Tag: scripture

A Biblical view on Brexit

I feel that the church has been lacking a sound biblical perspective on Brexit. While I doubt that I am the one to write a definitive study, here is what I have decerned from scripture.

Polling from Lord Ashcroft showed that nearly 60% of those that identified as Christian voted to leave. Why?

According to Christianity Today:

A host of blogs, websites and claims of ‘prophetic words’ have fuelled a fear of the European Union’s apparent spiritual side. A minefield of ‘prophetic’ websites, many of which border on the extreme end of conspiracy theories, warn of a supposed darkness in the EU project.

I want to take a clear-headed look at what the Bible really has to say.

Spiritual Darkness?

The focus of concern for evangelical writers claiming “prophetic insight” is a belief that the EU has an evil spiritual power.

They point to the EU symbol of a women riding a bull and say that it is idolatry or point fearfully towards the imagery of Revelation. Others point to the EU’s building in Strasbourg and claim it is based upon Pieter Bruegel’s painting of Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Therefore, we are told, the EU is in open rebellion against God.

According to Christianity Today:

The central point of this wariness is around the European symbol of a woman riding a bull. The icon was chosen by the EU based on the Greek mythical story of Europa and adorns many EU official residences, buildings and documents.

But for some charismatic Christians the symbol is reminiscent of a biblical apocalyptic warning that spoke of a “woman sitting on a scarlet beast” in Revelation 17. According to Revelation, the woman on the beast is the mother “of the earth’s abominations” and will be destroyed by God.

Examining the prophetic

Let us take a quick refresher on how to examine the prophetic with Godly discernment.

Why prophecy must be carefully decerned

1 Timothy 4:1-2 warns us of deceptive spirits and demonic teachings:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.

With such a stark warning, we would be fools to accept these claims of God-breathed truth without examination.

Is it encouraging?

1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation.”

This is the first test of any claimed prophecy. Does it build up?

Christianity Today:

Despite the desperate efforts of evangelical Christian Tim Farron, a vague notion that the EU was anti-Christian persisted among Christian communities […]

Rather than feeling encouraged Christians have reacted to the EU with uninformed fear. A thing shall be known by its fruits and so far I have to say it does not look promising for these “prophetic” claims.

I have to conclude that these claims fail this test. Most of these prophecies fuel fear and distrust. They seak to pull down the EU and do not seek to build anything in its place.

Is it consistent with scripture?

Let me tell you this up front it is unbiblical for one of faith to fear the icons and myths of the past. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that He that dwells within you is greater than any that dwell in the world.

Titus 1:14 tells us to pay no heed to myths. 2 Peter 1:16 is likewise scathing of fables:

For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur.

1 Timothy 1:3-4:

As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith.

Yet myths and speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan have been emphasised by Christians frightened like little children by a dusty old icon.

1 Timothy 4 advises us to “reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness.”

Pointing to icons with fear is not becoming of those adopted into the faith.

Does it promote the fruit of the spirit?

The fruits of the spirit, such as peace, patience, and love should be multiplied by God breathed prophecy. Do these calls to Christian action lead to good spiritual fruits?

So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another. (Romans 14:19)

John 3:20 tells us, “everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.” What has come to light is just how completely the Leave campaign lied. Ephesians 5:11 says to not associate with such deeds but expose them.

Again, I’d have to say no. Instead of peace, Brexit has given rise to racism, poverty, and uncertainty about the future. Brexit brought division to the country. How can we of the Faith be yoked with such deception? 2 Corinthians 6:14 says to do no such thing.

Examining the scriptures

Now we have examined claims of prophecy let us look at what the Bible has to say about our relationship with our neighbours.

Building up our neighbours

Romans 15:2-3 starts by saying, “Let each of us please his neighbour for his good to build him up.”

Does Brexit in any way build up the UK’s Europian neighbours? It is hard to see how it can. In fact, there are those among the leave camp hoping to see the total destruction of the Eurozone. That is the very opposite of building up. Don’t forget what Leviticus 24:19 says about he who harms his neighbour.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says “Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.” I wonder if, through Brexit, we have failed to do this.

God’s commands regarding foreigners

Central to the Holy Law of God is justice for all – both native and foreign.

Deuteronomy 10:17-18 says:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing.

Central to Brexit is a closing of borders to refugees. These two things are not compatible. You cannot serve two masters.

Lies or truth?

It is the thief that comes to kill, steal, and destroy. The aims of Brexit are separation, division, and a destruction of the EU.

Proverbs 12:22 says this:

The Lord abhors a person who lies, but those who deal truthfully are his delight.

The Father of Brexit was lies and deception. John 8:44 is clear on the nature of such a father.

You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

How can something driven by deception and lies be the will of God? If God desired the UK to depart the EU surely it would bring glory to the Father if this was done openly, honestly and in truth?

Love your neighbour and the Brexit divorce

James 2:8 says:

But if you fulfil the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well.

How can UK Christians claim to love their neighbour and be part of divorcing and rejecting them?

Was the EU unfaithful to us? No.

Why, then, are we seeking separation from our EU partner to whom we have committed? To trade with other nations. Would not Luke 16:18 show us to be adulterers if we do that?

Christ’s prayer for us

In John 17 you can read Christ’s prayer for His followers. Not that we are removed from the world but that we remain in it.

Even if you accept the highly doubtful claims of “spiritual evil” in the EU surely our Godly duty is to remain there and be salt and light? Salt that has lost its saltiness is not good for anything but to be trampled underfoot.

If the UK truly were a last bastion of Godliness (and I doubt that it is any better than anywhere else) then how can we be salt and light to an EU we have rejected?

Conclusions on Brexit and the Bible

When thousands of desperate souls came to France seeking hope and justice from the UK, Christians had a historic opportunity to put into practice our faith. Instead, we chose to close our borders.

We did not speak out for those that have no voice. A light was not shed for those in need.

If Christians are concerned about spiritual darkness, we should be galvanised into action by the injustices of people being driven to use food banks to feed themselves. Outraged at the racism and hate that followed the Brexit vote. We should be loudly vocal about the thousands that are driven to the brinks of suicide by a benefits system expensively persecuting the poor and disabled.

Our silence speaks volumes and it condemns us.

It seems to me that the move towards Brexit is an attempt to divide us from our neighbours and frustrate the will of God. If that is the case, Brexit will ultimately fail. How it fails will determine the price we must pay for our arrogance and fear.

We Christians that voted for Brexit sided with messengers of lies, oppression, and injustice. We were deceived by fearful words. Now we must repent and rebuilt our bridge to the world.

We have forgotten our God.

When we see refugees in need and do nothing, we have forsaken our faith. When we see Muslims and other minorities persecuted and do not cry out, we have forgotten our God.

Jesus himself taught us that if we fail to serve even the least of these, we fail to serve Him. Therefore, we forfeit all right to worship God as long as we continue to refuse aid to our neighbours. Is it not written that when we turn away our ears from hearing His laws of mercy and justice, even our prayers are an abomination? Likewise, do we not know that only those of clean hands and a pure heart may stand in His Holy Place?

He says to us through His profits, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” yet we have failed to show mercy. The Father is willing to show us mercy for this sin – Jesus himself taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy“. Do not forget that judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? Therefore, until we show mercy to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, we have no claim to righteousness and no expectation of mercy.

The Lord our God hears only the prayers of those that do what is right. It is He that says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

When we turn a blind eye to the suffering around us, when we silently approve of the death at our doorstep, that blood is upon our hands. Our God said through His prophet, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way; when you offer your many prayers, I do not listen, because your hands are covered with blood.

Is it not written that there is a curse upon those that withhold justice from foreigners? Remember His Holy Law which says:

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing. So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

His blessing upon us is by the same measure with which we bless others. It is written, “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Thoughts on translation

One of the many things that disturb me about practitioners of modern Christianity is a reliance on translated text without a mind towards the source material.

When Christians insist that “the bible is clear” on some topic and then point to the English language edition for support – that worries me. It worries me because any translation is difficult and something is always lost in the transition.

I have read Galatians 5:9 where it says that a little leaven makes the whole loaf leaven. What if the translators were pushing an agenda? My theology would have that agenda in it. What if some vital clue was lost? What if some bias was introduced? My theology would be off-kilter too. What if a subtle point was obscured? How would I know I had missed it?

As a complete amateur in the field of linguistics, I am wholly dependant on the translation notes of the likes of Thayer and Strong. I have my suspicions that Strong may have had an agenda with some of his translations. When Strong gives the possible meanings of a word, there is often one (the one that is used) that sticks out as being quite different to the other possibilities. That bothers me. The best I can do is trust but verify.

The Bible was not written in English

I hope it does not come as a surprise to you to learn that the Bible was not written in English. (It was not). The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek and first translated into Latin. Anyone who reads any of those languages fluently is going to have insights that we, who only read English, lack.

I have learned that some parts of the ancient Hebrew are so obscure that without the Latin version for a comparison, translation into English is only so much guesswork. “I guess my theology is right” does not sound all that trustworthy.

How do I know that what I am reading is what the original author intended?

1 John 4:1 says to test every spirit. I take that to mean: Test every message that is preached. By test, I mean:

  • Look and check to see if it measures up.
  • Think about it logically.
  • Study and make sure.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be as certain as I can be.

I cannot do that with Hebrew and Greek. The best I can do is check multiple translations and the translation notes. Anything I come up with must be subject to the caveat that it is based on other people’s interpretation. It could be flawed.

Trolls for Christ

Today, we have (what I hope are) well-meaning Christians hounding all and sundry on the Internet bombarding them with the English language translated scripture. Some are doing it in a way that borders on trolling. If there is one thing we can agree on scripture does not teach us to “troll for Christ”.

When the recipient of this Christian trolling knows scripture – in the original Hebrew – better than the Christian, all they are doing is making us all look stupid. When these people also offer a humble and gentle rebuke we have a choice expressed in Proverbs 9:7-9 – learn and be wise or demonstrate our lack of Christ-like-ness.

Humility is the only refuge

When it comes to debating scripture, teaching it, preaching it, or in any way talking about it – our only refuge from looking like fools is to remain humble. Unless we are fluent in ancient Hebrew and Greek, we are dependent on the translation work of others. We see only through the darkened glass of others, to quote 1 Corinthians 13:12.

To pretend we do not suffer from agnosis – a lack of knowledge – is both proud and very, very stupid; not to mention, self-deluded. Have you not read Proverbs 16:18 which says what pride goes before?

For that matter what about Psalm 138:6 and James 4:6? God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. I will leave it to you to work out if “trolling for Christ” is humble or proud. (Hint: It is not humble at all).

I think it is the time that we Christians climbed down from our high horse and gave up the pretention that we are in any way experts. Proverbs 17:28 says that “Even a fool who remains silent is considered wise”. Let us be wise.

Sola scriptura

The phrase sola scriptura literally means from scripture alone.

Specifically, sola scriptura is a doctrine which holds that the Christian Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. This is a touch more specific than I got with my zeroth axiom (which just states that scripture can be used to establish doctrine).

Sola scriptura is a formal principle of many Protestant denominations. It has been assumed in almost all that I have encountered. Charismatic churches seem to preach some variation of it.

Sola scriptura sits very happily with doctrines that ascribe infallibility to scripture. It is not the same as prima scriptura – which is that the scriptures come first and above all else.

Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Reformation held by the Reformers. The reformers taught that authentication of Scripture is governed by the discernible excellence of the text as well as the personal witness of the Holy Spirit to the heart of each man.

Sola scriptura and the Axioms of Faith.

As far as the axioms that I have published so far go, both sola scriptura and prima scriptura are compatible with the axioms. Axiom Zero assumes that one of the two is true.

Criticisms of sola scriptura

I don’t intend to get into one right now but I thought I would list some of the objections to sola scriptura.

Please correct me if I get any of these wrong.

One argument is that if scripture is seen as the only source of infallible teaching, its interpretation is subject to fallible interpretation. Generally, these arguments go on to state the need for an infallible interpreter in order to reach a certainty of Christian belief.

Sola scriptura can be argued to be self-referentially incoherent. The Bible itself does not specifically seem to teach sola scriptura. Therefore, the belief that the Scriptures are the only source of Christian belief is self-contradicting because it cannot be supported without extra-scriptural doctrine. (I hope I’ve presented that clearly enough).

Sola scriptura is not so different to the teachings of the Sadducees that held only to the written law and not the oral traditions. I’m not sure what sort of objection that is but I thought I would mention it. You might want to look at Karaite Judaism if this interests you as Karaite Judaism holds the Tanakh alone as its supreme authority in Halakha (Jewish religious law) and theology. I don’t know enough to say if Karaite Judaism and the Sadducees are the similar (or not).

I read about a writer called Dave Armstrong. Armstrong apparently made the point that, since Jesus and the Apostles acknowledge authoritative Jewish oral tradition, Christians cannot dispute oral tradition’s legitimacy and authority. However, as found in Scripture, Jesus also challenges some Jewish oral tradition. Therefore, Christians can dispute some of that tradition’s authority since they hold that Jesus’ authority is greater. The conclusion of total infallibility is therefore brought into question.

How I intend to use the phrase “sola scriptura”.

I’ve not really thought about using it but I think I might write about the differences between sola scriptura and prima scriptura and try to come down one way or the other. It is a big can of worms, as evidenced by the arguments against it. I might leave that topic for a while.

Axiom zero: All scripture is good for establishing doctrine.

For the purpose of this blog, we shall take as a given one single axiom. An axiom zero, if you will.

All scripture is good for establishing doctrine.

This axiom is based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

Everything else that I write here is based on the assumption that this is a self-evident truth.

By taking it as a given that scripture can be used to understand scripture and form doctrine we bypass a lot of logical and doctrinal gymnastics attempting to get ourselves to the same point. Or, in other words, you have to trust something and I am happy to trust scripture.