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Thursday, May 4, 2017

On Devils, Demons and Original Sin

Dear Friend,

It was nice to talk to you and listen to what you’ve been studying. It’s good to have an inquiring mind and a hunger for the truth. Jesus said, “They that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”[1] He said, “Seek and ye shall find.”[2] So we do have to make an effort. In Jeremiah we read, “Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.”[3] So I’m glad to see you pursuing God, His Love and His Truth which are really inseparable. Maybe that is why the Apostle John said, “The law was given by Moses, but grace (undeserved mercy or forgiveness, which is love) and truth came by Jesus Christ.”[4] 

Jesus Himself said, “If you continue in my words, then are you my disciples in deed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”[5] When praying for his disciples and us, he said, “sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”[6] He has told us that if we follow and obey what he says, that we would know that it is true. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”[7] I think we agree on all of this so far.

But after meditating on some of the points you made, I want to bring up a few ideas which you may do well to consider. The first is this. What is the ultimate authority of our worldview as Christians? I believe that as Christians, our ultimate authority is the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible itself claims to be God’s Word, claims to contain God’s Word. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible, we must use the Bible as the best method of deciding what the Bible means. In Isaiah we read, “Line upon line, here a little and there a little.”[8] Paul tells us to study that we may “rightly divide the word of truth.”[9] 

Peter tells that we should “sanctify the Lord in our hearts,”[10] or, in other words, love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind and strength, that we may “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks us a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear.”[11] The author of Hebrews points out that “the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”[12] Therefore a right knowledge of God’s Word should give us discernment to judge truth or error. Paul tells us that “the word of wisdom; …the word of knowledge,”[13] and “discerning of spirits”[14] are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has told us that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide us into all truth.[15]

The belief in the Bible as the Word of God is one of the foundation principles of our faith. Though we believe by faith, our faith is not contrary to sound reason and investigation, which many scholars have done verifying the accuracy of Bible history and its prophecies. The British Bible scholar Lord Frederic Kenyon after years of study of the archaeological evidences said, “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.”[16]

The Bible is the undisputed Word of God to the believer. It alone is the criteria by which we judge all works of man, and the Bible itself. Otherwise we are putting man’s word above God’s Word as the ultimate authority in our reasoning. Like Satan said to Eve in the garden, “Has God said.”[17] Did God really say that? Does the Bible really have it right? Maybe some of these other works of man can give us a better description of what happened? 

Contrary to much of the New Age ideas which propor to give us the secret knowledge, or the recently found old hidden knowledge, Paul tells us that in Christ is hid all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge of God.[18] We find what we need to know in Christ, and in His Word. We do in a sense need to dig into the Bible to find the real meaning of its message, as much has been misinterpreted by the church system. The founder of our former Christian community often equated his ministry to that of an archaeologist searching for the true foundation, scrubbing away the false, to find the real meaning.

This also seems to be what you are trying to do. But be careful of those who claim some other source of knowledge, those who claim the Bible has got it wrong. Man made religion may have interpreted it wrong, but the Bible hasn’t gotten it wrong. In the Psalms we read, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever. “[19] God has preserved His Word, so we’re getting it in almost the exact form it was given, even after thousands of years, as Lord Kenyon expressed above. 

Dead Sea Scrolls Confirm Bible's Accuracy
H.N.Orlinsky, an Old Testament scholar said, “More and more the older view that the Biblical data were suspect and even likely to be false unless collaborated by extra-Biblical facts is giving way to one which holds that by and large the Biblical accounts are more likely to be true than false.”[20] The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 has confirmed this very point. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”[21] In the Psalms we read, “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”[22] Even Time magazine, no friend to faith, in an article “How True is the Bible” said, “After more than two centuries of facing the heaviest scientific guns that could be brought to bear, the Bible has survived and is perhaps better for the siege. Even on the critics own terms, historical fact, the Scriptures seem more acceptable now than they did when the rationalists began the attack.”[23]

But, like Eve was beguiled by Satan in the garden, Paul tells us not to let our minds be removed from the simplicity of the Gospel.[24] Intellectual pride was the devil’s sin, which we will look at more closely later.[25] Paul says “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.”[26]He goes on to say, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”[27]

I am mentioning these things because you said the author does not accept the Genesis story literally, nor the concept of Original Sin. Interestingly enough I have been memorizing a quote by atheist blogger Richard Bozwarth on this point. He quite accurately said, “Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the Original Sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”[28] 

Those Christians who try to absorb millions of years/ evolution into the Bible inevitably have to alegorize the first chapters of Genesis. You can’t have death before sin and still hold to the Biblical idea that Adam’s sin brought death into the world.[29] Therefore a theistic evolutionist or an old-earth creationist is forced to make Genesis symbolic in regards to Adam and Eve and Original Sin. I wouldn’t be surprised if your author is in this category, though he may very well be more New Age, as he brings in a scientific tone to his research mixed with new revealed hidden truths. All of which I would be very skeptical of.

Michael Faraday, the famous British scientist who studied electromagnetic principles said, “The Bible and it alone, with nothing added to it, or taken away from it by man, is the sole and sufficient guide for each individual, at all times and in all circumstances.”[30] I agree with him. I may look at the book of Enoch[31] or of Jubilees, but I know they are not the Bible, and though they may add some interesting tidbits, they are still speculation and I will analyze what they say through the lens of the Bible. 

John Locke, a famous social political philosopher in the year 1695 wrote, “The Holy Scripture is to me, and always will be, the constant guide to my assent; and I will always hearken to it, as containing the infallible truth relating to things of the highest concernment. ...Where I want (or lack) the evidence of things, there yet is ground enough for me to believe, because God has said it; and I will presently condemn and quit any opinion of mine, as soon as I am shown that it is contrary to any revelation of Holy Scripture.”[32] I think that a pretty good position to take. 

Simon Greenleaf who wrote the famous “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” used as a guide for what was acceptable evidence in court cases, said “On the Divine character of the Bible, I think, no man who deals honestly with his own mind and heart can entertain a reasonable doubt. For myself, I must say, that having for many years made the evidences of Christianity the subject of close study, the result has been a firm and increasing conviction of the authenticity and plenary inspiration of the Bible. It is indeed the Word of God.”[33] 

Greenleaf, as founding professor at Harvard’s Law School, was lecturing on his treatise of evidence when he was challenged by some of his Christian students to use his methodology to examine the evidence claims in the New Testament. Would the testimonies of the apostles stand up as reliable evidence according to Greenleaf’s own treatise? Greenleaf, though not a strongly committed Christian and maybe an agnostic or atheist at the time, took up the challenge and his research ended up his finding a deep commitment to the veracity of the Scriptures.

In Moses’ writing we find this statement, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”[34] It seems man’s curiosity causes him to want to have more knowledge than God thinks is necessary. The devil tempted Eve on this very point, which was his own weakness. Eve eventually decided her own reasoning ability was superior to God’s. She didn’t believe by faith, what God had said and became her own authority. 

Man has been making the same mistake ever since, claiming his authority over God and you see the sad results in the world today. God had commanded the people later through Moses not to seek to the dark side for the secret knowledge, the hidden wisdom.[35] Paul tells us all the hidden knowledge of God is in Christ.[36] Yes, I will read some of the Jewish history and other books, but always through the lens of Scripture. I won’t make them my main spiritual food, but just to speculate about some of the unspecified events and how they might have taken place.

Did you know that in Jewish history Abraham lived with Noah and Shem for 38 years while Nimrod was ruling in Sumer? Terra, Abraham’s father, was a high priest for Nimrod’s false religion. Abraham’s brother, Lot’s father, was also involved with the religious ceremonies. On Abraham’s birth, there was a prophecy that he would become a great man of the true God and Nimrod sought to kill him. Abraham and his mother escaped and found refuge with Noah and Shem in the mountains of Armenia. Later Abraham returns to Sumer where he is captured by Nimrod and forced to denounce his faith and adhere to Nimrod’s false religion. Abraham refuses and Nimrod has him thrown into a fiery furnace, but he doesn’t die. 

Abraham’s brother in the meantime has been influenced by Abraham’s faith and denounces Nimrod’s religion. Nimrod captures him and throws him into the fiery furnace where he dies. Abraham takes his brother’s son Lot with him when he goes into Canaan. Eventually, Shem organizes a group of 200 men to search and kill Nimrod which they do. However, Nimrod’s wife maintains influence over the cities Nimrod controlled and keeps his religion burning in the hearts of his followers. Some of the Jewish history says that it was Esau’s arrow, Abraham’s grandson, that actually killed Nimrod, as he was in the group of men with Shem. On Esau's return from the mighty victory to his father camp, he's dying of hunger and sells his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a bowel of lentils[37]

This all very interesting stuff and it may very well be true. But because it’s not in the Bible, I will not elevate it to Biblical standing, while nevertheless acknowledging that it could very well be an accurate description of what happened. But if I find it is contrary to God’s recorded word, I will quit any such belief like John Locke so wisely put.

The next point I wanted to touch on was the idea that the personification of evil in the devil and demons is false. Again we see this idea is contrary to what the Bible teaches in numerous scriptures. In Genesis 3, in Job 1 &2, in Daniel 10, in Ezekiel 28, in Isaiah 14, from the Old Testament. In the New Testament we find examples of the Devil as a spiritual being in Matthew 4, in Luke 4, in John 8, and in Acts 16, not mentioning all the times Jesus cast out demons throughout the Gospels. 

Paul, who wrote one-third of the New Testament, makes the point various times to beware of the Devil’s influence. “In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”[38] “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, why do you bear it?”[39] He concludes, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”[40] 

Paul goes on to say our warfare is against the spiritual beings in the spiritual plane. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”[41] These are the same spiritual powers Daniel mentioned in the Old Testament. In Jude we have a very strong message about fallen angels and the devil taken from the book of Enoch.”And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”[42] “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”[43]

Finally the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John makes further statements about Satan´s influence. To the church in Smyrna he says, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”[44]

Later in chapter 12 we read, “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."

"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."

"And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”[45]

I just have a hard time depersonalizing Satan and the Devil, or Lucifer in these passages. Recently an atheist psychiatrist who worked with the Catholic Church on exorcisms for various years confessed he came to believe that evil spirits existed. You can read the article here. If we change our theology to do away with the devil as an actual personality, we have a lot of changing to do. All these passages must be considered spiritually or figuratively, when very few could really be seen in that light. 

Some Christians who have accepted the millions of years of supposed evolution have come up with these theories to accommodate evolution/millions of years with the Bible. If millions of years of evolutionary death and suffering took place before the “first Adam” evolved into a “human being,” then the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says and the Garden of Eden is just telling a spiritual story and the Original Sin is a misnomer. But we must remember that millions of years of evolutionary history is a belief, not a scientific fact. It is believed by faith because we have no evidence that millions years has actually taken place. We may interpret the evidence in that manner, because of our beliefs, but the evidence does not speak for itself and verify specifically either belief system. However, I believe a careful and honest appraisal of the evidence will bring a truthful scholar to the Biblical worldview as the more reasonable option between the two. Lee Strobel’s documentary attests to his conversion by the evidence and an open heart. 

Those are my doubts about the course you are taking. I am glad to hear you are intellectually challenged by it, however, whether or not it is spiritually sound, is another point. From what you said I would disagree with the author’s conclusion about using the Babylonian creation document to critique the Biblical one. Also, I disagree with depersonalizing Satan and making him a concept rather than an actual being as presented in the Scriptures. It may be intellectually humiliating to believe in an actual Devil in today’s modern world, but I for one will stick to the written Word of God.

Jesus said, “Had you believed Moses you would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words.”[46] “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”[47] I’ll stick with the scriptures, and be careful of anything that I use to feed my spirit that is contrary to sound doctrine. That’s how I feel. That’s how I think. That’s how I maintain my faith, by being a vigilant and sober master of my thoughts and the words I meditate on. 

Jesus said words are real things. They are spirit and they are life,[48] His words. But the words of his adversary bring death. In Proverbs we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”[49] I am very careful of the authors I read on account of this admonition. Because, from my investigation and research, I believe in the literal 6 days of creation, some 6 thousand years ago, I prefer to read young earth creationist literature. I do read others, but with care. My mind is captured by the Word of God and I use that sieve to judge all word’s of man. Hope this helps. I was honored that you felt confident enough to share your thoughts with me. I am praying He will lead you in your decisions.


Footnotes

[1] Matthew 5:6
[2] Matthew 7:7
[3] Jeremiah 29:13
[4] John 1:17
[5] John 8:31-32
[6] John 17:17
[7] John 7:17
[8] Isaiah 28:10
[9] 2Timothy 2:15
[10] 1Peter 3:15
[11] Ibid
[12] Hebrews 4:12
[13]1Corinthians 12:8
[14] 1Corinthians 12:10
[15] John 16:13
[16]Kenyon, Lord Frederic; Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1895) Cited by Greg Bahnsen;Always Ready; pg.137
[17] Genesis 3:1
[18] Colossians 2:3
[19] Psalms 12:6-7
[20]Orlinsky, H.N.; Ancient Israel; 1954, pg.6
[21] Matthew 24:35
[22] Psalm 119:89
[23] Time, Issue December 30,1974; pg.41.
[24] 2Corinthians 11:3
[25] Isaiah 14:12-14
[26] Colossians 2:4
[27] Colossians 2:6-8
[28] G. Richard Bozarth, “The Meaning of Evolution”, American Atheist, Sept. 20, 1979, p. 30.
[29] Romans 5:12
[30]Faraday, Michael;
[31]http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/bookenoch.pdf
[32]Locke, John; cited by Greg Bahnsen in Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith;1996; pg134
[33] http://www.creationstudies.org/Education/simon_greenleaf.html
[34] Deuteronomy 29:29
[35] Leviticus 20:6
[36] Colossians 2:3
[37] http://www.biblesearchers.com/ancients/patriarch/abram1.shtml
[38] 2Corinthians 4:4
[39] 2Corinthians 11:3-4
[40] 2Corinthians 11:13-14
[41] Ephesians 6:12
[42] Jude 6
[43] Jude 9
[44] Revelation 2:9-10
[45] Revelation 12:3-17
[46] John 5:46-47
[47] John 5:39
[48] John 6:63
[49] Proverb 18:21

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