers to David as ‘king’, indicating the prophesied royal lineage of Jesus;

– Matthew 3 refers to John the Baptist as a ‘herald’, signifying that his role is to announce a king — something the Jews would have understood;

– Throughout, the King — Jesus Christ — came to His people and the people rejected Him.

Bible History explains Matthew’s five themes, divided into chapters as follows:

Matthew 1 – 12: the people reject Christ’s Kingdom;

Matthew 13 – 25: they reject the King’s teaching and ministry;

Matthew 26 – 27: the King’s trial and crucifixion;

Matthew 28: the King’s resurrection proves His triumph over death;

Matthew 28: the King commissions His Apostles to go out and preach.

What Doctors of the Church have written

The more I read about the modern scholarship relating to the Gospel timeline the more inclined I am to return to the earliest sources, the Doctors of the Church, for their verdict.

I also question exactly why scholars from the 18th century — if not before — to the present day would wish to come up with an alternative verdict on the Gospels. Even a less detailed reading of their hypothesis reveals many dismissive comments about our early theologians’ scholarship.

Dr F David Farnell, Professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary under John MacArthur’s aegis wrote a learned paper on the subject, ‘The Synoptic Gospels in the Ancient Church: The Testimony to the Priority of Matthew’s Gospel’. His introduction states, in part (emphases mine):

Since the church fathers lived much closer to the time of the composition of the gospels and were scholars in their own right, their testimony must be given serious consideration in any hypothesis regarding chronological order. Such early testimony stands in direct contradiction to the predominant contention of source criticism that concludes for the Two- or Four-Document Hypothesis (i.e. priority of Mark and Q), especially since the latter is not a product of objective historical analysis but a late-blooming conjecture spawned by Enlightenment ideologies.

In Farnell’s exposition of the writings of our Church fathers, it seems that only one, Papias, entertained the possibility — and it was only a possibility — that Mark could have been written before Matthew.

Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis, a city located between Colosse and Laodicea in Asia Minor. He was a disciple of the Apostle John, so would have had first hand knowledge from him as to what the other Apostles were doing. Papias’s written works date from 95 to 110 AD, therefore, crucial to what was happening in that era (p. 4 of PDF). Unfortunately, his works no longer exist, and what we know of them has been cited by other Church fathers.

As such, some modern scholars, such as Gundry, have looked at a fourth century quote from Eusebius, citing Papias (pp 12, 13):

And the Presbyter [John] used to say this, ‘Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.’ This is related by Papias about Mark.

Gundry concludes that, from this, Papias was explaining that Matthew brought ‘order’ to Mark’s Gospel and wrote a fuller history. Farnell, however, doubts that taking random quotes from Papias — as Eusebius did — hardly proves the Markan primacy hypothesis. And nothing is in evidence that Papias — or Eusebius — sought to actively disprove Matthew’s Gospel as being the primary one.

I would recommend Farnell’s paper to anyone interested in the Church fathers and Matthew’s Gospel.

Catholic Answers has three main quotes from these early theologians. These also appear in Farnell’s paper. For our purposes, we discover that everything we have had for nearly two millenia as Gospel manuscripts have been copies written in Greek.

However, let us look at the Catholic Answers quotes. After Papias, we have Irenaeus of Lyons who wrote in 180 AD:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies 3:1:1)

Although we do not find a chronology there among the writers, we can be sure that the authors of the Gospels are as named in the New Testament.

In 244, Origen wrote:

Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism and published in the Hebrew language. (Commentaries on Matthew [cited by Eusebius in History of the Church 6:25]).

Between 300 and 325, Eusebius wrote:

Matthew had begun by preaching to the Hebrews, and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own Gospel to writing in his native tongue [Aramaic], so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote. (History of the Church 3:24 [inter 300-325]).

From that, I am reaching a personal conclusion that what matters is that we actually have the texts which have been adopted into the Canon. Knowing who wrote what when is a secondary matter, as Matthew Henry wrote:

Let us bless God that we have it, and have it in a language we understand.

As for other ‘gospels’, Henry’s commentary makes it clear that

These four gospels were early and constantly received by the primitive church, and read in Christian assemblies, as appears by the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenæus, who lived little more than a hundred years after the ascension of Christ they declared that neither more nor fewer than four were received by the church. A Harmony of these four evangelists was compiled by Tatian about that time, which he called, To dia tessaronThe Gospel out of the four. In the third and fourth centuries there were gospels forged by divers sects, and published, one under the name of St. Peter, another of St. Thomas, another of St. Philip, &c. But they were never owned by the church, nor was any credit given to them, as the learned Dr. Whitby shows. And he gives this good reason why we should adhere to these written records, because, whatever the pretences of tradition may be, it is not sufficient to preserve things with any certainty, as appears by experience. For, whereas Christ said and did many memorable things, which were not written (John 20:30,21:25), tradition has not preserved any one of them to us, but all is lost except what was written that therefore is what we must abide by and blessed by God that we have it to abide by it is the sure word of history.

Stained glass question jeremypryorwordpresscomMy apologies.

I had hoped that my last few posts of Forbidden Bible Verses explained why Jesus warned against making manmade religion law (from which the so-called great and the good would be exempt).

Those of you in a biblically based church or personal faith do not need to worry, however, we have many church members and clergymen, the latter often leading independent church congregations, who are imposing a Pharisaical burden upon each other.

On the other hand, we have rationalist Sadducee-like clergy who do not wish for believers to have faith in the miracles which took place in both the Old and the New Testaments.

This blog has been warning about such aberrations in religious practice. All of them — legalist, modernist or postmodernist — can be found in the lower half of my Christianity / Apologetics page. These have been occurring since our Lord’s time, but more frequently worldwide since Charles Finney’s time in the 19th century. Protestants and Catholics have both been found guilty.

I would encourage all those who consider themselves Christians to read the posts on that page as well as the secular posts on my Marxism / Communism page which demonstrate how socialism and communism have helped to weaken Christ’s bride, the Church.



St Luke stained glass Wikipedia 120px-LukeSt.MattsBefore resuming Forbidden Bible Verses which opened the Gospel of Luke with an examination of the prologue to Theophilus, now is a good time to explore this Gospel in general and the book which parallels it — Acts — also said to have been written by Luke.

Beware postmodern revisionism

Until the past few decades, the majority of Catholic and Protestant theologians held that Luke the Evangelist — a physician — was the author of both canonical books.

From the late 20th century up to the present, postmodern theologians have been shooting down New Testament authorship with stunning frequency. A compendium of views concerning the authorship of Luke can be found on this Wikipedia page.

For nearly two millenia, whilst there has always been some uncertainty about specific authorship and dating of the New Testament books, a general consensus prevailed.  Now, strangely enough, we are subjected to all manner of revisionist thinking.

You are welcome to believe what you like, but I would caution that the ordained who believe the postmodern revisionists are likely to experience emptying of pews. I know a few of these clergy who are scratching their heads, wondering why they are not doing as well as more conservative churches preaching the Bible.

A good measure of whether the revisionists are credible is to check out their personal beliefs. The word ‘theologian’ no longer implies Christian belief when it comes to New Testament study.

One case in point is Bart Ehrman, who posits that the Book of Acts is a forgery:

the “we” passages are written by someone falsely claiming to have been a travelling companion of Paul, in order to present the untrue idea that the author had firsthand knowledge of Paul’s views and activities, and Acts of the Apostles is thereby shown to be a forgery.[48]

Reading Ehrman’s biography, we find (emphases mine):

Ehrman became an Evangelical Christian as a teen. In his books, he recounts his youthful enthusiasm as a born-again, fundamentalist Christian, certain that God had inspired the wording of the Bible and protected its texts from all error.[2] His desire to understand the original words of the Bible led him to the study of ancient languages and to textual criticism. His graduate studies, however, eventually convinced him that one ought to acknowledge the contradictions in the biblical manuscripts rather than attempt to harmonize or reconcile discrepancies. He remained a liberal Christian for fifteen years but later became an agnostic after struggling with the philosophical problems of evil and suffering.[2]

In the same vein, a group of late 20th century theologians  — the Jesus Seminar — are still discussed today. The seminar included a number of people interested in the New Testament. Not all of them are or were theologians. The film director Paul Verhoeven was among their number along with community college instructors. The Seminar is partly responsible for the prominence of the Gospel of Thomas in postmodern Christian discourse as they believe it is more credible than John’s Gospel.

John Dominic Crossan, one of the Seminar’s co-founders, is an ex-Catholic priest. These are some of his beliefs about Christ and the New Testament:

Crossan suggests Jesus was an illiterate “Jewish Cynic from a landless peasant background, initially a follower of John the Baptist.[citation needed] Jesus was a healer and man of great wisdom and courage who taught a message of inclusiveness, tolerance, and liberation. “His strategy . . . was the combination of free healing and common eating . . . that negated the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power . . . He was neither broker nor mediator but . . . the announcer that neither should exist between humanity and divinity or humanity and itself.”[3]

Out of his study of cross-attestation and strata of the ancient texts, Crossan asserts that many of the gospel stories of Jesus are not factual, including his “nature miracles”, the virgin birth, and the raising of Lazarus.[citation needed] While pointing out the meager attestation and apparent belatedness of the miracles’ appearance in the trajectory of the canon, Crossan takes the opposite view, that Jesus was known during earliest Christianity as a powerful magician, which was “a very problematic and controversial phenomenon not only for his enemies but even for his friends,” who began washing miracles out of the tradition early on.[citation needed]

Those choosing to put their faith in such theories would do well to ask whether this is what early doctors of the Church agreed upon and what faithful Christians have believed for nearly 2,000 years.

Unfortunately, among the aforementioned quasi-agnostic Anglicans of my limited acquaintance is an aged priest who finds The Shack more credible than John’s Gospel. He said that it was hard to believe that Peter could walk on water towards Jesus. Why is that so hard to believe? Sorry, I’ll just never manage this level of Gnostic sophistication. Thank goodness.

The 17th century view of Luke

One of the reasons I enjoy relying on Matthew Henry’s commentary is that we find out what clergy knew and believed in the 17th and 18th centuries. When introducing books of the Bible, Henry included any differences of opinion. Here he is on Luke:

We are now entering into the labours of another evangelist; his name Luke, which some take to be a contraction of Lucilius; born at Antioch, so St. Jerome. Some think that he was the only one of all the penmen of the scripture that was not of the seed of Israel. He was a Jewish proselyte, and, as some conjecture, converted to Christianity by the ministry of St. Paul at Antioch; and after his coming into Macedonia (Acts 16:10) he was his constant companion. He had employed himself in the study and practice of physic; hence, Paul calls him Luke the beloved Physician, Col. 4:14. Some of the pretended ancients tell you that he was a painter, and drew a picture of the virgin Mary. But Dr. Whitby thinks that there is nothing certain to the contrary, and that therefore it is probable that he was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of Christ when he was here upon earth; and, if so, he was a native Israelite. I see not what can be objected against this, except some uncertain traditions of the ancients, which we can build nothing upon, and against which may be opposed the testimonies of Origen and Epiphanius, who both say that he was one of the seventy disciples. He is supposed to have written this gospel when he was associated with St. Paul in his travels, and by direction from him: and some think that this is the brother whom Paul speaks of (2 Co. 8:18), whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches of Christ; as if the meaning of it were, that he was celebrated in all the churches for writing this gospel; and that St. Paul means this when he speaks sometimes of his gospel, as Rom. 2:16. But there is no ground at all for this. Dr. Cave observes that his way and manner of writing are accurate and exact, his style polite and elegant, sublime and lofty, yet perspicuous; and that he expresses himself in a vein of purer Greek than is to be found in the other writers of the holy story. Thus he relates divers things more copiously than the other evangelists; and thus he especially treats of those things which relate to the priestly office of Christ. It is uncertain when, or about what time, this gospel was written. Some think that it was written in Achaia, during his travels with Paul, seventeen years (twenty-two years, say others) after Christ’s ascension; others, that it was written at Rome, a little before he wrote his history of the Acts of the Apostles (which is a continuation of this), when he was there with Paul, while he was a prisoner, and preaching in his own hired house, with which the history of the Acts concludes; and then Paul saith that only Luke was with him, 2 Tim. 4:11. When he was under that voluntary confinement with Paul, he had leisure to compile these two histories (and many excellent writings the church has been indebted to a prison for): if so, it was written about twenty-seven years after Christ’s ascension, and about the fourth year of Nero. Jerome says, He died when he was eighty-four years of age, and was never married. Some write that he suffered martyrdom; but, if he did, where and when is uncertain. Nor indeed is there much more credit to be given to the Christian traditions concerning the writers of the New Testament than to the Jewish traditions concerning those of the Old Testament.

More on the traditional belief in Luke’s authorship

In 1998, John MacArthur introduced the Gospel of Luke to his congregation:

If I asked you to tell me all you know about Luke, you would probably say…”Well, he was a doctor, a physician.” You’d be right. But there might not be another sentence because we don’t know much about Luke. It is amazing to think about Luke, apart from the Apostle Paul, was the most influential force in writing the New Testament. In fact, the writings of Luke which come in two volumes…volume one is the gospel of Luke, volume two is the book of Acts…add up to 52 chapters. The gospel of Luke is the longest of all the gospel narratives and therefore it’s the most thorough and complete ...

This is real history accurately recorded. It is sound theology logically developed. Luke identifies what he writes in verse 4 of chapter 1 of exact truth…exact truth. It isn’t fantasy, it isn’t his own spiritual musings. It isn’t some effort on his part to concoct a tale or to build a legend. What he is giving is history and theology that is exact.

Luke is never mentioned in this gospel and he’s never mentioned in the prologue. But we’re going to learn everything we can learn about him, even though he’s not mentioned here. Now if you’re saying, “Well wait a minute, it says it’s the gospel according to Luke right before verse 1,” but that’s not in the actual text of Scripture, that was placed there because of the conviction of the church that in fact he did write this, although nowhere in his gospel and nowhere in the book of Acts does he personally identify himself as the author.

Now that’s an interesting dilemma for us. But it makes for fascinating history to dig into it …  you’re going to meet Luke the physician, Luke the historian, Luke the theologian, and Luke the pastor ...

According to early tradition the gospel, the third gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the third gospel has always been attributed to Luke…always called Luke, never called anything else, never was there a suggestion of any other author …

The oldest Greek manuscript of the gospel, a second-century manuscript, the oldest Greek manuscript in existence goes back to the second century titles this “The gospel according to Luke.” Very, very likely accurate that early. There is a canon…when we say a canon we’re talking about a compilation of the scriptures. The earliest compilation of New Testament scriptures where it was all brought together is called the Muriturian Canon, it’s 170 to 180 A.D. and it calls this third gospel the gospel according to Luke. And there are many other ancient sources that I won’t take you in to that affirm that Luke is the author.

Very little reason to be suspicious of that from the traditional side. But let’s look at the textual side, okay?

In this gospel we notice something interesting. It is addressed in verse 3 to a man named Theophilus. Verse 3 it says, “I’m going to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus.” So this is addressed to Theophilus.

Look at Acts now. Turn over to the book of Acts chapter 1 verse 1. In Acts chapter 1 verse 1 it says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach and I composed it all the way till the day He was ascended into heaven when He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” Well, what is he saying? He’s saying I wrote the third gospel…right?…to Theophilus. Again he says, “Theophilus, the first account I composed and it was all about what Jesus began to do and teach,” and then the writer goes on to write the book of Acts. So the conclusion is this, whoever wrote Acts wrote the third gospel. Whoever wrote the first account to Theophilus refers to himself as having written that first account to Theophilus and then proceeds to write the book of Acts.

Throughout the book of Acts we come across the author identifying himself with what’s going on. He’s not even…he’s not writing as a…as a historian looking back at something he didn’t experience. He wasn’t there during the life of Christ. He was not an apostle. He was not an eye witness to those events. But he is an eye witness to the things he’s writing about in the book of Acts and the reason we know that is because starting in chapter 16 he starts to use the plural pronoun “we” and he’s right involved in the ministry of the apostle Paul which, as you know, starts in Acts 14 and goes to the end of the [book]. And we keep reading “we did this and we went there and we were here and we did this and that,” and the “we” sections have become very famous because the author is saying I was there, I went where Paul went, I went where Mark and Aristarchus and these others who were with Paul went…we were doing this and we were doing that. The “we” sections start in chapter 16 and run all the way to the end of the book. He’s there all the way from Paul’s second journey to the very end of the book of Acts where Paul is a prisoner in Rome in his first Roman imprisonment.

So whoever the author of Acts is he was Paul’s traveling companion from chapter 16, his second journey when he had a vision from God to go to Macedonia and preach the gospel. He’s there from that time all the way up to the end of the book of Acts. He’s there when Paul was a prisoner in his first imprisonment in Rome, and follow this, later on, Paul years after that had a second imprisonment in Rome referred to in 2 Timothy and there he was beheaded and martyred. And at that point 2 Timothy chapter 4 at the very end of Paul’s life during his second imprisonment after the first one, the first one’s at the end of Acts, a later imprisonment referred to and indicated in 2 Timothy, Luke is also there. So really Luke was with Paul from the time of his second missionary journey, the time when he was at Philippi and Troas, the time recorded in Acts 16, to the end of his life…to the end of his life. Long-term companion of Paul who was even there in Paul’s final imprisonment and martyrdom.

So in much of what is recorded in the book of Acts, certainly the dominant part of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, he was a witness to a lot of it. While not an eyewitness to the gospel account, he was an eye witness to much of what he is recording in the book of Acts ...

Matthew and John then were apostles. The gospel of Matthew, the gospel of John written by apostles. Luke and Mark were not apostles but they were companions of the apostles. Luke was Paul’s companion and Mark was Peter’s companion. And all four of those accounts God inspired to give us the fullest and richest understanding of the glory of the life of Jesus Christ.

Luke as a person

MacArthur went on to explain more about Luke as a person:

We don’t know anything about what he did. All those years traveling with Paul never tells us what he did, doesn’t tell us whether he preached a sermon or taught a class or arranged travel arrangements … we would just have to speculate on that because there’s nothing there. But in Colossians 4 and verse 14 this is the only…this is the only real personal characteristic that we know about. It just says this, “Luke the beloved physician sends you his greetings.” So all we know about him in terms of his own life is that he was a physician…he was a physician, not just a physician but a beloved physician.

If you go back to verse 11, we’ll take it a little further cause we’re going to dig into his medical background, at least as far as we can. Back in to verse 11 of Colossians 4 it mentions in the middle of the verse “those who are from the circumcision…those who are from the circumcision.” Paul had some companions who were Jewish. He names them, verse 10, Aristarchus, Mark, a man in verse 11 named Jesus Justus, but he says there, “These are the only fellow workers for the Kingdom of God who are from the circumcision.” That is they were the only Jewish ones, so we therefore conclude that the rest are … Gentiles. And he names them, verse 12 is Epaphras who would have been a Gentile, and verse 14, Luke the beloved physician. He set apart from those that were Jewish of the circumcision as a Gentile. So we know this, he was a physician, he was a Gentile physician.

He was a Gentile physician. There are four other indications of that. His name is Lucas which is a Greek word indicating his Greek origin, his Gentile origin. He writing language and style, as I told you, is distinctively Greek and it is that of a Greek with a high level of education, it is a vocabulary similar to classic Greek writers. Furthermore in writing his gospel Luke does something very interesting, we’ll see it as we go through it. He avoids common semitic or Hebraic expressions and substitutes for them expressions out of the Septuagint which is a Greek translation. So he’s much more at home with Greek than he is with Hebrew. And even when there is a Hebrew or semitic expression, Matthew, Mark and John would use the Hebraic version where Luke would use the Greek version of that same expression.

Also, he makes a major point out of showing how God’s salvation reaches Gentiles…both in the book of Luke and the book of Acts. He reveals his concern for his people, the Gentile people. So we conclude then that he was a Gentile, he was therefore a Gentile physician trained in some Gentile environment. We don’t know where he came from although there are some traditions back to Eusebius and Jerome, early church fathers, that he came from Antioch…Antioch and Syria, Antioch in the north and Syria …

The beloved aspect just indicates to us that he was an endearing man, that he was a man who had charmed, as it were, the heart of the apostle Paul and come to be to him a beloved man. Obviously if he left his practice to be a missionary and travel all those years with the apostle Paul, we can assume that he continued to be Paul’s personal private physician. And for the oft ill and oft injured Paul, that was some luxury. And to have a man who was not only a physician but beloved was a double blessing. And isn’t it interesting that as often as Luke must have ministered to Paul, he never ever mentions that he did that? Again you see the heart of this man is a heart of humility. So he was a beloved physician. And we can surmise that he may have come from training in Antioch, he may even have heard the gospel and been converted to Christ in that place. He became the beloved physician of the apostle Paul.

Though he left his medical practice, when you study the gospel of Luke you see Luke’s interest in those matters that are physical, those healings that Jesus did. Those miracles that Jesus did in the physical real he views them uniquely. In fact, just one illustration and I won’t get in to too many of these, just one I’ll give you. There was a woman who came to Jesus with a disease and it says, one of the other gospel writers says, “She had suffered many things at the hands of many physicians.” Luke leaves that line out. So that will give you the idea that he viewed things maybe a little uniquely. But he gives high profile to Jesus’ healing ministry and how he viewed that. And as I said, he must have been a marvelous help to the apostle Paul.

Now Luke is mentioned there in Colossians. That is…that’s the first time he is mentioned in our little look at this. Go to Philemon, the little book, Philemon. This is the second time he’s mentioned and there’s only three … verse 23 he mentions Epaphras, he always had these guys with him, Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers. That’s all we know. That’s it. He was a fellow worker …

The third and the only other time he is mentioned in Scripture is in 2 Timothy 4 … and this is at the end of Paul’s life. This is the last thing Paul ever wrote. He was about to be martyred for the cause of Christ. He was executed in Rome. And this is wonderful, verse 11 of chapter 4, “Only Luke is with me.” Boy, that’s sad. Down in verse 16 he said everybody deserted him, everybody. Why? Nero had cranked up the persecution to a high level and Christians were paying with their lives. And frankly, many believers had fled from Rome. And, you know, they might have had a reasonable motive to do that, to carry on the preaching of the gospel. It’s not that they were all just cowards. But Luke didn’t go. Everybody left. And there was a lot of desertion. Demas left him because he loved the present world, verse 10 says. And you do get the idea that some of the rest left in desertion from verse 16, but he says, “May it not be counted against them.” But not Luke…loyal, faithful, brave, long-term friend, fellow worker, companion to Paul, been with Paul over years and years and years, been with Paul over hundreds and probably thousands of miles of walking …

But secondly, and I’m just going to introduce this, I want you to look at Luke the historian. We don’t know all about the features of that part of his life. We don’t know much about Luke the physician. We know a lot about Luke the historian because of the two volumes of history that he wrote. He was an exceptional historian with a brilliant mind…careful, thoughtful. Verse 1 of this gospel that we now know he wrote, it says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us…”

What’s he doing here? He’s saying, “Look, folks, I’m speaking to you as a historian. I’m writing as a historian.” He uses, as I told you, that high-level classical literary Greek to establish the fact that this belongs on the library shelf with the classics. I am writing a true and legitimate history. And he starts by identifying his sources. This is sort of like putting your footnotes in general at the beginning rather than at the bottom of the page or at the end. The events of Jesus’ life, he said, have become the subject for many writers. Many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us …

There may have been many, myriads of things that had been written about Jesus and, of course, Matthew and Mark were both most likely written before Luke’s gospel. They were likely among the many sources that Luke had carefully, carefully investigated. So perhaps…and because he knew Mark…Mark also was a close companion of Paul. Mark traveled with Paul. Luke traveled with Paul. Mark and Luke must have discussed many times the issues in the life of Jesus. And, of course, Mark knew Matthew because Matthew was a part of the early church as an apostle, and the early church it says met in Mark’s home. So Matthew and Mark knew each other, and Mark and Luke knew each other. And Matthew and Luke likely met and got acquainted in the two years that…that Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea when Luke would have had easy access to go to Jerusalem and there, no doubt, would have met Matthew. And they perhaps shared their accounts and shared their experiences with the life of Jesus. And he was exposed to many sources.

This is very important so that people realize, the reader realizes this is not a fanciful thing. But he is basing this on other written narratives, as well oral stories and accounts that have been passed down to his time. But Luke was personally acquainted with apostles, personally acquainted with firsthand eye witnesses of the events of Christ’s life.

Now it’s important to say at this juncture that Luke is not critical of these other attempts. He’s not saying where there’s a lot of phoney baloney floating around about Jesus, I’m going to write the straight stuff. This is not…this is not pejorative here, this is not some polemic against the others. Not at all. The reason … he talks about his sources is twofold.

One, to show he’s a credible historian, to show that he is not inventing something, to show that this is history he is writing, this is actual fact and he has gone back to carefully thought-out accounts and various memoirs and things that have been written by people who were eye witnesses and this is a very careful thing on his part. He has talked to the eye witnesses and the servants of the Word who have handed this down to him. He wants to establish himself as the writer of a credible history based upon credible sources.

Secondly, this is very important, he is showing that he’s not writing outside the tradition. He is not writing outside the tradition. He is not writing another gospel that tells some kind of a strange story. Boy, there were some of those that appeared, really strange things were being written about Jesus even in ancient times, very strange things…heretical things, apocryphal things. He is not doing that …

When were Luke and Acts written?

Here, too, we find that even traditional theologians differ as to an exact year. However, all would agree that both — as were the other two Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark) — were written before the Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

CARM has a good article discussing the authorship and dates of the Gospels. Of Luke, they say:

Luke was written before the book of Acts and Acts does not mention “Nero’s persecution of the Christians in A.D. 64 or the deaths of James (A.D. 62), Paul (A.D. 64), and Peter (A.D. 65).”8  Therefore, we can conclude that Luke was written before A.D. 62.   “Luke’s Gospel comes (Acts 1:1) before the Acts.  The date of Acts is still in dispute, but the early date (about A.D. 63) is gaining support constantly.”9

New Testament Research has a excellent detailed breakdown of parallels in Luke and Acts.

I hope that this exploration of St Luke gives you greater insight into his Gospel as well as the Book of Acts.

Forbidden Bible Verses resumes tomorrow with more about what happened prior to Jesus’s birth according to Luke.

Continuing with Richard Wurmbrand‘s book, Marx and Satan, Chapter 8 recounts satanic masses which the Communists held.

He also tells us what oaths satanists take during initiation rites.  We may think that this has little to do with us, however, we will find that these ancient oaths have become, surprisingly, today’s familiar slogans.  In fact, one was actively promoted in 1968 by the German student in Paris who is now a French (Green) politician in the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who, earlier in his career, was a teacher’s aide, preoccupied with children’s sexuality.  Note that in 2008, a New York Times article lauded Cohn-Bendit’s prominent role in the 1968 student demonstrations (at the same link).  Cohn-Bendit probably did not stumble on these oaths by chance — only a few years before he had been a member of an anarchist society. After the student demonstrations, France deported him to Germany (still possible in those days), where he ended up working at the Karl Marx bookstore in Frankfurt.  It was at that time that he started work in the crèche.

On a personal note, I recognise from my own acquaintance a number of people who believe that kindness and gentleness are signs of weakness, something to be laughed at and taken advantage of.  I find this type of thinking more common, especially among those under the age of 30.  It is chilling to encounter.  Also note the empathy on the part of many governments and ‘experts’ who are more empathetic towards addicts, cheats and criminals than they are to sober, law-abiding, self-reliant taxpayers.  We are all being influenced — through schools and the media — to accept sin and aberration as normal and to view the normal as somehow deficient or repressiveThis chapter helps to explain why.

But, it’s also worth noting how Marx’s thinking has helped to shape postmodern society, with its moral and intellectual relativism: think and do what you like — there are no absolute truths.  I know a number of clergy and lay pastors who agree! 

Although this chapter begins on page 65, the following excerpts come from pages 68 – 73 of the book, available for free on Scribd. Subheads are as in the original, text emphases are mine.

Chapter Eight – Angels of Light

Public black masses are rare today, but Stefan Zweig in his biography of Fouché describes one held in Lyon during the French Revolution.

A revolutionary, Chaber, had been killed, and the black mass was celebrated in his honor. On that day crucifixes were torn from all the altars and priestly robes were confiscated. A huge crowd of men carrying a bust of the revolutionary descended on the marketplace. Three proconsuls were there to honor Chaber, “the God-Savior who died for the people.”

The crowd carried chalices, holy images, and utensils used in the mass. Behind them was an ass wearing a bishops mitre on its head. A crucifix and a Bible had been tied to its tail …

The Russian magazine Iunii Kommunist describes in detail a Satanist mass in which bread and wine, mixed with dung and tears taken from operating on the eyes of a living cock, are “transubstantiated” into the alleged body and blood of Lucifer …

The Communist magazine continues:

In this devilish antiworld, which externally is completely like ours, man must reply with evil to every success in life.

Then it brazenly affirms the following as the slogan of Satanism: “Satan is not the foe of man. He is Life, Love, Light.”

This insidious material is presented in a subtle manner as if to provide information, but its real aim is to arouse the reader’s morbid curiosity, with ravaging effects …

During the initiation ceremony for the third degree in the Satanist church, the initiate has to take the oath, “I will always do only what I will.” In other words, there is no authority beyond the polluted self. This is an open denial of Gods commandment, “… seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, afterwhich you used to go a whoring” (Numbers 15:39)

Marxists appeal to the basest passions, stirring up envy toward the rich and violence toward everyone. “It is the evil side which makes history,” wrote Marx, and he played a major role in shaping history.

Revolutions do not cause love to triumph. Rather, killing becomes a mania. In the Russian and Chinese revolutions, after the Communists had murdered tens of millions of innocents, they could not stop murdering and brutally killed one another.

Is everything permitted?

The Satanist cult is very old, older than Christianity. The prophet Isaiah might have had it in view when he wrote, “We have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him (the Savior) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

True religious feeling is at the opposite pole. Certain Hassidic rabbis never said “I,” because they considered it a pronoun that belonged only to God. His will is binding on human behavior.

By contrast, when a man or woman is initiated into the seventh degree of Satanism, he swears that his principle will be, “Nothing is true, and everything is permitted.” When Marx filled out a quiz game for his daughter, he answered the question “Which is your favorite principle?” with the words, “Doubt every thing.”

Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto that his aim was the abolition not only of all religions, but also of all morals, which would make everything permissible.

It was with a sense of horror that I read the mystery of the seventh degree of Satanism inscribed on a poster at the University of Paris during the 1968 riots. It had been simplified to the formula, “It is forbidden to forbid,” which is the natural consequence of “Nothing is true, and everything is permissible.”

The youth obviously did not realize the stupidity of the formula. If it is forbidden to forbid, it must also be forbidden to forbid forbidding. If everything is permissible, forbidding is permissible, too.

Young people think that permissiveness means liberty. Marxists know better. To them, the formula means that it is forbidden to forbid cruel dictatorships like those in Red China and the Soviet Union.

Dostoyevski had said it already: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” If there is no God, our instincts are free. The ultimate expression of this kind of liberty is hatred. Whoever is free in this sense considers loving-kindness a weakness of the spirit.

Engels said, “Generalized love of men is absurdity.” The anarchist thinker Max Stirner, author of The I and I is Property and one of Marx’s friends, wrote, “I am legitimately authorized to do everything I am capable of.”

Communism is collective demon-possession. Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago reveals some of its horrid a results in the souls a[n]d lives of people.

The Mythical Marx

Let me say again that I am conscious that the evidence I have given to date may be considered circumstantial. But what I have written is enough to show that what Marxists say about Karl Marx is a myth. He is not prompted by concern for the poverty of his fellowmen, for which revolution was the only solution. He did not love the proletariat, but called them “nuts,” “stupid,” “asses,” “rascals,” even obscenities. He did not even love his comrades in the fight for communism. He called Freiligrath “the swine,” Lassalle “Jewish n—er,” Bakunin “a theoretical zero.”

A Lieutenant Tchekhov, a fighter in the revolution of 1848 who spent nights drinking with Marx, commented that Marx’s narcissism had devoured everything good that had been in him.

Marx certainly did not love mankind. Giuseppe Mazzini, who knew him well, wrote that he had “a destructive spirit. His heart bursts with hatred rather than with love toward men.”

Mazzini was himself a “Carbonari.” This organization, founded in 1815 by Maghella, a Genoan Freemason, declared its “final aim to be that of Voltaire and of the French Revolution – the complete annihilation of Catholicism and ultimately of Christianity.” It began as an Italian operation, but subsequently developed a broader European orientation.

Though Mazzini was critical of Marx, he maintained his friendship with him. The Jewish Encyclopedia says that Mazzini and Marx were entrusted with the task of preparing the address and the constitution of the First International. This means that they were birds of the same feather, though they sometimes pecked at each other.

I know of no testimonies from Marx’s contemporaries that contradict Mazzini’s evaluation. Marx the loving man is a myth constructed only after his death

Marx did not hate religion because it stood in the way of the happiness of mankind. On the contrary, he simply wanted to make mankind unhappy in this world and throughout eternity. He proclaimed this as his ideal. His avowed aim was the destruction of religion. Socialism, concern for the proletariat, humanism these were only pretexts.

After Marx had read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, he wrote a letter to Lassalle in which he exults that God– in the natural sciences at least– had been given “the death blow.” What idea, then, preempted all others in Marx’s mind? Was it the plight of the poor proletariat? If so, of what possible value was Darwin’s theory? The only tenable conclusion is that Marx’s chief aim was the destruction of religion.

The good of the workers was only a pretense. Where proletarians do not fight for Socialist ideals, Marxists will exploit racial differences or the so-called generation gap. The main thing is, religion must be destroyed.

Marx believed in hell. And his program, the driving force in his life, was to send men to hell.

Robin Goodfellow

Marx wrote,

In the signs that bewilder the middle class, the aristocracy, a[n]d the prophets of regression, we recognize our brave friend, Robin Goodfellow, the old mole that can work in the earth so fast – the revolution.

Scholars who have read this apparently never looked into the identity of this Robin Goodfellow, Marx’s brave friend, the worker for revolution.

The sixteenth-century evangelist William Tyndale used Robin Goodfellow as a name for the Devil. Shakespeare in his Midsummer Night’s Dream called him “the knavish spirit that misleads night wanderers, laughing at their harm.”

Thus, according to Marx, considered the father of communism, a demon was the author of the Communist revolution and was his personal friend.

Lenin’s Tomb

In his revelation to St. John, Jesus said something very mysterious to the church in Pergamos (a city in Asia Minor): “I know … where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is” (Revelation 2:13). Pergamos was apparently a center of the Satanist cult in that period. Now the world-famous Baedecker tourist guidebooks for Berlin state that the Island Museum contained the Pergamos altar of Zeus until 1944. German archaeologists had excavated it, and it had been in the center of the Nazi capital during Hitler’sSatanist regime.

But the saga of the seat of Satan is not yet over. Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm) for January 27, 1948 reveals that:

1. The Soviet army, after the conquest of Berlin, carried off the Pergamos altar from Germany to Moscow. This tremendous structure measures 127 feet long by 120 feet wide by forty feet high.

Surprisingly, the altar has not been exhibited in any Soviet museum

We have already indicated that men in the top echelons of the Soviet hierarchy practiced Satanist rituals. Did they reserve the Pergamos altar for their private use? There are many unanswered questions. Suffice it to say that objects of such high archaeological value usually do not disappear, but are the pride of museums.

2. The architect, Stjusev, who built Lenin’s mausoleum, used this altar of Satan as a model for the mausoleum in 1924.

Many visitors wait in line every day to visit this sanctuary of Satan in which Lenin’s mummy lies in state. Religious leaders of the whole world pay their homage to the Marxist “patron saint” in this monument erected to Satan.

The Satanist temple at Pergamos was only one of the many of its kind. Why did Jesus single it out? Probably not because of the minor role it played at that time. Rather, His words were prophetic. He spoke about nazism and communism, through which this altar would be honored.

It is worth noting with irony that on the grave of Lenin’s father there stood a cross with the inscription “The light of Christ illuminates all” and a multitude of Bible verses.

Tomorrow: Chapter Nine – Whom Will We Serve?

Yesterday, we examined diaprax — dialectic + praxis. Christian author and  researcher Dean Gotcher coined the word diaprax after intensive study of Marxist influences in the church.  Today, we look at other aspects of the church which lend themselves to diaprax.

Cell groups

Rick Warren is fond of the small — or cell — group.  It’s often used for Bible study or prayer.  It works like a workshop in that the leader is the non-judgmental facilitator who wishes to guide the group from thesis through to synthesis.  Smaller Alpha groups work along this model.

I was sorry to read that the traditional, Reformed Anglicans Ablaze appears to support small groups.  Recently, its author, Robin Jordan, featured a ‘message’ from Rick Warren on the importance of this type of ministry:

Here is a message Rick sent to the Saddleback family explaining why small groups are so important to a believer’s spiritual growth. You’re welcome to adapt it for your own congregation —

It’s the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family.

It’s a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. You learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor” (1 Cor. 12:26 NCV). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the connection God intends for us to have (Eph. 4:16, Rom. 12:4–5, Col. 2:19, 1 Cor. 12:25).

REAL fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers—loving them in the same way Jesus loves you.

Hmm.  Well, I did try to warn Mr Jordan (but to no avail) about another emergent programme he touted earlier this year, Fresh Expressions.  I tried to contact him privately but his blog only allowed for Google account holders to post comments.

Of small groups, Dr Robert E Klenck in his essay, ‘The 21st Century Church: Part 3’ says:

[Warren] is aware of research by Lyle Schaller, of the Leadership Network, that shows the relationship between the number of friendships that one has in the church, and the percentage chance then of that person leaving.  Close relationships are formed in the small groups, thus, people are required to participate in them.

And this is a concern.  This type of group then becomes psychologically close.  Warren asks members of these groups to ‘confess’ their sins publically to one another, as the Oxford Group (not Oxford Movement) did in the last century.  Warren’s is known as an ‘accountability group’.

Let’s look at what’s left unsaid in Warren’s push for small groups.  It’s about church unity, which will become increasingly important as we move towards a worldwide Christian Church.  It is in small groups where that ‘unity’ can take root and where submission to the accountability group through public confession of sins effects this relationship. It’s all rather … cultish. Instead of focussing on God for salvation through the Holy Spirit and the Word, the small group member (unless he is the leader) looks to the group for affirmation, correction and forgiveness. The horror.

Imagine mentioning in passing during one of these gatherings that you disagreed with an aspect of the service on a Sunday morning.  The small group is there to monitor your behaviour and responses.  Expect to be corrected and brought into line with the received ‘paradigm’ of the small group, and by extension, your church at large.  Church unity is all, even when that church is in error.

Unbelievers and ‘felt needs’

Like his mentor, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren also surveyed potential members of his congregation early in his ministry.  He focused only on the unbelievers and, like Schuller, constructed his church around their ‘felt needs’.  ‘Felt needs’ are highly important to diaprax, which eschews what we would call ‘fundamental’, ‘eternal’ or ‘absolute’ truths.  There is no truth.  What may be true today may not be true tomorrow.  We must change constantly.

Warren’s secular guru, Peter Drucker, may have had an even larger role to play in the church growth movement (CGM) than Schuller.  Dr Klenck notes (emphasis in the original):

He holds a doctorate of theology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary – one of the strongest proponents of the church growth movement.

Organizational management “guru” Peter Drucker, who is very involved in this movement, stated:

“…noncustomers are as important as customers, if not more important:  because they are potential customers. … Yet it is with the noncustomers that changes always start.”[6]

Thus, in this movement, it is imperative that unbelievers are brought into the church; otherwise, the process of continual change cannot begin There must be an antithesis (unbelievers) present to oppose the thesis (believers), in order to move towards consensus (compromise), and move the believers away from their moral absolutism (resistance to change).  If all members of the church stand firm on the Word of God, and its final authority in all doctrine and tradition, then the church cannot and will not change.  This is common faith.

The tension must be present, otherwise we cannot move away from orthodox Christianity towards … a man-oriented church unity through a worldwide religious organisation.

Leaving God out of it

Bob Buford, another of Peter Drucker’s followers, started the Leadership Network in 1984, designed to put church leaders in touch with each other.  Note what its mission and values statement reads in part (emphases mine):

The mission of the Leadership Network is to accelerate the emergence of the 21st-century church.  We believe the emerging paradigm of the 21st century church calls for the development of new tools and resources as well as the equipping of a new type of 21st century church leader, both clergy and laity.  This new paradigm is not centered in theology but rather it is focused on structure, organization, and the transition from an institutionally based church to a mission-driven church.  We value innovation that leads to results …

God the Father?  Christ crucified and risen?  The Holy Spirit?  Grace?  Scripture?  Hellooo?

Have a look in Dr Klenck’s essay and scroll halfway down to see that neither God the Father nor His Son appears in the increasingly-used circular ‘core’ diagram.

TQM fine for the secular world

Having spent several years not only working in quality assurance but holding international certification, I can say that there is nothing wrong with Peter Drucker’s TQM for goods and business processes.  If, like Dr Klenck, you think there is, consider the reliability of everyday objects that you use: lightbulbs, cars and — in his case — surgical instruments.

I do agree with him that TQM has no place in the religious world at all.  In that case, yes, ‘total’ would mean ‘totalitarian’, whereas in a manufacturing plant or services company, it ensures that you get repeatable, measurable, reliable results every time.

Peter Drucker’s error

This is where Peter Drucker has gone wrong.  To him, a church (or another religious house of worship) is like a restaurant or shop which relies on what’s known as ‘footfall’, or ‘lots of traffic’.  In reality, some churches are smaller.  Some are larger.  What’s important is that they are pure and follow God’s holy Scripture.  Yet, Drucker said in an interview:

Consider the pastoral megachurches that have been growing so very fast in the U.S. since 1980 and are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last 30 years. There are now some 20,000 of them, and while traditional denominations have steadily declined, the megachurches have exploded. They have done so because they asked, “What is value?” to a nonchurchgoer and came up with answers the older churches had neglected. They have found that value to the consumer of church services is very different from what churches traditionally were supplying. The greatest value to the thousands who now throng the megachurches—both weekdays and Sundays—is a spiritual experience rather than a ritual.

Hmm.  How many orthodox Christians attend church and ask, ‘Did I receive value for money here today?’  Frankly, I don’t think a seeker would either, although he probably goes back because there’s free popcorn, coffee and a pastor who walks the stage and works the audience like a comedian.  A pretty good show.

It’s about the money

I mentioned before that CGM is very much focussed on money.  In time, probably when most of us will be too elderly to blog or the Internet is restricted to the elite, church members’ tithes and financial contributions will go towards providing welfare for the world.  This is what the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) intends, anyway.

Already, Anglican parishes in England are sending in a proportion of their donations annually to the diocese for various programmes for the disadvantaged.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with that, some objections must be brewing among those in the pews.  A couple of years ago, our church was asked to complete a survey, giving our views on how much we would like for the diocese to have and towards what programmes.  I can imagine that this came as a surprise to many on the parish electoral roll.

Dr Klenck notes:

The Leadership Network recommends numerous materials and research studies to pastors that are geared towards maximizing the amount of tithing, pledging, and giving in the church.  One of the “masters” of “stewardship” is John Maxwell.  Mr. Maxwell is the former pastor of Skyline Community Church, in San Diego, CA, and founded Injoy Ministries, a church consulting firm.

What next for the Church?

Part of the reason money is so important, is that the Church is set to become just another service industry.  Christ’s holy Bride sounds very much like a business when Bob Buford’s Leadership Network describes Her (emphases mine):

Partnerships, alliances and collaboration will become the norm, rather than the exception, and the relationships will be built on new loyalties and a new common mission. … The next movement will grow people, not parking lots. … These same people are in the congregations of the 21st century and they are going to be the “point people” for the partnerships and alliances that will achieve the vision beyond the property line.”

and Buford says:

The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation.

Don’t forget that one of the reasons why many CGM churches have a register of members’ professions and ‘spiritual gifts’ is that the government or the UN might one day require access to that information in order to evaluate how well a church is working with it on secular schemes for food, health clinics or day care.  So, if you start such a registry at the beginning, especially if you wish to encourage people to join personal accountability groups, you’ve laid the groundwork for future record-keeping and inspection. As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise to either the member or the church administration.

Tomorrow: Biblical reasons why you should avoid diaprax and CGM

A number of orthodox Christian blogs, including this one, have explored the postmodern Church.  We’ve mentioned names, techniques and genres of ‘doing church’ but few have explored what exactly is happening and how it happens.

In short, all these movements — e.g. church growth, emergent — have their roots in a combination of dialectic and praxis, which one Christian, Dean Gotcher, combined as ‘diaprax’.  Diaprax is common not only in the Church but in the world at large.  Its goal is to set all of us on the road to constant compromise and continuous change.  It is designed to promote unity from diversity and to get rid of tradition and ‘divisiveness’.

First, a review of dialectic in a Christian context.  Do keep in mind that every step along the way is designed to inch the believer further away from the inerrancy of the Bible and his confessions of faith.

How diaprax works

Dr Robert Klenck, an orthopaedic surgeon in Los Angeles, contributes to Mr Gotcher’s Institution for Authority Research and, like him, has studied diaprax closely in relation to the trends we see in our churches today.  In ‘The 21st Century Church: Part 3’, he explains (emphases mine throughout):

Briefly, the Hegelian dialectic process works like this:  a diverse group of people (in the CGM, this is a mixture of believers and unbelievers – thesis and antithesis), gather in a facilitated meeting (with a trained facilitator/”teacher”/group leader), using group dynamics (peer pressure), to discuss a social issue (or dialogue the Word of God), and reach a pre-determined outcome (consensus, or compromise).

When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers, and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of the Word of God has been watered down, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebrate) their compromise.  This [new synthesis] becomes the starting point [thesis] for the next meeting.  The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God.  The fear of man then overrides the fear of God.

This process is similar to workshops you might have participated in at work.  The principles are identical.  A facilitator leads the group.  He has a set agenda, given to him by a manager (or a pastor, in the case of a church).  However, he asks people what they hope to ‘get’ out of the session, although his questions will help engineer the desired agenda outcome.  Then, as is true with workplace workshops, a number of discussions take place and, inevitably, conflict arises.

People stating their positions or beliefs on an issue is what is known as thesis.  Conflict, roughly speaking, is antithesis (against the thesis, or belief).  The facilitator brings about synthesis by getting everyone to arrive at a common position.  It might not be 100% to everyone’s liking, but it is one that people will largely agree upon. It will also be one that is man-centred, because, as we shall see tomorrow and have seen in my Gramsci posts, nothing is more threatening to the Marxist than faith in God, Christianity and the traditional family under the authority of God and His Son.  Gramsci believed that Christianity fostered the continuance of:

the Western values of individual liberty, private property, and the traditional family, and must be abolished in order for the new communist society to emerge.

Let us say (in an Anglican context) the issue debated is one of bringing a female curate (assistant priest) on board. The church wardens meet to discuss it. Among their number is a traditionalist. The vicar (pastor) introduces the topic then leaves it in the hands of the facilitator, perhaps an expert in conflict resolution paid for by the diocese. A day’s workshop can engineer consensus among the church wardens, as they move from the traditionalist’s thesis — especially that which is expressed in Jesus’s First Cause language, ‘It is written’ — through to conflict (antithesis) and concluding with a postmodern resolution (synthesis) on the part of the traditionalist.

Says the traditionalist at the end of the afternoon, ‘Gosh, I might have been a bit short-sighted on this issue.  I’m sorry.  Yes, if it’s the right woman, I’m sure I could be persuaded.’  Therefore, the door opens just that little bit.  Our traditionalist has started to ‘change with the times’ and puts Scripture slightly off to the side.  The group is happy.  Perhaps they have a glass of sherry afterward.  The traditionalist has gained acceptance — for now.  He is happy to have bonded with his fellow church wardens on this thorny issue.  In finding ‘common ground’, he has pleased man, but perhaps not God.

Yet, although the traditionalist doesn’t realise it, that is only the start.  Dialectic and praxis require continual change in order to meet the times, which are ever-evolving. A few years down the road, he may be further persuaded — again through diaprax — that a new Sunday evening service be started, replacing the traditional Evensong.  The new service would be of an emergent style, to draw in the younger members of the ‘community’, i.e. neighbourhood.  ‘Well, it’s not a big issue, is it?  I understand the youth ministry leader is a very dynamic individual.  We can increase the membership of our church and be seen as a vibrant congregation. It’s all to the good.’  And so, he takes another noticeable step away from orthodoxy and an initial giant step away from traditional liturgy.

Dr Klenck observes that the same method — diaprax — has been used with regard to abortion:

… first, the fact (“what is”) was questioned – what is life?, and does it really begin at conception?  It was decided that as long as the child was not aware of pain, that it was not viable, or really alive.  Now, through incremental change, our society has gotten to the point of tolerating “partial-birth” infanticide.  This would have been unconscionable in the days that Roe v. Wade was decided.

Church buildings and Emergents — for a New Age

And things are always changing.  Think of how church buildings are changing.  Some, like the Crystal Cathedral, are generally recognisable as churches.  Yet others look like big, prefab boxes.  They have no crosses, inside or out.  This is in order that the ‘seeker’ isn’t put off by what he sees.  Many newer churches don’t want people to start thinking about Jesus’ painful death, blood or similar things.  The seeker might then walk away, feeling unsettled.

Dr Gregory Jackson, author of Ichabod, posted on this topic recently.  In ‘Leading Lutheran Moms Astray at The CORE’, he reprinted dialogue among a few women on Facebook who discussed whether they should attend the CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. The CORE is an emergent church affiliated with WELS.  Here is a brief excerpt — certainly worth a read in full:

Imah: We missed our regular church service this morning … I decided we’d try the Core in Appleton.  It’s an outreach congregation and really cool.  The music is very contemporary– in fact, all songs were songs I hear on 91.9 or the Q, 90.1The boys age 9 and 5 were happy to eat popcorn and drink water while listening to the service.  The place was comfortably full and everyone was smiling!!  I highly recommend going to a service.  It was fun!!

Coley22: Personally, I prefer a traditional service and I’ve also heard that The Core isn’t really teaching God’s Word so much. I think it’s a step backwards for the WELS. If a church wants to do something more contemporary, that’s fine, but what good is it if you’re not even teaching God’s Word?

JulieMomof5: Coley22, I hope you actually visit the CORE instead of just listening to rumors…
Just because the CORE focuses on theme-based sermons instead of on the lectionary doesn’t mean it’s not true to Scripture …  The truths of God’s Word are emphasized, in terms that unchurched people can more easily understand (I like that Pastor Ski explains church terms when he uses them!).  The fill-in-the-blank folder makes it easier to remember what was said.  The visuals are used to reinforce the message.  Remember, the CORE’s focus is REACHING OUT to the unchurched.  Pastor Ski likes to remind us not to cause unnecessary offense to others before introducing them to Jesus!  Too often, our “traditional” services risk doing just that.

Popcorn, pop music and avoiding ‘unnecessary offence’ — oh, my.  It was a bit too much to take in.  I had to have a cup of tea and a sit-down after reading that.

Caution — discernment required!

Some of you have been spared attending one of these services.  Dr Klenck describes them:

The presentation is informal …  There are distractions, such as numerous video screens, and the pastor often paces back and forth across the stage, which makes the “real” message that is being taught difficult to discern

The message is ambiguous, sounding reasonable to people who think traditionally, are in transition, or have been trained to think transformationallyOften, half-truths are used (i.e. Christ’s preeminence as a religious leader, but omitting His deity), or “subliminal” messages utilized.  We heard a tape of one pastor who was teaching against Mormonism, and he was stating how they latch on to a verse in the KJV that is an unfortunate translation.  He then stated how “I can show you numerous errors in the King James.”  The message was against Mormonism, but the subliminal message that people took home with them was that the KJV Bible version is unreliable.  We have very little training in listening to what is not being said, and in the atmosphere of distraction described here, this type of discernment is very difficult, and must be pursued vigorously.  Peter Drucker, who plays a large role in this movement is aware of this fact:

The most important thing is communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  Peter Drucker

The pulpit is the ultimate tool for church growth.”  Rick Warren [7]

A tool is used to manipulate objects.  In the same article, Pastor Warren declares that he first considers the needs, hurts, and interests, and then he goes to the Bible to see what it says about their needs.  Once he examines what the Bible says about the subject, he asks himself:  “What is the most practical way to say this?  What is the most positive way to say this?  What is the most encouraging way to say this?  What is the simplest way to say this?  What is the most personal way to say this?  What is the most interesting way to say this?”  In other words, he puts his “spin” on the Blessed Word of God in order to tickle the itching ears of his audience.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Tim 4:3 (KJV)

If Rick Warren’s technique sounds familiar, it’s what his mentor Robert Schuller used over 40 years ago in California.

Tomorrow: Diaprax, small groups and more

In response to yesterday’s post, ‘Seminary curriculum: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WELS)’, Randall Schultz wrote in with his observations and experience of how church growth plays out in reality:

From my minimal reading of church history (as a WELS layman), it appears that denominations fall apart first in the seminaries.

Spot on (as we say here in Blighty).  And that is part of the reason for these posts. I’ll write more about this after I survey a few more seminaries.  I suspect that each denomination is embracing different false teachings.  Certainly, the Episcopalians look towards lifestyle diversity and, it seems, Lutherans are embracing church growth.  More on that later.

In the meantime, let’s hear more from Mr Schultz (emphases mine):

My own experiences and observations are that it is very easy to burn out lay members with leadership, done in the name of getting members involved. I have seen how the lay leaders are constantly being told about the joys of doing “the Lord’s Work”. Meanwhile, they are neglecting their families and down time by constantly attending board and committee meetings. Remember, that many of these men work full time in the secular world.

Also, there is what is known as opportunity cost. What could they be doing with their time if they were not so occupied with hand-wringing while looking at statistical giving data at Stewardship Committee meetings, for example? Family time was already mentioned. How about serious doctrinal study? There is much available, even in the English language. Yes, the “business of the church” is important. There are books to be balanced, property to be maintained, and the many serious membership problems which often arise at Elders’ meetings.

Pardon my rambling, but it is easy to see why so many frivolous activities occur in congregations when pastors are trained in methods and motivation at the seminary. What ever happened to changed hearts as the Holy Spirit works through the Means of Grace?

I would like to share a theory with you as to why all this is happening.  I’m not the first person to say that it seems that today we work longer and harder than ever.  We are doing so because we need to, in order to support ourselves, our families and an ever-growing state.  Then, we are expected to do the same in ‘service’ to the Church.  Consequently, we do not have time with our spouses and families — or, indeed, ourselves.  We spend most of our day following the commands and achieving the targets of others, whether employers or pastors.

The results are threefold: we are too tired to do anything but follow someone else’s orders; our familial relationships suffer; and we stop losing the ability to think critically.  We become part of larger ‘communities’ — our workplace and our church.   Both of these communities tell us that if we do not obey them that we are working against them.  We have individually-set targets by the management — either a boss or a pastor — to achieve on their behalf.  We plight our troth not so much to our spouses as to our communities of work and church.  If we do not, there is the threat of  ‘or else’ — we may lose our jobs or church membership.

This is part of the communitarian model, which the world is rapidly embracing.  Tony Blair promoted it in the Fabian Society’s notion, ‘the third way’.  David Cameron, a Conservative, is promoting it in his ‘Big Society’.   State schools in the US are promoting mandated public service but labelling it ‘voluntary’.

And Rick Warren — the head of the Church Growth Movement — wrote in The Purpose-Driven Church:

I want to stress the importance of continually emphasizing the corporate nature of the Christian life to your members. Preach it, teach it, and talk about it with individuals. We belong together. We need each together. We are connected, joined together as parts of one body. We are family!

Some of you may have read Gene Edward Veith’s Modern Fascism which was published in 1993.  In it he examines how the communitarian model played out in the last century.  The Revd Bob DeWaay revisited the book for Critical Issues Commentary earlier this year.  He warns us that ‘ideas have consequences’.  Let’s take a look:

The key issue is the rejection of a transcendent God who has revealed moral law. The result of such a rejection will most certainly be some form of lawlessness. Recently, radio host and friend Chris Rosebrough called me and insisted that I read Modern Fascism by Gene Veith. Chris suggested the book because it draws a parallel between the ideas popular in Germany between World Wars I and II and the ideas popular in America today. These ideas now are called “postmodern,” [and were promoted] by Martin Heidegger, a popular German philosopher who became a committed fascist …

I do not claim that those who promote postmodern theology are guilty of promoting fascism, but I do claim that ideas have consequences. As we examine the ideas that led to fascism, we shall see why those ideas led to horrific consequences. Once we see the parallels between those times and today we can hope that today’s ideas will not lead to such consequences. But we have no guarantees that they won’t.

As students of history know, between the Great War and the Second World War, Germans became fascinated with their origins as a volk, or a people.  This included a renewed national — communal, even — interest in nature, primitivism and ancestry.   DeWaay cites Veith:

Nature and the community assume the mystical role they held in ancient mythological religions. Religious zeal is displaced from the transcendent onto the immanent: the land, the people, the blood, the will” (Veith: 17). The idea that nature was like a goddess who would care for humans replaced the idea that nature was fallen and that humans needed to use the sweat of their brow to overcome the natural tendency for thorns to choke out the garden (Genesis 3:17). Again Veith explains: “Fascists seek an organic, neomythological unity of nature, the community, and the self. The concepts of a God who is above nature and a moral law that is above society are rejected” (Veith: 17).

DeWaay sees a parallel not only with secular Western — particularly American — society but in our view of Christianity as well:

The postmodern ideals prevalent in America today are identical. The primary idol in our society is nature, and many people harbor the romantic view that nature is a “mother” who will nurture us. These postmoderns consider humans with technology to be the enemies who are a threat to the nature goddess. These inclinations drive the postmodern/emergent understanding of theology.

They reject the transcendence of God, who has spoken and given moral law and will in the end be the judge of all. In His place they posit community and a return to nature. Whether these advocates know that they are teaching ideas that at one time led to fascism is uncertain. But they did …

The deep ecology movement sees traditional Christianity’s understanding of man’s uniqueness (as created in God’s image and given authority over the earth) as a terrible cause of the earth’s problems. Instead it derives its thinking from pagan sources and a decidedly pagan worldview that values the “interconnectedness of all things.”

Heidegger opposed absolute truths and traditional Western culture (you can read more about him at the link).  Here’s an example:

Heidegger’s idea of giving oneself the law meant that morals derive from the human will. Veith explains the implication: “The concept that there are no absolute truths means that human beings can impose their truth upon an essentially meaningless world” (Veith: 86). But that would apparently mean chaos with no guidance for deciding things collectively as in society. The answer to that problem is “the will to power” as understood by Nietzsche. The will to power can and does become a collective will. Heidegger spoke of “willing the essence” (Veith: 90). But he was speaking of a collective will. The “essence” is not some pre-existing transcendent truth revealed by God but something people will into existence themselves. Once it is willed, it becomes the guidance of “authentic” life. In other words, when a collection of people commonly wills something, and if they then live in conformity with that common will, they are living valid, authentic lives. Whatever is thus willed cannot be judged to be good or bad by any transcendent moral law revealed by God.

In other words, that outlook spurred the German people onto lawlessness, just as Martin Luther warned centuries before:

If the human will is unleashed, with no external or internal restraints, Luther would expect not authenticity, not self-actualization or humanistic fulfillment, but an evil approaching the demonic. In this respect, at least, those who celebrated triumph of the will proved him right. (Veith: 93)

The Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article VI states:

the Law was given to men for three reasons:

  • first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars];
  • secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins;
  • thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life

In his book, Veith explains how the notion of the God-created individual died and how the German penchant for volkisch culture brought most of a nation together as a collective:

A person’s identity was found in a communal experience and communal consciousness. As Veith explains: “The individual human being is ‘nothing more than the vehicle of forces generated by the community’” (Veith: 36, 37 citing Zeev Sternhell). This is a precursor to what is now called “socially constructed reality” as used by postmodern theologians

The emergent church plays heavily on this: ‘Which interpretation of the Bible and Christianity is correct?  What makes yours better than mine?’

And Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church is full of communitarian references, such as:

1. Continually emphasize the importance of fellowship and unity, commitment (including signed contracts) and community participation. Stress oneness—the “corporate nature” of churches. This is the heart of “systems thinking,” whether in secular business or church: everything is interconnected; all is one. Nothing has meaning unless it fits into the “Greater Whole.”

2. Create organizational structures for bringing visitors and new members quickly into small groups where trained “change leaders” can facilitate the dialogue, encourage bonding and monitor the collective training.

Back now to Mr Schultz’s comment at the top of this post.  He is correct in saying that our priorities should be in-depth study of Scripture and doctrine, to our spouses and families as well as downtime for our own well-being.

He is not alone in his thinking. In the Calvinist churches, a debate has been going on over the past few years as to how best to serve the Lord.  Dr Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California has written and spoken about the ‘two-kingdom’ tradition, supported by both Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Contrary to what theologians (such as some at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and at Fuller Theological Seminary) believe, Horton writes:

Clearly, Luther drew the lines between the two kingdoms in clear, bold colors, but so did Calvin—and both did so especially over against the radical Anabaptists who were trying to take over cities in the name of Christ’s millennial kingdom! … Neither Lutherans nor Calvinists have been consistent in working out their theory, but the two-kingdoms doctrine has a substantial body of reflection throughout the whole history of the church.

For us as believers and church members, Horton says that we don’t have to be world-beaters or even acknowledged leaders:

Surely, if ever in this present age, we were to expect a total transformation of the kingdoms of this age into the kingdom of Christ, it would have been in Christ’s earthly ministry. Yet he just preaches the gospel, forgives sins, heals the sick, and marches toward the cross.

Nor do we find a blueprint in the New Testament Epistles for a Christian economic or political system, a Christian theory of art or science, or a plan for universal hygiene. The commands are simply to live godly lives in the present, as parents, children, spouses, employers, and employees, caring for the needs of the saints, participating regularly in the public assembly of Christ’s body, and to pray for our rulers.

… even a non-Christian economist or hospice worker who cares about people will be more of a genuine neighbor to a sufferer than a lot of busy Christians with big plans that are impractical or uninformed.

Martin Luther wrote that we give glory to God through obedience to Him in our everyday lives:

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in Heaven for our Lord God.  We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.

So much for church growth and communitarianism then.  Instead, as Mr Schultz recommends, spend time with your family, learn more about the Bible and Christian doctrine, worship the Lord, serve your employer faithfully — and leave the rest to God.

Today, Churchmouse Campanologist begins a new series on seminary curriculum.  Over the past few years, many laypeople wonder why they do not receive sound biblical and confessional teaching when they attend church services.  They often ask, ‘What are they teaching in seminary these days?’ or ‘Aren’t they teaching that in seminary anymore?’  It is these questions I hope to answer by examining a variety of Protestant seminary curricula.

We begin with the course catalogue of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), an Episcopal institution.  VTS began as Virginia Seminary in 1823.  Bishop William Meade, the third Bishop of Virginia, and Francis Scott Key, whose poem ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry’ provided the lyrics for the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, founded the seminary.  In 1878, Virginia Seminary founded The Bishop Payne Divinity School for black students. The two institutions merged in 1953 to become VTS.

Each seminary in this series will undoubtedly offer marvellous courses, however, what the series will attempt to do is to give you an overall impression for the type of theology taught in line with confessions of faith and the Bible.  This means that I will be focussing on trendiness and shortcomings rather than the good points.

Overall impression of VTS: nothing about the 39 Articles of Religion, very little on the Book of Common Prayer, nothing about the inerrancy of the Bible or the sovereignty of God, nothing on heresy, weak systematic theology, a big focus on liberation and community-based theology, a large concentration on poetry and poets as theological references.  Examples follow below with my own commentary. Pages cited are those from the VTS catalogue PDF file.  You may wish to consult the faculty page as you read through them.

Verdict: Disappointing, but not surprising.

Women candidates for ordination: Yes.

Pietism / Healthism Index: Smoking allowed only in dorm rooms or outdoors.


Honorary Degree Recipient (p. 57): Among those listed for 2009-2010 is none other than Emergent Church kingpin, Brian McLaren. 

New Testament Studies (pp. 58-61): Thorough, one course per NT book.  Supplementary courses focus on the Parables and on the challenges St Paul faced in his ministry. 

Old Testament Studies (pp. 62-65): Hmm.  Very much an allegorical approach, especially:

OTS 501 – Old Testament Interpretation (p. 62) is done ‘in our context’.  What — a modern-day context?  How accurate will that be?

OTS 605 – Exodus and Liberation Theology (p. 62) wherein students discover how the Book of Exodus is the cornerstone for this movement.  Liberation theology relies on a group of people saying, ‘Hey there, I’m oppressed, therefore I deserve special treatment just by dint of my condition in life, and God will save me but not you.’  Note that, in reality, only the very few who retained faith in and obeyed the Lord actually reached the Promised Land.  God didn’t save every one of the Chosen then, and He will not save every member from every special-interest group today just because of their condition in life.  Interestingly, the course description adds, ‘Students may elect to take only the first quarter of the course.’  Why is that?  Is this actually a Liberation Theology course?

OTS 612 – Moses Goes to the Movies (p. 62).  Hmm. We didn’t even have this in high school. Why not examine the Book of Exodus in light of the Pentateuch instead?

OTS 658 – Bad Girls in the Bible (p. 64) does not focus on the sins that these women committed. We have only seen it as sin, because that is how we have ‘traditionally perceived’ it. So, get real and ‘reevaluate their stories by studying their literary function in the narrative’.  Then go, get legless and fornicate, because, really, it’s okay.

Language Study (pp.65-66): Thorough, covering Hebrew and Greek, from beginners’ courses through to advanced.

Historical Studies (pp. 67-70): Thorough, with courses on the history and development of the Episcopal Church in the United States.  However:

CHT 626 – The Christian Century: An Examination of the Ideas of American Christians from 1880-1920 (p. 69) does not even mention the heresy of Modernism or that major denominations, such as the Catholics (Pius X), Orthodox Presbyterians (John Gresham Machen) and Lutherans (Charles Porterfield Krauth) had denounced and fought against it.  The course description simply says, ‘not all agreed that such an adaptation was a good thing’.  So, with those 11 words couched in a lengthy paragraph, we can conclude that VTS thinks Modernism — a heresy — was laudable. 

Ministerial Studies (pp. 70-73): Emergent Church alert!  Most of the courses here are based on psychology and postmodernism instead of developing a ministry in line with that of St Paul and the Apostles (i.e. straight preaching, hard sayings, Church purity).

CED 513 – Christian Formation and the Emerging Church (pp. 70-71) will include meeting the great man himself, Brian McLaren.  Students will also have the opportunity to hear Phyllis Tickle speak. Talk about giving licence to heresy.  Dangerous ground, this.

CED 565 – Youth Ministry (p. 72) is likely to disappoint lay parents reading the course description which includes ‘vibrant ministries with young people that are theologically and culturally appropriate’.  Christian video games, perhaps?  Anything but the Bible and leadership.

CED 573 – The Graceful Challenge of Children in the Church (p. 72).  They meant ‘gracious’ not ‘graceful’.  A somewhat careless mistake.

Field Education (pp. 73-74): Extensive.

Pastoral Theology (pp. 74): Two courses on conducting one’s life as a priest and performing significant offices for congregants.

Theology and Practice of Ministry (pp.74-78): Covers the practical and grim realities priests face once they are ordained as well as the problems their congregations experience.  However, please note:

– TPM 628 – The Seven Deadly Sins (p. 76) does not mention ways of encouraging congregants to repent of serious sin.  As one would expect, ‘”contemporary sins” of racism, sexism, and classism‘ are bolted on, which probably receive more emphasis than the Seven Deadlies.  This is why you only hear in church about ‘contemporary sins’, not sins that could deprive you of the Kingdom of Heaven.

– TPM 635 – Church Planting (p. 76) teaches that by letting old, perfectly good church buildings go to waste, you move on, go elsewhere and reach new, relevant congregations.  A dog whistle for ‘younger, more attractive and diverse people instead of the old, faithful crusties who are only going to die, anyway’.

– TPM 663 – Advanced Pastoral Leadership (p. 78) will teach seminarians how to become community organisers!  I bet the instructor says, ‘Jesus was the first community organiser.  Go and do likewise.’  Also dangerous is this phrase: practice strategies for changing organizational culture’.  Rick Warren and Purpose-Driven Church alert? 

Church Music (pp. 78-80): Extensive.  But note:

– MUS 605 – Selected Topics in Church Music (p. 79) lauds ‘the current hymn explosion’.  Yes, and as I was taught, we should strive for ‘quality not quantity’. Also, our Episcopalian brethren at VTS are looking to the ELCA for musical inspiration.  

– MUS 606 – Eucharistic Liturgical Planning (p. 79) instructs students on designing a liturgy that is ‘both faithful to the tradition of the Prayer Book and creative’, which explains why you can’t get a straightforward, traditional service anymore.

Homiletics (pp. 80-82): Extensive.  However:

– HOM 605 – Preacher as Artist (p. 80) teaches students how to expand their repertoire by using ‘other art forms’ — cue liturgical dance.  Another reason why you can’t get a straighforward service anymore.  ‘But, Churchmouse, everyone loves these new and relevant services.’  Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot.

– HOM 606 – Performing and Preaching Paul’s Letter to the Phillipians (p. 81) is similar to HOM 605.  Were those letters performed?  I don’t recall reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible saying that.  I have never read of Presbyterians and the Reformed churches saying that.  I’ve never heard of ‘performing’ St Paul’s letters before.  If anyone has information on this, please let me know.

– HOM 611 – Preaching Social Justice (p. 81) confirms suspicions that preaching on sin and what the Gospel actually says is so outré!  See TPM 628 – The Seven Deadly Sins above.  I’m rapidly losing the will to live.

Liturgics (pp. 82-83): Not a sausage about the Book of Common Prayer in the 16th and 17th centuries. Nothing at all about the 1928 Prayer Book in the United States. These courses cover only the 1979 Prayer Book.  Frightful.

Christian Ethics (pp.83-84) covers no historic writing, e.g. the Didache, or Scripture for handling moral dilemmas such as certain modern medical advances or the termination of life. 

– ETH 620 – Other Anglican Thought (p. 83) explores ethical teaching and principles from sources ‘other than the “Anglican Divines”‘.  Why?  Sources include such Anglican luminaries such as William Stringfellow, Kwok Pui-Lan, Gene Rogers and Carter Heyward.  Who are they? Well, it turns out that Carter Heyward was one of the first women to be ordained in the Episcopal Church.  She is the Howard Chandler Robbins Professor Emerita at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Does that elevate her to Anglican Divine level?

– ETH 627 – Introduction to Anglican Thought (p. 84) comes after Other Anglican Thought?  Why?  Why doesn’t it include Anglicans from Cranmer’s time through the 19th century, e.g. John Charles Ryle?  Why would Wesley be included in both ETH 620 and ETH 627 when he went on to become an Arminian?  Something is wrong here.

Contemporary Society (pp. 84-85): a variety of postmodern courses with the usual gnostic language such as ‘God’s island home’ (what — Earth?), ‘vision a future ministry’, ‘helping process’, ‘immersions’ (not about Baptism) and more. Students will also have the opportunity to become involved with community activists (CTS 629 – Christian Social Ministry: Immersion in Urban Ministry). Execrable.

Global Christianity – Mission and World Religions (pp. 85-88): A history and examination of other world faiths. Includes actual mission work overseas in some courses, so good in that respect. However, it relies on 21st century thinkers such as Rowan Williams for answers (GCM 553 – The Finality of Christ) and, in doing so, may compromise the inspirational and awesome (classical sense) power of the Great Commission.

Religion and Culture (pp. 88-91): particularly galling as it posits artists as theologians, not the inspiration of the Holy Trinity on artists and their work. This section sickened me as I read each course description, including, but hardly limited to:

– RCL 519 – Anglican Spirituality in Modern Poetry (p. 88) teaches students to pray 20th century poetry.  Wonderful.  More time wasted that could have been spent on the Bible, the 39 Articles and the Doctors of the Church.

– RCL 525 – The Artist as Theologian (p. 88) justifies itself on a Dorothy Sayers quote about artists communicating in their own way truths which are identical to those of theologians.  Hmm.  Very pomo.

Theological Studies (pp. 91-94): delves into the mystical and New Age types of prayer, spiritual direction and reconciliation.  Note that there is only one course here on Systematic Theology (and a partial one at that — STH 510 – The Work of Jesus Christ and His Community), which in the Reformed tradition, covers several courses. as well as the following pet topics:

– STH 610 – Feminist Theology (p. 92) combines European and Hispanic women’s studies with Christology.  An incomprehensible combination.  The mind boggleth.

– STH 611 – The Hope of the Poor (p. 92) teaches more about liberation theology worldwide.  It’s a good thing, remember.

– STH 615 – Remembering the Needy (p. 92) has more of STH 611 – The Hope of the Poor.  More time wasted that could have been spent on Systematics!

VTS courses met my low expectations.  It’s sad that none of this comes as a surprise.  However, the fact that these courses exist goes some way in explaining why our churches are emptying.

More on another seminary soon.  Believe me, there’s worse to come.

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