In the News, Journal Topics

Biblical Misconceptions?

I came across a CNN Belief Blog op-ed piece entitled “My Take: The 3 Biggest Biblical Misconceptions” by former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong. In it he purports three misconceptions  people have about the Bible that make it hard to understand.

First, he contends “people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.” One reason Spong offers for this assertion is a liberal presupposition that the Gospels were written late, between AD 70–90, making them subject to mythological corruption. The fact, however, that the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament make no mention of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70is one of several compelling reasons for dating the entire New Testament prior to AD 70. Moreover, even if we were to grant the liberal dating, there still would be no justification for worrying over the accuracy of the New Testament given the remarkable reliability of the oral culture within which the New Testament was produced to transmit history and teaching accurately.

The second misconception, according to Spong, is “the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense ‘the word of God,’ ” which he bases upon the apparent evil of Yahweh ordering the “genocide” of nations, and a fundamental misunderstanding of Old Testament imprecatory psalms.

Finally, Spong suggests people are under the misconception that “biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging,” which he bases upon the apparent difference between the “tribal deity” in Exodus who orders the death of every firstborn male and the God who commands people to love their enemy. The God of the Bible, however, does not change; rather, He progressively reveals different aspects of Himself in biblical history. He is both just, sending wrath upon sinful Egyptians for their mistreatment of others, but also merciful in teaching His people to love their neighbor.  

Is there any basis for Spong’s assertions? None at all. He is, as Hank Hanegraaff puts it, a “fundamentalist on the left.” Hank addresses and refutes Spong’s claims in his recent book, Has God Spoken: Memorable Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

— Warren Nozaki

For further refutation of Spong’s claims,  see the following equip.org resources:

Is The Bible Myth?

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims

Was Revelation Written Before or After the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70?

Moses: The Author of the Pentateuch

How Do We Know That The Bible Is The Word Of God?

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

Facts for Skeptics of the New Testament

Does Homosexuality Demonstrate that the Bible is Antiquated and Irrelevant?

When Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water

Hateful Vindictive Psalms?

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

Has God Spoken
B1045/$22.99

Is God a Moral Monster?
B1030/$14.99

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ
B387/$18.00

Journal Topics

Did Muhammad Believe in Women’s Rights?

If I turn on the news and watch a report on women in Islam, I might hear a Muslim woman talking about the revolutionary status Muhammad gave women through his revelations and teachings. In the United Kingdom, I might see an advertisement from the “Inspired by Muhammad” campaign proudly proclaiming that Muhammad believed in women’s rights. Yet, what would I find if I read through the basic Muslim texts: the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sira literature? Would the current push to reconcile the view of women in Islam with the Western ideology of women’s rights go hand-in-hand? No. The view of women established by the trilogy of Muslim texts does not provide much in common with Western ideology; specifically that which is based in Christian theology.

Muhammad was a sixth-century man, who unapologetically commanded a sixth-century view of women. Through the Qur’an, he instructed that women are provisions or possessions for men as are children, cattle, hoards of gold and silver, and well-tilled land (Surah 3:14). Men may have up to four wives with additional sexual slaves (Surah 4:3, 24; 33:50). He mandated the beating of women by men as punishment for rebellion (Surah 4:34). He also declared the woman as an intellectually inferior being (Surah 2:282) whose lack of common sense is one of the reasons women are a majority of those in Hell (Sahih Muslim #142).[1] Even in Paradise—in the afterlife—a woman is to be married to her earthly husband, serving him when called. (Sahih Bukhari #3820, 4879).

This picture of women contrasts the picture the apostle Paul and Jesus gave of women; which was counter-culture to the first century. Paul instructed that a wife should submit to her husband, but in the context of a husband loving his wife as himself; treating her as if she were his own flesh (Ephesians 5:28-31). Paul has seemingly created a paradox in that one spouse is to submit to another while equal respect is required in love. He additionally describes this love as the love Jesus Christ has for the church. How is this accomplished? Further, when Jesus is questioned concerning the resurrection and marriage, he declared that none are given in marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30). Yet, in Islam, the woman is forever married to the man in heaven as part of his reward.

— Mary Jo Sharp

  1. Which view of women, when rooted in the texts and outworked philosophically, actually provides a foundation for the equality of the sexes in essence?
  2. Was Jesus’ view of women aligned with first-century culture like Muhammad’s view of women was aligned with sixth-century culture?
  3. Why are we seeing such a push in America by Muslims to reconcile their doctrine on women with Western philosophy?

Notes:

[1] There are at least 48 individual hadith on this one topic.

Mary Jo Sharp is the founder of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry and a graduate of Biola University. She participates in public, formal debates on Islam and appears on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network show, Jesus or Muhammad, engaging in live debate with callers from around the world. She will join Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on Oct. 11, 2011 to discuss her Christian Research Journal (Vol 34 #5) article about Islam and women on which this blog post is based. Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org to listen to their conversation on 10/11. To read the full article by Mary Jo, please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).

Journal Topics

Of Butterflies, Peacock Tails and Poppycock

To his credit, Charles Darwin recognized there were instances of extravagant beauty in the living world that could not be explained by his original theory of evolution by natural selection, so in The Descent of Man he developed his theory of sexual selection to fill the explanatory gap. There he argued, in essence, that the butterfly has extravagantly colored wings, the better to attract a mate, reproduce and pass its beauty pageant qualities on to future generations.

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is brought in to explain problems like the peacock’s tail. While Brad Pitt’s good looks might have no survival-of-the-fittest downside, a peacock’s pride and glory can get him killed. His enormous tail slows him down, making it easier for predators to catch him. So why would nature select for bigger and bigger peacock tails? Because, according to Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, pea hens are attracted to them.

The theory has a superficial plausibility, but a problem emerges if you scrutinize it long enough. Imagine you have a population of pea fowl. Most of the peahens select their mates in the standard natural-selection way—according to how fast the peacocks can take off, by how well they can handle themselves in a fight with other peacocks, that sort of thing. But over a serious of generations a line of peahens develop with a pronounced artistic streak, leading them to start sidling up to peacocks with bigger, brighter tail feathers. So far, so good. We now have peahens selecting for big, bright tail feathers, which presumably will tend to lead to bigger and brighter peacock tails in future generations. But the question is: Why would natural selection prefer these pea hens with their impractical disposition over pea hens with survival-oriented selection criteria? In other words, why would these artistically inclined peahens evolve in the first place? Darwin’s theory of sexual selection doesn’t give us an answer. It moves, rather than solves, the problem of the impractical peacock tail.

Common reason would urge a person to at least consider the possibility that a great artist lay behind the many instances of extravagant beauty that we find in the living world, but for many Darwinists, common reason has been ruled out of court ahead of the evidence.

Questions:

1. Often times the more attractive animal is the healthier, fitter animal. And certainly these animals will generally have an easier time finding mates and reproducing. How is this age-old insight different from what Darwin was claiming with his twin theories of natural selection and sexual selection?

2. Socio-biologist Edward O. Wilson emphasizes that even the works of artistic genius need to be explained in purely evolutionary terms. How might this view transform the way people think about great art, music and literature?

3. The investigative rule known as methodological materialism insists that scientists only consider natural causes for natural phenomena, never intelligent design. Is this more reasonable or less reasonable than being willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if the evidence points to intelligent design?

— Jonathan Witt

Jonathan Witt, Ph.D., is a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (IVP Academic, 2006) and Intelligent Design Uncensored (IVP Books, 2010).

Listen to Hank Hanegraaff’s interview with Jonathan Witt on the design and genius of nature featured on the September 20, 2011 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

CRI also recommends: Jonathan Witt, “Darwin vs. Beauty: Explaining away the Butterfly,” Christian Research Journal, 34, 5 [2011]: 42-43. (This issue is forthcoming). CRI also offers United States and Canadian residents a 1 year (6 issues) subscription to the Journal for $39.50 US. A 1 year (6 issues) foreign subscription is also available for $79.00 US. Click here to subscribe.

Apologetics, In the News, Journal Topics

Last Dance-Chaz Bono and Dancing with the Stars

I’ll miss Dancing with the Stars. Watching it was a weekly family ritual everyone in our home looked forward to, so our decision to stop leaves a void. It’s not a decision made out of moral piety because, after all, plenty of performers on that show have behaved in less than saintly ways, and don’t even get me started on some of the costumes! Nor am I afraid that, as a noted psychiatrist recently warned, young people will become gender confused by viewing a transsexual. (After all, the transsexual in question saw plenty of non-transsexuals as a child, which tells me gender identity isn’t seen then mimicked) And it’s not, as some have stupidly said, an act of prejudice or hatred to stop watching DWTS because of Chaz Bono’s participation. For the last time, disagreement and hatred are two hugely different experiences that ought never to be confused.

No, it’s more than that. I feel that I, along with the rest of the country, am being asked to celebrate a female in a specifically male role. If Chaz was simply a guest on a cooking show, or talk show, then no big deal. But Bono is assuming an officially male role in Dancing, which I as a viewer am asked to applaud. Strike that – I as a Christian am being asked to applaud it. And that I cannot do.

My Creator looked on the His newly formed man and made His first critical remark about humanity – that it wasn’t good for man to be unbonded, unattached, alone. (Genesis chapters 1 and 2) The Female was then specifically and deliberately made for completion of the male, and the contrast between the two was as intentional as their very creation. And if, as God noted to Jeremiah, we are known from the womb (Jeremiah 1:5) then the sex we’re born with is assigned, not optional. Our subjective experience cannot overrule created intent, and I can’t in good conscience applaud, however well intended, attempts to change what was divinely decreed.

Yes, a person must indeed feel an enormous pull towards becoming the opposite sex if such a person goes through the time, effort and financial sacrifice to attempt a sex change operation. Some accept the outcomes of these operations as valid, but some, myself included, see them only as cosmetic attempts that disfigure (without changing) the original. So I can respect how strongly Chaz must have felt the need to be male, else why go through so much to achieve the goal? But herein lies the problem: If someone says they feel are one thing, yet their physical, verifiable state testifies to something else, are we really so wrong in assuming that the problem is not their physical status, but rather their feeling? To put it crudely, if I say I feel like Napoleon Bonaparte, yet my physical status clearly says I’m not, is it really fair to expect you to go along with my feelings and ignore what’s plain to both sight and common sense?

I don’t think so. And that’s why this season is the last dance for me and my house. I wish Bono the best, who I’m sure doesn’t share my worldview and therefore shouldn’t be expected to conform to it. But nor can I conform to Chaz’s, so I politely and respectfully withdraw.

I’ll sure miss Bruno’s rants, though. Nobody can do enthusiasm like that guy.

Joe Dallas is the program director of Genesis Counseling in Tustin, California, 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 and is the author of books on human sexuality, including Desires in Conflict (Harvest House, 1991) and A Strong Delusion (Harvest House, 1996). For a more detailed article by Joe Dallas on transsexualsim, see his article “The Transsexual Dilemma” from the Christian Research Journal at http://www.equip.org/articles/the-transsexual-dilemma. The Christian Research Journal is a must-have tool in your apologetics library so please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).

Apologetics, Journal Topics

What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers

The Walking DeadThe season finale of The Walking Dead raised an important question for Christians: Are humans nothing more than their physical brains? Are all of my thoughts predetermined by synapse firings in the brain? If so, several things follow. First, personal identity through time and change is impossible. When my physical body changes, my identity changes—meaning I can’t be held responsible from past crimes. Second, rational freedom is a myth. After all, if our thoughts are predetermined, we are not free to think any differently than we do. Indeed, one set of synapse firings is no more rational than the next. Third, rationality itself vanishes. If our minds are the result of blind and irrational forces of nature, why trust them to give us the truth about the world? In a strictly physical universe, survival rather than truth is primary. Fourth, human equality suffers. If human value is reduced to brain function, those with more of it are more human and valuable than those with less. Christian theism offers a more plausible explanation for human nature that can account for personal identity, rational freedom, and human equality. Humans are not mere physical machines, but a dynamic union of body and soul.

Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. His feature article, “What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 4 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

Scott Klusendorf will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on Aug. 16, 2011. Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org!

In the News, Journal Topics

Christian Discernment in Response to the Norwegian Massacre

Over the weekend CNN reported Anders Behrig Brevik, the suspect accused of massacring dozens of youth at a Norway retreat center, returned to the scene of the shooting as part of a police investigation. As many can recall, numerous mainstream media (MSM) news sources began reporting that on Friday, July 22, 2011, there was a bombing of government offices in Oslo, Norway, and a connected shooting at a youth summer camp on Utoya Island, which left seventy-seven people dead. [1] The person who confessed to carrying out the attacks being the thirty-two-year-old Norwegian named Anders Behrig Breivik, who was arrested on the same day. [2] MSM sources such as CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times describe Breivik as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” opposed to multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to Norway. Even “Christian” news sources like The Christian Post recapitulated the “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” label to describe Breivek.

Christ’s followers can certainly mourn with those who mourn over this tragedy; however, when mass murderers are labeled “right-wing fundamentalist Christian,” all are encouraged to use discernment in determining truth from error. One must ask, “Just what is a right-wing fundamentalist Christian?” The term right-wing has broad connotations, and it can be used in reference to views expressed in biblical Christianity as well as unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies such as those associated with militant extremist groups like Christian Identity and America’s Patriot Movement. As news reports continue to update the situation, one finds Breivik’s views are more akin to the latter than the former.

CNN offered readers’ comments on the question: “Should Breivik be called a Christian fundamentalist?” In a Washington Post op-ed piece entitled “When Christianity becomes lethal,” Susan Brooks Thislethwaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, finds the term Christian fundamentalism to be “less helpful today in understanding right-wing Christianity,” but laments that “Christians are often reluctant to see…connections their religion and extreme violence.” The distinction between biblical Christianity and unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies is simply indiscernible in her article.

Biblical Christianity has good reason to reject multiculturalism’s moral relativism and liberal intolerance. Scripture also teaches Jesus is the only way; however, this truth claim is certainly not the grounds for any evil done in Christ’s name, and criticisms on the purported biblical justification of holy wars and divine genocide simply hold no water.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17, ESV)

—Warren Nozaki

Notes: 

  1. CNN Wire Staff, “Norway Honors Victims of Terrorist Attacks,” http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/29/norway.attacks/index.html?iref=allsearch
  2. Cf. CNN Wire Staff, “Timeline: Recounting Norway’s three-hour nightmare,” http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/24/norway.terror.timeline/index.html?iref=allsearch
Apologetics, Journal Topics

Sex, Lies, and Secularism

A collegiate website advises young women how to have a “happy hook-up.” Get “clear consent and mutual agreement to engage in sexual acts,” the article recommends. Then “the whole hookup experience will be more positive for everyone involved.”

Glancing at the author’s bio, I was surprised to learn that she is a student at a conservative Christian college.

When even Christian young people are buying into the hook-up culture, it’s clear that traditional ways of teaching biblical morality are no longer effective. Young people don’t only need rules; they need reasons. They need to learn the worldview rationale that makes sense of biblical morality.

Young people today are caught between two contradictory views of sexuality. A modernist view reduces humans to sheer biological organisms driven by impulse and instinct. By contrast, a postmodern view disconnects gender identity from biology, treating it as a social construction, fluid and changing.

As an example, a few years ago California passed a law requiring schools to permit transgender students to use the restroom or locker room of their preferred gender, regardless of their anatomical sex. The new law defined sex as “gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.” Notice the assumption that a person’s sex is “assigned,” as though it were purely arbitrary instead of an anatomical fact.

In short, postmodernism treats physical anatomy as insignificant, inconsequential, and completely irrelevant to gender identity. This is a devastatingly disrespectful view of the physical body.

Christians must make the case that a biblical worldview affirms a much higher view of the body than any secular view. It offers the radically positive teaching of a Creator who actually likes matter because he created it—a God who affirms our material, biological, sexual nature. Whereas secular views are inevitably dehumanizing, Christianity supports a high and holistic view of the human person.

Nancy Pearcey’s latest book is Saving Leonardo, on which this article is based. She is also the author of the best-selling, award-winning Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity. Pearcey currently teaches at Rivendell Sanctuary. Her feature article, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 4 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription

Nancy Pearcy will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on August 9, 2011! Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org!

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Engaging Skeptics

When is the last time you had a meaningful discussion with a skeptic? How many non-believers are you in conversation with on a regular basis?

It’s amazing to me how we often get so excited about learning apologetics that we forget to practice it! Pastor Dan Kimball wrote an article for my book Apologetics for a New Generation called, “A Different Kind of Apologist.” Dan describes how when he first became a Christian he became motivated to learn as much apologetics as possible. He went to apologetics conferences, studied books on defending the faith, and even started an apologetics club at his church.

As many people would put it today, Dan was “fired up” about his faith. But ironically, the more he learned apologetics the less he actually practiced it with non-believers. In other words, the more head knowledge he gained the less he actually used it. How ironic! Sadly, this happens all the time in the church, especially to apologists (of which I count myself).

We simply cannot let this happen. We need to step out of our comfort zones and engage a non-believing world. Recently I did just this. I actually invited myself to sit on the “hot seat” for a local freethinking group in southern California. I was definitely nervous, but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. I made some new friends, broke down some misconceptions, and had a chance to share my faith with 20 skeptics.

I was quite surprised at how eagerly they welcomed me. They were amazed that a Christian was willing to come to their group and they treated me with appreciation and respect. I can’t promise that it will always be like this. But we only know if we try. So, I leave with the question again—When is the last time you had a meaningful discussion with a skeptic? How many non-believers are you in conversation with on a regular basis?

Sean McDowell graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Philosophy and Theology. He teaches Bible at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, is a nationally recognized speaker, and has authored many articles and books, including Is God Just and Human Invention, Apologetics for a New Generation, and Ethics: Being Bold in a Whatever World. This blog post is based on his article “What Skeptics Want Christians to Know” in the Volume 34, No. 3 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

Sean McDowell joins host Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on June 21, 2011 to discuss his article. Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org!

Journal Topics, Reviews

The Story Behind Paul Maier’s Novel The Constantine Codex

I wrote The Constantine Codex using the same formula I did for the first two novels in this series: A Skeleton in God’s Closet, and More Than a Skeleton. While the main characters are the same and the novels do build on one another, the plots are so different that each can be read independently of the other two. In all three, I also aim to educate while entertaining. In the first, the reader learns a good deal about archaeology, and in the second, how to avoid extremes in current Christianity, Codex explores how biblical manuscripts led to our preset Bible as well as the world of Islam.
While using fiction for my principal characters, I always try to paint a background of solid fact in sowing how to respond to the greatest dangers that could ever face the faith. In the first book, I deal with a plot that could have doomed Christianity, and in the second, a fraud that would have done the same thing. But in The Constantine Codex, I also take on what is clearly the greatest challenge ever to face the church—Islam—and present readers with a model of how Christian-Muslim dialogue could take place at the highest levels when Jonathan Weber, my protagonist, debates the world leader of Sunni Islam at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Christians don’t know enough about the Muslim challenge, or how easy it is to defend our faith.

Still, the most significant plotline in Codex deals with a little-known historical episode in the life of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. He instructed his biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea (“the father of church history”) to have fifty elegantly-written copies of the Bible prepared for use in the early church, with its pages bound together into a codex, the world’s first book form. Not one of these has ever been discovered—until now (moving, of course, from fact to fiction) But this codex—the earliest Bible in book form—contains 67 books rather than the usual 66. Is it genuine? Does the extra book really complete the story of St. Paul’s martyrdom at Rome? Should it be included in the canon? How Christianity reacts to this discovery becomes the centerpiece of the novel.

Advance readers are generous in their comments regarding The Constantine Codex, I’m delighted to say. Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, writes: “Just a few pages into it and I was hooked. Maier is that rare combination of masterful storyteller and historian. A brilliant use of the power of story to excite and educate. Bravo!”

— Paul Maier

The Constantine Codex (B1041) is available for purchase through the Christian Research Institute bookstore. Also available from Paul Maier are his novels A Skeleton In God’s Closet (B960), More Than a Skeleton (B920), and Pontius Pilate (B687). To understand more about the historical background to the New Testament, we recommend Paul Maier’s books In The Fullness of Time (SB916) and Josephus, The Essential Works (B558).

Dr. Paul L. Maier is the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and a much-published author of both scholarly and popular works.

Journal Topics

Who is Perry Stone?

Perry Stone, an ordained Bishop with the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee),1 which is a charismatic Pentecostal denomination that affirms essentials doctrines such as the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, and salvation through Christ;2 however, much of what he propagates through his ministry is controversial and, at points, heretical.

Divine Healing through Communion and Prayer Cloths. Stone teaches that divine physical healings are normative for Christians. He teaches that healing can happen through daily communion in a book entitled The Meal That Heals: Enjoying Intimate Daily Communion with God (Charisma House, 2008). The book description on his Website says, “Through a daily, personal Communion service with God — right in your own home — you can experience spiritual renewal and physical healing in your life.”3

Stone appears to be arguing that if one takes daily communion that God will guarantee healing. This is a stronger statement then even Stone himself makes in his statement of faith when he says that “healing is provided for all through the sufferings of Christ.”4 The frequency in which the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken is a secondary issue that Christians can debate but not divide (Please contact us again for additional information of the frequency of partaking in the Lord’s Supper).

Many who endorse modern-day prayer cloths — such as Stone in the above quote — reason that if you say God does not use prayer cloths, you are denying His power, as well as Scripture, for He used the handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul touched to heal the sick in Acts 19:11-12. However, this response is inappropriate for several reasons. First, despite many modern claims that people today possess the same prophetic or apostolic authority as Paul and the other apostles, the Scriptures do not support this claim. (Please access “Are There Apostles and Prophets Today?”, and “Fivefold Ministry Makes A Comeback” at our Web site for this information.) Second the text specifically indicates that “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hand of Paul” (Acts. 19:11, UNASB); therefore, this was not meant to be normative, or a regular occurrence. Third, God used these miracles as an evidence to attest to the unique role that Paul had as apostle to the Gentiles. Fourth, one must realize the cultural setting in which God worked these miracles through Paul. This miracle, along with the others in Acts 19, occurred around the town of Ephesus, which “was widely reputed for its trade in magic and the need for exorcisms and protection against evil spirits.”5 So strong was Ephesus’ connection to magic and superstition that the “phrase ‘Ephesian writings’ (Epheisa grammata) was common in antiquity for documents containing spells and magical formulae.”6 It is within this cultural setting that the original recipients and readers after the fact can see that one need not trust in pagan superstition or magic, but that our trust should be in the God of the Bible.

Therefore, no one is denying that God used handkerchiefs for some type of healing in the time of the apostles; however, these healings were not normative, but were usually done to illustrate an apostle’s authority and presence in a certain region, and were for a specific purpose.

God can and does heal. Many believe healing is provided for in the atonement but it is by no means guaranteed, as Stone suggest (see “Does God Always Heal?” and “Healing: Does God Always Heal?”).

Deliverance Spiritual Warfare. Stone also propagates an erroneous deliverance model of spiritual warfare. He communicates the idea that believers that harbor unforgivness can be tormented by demons. In regards to Matthew 18:35, he points out that “if you, as a believer, do not forgive a person who has wronged you, you’ll be delivered over to a tormentor,” but then goes on to say, “the example is King Saul — a tormenting spirit.”7 What Stone apparently missed was that the order of this event for King Saul was very important. The evil spirit didn’t torment King Saul until after the Holy Spirit left him. This is extremely important because the Bible says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). Also, demons cannot touch a believer because they have the Holy Spirit in them and they can’t coexist at the same time (John 8:49). The more accurate interpretation of Matthew 18:35 regarding forgiveness is that sin does separate us from God and others in a relation way. If we harbor unforgiveness towards others when we have been forgiven this will harm our relationship both with God and that other person.

Stone moreover affirms that Christians can be unduly influence by “generational patterns and spirits” in two CD’s he offers entitled “Reversing the Family Curse”8 and “Breaking Familiar Spirits”9. Although he does make the distinction that only the unsaved and not Christians can experience “generational curses,” the whole idea of generational curses is foreign to the biblical text.

There is no evidence in Scripture that demons are automatically transferred from one generation to another. We never see Jesus, Paul, or anyone else casting out generational spirits. Leviticus 20:6 and related passages speak of “familiar spirits” (NKVJ). These spirits are wrongly understood to mean a “family” spirit. Actually, the Hebrew word used here (‘ovb) refers to a python by whom people were believed to be possessed. In essence, it carries the meaning of a soothsaying demon.10 1 Samuel 28:7-11: Saul requests the medium of Endor to divine to him “by the familiar spirit” (v. 8, KJV). He then requests that Samuel be conjured up. Obviously, Saul did not consider Samuel to be a blood relative. Hence, the concept of “familiar” equals “family” spirit falls apart. Although it is true that the punishment of sin is carried on to future generations of haters of God (Exod. 20:5; 34:7; Num. 14:18), there is no evidence that the generational punishment necessarily consists of demonic possession or oppression. Yet, if children follow in the occultic practices of their parents, or if such parents dedicate their unregenerate children to the forces of darkness, then such possession or oppression is more likely.

Bible Codes. Stone also endorses the highly faulty concept of the Bible Codes, even championing himself as somewhat of trailblazer saying that “a decade before most Americans had ever heard of the Bible code, Perry had not only heard of it, but had begun informing churches about this now famous phenomena.”11 The use of Bible Codes, while sensationalistic and fanciful, abandon sound methods of biblical interpretation, offer no new revelation to its practitioners, and comes directly out of the world of the occult (see “Magic Apologetics” and “Back to the Future? Does “Bible Code” offer New Clues to Coming Events?”)

Newspaper Eschatology. Stone practices “newspaper eschatology,” which involves lining up current events with certain passages from Scripture as a way of forecasting the time of Christ Second Coming, particularly the propagating of sensationalistic stories to establish Bible prophecy are presently being fulfilled in modern Israel. He purports to be one of the first Americans to confirm and publicize on the search for the ashes of the Red Heifer, as well as the first to present to the American people the ideas of “the earthquake fault line under the Mount of Olives, the huge birds of prey in the Golan, and the healing of the Dead Sea.”12 The Newspaper Eschatology, employed by Stone and many others, is a faulty method of interpreting Bible prophecy, which comes as the result of having a fundamental misunderstanding of how to read the Bible for all its worth. Although not addressing Stone’s teaching in particular, Hank Hanegraaff tackles the serous problem of Newspaper Eschatology in principle in The Apocalypse Code (Nelson, 2007), which is available through the Christian Research Institute. (For further information on the errors of newspaper eschatology please access “Apocalypse When? Why Most End-time Teaching Is Dead Wrong,” “D-Day Declarations”and “The Perils of Newspaper Eschatology.”)

Given the abovementioned problems, CRI does not recommend the teachings of Perry Stone. For further study on related issues, please consider the following bookstore resources:

The Apocalypse Code (Paperback)
B1026/$14.99

Christianity in Crisis 21st Century
B995/$22.99

Counterfeit Revival
B614/$12.99

The Covering
B665/$9.99

notes

1. Voice of Evangelism, “About International Evangelist Perry Stone” (http://www.voe.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=48).

2. Voice of Evangelism, “Statement of Faith,” (http://www.voe.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=35), accessed on 12/19/08. Cf. also Church of God, “The Church of God is…” (http://www.churchofgod.org/about/church_is.cfm).

3. Voice of Evangelism, “Meals that Heal,” (https://store.voe.org/p-457-meal-that-heals-hardcover.aspx).

4. Voice of Evangelism “Statement of Faith,”

5. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarstity Press, 1993), 378.

6. Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts” The Expositors Bible Commentary: John-Acts, vol. 9, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, Publishing House, 1981), 496.

7. Praise the Lord, TBN, May 16, 2004.

8. Voice of Evangelism, “Reversing the Family Curse,” (https://store.voe.org/p-426-cd-reversing-the-family-curse-2cd066.aspx).

9. Voice of Evangelism, “Breaking Familiar Spirits” (https://store.voe.org/p-147-cd-breaking-familiar-spirits.aspx).

10. H. W. F. Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, trans. by S. P. Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 18.

11. Voice of Evangelism, “About International Evangelist Perry Stone”

12. Ibid.