Thursday, July 14, 2022

How The Early Christians Viewed Theophanies

This is from a note on section 2:27 of Ernest Evans' edition of Tertullian's Against Marcion, found here. I haven't studied this subject much, but I think Evans' point would have some significance even if he overestimates the popularity of the view in question to some extent:

"It was almost universally held, until the end of the fourth century, that the subject of the theophanies, the speaker of divine words throughout the Old Testament, was God the Son acting as the agent or messenger of the Father: Justin, dial. 56 sqq.; Tertullian, adv. Prax. 14-16; Eusebius, H.E. i. 2; Prudentius, Apotheosis (passim)."

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Intellectual Components Of The Great Commission

"The hardest thing to raise funds for, that I know of, in Christendom is for Christian education. You want to raise money for evangelism, it's easy. You want to raise money for helping starving children, it's easy. You want to raise money for mercy ministries, it's easy. And it's good that it is. But the hardest thing is for Christian education, because people don't really think it's all that important. 'Let's get them converted. And if we can get them converted, we'll change the world.' Well, when a person is converted, they may be fifty-five years old biologically, but spiritually, they're one day old. They're babes, and babies don't change the world. It's adults that make a difference. Fifty years ago, I read the first biography ever written on Billy Graham, and Billy Graham said the thing that kept him up at night were all the people who made decisions for Christ at his rallies, he said, and he wondered, 'Who's following up? Are they being taught? Are they being grounded in the things of God?' In the first century church, the strategy of the church was, first of all, proclamation, the kerygma. The apostles went out and preached. People were converted. They brought them into the church and immediately put them into didache, teaching them, grounding them, so that they would not just be converts, but that they would be disciples. And a disciple is a student. A disciple is a learner who is enrolled in the school of Rabbi Jesus….We don't really apply ourselves to being disciples. And the Great Commission says, 'Don't just convert them. Ground them. Teach them. Bring them to maturity in their conformity to the image of Christ.'" (R.C. Sproul, 25:07 here)

Sunday, July 10, 2022

In what ways can we interact with the dead?

Here are some comments I posted in a YouTube discussion about prayers to the dead. This was written in response to somebody's citation of the Mount of Transfiguration as alleged support for the practice of praying to the deceased:

Moses and Elijah had returned to life on earth. No prayer is involved. And the only one who spoke with them was Jesus. Peter, James, and John didn't speak to them. Even if we were to conclude, without good reason, that Jesus had been praying to Moses and Elijah, Jesus isn't merely human. He's also God. To cite his conversation with Moses and Elijah as justification for Christians to pray to the dead is to assume that anything Jesus did must be acceptable for Christians to do. But it's possible that praying to the deceased, if Jesus had ever done such a thing, was done through his unique attributes as God or other attributes we don't have. We'd have to take other evidence into account to make a judgment about the best explanation. Given the large amount of evidence against praying to the dead, which I've outlined above, any prayers to the dead on Jesus' part (if he did such a thing) would be best explained as exceptional rather than normative. The more significant point here, though, is that interacting with people who have returned to life on earth, as Moses and Elijah did, isn't equivalent to praying to the deceased who aren't known to have returned to life on earth. It was wrong for Saul to try to contact Samuel in 1 Samuel 28, but once Samuel had returned to the earthly realm, it became acceptable for Saul to interact with him (as reflected in Samuel asking Saul questions, which implies that it would be acceptable for Saul to answer those questions, as well as Samuel's assumption that Saul would listen to what Samuel was saying). So, your citation of the Mount of Transfiguration is faulty on multiple levels, and it leaves the other points I made untouched.

For a collection of posts arguing against the practice of praying to the deceased, see here. You can find other relevant posts in our archives. The collection I just linked isn't exhaustive.