In the modern evangelical world, there seems to be a set of beliefs that characterize what most people believe. I call it "Canned Theology". I know not everyone believes these things, but if you were to create a profile of the typical evangelical, most of these things would be believed by that person. I think believing these things causes great harm to the cause of Christ, and I will detail on this page my reasons for believing that.
I will start with the idea that newer Bible versions are better than the KJV.
The NIV, NASB, etc., are just as good as or better than the KJV
I received a King James Bible when I was about ten years old at Bon-Air Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, as a gift from the Sunday School I was going to. I used it from time to time, and used it fairly regularly while going to college. I knew about the newer versions of the Bible, and had a fairly positive view of them, but just happened to use my KJV most of the time.
As I read my KJV, I ran into a few passages that I had a really hard time understanding. Then there was a passage in the old testament I ran into that I literally could not figure out. I didn't know what it said, what with all the archaic language and the thees and thous and whatnot. That was when I decided to get a new version that I could understand.
A year or so after that, I went to a Campus Crusade Conference where Josh McDowell was speaking, and it seemed that everyone in that conference had an NASB (New American Standard Bible). I decided then that I needed an NASB, so I got one. I enjoyed using that Bible. I wore it out and recovered it with leather. I underlined, highlighted, made notes in it, and studied it thoroughly. I used that Bible for twenty-four years. I still have it.
Over the years I had heard about the “James Gang”, those Christians who think the KJV is the only version anyone should use. They said things like “If Paul used it, it's good enough for me”. I had a very negative view of the James Gang and was not about to put up with their nonsense of trying to get me to use a KJV. I had already proved to myself that I couldn't understand the stupid thing, so why should I bother using it?
During the 1990's I was going to Prophecy Club meetings being held in Dallas once a month or so, and I would wander around the book tables, looking for some likely book about prophecy. Then one day I saw this big, black book titled “New Age Bible Versions”. I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “There they go again—the James Gang is pushing their stupid ideas about the KJV”. At that point, I got the thought that maybe I should actually take a look at this. I really didn't want to. Wasting my time on some hillbilly notion that the KJV is the only Bible worth reading wasn't my idea of a worthwhile intellectual pursuit. Nevertheless, the thought persisted in my mind and I began to consider the notion of buying the book. I told the Lord, “if you really want me to buy this, I will, but I really don't want to. I think it's a waste of my time”. I ended up buying the book and reading it.
That book was an eye-opener. I learned some things that no one in any church ever told me about, nor had I found this information in Christianity Today or any other Christian magazine. The author, Gail Riplinger, devotes a lot of space to going over how the new age is influencing Christianity through the newer versions of the Bible, and she makes a convincing case. Part of her argument is that Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, the two scholars who put together the Greek text used in all of the new versions, were involved in the occult.
Subsequent to reading Riplinger's book, I found a lot of opinions on the Internet that challenged her evaluation of Westcott and Hort, while attacking the KJV Only position she advocates. There are a lot of people who disagree with Riplinger's assessment of Westcott and Hort. What they will find much harder to disagree with, however, is her assessment of New Age influence on the modern evangelical church. Newer Bible versions allow interpretations of scripture that are historically inaccurate and leave the door wide open for New Age understandings of scripture.
This is not a simple debate, nor is it simple to sort out all the claims and counter-claims of which texts are accurate, who changed what, translated the text incorrectly, or whatever. You would have to read Westcott and Hort's original writings and do all the research yourself to sort it all out, and none of us have time to do that. In any case, the issue is not so much about the translators, but what does the text actually say? Have the translations of the new versions changed the meaning of the original text such that they take away from the Word of God? To answer that, let's look at a couple of passages.
Let's start with Revelation 22:16 in the NASB:
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (my italics)
Now look at Isaiah 14:12 in the NASB:
12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! (my italics)
A new Christian or untrained reader, upon comparing these verses, could come to the perfectly logical conclusion that Jesus Christ is the one who fell from heaven in Isaiah 14:12. That conclusion leads to a whole host of unbiblical understandings and screwy doctrines, including the idea that Lucifer is the true God and the One who is to come. By the way, Isaiah 14:12 is the only place Lucifer is ever mentioned, and that only in the KJV and NKJV.
You might say it is important to understand these verses in context and not lift them out in isolation like this, but how do we study scripture? Do we not compare verse with verse, word with word to help us understand the scripture? You might also say that no one takes that view of Jesus Christ. If you did, you would be wrong.
Here is one example of this kind of teaching that Jesus fell from heaven:
Typical of things that are said about the newer versions are statements like this1:
“Although the newer translations are believed to be more accurate than the KJV, the differences are minor. No significant changes of belief or interpretation would result from the many minor corrections. The main advantage of the modern translations is that they are written in modern English so the reader will not be mystified or misled by the archaic English of the KJV. The mainstream modern Bible versions have been translated by teams of devout Bible scholars who have prayerfully done their very best to convey the true meaning of the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to the modern reader. These modern translations have been adopted by many churches, both Protestant and Catholic, for use in worship.” (my italics)
Judge for yourself. Is the interpretation of the two verses I gave you above “no significant change of belief or interpretation”? I say whoever made this quote either doesn't understand what the new versions say or he is just plain lying. And I've only given you one example. Riplinger points out thousands of examples of this same kind of perversion of the text.
The new version editors all claim that they use the 'best' texts for their translations2. What they are referring to is Aleph and B, otherwise known as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, respectively. These texts are thought to date back to the fourth century3. They are older than extant manuscripts that reflect the majority text. Aleph and B differ markedly from the majority text in thousands of places (about 13,000 places, actually)4. All new English versions of the Bible, after the KJV, are based primarily on these two texts5. For an analysis of Aleph and B, go here.
To understand this debate, one needs to understand how the Bible was transmitted down through the ages. The authors of the New Testament wrote their books and sent them to other believers. Some letters were addressed to specific groups of believers, and other books, like the gospels, appear to have been written to provide a record for future generations. All of the New Testament books were circulated throughout the world. Since the printing press had not yet been invented, the only way to get a copy of whatever book you had was to copy it by hand. As these books were circulated, many manual copies were made, and copies were made from those copies. That is why we now have thousands of extant copies of New Testament manuscripts. Christians throughout history have used these manuscripts. This is what is called the majority text—the text that most Christians used, and recognized as the accurately transmitted Word of God.
There are a few things we need to realize from this. First of all, the manuscripts that most Christians used were copied and recopied throughout the world. Many manuscripts lasted hundreds of years and we still have thousands of extant copies. The second thing to realize is that these Christians would be careful to copy the manuscripts as accurately as possible. Ancient Jewish scribes were also known for their insistence on accurate copying of old testament texts. The third thing we need to realize is that we won't have the earliest copies of the texts most Christians used. They were used so much they wore out. The fact that we have literally thousands of copies of New Testament texts testifies to how popular these manuscripts were and how much they were used.
Erasmus, a Dutch scholar in the early 1500's, recognized a need to compile these manuscripts and dedicated his life to putting them into a form where all of scripture is together in one book6. Later versions of his compilation by other authors came to be called the Textus Receptus, because it used the most commonly accepted versions of the New Testament texts. It is very important to understand that Erasmus was a widely respected scholar who was probably more familiar with the New Testament texts than anyone else in his generation. What he compiled was a complete collection of Bible texts based on the most common readings available; in other words, the Majority Text.
Kenneth W. Clark, the scholar who has examined more Greek manuscripts than most, admits, “WE SHOULD NOT attribute to Erasmus the creation of a ‘received text,’ but only the transmission from a manuscript text, already commonly received, to a printed form, in which this text would continue to prevail for three centuries”7
The fact that Aleph and B date back to the fourth century is testimony to the fact that they weren't used like the other thousands of texts we have available. Riplinger says:
“If you are convinced most Christians use a recently published version of the bible, such as the NIV, NASB, NKJB, Living Bible, etc.—what you really mean is—most that you have come in contact with, at your fellowship, in the nineteen nineties, in the U.S.A., use it. However throughout the 2000 year history of the New Testament, people using a text like those of the new versions, were in a mathematically infinitesimal minority8.
So, although most Christians may use a modern version that claims to be based on the 'best' texts, they are not using the majority text. The King James Bible was based on the Textus Receptus, which was compiled from the majority text, and that Bible has served the English-speaking world very well since 1611. Even those who disdain the Textus Receptus admit that it has been the most commonly used Bible text for hundreds of years since it was created. Why, all of a sudden, in the 20th century, do we need to go back to the most unused texts and create Bibles based on them? And why do modern scholars suddenly, in the 19th and 20th centuries, begin to consider the most unused texts the 'best' texts?
The only thing that makes the most unused texts the 'best' texts is the fact that the scholars who used them preferred the readings—and the teachings—in those largely unused texts.
Ms. Riplinger provides thousands of examples of how new versions differ from the majority text, and how teachings based on those variant readings lead directly into New Age concepts. If you are serious about knowing the truth, you need to look at Riplinger's book.
My own experience is that, when I came back to using only the KJV, I developed a firmness and confidence in my faith that I didn't have before. There were times while reading my NASB that I couldn't find things I knew were there somewhere. Because I couldn't find those things, I couldn't depend on them.
This debate will go on for a long time. My opinion certainly isn't going to settle it. If you are serious about understanding this issue, however, you need to look in depth into both sides of the debate. I recommend New Age Bible Versions as a good place to start in understanding the KJV side of the debate. As I was, I think you will be surprised at what you learn.
2http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/?action=getVersionInfo&vid=102, retrieved 6/24/11
4Riplinger, Gail, New Age Bible Versions, p.554
5Ibid, p. 546
7http://www.angelfire.com/la2/prophet1/erasmus.html, retrieved 6/24/11
8Riplinger, Gail, New Age Bible Versions, p. 469
The earth and universe are only 6,000 years old
This notion is taught by the Young Earth Creation Science camp (YEC). Young Earth Creationists will never give up their faulty interpretation of Genesis 1. Of that I am convinced. Every once in a while, one of them sees the light and comes to his senses because of the overwhelming evidence against a young earth. To read a well-reasoned critique of YEC from an evangelical Christian perspective, go here. You can also go here. To read a truly devastating critique of YEC, go here.
I really don't desire to attack young-earthers, because many of them are my friends. It is difficult to have friends in this camp, because I can't be completely honest in conversations about creation. Since I don't buy the YEC party line, I'm dismissed as a heretic (yes, I have been called a heretic for not believing YEC), or just not taken seriously. So I'm generally quiet about this around those friends. However, the damage done by YEC is widespread and deep. Some of the links above provide examples of the kind of damage YEC does. Among other things, it causes people to abandon their faith. Because of the spiritual damage YEC does and the many anti-christian results of their teaching, I think it is necessary to say something about this.
As to the technical details, There are lots of places on the Internet to find data that refutes YEC. One good place to go is http://answersincreation.org/ or http://oldearth.org. The links above are from the American Scientific Affiliation's website, http://www.asa3.org/. There are many more places to find information if you care to investigate the matter. What I'm going to do here is point out a few philosophical aspects of this debate that seem to get missed.
EVIDENCE IS IRRELEVANT
To begin with, I want to point out that evidence is irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant. When someone is absolutely convinced that their point of view is true, no amount of evidence will convince them of anything to the contrary. This holds true for creationists, evolutionists, and pretty much anyone else that is dogmatically committed to their point of view. Creation Scientists are among the most dogmatic of Christians, as evolutionists are among the most dogmatic of atheists. Evidence is relevant only if someone is serious about considering contrary points of view and is willing to give the evidence the weight it deserves. A typical response of YEC to evidence is shown by the responses Glenn Morton relates in his piece at http://oldearth.org/whyileft.htm. As a former writer for ICR (Institute for Creation Research, a YEC think tank), He says
"Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems."
Rather than deal honestly with the evidence, his YEC colleagues dismissed the evidence or dismissed him as being anti-Christian. He also says
"My last young-earth paper was entitled Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth, which I presented as the first paper in the First International Conference on Creationism. It was not well received. Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!"
and another quote from his piece:
"It appeared that the more questions I raised, the more they questioned my theological purity. When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brain-washed by my geology professors. When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job. Never would he consider that I might really believe the data."
You get the drift. Although Glenn Morton was facing the data every day, and even though he was trying very hard to reconcile the data with his YEC belief, he just couldn't do it. That's because he was seriously considering the evidence, unlike his YEC colleagues. The overwhelming data he faced daily convinced him that YEC was wrong. Did his colleagues seriously consider the data? No. It contradicted their dogmatically held belief, so they threw it out and went back to their YEC bench.
There is a logical construct being employed here. It goes like this: A is true, therefore anything that contradicts A is false. It doesn't matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary, we know that A is true so any contrary evidence must be dismissed. There is no need to seriously consider it.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the YEC camp has convinced itself that YEC beliefs are true, so they simply dismiss all contrary evidence. They'll make a show of considering the evidence, but you can be 100% guaranteed they will always end up with a YEC interpretation of the evidence, no matter how contorted and tortured the explanation is.
OUR INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY CORRECT INTERPRETATION
Of course the Bible means exactly what it says, and the YEC camp takes the Bible literally. Genesis 1 talks about six days of creation and that, of course, means six literal 24-hour days. It really doesn't matter that other Bible scholars don't interpret chapter 1 that way, even though such luminaries as C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and a whole host of other scholars don't buy the YEC interpretation of Genesis. Nor does it matter that you can't have days until you have a functioning solar system. There are a considerable number of serious Christian scholars that believe in theistic evolution, such as Michael Behe, and many scholars who believe in the gap theory, and then you have those who believe in the Day-Age theory, such as Hugh Ross, who is a very serious scientist. All of these other very serious interpretations of scripture easily reconcile with an old earth and universe.
None of those scholars know what they're talking about, though, because they don't believe the YEC interpretation of Genesis. Only the YEC interpretation of scripture is correct. Since when is one person's interpretation of scripture the only valid one? Isn't the YEC camp aware of what Peter says?
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation."
II Peter 1;20
The YEC camp thinks they own the interpretation of Genesis. I think their position lacks humility, to be charitable. It takes a bit of chutzpah to assert that only your interpretation is correct, despite the fact that so many scripture luminaries take different positions.
Only if you are willing to change your mind about YEC thinking is the data important. If you are willing to change your mind, I welcome you as a fellow truth-seeker.
Physically Committing a Sinful Act Is The Same As Committing Sin
All of my life I have heard the teaching that physically committing a sinful act is what the Bible calls 'committing sin'. Or thinking covetous or lustful thoughts is committing sin. The teaching is that if you do it, you're responsible for it and you have to answer for it. For the most part, I agree with that teaching, but there is an element of these 'sinful acts' that most Christians don't consider that has a profound effect on whether or not these acts are truly sinful.
Let's take a good look at this. For the most part, I think we can say that when someone commits adultery, steals something, or somehow violates another person, they are committing sin. Or if they entertain lustful thoughts, contemplate stealing something etc. But have you ever done something sinful that you really didn't want to do? Have you ever tried to avoid a temptation, turned away from it and gone the other way, yet somehow it still snared you and you gave in to it? Or have you ever been forced to do something you didn't want to? Some fathers force their daughters into prostitution. Certainly we can agree that prostitution is sinful, but if the daughter is threatened with physical harm or death if she doesn't comply, can you honestly say she is committing sin? Would God hold her responsible for the sinful acts she is obviously committing?
We have to realize that we are responsible only for those things that we are doing from the deepest intent of our heart. If the daughter forced into prostitution is unable to escape from her situation, even though she tries, her intent is obviously to stop prostituting herself. Would God send her to hell for her sinful acts, which she continues to do, even though she does everything she can to escape? I don't think so.
Let's take another situation. Hypnotism is an amazing phenomenon. If you have ever seen a hypnotist tell people to do things they would never, ever do on their own, you know how easy it is to convince someone they are something they're not. Let's say an atheist is hypnotized into becoming a Christian. He subsequently acts and talks like a Christian, does charitable things, even talks about how true the Bible is. Does that make him a Christian? He is certainly acting like he's a Christian. He may even convince some people to become Christians. Or let's hypnotize a Christian into believing that his faith is totally false. He subsequently advocates atheism, makes convincing arguments for atheism and against Christianity, and even turns some of his friends away from the Bible. Does that mean he is not a Christian? Just what is it to be a Christian?
The physical acts that people do, or the thoughts they think, come from the heart. It is the intent of the heart that determines whether or not we are committing sin. Paul says in Romans 7
Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Rom 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Rom 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Rom 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Paul is clearly saying that when he does a physical act that is contrary to the intent of his heart, he is not committing sin, even if he does it repeatedly. He is clearly differentiating between the physical act and the intent of the heart. He is not talking about external coercion as I talked about previously, but the sin that dwells within us that causes us to commit physical or mental acts of sin. There are two principles living within us as Christians. Our tendency to sin, and our desire to do righteousness. Both are desires that come from within us, and they compete for control of our lives. There are some other facts we need to look at here.
2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
So, if we have been regenerated in Christ, we are a different creature. A new creature. Our DNA has changed, so to speak. Our desires are different, the way we see things is different, and we do different things than we did before the change. To say it in another way, the intent of our heart has changed.
If someone becomes a Christian and their behavior shows no changes whatsoever, we have to question whether or not they actually became a Christian. However, if the intent of their heart has changed and they are dealing with massive dysfunction from their family environment (if they even had a family), or massive sexual abuse and brainwashing, it may take some time for them to overcome the effects of the abuse and start evidencing changed behavior. Speaking of victims of SRA/MPD (Satanic Ritual Abuse/Multiple Personality Disorder) in his book, The Black Awakening, Russ Dizdar says:
“Once victims do see that Jesus is real and right they call on Him. Many victims have told me that they did ask Christ into their lives and that at the point of salvation the programming and dark powers begin to break. I have noticed over the years that those who really receive Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in them are the ones who keep getting more healing and deliverance. They seem to keep growing even if there are set backs or new sub personalities to engage. I have also seen with extremely damaged SRA/MPD victims that once Christ is in them they will not stop seeking total healing ...and a new life in Him. For them this Word of God is true:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus" Philippians 1:6”1
What we have here is clear evidence of a fundamental change in personality as a result of receiving Christ. There may be a lot of stumbling and falling and repeated failures to stay away from sinful behavior, but the direction of this person's life has clearly changed. The intent of their heart is to become a whole, integrated personality and to do righteousness rather than evil.
Let's look at a passage in I John.
1Jn 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1Jn 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
1Jn 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
1Jn 3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
1Jn 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
1Jn 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
1Jn 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1Jn 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not” (v. 6). John doesn't say that he doesn't continue to sin. It says that he does not sin. At all. And then verse 9:
1Jn 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
Not only does the believer “not commit sin”, he cannot sin, because he is born of God. John is not talking about repeated failures to control sin as if one committed sin every time they did a sinful act. He is saying that the believer cannot sin. That is the clear, unambiguous message of the text here. So how can a believer be unable to commit sin when we know that we all do sinful acts quite often? It is because committing a sinful act is not committing sin. Huh? What's that? There is a difference between committing a sinful act and committing sin. Even the best of us commit sinful acts. Anyone who says otherwise is blind. We all have sin and have to deal with it, just as Paul says in Romans 7, and as John makes clear in I John 1:
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
It is obvious to anyone who observes people that everyone sins. People lie, cheat, and do all kinds of things to benefit themselves at the expense of others. But that is not necessarily committing sin. Some people do those things as a concession to their own weakness. There are others who enjoy sinning and do it because they want to and agree with it. They enjoy the thrill of deceiving someone and gaining an advantage because of it. Damaging other people is not something they are concerned with.
The clear difference is intent. Is it the intent of the heart to do well, even though one frequently fails, or is it the intent of the heart to gain an advantage regardless of how much it damages someone else? A true believer will not feel good about damaging another person if they understand what they did. They will have a repentant heart and will desire to correct their sinful behavior. Those who agree with the sin, feel good about it, and continue to knowingly do it, are committing sin. Even sinning once and agreeing with it is committing sin.
Agreeing with sin is committing sin. No true believer will ever agree with sin. It may appear that they agree with it, but if they understand what they are doing, they will never agree with sin.
1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
So, although a true believer may sin, he will never, and is completely unable to, agree with sin. His tendency will be to obey the commandments of God and to love others. The life of Christ will manifest in that believer's life, and it cannot be stopped.
1Russ Dizdar, The Black Awakening (2009), p. 484
This is not something that comes up very often, if it comes up at all, but every once in a while we talk about it. I think it is important to understand what it means for Jesus to be human like us.
Most evangelicals believe that Jesus was absolutely perfect and had no sin whatever, period, end of story. He was God. Perfect. No sin, no fault, no anything that was less than perfect. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what the Catholic Church believes. In order to support that belief, they must believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. If Jesus was absolutely perfect in every way, then Mary had to be perfect for him to be born without original sin:
“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803
The whole purpose of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is to preserve the absolutely sinless nature of Jesus. So, in preserving the absolutely sinless nature of Jesus, they make Mary sinless as well. That leads into teachings that Mary is the “Queen of Heaven”, “Mother of God”, and various forms of Mariolatry. After all, the woman who birthed God Himself has to be a really special person who deserves such worship. If evangelicals are comfortable with those doctrines, then they should believe that Jesus was absolutely and completely without original sin.
On the other hand, if we take scripture at its word, as it presents our Lord Jesus Christ, we must believe that he was born of a sinful human woman and inherited original sin from her just like all the other children she birthed, and just like every other human being on this planet. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), which means that he had original sin just like we do. That means he had the desire to sin just like we do, yet he did not sin.
Heb 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
I want to make it clear that I am NOT saying that Jesus ever sinned. If he sinned, he was no better than we are and has no power to save anyone.
How does temptation work? Without a desire to sin, there is no temptation. If you have no desire to eat chocolate, you can't be tempted by chocolate. It is only when you have a desire to eat chocolate that you can be tempted by chocolate. If you have no desire for something, it cannot tempt you. By the same token, if Jesus “was tempted like as we are”, he had a desire to sin. In order to become our savior, he had to overcome that desire to sin. What do you think Hebrews 5:7 means when it says:
Heb 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
Jesus had to overcome temptation, and it took an incredible effort on his part to overcome the desire to sin. Why was he sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane? He was being sorely tempted to avoid the cross. He knew how terrible the wrath of God would be, and, like any human being in his right mind, did not want to suffer such a horrible fate. Because of his divine nature, he was able to overcome that desire to avoid the cross, but he had to overcome his fleshly desire to sin.
If Jesus had no desire to sin, he wasn't like us. If he wasn't like us, he could not be our savior, because he couldn't experience what we experience or show us how to live. He would be divine and we would be human, and the two would never meet. In order to communicate his love to us, he became like us and took on sinful human flesh, complete with original sin and its attendant desire to sin.
Jesus was made perfect by never giving in to his desire to sin. It took him thirty-three years to completely overcome his desire to sin.
Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
If Jesus was made perfect, there was some way that he wasn't perfect before he was made perfect. That imperfection was the fact that he inherited original sin from Mary. God required that he overcome that original sin in order to save the world. It took his lifetime, or perhaps some period less than his lifetime, to overcome that original sin.
Jesus essentially did the same thing Noah did:
Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Just as Noah condemned the world by obeying God, Jesus condemned sin in the flesh by obeying God in his flesh, by resisting his innate desire to sin. By doing so, he proved forever that God could be obeyed and that sin could be overcome. That innate desire to sin was inherited from Mary's sinful flesh in his birth. Every human being that is born of woman has inherited original sin, including Jesus.
Jesus was just like us in every way, except that he was able to completely overcome sin. He could never overcome sin if he never had a desire to sin. There would be nothing to overcome.
Heb 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Heb 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Php 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
REINCARNATION IS NOT BIBLICAL
Ask any evangelical about reincarnation, and they will tell you it doesn't happen. They will say it's a lie of the devil, and that scripture clearly teaches that it doesn't happen. They will then cite Hebrews 9:27, where it says “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: “. As far as they are concerned, that settles the matter. Case closed. The idea that men have the option of coming back in another life and getting things right goes against everything most Christians believe. That kind of thinking leads to indulgence, spiritual carelessness, and dilutes the urgency of receiving salvation.
Yet, with the vast amount of thoroughly documented material on reincarnation, one has to admit that something out of the ordinary is going on. You can look at videos about reincarnation on YouTube or visit some of these websites to look at just some of the evidence for reincarnation:
There are many, many more websites and videos about reincarnation, and as many books as you can read that detail evidence for it. There is no lack of material. Suffice it to say that many young children commonly remember a past life to the point that they know technical details about things that they could not possibly have come to know about in their current life of a few short years. Check out the story of James Leininger for a detailed account of one these stories1. Look up the work of Jim Tucker and Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia to get more details. These children not only know technical details about things they couldn't possibly know about, but frequently remember in vivid detail how a person from a previous life died and they also remember relationships that person had. They also have phobias related to things that happened to the person in their past life.
To assume that all of this evidence for reincarnation is imagination is sheer denial. Imagining a past life in so much detail that the previous person can be identified, and their life traced and correlated exactly with what an innocent and inexperienced young child says is beyond imagination. Then there are the birthmarks and body features that correspond to wounds or other evidence of the past life. The other explanation would be that it's all demonic activity intended to deceive. This approach assumes at the outset that reincarnation doesn't happen and that any attempt to convince someone it does is a lie intended to lead that individual into some kind of sinful behavior or belief that will destroy their soul. Yet, those who say these kinds of things seldom, if ever, seriously investigate the evidence for reincarnation. Or they are bound and determined to destroy any belief in reincarnation and investigate it with a commitment to destroying the belief. Most Christian material on reincarnation takes this approach. Unless an investigator is willing to follow wherever the evidence leads, their findings will always be tainted by their bias.
I am no expert on reincarnation. However, I have investigated the phenomena enough to prove to myself that there is some real phenomena happening in people's lives that is commonly called reincarnation. Exactly what is happening I can't be sure of, but there are enough passages in the Bible that indicate belief in reincarnation for me to accept the fact that the Bible acknowledges a belief in reincarnation. For instance, Jesus says in Matthew 11:14 John the Baptist is Elijah who was to come. He doesn't say he had Elijah's spirit, nor does he suggest that reincarnation is not true. Many will point out that Luke 1:17 says about John the Baptist that he will come “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, inferring that John was not Elijah, but had his 'spirit and power'. Yet, is that not exactly what reincarnation is? To have someone's spirit and power is to be that person.
I have found Bible Studies on both sides of this issue that develop a case both for and against the idea that reincarnation happens. For a pretty good presentation of the argument against reincarnation, check out http://bible.org/question/what-does-bible-say-about-reincarnation . For a good Bible Study presenting Biblical reasons to believe reincarnation, check out http://worldvisionportal.org/WVPforum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=64&start=0&sid=53a65d7931b9f1cf339c9d6ac7cca5f2
Don't get the idea that I agree with everything that's said on these web pages. I don't. Yet, they present valuable information about reincarnation that is worth considering. That is, if you are willing to consider material outside your belief system.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to justify the Buddhist or Hindu view of reincarnation, nor am I suggesting that we get multiple chances to come back and 'get it right' after screwing up in this life. Hebrew 9:27 indicates that you better get things right in this life. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that we can live poorly in this life and try again in a later life. I think people with that approach to reincarnation more than likely end up in hell, with no more chances to get anything right. I can't buy the Buddhist version of reincarnation where we get reincarnated over and over again, nor can I believe that we can put off dealing with our spiritual condition while we live on this earth. I believe there is an importance and an urgency in this life to deal with our spiritual condition and submit our lives to Jesus Christ who created us. How reincarnation fits with that I am not entirely sure, but I am open to further evidence, both Biblical and empirical.
My fundamental point on this page is that evangelical Christianity has a tendency to deny any empirical, historical, or Biblical evidence that contradicts standard evangelical interpretations of Scripture. When people experience reincarnation, or what they consider reincarnation, and evangelical Christians tell them that what they experienced didn't happen, or was demonic, Christianity loses credibility. Evangelicals have a bad habit of blowing their own foot off when they deal with the things I talk about on this page.
I really don't know exactly what to think about reincarnation yet. The jury is still out. Yet, there is enough empirical evidence to convince me that something like reincarnation, if not bona fide reincarnation, is happening to people on a regular basis and to deny it is disingenuous at best, and is very likely downright harmful to people who are honestly seeking the truth about it.
Modern Christianity will never admit to reincarnation in any way, shape or form. I don't expect it to. The doctrinal wars that would ensue would be more harmful than helpful. Yet, if Christianity is going to be relevant to young people who are looking for truth, it needs to pull its head out of the sand on issues like this and start acknowledging genuine scientific evidence. The young people are and they are frequently becoming atheists as a result. Only when evangelical Christianity is willing to accept the massive evidence for reincarnation (and many other things, like an ancient earth) and start wrestling with what the Bible actually says about it will it gain enough respect to begin reversing the trend away from the Faith. Until then, Christianity will become increasingly irrelevant to the culture.