1 π 2 π 3 π 4 π 5 π 6
Hos. 11:1 π Mt. 2:15 π Mt. 4:4 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Jn. 1:1 π Jn. 1:14 π Jn. 5:39 π Jn. 7:17; 2nd π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 16:13 π Jn. 17:21-23; 2nd π Acts 2:46 π Acts 17:11 π Acts 17:28 π Rom. 8:36 π Rom. 11:35 π Rom. 12:19 π Rom. 15:4 π 1 Cor. 2:10; 2nd π 1 Cor. 2:12 π 1 Cor. 2:14 π 1 Cor. 2:16 π 1 Cor. 3:12-15 π 1 Cor. 3:19 π 1 Cor. 11:3; 2nd π 1 Cor. 13:12 π 1 Cor. 15:45; 2nd; 3rd π 2 Cor. 6:16-17 π 2 Cor. 6:18 π 2 Cor. 12:4 π Gal. 6:1 π Eph. 4:8 π Eph. 5:14 π Eph. 6:12 π Eph. 6:17 π 1 Ths. 5:21 π 2 Ths. 2:9-12 π 2 Ths. 3:15 π 1 Tim. 4:1 π 1 Tim. 5:18 π 2 Tim. 2:15; 2nd π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2nd π Heb. 1:5 π Heb. 3:13 π Heb. 4:12 π 2 Pet. 1:4 π 2 Pet. 1:20 π 2 Pet. 2:3 π 2 Pet. 3:16 π 1 Jn. 2:24 π Jude 14
In the last chapter ("Reapproaching the New Testament") of Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity (the first edition), Frank attacks the "proof texting" method of Bible study but fails to close all the gaps his attack creates. Frank's subtitle for the chapter is "The Bible Is Not a Jigsaw Puzzle" and, while this is a true statement, the Bible does also have characteristics similar to a connect-the-dot puzzle. Frank's attack on "proof texting" reveals, I believe, his intellectualized scholar's over-reaction to the cut-and-paste, hack jobs that so many have done on the truths of the Scriptures. As we will see from Frank's quotes, it could very easily be inferred that his call to view the Bible panoramically (as with a wide-angle lens):
1) completely eliminates the need for and the validity of applying a "microscope" to the text at hand,
2) that the context of (background, backdrop, circumstances behind) a Bible book might actually change what a particular verse plainly says; and
3) that the Spirit of God does not reveal to us how one seemingly unrelated verse or passage from one book or author changes, colors or balances what another verse or passage from another book or author says.
I suspect and fervently hope that Frank does not adhere to any of these notions but I am presenting this writing because his writing of the last chapter of an otherwise excellent presentation of his research leaves one wondering. Indeed, Pagan Christianity is much like Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? - they are both excellent historical perspective but the last chapter comes up short in showing us where to go from here.Return to Top
Quote 1: Frank writes:
"Since [verse numbers were inserted into the Bible text in the 13th century] God's people have approached the New Testament with scissors and glue, cutting-and-pasting isolated, disjointed sentences from different letters, lifting them out of their real-life setting and lashing them together to build floatable doctrines. Then calling it 'the Word of God.'" (Pagan Christianity, p. 284)
Actually, this approach to the Scriptures is as old as the New Testament itself. Consider these observations about the New Testament:
"There are some 250 express citations of the Old Testament in the New Testament... Some citations are taken from an Old Testament targum [commentary] ( Rom. 12:19 ) or from the Hebrew text itself. ( Rom. 11:35 ; 1 Cor. 3:19; top ) However...the large majority of quotations are derived from the LXX [Septuagint - Greek translation of the Old Testament], but with varying degrees of exactness... The inaccuracies which occur show the lack of concern...of the Biblical writers for verbal exactness: it is the meaning rather than the words in themselves that are important.
"In a considerable number of cases variant renderings are deliberately chosen, ad hoc [for a specific purpose] or from other known versions, in order to bring out 'the fulfillment' as seen by the New Testament writer. (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:45 f.) In this process...the commentary is merged into the quotation to give it a present-time, eschatological application...
Often Old Testament passages are applied quite at variance with the original historical meaning. Hosea's reference to the Exodus of Israel [ Hos. 11:1 ] is 'fulfilled' in the baby Jesus' return from Egypt. ( Mt. 2:15 ) A number of passages having historical reference to Israel are referred by the New Testament to the [ekklesia]. (e.g. Rom. 8:36 ; Eph. 4:8 ) A passage referring to Solomon, king of Israel, is applied both to Jesus Christ ( Heb. 1:5 ) and to the [ekklesia]. ( 2 Cor. 6:18; top )
The rationale for this usage seems to lie
1) in a typological correspondence between Old Testament Heilsgeschichte ["salvation history"] and the 'new age' fulfillment in Jesus Christ;...the subject matter of New Testament quotations covers virtually all doctrinal issues...
2) in the Semitic idea of corporate solidarity in which the king of Israel and Israel, Christ (Israel's true king) and the 'body of Christ,' stand in realistic relationship to one another; and
3) in the conviction that the [ekklesia] is the true Israel and, therefore, the heir to the promises and the object of the prophecies.
Quotations other than from the Old Testament also appear. Eph. 5:14 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45 b; 1 Tim. 5:18 b) may be an excerpt from an early Christian hymn or oracle; Jude 14 is taken from the pseudapigraphical book of Enoch; and Acts 17:28 (top) is a quotation from a pagan writer. (New Bible Dictionary, "Quotations (in the New Testament)," pp. 1005-6)
If the writers of the New Testament had been bound by Frank's rules of context and anti-proof texting, we would not have the New Testament we have today!
What can we glean from all this? Simply that God is not bound by the scholar's rules of engagement by which we are now supposedly supposed to use to approach and apprehend the whole panorama of the Scriptures. There is a Head Christ Jesus ( 1 Cor. 11:3 ) who, by His Spirit, reveals to us the deep things of God ( 1 Cor. 2:10 ) so that we may, because of our right relationship with God, be able to rightly divide the word of truth ( 2 Tim. 2:15 ) and that we may all be one (together) in the mind of Christ. ( 1 Cor. 2:16 ; Jn. 17:21-23; top ) Applying sound Biblical sayings of 2,000 to 6,000 years ago to the situations and difficulties of today and supplying the reference to the section or verse of the Bible that best conveys that message so that the reader can go study it out for himself is not "proof texting." This is one of the biggest gaps Frank's attack on proof texting failed to close up behind him.
When someone (like Frank's example of John Darby who used the proof texting method, raising it to "an art form" - see Pagan Christianity, p. 278 - to carve out, among other doctrines, the pre-trib rapture theory, does a cut-and-paste hack job on Scriptural truth, the real sin is not proof texting. The real sin is they have made themselves into false prophets speaking lies, error and distortion as the word of God. They have preached what is right in their own eyes (lawlessness) in the name of Christ - assuming they haven't tapped into some demonic teaching! (see 1 Tim. 4:1 ) Their judgment is not idle and their destruction does not slumber if their proof texting has damaged or destroyed the spiritual lives of others. ( 2 Pet. 2:3; top ) What these men have done is failed to approach the Word of God with reverence, respect and even trembling - having no fear of re-shaping the meaning and intent of God through their own understandings and paradigms (preconceptions and misconceptions about the nature of things). This is a most common sin among "church" leaders and teachers today.
But just what is the Word of God? As Frank rightly points out, a proof texted, cut-and-paste hack job is not the "Word of God." But what is the Word of God? Is it the Bible, even the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation? No. Believing the Word of God is the same as the Bible, the Book,
1) causes us to fail to experience the reality of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ,
2) trains us to settle for our own understanding and intellectual abilities - however limited or substantial those might actually be, and
3) reinforces the half-buried notion that we are our own gods in control of our own destinies.
There is currently great confusion about the difference between the Book (the Bible) and the Word of God. The Book is those 66 books inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by over 40 authors across 3 continents in 3 languages over a period of 1500 years - in whatever order we prefer, we know them as Genesis through Revelation. It is the written testimony of the Holy Spirit of the works and actions of God towards certain men during a certain period of time. It is useful for reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, equipping for good works, for bringing hope, and it is the written source of all of God's great and precious promises to us. ( 2 Tim. 3:16-17 ; Rom. 15:4 ; 2 Pet. 1:4; top )
But it is not God. It is not the Word. The Book is only words written on a piece of paper. The Word, in contrast to the Book, is alive and powerful, separating between that which is soulish and spiritual, between that which is of the flesh and that which is of the Spirit. ( Heb. 4:12; top ) The Word became flesh and lived among us - and we beheld His glory as of the glory of the unique Son of God. ( Jn. 1:14; top ) In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ( Jn. 1:1; top )
The Book is the Book and the Word is Jesus Christ who became a life-giving spirit, ( 1 Cor. 15:45; top ) When we embrace the Book as if it were the living Word of God, we subordinate the words of God to the powers of our own intellect - an area of the soul in which it is impossible to spiritually know the things of the Spirit - and we spurn the Person of the Word, the Person who is the truth - the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is in this light that we see that those who intellectually embrace the Book as the final arbitrator and standard for all of life and conduct are misguided. The Pharisees did this and Jesus rebuked them soundly by saying, "You study the Scripture because you think that in them you possess eternal life. But I tell you that it is these Scriptures which point to Me." ( Jn. 5:39; top - emphasis added) Without the Holy Spirit to spiritually illuminate the words He spiritually inspired, there is no hope that we, through the use of our natural minds, could ever rightly divide the word of truth. (see 1 Cor. 2:14 ; 2 Tim. 2:15; top )
If the Holy Spirit does not cause the words of the Book to be filled with the Spirit of truth, the life-giving Spirit of the second Adam, then it is only a dead letter administered in the life-quenching energies of the soul. There is no hope that it will ever produce a life that brings glory to God. Unanointed words - that is, words devoid of the Spirit of life - even when read directly from the printed pages of the Book, will only administer death.
Thus, as the people of the end times heap up to themselves teachers, they will hear much of the words of God - but they will never, through the soulish administrations of these unanointed and spiritually dead teachers, become personally acquainted with the living Word of God, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be greatly acquainted with fables, many of them about God and about Jesus Christ and many containing a great deal of factual data, but they will be fables nonetheless because they were not brought to life in the heart of the individual by the Spirit of life and truth.Return to Top
Quote 2: Frank writes:
"Most Christians...have turned the New Testament into a manual that can be wielded to prove any point. Chopping the Bible up into fragments makes this relatively easy to pull off." (Pagan Christianity, p. 284)
It is not the "chopping up" of the Bible into chapters and verses that makes it easy to turn the New Testament into a manual. It is the heart attitude that my opinion, knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures that I have gained by virtue of my superior intellect that does this. The one who trembles at God's word receives the meaning and intent of God and the inserted chapter and verse numbers rarely effect that spiritual process whatsoever. While I too certainly recommend that believers and seekers read the Bible from time to time in a version without these numbers, I also hope that the "no verse and chapter division" movement does not succeed so well that we are reduced to the nebulous formula "somewhere in the Prophets" or "somewhere in Paul's letters" - though there are indeed very many who never get past this level of familiarity with the locations of various sayings in the Scriptures!
But this quote from Frank exposes the slipperiest slope of all. Frank uses the definition of the New Testament as "a manual that can be wielded to prove any point." Any point? Like "house churches"? The Trinity? The Deity of Christ? What a slippery slope Frank has stepped out on! I hope Frank is trying to make the point that using the Scriptures to intellectually prove anything is like using a hammer to install a fragile mirror. That is, the Scriptures are there to give historical testimony and evidence and support to our spiritual faith in Christ Jesus, not necessarily to prove anything. This is why the spiritually untaught and unstable - no matter how intellectually talented and gifted - can twist and distort the Scripture as they want to. ( 2 Pet. 3:16 ) Only those who are submitted to the Spirit of truth are led into all truth. ( Jn. 16:13; top ) But, while this is a spiritual process, we must not lose sight that the truth for all of life and godliness can be found in the rightly divided Scriptures.
But let's look at this slope Frank has stepped onto even more closely. If the New Testament can be reduced to being only a manual to prove any point in "their" hands, what is it in Frank's hands? What is it in this author's hands? What is it in any teacher's hands? By what standard can we know who is rightly dividing the word of truth? Jesus said, "If anyone wants to do God's will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority." ( Jn. 7:17; top )
The "secret" to finding truth is not found in scholarly research - though that can be helpful. The "secret" to gaining a proper approach to the Scriptures (Old or New Testament) is not found in reading church history so as to gain a historical, panoramic view that gives us an accurate historical context from which to "properly" understand what was written - though this also may certainly be beneficial. No, the deepest "secret" to knowing the truth and being able to rightly divide any word of truth is a commitment to the will of God - no matter how much or in what way that might cost us. And this is why trying to "prove" anything with the Scriptures is a waste of time. Those who are not committed to God's will are destined to be deceived and they will ultimately perish. ( 2 Ths. 2:9-12; top ) Those who are committed to God's will rather than their own love the truth and will receive the truth when a clearer picture of it is presented to them - and they will pursue God in spirit and in truth with all of their being.Return to Top
Quote 3: Frank lists seven erroneous ways in which readers commonly approach the New Testament. Of such approach to the New Testament is:
"You look for verses that will prove your particular doctrine so that you can slice-and-dice your theological sparring partner into Biblical ribbons. (Because of this proof-texting method, a vast wasteland of Christianity behaves as if the mere citation of some random, de-contextualized verse of Scripture ends all discussion on virtually all subjects." (Pagan Christianity, p. 285)
Read this quote carefully as it describes an erroneous practice in approaching the New Testament that is very close to the only really appropriate approach. Let us list and then expand on the elements in Frank's quote:
1) The reader already comes with a preconceived doctrinal paradigm. This will very likely hinder that reader from grasping the truth as his will is already set to hold onto his own thoughts and opinions (in which he has most likely heavily invested himself) rather than having his will set upon discovering and doing God's will. This one, without a change of heart, simply cannot come to a knowledge of the truth. ( Jn. 7:17; top )
2) The reader has an opponent's spiritual condition in view - not his own. This will color and change the reader's perspective of the text and cause him to fail to rightly divide and apply the word of truth in his own life. Such a reader, whose life is already not right with God, cannot be of any real spiritual good to himself or his opponent (in reality, his brother for whom he is supposed to lay down his life for) though he can indeed chop him to bits intellectually and beat him to death with his 12 pound Scofield. Not exactly agape love here.
3) The truth is that a citation - actually the quote or paraphrase - of a rightly divided word of truth ought to end the discussion. Then it's time to go and do it! And certainly random Scripture quoting is about as wise as Russian roulette. But here comes that word "context" again.
There is an underlying context throughout the whole of Scripture - the restoration of man to God's fellowship. Thus, nearly every Old Testament verse can be seen as pointing to a New Testament Redeemer. Thus, nearly every Bible verse can see seen as relating to man's need to obey God. Thus, cross referencing is a valid means of context (if you want to say it that way) and it ought not to be confused with "proof texting" nor overlooked as a valid means of understanding God's truth. Many of Frank's findings and views on "house churches" are obtained in this way - and rightly so. But Frank's quote simply opens a door into a room in which the exits are not clearly marked.
1) the reader can set aside (give to God) his preconceived doctrinal paradigms;
2) the reader can forget about everyone else when he sits down to read the Scriptures;
3) the reader lets the words of God simply settle into his spirit and soul to accomplish God's purpose in his life,
that reader is in good stead to experience God. Otherwise, he might as well convert to Buddhism or any other false religion. Even atheism would be more honest.
But let us consider one more aspect of this matter: that of truly having a doctrinal opponent and having to overcome his deceptions - as that is the background of everyone today coming out of a "church" and asking God "What's wrong with this picture?" or "What's next?" The "enemy" is often a "pastor" or an established doctrinal creed of an established "church" sect, whether the doctrines under examination are "church" practices, the ever-popular "once saved, always saved" theory or whatever else might be used by the "pastor" to secure his Nicolaitan hold on his followers. Again, we must make every effort to not deal with him as an enemy ( 2 Ths. 3:15 ; Gal. 6:1 ), but as a fallen brother - though his pride will be offended at even suggesting such a notion. But we must also recognize that his wielding of the Bible as a sword (which, in truth, it is not meant for use against flesh and blood humans but against spiritual Satanic beings - Eph. 6:12 , 17; top ) could leave us wounded, bloody, maimed or even dead. No matter what situation we face, though, we must simply read the Scriptures and receive the Word of God however He leads us and presents Himself to us. If the message is for ourselves, fine - if the message is for another, so be it. Pursue only the will of God in the matter and all will be well with our souls - if not theirs as well.
Where we truly are confronted with having to read the Scriptures in the face of theological opposition, we do well to follow the example of the noble Bereans ( Acts 17:11 ) and to obey Paul's command: "Test all things; hold fast what is good." ( 1 Ths. 5:21 - emphasis added) - all the while remembering that it is God's Spirit that reveals to us the deep things of God. ( 1 Cor. 2:10 ) Everyone standing up against or leaving the many deceptions of churchianity need to hear Jesus' words again: "Man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." - not the mouths of men. (see Mt. 4:4; top )Return to Top
Quote 4: Another approach to the New Testament listed by Frank is:
"You look for verses in the Bible to control and/or correct others." (Pagan Christianity, p. 285)
What a fine line Frank is trying to split here! We have already discussed the concept that we must first look into the Scriptures for ourselves. One who skips this step has nothing for himself nor anything to offer anyone else. Indeed he cannot help anyone else rightly divide truth either. And certainly we are not to use the Bible to control (lord over - Mt. 20:25-26 ) our brothers. But the Scriptures are useful for correction. ( 2 Tim. 3:16-17 ) We are instructed to exhort one another ( Heb. 3:13 , etc.; top) - and exhortation is simply an encouragement, warning, incitement toward more correct living before God. If our brothers around us refuse to obey the Lord, we have no option but to withdraw from them. ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ; 2 Cor. 6:16-17; top ) So, yes, if our usual, customary approach is exactly as Frank says it, then we are out of line. But this does not mean that this approach is never appropriate. Again, Frank has opened a door into a hallway where the safe exit is not clearly marked.
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Quote 5: Frank describes the way the vast majority of people wrongfully read their Bible:
"We see verses. We do not see the whole picture." (Pagan Christianity, p. 287)Actually, we cannot ever have the whole picture. There are certain facets and aspects that we won't know until we've died and gone on to be with the Lord. (see 2 Cor. 12:4 for example; top) But we do certainly need a much better grasp on the big picture. The "big picture" though involves a spiritually transcendent God who dwells in eternity (timelessness), light and righteousness. It involves a spiritual enemy who also moves through spiritual realms and uses (very effectively) deception to keep us from interacting with and becoming more like the One True God. It involves the 6,000 year history of God's interactions with men and the devil's war against God and His people in that same time frame. And we are, collectively, trapped in the limited and limiting realms of time, twilight and good and evil. Individually, we start life interested only in me and mine and it takes years of training and experience to enable the mind to grasp just how big the horizons really are.
And yet it is also true that one verse can be enough. Whatever light a person might glean from even one verse, if that light causes him to trust and abide in Christ, and that person never sees any more Bible verses the rest of his life, it is enough. (see 1 Jn. 2:24; top ) Each verse is a nugget capable of bringing forth the life of Christ in us. The value of each verse is not to be overlooked though that value is indeed enhanced by a more accurate apprehension of how the one gem sets into the whole.
There is an inter-connectivity between the individual verses that requires we see both the plain meaning of that text and the context in which it was said. And all accurate interpretation is divinely given by God and not produced by private, human interpretation. ( 2 Pet. 1:20 ) It is precisely here that the people of Christ have gotten themselves - and those who follow after them - into trouble. Whole denominations and sects have formed because first, God gave some revelation insight that corrected/clarified some aspect of spirituality and, then, either leftover theology or practice or new error is added into the mix. And all the later followers adhere to that peculiar practice or interpretation. Sacrificed is the Headship of Christ ( 1 Cor. 11:3 ) and the unity of the body of Christ. ( Jn. 17:21-23; top ) Until we allow the Lord Jesus Christ to be God over all of our theology and practice, He will not really be our Head and we who are supposedly His body will not be one and we will not be able to act in one accord as did the first believers. ( Acts 2:46 , etc.) All we will be capable of doing will be nothing ( Jn. 15:5 ), wood, hay or stubble ( 1 Cor. 3:12-15 ) or lawlessness. ( Mt. 7:23; top )Return to Top
Quote 6: Frank wrote:
"We have been conditioned to come to the New Testament with a microscope and extract verses... We must learn the whole sweeping drama from beginning to end. We need to learn to view the New Testament panoramically, not microscopically." (Pagan Christianity, p. 294)
If Frank's goal was stated more clearly, perhaps this would be an appropriate statement. But do we really need to all be church historians to make straight paths for our Lord? Do we really need a scholarly understanding of the historical context (that was not recorded in the canon of Scriptures) before we can walk in the spiritual simplicity that is in Christ? Obviously not. Frank's premise here is skewed.
Even if we state the goal of this quote as overcoming all the distortions accumulated in two millennia of "church" error, do we really have to have a complete picture before we can simply begin to personally obey the Spirit of Christ within us in all that we say, do and think? While it can indeed be helpful to have such a panoramic view as Frank suggests, having such a picture can also enable us to concoct yet one more way to keep Christ as the nominal (but not literal) "Head" of "His" body. It can cause us to rely on our intellectual understanding instead of the leading of the Spirit of God as we can simply take our new knowledge about "church" and body life and go "plant house churches" without ever once knowing if that's what Christ, by His Spirit is doing with those people at that time. I do believe that God will gather/assemble His people around/in various people's homes - and that the home fellowship is a often a vast improvement over institutional "church" "life" - but what does God do with people who gather around the home fellowship simply because that's how they want to do "church"? Or with "leadership" who brings Nicolaitan or other false religious baggage (usually leftover "theology" from some "church" experience) into his "leadership" of the home fellowship? Is God going to "plant a house church" in that environment?
God is so big and transcendent that the answer to those questions might actually be, "Yes." But it is not necessarily so. There are not many rules on how to "plant house churches" because there is a Head, Christ Jesus, who by His Spirit rules His body. Obedience to a list of rules, even in the context of "house church" is still just "church" - a counterfeit schemed up by the devil to keep us from being all that God created us to be in Christ. If we as individuals will simply and truly and completely give ourselves to God so as to be conformed to the image of Christ in our own lives, we will find ourselves meshing into a corporate expression of the living Christ. If we persist in following our own understandings and "theologies," we will only yet be another abominable form of "church" deception.
The whole panorama Frank says we need is not available apart from spiritual revelation from God. This stuff can't be figured out or researched until an hypothesis or theory is arrived at. No, we all only see as in a darkened mirror. ( 1 Cor. 13:12; top )
Paul wrote, "Now we have received...the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." ( 1 Cor. 2:12; top )
We can take Frank's advice and scour church history as he has done for us in his book Pagan Christianity (for which we do owe Frank a large debt of gratitude. I know when God began to show me the same things Frank has written about, I did enough church history research to know I didn't want to do any more research. It was as nauseating as it was enlightening.), and maybe, just maybe we will glean this panoramic view that enables us to approach the New Testament more appropriately. But unless the Lord leads you down that path, I would not recommend that you do so. Church history is a mess of confusion, error and malpractice intermingled with moments of Light, Truth and Glory. Deciphering which is which is not always possible, easy or even necessary.
Don't get me wrong. I highly recommend that anyone interested in church history should dive in and find the truth for themselves. Perhaps that interest is the stirring of one's love of truth by the Lord Himself. Frank's book Pagan Christianity, even with the inadequacies discussed above, is an excellent book for historical perspective. I also highly recommend Philip Schaff's and Bruce Shelley's works. But let us not suppose that a tour through church history will help us if our hearts are not set to receive the Old Testament and the New Testament as the written words of God who stirs them up in our hearts to bring to us the Word of God that we need for our lives now. Intellectual study of the Bible will never replace simple obedience to the God who lives within our hearts.
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!