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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Yet Still More Goofy and Unhelpful Posters

May 31, 2017

In this irregular series I offer for your inspection a few silly posters and memes making the rounds, especially on the social media, and present some commentary about them. There is never a shortage of such items to discuss and assess. So here then are some more dopey memes and sayings worth analysing and critiquing.

“Always let your conscience be your guide.”

There are various versions of this which we often hear, but this particular wording comes from Walt Disney, specifically Jiminy Cricket. Well, that advice might sound good, but for the biblical Christian it can be pure poison. And that is because the conscience, like everything else, is greatly impacted by the Fall.

simpsons 3Our conscience is no longer a reliable moral gauge. It has been seriously corrupted and damaged. It is like a compass that has been run over by a heavy truck, and is now just a collection of smashed and broken parts. You would not want to take such a damaged device into the desert or forest or ocean with you.

Yes the Bible talks about having a pure conscience and the like, but those verses are addressed to believers only, those who have gotten right with God through Christ. And even then, this is a gradual process of cleaning up our conscience and getting it in sync with God and his word.

The same with our thoughts and feelings and will. All must now be recalibrated and aligned with biblical truth. That takes place throughout our Christian journey, so we still need to be cautious in relying on conscience alone. We need to make sure that it fully lines up with God’s word.

“Jesus explains his philosophy:
‘Heal the sick and feed the hungry-
The opposite of what Republicans do’.”

First of all this was NOT the philosophy of Jesus. Indeed he did not have a philosophy so much as he had a life-changing message: we are sinners alienated from God in need of reconciliation. That is done by repenting and believing in the work of Christ at Calvary. That was the core message of Jesus.

It sure was not left-wing political and economic ideology. This post, obviously pushed by lefties and Democrats, also has it wrong in twisting the words of Jesus and seeking to tie them to the contemporary welfare state and redistributionism. Forcing a modern leftist political agenda onto Jesus is anachronistic and a bad case of eisegesis.

Bear in mind that Jesus spoke about such matters to his disciples. He did not instruct them to set up a government bureaucracy to accomplish this. He expected his disciples to personally help the poor and sick. He never said a word about things like Obamacare or the modern welfare state.

And Republicans of course also are involved in helping the sick and the poor, but happen to prefer solutions that A) actually work, and B) do not entail bigger government and less human freedom. So this is an entirely misleading and mischievous meme, one which all believers should give a wide berth to.

“These verses were removed”

One often sees the goofy KJV-onlyists posting memes speaking about how certain newer translations of the Bible such as the NIV are “man-made” and have left out numerous words or verses, etc. And they will say there were radicals such as lesbians involved in these new translations, and that these Bibles are in the ownership of secular companies.

But they are wrong on every count. Of course every single translation in the world – English or otherwise – is “man-made”. That is because only mere men can and do help produce various translation, including the KJV. Only the original manuscripts are inerrant and God-breathed, not any later translations.

And verses are not “removed”. They are all assessed according to the best manuscript evidence available, and then they are used or not used. To speak of missing words or verses one has to ask, “Compared to what?” There are no missing words or verses as such.

There are only various translations based on the various manuscripts we thus far have available. Some have the words or verses in question, some don’t. Some verses have good manuscript support for them, some don’t. And when a well-known passage is not supported by the best manuscript evidence (eg., John 7:53-8:11), then most new translations will tell you that in a margin note, and many will feature it anyway.

And folks like Virginia Mollenkott were not on the NIV translation committee. She was only one of a number of literary style consultants, and only worked for them briefly. She never revealed her lesbianism to the NIV committee during this time.

Moreover, just about every Christian publisher today is owned by some big secular company, so that charge means nothing. In sum, we really need to let go of the KJV-only foolishness and think much more carefully about such matters.

“Love comes naturally. Hate is learned.”

Um, nothing could be further from the biblical truth here. Thus I am flabbergasted to see Christians posting daft posters like this. The biblical witness is quite clear on this: we are born sinners. Original sin is a basic biblical truth, and the idea that we are born good, or at best neutral – morally and spiritually speaking – and only later become bad, is pagan thinking, not biblical.

Philosophers like Rousseau spoke about people being born with a blank slate and all that, but that is a far cry from the teachings of Scripture. We are not born morally neutral or innocent. According to the Bible we are born sinners. Thus we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.

While the doctrine of Original Sin will not please most moderns (and trendy biblically-illiterate Christians), it is a fully biblical doctrine which we dare not disregard. Simply take one passage of many here: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

So the truth is this: Hate is natural. Love is learned. From the earliest ages we see toddlers shouting “Mine” as they grab toys away from a playmate. Being selfish and self-centred is completely natural. Being altruistic, giving and loving toward another person, especially your enemy, is a learned response, and one only a Christian who is empowered by the Holy Spirit can properly do.

“The church is not an enforcer of rules, but an outpost of grace.” Brian Houston

Oh good grief. This may sound all cool and hip and trendy and groovy, but does it actually make any biblical sense? None whatsoever. This is part of sloppy, sentimental Christianity – exemplified by the emergent church movement – which falsely claims that we either love or have rules. It makes false dichotomies between grace and holiness, between love and obedience, between relationship and regulation.

The Christian life fully involves both sides of the equation. While God is gracious, he is also holy. We must not be forced to pick and choose here. The Christian life, like church life, involves faithfulness and obedience to Christ, flowing out of his grace to us.

There are hundreds of commands found in the New Testament which believers must obey. They are not optional extras, and they are not set over against grace. God gives grace so that we will keep his commands. As Jesus said often, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

So we must reject as heresy any teachings which try to pit the commands of God against the grace of God. They belong together like the two banks of a river, or the two wings of a plane, or the two sides of a coin. So of course the church enforces rules: that is called church discipline and the NT speaks about this often.

In Romans for example Paul made it clear that his teachings on grace should never be perverted so that they become an excuse for sin. A grace-filled life is an obedient and holy life. A grace-filled church is an obedient and holy church.

I have written often about these unhelpful and unbiblical false distinctions. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/27/on-emergents-and-false-dilemmas/

“God never burglarizes the human will.” (James Jauncey)

Well, yes and no. This of course centres on a massive theological debate which cannot be fully entered into here, but I take it that the point of this is simply to say that God never overrides human free will or never significantly tampers with it. This simply happens to be not true.

While God has indeed given us the ability to accept or reject him, and he normally does not override free will, the Bible clearly teaches that at times he does do just that. Indeed we have numerous passages which speak about this very thing. God is sovereign and he can and does use humans for his purposes, and at times he may well use them as his instruments.

They remain morally responsible however for their actions. The Assyrians for example were used of God to punish Israel as we read in Isaiah 10. Yet we are also told that God then punished the Assyrians, holding them responsible for what they have done. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/18/theology-gods-sovereignty/

“Hitler and Merkel”

Sadly, conservatives (be they Christian or not) can also post really stupid stuff. For example, I have seen folks post a picture of Hitler with a young girl of perhaps 10 years of age. They claim this is a picture of a young Angela Merkel with Hitler.

Um, duh. Two seconds of using one’s brain would show how dumb this is. And a quick google search would confirm it. Merkel was born in 1954, a decade after Hitler died. In the pic of Hitler he looks not all that old – I could guess it was taken around 1940.

If the girl was ten then, she would have to have been born in 1930, a full 25 years before she was actually born. Being absolutely gullible and ignorant helps no one. If you want to make a political point, at least try to get some basic facts right first. Do not just share foolish memes like this.

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17 Responses to Yet Still More Goofy and Unhelpful Posters

  • Not quite the same thing but here’s a South African pastor/prophet who claims he can heal people by spraying them with insecticide……..

    www.piratechristian.com/museum-of-idolatry/2016/11/the-bug-spray-prophet-heals-with-doom-insecticide

    edition.cnn.com/2016/11/23/africa/south-african-insecticide-prophet/index.html

  • Hi Bill,

    I was looking at something else and came across what actually may be a helpful poster of that saying “God never shuts one door without opening another”. “Never” is obviously too strong a word here.

    Hopefully the first link will display it, if not the second should. (Obviously don’t publish this if inappropriate for the discussion).

    s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/2f/8c/6c/2f8c6ca523a81e26a3e377f05d0fb190.jpg

    au.pinterest.com/pin/11399805286948645/

  • Thanks Adrian. Yes it is another one of those ‘yes and no’ type sayings. It may generally be true, and it may be often true, but certainly not always. It is certainly possible that all doors will be closed – or at least appear to be so from our limited perception.

  • “Always let your conscience be your guide.”

    cf the scriptures:-

    Pro_12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who listens to advice is wise.
    Pro_16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but Jehovah weighs the spirits.
    Pro_21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Jehovah ponders the hearts.

    “Jesus explains his philosophy:
    ‘Heal the sick and feed the hungry…”

    cf the scriptures :-

    Mat 9:11 And when the Pharisees saw, they said to His disciples, Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and sinners?
    Mat 9:12 But when Jesus heard, He said to them, The ones who are whole do not need a physician, but the ones who are sick.

    Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life.

    “These verses were removed”

    No they weren’t removed. The NIV was translated on the principle that older scripture fragments must be more reliable. That, unfortunately, is a demonstrably false position because if you actually look at the fragments used you can see that the reason they lasted so long and are therefor the oldest available, is because they were poor versions to begin with and were therefor not used very much; this resulted in them lasting longer. The NIV is an excellent translation in parts but it does have some significant bits missing compared to the received texts. There is very good evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls that official and professionally transcribed versions are extremely accurate in what they pass down over a huge period of time so the theoretical basis of the NIV is not supportable because it often ignores these official texts and gives preference to the “older” fragments. It is always a good idea to check a few versions if you are in any way unsure.

  • Thanks Michael. And on the conscience issue, a key text here would be Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

  • Peter Tatchell has said that children have to be taught to be homophobic bigots. But no one had teach Peter Tachell to lie since he was born one. ,

    I have also heard the dichotomy of grace against truth. But the antithesis of grace is judgement and that of truth is lies.

    David Skinner UK

  • FWIW, I’ve seen some conservatives posting pics of Soros as a Nazi soldier.

    There’s two problems with this:

    1. He would have been 10-14 during the war
    2. He was a Hungarian Jew

  • Thank you Bill. May I stretch your graciousness and say that one scripture where I find the NIV fails badly is Daniel 9:26-27 where it makes out that the one making the covenant and causing sacrifices to cease is the same one (or more than one) that causes desolation and on whom the decreed judgement is poured. That is not a faithful translation and if you read more accurate translations you can see that these verses do not (necessarily) refer to the same person. The one prophesied here to make a covenant and end sacrifices is actually the Messiah and the the one causing desolation is the one we now know to be Satan. This scripture also refers to Satan’s followers who also help to cause the desolation and on whom there is also a predetermined judgement i.e. for all those who take part in the desolation. Confusing Jesus and Satan is a very substantial failing in translation and helps lead to the false idea that there is only one antichrist whereas John (who coined the term) tells us clearly otherwise. The idea that there is only one, particularly evil person who is going into destruction is not what the scriptures are warning us of even though responsibility for the desolation is shown to have one clear instigator. As we approach these very significant times it is of paramount importance to people’s salvation that the warnings given by the scriptures are heeded accurately. In reality “that which is decreed” is different for Satan, who is already judged, than it is for humans even though our judgement, or otherwise, is also already decreed.

  • While there are “better” and “not-so-good” translations of Holy Scripture, we ought always to thank God for those who have worked tirelessly, and sometimes at great risk to life and limb, to translate the Bible from the original tongues into the languages of the common people. For example, the translations of William Tyndale and John Wyclif were done in dangerous times: Tyndale was martyred for his troubles, and Wyclif’s body was dug up and burnt by those who disagreed with his translation and his theology.

    Muslims and certain of the Orthodox Jews don’t like translations of their respective scriptures: The claim is that translation tends to dilute the potency of the original language. Certainly, there ought always to be faithful study of the Holy Scriptures in their original languages – no matter how excellent the more recent translations may or may not be.

    19th-Century scholar, S.P. Tregelles made a solid case for the textual criticism of extant manuscripts, ancient versions and related evidences as a necessary work for the faithful study of Holy Scripture “from faith to faith”: That there are thousands of extant manuscript witnesses to the text of the Greek New Testament demands that we take their combined testimony into account in arriving as close as possible to the content of the original manuscripts of the New Testament books.

  • With “church” representatives daily espousing such tragic and shocking cliches (sorry, my phone won’t accent the ‘e’) as “we take the bible seriously, not literally” [representatives from UCA’s University of Divinity and also Centre for Theology & Ministry] it is absolutely refreshing to read articles from.someone who takes the Bible seriously, literally (& yes, Genesis and the Book of Revelation might use symbolism but are not merely “symbolic”), and faithfully.

  • God’s law rocks! In John’s gospel alone there are at least 38 laws. For example “Make a right judgment”, “Listen to my voice”, “Love one another” and “Ask”. The church needs to promote this law.

  • Wow – “The church is not an enforcer of rules, but an outpost of grace.” Brian Houston
    That’s a really pathetic statement considering that Paul condemned believers who were into sexual deviancy. As for new believers struggling with the OT law, the Jerusalem council paired it all down to “No food offered to idols, no blood, no strangled meat and no sexual sin.” (Hmm – Can’t help but note that Halal is meat sacrificed to an idol).
    Warren. Re NT commands. You got me interested so I found this list of 1050 commands…
    www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands
    Well, they are not quite all commands, but it is an interesting list to begin a study. (Never seen CAI before so this is not a promo)

  • Many thanks indeed for that Tim. I have long been asking folks for a list of all the imperatives in the NT. This is what I have been looking for!

  • Yes, I had been thinking along those lines for a while. I am pondering a ranking system based on severity of consequences for the “don’ts”/ and level of reward for the “do’s”. Way up there for the “don’ts” is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit – which seems to stump theologians of every persuasion as they attempt to paint it as something far removed from a Christian’s life. Yet the context is childishly obvious – it is calling the work of the Holy Spirit demonic. Do Christians ever do that? Yep – often. Does that mean we need to use special pleading to fit the text into our doctrine, or do we just take the text for the hard teaching that it is?
    But hard teaching should not surprise us. After all, there is heaven to gain in all this, and the last thing you want to do is fail for a stupid reason – like ignoring or obfuscating a clear warning.
    Or trying to make Christianity an imperative free zone!

  • Tim,

    I started to check the list you gave and noticed that the numbers of commands appeared to be contrived to come up with numerically significant figures so I randomly checked “continue in”. I was able to find eight things to continue in instead of the three listed:-

    Continue in

    ‘My Word’ John 8:31
    ‘My love’ John 15:9
    ‘the grace of God’ Acts 13:43
    ‘the kindness of God’ Rom 11:22
    ‘the faith’ Col 1:23
    ‘prayer’ Col 4:2
    ‘doctrine’ 1 Tim 4:16′
    ‘the things you have learned’ 2 Tim 3:14

    I had to chuckle because when I checked my list I noticed that it started with continuing in God’s Word and ended in doctrine and ‘things you have learned’ – essentially starting and ending in the same place, signifying completeness; a complete circuit (as in the eight notes of most musical scales – bringing us back to “Do” and cadence as opposed to decadence) plus also salvation and returning to the start and redemption through what Jesus’ has done; being resurrected the eighth day etc. It actually ended up with more numeric significance than what the church had originally posted. I then realized that that was what “continuing in” means. We start in God’s Word and go through love, grace, kindness, faith and prayer and end up back in God’s Word in a continuing cycle. Don’t you just love the scriptures? Anyway I’m still not sure whether the numbers of things in their list is contrived.

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