Questions About False Doctrine People are Really Asking: The TOP Most Frequently Asked Questions About False Doctrine
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – About False Doctrine people are really asking – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About False Doctrine people are really asking and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
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But before we answer questions about False Doctrine, hereunder is the most important question that has to do with your eternal destiny with answer for your necessary action:
Question: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?
Answer: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? To properly understand this question, you must first understand the terms “Jesus Christ,” “personal,” and “Savior.”
Who is Jesus Christ? Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?
What is a Savior, and why do we need a Savior? The Bible tells us that we have all sinned; we have all committed evil acts (Romans 3:10-18). As a result of our sin, we deserve God’s anger and judgment. The only just punishment for sins committed against an infinite and eternal God is an infinite punishment (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). That is why we need a Savior!
Jesus Christ came to earth and died in our place. Jesus’ death was an infinite payment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price so that we would not have to. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. That is why Jesus is the one and only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior?
Is Jesus your “personal” Savior? Many people view Christianity as attending church, performing rituals, and/or not committing certain sins. That is not Christianity. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life (John 3:16). Is Jesus personally your Savior?
If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, say the following words to God. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and deserve punishment. But I believe Jesus Christ took the punishment I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I receive Your offer of forgiveness and place my trust in You for salvation. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness— the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
Now, Top Questions About False Doctrine People are Really Asking:
Is universalism/universal salvation biblical? Is annihilationism biblical?
What is atheism?
What is agnosticism? What is the preterist view of the end times? What is open theism?
What is Arianism?
What is contemplative prayer? What is contemplative spirituality? What is dualism?
What is the JEDP Theory?
What is moral relativism? What is pantheism?
What are Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism?
What is polytheism?
What does the Bible say about karma?
What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel? What is the Jesus Seminar?
What is the synoptic problem?
Question: Is universalism/universal salvation biblical?
Answer: Universalism is the belief that everyone will be saved. There are many people today who hold to universal salvation and believe that all people eventually end up in heaven. Perhaps it is the thought of men and women living a life of eternal torment in hell that causes some to reject the teaching of Scripture on this issue. For some it is an over-emphasis on the love and compassion of God—and the neglect of the righteousness and justice of God— that leads them to believe God will have mercy on every living soul. But the Scriptures do teach that some people will spend eternity in hell.
First of all, the Bible is clear that unredeemed men will dwell forever in hell. Jesus’ own words confirm that the time spent in heaven for the redeemed will last as long as that of the unredeemed in hell. Matthew 25:46 says, “Then they the unsaved
will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” According to this verse, the punishment of the unsaved is just as eternal as the life of the righteous. Some believe that those in hell will eventually cease to exist, but the Lord Himself confirms that it will last forever. Matthew 25:41 and Mark 9:44 describe hell as “eternal fire” and “unquenchable fire.”
How does one avoid this unquenchable fire? Many people believe that all roads—all religions and beliefs—lead to heaven, or they consider that God is so full of love and mercy that He will allow all people into heaven. God is certainly full of love and mercy; it was these qualities that led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us. Jesus Christ is the exclusive door that leads to an eternity in heaven. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we choose to reject God’s Son, we do not meet the requirements for salvation (John 3:16, 18, 36).
With verses such as these, it becomes clear that universalism and universal salvation are unbiblical beliefs. Universalism directly contradicts what Scripture teaches. While many people accuse Christians of being intolerant and “exclusive,” it is important to remember that these are the words of Christ Himself. Christians did not develop these ideas on their own; Christians are simply stating what the Lord has already said. People choose to reject the message because they do not want to face up to their sin and admit that they need the Lord to save them. To say that those who reject God’s provision of salvation through His Son will be saved is to belittle the holiness and justice of God and negate the need of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
Question: Is annihilationism biblical?
Answer: Annihilationism is the belief that unbelievers will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will instead be “extinguished” after death. For many, annihilationism is an attractive belief because of the awfulness of the idea of people spending eternity in hell. While there are some passages that seem to argue for annihilationism, a comprehensive look at what the Bible says about the destiny of the wicked reveals the fact that punishment in hell is eternal. A belief in annihilationism results from a misunderstanding of one or more of the following doctrines: 1) the consequences of sin, 2) the justice of God, 3) the nature of hell.
In relation to the nature of hell, annihilationists misunderstand the meaning of the lake of fire. Obviously, if a human being were cast into a lake of burning lava, he/she would be almost instantly consumed. However, the lake of fire is both a physical and spiritual realm. It is not simply a human body being cast into the lake of fire; it is a human’s body, soul, and spirit. A spiritual nature cannot be consumed by physical fire. It seems that the unsaved are resurrected with a body prepared for eternity just as the saved are (Revelation 20:13; Acts 24:15). These bodies are prepared for an eternal fate.
Eternity is another aspect which annihilationists fail to fully comprehend. Annihilationists are correct that the Greek word aionion, which is usually translated “eternal,” does not by definition mean “eternal.” It specifically refers to an “age” or “eon,” a specific period of time. However, it is clear that in New Testament, aionion is sometimes used to refer to an eternal length of time. Revelation 20:10 speaks of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet being cast into the lake of fire and being tormented “day and night forever and ever.” It is clear that these three are not “extinguished” by being cast into the lake of fire. Why would the fate of the unsaved be any different (Revelation 20:14-15)? The most convincing evidence for the eternality of hell is Matthew 25:46, “Then they [the unsaved] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” In this verse, the same Greek word is used to refer to the destiny of the wicked and the righteous. If the wicked are only tormented for an “age,” then the righteous will only experience life in heaven for an “age.” If believers will be in heaven forever, unbelievers will be in hell forever.
Another frequent objection to the eternality of hell by annihilationists is that it would be unjust for God to punish unbelievers in hell for eternity for a finite amount of sin. How could it be fair for God to take a person who lived a sinful, 70-year life, and punish him/her for all of eternity? The answer is that our sin bears an eternal consequence because it is committed against an eternal God. When King David committed the sins of adultery and murder he stated, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). David had sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah; how could David claim to have only sinned against God? David understood that all sin is ultimately against God. God is an eternal and infinite Being. As a result, all sin against Him is worthy of an eternal punishment. It is not a matter of the length of time we sin, but the character of the God against whom we sin.
A more personal aspect of annihilationism is the idea that we could not possibly be happy in heaven if we knew that some of our loved ones were suffering an eternity of torment in hell. However, when we arrive in heaven, we will not have anything to complain about or be saddened by. Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” If some of our loved ones are not in heaven, we will be in 100 percent complete agreement that they do not belong there and that they are condemned by their own refusal to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 3:16; 14:6). It is hard to understand this, but we will not be saddened by the lack of their presence. Our focus should not be on how we can enjoy heaven without all of our loved ones there, but on how we can point our loved ones to faith in Christ so that they will be there.
Hell is perhaps a primary reason why God sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Being “extinguished” after death is no fate to dread, but an eternity in hell most definitely is. Jesus’ death was an infinite death, paying our infinite sin debt so that we would not have to pay it in hell for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we place our faith in Him, we are saved, forgiven, cleansed, and promised an eternal home in heaven. But if we reject God’s gift of eternal life, we will face the eternal consequences of that decision.
Question: What is atheism?
Answer: Atheism is the view that God does not exist. Atheism is not a new development. Psalm 14:1, written by David around 1000 B C, mentions atheism: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Recent statistics show an increasing number of people claiming to be atheists, up to 10 percent of people worldwide. So why are more and more people becoming atheists? Is atheism truly the logical position atheists claim it to be?
Why does atheism even exist? Why doesn’t God simply reveal Himself to people, proving that He exists? Surely if God would just appear, the thinking goes, everyone would believe in Him! The problem here is that it is not God’s desire to just convince people that He exists. It is God’s desire for people to believe in Him by faith (2 Peter 3:9) and accept by faith His gift of salvation (John 3:16). God clearly demonstrated His existence many times in the Old Testament (Genesis 6-9; Exodus 14:21-22; 1 Kings 18:19-31). Did the people believe that God exists? Yes. Did they turn from their evil ways and obey God? No. If a person is not willing to accept God’s existence by faith, then he/she is definitely not ready to accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s desire is for people to become Christians, not just theists (those who believe God exists).
The Bible tells us that God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The Bible reminds us that we are blessed when we believe and trust in God by faith: “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).
The existence of God must be accepted by faith, but this does not mean belief in God is illogical. There are many good arguments for the existence of God. The Bible teaches that God’s existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With all that said, the existence of God cannot be proven; it must be accepted by faith.
At the same time, it takes just as much faith to believe in atheism. To make the absolute statement “God does not exist” is to make a claim of knowing absolutely everything there is to know about everything and of having been everywhere in the universe and having witnessed everything there is to be seen. Of course, no atheist would make these claims. However, that is essentially what they are claiming when they state that God absolutely does not exist. Atheists cannot prove that God does not, for example, live in the center of the sun, or beneath the clouds of Jupiter, or in some distant nebula. Since those places are beyond our capacity to observe, it cannot be proven that God does not exist. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.
Atheism cannot be proven, and God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Obviously, Christians believe strongly that God exists, and admit that God’s existence is a matter of faith. At the same time, we reject the idea that belief in God is illogical. We believe that God’s existence can be clearly seen, keenly sensed, and proven to be philosophically and scientifically necessary. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).
Question: What is agnosticism?
Answer: Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God is impossible to be known or proven. The word “agnostic” essentially means “without knowledge.” Agnosticism is a more intellectually honest form of atheism. Atheism claims that God does not exist—an unprovable position. Agnosticism argues that God’s existence cannot be proven or unproven, that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists. In this, agnosticism is correct. God’s existence cannot be empirically proven or disproven.
The Bible tells us that we must accept by faith that God exists. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith “it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” God is spirit (John 4:24) so He cannot be seen or touched. Unless God chooses to reveal Himself, He is invisible to our senses (Romans 1:20). The Bible declares that the existence of God can be clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), sensed in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and confirmed in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Agnostics are unwilling to make a decision either for or against God’s existence. It is the ultimate “straddling the fence” position. Theists believe that God exists. Atheists believe that God does not exist. Agnostics believe that we should not believe or disbelieve in God’s existence, because it is impossible to know either way.
For the sake of argument, let’s throw out the clear and undeniable evidences of God’s existence. If we put the positions of theism and agnosticism on equal footing, which makes the most “sense” to believe in regards to the possibility of life after death? If there is no God, theists and agnostics alike all simply cease to exist when they die. If there is a God, both theists and agnostics will have someone to answer to when they die. From this perspective, it definitely makes more “sense” to be a theist than an agnostic. If neither position can be proven or disproven, it seems wise to make every effort to thoroughly examine the position that may have an infinitely and eternally more desirable end result.
It is normal to have doubts. There are many things in this world that we do not understand. Often, people doubt God’s existence because they do not understand or agree with the things He does and allows. However, as finite human beings we should not expect to be able to comprehend an infinite God. Romans 11:33- 34 exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’”
We must believe in God by faith and trust His ways by faith. God is ready and willing to reveal Himself in amazing ways to those who will believe in Him. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Question: What is the preterist view of the end times?
Answer: The preterist interpretation of Scripture regards the book of Revelation as a symbolic picture of early church conflicts, not a description of what will occur in the end times. Preterism denies the future prophetic quality of most of the book of Revelation. In varying degrees, preterism combines the allegorical and symbolic interpretation with the concept that Revelation does not deal with specific future events. The preterist movement essentially teaches that all the end-times prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans attacked and destroyed Jerusalem and Israel.
The letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were written to real churches in the first century, and they have practical applications for churches today. But chapters 6-22, if interpreted in the same way as the rest of Bible prophecy, were written about events that are yet future. There is no reason to interpret the prophecies of Revelation allegorically. Previously fulfilled prophecies were fulfilled literally. For example, all of the Old Testament verses predicting the first coming of Christ were fulfilled literally in Jesus. Christ came at the time that He was predicted to come (Daniel 9:25-26). Christ was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He suffered and died for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-9). These are but a few examples of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies God gave to the prophets that are recorded in Scripture and that were fulfilled literally. It simply does not make sense to try to allegorize unfulfilled prophecy or understand unfulfilled prophecy in any other way than by a normal reading.
Furthermore, preterism is entirely inconsistent in its interpretation of the book of Revelation. According to the preterist view of the end times, chapters 6-18 of Revelation are symbolic and allegorical, not describing literal events. However, chapter 19, according to preterists, is to be understood literally. Jesus Christ will literally and physically return. Then, chapter 20 is again interpreted allegorically by preterists, while chapters 21-22 are understood literally, at least in part, in that there will truly be a new heaven and new earth. No one denies that Revelation contains amazing and sometimes confusing visions. No one denies that
Revelation describes some things figuratively. However, to arbitrarily deny the literal nature of select portions of Revelation is to destroy the basis of interpreting any of the book literally. If the seals, trumpets, bowls, witnesses, 144,000, beast, false prophet, millennial kingdom, etc., are allegorical or symbolic, on what basis do we claim that the second coming of Christ and the new earth are literal? That is the failure of preterism—it leaves the interpretation of Revelation to the opinions of the interpreter. Instead, we are to read it, believe it, and obey it—literally and exactly.
Question: What is open theism?
Answer: “Open theism,” also known as “openness theology” and the “openness of God,” is an attempt to explain the foreknowledge of God in relationship to the free will of man. The argument of open theism is essentially this: human beings are truly free; if God absolutely knew the future, human beings could not truly be free. Therefore, God does not know absolutely everything about the future. Open theism holds that the future is not knowable. Therefore, God knows everything that can be known, but He does not know the future.
Open theism bases these beliefs on Scripture passages which describe God “changing His mind” or “being surprised” or “seeming to gain knowledge” (Genesis 6:6; 22:12; Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). In light of the many other Scriptures that declare God’s knowledge of the future, these Scriptures should be understood as God describing Himself in ways that we can understand. God knows what our actions and decisions will be, but He “changes His mind” in regard to His actions based on our actions. God’s disappointment at the wickedness of humanity does not mean He was not aware it would occur.
In contradiction to open theism, Psalm 139:4, 16 state, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” How could God predict intricate details in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ if He does not know the future? How could God in any manner guarantee our eternal salvation if He does not know what the future holds?
Ultimately, open theism fails in that it attempts to explain the unexplainable— the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and mankind’s free will. Just as extreme forms of Calvinism fail in that they make human beings nothing more than pre-programmed robots, so open theism fails in that it rejects God’s true omniscience and sovereignty. God must be understood through faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a). Open theism is, therefore, not scriptural. It is simply another way for finite man to try to understand an infinite God. Open theism should be rejected by followers of Christ. While open theism is an explanation for the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human free will, it is not the biblical explanation.
Question: What is Arianism?
Answer: Arianism is named for Arius, a teacher in the early 4th century AD One of the earliest and probably the most important item of debate among early Christians was the subject of Christ’s deity. Was Jesus truly God in the flesh or was Jesus a created being? Was Jesus God or just like God? Arius held that Jesus was created by God as the first act of creation, that Jesus was the crowning glory of all creation. Arianism, then, is the view that Jesus was a created being with divine attributes, but was not divine in and of Himself.
Arianism misunderstands references to Jesus’ being tired (John 4:6) and not knowing the date of His return (Matthew 24:36). Yes, it is difficult to understand how God could be tired and/or not know something, but relegating Jesus to a created being is not the answer. Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully human. Jesus did not become a human being until the incarnation. Therefore, Jesus’ limitations as a human being have no impact on His divine nature or eternality.
A second major misinterpretation in Arianism is the meaning of “firstborn” (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15-20). Arians understand “firstborn” in these verses to mean that Jesus was “born” or “created” as the first act of creation. This is not the case. Jesus Himself proclaimed His self-existence and eternality (John 8:58; 10:30). John 1:1-2 tells us that Jesus was “in the beginning with God.” In Bible times, the firstborn son of a family was held in great honor (Genesis 49:3; Exodus 11:5; 34:19; Numbers 3:40; Psalm 89:27; Jeremiah 31:9). It is in this sense that Jesus is God’s firstborn. Jesus is the preeminent member of God’s family. Jesus is the anointed one, the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
After nearly a century of debate at various early church councils, the Christian church officially denounced Arianism as a false doctrine. Since that time, Arianism has never been accepted as a viable doctrine of the Christian faith. Arianism has not died, however. Arianism has continued throughout the centuries in varying forms. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons of today hold a very Arian-like position on Christ’s nature. Just as the early church did, we must denounce any and all attacks on the deity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Question: What is contemplative prayer?
Answer: It is important to first define “contemplative prayer.” Contemplative prayer is not just “contemplating while you pray.” The Bible instructs us to pray with our minds (1 Corinthians 14:15), so, clearly, prayer does involve contemplation. However, praying with your mind is not what “contemplative prayer” has come to mean. Contemplative prayer has slowly increased in practice and popularity along with the rise of the emerging church movement—a movement which embraces many unscriptural ideas and practices. Contemplative prayer is one such practice.
Contemplative prayer, also known as “centering prayer,” is a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. While contemplative prayer is done differently in the various groups that practice it, there are similarities. Contemplative prayer involves choosing a sacred word. Contemplative prayer usually includes sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settling briefly and silently, introducing the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. When a contemplative pray-er becomes aware of thoughts, he/she is to return ever so gently to the sacred word.
Although this might sound like an innocent exercise, this type of prayer has no scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24). These verses and others clearly portray prayer as being comprehendible communication with God, not an esoteric, mystical meditation.
Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.
Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open spirituality among adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ Himself stated that salvation comes only through Him (John 14:6). Contemplative prayer, as practiced in the modern prayer movement, is in opposition to biblical Christianity and should definitely be avoided.
Question: What is contemplative spirituality?
Answer: Contemplative spirituality is an extremely dangerous practice for any person who desires to live a biblical, God-centered life. It is most commonly associated with the emerging church movement, which is riddled with false teachings. It is also used by many different groups that have little, if any, connection with Christianity.
In practice, contemplative spirituality is primarily centered on meditation, although not meditation with a biblical perspective. Passages such as Joshua 1:8 actually exhort us to meditate: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Notice what the focus of meditation should be—the Word of God. Contemplative spirituality-driven meditation focuses on nothing, literally. A practitioner is exhorted to completely empty his/her mind, to just “be.” Supposedly, this helps one to open up to a greater spiritual experience. However, we are exhorted in Scripture to transform our minds to that of Christ’s, to have His mind. Emptying our minds is contrary to such active, conscious transformation.
Contemplative spirituality also encourages the pursuit of a mystical experience with God. Mysticism is the belief that knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and ultimate reality can be gained through subjective experience. This emphasis on experiential knowledge erodes the authority of Scripture. We know God according to His Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God’s Word is complete. There is no reason to believe that God adds additional teachings or truths to His Word through mystical experiences. Instead, our faith and what we know about God is based on fact.
The website for the Center for Contemplative Spirituality sums it up well: “We come from a variety of secular and religious backgrounds and we each seek to enrich our journey through spiritual practice and study of the world’s great spiritual traditions. We desire to draw closer to the loving Spirit which pervades all creation and which inspires our compassion for all beings.” There is absolutely nothing biblical about such goals. Studying the world’s “spiritual traditions” is an exercise in futility because any spiritual tradition other than that which exalts Christ is falsehood. The only way to draw closer to God is through the path He has ordained—Jesus Christ and the Word.
Question: What is dualism?
Answer: In theology, the concept of dualism assumes that there are two separate entities—good and evil—which are equally powerful. In “Christian” dualism, God represents the good entity and Satan represents the evil entity.
However, the truth is that even though Satan has some power, he is no equal to God Almighty, for he was created by God as an angel before he rebelled (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-17). As the Scripture says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). According to Scripture, there is no dualism, no two opposing forces of equal power called good and evil. Good, represented by God Almighty, is the most powerful force in the universe without exception. Evil, represented by Satan, is a lesser force that is no match for good. Evil will be defeated every time in any head-to-head match with good, for God Almighty, the essence of good, is all-powerful, whereas evil, represented by Satan, is not.
Whenever any doctrine portrays good and evil as two equal opposing forces, that doctrine contradicts the scriptural position that good, represented by God Almighty, is the dominant power in the universe. Since Satan was not, and never will be, equal to God, any doctrine that says he is can be marked as a false doctrine. The fact that Satan was thrown out of heaven for trying to rise above God does not mean Satan has given up trying to be equal or superior to God, as evidenced by the basic tenets of “dualism” that have come down largely through the philosophical stem of human wisdom.
There can be no dualism existing in any corner of our universe. There is only one power that is overriding, and that power is God Almighty as revealed to us in the Bible. According to the scriptural evidence, there is only one power that is omnipotent, not two. Thus, any doctrine of dualism which contends that there are two equal powers opposing each other (good and evil) is a false doctrine.
Question: What is the JEDP Theory?
Answer: In brief, the JEDP theory states that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were not written entirely by Moses, who died in 1451 B C, but also by different authors/compliers after Moses. The theory is based on the fact that different names for God are used in different portions of the Pentateuch, and there are detectable differences in linguistic style. The letters of the JEDP theory stand for the four supposed authors: the author who uses “Jehovah” for God’s name, the author who uses Elohim for God’s name, the author of Deuteronomy, and the priestly author of Leviticus. The JEDP theory goes on to state that the different portions of the Pentateuch were likely compiled in the 4th Century B C, possibly by Ezra.
So, why are there different names for God in books supposedly written by a single author? For example, Genesis chapter 1 uses the name Elohim while Genesis chapter 2 uses the name YHWH. Patterns like this occur quite frequently in the Pentateuch. The answer is simple. Moses used God’s names to make a point. In Genesis chapter 1, God is Elohim, the mighty Creator God. In Genesis chapter 2, God is Yahweh, the personal God who created and relates to humanity. This does not point to different authors but to a single author using God’s various names to emphasize a point and describe different aspects of His character.
Regarding the different styles, should we not expect an author to have a different style when he is writing history (Genesis), writing legal statutes (Exodus, Deuteronomy), and writing intricate details of the sacrificial system (Leviticus)? The JEDP theory takes the explainable differences in the Pentateuch and invents an elaborate theory that has no basis in reality or history. No J, E, D, or P document has ever been discovered. No ancient Jewish or Christian scholar has even hinted that such documents existed.
The most powerful argument against the JEDP theory is the Bible itself. Jesus, in Mark 12:26, said, “Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” Therefore, Jesus says plainly that Moses wrote the account of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-3. Luke, in Acts 3:22, comments on a passage in Deuteronomy 18:15 and credits Moses as being the author of that passage. Paul, in Romans 10:5, talks about the righteousness Moses describes in Leviticus 18:5. Paul, therefore, testifies that Moses is the author of Leviticus. So, we have Jesus showing that Moses was the author of Exodus, Luke (in Acts) showing that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, and Paul saying that Moses was the author of Leviticus. In order for the JEDP theory to be true, Jesus, Luke, and Paul must all either be liars or be in error in their understanding of the Old Testament. Let us put our faith in Jesus and the human authors of Scripture rather than the ridiculous and baseless JEDP theory (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Question: What is moral relativism?
Answer: Moral relativism is more easily understood in comparison to moral absolutism. Absolutism claims that morality relies on universal principles (natural law, conscience). Christian absolutists believe that God is the ultimate source of our common morality, and that it is, therefore, as unchanging as He is. Moral relativism asserts that morality is not based on any absolute standard. Rather, ethical “truths” depend on variables such as the situation, culture, one’s feelings, etc.
Several things can be said of the arguments for moral relativism which demonstrate their dubious nature. First, while many of the arguments used in the attempt to support relativism might sound good at first, there is a logical contradiction inherent in all of them because they all propose the “right” moral scheme—the one we all ought to follow. But this itself is absolutism. Second, even so-called relativists reject relativism in most cases. They would not say that a murderer or rapist is free from guilt so long as he did not violate his own standards.
Relativists may argue that different values among different cultures show that morals are relative to different people. But this argument confuses the actions of individuals (what they do) with absolute standards (whether they should do it). If culture determines right and wrong, how could we have judged the Nazis? After all, they were only following their culture’s morality. Only if murder is universally wrong were the Nazis wrong. The fact that they had “their morality” does not change that. Further, although many people have different practices of morality, they still share a common morality. For instance, abortionists and anti abortionists agree that murder is wrong, but they disagree on whether abortion is murder. So, even here, absolute universal morality is shown to be true.
Some claim that changing situations make for changing morality—in different situations different acts are called for that might not be right in other situations. But there are three things by which we must judge an act: the situation, the act, and the intention. For example, we can convict someone of attempted murder (intent) even if they fail (act). So situations are part of the moral decision, for they set the context for choosing the specific moral act (the application of universal principles).
The main argument relativists appeal to is that of tolerance. They claim that telling someone their morality is wrong is intolerant, and relativism tolerates all views. But this is misleading. First of all, evil should never be tolerated. Should we tolerate a rapist’s view that women are objects of gratification to be abused? Second, it is self-defeating because relativists do not tolerate intolerance or absolutism. Third, relativism cannot explain why anyone should be tolerant in the first place. The very fact that we should tolerate people (even when we disagree) is based on the absolute moral rule that we should always treat people fairly—but that is absolutism again I In fact, without universal moral principles there can be no goodness.
The fact is that all people are born with a conscience, and we all instinctively know when we have been wronged or when we have wronged others. We act as though we expect others to recognize this as well. Even as children we knew the difference between “fair” and “unfair.” It takes bad philosophy to convince us that we are wrong and that moral relativism is true.
Question: What is pantheism?
Answer: Pantheism is the view that God is everything and everyone and that everyone and everything is God. Pantheism is similar to polytheism (the belief in many gods), but goes beyond polytheism to teach that everything is God. A tree is God, a rock is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God, etc. Pantheism is the supposition behind many cults and false religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism to an extent, the various unity and unification cults, and “mother nature” worshippers).
Does the Bible teach pantheism? No, it does not. What many people confuse as pantheism is the doctrine of God’s omnipresence. Psalm 139:7-8 declares, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God’s omnipresence means He is present everywhere. There is no place in the universe where God is not present. This is not the same thing as pantheism. God is everywhere, but He is not everything. Yes, God is “present” inside a tree and inside a person, but that does not make that tree or person God. Pantheism is not at all a biblical belief.
The clearest biblical arguments against pantheism are the countless commands against idolatry. The Bible forbids the worship of idols, angels, celestial objects, items in nature, etc. If pantheism were true, it would not be wrong to worship such an object, because that object would, in fact, be God. If pantheism were true, worshipping a rock or an animal would have just as much validity as worshipping God as an invisible and spiritual being. The Bible’s clear and consistent denunciation of idolatry is a conclusive argument against pantheism.
Question: What are Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism?
Answer: Pelagius was a monk who lived in the late 300s and early 400s AD Pelagius taught that human beings were born innocent, without the stain of original or inherited sin. He believed that God created every human soul directly and therefore every human soul was originally free from sin. Pelagius believed that Adam’s sin did not affect future generations of humanity. This view became known as Pelagianism.
Pelagianism contradicts many Scriptures and scriptural principles. First, the Bible tells us that we are sinful from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5). Further, the Bible teaches that all human beings die as a result of sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). While Pelagianism says that human beings are not born with a natural inclination towards sin, the Bible says the opposite (Romans 3:10- 18). Romans 5:12 clearly states that Adam’s sin is the reason sin infects the rest of humanity. Anyone who has raised children can attest to the fact that infants must be taught to behave; they do not have to be taught how to sin. Pelagianism, therefore, is clearly unscriptural and should be rejected.
Semi-Pelagianism essentially teaches that humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that we cannot cooperate with God’s grace on our own. Semi- Pelagianism is, in essence, partial depravity as opposed to total depravity. The same Scripture passages that refute Pelagianism will also refute Semi- Pelagianism. Romans 3:10-18 definitely does not describe humanity as only being partially tainted by sin. The Bible clearly teaches that without God “drawing” us, we are incapable of cooperating with God’s grace. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Like Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism is unbiblical and should be rejected.
Question: What is polytheism?
Answer: Polytheism is the belief that there are many gods. Breaking the word down, “poly” comes from the Greek word for “many,” and “theism” from the Greek word for “God.” Polytheism has perhaps been the dominant theistic view in human history. The best-known example of polytheism in ancient times is Greek/Roman mythology (Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Poseidon, etc.). The clearest modern example of polytheism is Hinduism, which has over 300 million gods. Although Hinduism is, in essence, pantheistic, it does hold to beliefs in many gods. It is interesting to note that even in polytheistic religions, one god usually reigns supreme over the other gods, e.g., Zeus in Greek/Roman mythology and Brahman in Hinduism.
Some argue that the Bible teaches polytheism in the Old Testament. Admittedly, several passages refer to “gods” in the plural (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 10:17; 13:2; Psalm 82:6; Daniel 2:47). Ancient Israel fully understood that there was only one true God, but they often did not live as if they believed that to be true, continually falling into idolatry and the worship of foreign gods. So what are we to make of these and other passages that speak of multiple gods? It is important to note that the Hebrew word elohim was used to refer to the one true God and to false gods/idols. It functioned almost identically to the English word “God.”
Describing something as a “god” does not mean you believe it to be a divine being. The vast majority of Old Testament Scriptures which speak of gods are speaking of false gods, those who claim to be gods but are not. This concept is summarized in 2 Kings 19:18, “They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands.” Notice Psalm 82:6, “I said, ‘You are “gods” you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”
The Bible clearly teaches against polytheism. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Psalm 96:5 declares, “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” There is only one God. There are false gods and those who pretend to be gods, but there is only one God.
Question: What does the Bible say about karma?
Answer: Karma is a theological concept found in the Buddhist and Hindu religions. It is the idea that how you live your life will determine the quality of life you will have after reincarnation. If you are unselfish, kind, and holy during this lifetime, you will be rewarded by being reincarnated (reborn into a new earthly body) into a pleasant life. However, if you live a life of selfishness and evil, you will be reincarnated into a less-than-pleasant lifestyle. In other words, you reap in the next life what you sow in this one. Karma is based on the theological belief in reincarnation. The Bible rejects the idea of reincarnation; therefore, it does not support the idea of karma.
Hebrews 9:27 states, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This Bible verse makes clear two important points which, for Christians, negate the possibility of reincarnation and karma. First, it states that we are “destined to die once,” meaning that humans are only born once and only die once. There is no endless cycle of life and death and rebirth, an idea inherent in the reincarnation theory. Second, it states that after death we face judgment, meaning that there is no second chance, like there is in reincarnation and karma, to live a better life. You get one shot at life and living it according to God’s plan, and that is it.
The Bible talks a lot about reaping and sowing. Job 4:8 says, “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Luke 12:24 says, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” In each of these instances, as well as all the other references to reaping and sowing, the act of receiving the rewards of your actions takes place in this life, not in some future life. It is a present-day activity, and the references make it clear that the fruit you reap will be commensurate with the actions you have performed. In addition, the sowing you perform in this life will affect your reward or punishment in the afterlife.
This afterlife is not a rebirth or a reincarnation into another body here on earth. It is either eternal suffering in hell (Matthew 25:46) or eternal life in heaven with Jesus, who died so that we might live eternally with Him. This should be the focus of our life on earth. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:8- 9, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Finally, we must always remember that it was Jesus whose death on the cross resulted in the reaping of eternal life for us, and that it is faith in Jesus that gives us this eternal life. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Therefore, we see that the concept of reincarnation and karma is incompatible with what the Bible teaches about life, death, and the sowing and reaping of eternal life.
Question: What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel?
Answer: In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite—God uses the believer. Word of Faith or prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do God’s will. The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.
Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11. These men of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (v. 9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (v. 10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.
Paul said covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5) and instructed the Ephesians to avoid anyone who brought a message of immorality or covetousness (Ephesians 5:6-7). Prosperity teaching prohibits God from working on His own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because He cannot work until we release Him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts.
A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say, Word of Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (as though man could require anything of God!). Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. James 4:13-16 clearly contradicts this teaching: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.
Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:3), are to be free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
Question: What is the Jesus Seminar?
Answer: The “Jesus Seminar” was begun by New Testament “scholar” Robert Funk in the 1970s. It was Funk’s desire to rediscover the “historical Jesus” that was hidden, he believed, behind almost 2000 years of Christian traditions, myths, and legends. The Jesus Seminar was created to examine the biblical gospels and other early Christian literature to discover who Jesus truly was and what He truly said. The Jesus Seminar was (and still is) comprised almost entirely of individuals who deny the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Bible. The agenda of the Jesus Seminar is not to discover who the historical Jesus was. Rather, the purpose of the Jesus Seminar is to attack what the Bible clearly says about who Jesus is and what He taught.
The crowning publication of the Jesus Seminar is a work that goes through the four biblical gospels and the gospel of Thomas and proceeds to determine what Jesus truly said and taught. It divides Jesus’ words from the gospels into categories based on how likely it is that Jesus truly said them. Words in red indicate words that Jesus most likely said. Words in pink represent words that Jesus possibly said. Words in grey indicate words that Jesus likely did not say, but are close to what He might have said. Words in black represent words that Jesus definitely did not say. It is interesting to note that in this work from the Jesus Seminar there are more words in black than in red, pink, and grey combined. Almost the entire gospel of John is in black. It is also interesting that the gospel of Thomas is given a significantly higher percentage of red and pink words than the biblical gospels. It is absolutely ridiculous, even offensive, to think that a group of “scholars” today can more accurately determine what Jesus did and did not say than the authors of the gospels, who wrote in the same century in which Jesus lived, taught, died, and was resurrected.
The “scholars” of the Jesus Seminar do not believe in the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the miracles of Christ, or the substitutionary atonement death of Christ. Perhaps most significantly, they deny that the Holy Spirit is the author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), having moved the minds and hands of all the writers (2 Peter 1:20-21). Since the Jesus Seminar does not believe these Christian doctrines, they relegate anything that Jesus says in support of them as “black.” Essentially, the agenda of the Jesus Seminar is, “I do not believe Jesus is God, so I am going to remove anything that records Jesus saying or teaching that He is God from the gospels.” The claim that the purpose of the Jesus Seminar is to “discover the historical Jesus” is false and misleading. The true purpose of the Jesus Seminar is to promote the Jesus that the Jesus Seminar believes in instead of the Jesus of the Bible.
Question: What is the synoptic problem?
Answer: When the first three gospels are compared—Matthew, Mark, and Luke —it is unmistakable that the accounts are very similar to one another in content and expression. As a result, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “synoptic gospels.” The word “synoptic” basically means “to see together with a common view.” The many similarities between the synoptic gospels have led some to wonder if the gospel authors had a common source, another written account of Christ’s birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection from which they obtained the material for their gospels. Some argue that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are so similar that they must have used each other’s gospels, or another common source. This supposed “source” has been given the title “Q” from the German word quelle which means “source.”
Is there any evidence for a “Q” document? No, there is not. No portion or fragment of a “Q” document has ever been discovered. None of the early church fathers ever mentioned a gospel “source” in his writings. “Q” is the invention of liberal “scholars” who deny the inspiration of the Bible. They believe the Bible to be nothing more than a work of literature, subject to the same criticism given to other works of literature. Again, there is no evidence whatsoever for a “Q” document—biblically, theologically, or historically.
If Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not use a “Q” document, why are their Gospels so similar? There are several possible explanations. It is possible that whichever gospel was written first (likely Mark), the other gospel writers had access to it. There is absolutely no problem with the idea that Matthew and/or Luke copied some text from Mark’s gospel and used it in their gospels. Perhaps Luke had access to Mark and Matthew and used texts from both of them in his own gospel. Luke 1:1-4 tells us, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Ultimately, the explanation as to why the Synoptic Gospels are so similar is that they are all inspired by the same Holy Spirit, and are all written by people who witnessed, or were told about, the same events. The gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle, one of the twelve who followed Jesus and were commissioned by Him. The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, a close associate of the apostle Peter, another one of the twelve. The gospel of Luke was written by Luke, a close associate of the apostle Paul. Why would we not expect their accounts to be very similar to one another? Each of the gospels is ultimately inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore, we should expect coherence and unity.
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