Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Guest Post: The Love of God and Suffering- Pt2

Excerpt from the book Is This A God Of Love
by A. E. Wilder-Smith

Chapter V
The Problem of Rebuilding

Just what would we expect a God of
love to do after his creatures had chosen
the wrong road — turning their backs on
the only good?

The Scriptures say that even before
the wrong choice had been taken either by
man or angels, God, because he is omniscient,
knew all about it. He had even
drawn up careful plans in advance to cope
with the situation that would arise, even
though he was in no way responsible for
it, nor did he cause it (cf Rev. 13:8, Eph.
1:4, Heb. 4:3, 1 Pet. 1:19-20).

This last fact—that God, if he is God,
must obviously have been omniscient
with respect to the fall long before it
happened — has been a stumbling block
to many. Actually, few real intellectual
difficulties are involved in this matter if it
is considered carefully.

If I observe a person carefully over a
period of time, I may notice some of his
little idiosyncrasies. He may say “Ah,” for
example, as a prelude to every difficult
word he has to pronounce. Or he may
twitch his eyebrows (or his ears) before
relating a good joke. Gradually I learn to
predict just what he is going to do before
he actually does it. My previous observations
allow me to do this with a fair
amount of accuracy.

However, my ability to foretell his
actions in no way makes me responsible
for them when he acts. Similarly, the fact
that God was able to foresee what Adam
and Eve, the angels and mankind in
general, would do, does not necessarily
implicate him in the sense that it makes
him responsible for initiating their actions
and choices. The only implication is that
involved in his having given them a gloriously
free choice of action in order to
create the possibility of their love.

The Problem Of The Consequences

At this point many will maintain that,
if God saw in advance the chaos, misery
and suffering which would certainly follow
the gift of the possibility of love, why
did he proceed with his plans to create.
Was he not rather sadistic to have persisted
in these plans, knowing the consequences
in advance?

In principle, the same type of questioning
arises every day in our own lives,
but seemingly we don't recognize this fact.
Consider, for example, the decision we
must make on whether to marry. Even the
marriage ceremony emphasizes rather
drastically that the same question is involved,
for the clergyman says our marriage
vows are binding until death us do
part. Surely there is scarcely greater grief
than that experienced by a really devoted
couple when separated by death. We could,
of course, avoid this terrible grief by the
simple expedient of not creating a marriage
relationship at all! Avoid marriage
and its love relationship and no grief of
parting by death will ever overtake you.

Yet, we rightly go into marriage with
our eyes open. We know that in normal
circumstances, death and all its sorrows
will overtake us and will separate us. Most
of us fear this more than we could ever
say. In spite of all this we marry, because
we believe that the joy of love and the
ennoblement of giving ourselves to another
in the abandon of devotion even for
a day (and forty or fifty years pass like a
day) is better than no love at all. It is
written of Jesus Christ that he endured
the sorrows of death on the cross for the
sake of the joys which would result from
the sorrow. The same principle is involved
here. The joy of love, even "short" love,
because it stems from a God of love,
compensates for even the sorrows of a
cruel death such as that which Jesus
suffered for all mankind, and the death
which separates all lovers.

The enrichment and ennoblement of
the human character brought about by
the experience of even the brief joy of love,
as God intended it to be, compensate for
certain future death, separation and
present trials. It is a question of balance.
Those who know the love of God in Christ
and those who have experienced a faint
taste of that same quality of love in God given
marriage will confess that it is worth
the certain severe suffering which it brings
with it. The principle is that even a little,
short-lived love is better than none at all.
The reason is that even mortal love changes
the eternal human psyche.

Evidently the Creator, being love personified,
thinks this way too, for he did
indeed create us and the rest of the fallen
creation, in spite of the foreseen mess and

All the same, many people — including
ourselves sometimes — feel tempted
to say "God, forgive God"  when contemplating
the dire mess in which the world
finds itself. Yet if it is true as the Scriptures
assure us that temporal sufferings
can and do bring eternal recompense, if it
is true that suffering is not necessarily
punitive but can be remedial as well, then,
relying on the Scriptures, we are able to
accept the anguish, just as God did when
he crucified God to remedy the fall of man.

The next question is: what would we
expect God to do to pull us out of the mire?

The Problem Of God's Answer

Now that the fall has taken place and
sin and anguish are in the world, what
would we expect God's answer to be? The
answer we give will depend entirely on our
conception of God's character.

If God is a God of love, then he is our
loved one. What would we expect a true
loved one to do who had been misunderstood
and rejected? Perhaps the scriptural
answer is the best one here: Love
"suffereth long, and is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil... beareth all
things... endureth all things... (love) never

Surely that is the reaction we would
expect of someone who truly loves us.
Love endures all these things in the hope
of ultimate success in the wooing process
of love. God saw man's wrong choice and
all of its consequences which would lead
to chaos and anguish, long before the
wrong choice was made. When it did
come, however, we would not expect a real
God of love to impatiently and disgustedly
dismiss and destroy the object of his love.
Many who have difficulties with these
points apparently expect God to act like a
hard-hearted unforgiving tyrant rather
than a forgiving father. Such an expectation
probably arises from the fact that
such action is typical of short-fused people
like ourselves. But then, we are no real
examples of love in being short-fused.

In actual fact we would expect a God
of love to try to salvage what he could out
of the carnage. It takes the patience of
genuine love to set about this process. He
had warned in faithfulness and sternness
of the consequences of the wrong choice
—men would surely die of it—but neither
angel nor man heeded. One thing God
would not be expected to do, once the
wrong choice had been taken, would be to
block the way back to himself by attempting
to threaten, cajole or force us back.
Force cannot restore anything in the way
of love. That would be to cut off all possibility
of a way back.

How To Restore Love

Thus, in order to restore love, there
remains only one way open—the exercise
of further patient love. Accordingly, God
exercises long-suffering and patience in
trying to win us back freely to love and

Therefore, we should expect the consequences
of the fall not to be "fire and
thunder," but rather the "still small voice"
in the attempt to realize the word said
about God by the apostle: “who desires all come to the knowledge of the

But this attitude of quietness and
perseverance can be mistaken for passivity
or even inactivity. A large part of the
Scriptures is devoted to just this point in
fact. God is not inactive; he is not indifferent.
He is certainly not dead: “The Lord is
not slack concerning his promise, as some
men count slackness; but he is
longsuffering toward us, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should
come to repentance.” This means just what
it says: not all men will repent and come
to a knowledge of the truth. But it confirms
that God is a God of love and
patience who is ready and willing to receive
all who do turn to him.

The fact, then, that He has waited so
long before judging sinful man is, in reality,
another indication of God's true
character — loving-kindness, patience,
long-suffering, not being easily provoked.
Only by looking at the situation in this
way can I see any explanation of why God
has not long since exercised general
judgement on all of us and set up a
"puppet state" on earth and in heaven to
slavishly and immediately carry out his
every demand, just as any dictator would
do if he could, particularly if his will had
been thwarted as God's will certainly has

Thwarting God's Will

Some will feel shocked. Can, then,
God's will be thwarted? The fatalistic
Muslims think not. Is it possible that his
will may not be done on earth as it is in
heaven? Anyone unsure about this point
should ask himself whether God planned
any act of sadism that has taken place.
Was it his will to kill six or seven million
Jews in gas chambers simply because
they were Jews? Was this not rather,
thwarting God's perfect will? And does not
any other sin also thwart it?

Sinning is one way of thwarting his
will. Another way would be to set up a
dictatorship to "restore order to the chaotic
creation." If this route to rebuilding
creation were adopted, it would just as
effectively thwart God's real purpose of
setting up a kingdom of love. Under the
present circumstances of freedom to do
good or bad, there are still a few people
who see the situation as it really is and
who turn to God to be refreshed by his
love, even in the midst of the general
anguish of creation. Even a little of such
love and refreshment is better than none
at all. If the Lord had judged immediately
after the fall or after any sin, how many
who have since drunk of the water of the
well of life and love would have been lost
to him and his kingdom of love for ever?
His patience has been rewarded with
responding love which would have been
impossible if immediate judgment had

King George VI Of England

A story is told about King George VI of
Great Britain and how he won Elizabeth.
As a young man the future king fell in love
with the charming young Scottish lady.
After a long time of reflection he plucked
up his courage and approached her on the
subject although he was rather shy, especially
with the opposite sex. He had
never been much of a lady's man and was
neither very robust nor strongly masculine
in the film-star sense of the word.
Moreover, he had a slight speech defect,
which added to his difficulties. His proposal
was rejected.

The young prince, greatly upset over
this rebuff, asked his mother, Queen Mary,
for her advice. The Queen listened sympathetically
to her son's tale of woe. Then she
told him she just wanted to ask one
question before advising him. Did he really
love Elizabeth only? Would he be able
to find a substitute if Elizabeth proved
reluctant? After a moment's consideration,
he replied that he would marry
Elizabeth or no one else. "Well then," said
his mother, “there is only one way open to
you. Go and ask her again."

So the young prince put his pride in
his pocket, gathered up his remaining
courage, and arranged another interview
with Elizabeth. He probably stuttered as
he repeated his proposal, remembering
what had happened to him the first time
at her hands. She refused him again.

Not knowing what to do then, he
returned to his mother, Queen Mary, for
advice. Again she listened quietly—some
say, severely — to the whole story. She
showed him every sympathy, and, after
hearing all he had to say, indicated that
she had one question to ask before she
could advise him. The question was: "Do
you really want her after this rebuff?
There are plenty of other young ladies
around who would be delighted to have a
prince as a husband. I myself could show
you some.” But poor George was quite
clear about his feelings. It was Elizabeth
or no one at all. “Then," said his mother,
"in that case there is only one way open to
you. Go and ask her again."

So, after a considerable period of
mental preparation, the young prince
approached the pretty young Scottish
lady the third time. In the meantime, she
had noticed how serious the prince was.
His love and determination to win her had
indeed been constant. She saw that the
great effort he made in coming the third
time, putting his pride in his pocket demonstrated
his singleness of purpose. And
she began to recognize something new in
herself. His undoubted love toward her
was beginning to kindle an answering fire
in her own heart. His warmth of love, even
though he was awkward and not very
good at courting a young lady's affection,
was beginning to warm her affection towards
him. In short, his love was beginning
to kindle her love, and she began to
transmit some of the love she received
from him. She began to feel she was able
to say that she loved and admired him in
his singleness of purpose and constancy.
Thus, the story goes, began one of the
really happy families in the annals of royal
households. This love lasted until the
king's death.

Love begets love. But it often has to be
very patient, longsuffering and kind until
the fire is kindled in the prospective
partner's heart. The Scriptures say that
God woos in one way or another every
man and woman ever born. Through the
circumstances of life, or through the
Scriptures, he quietly goes on as the years
pass, until we begin to return to him some
of the warmth of love which he has for us.
For we are told that God has his delight
among the sons of men.  He loves us,
indifferent or rejectors though we have
been of his overtures towards us. He is
working toward the day when we may
begin to return to him the same love, and
to delight in his friendship as he will
delight in ours.

Once kindled, this love must be regularly
tended in order to maintain the
warmth of the blaze which God intends
our love to be — warming and refreshing
to both partners, so that both can rejoice
in the happiness which love brings. God is
love and we were so constructed in his
image that we can only flourish when
bathed in such love—breathing it in and
giving it out.

But it would be one-sided to leave the
story here. All love stories do not end this
way. We must look at one other less
pleasant possibility.

The Final Refusal

There comes a time in every love affair
where a final answer toward the wooer
must be made. This final answer may be
either yes or no. One day the wooed one
may make a rejection which, although she
perhaps did not know it, was the final one.
It turns out to be permanent. In the one
case, she may, of course, die. That finishes
the wooing of a mortal man—when
immortality lays hold of the prospective

Another possibility is that the wooer
may cease to woo. The “wooed” is not the
only one who has a free will to accept or
reject the wooer. God as the wooer has a
free will too — to stop or to continue
wooing according to his infinite wisdom.
He can decide how long to woo and be
rejected and also when to stop wooing
altogether. Even this final decision to stop
wooing, will, we are told, be made on a
basis of love. It will, accordingly, be put off
as long as possible.

There is a third and last possibility. If
the wooed marries another, then further
courtship by the first suitor would be
thoroughly out of order and outside the
confines of love. The Scriptures say quite
clearly that this state of affairs may be
reached in the spiritual sense. There comes
a time when a man “marries this world,”
and after that God no longer offers his
salvation, his "marriage relationship" to
him. His Spirit strives with him no longer.
A man's spirit and God's Spirit become
forever estranged, for man's spirit finally
"marries another," selling itself to this
world and its rebellion against the Most

We humans can seldom clearly see
when such a final act takes place. We
cannot determine when God's Spirit gives
a man up forever. But that such does
occur is perfectly clear, even though it is
invisible to man's mortal eye. We can give
ourselves entirely over to material things
such as a career, money or social standing.
It may be the love of things more
definitely sinful that cuts us off. In extreme
cases, we can "sell ourselves to the
devil'' quite consciously—as many Nazis
did when they knowingly cooperated with
Hitler in liquidating human beings in the
interests of their own promotion within
the party. Many do the same just as
effectively when they value promotion in
their jobs before promotion in the kingdom
of heaven. They do not seek "the
kingdom of heaven first.” Some men resolve
never to discuss spiritual matters
again because "they disturb." For them,
the courtship is over; they're married to

The New Testament letter to the Hebrews
speaks of that cessation. "Today,
when you hear this voice, do not harden
your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day
of testing in the wilderness, where your
fathers put me to the test and saw my
works for forty years. Therefore, I was
provoked with that generation and said,
‘They always go astray in their hearts;
they have not known my ways.’ As I swore
in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my

The context of this statement shows
that the Lord spoke and spoke again, and
wooed and wooed again, but the Hebrews
of that generation closed their hearts and
inward ears. In the end, God gave them up,
and that generation, except for Joshua
and Caleb, never entered the promised
land but perished in the wilderness. This
serves as a parable for us, to whom God
also speaks. We can be so occupied with
the joys and trials of this life that we, too,
do not hear. We, too, can miss the joy and
rest of his love by acting as did the Hebrews.

"For it is impossible to restore again to
repentance those who have once been
enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly
gift, and have become partakers of
the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness
of the Word of God and the powers of
the age to come, if they then commit
apostasy, since they crucify the Son of
God on their own account and hold him
up to contempt (Hebrews 6:4-6, RSV).”

This warning is to those who have at
one time responded to God’s wooing, and
have therefore tasted his goodness, and
then cease to respond. A time comes when
it is impossible to renew them, for the
striving of God’s Spirit with them ceases.

Another Scripture passage speaks in
exactly the same tenor: "For if we sin
deliberately after receiving the knowledge
of the truth, there no longer remains a
sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of
judgment, and a fiery fire which will consume
the adversaries... How much worse
punishment do you think will be deserved
by the man who has spurned the Son of
God and profaned the blood of the covenant
by which he was sanctified, and outraged
the Spirit of grace?.. .It is a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God
(starting at Hebrews 10:26)."

I take this warning for myself, believing
that I can learn from all Scripture. The
point is, God can and does speak to men;
he does woo. If they respond, he allows
them to taste in this life the things of his
kingdom of love. But his wooing is dynamic,
and it is dependent on our daily
response. Continual spurning may end in
our "marrying another forever." Then his
wooing stops. Rejecting God’s grace in
Christ simply means declaring ourselves
as candidates for no grace, which is the
same thing as being ripe for judgment.

This raises the whole question of
judgment at the hands of a so-called
loving and gracious God. Can we accept
this? Is all suffering a judgment? Or must
suffering and judgment be kept apart in our minds?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Guest Post: The Love of God and Suffering- Pt1

Excerpt from the book Is This A God Of Love, by A. E. Wilder-Smith

Chapter IV
The Origin of Evil

Difficulties of the type discussed in Chapter 2 led Baudelaire, the French art historian and poet, to exclaim, "If there is a God, he is the devil!" Such a statement is the direct result of believing that man has always been as he is, good and bad, and was so designed originally. This is the Muslim position.
Theistic evolutionists cannot avoid the same difficulty when they maintain that God used evolutionary processes to produce the world of nature as we see it today. If he did, then his methods made the bad with the good, as Baudelaire maintains, and he therefore must be the devil as well as God. Everything pivots on whether we believe nature was once "good" and then subsequently ruined, whether we believe in the fall of man as laid down in Genesis. By tampering with the structural details of Genesis, we are likely to garble the whole reason for the present state of man — and the whole plan of his salvation which will take him out of the present disastrous mess. Genesis presents an integral whole on which the total plan of Scripture is firmly founded.

Let us return to the cathedral illustration of Chapter 3. It is superfluous to point out that all illustrations and analogies are imperfect and have their weaknesses if pressed too far. Our illustration of the cathedral is no exception. One of its imperfections lies in the fact that the architects who designed and built the cathedral are long-since dead and therefore could not prevent the bombing of their masterpiece. Then is God dead, too? Was he dead when his masterpiece, nature, was "bombed” into ruin?

Today many assume God to be, in fact, dead and resolve the question that way. But this is a doubtful escape exit for several reasons. Although it might explain God's creative work in the past and its subsequent ruination, it would never explain the present maintenance of nature and creation. No dead God could take care of that. Christians rightly believe that he is not only the living creator, but also the living maintainer of nature — and of us. By very definition, the "God is dead" theory will not fit in here, for maintenance implies activity and life.

Thus the question now becomes: Why didn't an almighty God who made, maintains and presumably loves his masterpiece, creation, prevent its "bombing?" Here the parable of the cathedral can do us no more service.

People who continually ask the question, "Why doesn't God stop it?" are often those who don't bother to ask what "stopping it" would entail. Some specific details must be examined before attempting to solve the greater principles involved.

Consider any virtue of which a person is capable; love, kindness, honesty, faithfulness, chastity, or any of the traits named in Galatians 5 will do. Select a virtue which pleases us all—love—and ask the following question: "What is the nature of love in particular, and virtue in general?"

Nature Of Love And Virtue

This subject of the nature of love and virtue is vitally important because the Christian way of life maintains that God himself is love. Christians in the Western world often do not realize the tremendous import of this statement. I have given other religions, including Islam, some thought, and have studied Islam's Holy Book, the Koran, which designates Allah as the compassionate, forgiving one. As far as I know, nowhere in the Koran does Allah figure specifically as an embodiment of love. He may threaten, may be merciful, omnipotent compassionate and omnipresent. He may offer the faithful a place in the gardens of paradise with as many dark-eyed hour is as they wish. But love never figures in the Koranic "revelations" of Allah's nature. A designation of God as "love" stands unique in the Bible.

Right in the center, then, of the Christian position is this virtue we call love. It must be of vital importance for that very reason. Nevertheless, I find myself at an extreme loss when I am asked to rationally explain anything at all about God's love. I know that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." But God, even though loving, is also infinite. Therefore, he exceeds anything my thinking apparatus can handle. So I do not pretend to be able to plumb the depths of either his love or character. To think rationally about that love is far beyond me.

I suspect it is for this reason that when the Scriptures speak of God and his love, usually man's love to a woman and vice versa is used to drive home the point at an anthropomorphic level. It is like using real-life illustrations to clarify abstract and abstruse points of chemistry non-scientific people. Thus, God provides information on himself and his love in a human setting in order to really communicate with us. The information we thus obtain by "cutting down the high voltage of God's love" to the "low voltage of human love,” we will then apply to our main problem.

The first question in analyzing human love is: "How did this love between bride and bridegroom originate?" The history of most such relationships provides the answer. The young man met the young girl one day and sooner or later began to feel attracted to her. The attraction is better experienced than described. Very often the girl feels attracted to him at the same time, although she might at this stage be more hesitant to display her feelings. Often, he begins the action side of the relationship by looking for suitable ways to court her. But until wooing is begun, the whole affair is lopsided. A one-sided relationship in which attentions are not returned can be extremely painful. Certainly it is neither happy nor satisfying to either party.

At this stage there is one burning question which every prospective bridegroom would like answered as soon as possible: "Does she love me?" Is my attraction to her reciprocated?" One purpose of courtship is to give the girl a chance to settle the question in her own mind. For, once she notices the man's attentions and, therefore, attraction towards her, she has to make a momentous decision: "Can I return his affection?" If she thinks that she may do so, then she must decide if she can love him. Here she must rely on her own heart as well as on her common sense and the principles of life to which she adheres. After due consideration, she may decide she does. An understanding is reached between the two. Aradiant couple emerges, and great are the happiness and joy of two hearts that have entrusted themselves to one another in mutual love and faithfulness.

In order to answer the question why a God of love just doesn't "stop it” we must analyze this process of falling in love more closely in order to draw some reason out of what often appears to be an entirely unreasonable happening.

First the young man must court the girl of his choice. She will be unhappy if he doesn't and he will be unmanly if he doesn't know how. Now, courtship is a very fine art besides being a very necessary one. Some of our finest poetry, music and art have arisen as its by-products! Most important perhaps, is that it is a so called gentle art, which brings us to a cardinal point in our analysis.

The moment force takes the place of wooing, both love and the joy of love cease. They are often replaced by hate, recriminations and misery. For the whole structure of love is built on absolute mutual consent and respect for the character and sovereignty of the loved one. In other words, the structure on which human love between a bride and a bridegroom is squarely based is freedom to love.

Most civilized societies recognize precisely this structure in their marriage services. The two persons intending marriage are both given the public opportunity of making a free-will consent in saying "I will" before the assembled congregation. Old Testament cultures stand for exactly the same principle, as the following well-known story emphasizes.


When Eliezer, Abraham's servant, asked Rebekah to become Isaac's wife (Gen. 24), he became so assured that he had found God's choice for his master's son that he was ready to cut comers in the process of taking the bride home. The evidence that Rebekah was God's choice was so overwhelming that he wanted to speed things up, intending to take off immediately with the girl and forget about all the formalities or ceremonies.

However, Rebekah's relatives saw immediately that this was no basis for marriage, even though the Lord might be in it. What a good thing it would be if young couples saw this point too, instead of just starting to live together with no ado or ceremonies. It is to emphasize the necessity of mutual public consent before love and lifelong married joy, the greatest relationship in our earthly life, that Rebekah’s relatives got together and said that even though God might be in it all, Rebekah must first be publicly questioned on the matter. She had to give her own decision and opinion before they would let her go to Isaac. So they called her in before the family and their friends to ask whether she wanted Isaac. Only after she had given public consent based on her own free-will decision, did they agree to marriage. They knew that no other basis was good enough, even though it was obviously God's will even without such public decision-making.

The Amnon And Tamar Affair

Thus, the first point arising out of this analysis of the basis of bride-bridegroom relationships and love is that such a partnership is based firmly on public mutual consent or free will.
The second point deals with the consequences of neglecting the above point. The shocking “love affair" between Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 13) illustrates this danger in a crass way. Amnon fell madly in love with the king's beautiful daughter Tamar. He was so infatuated with the fair girl that he just could not wait to woo her and win her consent. By guile, Amnon arranged to be alone with the girl. Feigning sickness, he received the king's permission for Tamar to come and cook for him in his apartment. Having got rid of everyone else, he proceeded to force the poor girl because he was so madly "in love" with her. "Love" that cannot wait to woo is abnormal. It often metamorphoses before our eyes into “lust.”

The consequence of this haste and trickery was that Amnon’s "love” turned in a twinkling into hate for her. The eventual result was murder, for her relatives had Amnon murdered later for his brutality and treachery. Tamar suffered heartbreak and "remained desolate in her father's house" (2 Sam. 13:20).

Free Choice

In order to love in this sense — not merely physical union, which can result from lust—we must experience the mutual attraction and union of body, soul and spirit in an exclusive personal relationship.

If the basis of mutual consent in the love relationship is removed, if there is no freedom to love, if freedom is replaced by force, then all possibility of loving is removed. Love can be replaced then by its opposite — hate. This implies, of course, the further step of logic: Where there is true freedom to love, there is also freedom not to love. If this freedom to say "no" were not really present, there would ipso facto be no freedom to say "yes" and to love. The ability to say "no" must be just as genuine as the ability to say "yes" if true mutual consent is to be achieved as a basis for love.
As we have seen, the Bible teaches that God himself is love, and his love is often likened to the bride-bridegroom relationship. Our third conclusion is that, if his love to us is to be compared in some way with our human nuptial love, then the principles governing the two loves can be expected to be comparable in some ways. We should expect God, on this basis, to be the grand wooer. That being the case, we should expect him to be awaiting our response to his wooing. To receive and experience his love we should expect the mutual-consent basis to decide everything — my consent to him in answer to his "attraction to and love for" me.

Thus, we conclude that if God is love in this sense of the word, he will be looking for answering love from me. Love is only satisfied if it is returned. He woos us by many means, mainly by having sent his Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to justify us by dying and being resurrected for us.
Being love, we would not expect him to demand or attempt to force love. That would be a contradiction. The very attempt to do so would destroy the basis of all love. As our true lover he does everything to show the true nature of his love— even to becoming a fellow man, heir to our lot as well as bearing our sin. Jesus was serious about his love — serious even to death.

The Case Of The Robot

Consider one more vital point. What would have happened if God had so constructed man that he could not make a true free-will decision himself, but was only capable of automatically doing God's will, just as a lock opens when one turns the correct key in it? If man had been so constructed that, when a certain "button" in his mind was depressed he delivered "love" automatically, would real love be in fact delivered? Of course the answer is negative. Such a person would be "congenitally” devoid of free will and therefore incapable of love and virtues in any real sense of the word.

None of us would be interested in "loving" the outward form of a partner who, every time we touched a certain "button," put chocolate in its mouth or stroked its hair or automatically intoned the sentence "I love you." If such a system were conceived or constructed, it would have to be subhuman or machine by nature. For to try to construct it so that it delivered "virtue" or love" on command would of necessity mean that it be devoid of humanity, and therefore personality, and as a result it could deliver nothing of the kind. Assume that God, in order to be sure of our love and to make sure that we were "virtuous" in every way, made us like marionettes. He would have taken from us the possibility of really exercising our free will in order that we might not exercise it wrongly. Wanting to be so sure that we loved him and our fellow men, he would have made us so that we could not do otherwise. Whenever he pressed a button we would "deliver the goods," just like a vending machine. How could such a setup involve real love in any way?

The Grand Risk

This brings us right up to the great principle. If God wanted creatures that really loved him and their fellow-beings, then he was, by the very intrinsic nature of love, obliged to recognize the fact (though it sounds strange to us to use such phraseology and maintain that God was forced to do anything — his own moral nature brings with it the consequence that he will or must act according to that nature) that love and virtue demand absolute freedom to love and exercise freedom. Such a necessity lies in the very structure of love and, indeed, of any other true virtue. Thus, to create the possibility of love, God had to create free personalities just like himself, for he is love and he made us to love.

For God to plan at all for true love involved the built-in risk of the proposed free partner-in-love not loving at all. To have built the love-partner so that he would be congenitally obliged to respond would have been to destroy the whole purpose of designing a creation where love could reign. God wished—and still wishes —to set up a kingdom of love on earth and in heaven. But to do so involves the above outlined risk of the free partners choosing not to love, but to do the opposite of their own free will — or even to hate. The practical result of being indifferent to or hating is the same from the divine partner's point of view. For there is no positive response to his love in either case. And love aims at a response of love. Thus, either love grows by responding, or it dies.

Almsgiving And The Socialist State

Exactly the same risk is involved in planning any and every virtue. Take, for example, the virtue of almsgiving. In Turkey one sees hundreds of needy beggars. There are the blind holding certified photographs of their suffering wives and children needing support. There are those lying in the gutters, with their misshapen bodies uncovered so that all who pass by can see they are not counterfeiting. There is the poor man who has his feet where his shoulder should be, loudly and slowly repeating selected passages from the Koran. There is the old man suffering from Parkinson's Disease, whose saliva continually runs over his poor old dirty face as he holds out an empty trembling hand all day long. Seeing this misery causes one to exercise compassion and give a coin so that they can eat a slice of good Turkish bread. Naturally one is convinced that something much more fundamental should be done for these thousands of people so representative of suffering humanity. But a coin will at least guarantee that the immediate plague of gnawing hunger will be assuaged.
So one gives something to the poor mother sitting in rags underneath the mailbox at the post office, with her week old, unwashed baby on her ragged lap. In so doing one exercises a virtue — that of almsgiving. The immediate reward is an extra-fervent prayer to Allah for the giver's salvation. The joy on the recipient's face would be reward enough. To exercise any virtue is a free-will operation which brings joy to the giver and to the receiver.

If, however, beggars are cared for by taxes, and the city authorities send me a tax bill to help support the poor and needy, then I must pay. It may be a good thing to organize matters in this way. Many maintain that this method is less degrading for the poor and that the burden is more equally distributed. I agree with them in this respect. But let us be clear about one of the overlooked consequences.

In paying my taxes which are used to support the poor and the needy, I no longer exercise the virtue I did when I gave the alms to the poor young mother. I might have paid about 10 dollars in taxes for the poor, or I might have given the young woman 10 dollars to buy her baby something better than dirty rags. The sum of money involved is irrelevant. In one case I exercise the virtue of almsgiving (and reap a blessing) while in the other case I must pay my taxes, grumbling perhaps about the waste perpetrated by the bureaucracy of the tax office, with no consequent blessing, even though I may be perfectly right.

In one case I exercise no virtue. In the other case, where I give of my own free will in almsgiving I exercise a virtue—simply because I do not have to act. Therein lies the difference: “forced charity" is no charity—and "forced love" is no love. Love and virtue melt in the grip of force just as ice melts under the pressure of a vice.

If I force my children to be "good" when we are out visiting, they may be outwardly exemplary — sometimes they are! I am thankful for this, but I recognize the fact that most parents will be familiar with — that this "goodness" may not be even skin deep! Force itself, unaided, can make no one good and virtues tend to fade away in its presence.

These considerations disclose one of the fatal weaknesses of our increasingly socialized world. All "charity" and "works of love" tend to become organized by the state, which rightly wishes to eliminate the humiliation to which the poor are subjected in accepting certain kinds of "charity.” The joy and virtue of true charity and love disappear immediately when the forced tax replaces the free-will offering. The Lord Jesus Christ himself remarked that it was more blessed to give than to receive, thus emphasizing the "blessedness” or happiness accompanying the free act of giving.
The exercise of any real virtue ennobles and enriches the character, giving real joy and radiance to those practicing it. Thus the socialized state often robs its citizens of the flights of exuberance to which free exercisers of love and charity are heir.

George Muller's Orphanages

Over a century ago in Bristol, England, George Müller set up his orphan homes which were run and staffed entirely by the free-will offerings and services of Christians in sympathy with his aims. Witnesses of Muller’s work said that these homes full of the victims of suffering were real havens of love, joy and rest to thousands of orphans. Today many such orphanages (not Muller's) have been taken over by the state. The state institute is often merely a matter of rates and taxes, and the person in charge is sometimes a career person who makes no attempt to be a "mother" or a "father" to the children. Often the atmosphere of such an institution is as cold and devoid of love as the concrete bricks of which it was constructed. Scientists have shown that children in such institutions die from lack of love as often as they die from disease.

The welfare state, in taking over everything to remove a few real abuses, too often kills love and the other virtues which make up the atmosphere of a home. Removing the freedom of service, the voluntary basis, causes love to evaporate. Not only do the children or inmates of these institutions suffer. The ennobling of character which the voluntary staff members would themselves receive by free-will service is lost by their becoming merely career people. The more the world loses this right to freely exercise true charity, the harder, colder and more bitter it must become.

This disastrous effect is seen in the character of most socialized nations. In fact, it is producing just what Hitler produced in Germany by the same means: de-personalization—people who may do their duty, but who will not raise a finger to help close a concentration camp if it involves personal risk. Their characters have not experienced the ennobling, strengthening effect which results from the exercise of freedom. Hitler was a living example of a man naive enough to attempt to demand and command the love and affection of his people. He may have realized at the end that love evaporates under just such pressure. The strength of character necessary to withstand any tyrant is not likely to be built in any generation without the ennoblement of character resulting from long exercise of the various human virtues we have discussed. Such strength will also overcome the various vicissitudes of life which often complicate the career of anyone strong enough in will to be ready to suffer for his own conscience's sake.

The tendency today is to push everything onto the community, resulting in private character impoverishment. We all know the person who "doesn't want to get involved." The second tendency, contingent partly on the first, is to bring up every child to conformity, so that only the will of the community and majority counts. Thus the steel of a private conscience, independent of conformity to the mass, does not develop. In Hitler's Germany, this was seen at its extreme development. People saw corpses dropping out of vans coming from a concentration camps as they passed through a big city. But fear had so eroded characters that no one did anything — it was too dangerous to get involved!

In Chicago a few years ago I was walking from the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Station as I saw a man in a car literally plow his way through a group of old ladies as they crossed the street on a pedestrian crossing with a green light. He knocked one old lady down, injuring her. I took the license number of the car, which did not stop, and asked for witnesses. Many young women and men going to work in a neighboring shoe factory had seen the incident. But all backed away, muttering something about not getting involved. I didn't get a single witness.
The idea of the community providing for everyone's need "from the cradle to the grave" may be excellent from a purely humanitarian point of view. But, insofar as it takes away personal initiative, the realization of the scheme will never provide sterling characters ready and willing to suffer for conscience's sake and to stand alone, if necessary.

The Creation Seen And Unseen

The Bible reports that when God contemplated the creation of the worlds seen and unseen he wished to construct them so that they reflected his very own nature and character. To do this, he had to build on freedom of action. He is free, so he had to make man and angels free too. Man was made “in his image"—that is, as a free personality, just as God himself is. For even "his service is perfect freedom” and therefore founded and maintained in love. Accordingly, the angels who serve him, including their chief Lucifer, the light-bearer, were given natures capable of genuine love to their Creator and toward their fellows. They were capable of wooing his love and being wooed by him so that the perfect joy of love could reign in that kingdom. But this very possibility had to include the option of rejection. They were no puppets.

The Bible reports, quite as a matter of fact, that a large proportion of the unseen host showed that it really was capable of the joy of that kingdom of love and—by a very real proof— of rejection! Therefore, Lucifer did, in fact, show that he could love, in that he began, for reasons of pride, to reject the one perfect lover, his Creator. Turning his back on Him, who is the sole good, Lucifer became the epitome of the bad. So arose the cursed, loveless and hateful ones who, in the exercise of their characters now turned away from the good toward the bad and proceeded to destroy the good creation. Men become "devils" by exactly the same process. Obviously God, his nature being love, did not immediately take away all freedom of action and choice from his creatures, thus removing the possibility of our turn to love. He allowed them still further freedom of choice, which meant in their case, still further destructive activities being permitted. If he had taken away this possibility of freedom of choice at the first sign of rejection of love, he would have destroyed any further possibility of a return to love. So he has given us all a long time of freedom of action, that is, freedom to love, so that the kingdom of love can still begin again to rule, if man and angels want it. To have "stopped it all" at once by the strong hand of "dictatorship" would automatically have destroyed the very purpose for which the Creator had created his universe — in order to set up a kingdom of love in the seen and the unseen.

Therefore, this very existence of evil in a world created by an almighty, but also a loving God actually illustrates that the good and the virtue in it are genuinely good. Love in such a kingdom really is love and not anything else. Sometimes it is taught that love is a covert form of egoism, etc. The state of our fallen world really shows this to be impossible — the love of God in a world of blood is genuine enough!

Destroyers and haters usually want company in their activities. So when the chief, Lucifer, the light-bearer, had become the destroyer and the hater, he immediately approached Eve to make her and her husband become a part of his company of destroyers. The pair was also capable of true love. They possessed true freedom of choice, as is shown by the actual choice they made. They, too, turned their backs on the good, automatically becoming polarized to the chronically bad. So the whole seen and unseen creation of love became a creation of the wrong choice —the choice which turned its back on the source of all ultimate good. In leaving open a chance for seen and unseen creation to return to the ultimate good, God did not "stop the bad.” The free choice was still left open, leaving ruination and its cause still intact. That is the reason why God allows it — to provide a genuine chance for the return of love in general.

The Dignity Of Man

But does not all this lead to one main conclusion? Does it not all go to show the truly high esteem in which God holds his creatures, man included? It means that God really takes our decisions, our thoughts and our selves seriously. He even goes to the lengths of wooing us to make our decisions ourselves. He does not so construct us that we are puppets who have all decisions programmed — even though many physical processes within the body are pre-programmed. True love is, in this respect always the same—it always esteems and respects its partner. It takes the partner seriously.
The same thought also expresses why God bothers to woo men by the “foolishness of preaching" and not by sending, as he could, mighty angels with his message. Perhaps they would only succeed in terrifying poor humanity if they appeared in their supernal splendor. God's purpose is to win man's simple trust and confidence, to win our devotion and genuine love. Therefore, he uses the natural methods available to win our decision for him. If he overawed us in any way, that might make craven slaves of us rather than wholehearted sons. If he were to browbeat us into submission, he would only gain what Hitler did — the abject, groveling fear (if not secret hatred) of his would-be partners.
Thus a God of love avoids like the plague the dictator's methods in dealing with man, the object of his love, and uses the lover's better method. It is very fundamental to see that one cannot terrorize people into love. Consider the miracles Jesus performed in this light. He never used a show of divine power in healing to frighten people into belief. In most cases, after doing some mighty healing deed, he admonished those who had seen the deed or experienced it to keep very quiet about it Jesus' warning "tell no man" is almost proverbial in this respect. The fact is, God does not wish to force our intelligence or our will to reduce us to the state of cringing slaves. He wants redeemed sons, who, of their own free will, love, respect and gladly serve him.

The Degree Of Man's Freedom

Thus we conclude that man must be free indeed if he is ever to be able to love indeed. There is a consequence to all this which the reader will have surely noted already. It is this: Is man so free that God has abrogated all authority over him? Can man do exactly and precisely as he likes as long as he likes so that he can be said to possess a totally unfettered freedom in all directions as far as he himself chooses? Need he never fear that his Creator will intervene — all in the interests of man's ability to love and exercise virtue?

Although the Bible teaches that man has a bona-fide free will and can certainly say no to his Creator's will and plan (the very state of our poor world shows that this is de facto the case), yet it teaches too that there are limits to that freedom just as there are limits to God's wooing activities of man. These wooing limits, it will be remembered, were founded in God's counsel from his side and, in time, from man's side. In the first place, God in his inscrutability sets a time limit for his wooing of our free will. Thus it cannot be said that we have perfect free will to accept or reject his wooing at any time. Our free will interacts with his free will to woo us and if he chooses to stop the courting process, our free will can do precisely nothing about the new situation. Here it is no longer unfettered. Second, repeated rejection of the goodness of God's courting sears the psyche of man, rendering it less and less receptive. This, too, is a process we cannot alter; it is like the second law of thermodynamics at work in our inward man, and our free will cannot alter it.

The same principle applies throughout man's kingdom in its relationship to man's Creator. Man can say no to his Creator for a certain time by expressing free will. But this process of saying no of our own free will to God interacts with God's free will and may produce a no from his side. For us dependent creatures this is the same thing as judgement supervening after grace. We all can turn our backs on him and run away from him and his goodness — until we reach what may be looked upon as the end of our tether. The tether represents the change in God from grace to judgement. How long that may take in each individual case of God's dealings is unknown to his creatures. This state of affairs is well seen in the case of the apostle Paul on the Damascus road. Paul had enjoyed perfect unfettered free will to rebel against Christ and had done so very successfully, until even he reached the end of the tether God had allowed him. Then God intervened severely, blinded him and reduced him to the dependence of a child in his helplessness. But even in a drastic intervention of this type, the judgment of God was mixed with great mercy and it led to Paul's seeing the grace of God in restricting his field of unfettered free will. But perhaps his free will in the strictest sense of the term was not touched. Perhaps his knowledge was increased.

If we do not recognize some definite limits to our freedom, we risk abrogating God's ultimate authority and, indeed, sovereignty. Yet these limits in no way alter the conclusions we have drawn about the vital nature of freedom if we are to be able to love — or to rebel. One reason for this fact is that we ourselves do not know where the limits we are talking about lie. Therefore we are, to all intents and purposes, unlimited in our freedom from our own perspective. From our own point of view we are free to act wander, rebel or love as under-sovereigns within a small area of God's sovereign kingdom. It is just within this area of real unrestricted freedom that real love and virtue can and do rule in us. Outside these unseen limits are areas of judgment and no-freedom. But since they are unknown to us, they are, for practical purposes, fictitious for us and thus of no concern in our decisions to rebel or to love.

The very fact that man has never succeeded in devising a formal proof of God's existence shows how completely God can and does hide himself and his limits from our eyes. This being the case, most men act within the area of their own lives as completely free agents as far as their intelligence is concerned. This makes their decisions in that frame of mind completely free will and therefore valid from the point of view of exercising true virtue. We conclude, then, that the limits God has set for all mankind do not alter our decisive free will and its accompanying power of love or rebellion. These very limits maintain God's sovereignty while allowing man free agency in the area of his own consciousness.

One more thing deserves mention at this point. The "tether" we have referred to as God's restricting hand on our free will should not be regarded as something fixed or static. It is not of a set permanent "length.” It is my belief that the more devoted a man is to God's will for him, the longer the “tether" will become. That is, the greater will be the radius of freedom of action. To stick to our analogy of a tether, we might say that its elasticity depends upon our will being congruent with his divine will. To use the words of the apostle Paul, to "win Christ" and to attain to his confidence in us is the same thing as saying that the more we attain to the width, depth and breadth of God's will, the more we attain to his sovereign freedom too. As one prayer book has it "His service is perfect freedom.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Guest Post: Hebrew Roots and the Leaven of Works Salvation- Pt1

Purge Out Therefore the old leaven…     1 Cor. 5:7
The Apostle Paul warned about being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). These days, the winds of false doctrine are blowing hard against the church.
Most people who believe in God have the notion that there are certain things we can do that will please Him, thus improving our position with the Almighty and gaining certain benefits for ourselves. There is some truth to this idea, but there are also serious problems that can result, such as a form of works salvation. We must remember that grace is God’s kindness to the undeserving, and it cannot be worked for or earned in any way (Ephesians:2:8-10).
Of course, true salvation will always have works that accompany it (Titus:2:11-13;3:8). That truth is found in the Scriptures. For example, “Jesus answered and said unto him [one of the apostles], If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John:14:23). Children are instructed to “obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians:3:20). In Ephesians we are told that honoring one’s father and mother is the “first commandment with promise” (Ephesians:6:1-2). First John states, “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John:3:22). Obedience to the teachings of the Word of God indeed produces benefits and pleases the Lord (emphasis added to all above). Jesus accepts us as we are but does not leave us as we were. Genuine salvation produces sanctification and good works as we are motivated by the Holy Spirit.
Asking God for something involves more than just making a request. Yes, Jesus said, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John:14:14). Scripture, however, further tells us “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James:4:3). God’s response to our requests is often dependent upon our motives, our walk with Him, the desires of our heart in conformity to His desire, His will, His grace, His mercy, and so forth. Such conditions challenge the false teachings of the Word/Faith, Prosperity, and Healing preachers, who try to bend certain verses of Scripture into a system of cause-and-effect laws, which thereby appear to turn God into a genie in a bottle who must respond to one’s demands. Supposedly, when a verse is “claimed,” God has no choice but to comply.
Not only is any attempt to interpret the Word of God in such a way that it becomes a system of spiritual laws (or methods or techniques) dead wrong, but it is little different from the beliefs and practices of magic, occultism, and witchcraft. At the very least, it generates legalism. For example, the response heard most often by those who have not been healed after following the teaching of the Word/Faith preachers (as well as the response of the preachers themselves) is that the healing could not take place because there was a lack of faith on the part of the sick individual. Legalism results in this system as individuals are coerced into adhering to the particulars of the false teaching (laws of their own making) in order the get the expected outcome. Furthermore, all of this is akin to “works salvation,” which will be considered later. Another aspect of legalism is creating unbiblical, man-made rules and practices not found in Scripture (Colossians:2:20-23).
Although the errors of the Word/Faith and Prosperity teachings should be obvious for diligent biblical Christians to discern, there is a growing movement that is related in many ways (although far more subtle and seductive) called the Hebrew Roots Movement.
The Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) is, in general, an attempt by its adherents to draw closer to God by gleaning things from Judaism that are perceived to be biblically significant and valuable. Though the movement includes Jews who have professed faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, for the most part, it comprises non-Jewish professing and true Christians (Gentiles). The HRM technically is not a movement as we would normally define one. There is no national organization or hierarchy of leadership among this group, yet there are leaders and writers from diverse ad hoc organizations, churches, and ministries who favor the trend. Within the subculture, churches may be called synagogues, pastors may be called rabbis, Jesus may be referred to as Yeshua, depending on the whim of the leader or leaders. That make-it-up-as-you-go-along concept was demonstrated when one “Christian Rabbi” wrapped a prosperity teacher in a Torah scroll, called the teacher King, seated him in a chair, and had ushers parade him around on their shoulders.
The attraction for many to the HRM is often motivated by a love for the nation of Israel and its culture and traditions. However, those feelings have taken multitudes beyond a biblically acceptable attitude toward things Jewish and into beliefs and practices that are contrary to the teachings of Scripture. For some, the HRM has led them into a gospel of works salvation, which the Apostle Paul warned against and condemned in his Epistle to the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians:3:1-3)
So there appear to be three different layers within the HRM: (1) Those who see Jewish practices with the accoutrements as a means of salvation, (2) Those who see some kind of a Jewish lifestyle as a means of sanctification and as a more godly spiritual life, and (3) Those who immerse themselves in Judaism as a way to understand the customs and manners of biblical times. Layers 1 and 2 create huge problems for their followers. They also create “levels” of Christians and a divisive elitism, while layer 3 could simply be called Hermeneutics 101. Layers 1 and 2 employ imitation, but the third layer includes those seeking better illumination and insight into the Word. Most exegetes fall into that third category.
Every sincere believer has been born again spiritually by faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross. Eternal salvation is the result. The Holy Spirit then takes up residence within that person and becomes his enabler for living a life that is fruitful and pleasing to the Lord. This is the only way for one to be saved from everlasting separation from God. Nevertheless, there is a certain kind of “salvation” (sometimes referred to as sanctification) that a believer is to work out by God’s grace (Philippians:2:12-13). But again, as Galatians makes very clear, the born-again Christian began in the Spirit, and his life in Christ can be carried out only by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. The flesh cannot please God (Romans:8:8) and, furthermore, it profits nothing (John:6:63).
Many of those who are attracted to the Hebrew Roots Movement recognize that works play no part in the Gospel. Yet all who hold to the various HRM beliefs and practices have succumbed to a form of works salvation regarding their relationship with the Lord and their hope of drawing nearer to Him. For many, there is a false sense that “Jewishness is next to godliness.” Therefore, they see spiritual efficaciousness in Jewish rituals, dietary laws, paraphernalia, and the like. For a number of followers of the HRM, their affinity for such things may be unintentional when it comes to falling back under the Law to achieve righteousness. Nevertheless, it’s a leaven that rises and leads in that direction. No matter how insignificant that leaven may seem, it is at least a rejection of the grace of our Lord: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come[s] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians:2:21).
The false teachings found within various groups of the Hebrew Roots Movement run the gamut—from a clear rejection of Christ’s full payment on the Cross for the sins of mankind as necessary and completefor salvation, to the arbitrary guesswork of what laws are to be obeyed, or to a dual-covenant salvation. Within that mix are numerous ideas that are declared to be based upon Scripture but have no biblical basis whatsoever. The HRM, with its Law/works emphasis and inclusion of extra-biblical content, is a major contributor to the last-days apostasy and therefore needs to be exposed and judged biblically. Not every enthusiast holds to all the particular teachings of the HRM, but if the doctrine or activity is unique to the particular HRM group, it is not scriptural.
The following information constitutes much of what is promoted within the HRM. The purpose for its inclusion in this article is to aid in discernment and to offer spiritual protection so that believers might follow the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians:5:21). This is accomplished by being a Berean, i.e., by searching the Scriptures to discern whether or not what’s being taught is consistent with the Word of God (Acts:17:11).
The HRM, however, thwarts that critical exhortation for discernment. Many followers of the movement are taught that the synoptic Gospels were originally written in Hebrew in a version that was supposed to be superior to the Greek texts, containing Hebrew idioms that provided deeper insights. Since no one has ever produced copies of the original Hebrew language version, adherents are told that much of what has been “missing” can be gleaned from rabbinical sources, even the mystical, occult Kabbalah. The obvious fallacy in this is that it points a participant toward the extra-biblical material and speculations of men in order to supposedly explain the inspired Word of God. This greatly undermines dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit for a believer’s understanding of the Bible, and it does great harm to the belief in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture. Furthermore, those who promote the idea of a necessary original Hebrew New Testament disparage the Greek text of Scripture that God chose in which to originally present the New Testament. Not only is that wrong, but it misses the obvious reasons for a Greek New Testament. Greek was the universal language of that day, understood by both Jews and Gentiles. Hebrew was the language specific to the Jews. The Gospel, however, was not for the Jews only, but God’s mandate to the disciples was that they were to preach it to the Gentiles as well (Matthew:28:18-20). To further compound the error, HRM followers are exhorted to learn Hebrew in order to increase their spiritual understanding and become more like the Jewish Jesus.
The Apostles had a knowledge of Jesus from being with Him when He physically ministered here on earth. Yet Paul wrote, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians:5:16 - NKJV). The implication is that a believer’s spiritual insight is far more necessary for understanding and growth in Christ than anything obtained through one’s flesh. In spite of that, the HRM majors in things of the flesh that are drawn from customs and traditions having no biblical support and are centuries removed from the time when Jesus walked the earth.
Going back to the Law has been a problem for Christianity down through its history. From Paul’s issues with Peter (Galatians:2:11-14), to the Judaizers of Galatians, to the obligatory dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the Russian and Eastern Orthodox Church, to the legalism of Seventh-day Adventism and other “Christian” cults of today—all teach abiding by the Law. Yet none teach that a person must observe the whole Law. All are very selective regarding which laws they choose to obey. The HRM also reworks Old Testament observances that only seem to reflect what God ordained. The Passover practiced today, for example, is not the same Passover observed during the Exodus and up until the first century. The contemporary Seder is based on an extra-biblical Jewish tradition that Christians attempt to recreate but that has no meaning for the non-Jew. Those of the HRM however, are not the only people who participate in the Seder. It is widespread among Evangelicals who are attracted to the present-day practice, thinking that it is consistent with Scripture. The biblical Passover celebrated Jewish liberation from Egypt, which does not apply to people who were not delivered from Egypt but from sin. Jesus gave to the Church the Lord’s Supper, not the Passover. Jesus’ death is the fulfillment of the Old Testament practice of Passover (1 Corinthians:5:7). Honoring the Seder ceremony for the sake of witnessing to Jews may be well meaning on the part of Christians who participate but in fact promotes the invented content of the Talmud and sends the message that the Messiah has yet to come.
There is one incontrovertible fact that is ignored by nearly all in the HRM groups. That inescapable fact is that first-century Judaism is not the same Judaism that exists today. In fact, to be correct we would have to refer to Judaisms. There are a dozen or more subcultures and divisions within Judaism today. Orthodox, Conservative, Ashkenazic, and Sephardic Judaisms are only the tip of a very large iceberg. The huge question that the HRM has yet to answer is, Which Judaism? An arbitrary “take your pick” philosophy simply adds to the confusion and chaos.
The representation of the teachings of the HRM as leaven is fitting, as it has been slowly rising within the churches of our day. But there are indications that the movement may increase like a flood. The names of some of those who promote certain of the teachings and practices of the HRM within Christendom have highly influential organizations or ministries. They include Joseph Farah of WorldNetDailyBlood Moons author Mark Biltz, The Harbinger author Jonathan Cahn, pastor John Hagee, blogger and cultist Michael Rood, and pastor James Staley (now in prison for fraud).
There is much more that needs to be addressed regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, which we plan to continue in Part II. It will include the belief in dual-covenant salvation (one for Jews, based upon obedience to the Law, and one for Gentiles, who receive the gift of salvation based upon the finished work of Christ in payment for their sins); it will also focus on Jewish feast days, the Sabbath, denial of the Trinity, the Worldwide Church of God connection, the elitism that is generated by HRM participation, as well as providing further information.

By T.A. McMahon,
G. Richard Fisher