Not Traditional, Original

T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches

Today’s topic is an emotionally charged one.  Many of us know or have known people who have been affected by the destructive power of the overuse of alcohol. God forbid that you know someone who has killed someone while driving drunk, or lost their house, job, and/or marriage because of the inability to overcome the lure of drinking to the point that some people do. Or just the poor decisions or poor health that can happen due to forming a dependence on alcohol.

Or perhaps you have been ingrained with the doctrine that any use of alcohol is sin, to the point where you have not only committed yourself to not using it, but also to be one preaching against all alcohol use.

I’m going to ask you to just consider these words. We are interested in learning and adhering to the word and will of God. What is God’s viewpoint, and direction on this important matter?

Remember we are comparing modern traditions with the apostles’ traditions in original Christianity which we are charged to do in Scripture (2Th 2:15). The Apostles’ traditions are both the beliefs and practices handed down by the apostles.  And, in fact, 2Thessalonians 3:6 says to avoid the fellowship of those who don’t follow the apostles’ traditions. Jesus taught that the traditions of men, including religious ones, make void the word of God. (Matt 15:3-6)

We are going to look at the ban on alcohol which is part of some churches’ traditions today and see whether it is apostles’ tradition or man’s tradition.

The doctrine of prohibition, the banning of alcohol, in the churches is relatively new. In fact, in the United States, the Temperance movement was established in the early nineteenth century when it picked up enough support from evangelical preachers who started preaching that any alcohol drinking was sinful[1]. This is despite the fact that there is a long history in the Scriptures that show the acceptance of alcoholic beverages from ancient days through the book of Acts.

The Law definitely supports the use of alcoholic spirits.

You shall trade the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. (Deu 14:26 WEB)

This verse endorses that it is acceptable to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, in this case as part of the tithe.

The word for wine above is yayin in Hebrew, H3196 in Strongs, and has the root of effervesce as in fermented.  Strong drink is shekar in Hebrew, H7941 and means intoxicant.  There is another Hebrew word for wine, tiyrosh, which means new wine, which was not the mature wine that yayin is. In this article we will be talking about yayin and shekar .

Strong drink always refers to alcoholic beverages, and yayin wine is an intoxicating beverage.  With this verse in the law establishing fermented wine as acceptable as tithe along with what the words for wine and strong drink mean we see that there is no question that alcoholic beverages are what is being discussed here.  Next, look at this in the New Testament.

And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;  (Eph 5:18 Webster)

This is an instruction by the Apostle Paul which certainly qualifies as part of the apostles’ tradition.  It sets a standard for drinking alcohol.   The word drunk is methusko, G3182, and means intoxicated or impaired, and this is reinforced with the word excess, asotia, G810, which means profligacy, excess, or riot.  Drinking a glass of wine is moderate, drinking a whole bottle of wine is excessive or riotous.  This verse is not a ban on all drinking, rather it is a warning to not drink excessively to the point of not being clear headed enough to follow the spirit.  The phrase “in which is excess” clearly draws a line between acceptable moderate drinking and unacceptable drunkenness, and makes this the central issue in the verse.

Paul advised Timothy to drink wine moderately.

Be no longer a drinker of water only, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. (1Ti 5:23 WEB)

This verse not only lists wine as an acceptable thing to drink, but as a recommended practice in certain circumstances.  The next set of verses is about Jesus’s first miracle as described in the Gospel of John.

The third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus also was invited, with his disciples, to the marriage. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” They filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (Joh 2:1-11 WEB)

Wine was part of celebrations worldwide thousands of years before Christ.  We mentioned Deuteronomy 14:26 above, but the truth is that wine as part of celebrations is a theme in the Old testament. Wine is part of the celebration of the conquering of death. Wine is part of the communion memorial.  Notice the next verse says choice wines. That is not grape juice, ladies and gentlemen. That is choice, fermented, wine.

This next verse is a proclamation of a feast by Yahweh, and it includes choice wines.  Surely you are not saying Yahweh is sinning here by serving yayin, intoxicating wine?

In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast of choice wines, of choice meat full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. (Isa 25:6 WEB)

After the book of Acts, there is a long history of acceptance of alcoholic beverages including Christians, ministers, and churches all not only consuming alcoholic beverages but making them.

In the second century, Clement of Alexandria affirmed the use of alcohol in the church then with these words in his book Paedagogus:

“And he bound, it is said, the colt to the vine, having bound this simple and childlike people to the word, whom He figuratively represents as a vine. For the vine produces wine, as the Word produces blood, and both drink for health to men — wine for the body, blood for the spirit.[2]

Brett McCracken documents the use of alcohol by Christians throughout the ages including at ministry functions like ordinations[3].

In fact, at a relatively recent Southern Baptist Convention, the topic of allowing alcohol was brought up again with some people on the side of no longer banning alcohol consumption. And things that were brought up included the fact that it was a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig that invented bourbon whiskey[4].

Drinking of alcoholic beverages was not forbidden for 18 centuries after Christ.  Look at this quote acknowledging that from an anti-alcohol book:

“ In the 17th century all Old England and New England drank. The Puritans were no exception. Puritans’ soldiers drank heavily. Farmers, doctors, laborers, lawyers, magistrates, ministers, mothers, selectmen, governors, judges, babies, the sad, the gay, the well, the sick – all drank.”

This quote is from a 1943 book put out by the Southern Baptist Convention against drinking.[5]

What the above timeline establishes is that the doctrine of drinking alcohol as sinful is a modern doctrine and not one that traces back to the apostles.  In the 19th century, a movement started to counter the damaging effects of the excessive consumption of alcohol. That movement was called the temperance movement. And eventually, laws were enacted to ban alcohol from society. Those laws were called prohibition.  This movement really got traction when it was adopted by some churches.

It’s not that the bible doesn’t warn against the dangers of overconsumption.

The Lord has sent among them a spirit of error: and by them Egypt is turned out of the right way in all her doings, as a man overcome by wine is uncertain in his steps. And in Egypt there will be no work for any man, head or tail, high or low, to do.  (Isa 19:14-15 BBE)

This verse above clearly describes the state of being overcome with wine as being uncertain in your steps.  Or how about this one?

They made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father. He didn’t know when she lay down, nor when she arose.  (Gen 19:33 WEB)

Lot’s daughters got their father so drunk he didn’t know he was having intercourse with them?  Now, who says wine in the bible isn’t that alcoholic?  This next verse equates drunkenness with ruination.

Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18 GNB)

There are many more verses that pronounce the dangers of drunkenness.  Here’s one:

Those who stay long at the wine; those who go to seek out mixed wine. Don’t look at the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end, it bites like a snake, and poisons like a viper. (Pro 23:30-32 WEB)

“Those who stay long at the wine” refers to overindulging and the effect is likened to being bit and poisoned.  Next, here’s one that includes what effect drunkenness has on the ministers and prophets.

They also reel with wine, and stagger with strong drink. The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They stagger with strong drink. They err in vision. They stumble in judgment.  (Isa 28:7 WEB)

Drunkenness blocks the spiritual connection with Yahweh.  Drunk prophets err in vision. Drunk ministers stumble in judgment.

But it is twisting scripture to turn a scriptural ban on drunkenness into a ban on drinking in moderate amounts.  For example, the Alcohol THE DESTROYER book cites this verse as a denunciation by Habakkuk on all drinking[6]:

“Woe to him who gives his neighbor drink, pouring your inflaming wine until they are drunk, so that you may gaze at their naked bodies! You are filled with shame, and not glory. You will also drink, and be exposed! The cup of Yahweh’s right hand will come around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. (Hab 2:15-16 WEB)

Context, context, context!  Yes, there are people that get other people to drink to the point where they will agree to have sex with them, and that is clearly a maneuver of the adversary. It is wrong and no one disputes that. Alcohol overindulgence is a major problem and we can never forget that.

But every Presbyterian or Methodist sipping a glass of wine at home or at a restaurant is not pouring wine down their neighbor’s throat to see them naked!  Habbakuk 2:15-16 are verses against overindulgence, not against moderate use of alcohol.  But it is twisted in the prohibition literature to make it look like it is saying something it is not.  And so are a lot of verses.

Yes, there are many verses on the dangers of overconsumption. Shouldn’t all those warnings be the overriding factor?

In civil law here in the United States, decisions are based upon the preponderance of the evidence weighing more heavily on one side or the other.  Both sides present their cases and the judge or jury decides who will win.  Sometimes I think that some people think that the word of God is like that, especially in cases like this.  If someone can present more verses that point to the dangers of something, in this case, drinking alcohol, than verses that can be found allowing for alcohol consumption then the alcohol banning folk should win their case, according to that logic.   But the word of God is not like that.  If there are verses that allow something under certain circumstances, then even if there are more verses against overconsumption of alcohol, they will never be sufficient to overrule the sanctioned use of alcohol in the word of God

So again, as stated above, the moderate use of alcohol is something sanctioned by the Father.  The moderate use of alcohol is allowed with many warnings against overindulgence given.

Remember the two sources of wisdom; the wisdom from above, and the wisdom of the world, ultimately from the adversary. If God the Father gives us something to enjoy then denying people that enjoyment goes against the purposes of God even if there is a problem with overconsumption. The correct response to the overconsumption of alcohol is to stop over-consuming, not to ban it.

That is not to say that some individuals don’t need to stop themselves from drinking, at least in the short term, and possibly long-term.  So I’m not saying that people in AA shouldn’t be in AA or going to counseling.  Some people need programs to stop the destruction that alcohol can cause when people lose control. But, making laws that ban alcohol, in general, is a man-made doctrine in the tradition of men.  And the people twisting scripture to say that the biblical standard is to ban alcohol make void the Word of God.

Remember this too. It may be okay for you to drink, but if you are with someone who has a problem with alcohol, then you don’t want to be a source of temptation for that person.  As Paul wrote, all things are lawful for us, but not all things are expedient. We don’t want our liberty to be a stumbling block for someone who is weak. (Romans 14:21)

Here are some anti-alcohol teaching statements in the anti-alcohol tradition taught that make void the word of God:

“The Bible gives principles of Christian living, not rules.… If Christ were in our midst today, there can be no doubt in the light of truth that he would utterly condemn the liquor traffic and oppose the drinking of alcoholic beverages on the part of his followers.”[7]

This is nowhere taught or practiced by the Apostles.  Jesus not would not condemn the drinking of alcohol.  He is going to be at the Yahweh for armies party with wine.  He ate and drank while he was here!

“One who opens the door to physical indulgences such as drink closes his ears to the voice of his finer sensibilities.”

The context of this statement is not the overindulgence of drink, it is regarding any drinking of alcohol whatsoever, contrary to what the bible teaches.  While having a lot of wine impairs judgement, having a little wine does not close someone’s ears to their sensibilities, or else Jesus would not have drank (Luke 5:27-32).

“Beverage alcohol is the foe of spiritual living and the destroyer of everything dear to the heart of my Lord.”[8]

This statement is part of a Baptist pledge. This statement goes way beyond preaching against the dangers of overindulgence while allowing for the temperate use of alcohol that the Bible teaches. I’ll agree that alcoholism is a foe, and can work to destroy people, but statements like this twist the Scriptures into what looks like an attempt to manipulate people away from any use of alcohol at all.  Jesus told us that the truth sets us free, but unfortunately, this isn’t it.  The scriptural standard is not to avoid alcohol or you are a lost sinner. That standard makes the Lutheran and Episcopalian having a glass of wine or beer an unbeliever or at the very least a lost Christian. Having a glass of wine does not destroy everything dear to the heart of the Lord.

Here are more scriptures that show moderate alcohol use as part of God’s wisdom.  Wine was acceptable as part of the drink offering instituted by the Lord.

and for the drink offering you shall offer the third part of a hin of wine, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.  (Num 15:7 WEB)

The word for wine there is the word yayin in Hebrew, meaning fermented drink. We know that yayin was intoxicating because the first time yayin was used the person got drunk from drinking it.

He drank of the wine and got drunk. (Gen 9:21a WEB)

We’re not talking about grape juice here.  He got drunk from it!  Again, the wine talked about in these verses is intoxicating!  Intoxicating wine is in this next verse:

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, and one ephah of meal, and a container of wine, and brought him to Yahweh’s house in Shiloh. The child was young. (1Sa 1:24 WEB)

These verses show where intoxicating wine was part of the offering that Yahweh told his people to offer, and thus wine was included in offerings to the Lord.  If God calls something acceptable and pleasant who are men to say otherwise?

Or is the Lord compared to a sinner in this verse?

Then the Lord awakened as one out of sleep, like a mighty man who shouts by reason of wine. (Psa 78:65 WEB)

No, this is a favorable comparison where the Lord was awakened with the force like someone shouting with wine.  Or look at these verses that include wine as one of the blessings of the Father who created us.  Psalm 104 is a litany on the blessings of the Lord and wine is listed in the long list of favors Yahweh has granted:

He sends springs into the valleys. They run among the mountains. They give drink to every animal of the field. The wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by them. They sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his rooms. The earth is filled with the fruit of your works. He causes the grass to grow for the livestock, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may produce food out of the earth: wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face to shine, and bread that strengthens man’s heart. Yahweh’s trees are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon, which he has planted; (Psa 104:10-16 WEB)

“Wine that makes glad the heart of man” is listed with animals drinking freely from springs in valleys and on mountains, the grass growing for livestock to feed upon, oil to make a man’s face shine, and bread to strengthen a man’s heart as great blessings from the Lord!  And there are many more blessings listed in this psalm for which the psalmist praises the Lord.

“Wine that makes glad the heart of man” is a blessing from the Lord, so says the psalmist, and calling all alcohol use sinful makes that verse wrong!  Again, wine there is yayin in Hebrew, intoxicating drink!  Wine, intoxicating drink, was given to make glad the heart of man?  Saying otherwise is nullifying the word of God.

Or are you going to throw out this wisdom?

Give strong drink to him who is ready to perish; and wine to the bitter in soul: (Pro 31:6 WEB)

This verse says a little wine to ease bitterness or ease someone who is suffering or dying is a good thing.  Saying otherwise nullifies the word of God!

Or is this actually a good thing that Yahweh does in this verse when it is prophesied that wine will stop being produced for these people?  Remember, this is supposed to be something bad happening because these people were not following the Lord.

Gladness is taken away, and joy out of the fruitful field; and in the vineyards there will be no singing, neither joyful noise. Nobody will tread out wine in the presses. I have made the shouting stop. (Isa 16:10 WEB)

The same thing is seen here.

The earth also is polluted under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell therein are found guilty. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The new wine mourns. The vine languishes. All the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of tambourines ceases. The sound of those who rejoice ends. The joy of the harp ceases. They will not drink wine with a song. Strong drink will be bitter to those who drink it. (Isa 24:5-9 WEB)

These sections are talking about being cursed, the opposite of being blessed by the Lord. So, these people are cursed (v. 6).  Part of the curse is that singing and celebrating has stopped.  “They will not drink wine with a song” is presented as something that shows the blessing of God is stopped.  But if intoxicating wine use is sinful then how are they cursed?  The answer is that they are cursed and part of the curse is that they no longer drink wine with a song!  Drinking wine with a song, having a heart made glad with wine, having bitterness eased with wine is part of the word of God and preaching against any alcohol use makes that word of God void!

Also, while there are many secular articles on the destructive nature of alcohol abuse, there are some on the beneficial nature of moderate drinking, including links to improved cardiovascular health, improved diabetes management, improved digestion and general wellbeing[9]. The article cited gives some details on the many factors of alcohol consumption.

It’s key to note that scripture says the traditions of men make void the word of God. It doesn’t matter how bad the problem, or how noble the intentions are.  It is also key that statements of faith affirming the primacy of scripture do not guarantee that the teaching the church is following is the rightly divided, actual word of God.  This is one of many examples where scripture is twisted to the point where the actual word of God is nullified.

The ban on all alcohol by certain traditions is no different than the Jewish leaders in Jesus’s time creating bans and laws that work against the word of God. An example is the Sabbath being given as a day of rest. In the law, there were details given to further define work like not starting any fires.  And exceptions were listed like pulling oxen out of ditches they might have fallen into.  But the religious leaders overreacted and tried to make any action into an act of work. So, we all know how the Jews accused Jesus of not honoring the Sabbath when he healed people on the Sabbath.  Likewise, the anti-alcohol crowd is over reacting and going way beyond scripture with their reasoning in making any alcohol use a sin.

The ban on all alcohol is an overreaction. It is not godly. The teaching around it makes the word of God void.  That makes it a false doctrine according to the standard of original Christianity, the apostles’ tradition, and it needs to be proclaimed as such.

In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast of choice wines, of choice meat full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. (Isa 25:6 WEB)

Further Reading:

THE BIBLE AND THE QUESTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, Kenneth L Gentry Jr available at https://intoxicatedonlifedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ctrgentryformatted.pdf  This looks like an early version of some of the material in the book in the next line.

GOD Gave Wine, What the Bible says about Alcohol, Kenneth L Gentry Jr, Victorious Hope Publishing, Fountain Inn, South Carolina, third printing, 2015

[1] https://law.jrank.org/pages/10714/Temperance-Movement.html#:~:text=The%20TEMPERANCE%20MOVEMENT%20in%20the,drinking%20alcohol%20as%20a%20sin.

[2] The Paedagogus (Book I) at https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02091.htm

[3] CHRISTIANS AND ALCOHOL: A TIMELINE at https://www.brettmccracken.com/blog/blog/2013/07/17/christians-and-alcohol-a-timeline

[4] Baptist history on alcohol: not totally teetotaling – Baptist News Global

[5] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 3

[6] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 16

[7] Alcohol – THE DESTROYER, C Aubrey Hearn, Convention Press, Nashville Tennessee, 1943, P. 17

[8] ibid., P. 123

[9]  Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


May 8th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1.64 More on Spirits: Some Specific Spirits

In T 1.6 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 6, The Apostles Taught About Our Adversary, the Devil, and that We Have the Power to Overcome Him we looked at an overview of the role of the Adversary in the world today.

After a review of some key points, we are going to get into more specifics of the realm of the devil including what scripture says about specific spirits.

Remember, greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world! Remember that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Remember, that God never allows a man to be tried more than he is able. So, you will never be put in a position where you will be overpowered by the adversary.

On the other hand, Jesus came to expose the works of the devil. Because of Jesus, we learn the following; The devil walks about seeking whom he may devour and that’s just not unbelievers!

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1Pe 5:8 KJV)

The devil blinds the eyes of those around him.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.  (2Co 4:4 WEB)

The devil seduces.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (1Ti 4:1 KJV)

The devil is clever, and has designs and schemes that he gets men to follow and entice others with.

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.  (2Co 2:11 ESV)

that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; (Eph 4:14 WEB)

The devil has been around much longer than any person so he has more experience and so it is not wise to underestimate him.

So, while no one is overpowered by the adversary, many have been seduced and tricked into doing the devil’s bidding, oftentimes thinking they’re doing the right thing.

And remember this, perhaps above all. in its simplest form wisdom is either of God or of the devil in its original source.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  (Jas 3:13-18 WEB)

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic” is a comparison. This verse talks about two sources of wisdom, from above and demonic.  God is the author of peace, gentleness, reasonableness, and mercy and His wisdom reflects that.  The devil’s way has bitter jealousy and selfish ambition involved.  And where they are, there is confusion and every evil deed. This gives us a framework to gauge situations and people.

But that does not mean that everything that has something amiss means there somebody that is possessed. On the contrary, the world, which is the devil’s domain, is full of his influence.  That is what the bible is teaching when it says “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.”  So we see that the devil has plans to thwart God, and designs his world where we live with the aim of keeping people from God.”  Of course, everyone in the world is not possessed, but everyone is constantly under the attack of his influence.

As examples, in Acts chapter 15, it says Peter and Paul had a big contentious argument. That doesn’t mean that they were possessed, either one of them. In the Gospel of John in chapter 9 Jesus healed a man that was born blind. It’s says in that record that there was a question by the people of who sinned.  The answer was no one sinned, this was done to show the glory of God.  So here was a man that was blind all of his life, and it wasn’t because of sin, and he certainly wasn’t possessed. He was just born blind.

You need discerning of Spirits to know if a spirit is involved.  Spiritual things are foolishness to natural men,

Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  (1Co 2:14 WEB)

But we have access to recognizing spirits with the gift of holy spirit and its manifestations:

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages. But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires. (1Co 12:8-11 WEB)

The listing of the manifestations of the spirit includes discerning of spirits, that’s the ability to recognize when someone is actually controlled by an evil spirit, or that they are born again, or an angel, for that matter.

Not that every contact with an angel is made known as it says in Hebrews:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.  (Heb 13:2 WEB)

Now, about individual spirits, Scripture calls demons unclean or evil spirits:

The multitude also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick people, and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed.  (Act 5:16 WEB)

The simplest breakdown concerning spirits is that we get holy spirit from the Holy Spirit under his leadership, and the Devil has control over his host of unclean spirits. Now just as people with holy spirit can have a strength like a spirit of gentleness, or a spirit of power, the Devil’s spirits can have strengths too like a spirit of fear, or a spirit of lying, or a spirit of divination.  But all believers’ spirits are holy spirit, and all devil spirits are unclean spirits.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit gives gifts like prophecy and teaching to some while the devil imitates this by making some of his followers false prophets and false teachers. Thus, there are some parallels between God’s kingdom and the Devil’s domain, the world, because the devil sets himself up as an angel of light and his domain as enlightened so as to fool people.

As an example of unclean spirits, here’s the famous story from the Gospels where Jesus delivered the legion of evil spirits from a man and they went into pigs. Some people have taught that unclean spirits are sexual in nature but that record talks about other behaviors.  Notice that it doesn’t describe lewd acts or sexual sins as the characteristic of this spirit here (although that could have been part of the manifestation). The unclean spirit(s) enabled this man to tear apart chains and break fetters apart. He was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.  It looks like he was extremely wild and uncontrolled.

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. When he had come out of the boat, immediately a man with an unclean spirit met him out of the tombs. He lived in the tombs. Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains, because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. Nobody had the strength to tame him. Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him, and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, don’t torment me.” For he said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” He asked him, “What is your name?” He said to him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” He begged him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding. All the demons begged him, saying, “Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them.” At once Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they were drowned in the sea. Those who fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the country. The people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus, and saw him who had been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, even him who had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who saw it declared to them what happened to him who was possessed by demons, and about the pigs. They began to beg him to depart from their region. As he was entering into the boat, he who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.  (Mar 5:1-18 WEB)

Jesus recognized that the man had unclean spirit(s) by the manifestation of discerning of spirits.

Here’s another example where the term “all unclean spirits” was used.  The twelve were sent out and they were given authority over all unclean spirits:

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;  (Mar 6:7 KJV)

That use of all unclean spirits there means there were none of the devil’s soldiers who wouldn’t be dealt with in a godly manner by the twelve, no matter what their strengths were.

Another example of recognizing strengths or abilities of spirit is in Ephesians:

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;  (Eph 1:17 WEB)

“A spirit of wisdom and revelation” is in the above verse.  We know that there is just one spirit when we’re talking about holy spirit. But, as we read in first Corinthians chapter 12, different believers serve different functions within the body. A spirit of wisdom and revelation is that same holy spirit that we are all sealed with, but it has abundant strengths of word of knowledge and word of wisdom.

Next, we are going to look at specific spirits written in scripture, and what, if anything, scripture teaches us about that particular kind of spirit. Just like everything else related to original Christianity I want to look at what scripture says.  There are some things written in this area that are from secular sources which I do not use.  There are some things where people read more than there is into the verse.  For example, was Cain possessed to kill Abel? There is no record in scripture that says that. Abel brought an offering of his first fruits to the Lord which pleased the Lord.  Cain just brought an offering and the Lord didn’t respect his offering.  Cain got very angry, the scriptures say. But it stops short of saying Cain was possessed.

The first spirit we will look at is a spirit of fear written about in 1 Timothy.  One of goals of the devil is to instill fear and doubt which counters believing faith.  There is a devil spirit of fear which can paralyze people and stop them.  The spirit in us, Christ in us, is a spirit of power, love, and self-control.

For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,  (2Ti 1:7-9 WEB)

As we saw in the previous article and as written in Ephesians, we are to put on the whole armor of God which includes the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.  Enduring hardship, remaining steadfast is part of that shield of faith. Wielding the sword of the spirit, speaking the truth in love as led by the Holy Spirit, unleashes the power of God.  All this counters the attack of the spirit of fear.

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  (Rom 1:15-17 KJV)

Next, Paul and Silas encountered a spirit of divination in Acts 16:

As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.  (Act 16:16-18 WEB)

From the record we see that fortune telling is one of the manifestations of this evil force. This is the ability to predict the future.  You don’t think that’s real?  There are American presidents that have used fortune tellers so some people believe.  Franklin D Roosevelt consulted with Jeanne Dixon.  “Dixon is also famous for predicting the death of J.F. Kennedy in an interview with Parade magazine in 1956. She said that a Democrat would win in 1960, but would die in office.”[1]

Divination is the same spirit that King Saul inquired of back in the book of first Samuel but it is called a familiar spirit or medium in some texts.  He did this after he tried to inquire of Yahweh, but Yahweh chose not to answer him.

When Saul inquired of Yahweh, Yahweh didn’t answer him by dreams, by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.” His servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor.” (1Sa 28:6-7 WEB)

Notice that these verses list different avenues that the Spirit communicates with our spirit and Saul looked for those, dreams and prophets.  (There are numerous ways that Yahweh communicates including dreams, visions, angels, communicating directly, and via prophets.)

In Acts 16 Paul knew by discerning of spirits that there was a spirit of divination and he received the go-ahead (word of wisdom) to command the spirit out in the name of Jesus Christ!

There is a great record of deliverance from divination in Acts:

When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said, “You son of the devil, full of all deceit and all cunning, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you, and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season!” Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him. He went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.  (Act 13:6-12 WEB)

This next section talks about a spirit of deep sleep, also called a spirit of slumber.

It will be like when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he eats; but he awakes, and his hunger isn’t satisfied; or like when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he drinks; but he awakes, and behold, he is faint, and he is still thirsty. The multitude of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion will be like that. Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For Yahweh has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets; and he has covered your heads, the seers. All vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is educated, saying, “Read this, please;” and he says, “I can’t, for it is sealed;” and the book is delivered to one who is not educated, saying, “Read this, please;” and he says, “I can’t read.” The Lord said, “Because this people draws near with their mouth and honors me with their lips, but they have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which has been taught; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their prudent men will be hidden.”  (Isa 29:8-14 WEB)

Remember that all spiritual action was ascribed to Yahweh in sections in the Old Testament because natural man could not understand spiritual things. Some interesting things about this section of Scripture include that these are prophets who could no longer see, it says that the wisdom of the wise men perished, and the understanding of the prudent was hidden.  This is the work of a spirit of slumber.

Next, we have a record that refers to a troubling spirit.  This happened when political power was transferred from King Saul to King David.  Part of that transfer meant that the holy spirit that was on Saul left him while holy spirit came to rest on David.  And an evil spirit, one that troubled Saul, came to rest on him, but only at times.  The record says that when David played his harp for Saul the evil spirit left Saul for that time.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers. Then Yahweh’s Spirit came mightily on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. Now Yahweh’s Spirit departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him. Saul’s servants said to him, “See now, an evil spirit from God troubles you. Let our lord now command your servants who are in front of you to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. Then when the evil spirit from God is on you, he will play with his hand, and you will be well.”  (1Sa 16:13-16 WEB)

The spirit of antichrist is written about in 1 John 4.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.  (1Jn 4:2-3 WEB)

The above verse establishes the criteria of whether our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ actually had a physical body on earth as critical to recognizing this spirit of antichrist. This verse says that those who have confessed their Lord and Savior came to earth have the spirit of God. And it says those who say he never came to earth, he never had a body, and he never lived, have the spirit of antichrist. That’s what the verse says.

Next, we look at a record of a spirit of infirmity. This next section describes a woman who was so bent over for 18 years that she could never straighten up even when she walked. Scripture says this woman had a spirit of infirmity.

Behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and she was bent over, and could in no way straighten herself up. When Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and immediately she stood up straight, and glorified God.  (Luk 13:11-13 WEB)

Now, this is not to say that everyone with arthritis, or some medical condition is possessed. There are many records where people were delivered of sickness, and there’s no record of demon possession. But, as this record illustrates, some people do have a spirit controlling this. This spirit would have to be discerned, there is no way in the natural to know other than discerning of spirits.  So, like in this case, just because a person is bent over, it doesn’t mean that they are possessed.

Next, we see Jesus dealing with what is called a deaf and dumb spirit.

One of the multitude answered, “Teacher, I brought to you my son, who has a mute spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and wastes away. I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they weren’t able.” He answered him, “Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.” They brought him to him, and when he saw him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground, wallowing and foaming at the mouth. He asked his father, “How long has it been since this has come to him?” He said, “From childhood. Often it has cast him both into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a multitude came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him greatly, it came out of him. The boy became like one dead; so much that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him up; and he arose. When he had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.”  (Mar 9:17-29 WEB)

The words “and fasting” are not in the text.[2]  This kind of spirit removal requires prayer.

Lying Spirit

Micaiah said, “Therefore hear Yahweh’s word: I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. Yahweh said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ One spoke saying in this way, and another saying in that way. A spirit came out, stood before Yahweh, and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ “He said, ‘I will go, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ “He said, ‘You will entice him, and will prevail also. Go and do so.’ “Now therefore, behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you.” (2Ch 18:18-22 WEB)

Remember, Yahweh does not tempt. But in the Old Testament people did not understand that the devil and his host of angels were in rebellion, and that’s why they do these things. So it was narrated to look like all things came from God, because in a sense they do. But it is Lucifer, the Morningstar, the adversary, that is in rebellion against our God and father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is the doer of these evil deeds like putting lying spirits in prophets’ mouths.

People open themselves up to influence, and in extreme cases, possession of their own free will. Ahab chose his lifestyle of rebellion against God, and God’s prophets. Ahab chose to have prophets that would prophesy against the prophets of Yahweh.

A Spirit of Error

Isaiah chapter 19 talks about a prophecy concerning Egypt. All kinds of things are prophesied to go wrong. The country will be put in the hands of a cruel Lord. Egyptians will be rising up against Egyptians. The fishermen, the linen workers, the wise men will all be put to shame. Then there is this verse:

The Lord has sent among them a spirit of error: and by them Egypt is turned out of the right way in all her doings, as a man overcome by wine is uncertain in his steps. And in Egypt there will be no work for any man, head or tail, high or low, to do.  (Isa 19:14-15 BBE)

Once again, in the Old Testament they did not understand that the devil is the prince of the power of the air and in rebellion to the Father. They also don’t understand that when people turned their backs to God that they open themselves up to devilish influence, and yes, even evil spirits. The verse above says that a spirit of error was going to be able to work in Egypt to the point where Egyptians rise up against Egyptians, and the whole economy and lifestyle of the Egyptians was going to waste.

This same spirit is mentioned in 1 John:

We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesn’t listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1Jn 4:6 WEB)

The spirit in us, our holy spirit, is the spirit of truth.  The Devil’s purpose is to promote error, and cause confusion. A spirit of error specializes in causing confusion. Confusion is a major tool of the devil. One of the reasons why it is important to agree on all the counsel of God and not just on some minimal framework of beliefs called essentials where everything else is nonessential is because we want to avoid confusion.  Instead of confusion we want peace.

for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the assemblies of the saints.  (1Co 14:33 WEB)

Spirit of Prostitution

This spirit is referred to in the book of Hosea. Prostitution is usually defined as the exchange of sex for something else, often, money. But in the book of Hosea we see that it is used in that way but it is also used in reference to worshiping other gods. When God’s people go after other gods he describes that process using the analogy of prostitution, where his spouse isn’t faithful to him, and rather gives worship to something else. In the record he calls what they worship a wooden idol.

It will be, like people, like priest; and I will punish them for their ways, and will repay them for their deeds. They will eat, and not have enough. They will play the prostitute, and will not increase; because they have abandoned giving to Yahweh. Prostitution, wine, and new wine take away understanding. My people consult with their wooden idol, and answer to a stick of wood. Indeed the spirit of prostitution has led them astray, and they have been unfaithful to their God. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and terebinths, because its shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the prostitute, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute, nor your brides when they commit adultery; because the men consort with prostitutes, and they sacrifice with the shrine prostitutes; so the people without understanding will come to ruin. “Though you, Israel, play the prostitute, yet don’t let Judah offend; and don’t come to Gilgal, neither go up to Beth Aven, nor swear, ‘As Yahweh lives.’ (Hos 4:9-15 WEB)

Do you see where it says both “your daughters play the prostitute” and “Though you, Israel, play the prostitute” using the reference for both actual prostitution and idolatry? When people worship false idols, whether it is statues, animals, or things like greed and power, scripture calls that worship prostitution.

Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:7 WEB)

The devils’ domain is real, and in this section we have been looking more at how it works. But I will end as I began. Remember that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Remember, that God never allows a man to be tried more than he is able. So, you will never be put in a position where you will be overpowered by the adversary. And always remember, greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world!

[1] 8 US Presidents that Used the Services of Psychics, https://summary.org/8-us-presidents-used-psychics/

[2] While there are texts that have “and fasting”, I agree with Metzger who wrote “In light of the increasing emphasis in the early church on the necessity of fasting, it is understandable that ??? ??????? is a gloss that found its way into most witnesses. Among the witnesses that resisted such an accretion are important representatives of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text.” A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce M Metzger, Second Edition,United Bible Society, p. 85

April 28th, 2021 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

14.1 Jan Huss, Fiery Reform Preacher, before Martin Luther

As stated in the previous post, Martin Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, but in truth he had predecessors. John Huss was one of these. As we saw in the article about John Wyclif people were already talking about the abuses of the church and a desire to find a simpler, more scriptural church and way of life.

Bohemia in the 14th century was a center of church and political power. The Holy Roman Emperor was also the king of Bohemia. “In no country of Europe was the church more largely a landholder, or the clergy more worldly than in Bohemia.”[i] It’s interesting that the author notes that Bohemia had previously not associated much with England, but was brought into connection with that country by the marriage of a Bohemian princess to the King of England in 1383. All of a sudden Bohemian students are going to Oxford and bringing back Wyclif’s doctrines and writings

Wyclif’s doctrines were front and center at the University of Prague where in 1394 Jan Huss got his first degree, a bachelor of theology with a Master of arts following a couple years later. In the process Huss became an ardent disciple of Wyclif.

One of the things that separated John Huss apart was his ability to give fiery sermons. “It was this combination of religious and patriotic zeal that gave us his remarkable power of leadership.”[ii]

Today we live in a time where religion and politics are not the bedfellows they were in the Middle Ages. In the United States implications of politicians being influenced by religious hierarchy are grounds for a court case. And even in Europe where there are national religions with ties between archbishops and political masters they are not of the intensity they were in the Middle Ages.

In Bohemia in the early 15th century a schism in the papacy allowed for the elevation of Jan Huss to be the newly minted rector of the newly minted University of Leipzig.  And now we see John Huss, a peasant graduate of the University of Prague, elevated to the stature to be able to mix among the aristocracy spreading his passionate views as a disciple of Wyclif.

Remember I mentioned that Huss received his promotion because of a papal schism, well that schism worked against him because in 1410 he was excommunicated for his fiery promotion of Wyclif’s views.  John Huss was a staunch hero who had preached that the pope had no right to use physical force, that you couldn’t buy indulgences, and that indulgences were really of no use. At the center of the fiery sermons and debate was the push to rely on Scripture alone as the authority. It all came to a head as John Huss,  a man of true conviction, refused to yield and was burned to death for his convictions.  His martyrdom was powerful.

There were certainly other elements involved in the development towards the steps Luther took in the Reformation movement but I have only brought up John Wyclif previously and now Jan Huss as key points to show how this growing controversy stirred the European landscape.   The Reformation was actually a development that built up over centuries over a continent mired in heavy controversy and grew to the point where we will soon see Martin Luther breaking through with radical change.

[i] A HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, Williston Walker, Scribners, New York, 1959, p. 270

[ii] Ibid, p.271

August 26th, 2018 Posted by | Movements | no comments

13.7 John Wyclif, Pre- Luther Reformer, Wrote of Early Christianity

While Martin Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, the truth is that he had predecessors. About a century and a half before Luther posted his 95 theses there was a man named John Wyclif. Wyclif rose to become a master at Oxford, Balliol College. He was considered the “ablest theologian of its faculty”.[i] The description of Wyclif in the citation below starts with this philosophical outlook. “Philosophically he was a realist, in contrast to the prevailing nominalism of his age. He was deeply influenced by Augustine and through Augustine by Platonic conceptions.”[ii]  I bring that up to show how intrinsically involved philosophy is with theology, i.e., despite Paul’s warning against the dangers of philosophy, by the time of the reformers, philosophy is part and parcel of Christianity.  To understand how the simple Christianity of original Christianity evolved into the power-hungry, death wielding at times monstrosity that it had become by the Middle Ages absolutely requires some understanding of philosophy.

While nowhere near the notoriety that Martin Luther achieved, Wyclif was known for his opposition to the power and maneuverings of the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically, he saw the dramatic difference between the wealth and splendor of the church, and the problems maintaining that wealth and splendor caused on the average Christian in the parishes around Europe.  Pope Gregory the 11th issued five the papal bulls in 1377 in ordering the arrest an examination of Wyclif for his teaching and publishing of treaties against what he called abuses of the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless he had some support among the aristocrats, and was able to start some movement towards Reformation.

“The Scriptures, he taught, are the only law of the church,” [iii]  He taught that the common man might believe that the church is centered around the Pope and the Cardinals, but in truth it is centered around Christ as head of his body, the elect in Christ. He argued that the church may have an earthly leader, thus allowing for a Pope. But his argument was that leader would survive in the simple conditions of early Christianity as opposed to the unimaginable wealth and power exhibited by the church in his day and time. I read one place where the Catholic Church owned one third of the land in England at that time. Wyclif presented a dramatically different view of what the church should be in directing people’s attention to the Scriptures and early Christianity.

Wyclif saw that his mission was to bring the English language Scriptures to the people and spread the gospel. Wyclif worked with others to bring about a translation of the Scripture in English to the people. He also sent out what were termed his “poor priests” to distribute the word and spread it. This movement was called the Lollard movement.

Wyclif also preached against the the Churches’ practice of indulgences. As an Augustinian he believed human works were powerless to earn merit before God.  In other words, indulgences had no basis.  The selling of indulgences is a popular theme in the reformation and one near to Luther’s heart later on.[iv]

Wyclif was considered an intellectual giant, and as such was able to continue in his pastorate until his death despite heavy opposition. His priests whom he had sent out were not as lucky, and many were arrested.  The Lollard movement stopped openly with his death, but continued covertly until the Reformation.

Isn’t it interesting that whenever people want change in the church they compare what exists today with original Christianity? That’s what Wyclif did.  Praise the Lord for him.

[i] A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, P. 268

[ii] ibid

[iii] Ibid p. 269

[iv] THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY, David Bentley Hart, Quercus, London, 2007, p. 186

August 26th, 2018 Posted by | Movements | no comments

01.5.0 Tertullian’s Writings’ Impact on Modern Theology

If you’re a modern-day Orthodox Christian, whether you know it or not, Tertullian has had a powerful influence on what you believe. So it might be worth your while to take a look at who this character was. Major foundational pieces of the Orthodox Christian church such as the use of the word Trinity and the concept of sacraments are traced to this man.

Most of what we know about Tertullian comes from authors a century or more after Tertullian’s life. You might be surprised to know that not only was he not only not a prophet or apostle, but there is a dispute as to whether or not he was ever ordained even as a priest. According to Britannica, the encyclopedia, he was born 155 A.D. most probably to a family of position and wealth. “Tertullian received an exceptional education in grammar, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, and law. Little is known of his early life.”i

He most probably was born a pagan as Britannica lists his parents as pagan.

“During the next 20 to 25 years—i.e., from his early 40s to mid-60s—Tertullian devoted himself almost entirely to literary pursuits. Developing an original Latin style, the fiery and tempestuous Tertullian became a lively and pungent propagandist though not the most profound writer in Christian antiquity. His works abound with arresting and memorable phrases, ingenious aphorisms, bold and ironic puns, wit, sarcasm, countless words of his own coinage, and a constant stream of invective against his opponents. Yet, he could be gentle and sensitive, as in a treatise to his wife (Ad uxorem), and he could be self-critical and reflective, as in his treatise on patience (De patientia), a virtue that he admitted was conspicuously absent from his life.”ii

So basically what we have here is an intelligent, well-educated man with good writing skills in the late second and early third century A.D. Somewhere along the line he became a committed believer. But just as interestingly, sometime before 210 A.D. this man stopped adhering to the Orthodox Christian faith and began following a view of Christianity called Montanism. So Orthodox writers who cite his references to the great “truths” that he presented are careful to point out that they follow him in his days before his conversion to Montanism!

If he is anything, Tertullian is a theologian, someone who studies God, and presents the conclusions of that study. So it must be emphasized that when Tertullian writes it is as a man who has had varying viewpoints of Christianity, He is not a prophet, one who speaks for God, or an apostle, one who is sent forth by God. He may have achieved the status of a pastor, we don’t know, but his importance in history is definitely his theological writings. But the theological writings that are cited as useful to Orthodox theologians today are those of him when younger, not the writings from his perspectives as an older man, which is usually when one is usually considered to be wiser.

The Tertullian Project is a website that’s devoted to this man. THE THEOLOGY OF TERTULLIAN by Robert E. Roberts is in this site and explains Tertullian’s positions in good detail.

Rather than give you a theological synopsis of Tertullian’s writing I am going to let you see his actual written ideas so you can form your own opinion. Here are some snippets of Tertullian’s writing. This following citation “is sometimes designated the only pre-Nicene treatise on any of the sacraments;…”iii

“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous.… [2] vipers and asps, as it is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. [3] but we, little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our [?????], Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding prominently in the water.”

This was written between 200 and 206 AD. Notice that it is purely the authors logic and reasoning that he is presenting here.  The analogy seems to be that those baptized in the water are fish and as such, must stay in the water (Christ is the living water) and if you are not in the water you live in the desert which is the world, home of vipers and asps.

Next, let’s look a little at the context of Tertullian’s use of the word “Trinity”:

“As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.”iv

This bit of writing, I think, shows how intricate the thinking is in Tertullian’s writing. Intricate, yes, but definitely hard to follow. Yet Tertullian is cited for these and other references as if he is a prophet of some kind, a revealer of “progressive revelation”.  Even though the concept of the Trinity stated here is not the concept it became, this reference is given as proof as to the universality of the concept.

In fact, Tertullian’s explanation of the Trinity is not the orthodox definition of later Roman decree.  Tertullian writes “not in substance, but in form” which clearly is not “of one substance” with the father which is critical to later definitions of the Trinity.

So, in pointing to Tertullian as the first mention of this critical doctrine, the church is pointing to what they label as a heretical view of the Trinity!

However, it is never that simple; the Catholic Church does not call this process “progressive revelation,” rather it calls it the development of doctrine. A post on this process will be published in the near future.

Still, Tertullian’s writings appear to have an incredible amount of status on scriptural things for someone interjecting personal opinions into the understanding of Christian concepts.

Some say the Apostle Paul is hard to follow at times. To me, Paul has nothing on Tertullian.

Tertullian might be called a prude, He advocated against the circus, the theater, and other worldly entertainments:

“Are we not, in like manner, enjoined to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theatre, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode, where nothing is in repute but what elsewhere is disreputable. [2] So the best path to the highest favour of its god is the vileness which the Atellan gesticulates, which the buffoon in woman’s clothes exhibits, destroying all natural modesty, so that they blush more readily at home than at the play, which finally is done from his childhood on the person of the pantomime, that he may become an actor. [3] The very harlots, too, victims of the public lust, are brought upon the stage, their misery increased as being there in the presence of their own sex, from whom alone they are wont to hide themselves: they are paraded publicly before every age and every rank–their abode, their gains, their praises, are set forth, and that even in the hearing of those who should not hear such things. I say nothing about other matters, which it were good to hide away in their own darkness and their own gloomy caves, lest they should stain the light of day. [4] Let the Senate, let all ranks, blush for very shame! Why, even these miserable women, who by their own gestures destroy their modesty, dreading the light of day, and the people’s gaze, know something of shame at least once a year. “ v

Tertullian really takes a strong stance here, a puritan, if you will.  All worldly entertainment, including plays and the circus, is to be avoided.

Next let’s look at Tertullian’s reference to baptism as a sacrament, Sacramentum in Latin, which he used as a reference to a mystery of the church, which is how he described what happens in baptism, and more precisely in the rite of water baptism.

“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our IXq,s204>S Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water! ”vi

In the above passage Tertullian refers to the Cainite heresy which evidently has carried away a not insignificant number of Christians:

“the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism”

Tertullian appears to be arguing here that the power of baptism is somehow in the water, i.e. holy water!  The water somehow causes the forgiveness of sins making the performance of the ritual to be what causes the cleansing.   This is the fundamental definition of a sacrament, a ritual that imparts grace or power.

The sacrament model limits the power of God directly into a believer’s life. You are not washed of sin when you believe, you are washed of sin when baptized in water in the ritual ceremony.  You are not forgiven when you confess to God directly, you are forgiven when the priest gives absolution in the sacrament of penance in that ritual ceremony.

Tertullian certainly is writing against the Cainite heresy, a form of Gnosticism that was pervasive at the time of the early church, but in his attempt to help he basically is writing new doctrine, IE, sacraments.

It is apparent that Tertullian’s writings form the basis of the rise of Roman Catholicism with the Trinity, sacraments, and so forth. Yet he was a man educated in the finest worldly traditions who applied that education to form reasoning to explain the basis of faith. To me, that implies bias to explain Christianity in terms of his worldly education. This is certainly admirable as it appears he is seeking God and to explain God’s business in terms of the education of the day. But to raise this effort to the level apostleship or prophecy, ie, bring new light or speaking for God in these matters is beyond the credit anyone should give Tertullian.

It needs to be proclaimed that Tertullian was a prolific writer by trade, and he wrote thought-provoking essays on Christianity to be sure. But I haven’t found anything where even Tertullian believed he was acting as an Apostle or Prophet. Yet he is sometimes referred to as an early part of the “development of doctrine” of Christianity. And his writings are certainly treated as such. As such Tertullian is part of the fork in the river where traditional Christianity diverts from original Christianity.



iiiThe FAITH of the EARLY FATHERS, volume 1, William a Jurgens, liturgical press, Collegeville Minnesota copyright 1970, P. 126

ivNew Advent, Against Praxeas, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0317.htm


viOn Baptism by Tertullian, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian21.html

Revised 2019

December 6th, 2017 Posted by | Movements | no comments