from the Bible Answer Man column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Numbers 1-5, 1994.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Volume 5, Issue 1
This column is based on questions and answers excerpted from the "Bible Answer Man," CRI's live call-in radio broadcast. In this issue of the Newsletter, Ken Samples answers the question: What is meant by the phrase, "sola scriptura"?
Considered the watchword of the Protestant Reformation, the Latin phrase sola scriptura literally means "Scripture alone." Embattled with the Medieval Roman Catholic church over what constituted the church's final doctrinal authority, the Protestant Reformers set forth the theological principle that Holy Scripture alone is the supreme and infallible authority for the church. In other words, Scripture is the "final court of appeal" in matters of faith and doctrine. This is in contrast to the Catholic view that Scripture and Tradition are coequal norms. This debate over religious authority was really the underlying issue that separated Protestants from Catholics in the sixteenth century.
Affirming Scripture as the final authority implies several additional principles. First, Scripture can be our primary norm of doctrine because it is a direct revelation from God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20). To quote the great Reformed scholar Benjamin B. Warfield, "When Scripture speaks -- God speaks."
Second, sola scriptura implies that Scripture is completely sufficient and that all other norms (for example, tradition, creeds, and human reason) are to be subordinate to the Bible.
Third, Scripture can be held as the church's final authority because its basic message is clear and understandable. Medieval Catholicism, by contrast, considered the Bible an obscure book. Related to this, the Reformers formulated an interpretative principle known as "Scripture interprets Scripture" -- that is, they understood the Bible to be self-interpreting. In summary, then, sola scriptura implies the inspiration, authority, sufficiency, and essential clarity of God's Word -- the Bible.
Having established what the Reformers meant by sola scriptura, let me add a few words regarding what they did not mean. Sola scriptura does not imply a denial or rejection of Christian tradition altogether. The Reformers saw tradition as a useful guide in theology, but always subordinate to the supreme norm of Scripture. A good example of this is seen in how the Reformers accepted the trinitarian and christological statements expressed in the creeds of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon as expressing biblical truth. Christian tradition, therefore, plays an important secondary role in the authority of the church.
For further information on this topic, please consult the Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Baker) by Richard Muller, s.v. "Sola Scriptura"; "'Sola Scriptura' in History and Today," by J. I. Packer, in God's Inerrant Word (Bethany), edited by John Warwick Montgomery; and Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Baker) by John Jefferson Davis.
Volume 5, Issue 2
This column is based on questions and answers excerpted from the "Bible Answer Man," CRI's live call-in radio broadcast. In this issue of the Newsletter, Ron Rhodes answers the question: Is the Unity School of Christianity really Christian, or is it a cult?
The Unity School of Christianity (hereafter Unity) may have a Christian sounding name, but it is definitely not Christian. Unity, an outgrowth of Phineas P. Quimby's metaphysical New Thought movement, was founded in 1891 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. Other cultic groups that emerged from Quimby's philosophy include the United Church of Religious Science, founded by "Dr." Earnest Holmes, and Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy.
Charles Fillmore explained the significance of the name Unity this way: "We have borrowed the best from all religions; that is the reason we are called Unity....Unity is the truth that is taught in all religions, simplified and systematized so that anyone can understand and apply it" (cited by James Dillet Freeman, The Story of Unity [Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, 1978], p. 60).
This eclectic mind-set is reflected in Unity's view of the Bible. Unity proponents believe that the Bible is the greatest and most spiritual of all the scriptures. But they also hold that other "holy books" -- such as the Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta, the Hindu Upanishads, and the Muslim Quran -- contain expressions of spiritual truth.
Charles Fillmore's concept of God is clearly unbiblical. For example, he said that "each rock, tree, animal, everything visible, is a manifestation of the one spirit -- God -- differing only in degree of manifestation...." (cited by H. Emilie Cady, Lessons in Truth [Lees Summit, MO: Unity School of Christianity, 1962], pp. 8-9). Fillmore mainly perceived God as being impersonal.
Unity is distinguished from mainstream New Thought groups by its doctrine of reincarnation. Unity advocates believe that reincarnation is a merciful provision of the Father to enable human beings to attain immortality. In other words, they believe that reincarnation is God's means of restoring humankind to a deathless state.
Regarding salvation, Unity proponents believe one is saved by attaining "at-one-ment" with God -- a reuniting of human consciousness with God-consciousness. Jesus allegedly attained this at-one-ment with the Divine Mind; indeed, they say, all humanity can.
In view of the above factors, it is clear that the Unity School of Christianity is not a Christian group at all but is rather a metaphysical cult.
Volume 5, Issue 3
This column is based on questions and answers excerpted from the "Bible Answer Man," CRI's live call-in radio broadcast. In this issue of the Newsletter, Marian Bodine answers the question: Is there any justification for the Jehovah's Witnesses" insertion of the name "Jehovah" throughout their version of the New Testament?
Jehovah's Witnesses are told through Watchtower publications that God's true name is "Jehovah." They are taught that this name was removed from the Bible by superstitious Jewish scribes, but that the Watchtower's New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures has "faithfully" restored it in the Old Testament where the Hebrew consonants "YHWH" appear. As well, the Watchtower's New World Bible Translation Committee has inserted the name "Jehovah" in the New Testament, at its own discretion, in places where the text is thought to refer exclusively to the Father.
However, there is no manuscript authority whatsoever for using the name "Jehovah" in the New Testament. This is just another attempt on the part of the Jehovah's Witnesses to cloud the truth -- that is, that the name the New Testament consistently uplifts is Jesus, not Jehovah. To help the interested Jehovah's Witness understand this, ask the following questions and look up the accompanying Bible verses:
- In whose name should we meet together (Matt. 18:20~
- Demons are subject to whose name (Luke 10:17; Acts 16:18; 17:18)?
- Repentance and forgiveness should be preached in whose name (Luke 24:47)?
- In whose name are you to believe and receive the forgiveness of sins (John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 10:43; 1 John 3:23; 5:13)?
- By whose name, and no other, do we obtain salvation (Acts 4:12)?
- Whose name should be invoked as we bring our petitions to God in prayer (John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24)?
- In whose name is the Holy Spirit sent (John 14:26)?
- Whose name and authority was invoked by the disciples in healing the sick and lame (Acts 3:16; 4:7-10, 30)?
- Whose name did Paul tell us to call upon (1 Cor. 1:2)?
- Whose name is above every name (Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9)?
The above Scripture references are by no means exhaustive, but they are sufficient to demonstrate to the Jehovah's Witness the name by which true believers should be identified.
Volume 5, Issue 4
This column is based on questions and answers excerpted from the "Bible Answer Man," CRI's live call-in radio broadcast. In this issue of the "Newsletter", Elliot Miller answers the question: Is it possible for human beings to have encounters with beings from other planets?
Although it is hypothetically possible, there are scientific, theological, empirical, and biblical reasons for considering contact with beings from other planets quite improbable. Scientifically, it is highly unlikely that alien beings, even if they existed, could traverse the vast amount of space that separates earth from the nearest potentially inhabitable planet.
Theologically, it is hard for me to see the plausibility of intelligent life on other planets. It is often argued, "Why would God make the universe so vast and only populate one tiny planet in it?" Scripture gives us a reason: "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). The vastness of the universe helps us to realize the infinity of God, who must be greater than His creation. But in His creative purposes God is more concerned with quality than quantity: His chief end in all of creation is living beings created in His image who freely choose to worship and obey Him.
Therefore, the drama of intelligent beings choosing between good and evil need not be reenacted on many planets for Him to obtain the end He desires. If you hold that it was, then you have certain theological problems to address.
Let's say, for instance, that these other alien races also fell into sin. Would the Son of God need to incarnate and be sacrificed a multiplicity of times? Considering that God can get what He wants strictly from one race and planet, this seems like needless suffering.
Let's say that these other races did not fall. Then you have to answer how unfallen beings could share the same universe with fallen ones. In his popular space trilogy, C. S. Lewis suggested a quarantined earth. As intriguing as this idea is for space fantasy, in my view it is not theologically satisfying. The effects of Adam's sin seem to pervade the entire universe (Rom. 8:19-22). (I believe the second law of thermodynamics -- that all things tend toward disorganization and death -- is the scientific description of the curse God pronounced on creation in Genesis 3:14-19.) It does not seem likely that God would allow the effects of sin to impact a world of unfallen creatures (e.g., Rev. 21:4).
Empirically, in all my exposure to "strange encounters," I have never heard of alien beings who espoused a biblical theology. Typically, they present themselves as more "highly evolved" entities who either malignantly want to exploit the earth and earthlings or "benevolently" want to teach them about how to prepare for the coming New Age. Evolution, denial of literal biblical truth, pantheism (God and the universe are one), and salvation through self-deification are typical components of their message.
Furthermore, their modes of contact, communication, and influence with and on humans are essentially the same as those of other types of entities followed in the world of the occult: departed spirits, angels, demons, fairies, "Ascended Masters," interdimensional beings, and so forth. The more one researches it, the more the whole phenomenon of UFO encounters fits into the larger category of spiritism, which the Bible condemns (Deut. 18:9-14).
The spirit world seems willing and able to take on many guises (whatever man is gullible enough to believe in). But the message presented always has the effect of leading the individual away from biblical truth and into acceptance of the serpent's lie: "You shall be as gods." Since Scripture reveals that Satan is capable of producing visual signs in support of his lies (e.g., Rev. 13:13), UFO encounters may simply be yet another one of his devices for leading human beings astray. It might even fit into the great end-time deception involving the Antichrist (though this is purely speculative).
In view of the above scientific, theological, empirical, and biblical considerations, I would advise a healthy skepticism where UFO encounters are concerned.
Volume 5, Issue 5
This column is based on questions and answers excerpted from "The Bible Answer Man," CRI's live call-in radio broadcast. In this issue of the "Newsletter", Ron Rhodes addresses the question: What is the relationship between the human and divine natures in the person of Christ?
Crucial to a proper understanding of the Incarnation is grasping what is meant by the word nature. This word is commonly used to designate the divine or human elements in the person of the incarnate Christ. "Nature" when used of Christ's divinity refers to all that belongs to deity, including all the attributes of deity. "Nature" when used of Christ's humanity refers to all that belongs to humanity, including all the attributes of humanity.
Now, though the incarnate Christ had both a human and a divine nature, he was only one person -- as indicated by His consistent use of the pronouns "I," "Me," and "Mine" in reference to Himself. Jesus never used the words "us," "we," or "ours" in reference to His human-divine person. Nor did the divine nature of Christ ever carry on a verbal conversation with His human nature.
Before the Incarnation, Jesus had only a divine nature. Without getting too complicated, we might summarize it this way: The eternal Son of God -- who, prior to the Incarnation, was one in person and nature (wholly divine) -- became, in the Incarnation, two in nature (divine and human) while remaining one person.
One of the most complex aspects of the relationship of Christ's two natures is that, while the attributes of one nature are never attributed to the other, the attributes of both natures are properly attributed to His one person. Thus, Christ at the same moment in time had what seem to be contradictory qualities. He was finite and yet infinite, weak and yet omnipotent, increasing in knowledge and yet omniscient, limited to being in one place at one time and yet omnipresent.
In the early history of the church, there was much confusion regarding how such incompatible natures could be joined in one person without one or the other losing some of its essential characteristics. The discussion that resulted from this confusion, however, led to the orthodox statement that the two natures are united without mixture and without loss of any essential attributes, and that the two natures remain distinct without transfer of any property or attribute of one nature to the other.
In the joining of the human and divine natures in one person, it is critical to recognize that there was no mixture to form a third compound nature. The human nature always remained human, and the divine nature always remained divine. The Chalcedonian Creed affirmed that the two natures were united without mixture, without change, without division, and without separation. Hence, the union of the two natures in Christ should not be thought of as deity possessing humanity, for this would deny true humanity its rightful place. On the other hand, the Incarnation was not merely humanity indwelt by deity.
Christ must be seen as a "theanthropic" person. The word theanthropic means "God-man." This word is actually a compound word that combines two Greek words: theos (meaning "God") and anthropos (meaning "man"). Jesus is the Theos-anthropos, the God-man.
We must stress that Christ in the Incarnation was neither a divine man nor a human God. He is the God-man, fully God and fully man. He is no less God because of His humanity and no less human because of His deity.
End of document, CRN0052A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Questions and Answers" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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