Apologetics

Do Wedding Ceremonies and Religious Beliefs Matter to God?

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Marriage in ChurchQ: I never came across anything in the Bible that says to be married in a church by a pastor. I was wondering are you able to marry spiritually in God’s eyes?

The human condition is such that we need to make a commitment before man as well as before God. Now so many people think that marriage is just a feeling of love, but love has never been exclusively a feeling. The bedrock of love is commitment. Feelings ebb and flow, but a commitment never dies. If a commitment is the foundation of your love relationship, then that commitment should be made formally and publicly in the eyes of God but with a commitment to cherish, to honor and to take care of that loved one until “death do us part.”

Q: My fiancé is a Jehovah’s Witness and I’m a Christian. What does the Bible say about mixing religions?

“Do not be unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14, ESV). This is unequivocal, clear, and direct.

A Jehovah’s Witness has a completely different Jesus. The Jesus of Christianity is the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the archangel Michael, who was during his earthly sojourn merely human, and after his death recreated as an immaterial spirit creature. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is neither the Jesus of the Bible nor is their plan of salvation a biblical plan of salvation—it’s about what you do as opposed to what Jesus Christ has done for you. Jesus Christ, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is not even the creator of all things. He was created by God and became a junior partner in the creation of all other things. Neither is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible nor their authority equivalent to the Christian Bible. The New World Translation is a perverted translation of the Bible. Christianity and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are two religious systems. One based in history and evidence and the other cultic that can never be harmonized.

I can tell you right now that if you go down that road (entering into marriage with an unbeliever) you are bringing yourself a life of sorrow.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Can an Unbeliever be Saved by Marrying a Believer? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The “Family” Quarrel: Defining and Defending the Biblical Concept of Family (Joe Dallas)

“You Shoulda Put a Ring on It:” Witnessing to Cohabiting Couples (Joe Dallas)

Sex, Lies, and Secularism (Nancy Pearcy)

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the New World Translation of the Bible Credible? (Hank Hanegraaff)

A Grossly Misleading Translation (New World Translation) (Julius Robert Mantey)

Jehovah’s Witnesses and John 1:1: New Evidence Advances the Discussion (Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti)

Deity vs. Humanity: A Closer Look at Philippians 2:6-7 (Kristen Forbes)

Blog adapted from “Do we need to be married in a church?

Apologetics

A Christian Response to the Jehovah’s Witness Blood Transfusion Doctrine

Wright, Brian J-JW Blood Transfusions

HANK HANEGRAAFF: I want to spend a little time talking about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe that Christianity died with the last of the Apostles; therefore, they hold that Christianity was not resurrected again until their founder, Charles Taze Russell, began organizing the Watchtower Society back in the 1870s. They now consider themselves to be the only authentic expression of Christianity. In reality, however, they do what all cults do, they compromise and they confuse the nature of God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that the Trinity is a freakish looking three-headed god that was invented by Satan, and that Jesus is merely a god. In Watchtower theology, Jesus was created by God as the Archangel Michael, during his earthly sojourn he became merely human, and after his crucifixion he was recreated an immaterial spirit creature. Not only that but with respect to eschatology, they teach that only one-hundred-forty-four-thousand will make it to heaven, while the rest of the faithful will live apart from Christ on earth. Moreover, under the threat of being dis-fellowshipped, Jehovah’s Witnesses are barred from blood transfusions. In fact this was the subject of the Christian Research Journal article “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusions: Their Use of Scripture in Their Blood Doctrine” written by Brian J. Wright. He joins us on the broadcast. Hi, Brian.

BRIAN J. WRIGHT: How are you doing?

HANK:  Brian, this is a great example for me of how ideas have significant consequences not only spiritually but also physically.

BRIAN: Absolutely, absolutely! I think you’re right on.

HANK: You talk about those consequences in the article. You point out that in one of their publications there is a feature on five children who die after refusing to take blood transfusion, and in the article, they are then hailed as martyrs because they put God’s decree first in their lives, or at least the governing body’s interpretation of God’s decrees.

BRIAN: Yeah. Absolutely, I mean it hits you hard. I know that they’ve wielded their influence over these parents to, you know, have their kids make these decisions, then as you said they hail them as martyrs for making that decision. It’s tough pastorally just to think about it.

HANK: Talk for a few moments about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believes vis-à-vis blood transfusions because their theology has gone through transition. You have eight men part of the governing council making decisions for a whole body of believers, and yet those decisions change from time-to-time.

BRIAN: They do. We’ve seen them change a number of times and that’s something that I note in the article. Back in 1945 when it first became official doctrine, then they started nuancing it a little bit as things came their way. For example, they realized their children would not be able to go to public schools unless they made a few modifications, or their missionaries would not be able to go to other countries if they weren’t able to have certain shots like tetanus. So, they start making a few modifications, but I would just argue that they haven’t gone far enough in making changes that they need to make.

HANK: One of the things they do is they misinterpret the Scripture, and we would say in a fairly obvious way at some points. At some points what they do is they simply add words to the Scriptures and they make Christ something other than the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. With respect to blood transfusions, what they’re doing in essence is misinterpreting the Scriptures to take passages that deal with animals and then apply them to human beings.

[Jehovah’s Witnesses reason that the receiving of a blood transfusion is a violation of biblical prohibitions against eating blood from animals, as in the cases of Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 7:26-27; 17:10-16 and Acts 15:20, 28-29.]

BRIAN: Correct. The function is different. Even the theology is different. I wouldn’t place blood transfusions in the category of distinctively pagan practices with religious overtones which what you see often times in the Scriptures in the passages that their wrestling with.

HANK: Brian you are a theologian and historian. When you look at the Watchtower organization, you don’t just look at them to find or parse error, you look at them as human beings, and your motivation is to equip Christians so that they can use the deviations to reach real people not just from a physical standpoint but from the standpoint of all eternity spiritually.

BRIAN: Correct. Absolutely so, that’s why the first thing I address even before I get into addressing the topic as a historian or a theologian, I want to address it as a pastor. That’s why, you know, first you want to weep with those who weep that have lost loved ones, as you mentioned even, those five children and there have certainly been many more. I’m reaching out to them to first sympathize for the lost they’ve experienced but also, like you said, these are real people dealing with real life issues, and we want to be able to bring counsel to that. We want to bring proper exegesis, proper biblical interpretation and understanding. That’s why in this article, I really dealt with just one small sliver of the overall equation, which was, you know, trying to pinpoint or understand their hermeneutic, which in one sense, I’d say they really don’t have one on these issues.

HANK: Brian, I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve watched the Watchtower organization or adherence of the Watchtower organization being willing to do for a lie what Christians often times are not willing to do for the truth. So, there’s a sense in which you can commend their passion but it is misguided passion but in another sense maybe this is a great warning or motivator for Christians to not simply sit but get engaged in the war because there is a war for the souls of people and we ought to be engaged in that war.

BRIAN: Absolutely, that’s why by sympathizing with them, by even finding maybe some commonality or some middle ground. I’ve mentioned in the article, you know, they’re right about a number of things. Like you said, the Bible still does speak to real people in real situations. We applaud them for attempting to find answers as to our modern questions with Scripture. Then again we’re going to start dividing over the proper handling of that and ways in which we are wanting to go out and herald the Gospel.

HANK: That is one of the things I appreciate very much about your article, you have a heart, which is very obvious in your writing, your goal is to reach as oppose to repel. So, where you can give commendation you do.

BRIAN: Yes. Like you said, you don’t overstep those boundaries or limits in order to just shake hands and be at the same table, but I think that is a place that you can often start. It is on some of those commonalities and then go from there.

HANK: Talk about some of the changes in their theology with respect to vaccinations and organ transplants.

BRIAN: A few that I noted and others is they modified one of their stances in order to allow certain antibodies, I just used tetanus as one example, so that they’re missionaries could go to other countries, and so their kids could go to public schools. That happened in 1958, which was about a little over a decade after they first came out with the doctrine. But, the sad thing is that sometimes they would change a position but it wouldn’t come out in print until a few years later and one that I noted was on February 25, 1975 they decided to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses with hemophilia from receiving any clotting factors, such as factor 8; well, they changed and retracted that statement or position four months later but they didn’t publish it until three years later. So there were several people that were negatively affected by that. Sometimes it’s not just that they are just making changes, but how quickly they are to let their followers know about them.

HANK: Brian, one final question I want to ask that has to do with the term that you use in your article—hermeneutics, which has to do with the art and science of biblical interpretation. It is a science that rules apply; it is an art in that the more you apply the rule the better you get at it. Talk to the necessity for not just Jehovah’s Witnesses but Christians in general to know the principles of hermeneutics and to faithfully apply them.

BRIAN: One of the things that I mentioned was a lot of others have written and addressed many of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ positions both from a legal perspective and a medical perspective, and even though they are pastors and theologians, I think one of the things that was unique with this article, as opposed to some of the others, is viewing it and seeing how we come to the text and how we interpret it. Hermeneutics at a very base level: how we interpret these literary texts matter greatly. It is important for us then as Christian to be handling the Word of God accurately. The questions we need to ask ourselves is how best to approach the text. To address this and come up with a framework which to do it is paramount. It is imperative for us Christians to do that.

HANK: One final question, and that is to talk for just a moment about this notion of doing what we do in such a way that we are manifesting gentleness and respect as opposed to simply trying to win an argument.

BRIAN: That’s exactly what it’s not—just to win an argument. I mean, we’re ultimately wanting to share the truth in love. With all these things we’re going to show wisdom, restraint, and love all at the same time. Whereas we see them not able to exercise freedom in Christ or even liberty, which they could as Christians, but we want to put them ahead of ourselves, and ultimately represent Christ.

For further related study, please see the following:

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusions: Their Use of Scripture in Their Blood Doctrine (Brian J. Wright)

Watchtower Issues New Instructions on Blood (David A. Reed)

Watch Tower Embraces New Bloodless Medicine (Holly Pivec)

Jehovah’s Witnesses and John 1:1: New Evidence Advances the Discussion (Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti)

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Interview from the Bible Answer Man broadcast December 9, 2014.

Apologetics

Debunking Secular-Progressive Syllogisms while Upholding Christian Civility

Eberstadt, Mary-Debunking Secular-Progressive Syllogisms

HANK HANEGRAAFF: We are interviewing Mary Eberstadt, she joins me from the south of France, she’s written a book titled It’s Dangerous to Believe. Religious freedom is under assault like never before. A country founded upon freedom of speech and religious belief is being changed from within by activists’ hostile to both. Is this what we want the United States of America to be? Well, the rhetorical question is answered with a resounding “no,” but if that in fact is your sentiment, then you have to do something about it. The first thing you have to do is know what’s going on, and then have the discernment necessary to do something significant. I think this book leads us in that direction. That’s why I am passionate about putting it into your hands.

Mary you talk about syllogisms. Syllogism like: “If you are against abortion; therefore, you are anti-woman.” “If you believe in Christian teaching; therefore, you hate people who endorse same-sex marriage.” The syllogism seems to sell, but it’s obvious fallacious.

MARY EBERSTADT: Yes, it is Hank. That’s another thing that I think makes the difference between playing defense and playing offence in these matters. Those syllogisms—the idea that if you’re against the secularist progressive political program; therefore, you’re a bad person—are fallacious syllogisms. They’re illogical. A 6-year-old could pick apart the logic of that. Yet, those syllogisms make up so much of our public conversation out there.

Christians today are called “bigots” and “haters” without any evidence that they hate anyone at all or that they’re bigoted against anyone at all. I think the time has more than come to raise our hands and say, “This is unjust.” Other people are not pilloried [publicly scorned or ridiculed] in this way. Other people are not deprived of a place at the table of public life because of these fallacious syllogisms. This shouldn’t be happening to believers either.

I want to stress, Hank, that I we can make this case with civility and by appealing to people’s reason. There is nothing alarmist about by my argument, but I did write it in order to put it into the hands of religious believers so that people have a blueprint and they have a record in their hands of what’s going on, what kind of penalties are being given out to believing Christians that are not being given out to other people in higher education, the better higher social circles, and the workplace. I hope that empirical record is useful to people not because it should frighten them but because it should empower them to say to their secular progressive friends and neighbors, “Look, what you’re doing is unjust.”

HANK: Talk about Hillary Clinton. You write about this in the book. At the 2015 Women of the World Summit she declared deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structured bias have to be changed. What’s inculcated in those words?

MARY: Well, that was about as clear a statement that politics trumps religious liberty as any we have seen. I mean ordering longstanding religions to change their longstanding teachings is a pretty clear statement of the idea that politics is above everything.

There are also a number of statements that President Barack Obama has made over two terms that have inflamed this atmosphere according to which Christians are seen as bigots and haters. He said at a prayer breakfast, for example, a few years ago, that there are less-than-loving Christians. Think about that phrase Hank? Less-than-loving Christians. No President, in fact virtually no citizen would dare say, “Less than loving __________,” fill in the blank with some other religious group there. Yet, here as in so many cases there is a double standard where it is permissible to say derogatory things about Christians and especially tradition minded Christians in a way that it is not permissible to make derogatory statements about other people.

I think the solution to this is not to be free to make all the derogatory statements we want. The solution is to abolish the double standard and to have a level of civility towards Christians that we have toward everybody else.

HANK: This may be a little off point, but you’ve kind of got this going on in my mind, with your comment. I think about Obama and some of the things that he says vis-à-vis Christianity. On the one hand, you have him speaking with soaring rhetoric about the Andalusian paradise, for example, on the other hand, you hear him criticizing Christianity over and over again. What disturbs me about all of this is he professes to be a Christian, I’m not doubting of what he is saying, but why speak with soaring rhetoric about Islam and then demean the Christian faith?

MARY: Well, in particular, what the President has demeaned, and this is a matter of public record, is tradition minded Christianity. That is to say, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Christians who have already gotten rid of the unpopular moral teachings of Christianity. It’s the other ones he goes after and other people go after. If you remember from some years back, the statement about rural believers who cling to their guns and their religion, remember that, he said they get bitter and they cling to their guns and their religion? Well, that was about as condescending a thing that you can say of ordinary rank and file Christians in this country.

The point is: This condescension isn’t just a matter of attitude, it really does trickle down. You opened by talking about what’s happening to Christians in the Middle East, it’s one of the most important stories of the world. There’s genocide in the Middle East against Christians; yet, it took our government, Hank, years longer to use that “G” word that it did many other people and other governments. Even the United Nations beat the United States of America in acknowledging that this is genocide. This was despite the pleadings of many scholars, some of them are noted in the book, who begged the United States to recognize that this is what is going on.

Now, I don’t bring this up to suggest anything nefarious about the President and the Administration, I’m not saying they did this on purpose. What I’m saying is this: If you come to politics with a bias against Christianity in the first place, if you think the expression of Christianity in America is a problem, and something that needs reigning in, then of course what’s going on with Christians elsewhere is not going to be at the top of your “to do” list. I think that’s what happened here. It’s one of many ways in which the plight of Christians in the Middle East and the purposeful diminishing of Christians in the prosperous West are related things. No, they are not the same things. People here in America are not being crucified or driven from their homes. But, they are suffering in other ways that make it hard for them to help their worst off brethren. So, these things are related at the root, and we need to understand that.

For further study, we recommend addition It’s Dangerous to Believe to your apologetics arsenal. To order, click here.

Mary Eberstadt is an essayist and author of several influential books, including How the West Really Lost God, Adam and Eve After the Pill and Home-Alone America. She is also the editor of Why I Turned Right. Her novel The Loser Letters has recently been adapted for the stage. Eberstadt is a frequent contributor to Time, the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, and First Things. She lives in the Washington, DC, area.

Blog adapted from the August 1, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Could Jesus have sinned?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Jesus Sin

Q: Did Jesus in His humanity have the option to sin?

Hank Hanegraaff: The temptation that came to Christ was from without, but for sin to take place there always has to be an inner response to the outer suggestion to sin. Since Jesus was divine, He could not respond to temptation. In fact, if Jesus Christ had mulled over a temptation to sin for even a moment, He would have been tainted by sin. So we have to say, “No, Jesus Christ could not have sinned, and therefore, Jesus Christ could not have responded.” Now the temptation was real, but for sin to take place there has to be an inner response to the outer suggestion to sin.

We can, in some sense, relate to that. We who are born into sin can identify with being tempted to do something that we are utterly disinclined to do. I’ll give you an example. A mother would never consider killing her child, even if she was offered a life free from suffering. Nonetheless, the natural desire to avoid suffering would render such a temptation genuine. The temptation would come, it’s a genuine temptation, but the mother would be completely disinclined to yield to that temptation because she couldn’t imagine killing a child. That gives a bit of an earthly perspective on how this could happen.

Now, Jesus did not have a sin nature. To have a genuinely human nature does not require a sin nature. In saying that “God cannot be tempted by evil” in the Epistle of James (2:13, NIV), there’s a focus on God as the self-sufficient sovereign of the universe, as such He has no unmet needs. Conversely, the accounts of the temptation of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) focus on God in human flesh, and as such, He experienced all the essential physical and psychological needs that are commensurate with humanity. He suffered hunger, fatigue, and desire for self-preservation.

The biblical truth that God cannot be tempted and yet Christ was tempted are complimentary, they’re not contradictory.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15, NIV).

For further study, please see the following equip.org resources:

If God Cannot be Tempted, How Could Jesus be Tempted? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Genuine Temptation and the Character of Christ  (Adam Pelser)

The question on Jesus Christ being tempted is also addressed in That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan.

Blog adapted from “Did Jesus have the opportunity to sin?

Apologetics

What is the Best Way to Memorize the Scriptures?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Scripture Memorization

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11, NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deut. 6:6-7, NIV).

Q: I Struggle terribly with memory verses, and wondering if you have any guidance that can help me out?

Hank Hanegraaff: No, I don’t think it’s a block that you’re never going to get over. In fact, the whole of Scripture lets us know that the Bible is actually given to us in such a way that it is inherently memorable. If you look at the very early stages of human history, we see them outlined by Moses in Genesis in such a way that you could remember them with the ten fingers of your hand. Likewise, the way Jesus presents the Beatitudes is an inherently memorable fashion.

The Bible was actually given in an oral culture. It was meant not only to be written down on paper but also written down upon the tablet of your heart. As Jesus said, “Let these words sink into your ears” (Luke 9:44, NASB). I think that everyone can memorize but it is a lost art in our culture. Because it’s a lost art so many people think, “Well, I just can’t do it.” The reality is you can.

Now if you look at someone who has memorized a tremendous amount of Scripture, you say, “Wow, I can’t do what that person does,” and you therefore might give up. What you ought to do rather than give up, is set realistic goals. It is often said, “He who aims at nothing invariably hits it.” You have to set realistic goals, and those goals have to become attainable goals. If your goals are unrealistic you will undoubtedly become to give up. If you say, “I’m going to memorize a chapter a day,” believe me, you’re going to get discouraged and ultimately, you’re going to give up. Rather, what you ought to do is set goals that are attainable. Maybe you set out to memorize a verse a month. Then you’ll say, “That’s not very much, I can do that very easy.” So just memorize that verse and go over and over again for that month, and then the next month do another, at the end of the year you’ll have memorized twelve verses, which is probably twelve more than you did the previous year. That’s called setting an attainable goal.

Now once you can attain that goal, instead of it being an unfinished monument in your life, it becomes a light in your life. You’ll say, “I did that. In fact, I can do more than that.” Pretty soon you’re going to be memorizing a verse a week. And now you’re in the process of doing the very thing that the Bible calls us to do.

I would also say this: From a practical standpoint, memorize Bible verses with a family member or a friend. This is so important because then there’s an accountability structure which really helps you in the process. Like exercising with someone, sometimes hard to do it on your own, but to do it with someone else makes it not only a joy but gives you an accountability structure.

I also normally use unproductive time to review what I have memorized. I could be standing in a line, I could be waiting at the airport, I could be walking on the treadmill. There are a thousand different times a week in which you can review verses that you’ve already memorized. The objective is to take these verses from the short-term to the long-term memory and that’s done by repetition and review.

People would laugh at me because I used to have a page out of the Bible. I’d have one Bible that I’d pull apart page by page, stick the page in my wallet, and I’d be standing in a line somewhere, in the grocery line, and I’m kind of impatient anyway, and I’d pull that out and I’d start reviewing or memorizing and pretty soon I’d be at the cashier. I’d think, “Wow that went way too fast.” So it really changes your perspective.

But, again, I think the real key to Scripture memorization is to set small attainable goals to begin with.

Blog adapted from “Scripture Memorization.”

 

Apologetics

Clash with the Rival Faith of the Secular Progressive Alliance

Eberstadt, Mary-Rival Faith of Secular Progressive Alliance

HANK HANEGRAAFF: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago ominously predicted that he would die in bed, his successor in prison, and his successor’s successor a martyr in the public square. What Cardinal George predicted is already happening, and I would say with alarming frequency in the cradle of Christianity. The genocide of Christians in Syria and Iraq is simply breath taking. Although all too often it falls squarely in the blind spot of most Western Christians. Even that, however, is rapidly changing. Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by the Islamic State at the Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, while he was conducting morning Mass. His throat slit by Jihadists who forced him to his knees. One of the terrorists was on the French government’s terror watch list and yet at large with a knife. France, of course, is still reeling from the Bastille Day attack in Nice after the killing of more than 80 people. What has happened in France is now becoming a regular occurrence all over the West. As we face a clash of civilizations, which can hardly be plastered over with politically correct rhetoric, Mary Eberstadt has appropriately written a book titled It’s Dangerous to Believe and she joins me now from the south of France. Hi Mary!

MARY EBERSTADT: Hello Hank. Thank you for having me.

HANK: Well, I really appreciate your book and I suppose you are right in the epicenter of what I was just talking about?

MARY: I am, and of course, when we talk about what’s happening to Western religious believers, believers in the United States and elsewhere in the advanced world, we are not making any comparison to persecution of brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere. But you see a priest in France martyred for the faith is to be reminded that Christianity has enemies in this world, and it has all kinds of enemies in unexpected places. Without making any moral equivalence between the genocide in the Middle East and the soft persecution, what Pope Francis has called the polite persecution of Western Christians, we can still see that we are at a pivotal moment as a civilization and we have to decide whether we will defend religious liberties or not, and it is under threat in the advanced countries as never before, particularly in the United States, a government founded on religious freedom itself.

HANK: Is there any cohesion between militant secularism in the West and militant Islamic Jihadism?

MARY: No, I don’t think we can make that kind of moral equivalence, but we can ask: Why is today’s secularism so belligerently opposed to Christianity? After all, Hank, you know, and I know and your listener’s know that traditional believers in the Western world have been on the receiving end of one loss after another in the culture wars or what are called the culture wars. To say this is not to say that their positions have been wrong, it’s just to observe a fact. My point is that given that they have lost on issues like school prayer, obscenity, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., why is it that the secularism that targets them is still as aggressive as it is? This is something that I try to get at in the book. You can’t rationally explain the animus against Christianity that’s held today by secularist progressive alliance. The only way to make sense of it is to understand that this alliance has a rival faith of its own, a secularist faith.

HANK: You talk about two cracks in the landscape of religious freedom, elaborate on that.

MARY: Yes, of course. The threats to religious liberty in the United States alone are manifold. On one level there are the kinds of stories that we’ve become used to hearing, stories where human faith is put on these kinds of religious liberty struggles; for example, the fire chief in Atlanta who lost his job because he published book professing his Christian faith (Kevin Cochran). This is something that would have seemed impressive even ten years ago, but now we see more and more of these cases where people are penalized in the workplace or otherwise ostracized for the faith. There was an example of a football coach in Washington (Joe Kennedy), who was suspended for saying a prayer on the field after a football game. This again is the kind of thing we’ve never expected to see in the U.S. until recently, but there is a pylon of these kinds of anecdotes, and I enumerate lots of them in the book.

They’re also, Hank, attacks of a more institutional nature. On religious education, for example, there are attacks by secularists on homeschooling. Homeschooling is thought to be something that parents ought not be free do, especially Christian parents. Some secularists have been very overt writing about their desire to abolish homeschooling. For example, the leading atheist, Richard Dawkins, has actually called homeschooling the equivalent of child abuse. So that’s one kind of institutional attack. We’ve also see attacks on flagship institutions like Gordon College in Massachusetts, and the King’s College in New York. Both of these Protestant evangelical schools have had to defend themselves against attacks on their accreditation in the past ten years and I’m sure, Hank, that this is only the beginning of institutional questioning of religious schools. In these various dimensions we’ve see various kinds of attacks on the transmission of Christian belief, particularly Christian traditional belief

For further information, we recommend adding It’s Dangerous to Believe to your apologetics arsenal. To get this resource, click here.

Mary Eberstadt is an essayist and author of several influential books, including How the West Really Lost God, Adam and Eve After the Pill and Home-Alone America. She is also the editor of Why I Turned Right. Her novel The Loser Letters has recently been adapted for the stage. Eberstadt is a frequent contributor to Time, the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, and First Things. She lives in the Washington, DC, area.

Blog adapted from the August 1, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Should Christians Judge the Teachings of Their Leaders?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Judge Teachings of Leaders

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:21-22).1

If you listen to the Bible Answer Man broadcast, you’ll recognize that I get questions about popular teachers all the time. This raises the question: Should Christians judge the teachings of their leaders?

My answer is this: Not only is judging permissible, it is our responsibility. Nobody’s teachings are above sound judgment, especially that of influential and popular teachers. Biblically authority and accountability go hand-in-hand, and the greater the responsibility, the greater the accountability (Jas. 3:2; 1 Tim. 5:22).

The precedent for making right judgments comes from Scripture itself. This isn’t my opinion. If you look at the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to practice sound judgment to thoroughly test the teachings of their leaders (Deut. 18:15-22).

The same is true in the New Testament when the Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians to test all things and then to hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21-22). In fact, Paul lauds the Bereans for testing his own teachings (Acts 17:10-11). While our Lord cautioned followers not to judge self-righteously, He also counseled them to make judgments that are based on right standards. In fact the context of Jesus’ oft misquoted command, “Do not judge or you too will be judged,” He is actually exhorting us to judge false prophets whose teachings and whose behavior led people astray (Matt. 7:1; cf. 16:4-12; 23:13-33). We are commanded to not judge hypocritically; nevertheless, we are called to judge.

Common sense I think should be sufficient to alert us to the importance of making public as well as private judgments regarding false doctrine. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think this is an apt illustration. Remember the Tylenol scare? Public warnings were issued by the media. Public warnings were issued by the medical community. It was about the physical danger of ingesting Tylenol capsules that someone had laced with cyanide. In similar fashion, when spiritual cyanide is dispensed within the Christian community, we are duty bound to warn the public. That’s why Paul publicly rebuked teachers whose teachings that had been spreading like gangrene.

All of this is prologue to what is going on in the Christian community today. You have teachers today saying that we should not confess our sins, because if we confess our sins, then what we are doing is cheapening the grace of God. In fact, one of the very popular teachers in the Christian church today, Joseph Prince, is contending that 1 John 1:9 was written to Gnostics and therefore as Christians we cannot take its admonition seriously. He states those Gnostics had “infiltrated the early church;” therefore, they were not true believers but “heretics.”2

Now, let me stop there for a moment. If you actually go to the biblical text, you see that the Apostle John is urging his “Dear children” in the faith, those who have been forgiven on account of Christ to continually confess their sins (1 John 2:1-2). Hardly sounds like he’s taking to Gnostics. Nonetheless, Joseph Prince contends that 1 John 1:9 was written to Gnostics who had infiltrated the church and were not true believers. Obviously, dead wrong! But, often times Christians are not judging the teachings of their teachers, which are spreading like gangrene, again to paraphrase the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 2:16-18).

Joseph Prince goes on to conclude, “You do not need to confess your sins again and again to be forgiven, you are already forgiven” (emphasis in original).3 “Beloved,” he says, “with one sacrifice on the cross, Jesus blotted out all the sins of your entire life! Don’t cheapen his unmerited favor with your own imperfect efforts to confess all your sins.”4

What are we told in Scripture? We are told to confess our sins. If we do, Jesus Christ will be faithful and just. He will forgive us all of our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It is hard for me to think of anything more pernicious then to tell people not to confess their sins. Confessing your sin ought to be a daily part of your prayer life.

Read Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are proved right when you speak

and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:1-4).

David goes on to say,

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice. (Psalm 51:7-8)

That is as true today as it was when David prayed the prayer now encapsulated in the Word of God.

Think of James, the brother of Jesus, who explicitly exhorts believers to confess their sins to one another and also to confess their sins to God (James 5:16).

In the case of 1 John 1:9 the grammatical construction is a present active subjunctive. It denotes continual confession. Each time we partake of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Table, we examine ourselves we confess our sins so that we will not come under judgment. Isn’t that what were told to do in 1 Corinthians 11? In fact, Paul says those who partake of Communion without examining their lives and confessing their sins are in mortal danger. Paul says that is why some of you are sick, and some of you have died (1 Cor. 11:28-30).

All of this to say we are to judge the teachings of those who are men and women with public platforms—including my own teachings. We are to test all things in light of Scripture and hold fast to the good (1 Thess. 5:21-22).

When we test the teachings of teachers, when I’m asked questions on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, we don’t do this to be controversial. This is not about ratings. Ideas have consequences. The consequences of following the teachings of men like Joseph Prince and Joel Osteen, or women like Marilyn Hickey and Joyce Meyer, along with many others who have public platforms are devastating. So, it is more critical today than ever, because what these teachers are doing is they are taking the skin of the truth and they are stuffing it with a great big lie, a lie that has dramatic implications in the lives of real people, and I would say not only for time but also for eternity.

We did an article in the Christian Research Journal on Joseph Prince. I’m only using him as one example. I wrote a book called The Osteenification of American Christianity. Why? Because we are to test or judge the teachings of those who are disseminating spiritual cyanide by the mega-dose. Again, people bite the poisoned apple, and they feel the effects in many ways in their lives. This is not about theoretical pining; rather, this is about practical implications in the lives of real people each and every day. What we’re doing is dealing with these issues because it is important to learn discernment skills. Discernment is critical. We live in an age of information overload. The amount of information that is being disseminated is quite frankly mind blwing. We need to know how to ask the right questions, and ask those right questions in the right sequence, so that we can come to a true evaluation of things.

For further related study, please see the following:

Should Christians Judge the Teachings of Their Leaders? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Untouchables: Are ‘God’s Anointed’ Beyond Criticism? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christians Criticizing Christians: Can It Be Biblical? (Bob and Gretchen Passantino)

Osteenification and What it Portends (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity in Crisis 21st Century: Wealth and Want (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity Still In Crisis: A Word of Faith Update (Bon Hunter)

What’s wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 1): E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of another Gospel (Hank Hanegraaff)

What’s wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 2): The Teachings of Kenneth Copeland (Hank Hanegraaff and Erwin M. de Castro)

Joyce Meyer in the Twenty-first Century (Bob Hunter)

Joseph Prince: Unmerited Favor (Warren Nozaki)

Blog adapted from the June 27, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast


Notes:

  1. All Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.
  2. Joseph Prince, Unmerited Favor: Your Supernatural Advantage for a Successful Life (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2010), 189.
  3. Ibid. 191.
  4. Ibid. 195
Apologetics

Making Sense of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Statue in Daniel 2

Hanegraaff, Hank-Making Sense of Daniel 2

31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:31-35).*

Q: What are your thoughts on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue divided into different sections and materials in Daniel 2.

Hank Hanegraaff: The interpretation of that dream by Nebuchadnezzar is given by Daniel while in Babylonian exile. Daniel is able to do what the diviners and enchanters cannot do. He is able to give the interpretation to that dream.

The interpretation of that dream to Nebuchadnezzar is that this great statue represents a succession of nations. That succession of nations is articulated in different visions throughout the Book of Daniel.

I have been reading, listening, and studying Daniel over and over and over again, and very clearly, what we have is an interpretation given by Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. But, after Nebuchadnezzar there’ll be another king that is as inferior to Babylon as silver is inferior to gold. And what happens after Nebuchadnezzar’s death is, though Babylon continues to exist, it exists under inferior leadership and another nation rises up. It’s the Median nation that becomes the top nation, as it were, and it’s preeminent up until the time that Babylon is destroyed by a coalition of the Medes and the Persians—the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire is described here as a bronze empire that will rule over the whole earth. Now one thing we know is that was not true of Babylon nor was it true of the Median Empire, but it certainly was true of the Medo-Persian Empire with respect to the ancient world. After that you have the Grecian Empire and in many different ways throughout Daniel the Grecian Empire, Alexander the Great and Antiochus IV Epiphanes, are described in incredible detail, throughout the Book of Daniel.

“No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan. 2:27-28).

For further study, please see the following:

Did Daniel Accurately Predict a Succession of Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Did Daniel Prophesy a Seven-Year Great Tribulation? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Apocalypse When? Why Most End-time Teaching Is Dead Wrong. (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog adapted from “Clarify Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2?

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984).

Apologetics

Is the Current Transgender Bathroom Bills Debate a Primary Issue?

Dallas, Joe-TransgenderBathroomPrimarySecondary

Hank Hanegraaff: This is a special edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast. My special guest is Joe Dallas. We’re going to be talking about a cover story in the Christian Research Journal titled “Of Bathroom Bills and Basic Beliefs,” transgenderism, homosexuality, and things related. I want to start out by talking about an the April 21, 2016 article from USA Today entitled “NBA Should Move All-Star Game from North Carolina Now” by Nancy Armour.

Armour states,

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Thursday that the All-Star Game won’t be played in Charlotte next February if hatred, bigotry and discrimination continue to be the law of the land in North Carolina…

…North Carolina lawmakers have shown no signs of budging from their hateful stance.

It is also pointed out by Armour that,

Bruce Springsteen, Boston and Pearl Jam have all canceled concerts in North Carolina in protest of the law. PayPal dropped plans for a global operations center in Charlotte, costing the state 400 new jobs.

If those public shamings weren’t enough to prompt a change of heart, no amount of “pretty pleases” by Silver and the NBA will, either.

In Armour’s opinion,

The best way to deal with bullies – there’s no other way to describe North Carolina’s small-minded lawmakers—is to stand up to them. With as popular as basketball is in North Carolina, home to both Steph Curry and Michael Jordan, the NBA pulling the All-Star Game would be the strongest statement yet that intolerance has no place in today’s world.

Armour’s bottom line is this: “North Carolina’s discriminatory law [HB2] is both hurtful and hateful.”

Think of all those words she used in one article: “hateful,” “hurtful,” “bigotry,” “discrimination,” “bullies,” “small minded lawmakers,” and “intolerance.” The rhetoric has ratcheted up on this subject, and I can tell you that there is not a day that has gone by in the last month wherein I did not read two or three front page news articles on this subject. All of that led me to ask Joe Dallas to write a cover story for the current edition of the Christian Research Journal, which is entitled “Of Bathroom Bills and Basic Beliefs.”

Joe Dallas has been on the Bible Answer Man broadcast many times. He is the Program Director of Genesis Counseling in Tustin, California. It’s a Christian counseling service to men dealing with sexual addiction, homosexuality, and other sexual relational problems. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He’s author of some incredible books on human sexuality, including A Strong Delusion and the forthcoming Speaking of Homosexuality. Along with “Of Bathroom Bills and Basic Beliefs,” he also contributed to the same issue of the Journal another article that just fantastic: “Is Gay Christian an Acceptable Identity?” This is must reading for every Christian on the planet. As always Joe, it’s great to have you on the broadcast.

Joe Dallas: Hey, Good being here, Hank.

Hank: I want to start out with a very simple question. Is the issue at hand, the issue which I tried to set forth in the opening of the broadcast; is this a primary issue or a secondary issue?

Joe: That’s an important question because, Hank, if it is a secondary issue, why are we bothering?

I think that if we cannot be persuaded to change our position, as believers, the next tactic will get us to see that position as a secondary issue, which we don’t really need to stand firm upon. We would not break fellowship over say when we may or may not believe the Rapture of the church is going to happen, or over which gifts of the Spirit are available today. We would not call those primary issues.

I would argue that this is a primary issue for a number of reasons, the first being the very account of creation. Hank, we can’t get around this simple fact. To be human is to be sexual. To be sexual is to be male or female. To be male or female is to have an assigned sex given to us with our Creator’s foreknowledge. Those are foundational truths, when we try to alter them, we create madness, and candidly, just listening to you now describing the current scene, what other word could you use other than “madness”?

Hank: Joe, I kind of set this up at the opening of the show, but give us some kind of idea of what you’re driving at, what the subject matter is that we are underscoring in the broadcast, when you talk about “Bathroom Bills and Basic Beliefs.”

Joe: Yes. We’re taking about a couple of things simultaneously. We’re talking about transgenderism, Hank, which is a broad common term covering primarily the more technical term, transsexual. A transsexual is an individual we feels that he or she was born with the wrong body and is in fact a member of the opposite sex. A transsexual male will say, “I know I have the body parts of a male, but all my life, I have felt I am a woman.” That is a condition commonly called gender dysphoria. When a transsexual realizes he or she has that condition a decision has to be made. Either I am going to treat this condition as though it is a problem, which I need to manage and deal with, or I’m going to give into to it, and say the problem is my body not the condition.

Now, traditionally, Hank, we have believed that if someone believes they are in the wrong body the problem is their beliefs. Only recently have we come to begin believing as a culture that the problem is actually the body, and not the beliefs. There’s the rub, because as more people come forward and say “I demand the right to determine for myself what my sex is regardless of what my anatomy testifies,” there is concurrent with that a demand that the culture come into agreement with that assessment. So, more and more people who are saying, “I am female,” even though they have male parts, are also demanding that we refer to them as female and that reverence needs to extend it self even to which bathroom and shower facilities they use.

That is the crux of the controversy we’re facing, really on a national level, but, as you have said, specifically now in North Carolina. However, as you know Hank, President Barack Obama has sent out a letter from a federal position basically saying that schools will need to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, and he is interpreting sex discrimination as discrimination against students who identify as transgender. What we are seeing a resistance to is the federal based move to force women and girls to allow males, anatomical males, into their showers or their bathroom facilities or vice versa, simply based on the male saying “I am a female, and that’s all I need to say.”

Hank: You point this out in the article, but there are people who are in very significant positions in our culture, like Governor Nicky Haley (South Carolina) and Charles Krauthammer (Fox News) who both contented that HB2 represents a fabricated problem?

Joe: Well, I wish they were right. I wish that I was overreacting. I wish that the millions of us who are concerned about this were overreacting. But, Hank, the problem has already shown itself, it’s not fabricated, it’s now historical. There are already a number of cases—which I’ve cited in the article we’re talking about, in this special edition of the Journal—cases which men have seized on this new opportunity to enter into women’s restrooms and changing rooms, and they are not transsexual men, they are simply males, because you really do not—in order to take advantage of these new laws—you don’t have to really be transsexual, all you have to do is say, “I am a woman,” and that gives you access into the women’s facility.

So, there are two reasons we’re concerned about this: One is the very real problem of sexual predators. We know they exist. We know that to some extent they will always prey on victims, but this gives them a “green light” like they never had before.

The second problem is the violation of a girl. The violation she will feel having to share toilet facilities or shower facilities with an anatomical male, whether that male is in any way physically violating her or not, she will feel violated by his presence because of what we would call “natural modesty.” We’re trying to rip natural modesty away from women and force them to accept communal showing and toilet use with anatomical males all for the sake of catering to a very minuscule percentage of the population which is making this demand.

For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:

The Transsexual Dilemma: A Dialogue about the Ethics of Sex Change (Joe Dallas)

How Do Biblical Ethics Apply to Hermaphrodites? (Hank Hanegraaff)

(Blog adapted from the June 8, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.)

Apologetics

Is the Bible in error or inerrant?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Bible In Error or InerrantQ: Most Bible teachers believe in verbal plenary inspiration, which is the inspiration of the Scripture down to the very words, and the original manuscripts there’s no errors—scientifically, mathematically, anything like that. What about holding to a different position, like the view that has been held by theologians like Karl Barth, that Scripture is completely inspired but some of it, when it comes to history or certain scientific facts, can contain error in the original manuscripts?

Hank Hanegraaff: If you look at the words of Peter, he says: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV).

The one thing we can say about the Bible is that it’s fully divine and fully human yet without error in its autographs. This is to say, if God is God, and God is speaking through the personalities and proclivities of people, He is speaking truth through them. Therefore, if you read Peter and you read Moses, you’ll find two different writing styles. Now, why would the Holy Spirit in that process communicate error through people?

What we must do is learn to read the Bible for all its worth. In Genesis, for example, when you see a snake deceiving Eve, Moses writing long after the creation event is not intending to say “Satan looks like a snake,” or “Satan has physical characteristics,” or “a snake has vocal chords.” No. He is not telling us what Satan looks like he’s telling what Satan is like. Satan, of course, is non-corporeal—nonphysical.

We have to understand the art and science of biblical interpretation and then we’re not going to come off and say, “You know what, the Bible has some nice things to say, but overall it makes some pretty big errors.” Instead, we’ll say, “Whoa, my error was in that I didn’t know how to read the Bible for all its worth.”

For further related study, please see the following:

How Do We Know the Bible is Divine Rather than Human in Origin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

L-I-G-H-T-S to the Word of God (Hank Hanegraaff)

Practical Hermeneutics: How to Interpret Your Bible Correctly (Part 1) (Thomas Howe)

Practical Hermeneutics: How to Interpret Your Bible Correctly (Part 2) (Thomas Howe)

Taming Bible “Discrepancies” (Rachel Ramer)

Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty (H. Wayne House)

What Does it Mean to Interpret the Bible Literally? (Hank Hanegraaff)

When Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water (John Makujina)

Was Eve Deceived by a Talking Snake? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Please also consult the following books:

Has God Spoken (B1045) by Hank Hanegraaff

The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated (B2027) by Hank Hanegraaff

The Origin of the Bible (B1089) edited by Philip W. Comfort

New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (B106) by Gleason Archer

Blog adapted from “Do the original manuscripts of the Bible contain errors?