Doing Theology in Today’s Africa – Issues and Trends in Nigeria

INTRODUCTION

Since the mid-1950s, African theologians like John Mbiti, Edward Fashole-Luke, Desmond Tutu, Vincent Mulago and Harry Sawyerr, Bolaji Idowu, Byang Kato and others have made it their mission to bring the gospel to bear on Africans’ lives and thought-worlds — to make Christianity indigenous on a continent that first heard the gospel in New Testament times. It would therefore be a misleading oversimplification to state that Germany, America, Britain and Africa respectively created corrupted, corrected and copied theology. Africa has something meaningful to offer. This provides supportive evidence for a realistic assessment of the issues and trends of the Church in Africa.

CONTEXTUALIZATION

The term contextualization could be defined as simplifying, clarifying and giving ownership to the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a specific community of faith. If the system for doing so is therefore only understood by the stranger or alien, then one has closed the channels for incarnation of the Word. The researcher was impressed when he visited several churches in Lagos, Nigeria during a field study and noted areas of contextualization. The Anglican and Aladura churches have some programmes in the native language. Even the Catholic church is no longer conducting the service in Latin but English. African instruments were used and African choruses were ministered. Dancing and clapping are not uncommon. An assessment of Christianity from the Portuguese explorations in the fifteenth century to the middle of the seventh century reveals that there was a relative failure on the part of the missionaries in the presentation of the gospel. They did not take the culture of the people into consideration. The Roman Catholics demanded monogamy from their converts, but they did not show how the unwanted wives could be resettled. Christianity was portrayed as a European invention. Usry and Keener (1996) provocatively titled their text Black man’s religion: can Christianity be Afrocentric? It is so titled, not of course to imply that non-Blacks are excluded, but to point out that biblical Christianity is a Black religion as much as a white one. The issue of slavishly accepting or rather adopting any thing from the west should be treated with caution. The article, Halloween in a cross-cultural perspective, is a passionate account of the vulnerability of children which the Harry Porter series is taking advantage of. The new repacking of witchcraft in a fictitious novel is attractive to children (and adults) since it is user friendly.

Schreiter (1985) presents an excellent and very relevant text that clearly teaches how one can understand culture so that the gospel message takes root. Ownership of the Bible must be given to a community of faith in a given place. For instance, an Igbo and by extension, an African, will clearly understand the humiliation Christ went through since the writer clearly expresses that to humiliate someone who is either popular or rich is worse than to kill him, a message which the African understands. The cultural sensitivity of Dan Wooding in Blind faith in cross-cultural perspective, Part 1, enabled him to reasonably establish intercultural rapport in the men’s breakfast meeting at the Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene. In responding to this invitation and willingly giving generously, an individual eventually received five fold merely out of his blind faith rather than a display of supernatural acts like speaking in tongues.

ISSUES

Corruption

Boer (2003) identifies two major issues which are affecting the Nigerian church; “the first is corruption which has penetrated every level of society…” (Boer 2003, 31). One must however note that corruption is an issue facing both developing and developed nations. The church continues to be guilty of many of the kinds of corruption which characterize the society as a whole, an issue that shocked Dr. Eze as he observes in his article Worldview issues on corruption…. He realistically argues however that “the survey of CPI (Corruption Perceptions Index) on the levels of corruption in countries they researched is not based on hard empirical data… (but) on the experience and perceptions of those who are most directly confronted with the realities of corruption” (Eze 2004, 1).

Islam

The second issue facing Christian spirituality according to Boer is Islam. The subject of his book Nigeria’s decade of blood, vol.1 is Christian-Muslim relations. “If corruption has demonized Nigeria”, Boer argues “Christian-Muslim relations have bedeviled it” (Boer 2003, 1). He steers Christianity and Islam into positive channels for national building and suspects that there is a great risk that Nigerians will grow tired of religious riots and either return to a sanitized form of traditional religion or to an African version of secularism. Every Christian should read his text and note that Christians in western nations are now fighting the very secularism they produced through their infighting.

African Traditional Religion

Any realistic attempt to do theology in Africa must take into consideration the influence of African Traditional Religion in the lives of the people. Dr. Eze did a very relevant study of several manifestations of God among the tribes of Lardin Garbes. The assumption that God was introduced to Africa by the Europeans is a misleading oversimplification. In addition to the family and village deities, the Kamwe people believe in a transcendent and universal God. Dr. Eze (2004) argues that Africans knew about the Creator or the Supreme God inspite of their polytheistic understanding and used his grandfather, Mr. Muogbo Eze as supportive evidence. Even though they have the faulty notion that He is far away thus justifying appeasing the lesser deities to reach him, the concept of the way to the Creator is still present among them. Paul uses the belief in the unknown God to minister to his audience. Christians should also use this concept of the way to the Creator already present in the worldview of the Kamwe to present Jesus to them. God amazingly works within human cultures (irrespective of different language, race or ethnicity) to unfold His plans. This is in consonance with the philosophy behind the phrase ‘redemptive analogy’ which is so-called because it facilitates human understanding of redemption within human culture. Its God-given purpose is to precondition the mind in a culturally significant way to recognize Jesus as Messiah. Outside of Scripture, it appears that God’s general revelation is the source of redemptive analogies worldwide. It is relatively easier for one to use the supernatural orientation of the African to win him to Christ.

Growth of cities

Perhaps the most urgent issue facing the church in Africa today is the rapid growth of cities. The clash of cultures, and religions, desperate poverty, AIDS, horrific numbers of street children, pressures on traditional morality, problems of temporary and unstable work, and the lack of training for what few jobs there are brought home to the reader in moving and perceptive accounts of the people with whom Shorter has direct contact. A case in point is the city of Lagos whose population of over twelve million is more than that of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia combined.

Numerical growth of the church

At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was estimated that about three percent of the people on the African continent professed to be Christians and that this number significantly increased to about fifty percent towards the end of the century. There is every reason to believe that the church will continue to record significant growth. Ajah (1996) even attributes this ‘swollen membership’ to the church’s wise use of music which is seen as an outstanding highway into the hearts of most Africans. All the churches visited by the researcher during the field research were packed full. During the researcher’s stay in Nigeria (2002-2005), it was observed that churches with more musical instruments and skilled instruments generally attracted more worshipers than those with few.

Prosperity

A contemporary trend to avoid suffering at all cost has led to the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which stresses faith in claiming blessings as they name them. At the risk of oversimplification and distortion, this gospel teaches, among other things that:

1. Every Christian is created to be materially and financially buoyant.

2. Christians who are in a state of prolonged financial predicament are ignorant of God’s design.

3. For the manifestation of the reversal of breakthrough, the aspirant must demonstrate his expectancy by blessing the ‘man of God’ first.

Christians are therefore encouraged not to accept suffering as their portion. Anyone who is suffering is either living in sin or is not standing on the promises of God for his showers of blessing. This teaching was reflected in the Pentecostal church visited during the field study. The number of offerings raised in the Pentecostal and Anglican churches was astonishing.

Training of church leaders

The church in Africa has made amazing progress during the twentieth-century. It has grown from just a handful of training institutions to hundreds of seminaries. This is an indication that the African church in the twenty-first century is going to be much more educated church. In the churches covered in the field study, the researcher observed that the pastors of the Aladura and Pentecostal Churches visited, Superior Evangelist E.M. Babatunde and Rev. Mike Ohiorenoya, are doctorate holders. It is indubitable that Catholic and Anglican priests are academically trained.

The role of women

The central message of the Christian mission is that of salvation, and by implication, liberation. With this message, the church should take cognizance of the ‘imbalance’ in the male-dominated African culture. In the second part of The agony of the ‘passion’ in cultural lenses, Dr. Eze (2004) analyses the concept of a theology that is culturally driven. He realistically argues that any image of manhood outside the Messiah is culturally driven and misleading. The church should learn the African concept of muntu, that is, person. Societal changes demand that the church make some modifications in women’s role. The dynamics which women now exhibit in the wider society and in the Aladura church visited in particular have challenged the subordinate roles offered by some other churches. The researcher observes the role of women at West Africa Theological Seminary where they serve in very important capacities such as Registrar, Missions Director, Ag. Director of Spiritual Formation and lecturers. More and more women are going to become pastors as more seminaries are opening doors to more female students and lecturers. With the ascension of women into leadership positions, perhaps the church will see a gentler and softer style of church leadership.

TRENDS

Mediocre spiritual growth

Indubitably, a visible trend is a continuous and explosive growth of the African church. However, there is a very big challenge associated with it. This has already started manifesting itself in contemporary Christianity. The problem is numerical without a corresponding spiritual growth. For instance, the dressing of church members, if not checked, would lead to serious problem in the church. In the Pentecostal church visited, the researcher was so happy when he was moved from the seat he was occupying to a special seat reserved for visitors since the dressing of the lady sitting in front of him was indecent. She was putting on a bandless trousers which exposed a considerable portion of her pink underwear. The preaching was very loud and emotional but devoid of substance. The church must resist mediocrity with the same commitment that it resists compromise. The researcher observed that the churches visited did not have a very clear discipleship training programme. Winning souls for Christ without a systematic discipleship programme is to some extent equivalent to begetting sons for the devil.

Fanaticism

In several churches today, the service is incomplete without a few prophecies, a healing or two, and a few demons cast out. Churches and ministries ‘compete’ with the most dramatic advertisements such as ‘Divine Explosion’, ‘Mountain of miracles’, ‘Supernatural sensation’ and similar expressions. Though it is good to stress the supernatural, the African church must realize that the daily occurrence of miracles is not the focus of the Bible. Building the church in Africa around the miraculous may tend to lead to a wrong emphasis. The primary commission of Jesus was to preach the gospel. Leaning on the miraculous in every service could therefore lead to fanaticism and deviation from the truth. In the Celestial Church of Christ visited during the field work, the researcher was called out of the service and taken to the back of the outside altar where visions and revelations, mostly untrue, from a prophetess about him were penned by a recorder. For instance, the prophetess observed that the researcher’s wife sometimes suffered from stomach ache. The question in one’s mind then is: how many normal women do not normally suffer from bellyache?

Rationalism

The education of the church is steadily improving. There are many Bible colleges and seminaries in Nigeria alone. Many of the universities and colleges of education have departments of religious studies. However, as more and more Africans are exposed to re-packed western ideas, African Christianity should fight very hard to avoid the anti-supernatural rationalism of the western church. Starting with the ‘Age of Reason’, the western church has gradually been more and more influenced by an anti-supernatural bias which arises from rationalism. Even though this has not yet really become a serious problem, a serious note of caution is that African Christians need to balance faith with reason.

Syncretism

In an attempt to ‘protect’ the Gospel, European missionaries under contextualized the message. As the church is now becoming more African, care must be taken so that the message is not over contextualized which could lead to syncretism (the mixing of religious beliefs). For instance, the overstress on visions and dreams in the Aladura church. Contextualization without syncretism is one of the major challenges facing the African Church in this century. The typical African, unlike his western counterpart has a supernaturalistic orientation. The African society gives more attention to religion while the west emphasizes on economics and material culture. One of the reasons why Pentecostalism has been well received in Africa is because many of the basic tenets are consistent with the African worldview. Some of these includes the supernatural, demons/evil spirits, divine healing, and emotional and physical expressions of worship. Dr. Eze clearly reveals that the Kamwe/Mubi in Nigeria (including Christians) go to animist priests. As he noted, “felt needs for supernatural power for solving certain problems that defy solution still drive people to animist priests” (Eze 2005, 5). The lesson to be learnt is the attitude of the Christian community that prayed for rain (with God honouring). This is a clear manifestation of the fact that the Christian God is alive or active in the affairs of men. If theology in Africa is to be meaningful, this point must be seriously noted otherwise the church will not be relevant and would be like Rip Van Wrinkle, the legendary character in Gulliver’s Travels who slept for decades only to wake up to find a completely changed world.

Domination

An unfortunate tendency within Christianity throughout church history is that whenever Christianity has achieved the majority status within a culture, it has become intolerant and sometimes abusive of other religions. The Crusades in the 10th century onwards could testify to this. The thin line between evangelism and tolerance of other religions has been a tightrope which Christians have not always walked very well. Several writers encourage tolerance between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Although Boer for instance blamed the latter for most of the religious conflicts, he also argues that there are some instances in which the former sometimes started later riots. The essence of his message to Christians and Muslims is respectively wholism and pluralism. Christians need to repent of their flirtations with the language and concepts of secularism in an environment shared with Muslims and move away from it by developing a more comprehensive worldview. Muslims, on the other hand, need to update their sense of pluralism. Nigeria is marked by a pluralistic situation that no longer allows the domination of one religion over all the people. Boer argues that the situation calls for changes in the attitude of Christians and Muslims ? they need to move from hostility to respect.

THE OUTLOOK OF THEOLOGY IN AFRICA/OPPORTUNITIES

Any attempt to do theology in Africa must seriously take note of the afore-mentioned discussion. From the foregoing, it could be argued that not all the issues and trends are negative. Although care should be taken to avoid a church that is heavily inclined towards rationalism, prosperity, syncreticism, to mention but a few, the African church must be commended for its conscious effort to contextualize the Gospel and emphasize on training of its clergy. However, the rest of the paper further discusses several opportunities which must be wisely utilized for theology to be meaningful in Africa.

The age of the church

A significant proportion of the contemporary church is made up of young people. The estimated average age of churches visited during the field work is thirty. There is a possibility that this trend is not going to change. The church in Africa will continue to be a young church. This age group is going to continue to give to it much energy and enthusiasm. It will enable the church to have the strength to evangelize and impact the society. However, it could also make the church more susceptible to fanaticism, intolerance and unwise decisions. One must not forget that Nigerian proverb which states that the child on top of the tree cannot see what the elder sitting on the ground can see.

The church and the theological school

An increase in the number of theological institutions is a welcome development. However, the church and theological school have to work as a team to impact society since “the position between the two has almost become that of the church versus the theological school” (Turaki 1991, 31). Turaki evaluates areas of strengths and weaknesses in the assumed roles for each, and the theological implications of the dichotomy, together with the resulting competition, isolationism and assertions of autonomy to doing theology.

Curriculum development

It is necessary for theologians to revisit the curriculum in the seminary. It is questioned whether African seminaries should review, retrieve the history of western thought and the western church or instead launch into the depths of their own culture and tradition and correlate Scripture and tradition with African culture, roots, sources and riches. There are areas where the west could also learn from Africa. It is against this background that it is observed that “instead of competing or claiming superiority for various approaches, we need to exchange and share experiences, we need to understand one another and learn from each other” (Turaki 1991, 29). It is reasonably argued that, contrary to popular thought, Africa has had a definitive and significant effect on the development of the ecumenical movement in general and its mission made in particular. It was against this background that the Edinburgh Conference in 1910 introduced the idea of the whole Gospel by the whole church to the world.

Emphasis on justice

Justice is one of the most fundamental concepts of Christianity (and Judaism). It is a theme that must receive more emphasis in the African church. A society cannot be healthy without justice. In 1995, a group of Nigerian leaders became concerned about the injustice in the Nigerian society. This led to the Congress on Christian Ethics in Nigeria (COCEN) which took place in Abuja in November 1997. It was stressed that Christians are also guilty of ethical violations. Christian principles must be properly contextualized for Africa. There must be a clear understanding of the close link between religion and social/political issues, and faith and justice. The social teaching of the Church must not only to be studied and known, but also applications to the myriad problems facing Africa must be formulated and tried.

Respect for individual human rights

The rights of individuals must be protected. Refusing to grant a person a job because he or she is from the ‘wrong’ ethnic group is a violation of that person’s fundamental human rights. The researcher has observed for instance that Christians don’t normally come out in a unified force to clean the environment when the government gives the command every last Saturday in Freetown and Lagos. Night vigils can be conducted without necessarily using loud speakers that would disturb the peace of citizens who are resting.

Assistance to the needy

The teachings of the church should not unnecessarily emphasize on giving from congregation to the church but the other way round. One of the clearest teachings and examples of Jesus was related to compassion for the poor. It must be viewed as a fundamental responsibility of every culture to take care of its weak and needy members. Just giving a little money to a poor person must not satisfy Christians. Christianity must be involved in identifying the causes of poverty and addressing these problems. God has not called all Christians to be rich. Prosperity teachers must take note. However, He has called us to help meet the needs of the poor. Helping the needy require adequate housing is not just a governmental responsibility but also a responsibility of the church. The researcher was impressed when an appeal was made to assist the poor in the Aladura church visited. Free computer training was offered which enabled several youths to be empowered. The entire congregation was fed after the service. The researcher learnt that this is a regular occurrence.

CONCLUSION

A biblical fact of which theology must take account is that if God indeed is concerned with all peoples, then there is a theological continuity between the people of Israel and others (including Africa).

If the Christian faith is to have any real effect on African life, it must accept and address the spirit world. A Christianity that has no place for the supernatural speaks in alien tones. The culture of Africans must be realistically studied if any meaningfully impact could be made. Kalu brilliantly quotes P.O. Ajah’s summary of the expectations of the theology of the African church :

African theologians should programme towards realizing answers to what African theology has to say concerning witchcraft, black magic, demonic influences, occultism, spiritually induced sicknesses, spiritual guidance through divination or future predictions, divine healing, deliverance from and casting out of demons and evil spirits, appreciation of cultural values, liberation of the oppressed, relief from poverty and deprivation, human rights, democratization, ozo title and secret societies, reincarnation, death and the resurrection, the last judgement (Kalu 1978, 123).

WORKS CITED

Books and articles

Ajah, Paul. 1996. An Approach to African theology. Uburu : Truth and Life Publications.

Boer, Jan H. 2003. Nigeria’s decades of blood, Vol. 1. Belleville, Ontario : Essense Publishing.

Eze, Herbert. 2004. The agony of the “Passion” in cultural lenses (part two).

Available (online) : http://www.assistnews.net/stories/2004/s04040016.htm. 9th March 2005.
_____________. Halloween in a cross-cultural perspective. Available (online):

http:www.assistnews.net/stories/2004/s04040016.htm. Accessed 11th March 2005.

Kalu, Agwu. 1978. The lights and shades of Christianity in West Africa. Umuahia : Charity Press.

McCain, Danny. 2000. The church in Africa in the 21st century. Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology.

19(2) : 105-130.

Schreiter, Robert J. 1985. Constructing local theologies. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

Turaki, Yusufu. 1991. The quest for cooperation, renewal and relevance in theological education. Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 10(1). 29-38.

Utuk, Efiong S. 1989. A reassessment of the African contribution to the development of the ecumenical

movement : Edinburgh, 1910. Africa Theological Journal 8(2) : 85-103.

Participant observation

Celestial Church of Christ, Mafoluku, Parish I, Wulemotu Agbo Road, Off International Airport Road,

Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 1-9 St. Paul’s Church Street, Mafoluku,

Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 1st May, 2005.

Church of God Mission International Inc., Victory Miracle Centre, 10 Oludegun Street, Off International

Airport Road, Mafoluku, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 10th April 2005.

St. Jude Catholic Church, 47 Old Ewu Road, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. St. Paul’s Anglican Church,

1-9 St. Paul’s Church Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 24th

April, 2005.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 1-9 St. Paul’s Church Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by

researcher on Sunday 17th April, 2005.

© Oliver Harding 2008

Anti-Theist Religious Bits & Pieces: Round Five

Of all of those Big Questions central to philosophical concepts that surround life, the universe and everything, the realms of theology and religions and the nature of deities continue to fascinate. Opinions proliferate in books, articles, videos, conversations in bars and pubs, and in fact anywhere and everywhere two or more humans are in proximity. There’s the pro side; there’s the anti-side. There aren’t too many fence-sitters. I’m still in the anti-camp as the following fifth instalment of “religious bits and pieces” illustrate.

Regarding Religion

*I believe in the freedom of religion providing the religion you believe in is the exact same religion as mine is.

*False Religion: Any religion that’s not your religion! When you say that your brand of religion is right and all others are false (either in part or in whole), you do realize of course that you have no appeal to any authority, higher or otherwise, and that the majority doesn’t rule (except of course unless by pure force).

*You can just about get away with anything if you claim that your “anything” is part and parcel of your religion and thus your religious beliefs and practices. Witness all of the recent and very heated debates over the ‘rights’ of the religious to refuse giving any ‘rights’ to the LGBT community or to prohibit a woman’s right in having an abortion. Then we have the religious community determining or at least trying to determine what should or should not be taught to children (i.e. – creationism / intelligent design vs. evolution in science class). But this is relatively mild compared to what follows. So, for yet another example, albeit a more serious example, putting your religious faith in faith healing as opposed to medicine has resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths, often of children by their fundamentalist ‘well meaning’ religious parents. Animal sacrifice is still legal providing that it done in the name of your religion. And the numbers of people, especially children, who have endured psychological as well as physical harm by exorcisms are legend. There have been many recorded cases of people who have even been killed during exorcisms, again especially children who have died by ‘well-meaning’ religious adults trying to beat demons out of them – literally. Exorcism often became an execution, putting meaning to the phrase that the cure was worse than the disease (which is what so-called ‘demon possession’ usually was – just an actual disease). The psychological and physical abuses inflicted on members and ex-members of the so-called ‘Church’ of Scientology are numerous and well documented, yet Scientology oft regains and retains it’s tax free status as a ‘religion’ and is virtually untouchable. Even New Age spiritual beliefs aren’t always harmless as people have died from fad diets and herbal remedies / treatments as well as putting trust in psychic surgery. And no amount of words can adequately describe the hideousness of the Westboro Baptist Church. Actually it’s not the ‘Church’ that’s hideous – it’s the ‘human’ member ship of that ‘Church’. Then too, to round out some (but by no means all) religious horrors still practiced in some parts of the world, we still have literal witch-hunts and trials were the accused was damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. The final resulting outcome was, and is, never in doubt – death to the ‘witch’.

*Religion has many a closet full of many a skeleton, all too often literally really real skeletons. One just has to recall all of those European ‘Christians’ who invaded North, South and Central America destroying entire indigenous cultures and societies in the process in the quest for gold / silver (El Dorado), resources, land and all-round empire building (i.e. – I claim this [already occupied] land for X in the name of Y) and of course converting the native pagans to Christianity by any means possible. Of course multi-hundreds of thousands of indigenous natives had to be exterminated in achieving those ‘Christian’ goals. Ethnic cleansing would not be too strong a phrase, but when God is on your side; when you are of the Chosen People; when you have “Divine Right” and Manifest Destiny backing you up, the ends justify the means and might makes right.

*We all know, or at least should know, that religious fundamentalists (and that includes or incorporates various religious faiths) have as their ideal goal the goal to ram their faith down the throats of anyone and everyone else not part and parcel of their One True Faith. More specifically, there are various American politicians and former politicians who have as an ultimate goal an American theocracy (Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Mick Huckabee, Joni Ernst perhaps even Newt Gingrich) and a total end to the separation of church and state. Translated, there are numerous right-wing religious fundamentalist politicians who, if elected to high office (i.e. – the presidency) would govern according to the Bible and not according to the American Constitution.

*Speaking of the U.S.A., to the best of my knowledge the United States is the only country with the word “God” imprinted on its currency although that hasn’t always been the case since “In God We Trust” was only established as the official motto of the United States by Congress in 1956 (and reaffirmed 50 years later) and the phrase first appeared on paper currency in 1957 (although the phrase had appeared on (and off and on again) on some American coinage since 1864). However, this is actually in direct violation of the American Constitution’s First Amendment which requires that officialdom not favor any one religion over another belief system – the so-called Separation of Church and State. However, there wouldn’t be any politician brave enough to try to rectify that unfortunate state of affairs since 90% of Americans are in favor. Oh, as an aside, as the joke goes, “In God we trust, all others pay cash”.

Regarding Faith & Belief

*Nothing fails like prayer fails. Prayer may make you feel good, but it fails in the results department.

*Linus carries around a security blanket. True Believers in principle do the same. They both have and carry around their own version of a security blanket!

*Theists J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Keith Ward, Richard Swinburn and millions of others of a similar ilk had they been born 10,000 years ago, would NOT be theists but polytheists at best; lacking any theological philosophy of any kind at worst.

Regarding Women 1

*Is this the best of all possible [religious] worlds? Not if you’re a woman!

*If a childless wife’s husband dies, she is not free to remarry anyone else but rather she becomes the wifely property of the deceased’s brother. (Deuteronomy 25: 5).

*It’s not just Muslim women that have to keep their head covered but also Christian women! Check out 1 Corinthians 11: 5! However, that doesn’t apply to Christian men if you look at 1 Corinthians 11: 4!

*Christian women also need to keep their big mouths shut in church – or else! Instead, they have to wait till they get home and then ask their husbands if they want to learn anything! (Check out 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35)

*But if a Christian woman really wants to know her proper place in society, she needs to digest 1 Timothy 2: 9-15.

*Also we should note that a woman is always worth less in shekels than a man according to Leviticus 27: 3-7.

*Women are as second-class citizens in religious institutions and associated religious circles. So for example, what do you think the odds are of a Nun ever becoming Pope? Women in religious circles are not about to break the stained glass ceiling anytime soon!

Regarding Women 2: Historical, Mythical & Biblical (i.e. – Also Mythical):

1) Presumably you’d have relatively little if any problem independently verifying via historical documents and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following real historical women.

Real Historical Women: Joan of Arc (French heroine); Cleopatra VII (Queen of Egypt); Flavia Helena (also Queen Helena, later St. Helena) – mother of Constantine the Great*; Servilia (Mistress to Julius Caesar); Boudica (leader of rebellion against Roman occupying forces of Ancient Britain); Hatshepsut (Egyptian Pharaoh); Nefertiti (wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten); and Hypatia (Library of Alexandria).

2) Presumably you’d have all sorts of problems independently verifying via historical and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following ‘real’ women of myth and legend.

‘Real Women of Myth & Legend: Pele (Hawaiian); Isis (Egyptian); Cassiopeia (Greek); Andromeda (Greek); Hera (wife of Zeus); Helen (of Troy); Pope Joan; Gaia (Greek Earth Goddess); Aphrodite (Greek); Demeter (Greek); Freya (Norse); Inana / Ishtar (Mesopotamia); Artemis (Greek); Athena (Greek); Brigid (Celtic) and more recently Wonder Woman (superhero); and Supergirl (superhero).

And of course you, knowing what you already know in advance, probably wouldn’t even bother trying.

3) Assuming you are a True Christian Believer, presumably you’d argue that you would have relatively little if any problem independently verifying via historical and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following ‘real’ women of the Bible.

‘Real’ Women of the Bible: Eve (first woman); Sarah (gave birth at 90); Ruth (Book of Ruth – Old Testament); Esther (Book of Esther – Old Testament); Lot’s wife (turned into pillar of salt); Bathsheba (wife of David); Queen of Sheba (visited King Solomon); Jezebel (wife of King Ahab), Mary (mother of Jesus); Delilah (betrays Samson for money); and Mary Magdalene (follower of Jesus).

Yet you would run into the exact same problem you’d have in verifying the actual existence of those ‘real’ women of myth and legend and for the exact same reason. The ‘real’ women of the Bible are as ‘real’ as those ‘real’ women of myth and legend whose actual existence you couldn’t be bothered trying to verify since you know better. Well now you know better about those ‘real’ women of the Bible.

*Helena (at near 80 years old) was sent by Constantine to the Holy Land on a quest to find and collect Jesus relics and she allegedly found the ‘One True Cross’ (hundreds of years after the fact of course) and thus is now called for her pioneering efforts, the Patron Saint of Archaeology.

Regarding Family Values

*We keep hearing the mantra that the Bible commands that a marriage be just between one man and one woman. What utter rubbish! If you slice and dice things down to the basics, a man can have however many wives as he can afford to have living under his roof. They can be acquired for money and via rape. If you rape a girl who isn’t already engaged and then pay her daddy 50 shekels, she’s yours (Exodus 22: 16-17; Deuteronomy 22: 28-29). Presumably you could do this as many times as you wanted and thus acquire a harem.

*We note how Lot offered his daughters to strangers for sex in preference to the strangers having their wicked way with his guests (Genesis 19: 1-8). Later on down the track Lot’s two daughters got daddy drunk and then raped him (Genesis 19: 31-38).

*Then too we have polygamy sanctioned in the Bible (so much for the ‘one man, one woman’, mantra often spouted off by fundamentalists).

*God commands Abraham to kill his son – not a very family-friendly command on God’s part.

*If you have rebellious children, you don’t spank them or send them to bed without supper, instead you have them stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21). On the other hand, instead of having the stones come to the child, bash the child against the stone (Psalm 137: 9).

*Speaking of killing disobedient children, if you don’t obey the Commandment to honor mummy and daddy but rather curse mummy and daddy, you’re going to have a date with the executioner (Exodus 21: 17; Matthew 15: 4).

*And it is quite okay to capture and kill the children of your enemy, except female children who are virginal. Those virginal female children you can keep for yourself and for your own pleasure (Numbers 31: 17-18).

*For pleasure of a slightly different kind, boiled children are on the Biblical menu! Cannibalism in the Bible? Really? Check out 2 Kings 6: 29; Leviticus 26: 29; Ezekiel 5; 10; Deuteronomy 28: 53-57; Jeremiah 19: 9; and Micah 3: 3.

*For some reason God wants you to give Him the firstborn of your sons (Exodus 22: 29; Exodus 34: 20; Numbers 3: 13) and we can only think the worst here. Does God have a fondness for young boys?

*And Jesus really didn’t care for family values as Luke 14: 26 makes very clear indeed.

Regarding Miracles

*If you are to believe all of those fundamentalist, right-wing, evangelist Christians, there are thousands of God-inspired supernatural miracles recorded every year, especially in faith healings and related. If you add to those claims those supernatural miracles accepted as genuine bona-fide true miracles by the Catholic Church, then there should be absolutely no doubt that supernatural miracles were as real and as well documented as gravity. Alas, there’s not so much as even one miracle ever observed and verified and written up in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and undisputedly accepted by the scientific community as proof of the supernatural. I think that alone pretty much sums up the validity of any supernatural miracle attributed to God.

Regarding the Bible

*The Bible: A primitive text from a primitive time. The Koran: An equally primitive text from an equally primitive time.

*The Bible (as well as the Koran) should NOT hold any privileged position in society since there are literally thousands of other non-related pieces of literature that can be said to be equally inspirational – not that the Bible contains all that much that is inspirational unless your name is Hitler (or hundreds of equally historical equivalents).

*As long as you can find at least one example of God perpetrating an evil deed (out of many dozens one could cite), you can hardly call the Bible “The Good Book”.

*Contrary to what Christians would have you believe, the Bible DOES sanction abortion. Check out Numbers 5: 11-31 and reference to “bitter water”, administered by a priest, which will abort a woman’s baby if that woman has conceived by a male other than her husband. Even God will apparently slay that which is in the womb (Ezekiel 20: 26; Hosea 9: 11-16; Hosea 13: 16).

*There are some who say that because the Bible oft uses the geographical phrase “four corners” that the Bible therefore is advocating a Flat earth geography, as a circle or a globe / sphere has no corners, four or otherwise. However, I think this is a pretty weak conclusion on the grounds that the phrase “the Four Corners of the Earth” is still a very common expression that is still frequently used even today.

*Do you like to eat pork, bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, etc.? If “yes”, then repent you sinner! The Bible prohibits you eating the flesh of the swine, as in Deuteronomy 14: 8.

*And you are forbidden to eat any fat or any blood (Leviticus 3: 17) so that rules out that cheeseburger or juicy rare hamburger / steak.

*And do you also like to eat clams and oysters and mussels and other shellfish like crab and lobster and shrimp / prawns and marine / freshwater snails (if you’re French) and associated delicacies? Give them at miss for they are an “abomination unto you” according to Leviticus 11: 10-12. You don’t even get to eat land snails according to Leviticus 11: 30. And turtle soup is also off the menu too – Leviticus 11: 29. In fact if you follow the dietary restrictions given in Leviticus you’d probably die of hunger! Well not really as God allows you to eat grasshoppers, beetles and locusts so you won’t actually starve (Leviticus 11: 22). [As an additional aside, Leviticus 11: 19 as well as Deuteronomy 14: 18 includes the bat as being a bird!]

*But don’t stuff your face with too many locusts, grasshoppers and beetles for then you are a glutton and according to Proverbs 23: 21 gluttony will lead you to the poor house, that’s assuming you don’t slit your own gluttonous throat first (Proverbs 23: 2).

*Do you ever consult a psychic or use Tarot Cards or read your astrology forecast in your daily newspaper? Shame, shame, shame on you. God is NOT amused. You are forbidden to have anything to do with the spirits, mediums, fortune tellers, astrology and the like according to that party-poop of all party-poop Biblical books, Leviticus, as in specifically Leviticus 19: 31 and Leviticus 20: 6.

*Do you have a tattoo? If so, well you’re a very wicked, wicked person! God forbids you to have a tattoo, and if you doubt this, you’d better look up Leviticus 19: 28.

*Do you shave? Have you ever shaved? Naughty, naughty, naughty. The Bible commands that you do NOT shave. Check out Leviticus 21: 5 and Ezekiel 44: 20. So, do not pass go, do not collect $200, instead go straight to hell in a handbasket if you have ever shaved!

*Okay men, let’s be honest here, have you ever had lust for a woman? Well if so then you’re evil, evil, evil because you have actually committed adultery in the eyes of Jesus and therefore in the eyes of God! (Matthew 5: 27-28)

*Do you ladies specifically (and gentlemen too I guess) ever wear sexy / revealing clothing and associated hairstyles and use adornments like jewelry? Tisk, tisk, tisk! Abandon your wicked ways immediately for 1 Timothy 2: 9 forbids all of this – so there!

*And do you ladies like to gossip? Control yourself and cease blabbering immediately for the Bible and the Lord so commands you according to Leviticus 19: 16; Psalm 101: 5.

*Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a comedian or jester or jokester? Shame on you according to Ephesians 5: 4. So straighten up and fly right!

*Hands up, have you ever been divorced and then remarried? Again you have committed adultery and Jesus / God will get you for that! (Matthew 5: 31-32; Matthew 19: 9; Mark 10: 11-12; Luke 16: 18; 1 Corinthians 7: 10-11.) Basically the Biblical Commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20: 14) and if you do commit adultery your head is on the proverbial chopping block (Leviticus 20: 10). And so that would seem to apply to those who divorce and remarry because you can’t ever remarry because that too is adultery. Oops!

*Now here’s a contradiction if ever there was one. According to 1 Corinthians 7: 1, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (i.e. – no sex)! A man can have a wife and a woman can have a husband, but no touching! That being the case, how do you “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28; Genesis 9: 1)?

*And you’d better no ever have premarital sex or else it’s hell for you (Jude 1: 7)! Maybe even worse, if you’re found out not to be a virgin, then you can be stoned to death according to Deuteronomy 22: 20-21.

*Do you ever do work on the Sabbath? Sooner or later nearly everyone does some form of labor on the Sabbath, and it doesn’t matter whether Saturday or Sunday is defined as the Sabbath day. Well working on the Sabbath is a no-no. Who says? God says! See Exodus 20: 10; Exodus 31: 14; Leviticus 23: 3; Deuteronomy 5: 14 and Jeremiah 17: 24. So what if I do work on the Sabbath, what’s the big deal? Death my friend, death. You have committed a crime punishable by death according to Exodus 31: 14-15; and Exodus 35: 2.

*Here’s a bit of Biblical weirdness for you. Do you like to wear polyester and fabric blends? Cease immediately for the Lord commands you not to mix fabric blends, like linen and wool. Check it out at Leviticus 19: 19.

*To conclude Biblical weirdness, if you’re a male and for some reason you have been wounded in the privates, or your private parts are missing, then you are forbidden from going to church, which is “the congregation of the Lord”, at least according to Deuteronomy 23: 1. So all your male True Believers, you’d better look after your “stones”.

*I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat it here – the easiest path to atheism is just to read the Bible!

Regarding the Geography of Heaven and Hell

*Attention all True Believers: Have you actually seen heaven? No? Have you actually seen hell? No? Do you know anyone who has actually seen heaven or hell? No? If heaven and hell are physical places then you’d suspect that astronomers (by now) would have spotted heaven “up there” and geologists would have (by now) found actual seismic evidence of hell “down there”. In any event all of the fires of hell should have been doused by that ‘global flood’. Now you may have FAITH that heaven and hell exist; you may have some degree of BELIEF that heaven and hell exist, but you most certainly don’t KNOW that heaven and hell exist. If you and no one that you’ve ever known have ever visited hell, you can have absolutely no idea what the dimensions of hell are. True Believers are just making it all up. By the by, what ‘below’ (not on) earth does hell actually have to do with Satan? Satan didn’t create hell; God created hell (and we all know that God loves you). Now True Believers have to ask the question, does the punishment of eternal hell fit the crime? Finally, not all theologies actually postulate a hell – or a heaven for that matter. So my final question to True Believers is, what makes you right and theologies that don’t advocate a heaven or hell, like the Quakers, wrong? Extraordinary claims, and heaven and hell ARE extraordinary claims, require evidence. True Believers have provided absolutely NO evidence to back up their wild assertions that heaven and hell exist.

Regarding the End Times

*Isn’t it absolutely amazing how lucky you are being born into just the right family in just the right country into just the right religion at just the right time in history to become one of the very few privileged True Believers who absolutely know that you are one of the chosen ones to witness the End Times, the Second Coming, the return of Jesus and be Raptured up into Heaven and have an eternal [after]life! What are the odds of that?!?

*I have to wonder whether if our current reigning End Times Queen, Michele Bachmann, might not be the reincarnation of former Queen Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). McPherson (also known as Sister Aimee) was a Christian evangelist, faith healer and media celebrity prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She drove around L.A. in the second decade of the 20th Century in her “Gospel Auto” with the message painted on the side “Jesus Is Coming – Get Ready”. It just goes to show that there’s no shortage of True Believers, not only now but over the centuries who truly believe we’re in, or were in, the End Times. However, it didn’t come to pass for Aimee Semple McPherson and it won’t come to pass for Michele Bachmann either.

The Day of Itching Ears

For the professing Church the day of theological controversy has passed. Ecumenism is now the word on every tongue. Church leaders appear to have become convinced that the stifling confusion in the Church can be overcome only by all of us getting together, minimizing our differences, and emphasizing those doctrines on which we all agree. As a result, some of the most important doctrines of Scripture are neither denied nor affirmed; they are ignored. But little matter, for the objective now is not to be true to the written Word of God but to see to it that the Church is “strong” and commands the world’s respect.

Ecumenism, sad to say, has made significant inroads among evangelical believers too. All too seldom do men of God stand up to defend by the Scriptures the truths they believe and proclaim. The theological debate has given place to dialogue, in which two individuals or groups sit down together to discuss their differences and see if there is not some basis for agreement. This appears generous and objective, but too often convictions are compromised and the truth watered down by such undertakings, with the result that the Spirit’s power is sacrificed for numerical strength. No man of God can speak in the power of the Spirit when he places anything before the Word and Will of God. Nor can the Church ever be truly united and strong unless she puts God’s Word and Will first and takes her place in the world as Christ’s ambassador on alien territory (See II Cor. 5:20).

But what do the Scriptures say about this new “open-mindedness,” this new “let’s all get together” trend?

OUR LORD’S WARNING

During our Lord’s earthly ministry He warned His disciples: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).

The disciples did not immediately grasp the significance of the Lord’s warning. Realizing that they had forgotten to take bread with them, they supposed that He referred to the leaven which their bakers used and concluded that the Pharisees and Sadducees were evidently out to poison their food!

To correct this mistake our Lord had but to remind them how, with but a few loaves, He had fed five thousand people at one time and four thousand at another. They themselves had taken up baskets full of the fragments on both occasions. Surely, then, He could supply them with food!

“Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (Ver. 12).

Someone was out to poison them–spiritually! It is doubtful that the Pharisees and Sadducees meant to propagate poisonous doctrines, but in their pride and hypocrisy they were the ready tools of Satan. It was because of the destructive qualities of these doctrines that our Lord had used the term “leaven” to describe them. Where false doctrine is concerned, it takes but a little to do a great deal of harm. Referring to this very thing Paul warned the Galatians that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).

What was so dangerous about the teachings of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? In general it was that the Pharisees added to the written Word (Matt. 23) and the Sadducees took from it (Acts 23:8). Both were dangerous, and our Lord warned His disciples to BEWARE of both. We do well to take this lesson to heart, for the Pharisees and Sadducees are with us still–those who add to the Word of God and those who take from it.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES

“The doctrine of the Pharisees” has held a prominent place in the Church throughout its history. The Reformation did not put an end to it by any means, for still today vast numbers of religious people subscribe to it.

The leaders of Christendom have added all sorts of rituals, restrictions, and requirements to God’s revealed program for His Church in this dispensation of Grace, and multitudes of sincere believers follow like sheep, instead of searching the Scriptures daily to see whether these things really do belong to His program for our day.

Look at the members of Christ’s Body. Many have placed themselves under the Law, while others are trying to recover the miraculous signs of Pentecost, or are striving to carry out a “great commission” that is not theirs. They observe holy days, baptism, footwashing, and all sorts of other forms and ceremonies which are contrary to God’s program for this dispensation, as revealed in the epistles of Paul. As a result the Church is a Babel of confusion and Satan is well satisfied.

How perverse is the heart of man! God reveals the Substance and lo, His people go back to the shadows! He demonstrates the all-sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work and behold, His people continue to observe the rites that pointed to it. Indeed, they add ceremonies which He never commanded at all! In grace God postpones the judgment and the earthly reign of Christ, to offer grace and reconciliation to His enemies and lo, His servants do not even understand and go about vainly trying to “establish His kingdom.”

They do not deny that we are commissioned to proclaim God’s offer of grace and reconciliation, but they add another commission and so confuse the God-given message. They do not deny the all-sufficiency of Christ’s finished work, but they add unscriptural and undispensational teachings and forms and ceremonies, and so confuse and adulterate God’s clear message of grace.

This is “the doctrine of the Pharisees” and it is dangerous.

Added error blinds men’s minds to the truth. Those who add the so-called “Great Commission” to God’s program for this dispensation cannot fully appreciate the glory of our Lord’s “great commission” to Paul and to us (II Cor. 5:14-21; Eph. 3:8,9; et al). Those who go back under the Law of Moses or even back to Pentecost cannot fully appreciate the glory of our Lord’s finished work or “the exceeding riches of His grace.” Those who observe footwashing, water baptism, or holy days cannot fully understand the mystery of God’s purpose and grace. These added things hang as a veil before their eyes and blind them to the glories of their position in the heavenlies in Christ as members of His Body.

Our Lord charged the Pharisees with “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” and with “making the Word of God of none effect through your [their] tradition” (Mark 7:7,13). This is being done on every hand today as religious leaders add to God’s glorious “grace” program ceremonies and observances which belonged to former dispensations, or which He never commanded at all. This is dangerous to our spiritual welfare and we should “beware” of it.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE SADDUCEES

But if Satan cannot deceive us with “the doctrine of the Pharisees” he will seek to accomplish his purpose through “the doctrine of the Sadducees.”

In comparison with the bigoted Pharisees, the Sadducees were the “advanced thinkers” of their day. Not that they did not also substitute human tradition for the Word of God, but they made more of the human intellect and refused to believe certain truths which were supernatural in character. The Sadducees have a host of followers in our day with its emphasis on the intellectual.

But our Lord warned His disciples against the Sadducees too. He said “Take heed….Beware” and described their doctrine as leaven because a little of it can spread so fast.

This warning is sorely needed today since some sincere Christians, wishing to be intellectual and open-minded, place themselves in positions of great spiritual danger.

On the premise that they are mature and are seeking for the truth, such people often spend their time examining all the different viewpoints they can find and so make shipwreck of the faith. We should be careful about assuming that we are mature either intellectually or spiritually. To the puffed-up Corinthian believers Paul wrote:

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become [take the position of] a fool, that he may be wise” (I Cor. 3:18).

“And if a man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (I Cor. 8:2).

The fact is that we cannot trust our intellects. Surely the sharp disagreements among the world’s greatest intellects should teach us this. These disagreements exist because, as the Bible teaches, the human mind, like the human heart, has become depraved by sin.

THE THESSALONIANS, THE BEREANS, AND THE ATHENIANS

But were not the Bereans commended for listening with open minds to teachings which they had never heard before? Yes, when they were confronted with them. It was the Athenians, not the Bereans, who made it their policy to consider as many viewpoints as possible on every subject (Acts 17:18-21).

The strength of the Bereans was that they kept close to the Scriptures. When confronted with some new doctrine, they did indeed give it an interested hearing, but then “searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Had they found anything in Paul’s message which contradicted the Scriptures they would immediately have rejected it. And for this God calls them “noble.” They were the truly great, the spiritual aristocracy of their day.

Too many believers today aspire to be like the Athenians rather than the Bereans. They say they wish to have open minds, and this is good if it is remembered that an open mind is like an open mouth; not everything should be put into it.

The Athenians went to the other extreme from the Thessalonians, who would not even consider a new doctrine when confronted with it–would not even consider it in the light of the Scriptures.

The Bereans were the wisest of the three. They kept close to that blessed Book, and, when confronted with unfamiliar teachings, immediately subjected them to the test of Scripture.

This is the wisest course even if only because we are all limited in time and strength. Obviously we cannot spend a great deal of time looking into the conflicting teachings of men without sacrificing a great deal of much-needed time for Bible study, and in the measure that we do this we are bound to grow spiritually weaker.

THE QUESTION OF EXPOSURE

There are those who argue that believers cannot be strengthened against error without being exposed to it. Our Lord knew better. He did not invite the Pharisees and the Sadducees to address His audiences. Rather He warned His audiences against the “leaven” of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and kept teaching His hearers the truth.

The depravity of the human heart and mind is such that the believer is not strengthened against error by constant exposure to it; he is strengthened against error by feeding consistently upon the Word of God. Exposure to error strengthens the believer only as it drives him to the Word of God. Show me a Christian who is always “considering all sides” and I will show you one who will fail dismally to give the Scriptural answer to false teaching–if indeed he is not taken in by false teaching himself. But show me a Christian who spends his time with that blessed Book and I will show you one who, strong in the faith, can easily answer his adversaries by the Scriptures. Paul wrote to young Pastor Timothy:

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ…. Preach the Word….For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (II Tim. 4:1-3).

And what was to be the result of this “itching ears” condition, this passion to hear teachers of all schools of thought expound their various doctrines? Hear the divine prediction:

“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (Ver. 4).

What thoughtful student of the Word will deny that we have reached this point in the history of the professing Church, that the day of “itching ears” is upon us?

The desire to “give everyone a hearing,” as it were, may seem superficially to indicate spiritual greatness, but actually it is of the flesh and is based upon the exalted presumption that it is safe for me to trust my intellect, even though the greatest intellects have disagreed over the most vital subjects. Where our intellects are concerned we are wiser to heed the Spirit-inspired exhortation of one truly great intellect, the Apostle Paul:

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).

The Apostle Paul did not assume that his followers were mature enough to consider all religious viewpoints. He delivered his God-given message and warned his hearers and readers against false teachings.

To the Corinthians he wrote:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3).

Reminding the Colossians of his labor and strife and toil and conflict to establish them in the faith, he warns:

“Beware lest any man spoil [rob] you….Let no man beguile you…” (Col. 2:8,18).

He did not suggest to the Ephesian elders that it might be big of them occasionally to invite the legalists or the gnostics or some other heterodox teachers in to address their audiences. He rather impressed upon them their responsibility to protect their congregations from false teaching. Read carefully and prayerfully his very words, as found in Acts 20:28-31:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood.

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”

Even those two outstanding pastors, Timothy and Titus, were warned against the “leaven” of false teaching. The apostle exhorts 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” (I Tim. 4:16).

This passage explains why some pastors have been unable to save their hearers from error and spiritual shipwreck. Certainly it teaches the danger of false doctrine to both pastor and people.

Throughout his two epistles to Timothy the apostle warns his son in the faith against those who “teach otherwise” and exhorts him to “fight the good fight of the faith.” How earnestly he beseeches young Timothy to stay close to the Word of God and especially to the Word of God committed to him for this present dispensation:

“O Timothy, keep [guard] that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding…oppositions of science falsely so called” (I Tim. 6:20).

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep [guard] by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (II Tim. 1:13,14).

In his letter to Titus the apostle declares that a bishop must be “blameless as the steward of God” (Titus 1:7).

“Holding fast the faithful Word… that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Ver. 9).

Never does Paul advise even the strongest, most mature man of God to seek out the doctrines of those who “teach otherwise” so that they may know how to deal with them. He rather exhorts them to keep strong in the truth, ever ready to meet false doctrine with the Word of God.

When you are confronted with the familiar sign, “BEWARE OF THE DOG,” be wise and keep out of the way. If you ignore the warning and have to flee torn and bruised, that is your fault. Nor can you expect God to protect you from spiritual harm and loss if you ignore His admonition to beware of false doctrine.

Do not presume: “I am mature. I will never be confused or overthrown by error.” BEWARE! This is the course of obedience. This is the course of wisdom. This is the course of humility.

Every believer should remember that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). It was by the Spirit that our eyes were opened to the most vital truths which confront mankind. Therefore it behooves us to protect ourselves from error and spiritual harm by consistent, prayerful, believing study of that blessed Book of which the Spirit is the Author.