Archive for category Theology

Does the 1549 Book of Common Prayer teach ‘Limited Atonement’?

The original 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer is a wonderful and historically significant Christian book. In Rylands Library I have had the honour of reviewing and researching ancient original copies of this work, in the original prints and wording.

The original Book of Common Prayer supports the claim to universal redemption as a consistent Christian truth. The text of reads as follows;

Answere:

First, I Leanne to believe in God the father, who hathe made me and the worlde.

Secondly, in God the sonne, who hath redeemed me and all mankind.

Thirdly, I God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the electe people of God” (The Book of Common Prayer. 1549. A Cathechisme.)

The proposed questions which I set forth are these;

Q. does this article consider the possibility that the world does not mean ‘the entire world’? That is the entire human race?

A. No it does not. The text clearly states in clear basic terms for simple Christians in England during the 16th century, not to view the world as meaning only the elect or the people from within the world, but all the world. If God made all the world and this means ‘all’, then it follows that when the passage speaks of redeeming “all mankind”, that it means ‘all’ and not only some.

Q. Does this imply universalism? Or does this imply universal offering of redemption?

A. I think the word “redemption” states that the passage refers to universal redemption, that is in the sense of Christ regaining possession of mankind, in the context of a payment. It does not imply universalism. I think there is not even a hint of limited atonement within this article.

Q. But does not the text say “sanctifieth me, and all the elect”? Yes, it does. That those whom have the Holy Spirit are elect and are sanctified by Him and when the Holy Spirit is given, His work is effectual for those who believe. But that belief must be present, active and continuous. A person need not be understood as ‘elect’ because he or she has been determined by God to be elect in order to believe, but that he or she is elect because they believe.

Once again we see further proofs in favor of my claim that the Calvinistic doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ need not be understood as pure reformed teaching.

We must consider that if Christ has died for all, He must have made a way for all to receive Him, as communicated throughout the New Testament. But Calvinism cruelly offers salvation to people when in reality it knows all too well that unless a person is determined to believe, he or she cannot receive the grace of God unless that soul has been predestined and elected to salvation by the deterministic power of ‘God’. It offers a man bread only to give him a stone.

It is a very cruel doctrine that is somewhat deceptively diluted by many modern Calvinist preachers and presented as reformed. Yet the 39 Articles of Religion (1562) do not teach it. On the contrary, Article XXX1 (31) states the following;

The Offering of Christ once made it that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.

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Moving toward the eschatological challenge

Photo © 2020 Peter SutherlandDuring the Coronavirus Pandemic, a lot of people, Christians and none believers, have been asking a lot of questions. Many Christian spokesmen, leaders and organisations have been expressing their views concerning Covid-19 and its relation to the Christian worldview.

As is common, some views I have agreed with others not. However, it appears that eschatology has become quite topical and many take the viewpoint that we are in the ‘end times’. And in some sense, I would agree.

However, the New Testament is clear that this world has been in the “Last days” (ages, aeons) since the time of Christ. This is stated very clearly in Hebrews 1: 1-2.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.

The Epistle of Hebrews was written prior to the events of AD 70 and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Titus. This means that the original author of Hebrews, understood the “last days” as an age that had already begun in his day. However, this right understanding is not always mentioned by dispensationalist thinkers. On the contrary, many Christians understand the “last days” as though it either specifically relates to now or our future, but rarely as a period that began 2000 years ago and could span thousands of years.

When I was a young Christian, the majority eschatological opinion, more often than not, conditioned that term ‘last days’ as expressively related to a time in the distant future when the antichrist would sign a peace treaty and a seven year tribulation would follow. This interpretation is taken from Daniel 9: 27.

But not everybody has subscribed to that interpretation.

When I was a young Christian and newly baptised, I was often presented with a then recent publication called ‘Approaching Hoofbeats’ by Billy Graham. The book was popular back then and the dramatic title intrigued me and although I never read it, I often left the Book of Revelation alone through some form of unease.

Well meaning Christians would say ‘We are in the last days’ and read passages to me relating to ‘antichrist’ and a ‘rapture’. “One will be taken, one will be left” (Matthew 24: 40-41) Yet no one ever referenced any other viewpoint, or mentioned the many contrasting interpretations of those passages.

Eager to read the Bible for myself, I grew up, and after reading the Bible from start to finish, I eventually reached an opposite view. I read the Gospel of Matthew in its original context and could not see any reason why our Lord Jesus Christ would warn, or inform, 1st century believers about events that would happen in Jerusalem thousands of years later when they would be no longer on earth.

This is also true of the Book of Revelation. I still see no reason why John would write to Seven Churches in Asia Minor about events that would happen thousands of years later after those original readers were all dead.

It was then that I realised that this common ‘end times’ theology radically took the original 1st century readers out of the equation.

To cut a long story short, I can now comfortable state that I reject Premillennial and Dispensational eschatology. I view this theological system as incredibly inconsistent with the original meaning of many Bible passages and what Scripture reveals Christ achieved during His Life, Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension.

Now days being in the Conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England, I need not listen to ‘Premillennialism’ since the majority view, (if it is ever discussed) is ‘Amillennial’.

I have now reached a point in life where I am ready to engage in the eschatological debate and challenge this idea of ‘Premillennialism’ with Scriptural and historical facts.

Having said that, I accept that eschatology is in no way a salvation issue and I do not look down upon other Christians as half Christians for believing something different than I. But I have no doubts that many other Christians will not offer me the same in return.

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William Salesbury’s Book of Common Prayer and Psalms

William Salesbury St Asaph © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

On May 6, over 450 years ago, William Salesbury published The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms, newly translated, into Welsh.

This 16th century prayer book had been previously written for use within the Church of England by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Book of Common Prayer would become an important spiritual ingredient in the daily diet of Christians throughout England, and beyond, and continues to be used by Anglicans, even to this day.

The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms has been deeply revered within Christianity, and a majority of English Bibles were printed and bound with it from the 16th century up to the 19th century. It was that important.

Early 19th century editions published by the British and Foreign Bible Society are among some of the earliest Bibles to exclude the BCP.  But earlier printed Bibles such as the Geneva Bible and King James Bibles, all contained Cranmer’s Prayer book.

In the year 1567, William Salesbury had translated his version into Welsh under the title; Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin. Back in those days Parliament was Biblically minded and Westminster had given Salesbury the deadline of 1 March 1567 (St David’s Day) to publish his translation. Sadly that deadline was missed. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms into Welsh did not appear until May 6. But it was not without its opponents.

Anger had outburst by opponents of the Welsh tongue, and people had aggressively demanded that the translation be utterly abandoned. But such opposition was unfruitful. Salesbury did not give in.

Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin was published on 6 May 1567. But Salesbury was the translator, not the author.

Cranmer’s original Book of Common Prayer had been a work of absolute genius and Christian devotion. Rather than divide the Church, Cranmer sought to unify her through Scripture and Prayer.

Cranmer’s prayer book is a very special gift and people would always do well to read it. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms is a monumental work that has echoed on through the centuries and has fed the Church of God with Scripture, through with Prayer.

It is not a book of ‘prayers’, it is a book of prayer. We need more of that today, perhaps more now than ever.

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500 witnesses to the resurrection of Christ

Resurrection © 2020 Simon Peter SutherlandEaster is a ‘Christian festival‘ that celebrates and remembers the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All around the world, Christians and religious persons gather to remember an event that has changed the face of the world we live in.

For many Christians, Easter is a very special time. But as with most Christian or religious festivals and practices, Easter attracts a wide variety of opinion and belief.

For some, Easter has become a time for organisations to make a profit. For others it is a time when families get together and give people chocolate eggs. For others, Easter is just a paganised festival and not in the Bible. For others Easter is just a time when religious people sit in churches listening to texts being read over and over. As I say, there are many thoughts and beliefs.

But laying aside the varying ideas of religious paganization, ritualistic services and fairytale like storytelling and chocolate eggs, let us remember that Easter represents a very real and verifiable historic occurrence. Let us remember that this occurrence is an event that no serious historian or Theologian does or can satisfactorily deny.

This event happened 2000 years ago in Israel and this event has changed the face of the world we live.

To clarify the familiar story, I am writing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

History and the Bible shows that sometime around AD 33 Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans. The Messiah had been betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus withstood six trials during the night, and the early morning, and after being punished by Pontius Pilate He suffered an extreme beating and scourging by Roman solders. He was then sentenced to death and after carrying His own cross, He was crucified outside the city walls of ancient Jerusalem. After six to nine hours on the cross, He was certified dead.

By all accounts the story should have ended there. But it didn’t. His body was wrapped in a shroud, placed in a rich mans tomb. A large stone was rolled over the entrance, and it was then given an official Roman seal. Guards were then placed (night and day) around the tomb to keep watch so that His followers could not remove the body and simulate a resurrection. Three days later however, the tomb was found empty and the stone was rolled away.

Jesus was then seen alive by Mary Magdalen, a woman and after He was seen by His Apostles and then by five hundred people at one time.

This event is called the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity is just another religion and faith is useless.

Writing about this event some 20 or so years after it happened, Paul was writing to believers in ancient Corinth. This city was (and is) in southern Greece and in the 1st century Corinth was situated on a trade route.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 Paul had this to say:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

This claim is extraordinary. Some may say ‘well, that’s just what the Bible says...’ as though the resurrection of Jesus is just a claim made in the Bible alone and that the Bible is just another religious book. But the problem is, even if the entire New Testament, or the individual writings were not part of the Bible, the letter of Paul to the Corinthians would still be extant. Even as a singular document, Corinthians would still stand as a historical source by itself.

By saying this, I am claiming that there was a time when the Books of the New Testament were individual works, written by individual persons to specific peoples. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are like that.

If we take our minds back and add some imagination, it would not be difficult for us to imagine the things people were saying about the resurrection of Christ during the time of St. Paul. Some said there is no resurrection of the dead. Others said there is no life after death. Others said the disciples could have made the stories up. Others may have said the disciples were hallucinating and saw Jesus alive due to being overcome with enormous grief over His death.

But Paul appealed to his original readers and invited them to check his facts with the original eye witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If they didn’t believe Paul, they could go and interview the eye witnesses themselves. These eyewitnesses were likely to have been the people living in Galilee. At the time of writing most of these eye witnesses were still living.

Thus, modern reader, I invite you to consider the following points:

  • All scholars, modern and ancient, accept that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.
  • All scholars, modern and ancient, accept that Paul was an actual historic 1st century person.
  • All scholars, modern and ancient, accept that there was a Church in Corinth.
  • All scholars accept that 1 Corinthians likely dates to around AD. 55, 56 or earlier.
  • History shows that Corinth was under Roman rule at the time of writing and no charge was raised against Paul for claiming Jesus’ death and resurrection was historical fact.
  • Mass hallucinations do not occur. It is impossible for over 500 people to hallucinate the same thing at the same time.

For the modern reader, I close with these words. It is my belief that Jesus Christ is proof of God. I believe that Jesus Christ is proof that there is life after death. I believe that Jesus Christ is proof that God has power over life and death and that the Bible is true.

Real Christianity has something that no one else has. That something is The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

People, let us remember that life is so uncertain and fragile and can pass away at any moment. We live but we do not live by our own control. Christ is the One who holds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1: 3) Paul said to the philosophers in Athens, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28). Let us remember that life is beyond us. We are but dust and from dust we came and to dust we will return.

It is to be believed, that those who believe in Jesus Christ and trust in Him, will live forever. Will you this day, turn from your sin, put your trust in Jesus Christ, believe in Him and receive the gift of everlasting life.

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Hymn Stories: The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended

The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended, is a classic hymn, greatly upheld as a favourite in Britain and the Anglican Communion, and is sung in many Churches of other denominations.

It was written in the 19th century by Church of England minister, John Ellerton (1826-1893). The story goes that in 1870, the Rev Ellerton was walking home after teaching classes at the Mechanics’ Institute and noticed how beautiful the night was. He wrote the lyric based upon that inspiring moment. Being customary in the Anglican Communion to give thanks to God ‘Morning and Evening’ the lyrics reflect 1 Chronicles 23: 30 and Psalm 113: 3. Christians from the earliest days of the faith, gave thanks to God both in the morning and the evening. This hymn reflects that practice.

It is easy to assume that the words and music of such great hymns were written entirely by one person, but this is not always the case. The melody for The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended is actually set to the Hymn tune known as St. Clement, in 98. 98. meter. This tune is generally credited to Clement Cotteril Scholefield (1839-1904) and first appeared in a hymnbook in 1874. This publication was known as Church Hymns and Tunes.

This inspiring and uplifting melody sets the lyrics in motion for an ever flowing waltz of affectionate love. These are no mere words of a self focused individual, but from the soul of a person devoted and affectionate to the One true God. They ascribe to God the honour and praise as the One who gave the sinner the gift of each day and night. The knowing that God hears the praises of His people. They give thanks to Him continuously for His provision and building of His Church. That she is unchanging, and “unsleeping” as the world worries its way through life. That men’s empires pass away, but the Kingdom Christ has established, will never pass away for He is her King.

For me, the lyrics “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” reflect the constancy of the Kingdom of Christ and the sovereignty of His reign. The word “Thy” reflects the singular focus upon the Kingship and person of Christ. “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” does not relate to any supposed Kingdom to come in our future, or during any futuristic millennium, but the identity of Christ’s Kingdom, being His Church, was expected and prayed for during the lifetime of Jesus (Matthew 6: 10). That the reign of Messiah (upon the Throne of David) was proclaimed, by the preaching of Peter, that the prophecy concerning the throne of David was fulfilled by and at the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2: 30-36). Who’s Kingdom knows no end (Isaiah 9: 7, Luke 1: 33).

The lyric speaks of the continuing growth of Christ’s everlasting Kingdom. That His people are everywhere beneath the “Western skies” and such can never be destroyed.

The hymn has continued to be sung in Churches everywhere and today it remains the official hymn of the Royal Navy and has also been included in many editions of the Scottish Psalter, and Methodist hymnbooks.

When I recorded instrumental versions of this melody for use my documentaries, I explored the melody from a purely musical perspective. I let the notes raise my soul to the spiritual realms of musical praise. Where music can take the soul into places where words cannot enter. Many modern chorus’ and so-called ‘praise and worship’ songs do not have the power or depth to attain that.

I love the idea and sound of traditional Anglican Church music, and although I have yet to ever attend a service where this hymn has been sung, it has quite possibly become my favourite hymn.

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Why I once believed in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’

Once Saved Always Saved © 2019 Simon Peter SutherlandMany years ago I read ‘The Sovereignty of God‘ by A. W Pink. This book is a well written work presenting the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God from the the Calvinistic perspective. It is well worth the read.

In this book the author affirmed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘. Because of the sheer weight of Scriptures Pink presented, I believed the doctrine as very Scriptural.

A. W. Pink was from Nottingham and in my opinion, Pink was the most consistent Calvinist I have ever read. He was a brilliant man and an excellent Christian Theologian. He proclaimed the doctrines of Calvinism to the fullest with no weakness on his part. Obviously it is not difficult to realise that a man of such Scriptural knowledge would have his collisions with the Church of his day. His biography shows us examples of that. But most of it may relate to his Calvinism.

A. W. Pink should be admired, even by his Theological opponents, because he did not shy away from the proper logical conclusions to the clear teachings of Calvinism. These observations (in my opinion), separate him from the more common, inconsistent and unconvincing Calvinist revisionist preachers and writers of our day.

When I read Pink, it would not be long before I became persuaded by the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. Over time however, and through the clear lens of openly reading Scripture, the impact of Calvinism lost its flavour with me. I began to see too many Scriptures contradicting the system and Calvinistic apologists failing to explain the contrasts with proper exegesis or convincing argumentation.

In answer to my title, the reason I once believed in ‘OSAS’ was because of the selective Scriptures which Calvinists use to affirm their doctrine. I am convinced, if people simply read the Bible and never listened to Calvinistic preachers, they would see that eternal security is conditional and apostasy is possible for true believers. Christians have the duty to abide in Christ and no one can abide in Christ if they never were truly saved to begin with.

As a person who once believed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’, I understand it, not merely from knowledge, but from experience too. It is a very persuasive doctrine. However, over time I could see the natural progression of doctrinal bondage developing. Fear of departing from accepted doctrines and the teachings of popular preachers became easy to break when I digested and trusted the words of Christ “the Truth will set you free“.

The truth be told, people who believe in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ very rarely arrive at that conclusion by simply reading Scripture alone, but by listening to their favourite preachers or their pastors, or biblically external books. For many people and preachers, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is Scripture itself and for an individual to deny it either makes a person a half Christian or simply not born again. These opinions however are absolute none sense. No one need accept such attitudes or permit themselves to be bullied into beliefs that contradict Scripture.

Obviously I would not regard those who teach the doctrine as false teachers, but I would say that without their rhetorical skills, the doctrine has little Scripture to authenticate it. The facts remain, as I have written in a previous article, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is a historical anomaly and was not taught in the church until the 16th century. John Calvin was probably the first person to have properly taught the doctrine. As I have previously argued in an earlier article, the doctrine likely has Gnostic origins rather than Scriptural foundations.

Over recent years I have repeatedly re-examined the doctrine and the more I read the New Testament from this perspective, and explored the contexts and the Greek, I saw an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidences to claim the doctrine has little weight to it at all. In fact, there are so many Scriptures that contradict the position, many Calvinistic apologists and preachers are left scraping the barrel for argument, so much so that they are in danger of getting splinters under their finger nails.

The truth be told, there are over sixty or so verses in the New Testament which speak as warnings to Christians to remain loyal and in the faith and to abide in Christ.

It seems quite clear that the Calvinist claim that any believer who departs from the faith, was never truly saved in the first place, may well have some accurate Scriptural examples, but the majority of the doctrine is a violation of the plain reading of Scripture.

 

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Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia's river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia’s river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

Over recent times I have been made aware of the ever growing trend of “rebaptism”. For some, “rebaptism” by immersion is baptism, nothing else. Modern ‘rebaptisers’ claim that there is only “one baptism” and the reason they baptise someone for a second time, is because the first baptism was not legitimate at all.

As always with all my beliefs and Christian practices, I claim that I do not believe or affirm anything in the name of Christianity, if it is not in the Bible. But these days almost all Christians claim that. Some ‘Christians’ claim they hold to ‘Scripture alone’, yet their doctrines are so broad, and unorthodox that it is difficult for me to read or hear them with a straight face. Others have so many variant doctrines, that I have absolutely no idea where their beliefs come from? All I know is they do not come from the Bible.

One of these ideas is the growing trend of ‘rebaptism’ by immersion.  An unorthodox practice that is largely associated with ‘Oneness Pentecostals’ and ‘Southern Baptists’ and ‘youth groups’. This ‘baptism’ by definition is a baptism of a person who has been previously baptised, but some denominations or individuals do not accept previous baptisms as valid, because they were done in other churches. The common claim is that the person who has been previously baptised, did not actually fully believe in Jesus when the previous baptism occurred. The proposal is that the person must be “rebaptised” or simply “baptised”.

This trend of ‘rebaptism’ is absolute none sense! The facts remain that there is not a single reference in the entire New Testament for anyone to be ‘rebaptised’ or baptised more than once in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus the answer to the rhetorical title: “Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?” the answer is a direct no. ‘Rebaptism’ simply denies Colossians 2: 12 and the power of God to raise a person up from being dead in sin unto new life, regardless of where that person was spiritually when the baptism occurred.

The harsh and real truth is, baptism by immersion is irrevocable. If someone is foolish enough to get baptised, and yet that person did not truly believe, then that person should take responsibility for their unbelief and actions and seek God for forgiveness. A minister should not allow his congregation to move beyond the realm of Scripture and orthodoxy because a false convert or persons in his congregation have previously made a foolish mistake of being baptised while they have an evil heart of unbelief.

Likewise, a person who goes into a new church and is pressured into being ‘rebaptised’ because the minister or teacher has convinced them they are not really saved, should search the entire Bible first. All people who experience this pressure should ask their pastors why there are no rebaptisms or repeated baptisms, or two baptisms in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Likewise people should ask why there are no denominational rebaptisms in the Bible? Is a single baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit insufficient?

Likewise, the idea of rebaptising false converts is also destroyed by the Bible. In Acts 8 when the sorcerer was baptised, and after ward tried to purchase the Holy Spirit with money, Peter told that person “your money perish with you” (Acts 8: 20). Peter told the man to repent and seek God for forgiveness, in the hope that God may forgive him (Acts 8: 22). Peter did not mention anything about a rebaptism and neither did Luke the author of the Book of Acts.

What is clear is that the modern unorthodox revisionist and emotionally charged practice of ‘rebaptism’ by full immersion in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is nothing less than fiction.

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Discerning Biblical truth from fiction…

Bible lands © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

The term Biblical truth does not always mean what the individual person considers the term to mean. Each person has a definition of every word. What is Biblical truth to one man is heretical to another and vice versa. The Bible has a habit of contradicting many of our ideologies and theologies. But for me, when something is clearly stated in scripture and plainly referred to, the ideas and opinions of men mean little to me. Where the truth is concerned, what does it matter what men may think?

It is a fact that the many spurious gospels employed by modern secular critical scholars when dealing with the historical and spiritual life of Christ were written much later than the canonical Gospels and letters. It is not difficult to conclude that many of these writings are fictional fabrications and interpretations of real events and real people. Since many apocryphal texts are not conclusive in terms of dating due to the lack of historical reference in the texts they cannot all be deemed as truth but rather fictionalised truth.

I bring to attention the “Acts of Paul” which Tertullian claimed was a forgery by a Presbyter who wrote it out of his “love for Paul” 1. These texts, though interesting, are not as good as the biblical texts. They have very little majestic quality to them and I conclude the reason why so many were not included in the Biblical canon, is because they were not authoritative. Some of them contain stories that are so fictional, they appear unbelievable. Yet they come in useful to help us understand the minds of the ancients. If they are a record of beliefs and myths and factual traditions from the early Christians era’s, they can be useful. The problems happen when modern critical secular scholars use those texts in relation to Jesus in their attempts to disprove the New Testament. Too often they make out many of these books are modern discoveries and that the New Testament contains blatant errors. Yet scholars have been debating textual issues from the earliest days of the church. The arguments when presented today are merely part of a much larger soup of recycled argument. Re-packaged, re-marketed and re-developed for a modern audience.

EXCERPT FROM UPCOMING BOOK BY SIMON PETER SUTHERLAND
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

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A 20th century revival of 17th century Tulip Mania

Tulip © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

Tulip © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Tulip as a flower first came to England in 1578. The very same year the complete Geneva Bible was first printed in England.

In those days there was such a thing as “Tulip Mania”. This began in 1594 in the Netherlands when the first Tulips were planted. It was a harmless move when it started but the craze for Tulips later became a status symbol and one tulip bulb could be worth as much as a house build beside one of the top canals in Amsterdam.

It was in this very same country, the Netherlands, where the Synod of Dordt was held in 1618. This synod was the first to declare the doctrinal position now known as ‘the five points of Calvinism‘.

In later centuries this doctrinal position earned the title “Tulip”. As far as I know, it is a term that is not found in writings prior to the 20th century?

Tulip stands for the following;

  1. T – Total Depravity
  2. U – Unconditional Election
  3. L – Limited Atonement
  4. I – Irresistible Grace
  5. P – Preservation or Perseverance of the Saints

IS TULIP FOUNDATIONAL?

Dr Charles Matthew McMahon in his book “A puritans mind” says the following; “The essential doctrines concerning salvation, which the puritans and all good Christians cling to, are summed up in the acronym T.U.L.IP

These words are problematic, especially when a reading Christian could be told in writing that he or she may not be a good Christian after all, and perhaps even an unbelieving one, lacking in faith, as he suggests in his book, quote; “There are two views concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, there is what we call Calvinism. Then, there are varying degrees of unbelief” Dr C Matthew McMahon. A Puritans Mind.

The above words are cruel and intellectually dishonest. They appear to read like some form of guilt based emotional blackmail. It seems that for so many 5 point Calvinists or new Calvinists, that T.U.L.I.P is the actual gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell?

This same idea, though more genuine, is made somewhat clear by 19th century English particular Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said the following; “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else

Spurgeon also said the following; “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” (C. H. Spurgeon. The early years. Autobiography 1. The early years. Page 168. Banner of Truth Trust)

Spurgeon stated that his beliefs were his “own private opinion“. I respect that. But he did not here stoop so low as to send his readers on an emotional guilt trip and accuse them of having a lack of faith and belief for differing with his beliefs.

I personally deny that ‘Tulip’ is in any way foundational to the Christian faith. It is a simple observation of mine that T.U.L.I.P cannot be a foundation to preaching Christ alone or the plain truth of the Gospel, or Christian doctrine, since T.U.L.I.P makes no direct references to the Virgin birth of Jesus, the Life and miracles of Jesus or the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Neither is there reference to His return or His judging of the quick and the dead. In many ways, T.U.L.I.P has a man centred focus.

No Christian is guilty of unbelief for denying, questioning or refuting Tulip, and should never be emotionally bullied or abused into thinking so! In my own opinion, I think Calvinism is unnecessarily lowered when it is reduced by individuals to making claims like those I have mentioned above. I don’t want to put all Calvinists in the same category but wouldn’t it be better if people learned how to reason and openly debate more. I want to encourage ‘all believers’ to feel absolutely free to measure all teachings and doctrines with careful analysis of the entire Bible and not be afraid of the implications of the text. To learn to live alongside other believers who differ. But never fall foul of emotional mind games of those who desire you to follow their favourite interpretations of the same Bible.

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Is ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ Gnostic?

Old books © 2018 Simon Peter SutherlandIn 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’.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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.

Gauffered edged Bible © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Bible over Anti-Nicene fathers © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

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)

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