simon peter sutherland
Christian, Theologian, Musician, Songwriter https://simonpetersutherland.com/ http://shimeon.co.uk/
Posted in The influence of film on March 22, 2018
This week I saw the new “Mary Magdalene” movie. The film stars actor Joaquin Phoenix as ‘Jesus’ and actress Rooney Mara as ‘Mary Magdalene.
The story begins in 1st century Magdala, Galilee, where the young woman, Mary Magdalene, lives with her family in the remote fishing village. The community is centralised around family life and the Synagogue. But Mary wrestles with the life that is set before her and knows there is something more.
One day after a troubled visit to the Synagogue, her family is convinced she has a demon and they attempt to exercise the demon in the night. They fail. She is treated poorly. They know about Jesus, ‘the healer’ and He is called in.
It is a very tender and gentle moment when Jesus enters the house and says to Mary “Your family says you grapple with the demon“. Mary is lying on the floor and in a moment Jesus declares ‘there are no demons here‘.
This introduction kept me in good spirits about the film, it set the theme for a peaceful, simplicity. As the film progressed, I recognised the landscape did not look exactly like Galilee, but I overlooked that because of the films correct portrayal of ‘followers of Jesus’ as peaceful, none violent people. Likewise, Jesus appeared to be portrayed as a quiet man and ‘a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief‘ (Isaiah 53: 3). This portrayal dominated the film.
As the film progressed, Mary left her family to follow Jesus and they attempt to get her back somewhat aggressively, but Jesus baptises her. This, is where the problems of this movie began to surface. Jesus is seen baptising Mary Magdalene. Something which Jesus in the Gospels never did. Jesus never baptised anyone (John 4: 2). In the film however, He baptises her once, but thrice by full immersion. The emphasis of Jesus’ baptism and message is upon being born anew and to follow the light and the coming kingdom. I did not hear any emphasis upon repentance of sin.
The film moves on, Mary follows Jesus with the Disciples and the narrative becomes somewhat void and plain. Very little dialogue holds to the memory. They move to villages and in this film Jesus does heal people. No explanation is given. He is exhausted after raising a man from the dead. He gets tired, sleepy, and appears worn out. He heals a blind girl of her sight.
For the most part the film appeared traditional in some sense, some of it appeared to be based upon Luke 8, but a fair amount of focal points are upon Jesus talking with Mary Magdalene alone. A majority of the narrative was not canonical and reflective of the apocryphal gospel of Mary. Especially the portrayal of Peter.
The miracle scenes are not over dramatised, but some of this left the film very dry and unspiritual. The film is also somewhat multicultural and the accents are mixed and distracting. Judas is given a fair amount of screen time.
As the film slowly progresses, they walk to Jerusalem, and to the Temple. Judas believes that Jesus will now usher in the new kingdom. Jesus turns the tables of the money changers over. I did like this portrayal of the anger of Jesus.
Judas gets disappointed because he has not rightly understood what the new kingdom is. The portrayal of the betrayer is rightly portrayed as someone who you would least expect to betray Christ. All of that could be argued as acceptable, however, I thought that all too often Jesus appears to know not what to do? He seeks Mary to guide Him. Although there appears no direct hint of any physical relations between them, all too often Jesus is walking side by side with Mary Magdalene as his guiding apostle.
Yet toward the latter part of the movie, the modern agenda creeps in. In one scene as Jesus approaches the ‘last supper’ Mary is seen walking beside Him on the left, then parts to the left of the meal and Jesus to the right, Mary then sits down on Jesus’ right side which clearly forms a visual hint of ‘Da Vinci’s The Last Supper’. This brought the whole film down for me and I became suspicious of the agenda.
Much of the film was agreeable and careful. But they left a lot out. Presumably to focus upon what Mary saw, not the events we’re generally familiar with. There is no anquish in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Judas does betray Jesus with a kiss. Judas does hang himself. After Jesus is crucified and has risen from the dead, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, and sees Jesus sitting on the ground. The is no rolling away of the stone. Mary goes to tell the apostles that He is risen, and although they believe her, the film presents Mary as the ‘chosen one’ who out of them all, understands Jesus’ message above Peter and all the apostles.
John barely features at all in this movie, which given the central focus on Peter, implied to me that the focus of this film was a feminist attempt to set Mary Magdalene as ‘co-equal’ apostle with Peter, who the Roman Catholic Church sees as its first pope. I noticed a hint of Roman Catholicism in the Temple scenes, it looks reminiscent of St. Peters Basilica, Vatican.
This became even clearer to me when the closing credits came up. The main religious and political agenda of this movie is confirmed by itself. It is distinctly revisionist. The aim being to further promote the position of leadership for women in the Church.
For the most part, the film was very unspiritual and lacked passion and power. Although it remained fairly respectful to the story. I never thought it was anything but well meaning (in the human sense). But the script seemed too ordinary and lacked any dynamics for a story that has changed the world. The portrayal of Peter was insignificant and had no impact. Likewise, Jesus appears, in some sense, portrayed as somewhat untrustworthy and confused? Mary appears to be the spiritual one who held it all together.
Some Christians might like this movie, others will not. The film itself made no lasting impact on me at all. I left the theatre wanting nothing but a hot cup of tea. I didn’t detest the film at all, but I doubt very much that I would even desire to see it again? But if you do go to see it, remember that there is a focal agenda. For women who think themselves as Deacons, Elders, Bishops or Pastors, they might like it. But for any woman, or man like me, who believes the Bible and knows it, we are labelled ‘misogynistic’ merely because we recognise that female leadership in the Church has no authorisation in Scripture, or by God. But the revisionist attempt is an age old claim, nothing new, but bound to continue further. Yet strickly, unbiblical.
In my previous article on the historic anomaly of the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ I suggested the popular doctrine, as it stands today, might have its origins in Gnosticism and not Scripture or early Christianity.
For many, any such claim is unthinkable and a plain denial of Scripture. But these types of beliefs are problematic, since there are between 60-80 verses in the New Testament which give distinct warnings to believers.
Scripture repeatedly tells believers to “abide” in Christ (John 15: 4, 6, 10, 1 John 2: 28) which makes little sense if it were impossible for believers to do otherwise.
Likewise, a person cannot abide somewhere they never were in the first place.
Can a person abide in Christ if he or she was never in Christ in the first place? Why then should should the believer be told to abide in Christ if they cannot do anything else?
The above verses and between 60-80 others including Romans 11: 22, Hebrews 10: 26, raise serious doubts concerning the authenticity of the doctrine.
Scripture is absolutely important and if a doctrine is not taught in Scripture, it does not belong in Christianity and no believer in any part of the world is obligated to believe it. But for all 5 point Calvinists and Calvinistic revisionists, the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ is absolutely iron clad and Scripture itself. It is somewhat devilish, ignorant or evidence of a lack of faith for someone to deny or doubt it. Likewise, any attempt to cause people to re-think this, is pointless, because they have already made their minds up.
This is also the case for many evangelical’s who inconsistently embrace the doctrine, while affirming free will at the same time. See my article on this.
There are some, who upon reading this post would probably have an attitude that says something like this; ‘I was reading this guy the other day who was trying to say that I can lose my salvation and that ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is a Gnostic teaching…‘. They would utterly reject what I am saying without even reviewing the evidence.
Attitudes like that are extreme and immediately unreasonable and people like that are not worth reasoning with in my opinion, but they are a continuous problem.
But the question I am seeking to answer in this post is this: did the Gnostic’s teach ‘Once Saved Always Saved’? If so, was it the same doctrine as Calvinism or did their doctrines contain similarities with the modern ‘wishy washy’ version of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’?
To answer this, I am going to use six references from early Church father Irenaeus and his book ‘Against heresies‘ as my historic source. I will be reviewing the ancient Gnostic beliefs from his perspective and leaving the reader to compare them to the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’.
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that Christians who did not follow their doctrines, believed in a salvation of works. Quote: “We of the Church, they say, are these persons. Wherefore also they maintain that good works are necessary to us, for that otherwise it is impossible we should be saved.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s taught that they would be entirely saved, not by works but because they were saved in the spirit. Quote: “But as to themselves, (Gnostic’s) they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, (works) but because they are spiritual by nature.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that they could not be corrupted or fall away from salvation, no matter what sins they did. Quote “so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s addicted themselves to things forbidden in the Scriptures without any fear of judgement. Quote: “that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.(Gal 5:21).” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s had no issues eating foods sacrificed to idols. Quote: “For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s committed sexual immorality with no fear of judgement or with any remorse. Quote: “Others of them, too, openly and without a blush, having become passionately attached to certain women, seduce them away from their husbands, and contract marriages of their own with them.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
I think there are some disturbing similarities between those Gnostic teachings and the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. I don’t see any distinct exactness between the Gnostic doctrine to proper Calvinism, but some could go to that extreme.
However, none of these references can be dismissed as Gnostic distortions of what was already taught in Scripture, because the warning passages in the New Testament, make little or no sense if ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is true. It is an assumption to assume that because someone is saved, that they will always remain that way. A document can be saved, but that does not mean it cannot be deleted? A royal document can be sealed, but it does not mean it cannot be broken off by the King.
But questions remain; why didn’t the early Church fathers teach it? If the original Apostles taught the doctrine then why didn’t the early Church pick up on it since they followed the Apostles teaching very closely?
What is possible is that the early Gnostic’s did distort the New Testament texts used to affirm unconditional eternal security, and introduced the doctrine into Christianity by influence.
It is fact that the early primitive Church never taught ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. But that does not mean that there is no truth to it. I believe that when a believer is absolutely saved, that he or she can never be lost, but it is an assumption to assume that all believers are fully saved right now. We await the return of Christ in order for salvation to be made complete. Just because a person is saved, it is an assumption to assume that they are fully saved. I say this because there are many things in Scripture that people are saved from. However, I can clearly see why people believe the doctrine as it stands, but it is an assumption to assume that God gives persevering faith to all believers. It is also an assumption to assume that what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 6, is true for all believers. I say this because he never said the same thing to the Galatians.
It is furthermore an assumption to assume that the word “perish” used by Jesus in John 10: 27-29 is a reference to the eternal and it is also an assumption to assume that the promise refers to all believers of all generations. The context of John 10: 27-29 clearly refers to His people who were present at the time when Jesus said that.
It is my opinion that too many Christians today are guilty of making far too many assumptions. We put ourselves before the Biblical texts and read ourselves into them. It has become a rare thing to enquire into the minds of the original Apostles and seek to discover what the Biblical authors were intending to communicate.
What is clear is that too many people and preachers are busy feeding particular views into the Scriptures, things which preachers have already suggested prior to their guiding the thoughts of their listeners before quoting passages from the Bible. This, I’m afraid could well be the power of suggestion, thought control, and rhetorical persuasion.
Christians, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1: 21) “Abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed of Him at His coming.” (1 John 2: 28)
Today, it is not uncommon to hear the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ proclaimed in many sermons and books. It is through sermons and books that many ‘Christians’ today believe the doctrine. Most people that simply read the Bible, come to different conclusions.
This popular nickname ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its systematic reformed origins in the Calvinist doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. This doctrine was devoutly affirmed by 2nd generation reformers and is most associated with 1st generation reformer, John Calvin.
Calvin was an excellent Theologian and his reforms centralised around Geneva. His influence on the reformation was considerable but the main core reformed doctrine was Lutheran. Luther attempted to reform the Church by getting back to Scripture. His conviction was the ‘the Gospel cannot be denied for the word of man’.
Unfortunately, by today’s standards, it is very difficult for any Christian to merely believe what the Bible says. I say this because the Church of today has been corrupted by argumentation and interpretation. So it is, in these times that my personal attempts to proclaim truth and find truth of Scripture and believe it, is very difficult. So often those who merely believe what the Bible says are the ones labelled the total opposite.
However, we are not here to please men. Men may interpret the Bible, but they are not above it. So it is that I come to my point. The popular doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has a major historic anomaly attached to it. Thorough research reveals that the doctrine was not taught in mainstream Christianity until the time of John Calvin or later in the 17th century at the Synod of Dort (1618). Some claim that Augustine of Hippo taught it? others that the doctrine is Gnostic.
Difficult as it may seem to grasp, it appears that the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its early origins in Gnosticism and not Christianity. We know this because Irenaeus refuted an early form of it in Against Heresies. Book 1. Chapter 6. The connection to Calvin being that Augustine was influenced by Gnosticism because of his prior belief in Manichaeism and Calvin relied upon Augustine as an authority on Scripture and quoted him more than any other theologian. However, there is reasonable doubt whether or not Augustine ever taught ‘Once Saved Always Saved’?
But outside of these references, the doctrine is not to be found.
This presents a major problem; unconditional eternal security was not taught by the ancient Christian Church, and is, in fact alien to historic Christianity before the 16th century.
This presents a major problem for those who claim their beliefs are absolutely Scriptural. It asks an unanswered question; If ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is absolutely Scriptural, as some preachers claim, how could a doctrine of such massive importance lay untaught within Christianity for almost 1500 years? If the doctrine was so clearly taught in Scripture, as many moderns claim, then why didn’t the early Church teach it?
Why did the doctrine only come to light in the 16th century?
Posted in Reformation 2017 on November 5, 2017
Dear Archbishop Justin Welby,
Earlier this year I read with interest your “Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York” concerning your prayer for unity and the call on Christians to repent for the Reformation split. I have repeatedly delayed myself from giving any response, because I have sought to understand properly the things that have been said.
Firstly, I would like to point out that any call for persons alive today to repent of the past, is a logical fallacy. A living person cannot repent for something he or she never did. A person is only responsible for what he or she has done and what they will do in the future.
Secondly, a Scriptural definition of the word “repent” means to ‘change ones mind‘ and sometimes refers to ‘expressing sorrow’ of wickedness and turning away from it.
With these two points in mind, I seek to ask you what it is that you would like Christians like myself to repent of? and how can any Christian repent of something that might not be a sin in the first place? Is the primary focus on how we deal with divisions within Christianity or on the divisions themselves? Or is the primary focus upon the larger agenda to reunite the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church?
I think the answer may well be both, but with a primary emphasis upon the latter!
May I remind you that during the 16th century German Reformation, it was Rome which excommunicated Luther and not Luther Rome. If Christians have common ground with Roman Catholicism, then what was it about the doctrines of Faith alone and Scripture alone that Rome despised so much? The positions seem quite Biblical to me!
I am reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4: 16) These words when translated in the KJV give a distinct warning, not concerning love, but doctrine.
In the statement it is worded; “We therefore call on all Christians to seek to be renewed and united in the truth of the gospel of Christ through our participation in the Reformation Anniversary, to repent of divisions, and, held together in Him, to be a blessing to the world in obedience to Jesus Christ.” Thus, while I do not disagree with the entire statement, I cannot agree with all of it when the context is measured with Scripture, because a Christian who holds to Scripture cannot repent of divisions that are caused by those who deny the Bible.
A true united Church can only be united to the truth of the Gospel when the Gospel is not denied by those who claim to represent it. But when establishments such as the Pope’s church deny the Scripture, how can those who love the Truth be at one with those who don’t? Can light mix with darkness?
Archbishop, though you may or may not see it, and I’m sure you have, close examinations have been done concerning the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and studies show the Pope’s church is little more than an apostate works based religion. Thus in the face of Scripture, it becomes clear that the Pope’s church does not believe the true Gospel of grace alone.
In the preface of a 19th century copy of of ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ there is a distinct warning. It reads like so;
“Rome is labouring, with redoubled effort, for the subjection of Britain. She attacks us openly from without, while there are traitors ready to open our gates from within. And the people have forgotten that she is a siren who enchants but to destroy. It is time that the mask should be torn from her face, and that she should be recognised once more as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and abominations of the Earth” (Rev. XV11. 5)“
Thus, I ask you; why should Christians repent of the divisions made by the Pope’s establishment and the stance the Reformers held that the true character of Rome’s tyrannical apostasy was something that the people of Britain and Europe had been so mercifully rescued from during the Reformation? Is the blood of the martyrs not enough to show that the true face of Pope’s church was shown by her own acts? Is a tree not to be measured according to its fruits?
Sir, I believe you are a true Christian and I hope to warn you that religion is something that rarely changes, and there are good reasons why the Holy Spirit has warned us in the New Testament concerning deception in the church perhaps more than any other topic.
Please think it possible, that while your intentions may well be good, you may also be mistaken.
Simon Peter Sutherland
November 5, 2017
On the evening of the anniversary of the Reformation, I attended an exhibition, debate and discussion at John Rylands Library.
The night began appropriately with the printing of indulgences (on an antique printing press) accompanied with music and an exhibition of artefacts and books from the reformation era. These artefacts included original handwritten and printed indulgences. A Tyndale New Testament and The practice of prelates and Luther on Galatians.
A summery toward the end of the evening focused upon what the reformation has given us today. Where would our world be if not for the Reformation?
This question is a good one and one that could possibly provide a never ending list. However, I have listed a few of the things I think are the direct results the Reformation has given the people of Britain and things inspired by the Reformation and the Theology and principles. These are things that we can be thankful for;
- The New Testament published in the original Greek
- The Bible in English
- The Apocrypha in English
- Chapters and verses of the New Testament
- The old and modern English language
- The Bible in multiple languages
- The freedom to read the Bible for ourselves
- The freedom to interpret the Bible
- The liberty to believe
- Independent Churches & Congregations
- Seats in Churches
- The priesthood of all believers
- Religious liberty
- Freedom of speech
- Puritan history
- Free education
- The bank of England
- The Wesleyan revivals
- The abolition of the slave trade
- Chetham’s Library, Manchester
- John Rylands Library
- Ongoing Bible translation
The list could go on…
Dear Pastor John Piper,
I am writing this letter to you because I know you are familiar with open letters.
All I ask of you is that you read it, test it, to see if it be of true. If it is true, I pray you will embrace it.
May the Lord be with us both as we remember this day.
Grace and peace
Simon Peter Sutherland
During our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, #Reformation500, it is good to remember the events from a number of perspectives.
It is easy to look at the Reformation as one singular event and neglect the series of happenings throughout Europe.
The ancient city of Geneva was a place uniquely driven by the reforms and ideas of John Calvin and his major contributions to the Reformation took place in Geneva between the years 1541-1549.
By 1541 Geneva was undergoing a political and religious war, and some sought peace by wanting to return to Roman Catholicism. But Calvin was strong enough to hold onto his conviction that all things, be they religious or civil, should be done according to the Bible.
Some of the controversial reforms the Genevan council of 60 implemented was the closing of taverns. A 16th century tavern, being a place where locals and travellers drank alcohol and eat food. Calvin had them replaced with Cafe’s where people would pray before every meal, and the Bible was always present. People were not permitted to sing in them either.
But the plan failed and it drove people away, so the taverns were reopened.
A lesson to be learned is that no Christian should ever try to force believers or none believers to do anything. People have to decide for themselves. Implementing Christian or none Christian ideals and morals on the public fails to do anything but drive people away.