I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.
I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.
A coworker has recently become enamored with Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. I blame myself. My cousin had been urging me for weeks to watch an interview that Farrakhan did with Jamal Bryant on the Word Network. I finally put it on at work and it caught my coworker’s attention. Since then it’s been nothing but Farrakhan on YouTube for him. The problem is that he has uncritically accepted without examination most everything that Farrakhan says about anything. My cousin is the same way. In fact, it’s exactly like talking to my cousin. Same script, verbatim.
I’ve tried to talk to my coworker where I can but he’s not ready to hear anyone but Farrakhan right now. Yesterday, for example, he assaulted us with a shotgun argument in which he talked about everything from how King James, who ruled the world, rewrote the Bible, to how Christianity is the white man’s religion and was used to control slaves, to how Islam was the original religion, to how the Qur’an has never been changed, to how black people invented science and math (none of which is true, for the record). There was much more in between but this was what I could remember being spit out at me in something like 30 seconds. I tried to focus on one thing at a time but I kept getting talked over. So I just ignored it. I know that now is not the time for him to hear me.
But I did tell him that I’m worried that he’s become an expert very quickly. He told me that he’s always known this stuff but has just ignored it. Nonsense I say, nonsense! There’s a reason that the Nation of Islam targets “the black man in America,” and that’s because many of them feel alienated, disenfranchised, oppressed, and maltreated. And in many cases that’s unfortunately true. The NOI gives them the outlet to feel justified in their anger. The same can’t be said of the black folks around the world that haven’t shared similar experiences. And I say this to say that my coworker is angry and has found a voice for this anger. He hasn’t studied what is being said, he’s just accepted it on face value.
Now me, on the other hand… I’ve been exposed to the Nation of Islam since I was 10 years old. From 16 to 21 I devoted a lot of time and energy into its teachings. I read Farrakhan’s speeches and watched VHS tapes of him before there was a YouTube to watch them on. Same with Malcolm X. I’ve read Elijah Muhammed’s books. I once had an entire filing cabinet full of Final Call newspapers. I’ve known NOI members for years. The point is that I’m not new to this. There was a time when I believed this stuff to be true. And then God saved me and I devoted a couple more years to studying this stuff from a critical perspective. So it’s not revelatory to me. I’ve been there and done that. I have the answers to his arguments but nothing I say will be received.
My bare disagreement with these views is enough to deny anything I say as true. His newfound expertise trumps my years of exposure and study because I’ve boughten into the white man’s “made up religion” while he’s come to the “knowledge of self.” So my task over the coming weeks isn’t going to be to argue and debate with him—he’s not ready—but to provide good information to my other coworkers who are exposed to his newfound views. I don’t claim expertise in anything, but I’m confident in the time I’ve spent on these subjects, and when it’s all said and done I’m really just interested in God being glorified through what I say and do, so my prayer is that however it goes I’ll be able to maintain my composure and speak the truth in love.
I was asked to comment on a Facebook post last night by a friend and fellow elder. The topic of the post was Jesus’ name. The writer said that the reason people aren’t seeing results to their prayers is because they’ve been calling on the wrong name. You see, his name isn’t Jesus, which is manmade, it’s Yahweh. If we call on Yahweh rather than Jesus we should see results.
The comments that followed proceeded to call Jesus “Yahshua” and take Hosea 4:6 out of context, suggesting that if people continued to call him Jesus then they’d perish for their lack of knowledge. A couple of people from my church were arguing that it doesn’t much matter what variation of his name we use so long as we know him. I just came in and added a little background to that claim.
I noted how the Hebrew name is Yehoshua. How in the Aramaic bits of the Bible we read Yeshua. How in the NT—which I’d think would be paramount in such a discussion—it’s Iesous. In Latin it’s Iesvs. And finally English translates it as Jesus. We’re English speakers. Why wouldn’t we use the English name? If we were speaking Italian we’d say Jesu. If we were speaking Spanish it would be Jesús.
In any event, I did note that we’d never call him Yahshua for reasons I didn’t want to bore anyone with. But readers of this blog don’t mind being bored. In short, people have this weird penchant of finding out that the Hebrew name for God YHWH and its shortened form YH exist and all of a sudden they want to insert it where it doesn’t belong. It’s not that Yah never appears in Hebrew names; it just never appears at the beginning of them. For example:
Ma’aseYah = Maaseiah (Neh. 12:42)
MichaYah = Micaiah (Neh. 12:42)
Z’charYah = Zechariah (Neh. 12:42)
MalkiYah = Malchiah (Neh:12″42)
AzarYah = Azariah (Neh. 12:33)
Sh’maYah = Shemaiah (Neh. 12:34)
MatanYah = Mattaniah (Neh. 12:35)
SherevYah = Sherebiah (Neh.12:24)
ChashavYah = Hashabiah (Neh. 12:24)
BakbukYah = Bakbukiah (Neh. 12:25)
OvadYah = Obadiah (Obadiah 1:1)
AchazYah = Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:50)
S’raYah = Seraiah (2 Sam. 8:17)
At times Yah also appears in combination with hu making the form Yahu as in:
YeshaYahu = Isaiah (Salvation of the Lord)
YirmiYahu = Jeremiah (The Lord casts)
EliYahu = Elijah, and (My God is the Lord)
YoshiYahu = Josiah (The Lord rescues me)
Chizkiyahu = Hezekiah (My strength is the Lord)
Now when the shortened form of YHWH does appear at the beginning of a personal name it’s used in combination with a verb and we see Yeho, not Yah, so:
Yehoshua = Joshua
Yehoachaz = Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:35)
Yehoyachin = Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:6)
Yehoyakim = Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34)
Yehoshafat = Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 17:3)
Yehochanan, which is a longer form of Yochanan = John (Neh. 12:42)
Yehoram = Jehoram (1 Kings 22:51)
Yehoyada = Jehoiadah (2 Sam. 818)
Yehotzadak = Jehozadak (1 Chr. 6:14 [1 Chr. 5:40 MT])
But the point is that the “Sacred Name” movement is built on some bad information. And more to the point, the referent is more important than the name by which he’s referred. As long as he knows us and we know him then he’ll answer however we call. Jesus is as much Lord over language as anything else.
I received an email the other day from a young man who was thinking about starting a blog and one of the things he asked me was whether or not I could recommend anyone dealing specifically with the arguments of Biblical Unitarians (i.e., Socinians). Unfortunately, no one these days really pays them much mind, which in turn means that no one is really addressing their arguments. On the one hand I get it; they’re a very small faction that you’re likely to encounter only on the internet. On the other hand, there are people who have written books challenging the claims of Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, so it would be nice to have something else to add to the mix.
I noted that if he wanted anything substantial he’d have to go back to 17th century English theologians like Edward Stillingfleet, John Edwards, and William Sherlock. I also noted how none of them was without fault because they all suffered from the same basic shortcoming with regard to operating according to their opponents’ rationalism. The Socinians of their day denied the Trinity because it didn’t make sense and so these theologians argued (sometimes quite exhaustively) that it did make sense. The problem was that they tried to make sense of the doctrine according to the canons of their opponents and in turn veered off toward one heresy or another.
This, of course, is something that James Anderson notes in his Paradox in Christian Theology. The desire to make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity is laudable (it’s also doable, but it must be done from a biblical perspective, with Scripture as the ultimate authority; not various philosophies), but make too much sense and you end up with heresy. It’s also no coincidence that Anderson ended up being the one modern author I recommended on the topic as I think his defense of paradox is quite helpful in dealing with the rationalistic objections of Socinians.
But I’ve said all this to say that from my observation modern theolgoians and apologists just don’t seem to really care about Socinianism. Why this is I couldn’t say, but it is nonetheless. It would be nice if the next generation of apologists who specialize in the doctrine of the Trinity would take more notice of Socinianism. It would save interested readers the trouble of having to sift through verbose 17th century English authors!
James White sat down with Steven Anderson for a couple of hours to discuss KJV Onlyism. I’m 40 minutes into the video and it’s astounding. To hear someone say that anyone who can’t understand the language of the KJV is probably not saved, or that the NIV is the word of God is probably not saved, is, to say the least, astonishing. I don’t know that I’ve ever described KJV Onlyism as a cult but I’m hard pressed to think of it as anything else based on what I’m seeing from Steven Anderson in this video. Give it a look and decide for yourself.
Heine, Ronald E.
Classical Christian Doctrine: Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013. Pp. x + 182. Paper. $21.99.
With thanks to Baker Academic for this review copy!
For years I’ve been looking for a way to introduce important doctrines to my local church in an easy and accessible way; in fact, my pastor recently asked me to start preparing a course on essential Christian doctrine. Time has never permitted me to create my own course, but thankfully, now I won’t have to. Ronald E. Heine, professor of Bible and Christian ministry at Northwest Christian University, has done all of the heavy lifting in his Classical Christian Doctrine.
This slim volume is laid out in a very sensible manner. Heine begins with asking exactly what “classical Christian doctrine” is, to which he answers “the Christian system of belief or the common core of Christian teaching that determines Christian self-understanding—that is, what it means to be Christian” (5). The “classical” qualifier denotes the first four centuries of the Christian era, as this is when “all the major doctrines of the church were set forth” (4).
After this it’s a pretty straightforward narrative beginning with a discussion of Scripture, which is the source of Christian doctrine, and going through the patristic period discussing the doctrines of monotheism, Logos theology, the various monarchian heresies, eternal generation, ecumenical councils and the disputes over Christology that necessitated them. Heine discusses the doctrines of the Father and the Spirit along with his chapters on Christology, which also delves into the work of Christ, namely concerning redemption. Ecclesiology, baptism, resurrection, and eschatology all follow. It has all the markings of a condensed systematic (patristic) theology, and that’s a good thing pedagogically speaking.
What makes this volume so handy is its layout, along with Heine’s deft authorial hand. Concerning the layout, every chapter begins by noting the key players in the items under discussion. Sidebars with various quotations from these patristic sources appear throughout each chapter in order to add a bit of context to what Heine is saying. And each chapter is closed out with a list of points for discussion and a list of resources for further reading. As far as Heine’s abilities as an author are concerned, he has my admiration and respect. He summarizes a wealth of material masterfully while managing to hit on all of the most important points without ever getting unnecessarily technical.
If there’s anything to fault him on it’s in perpetuating a narrative of the so-called Arian crisis that has been challenged in recent history in the works of R. P. C. Hanson; Rowan Williams; John Behr; Lewis Ayres; and Khaled Anatolios to name a few. Basically Heine paints Arius as being a bit more important than he probably was. The heresy that bears his name found its most ardent proponents in people that came well after Arius and held positions higher in the church than presbyter. But it was refreshing to see Heine note the emphasis on salvation that was at the root of the debate over the Son’s relationship to the Father. Too often that gets passed over in treatments of the subject.
In all I think that anyone looking for an introduction into the world of patristic theology and doctrine will do very well to begin with this book. I plan to make use of it when I get around to introducing the essential doctrines to my church. It’s certainly not the final word on the subject, but it’s as good a place to start as any. Heine is to be commended for packing so much into so small a space without leaving the reader feeling cheated. At no point did I think he should have addressed this event or that one even when I know much more happened than has been said. The point, however, is not to give a church history, but rather to outline essential doctrines, and on this point Heine succeeds.
I received a phone call from my pastor last night and among the many things he said was something about our ongoing disagreement about Oneness Pentecostals. He said that he’s leery of judging them unsaved or calling them heretics because he doesn’t know their hearts and wants to be cautious about pronouncing judgment since he’ll be judged according to the same measure (cf. Matt. 7:2). He spoke about their love for God and their desire to be obedient to him. He also made a distinction between the hardliners who only preach “the oneness” from the pulpit and those who might believe it without knowing why they believe or where they went wrong.
I didn’t get to say much by way of response because I was watching a fight and I wasn’t in the mood to debate. The one question I asked was this: What heretic throughout any period of history do you think didn’t believe that they loved God and were doing him obedient service? He said he didn’t know but that he didn’t want to be quick to call someone a heretic simply for disagreeing with him. Okay, that’s good and well, and I’d agree to some extent. I don’t call people heretics simply because they disagree with me; I call them heretics because they embrace teaching that has already been declared heretical by the church.
And that’s an important point to make in this discussion. He mentioned John MacArthur and how he’s dead wrong about spiritual gifts, which, by the way, he is. But he said that I wouldn’t call MacArthur a heretic for being wrong about that, and he’s right, I wouldn’t. I’d simply say that there’s a chink in MacArthur’s expositional armor. Cessationism isn’t born through exegesis; it’s born through experience, or the lack thereof. But that’s not my point. My point is that at no time in church history that I’m aware of has the the lack of belief in spiritual gifts been declared a heresy. In fact, some might argue for the similarities between Montanism, which was declared heretical, and modern Charismatic beliefs and practices. I’d say they’re wrong, but they’d have more of a leg to stand on than those arguing the opposite.
For the record, I don’t slavishly adhere to conciliar definitions and creeds out of a sense of duty or tradition, but rather because I believe they are correct. I believe with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength that God guided his church to the correct understanding of his Scriptures when the early disputes arose over their meaning. I think that patristic exegesis is the outworking of apostolic exegesis and that any modern exegesis should align with both without necessarily having to repeat it verbatim. But what I don’t believe is that my personal convictions, in and of themselves, are any criteria by which to judge a person’s orthodoxy. What I think is ultimately irrelevant in light of what has already been declared by the church.
So to repeat myself: I call certain people heretics because they embrace teaching that has already been declared heretical by the church. These issues have been settled. Either get on board with it or jump ship. But whatever you do, realize that heresy can’t be reformed or redeemed; it has to be repented of. Can heretics be saved? Of course. Just not as long as they actively embrace heresy.